No, I don’t tweet.  Sometimes I think it might be fun to do, but I don’t think fast enough to be clever.  But to save some time for people, I have complied some of the best tweets about Clint Eastwood’s empty chair rant/ramble last night at the Republican convention.  I was inspired by an article posted this afternoon on the Nation by Ilyse Hogue, Anatomy of a meme

Surprise guest, Eastwood, was reportedly given three minutes to speak, but spent the better part of fifteen minutes of prime time coverage ranting at an empty chair that was supposed to be an invisible President Obama. Pain was visible on the faces of candidate and campaign operative alike as it became clear that these confused ravings of the famous octogenarian were going to be the stand out performance from an otherwise carefully orchestrated week.

And that it is. Within moments of Eastwood’s start, @InvisibleObama had a twitter account with a picture of an empty chair. By the end of the speech, the chair had almost 17,000 followers. It now has 48,000.

Even the President got in the fun when his twitter account posted a picture of the back of the President sitting is his chair, with the tag line “This seat’s taken.”

In my opinion, the most succinct and spot-on insight came from a Jamelle Bouie tweet, “”This is a perfect representation of the campaign: an old white man arguing with an imaginary Barack Obama.” 

And here are some more taken from Hogue’s article.

Zach Braff:  Now all my chairs want to be interviewed too.

FastLaugh:  Give Clint Eastwood a break… The RNC asked him to speak about ObamaCare and he thought they said ObamaChair…

Bob Newhart:  I heard that Clint Eastwood was channeling me at the RNC. My lawyers and I are drafting our lawsuit…

Josh Rogin

This from Andrew Sullivan’s blog

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.31.30 PM

And Jed Lewison at the Daily Kos comments

Empty chair

Rumor has it that Mitt loved Clint’s empty chair routine so much that now he wants to do it in the Caymans
I wonder what surprise the Democrats have in store for us next week.  Looking forward to it.

The National Debt and the GDP

Being a little behind in reading my email, I just saw this from Ezra Klein.  He suggests you keep this in mind while you watch the Republicans try to push the debt onto the President and the Democrats.

Notice that you can barely see TARP.  It is that dark blue streak that is separating the other two blue parts of the graph.  Even the stimulus is pretty small.

The deficit is pretty easy to understand when you look at it in a graph.  If you reduced the Bush tax cuts for income over &250,000 and worked on the costs of the wars – and didn’t start any new ones – you can really begin to reduce the debt.  Maybe the huge number of people who think the tax breaks for the wealthy should be eliminated understand this better than Mitt and Paul and the rest of their gang.  Certainly they understand this better than Grover Nordquist.

So when you are watching the Republicans in Tampa, remember this chart and thank Ezra Klein.

The Republican Convention Day 1: Small Stories

I have to admit I had more fun watching Hurricane Issac on the Weather Channel than I did watching the convention.  I always love Jim Cantore getting soaked and pounded.  But I did look at brief glimpses of the convention and once again it struck me how very white the delegates are.  Looking through all the convention coverage this morning I was struck by two little stories both involving the media, race and gender.  This was suppose to be the night of the convention for women.

First is this from the Washington Post and Talking Points Memo,  Kyle Leighton reported for TPM

An attendee at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Tuesday allegedly threw nuts at a black camerawoman working for CNN and said “This is how we feed animals” before being removed from the convention, a network official confirmed to TPM.

Erik Wemple who writes a blog for the Post on the media predicts

Based on the limited details thus far, the episode will have at least a full day in the news cycle. There’ll be the quest to find both the employee against whom the incident was directed as well as the person who directed the incident. There’ll be a search for other witnesses as well. If those details drip and drip and drip, the event could pose a distraction for the goings-on, though we have no idea who did it and what connection the person may have to the convention.

One thing is now safe to rule out: Criminal charges. A call to the Tampa police department late tonight brought a referral to the Secret Service, which has jurisdiction over the interior of the convention venue. A Secret Service official told me that they’re referring calls on the incident to the Republican National Committee. Not a police matter, in other words.

It is, however, a matter for CNN. It knows all the details of this event. How will the network balance a workplace issue — someone on the job enduring an insulting outburst — with a matter of public interest? Resolving that conflict must start with the preferences of the crew person. But the presumption should fall in favor of doing the story in all of its detail, regardless of whether the details are more or less damaging than what’s been reported.

Juan Williams is shown. | AP Photo

And Juan Williams who is trying hard to be a black commentator for Fox is back in the news.  Politico reported that was involved in a “ribbing” incident during the Fox convention coverage.  His sin?  He called Ann Romney a corporate wife.

Fox News contributor Juan Williams took some ribbing from his colleagues Tuesday night after saying Ann Romney looked “like a corporate wife” who hasn’t struggled in her life.

“Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, on the other hand looked to me like a corporate wife,” Williams said, speaking on a panel after the Republican National Convention’s speeches wrapped for the night. “And you know the stories she told about struggle, eh, it’s hard for me to believe. She’s a very rich woman and I know that and America knows that.”

Fox News hosts Bret Baier replied, “Wow, OK,” and Megyn Kelly asked Williams, “What does that mean, corporate wife?”

“What does it mean?” Williams replied. “It looks like a woman whose husband takes care of her and she’s been very lucky and blessed in this life. She’s not speaking, I think, for the tremendous number of single women in this country, or married women or separated — actually she did not convince me that you know what, ‘I understand the struggles of American women in general.’”

Later, the panel reconvened — but without Williams. Wall Street Journal columnist and former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan joined to offer commentary in Williams’s place.

“I want to point out that we did not kick Juan off the panel because of the corporate wife comment, we wanted to get a speechwriter’s perspective,” Baier said, to laughter.

“Although we considered it,” Kelly said.

And as Baier and Kelly wrapped the show, Kelly offered a last take on Williams’s remark.

“My final thought is, [Ann Romney] may have improved Mitt Romney’s standing with women,” Kelly said. “You know whose standing did not improve with women tonight?”

“Whose?” Baier asked.

“Juan Williams,” Kelly replied, as the duo laughed.

Juan, I always did wonder if you got a raw deal from NPR but Kelly is wrong.  Your standing improved with this woman.  I do think that both of these little stories illustrate the conservative problem with both race and gender and it seems to extend to the media.

Bye, Bye Josh

I woke up this morning to word of the pending trade.  It is now official.  Josh Beckett is gone along with Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto.  We got virtually nothing in return, but lots and lots of freed up cash since the Dodgers are picking up most of the remaining contracts.  May Josh eat his fried chicken and drink his beer and enjoy his new clubhouse.  Crawford was never healthy enough to figure out if he could have made it here in Boston, but he never really lost that “deer in the headlights” look.  Gonzalez was a contributor despite the fact that he turned out to be whiner.  And Nick Punto?  He tweeted this


Even though Gonzalez looks happy here, he had the grace to tweet this

“Thanks to Red Sox nation for everything. You guys are great!”

But Adrian is happy to be headed for California.  I guess there are west coast guys and east coast ones and he is a west coaster. 

Will this be what it takes to turn the Sox around?  Too late for this season, I’m afraid, but to quote from Dan Shaughnessy in his column this morning in the Boston Globe

You want them to blow it up?

This would be blowing it up.

The prospective blockbuster would signify a white flag on this horrible season. More than that, it would mark the end of a failed era of big names, big salaries, big egos, and maddening underachievement,

Will any of the prospects the Sox acquire emerge as blue-chip big leaguers? We don’t know. That’s not what this trade is about. This trade is about clearing the air of the stench created by the 2011 and 2012 Red Sox. It’s about saying goodbye to arrogance, unearned entitlement, and poor performance from top-priced talent. It’s about changing the rotten culture of the Sox clubhouse, a malaise that has turned even diehard fans against the once-beloved franchise.

After 12 infuriating months of passivity, sloth, and denial, the Sox look like they’re finally admitting they have a problem. This is always an important first step. The deal would be a whopper . . . in terms of the people who are leaving Boston.

Let’s make sure we keep Clay, Dustin,  Ortiz, and Ellsbury.  Let’s make sure we nurture Middlebrooks, Lin, and our other minor leaguers.  Let’s build for the future.

Peter Abraham argues that the quartet that were traded are not bad people, just good players not suited for the big media market.  Maybe true of Crawford and Gonzales, but Beckett’s bad boy, don’t care what fans think attitude got really old – especially when he had bad game after bad game.  Josh was a star in 2007 and tried to live off that without doing anything new.  Boston fans can be brutal and he did nothing to help.

Don’t know about anyone else, but I’m going to tune in to the Sox tonight, but to check out what is going on.  Good luck to the Sox and good luck to the new Dodgers and their teammates.

The Republicans and Disfunction

I’m reading It’s even Worse than it Looks: How the american Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of extremism by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein.  And yes, it is depressing especially when I’m reading it while also looking at the Republican Platform which has been described by Think Progress as the “most conservative in modern history.”  OK so maybe Think Progress is on the left but they have a pretty good summary.  Here are just a few subheading from the summary.






The New York Times said this in an editorial last Tuesday

Over the years, the major parties’ election-year platforms have been regarded as Kabuki theater scripts for convention week. The presidential candidates blithely ignored them or openly dismissed the most extreme planks with a knowing wink as merely a gesture to pacify the noisiest activists in the party.

That cannot be said of the draft of the Republican platform circulating ahead of the convention in Tampa, Fla. The Republican Party has moved so far to the right that the extreme is now the mainstream. The mean-spirited and intolerant platform represents the face of Republican politics in 2012. And unless he makes changes, it is the current face of the shape-shifting Mitt Romney.

The draft document is more aggressive in its opposition to women’s reproductive rights and to gay rights than any in memory. It accuses President Obama and the federal judiciary of “an assault on the foundations of our society,” and calls for constitutional amendments banning both same-sex marriage and abortion.

In passages on abortion, the draft platform puts the party on the most extreme fringes of American opinion. It calls for a “human life amendment” and for legislation “to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” That would erase any right women have to make decisions about their health and their bodies. There are no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and such laws could threaten even birth control.

The draft demands that the government “not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage,” which could bar abortion coverage on federally subsidized health-insurance exchanges, for example.

The platform praises states with “informed consent” laws that require women to undergo medically unnecessary tests before having abortions, and “mandatory waiting periods.” Those are among the most patronizing forms of anti-abortion legislation. They presume that a woman is not capable of making a considered decision about abortion before she goes to a doctor. The draft platform also espouses the most extreme Republican views on taxation, national security, military spending and other issues.

Over all, it is farther out on the party’s fringe than Mr. Romney ventured in the primaries, when he repudiated a career’s worth of centrist views on issues like abortion and gay marriage. But the planks hew closely to the views of his running mate, Paul Ryan, and the powerful right-wing. Mr. Romney has a chance to move back in the direction of the center by amending this extremist platform. It will be interesting to see if he seizes it.

Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia might not have gotten the Vice Presidential nod, but he delivered the platform.  He should be proud.

Mann and Ornstein have a long quote from a former Republican Congressional staff, Mike Lofgren, who wrote in 2011 why he was leaving after almost thirty years [pages 54-55] Part of that quote reads

It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe.

Later Lofgren writes

Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster.  Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic.  As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself.

The platform is the Ryan agenda no matter how much he tries to say that it is Romney who is running for President.  Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan and no one can convince me he didn’t know what Ryan’s positions were or what legislation he had sponsored.  The Republicans like to say they are for smaller, less intrusive government, but the platform seems pretty intrusive to me.  If they have their way, they will be imposing their views on the rest of us.

Obama and Women’s Healthcare

While I was working on the last post about Akin, Ryan etc., I ran across this great summary of what the Affordable Care Act does for women.  In a column titled Obamacare(s) for Women, Katha Pollitt published in the Nation she provided this handy list of benefits.

Women will get a lot out of the Affordable Care Act. Here are just some of the ways:

1. As many as 10 million will get coverage in 2014 under Medicaid expansion, and by 2016, thanks to other provisions of the ACA, that number will grow to 13.5 million women.

2. By 2014, all plans sold to individuals will be required to cover maternity care. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 12 percent of those plans include that. Remember when Arizona’s Jon Kyl said he didn’t think his insurance should have to cover pregnancy and childbirth because he would never need it? The ACA destroys the mindset that care needed only by women is of no general concern.

3. More than 20 million women will get expanded coverage of preventive services—prenatal care, mammograms, pap smears, breast-feeding supplies, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, well woman checkups, immunizations, birth control and more.

4. Insurance companies will be barred from dropping women’s coverage when they become pregnant or sick.

5. Companies will be barred from denying coverage because of “pre-existing conditions,” like having had breast cancer, being pregnant (funny how that keeps coming up), having had a Caesarean or being the victim of domestic violence.

6. No more “gender rating”—charging women more for coverage just because they are women. This practice, already banned in some states but permitted in thirty-seven others, costs women a staggering $1 billion a year.

7. Older women will receive expanded preventive services through Medicare, like bone-density screenings for those at risk of osteoporosis.

8. The expansion of Medicaid will cover people who make up to 133 percent of the poverty line (about $31,000 a year for a family of four). True, enabled by the recent Supreme Court decision, at least eight red-state governors have said they will reject it. Let’s see how that works out for them.

9. The birth control provision is mammoth all by itself. Not only will it be costless to the patient; all methods must be covered. That means women will be able to choose the kind of birth control that works best for them, which means they are more likely to use it consistently. In particular, it means insurance must cover the most effective methods, including the IUD, which many plans exclude. At up to $1,000 upfront, it is too expensive for many women to shell out for, even though the IUD is one of the cheaper methods when you consider that it lasts for ten years or more. If anti-choicers really wanted to lower the number of abortions, they would be cheering this huge expansion of access to contraception. But no.

If Romney wins, women can wave goodbye to what Planned Parenthood has called “the single biggest advancement in women’s health in a generation.” Think about that next time someone tells you there’s no difference between the candidates. It’s just not true.

The President signs the Affordable Healthcare Act.  Photo by AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Akin, Ryan, Romney and Women’s Healthcare

I was cooking dinner and listening to a rerun of Tom Ashbrook’s On Point when I heard Mary Kate Cary say that she agreed with the President that rape was rape, but did not agree with him that male legislators were making health care decisions for women and that they should just let women decide for themselves.  The President’s exact words from a report from CBS News

“Rape is rape,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the daily White House briefing Monday. “And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me.”

Mr. Obama added that Akin’s remarks underscore “why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.”

The president acknowledged that his GOP rival Mitt Romney and other Republicans have distanced themselves from Akin’s statements. However, he said, “The underlying notion that we should be making decisions on behalf of women for their health care decisions, or qualifying ‘forcible rape’ versus ‘non-forcible rape’ — those are broader issues….between me and the other party.”

Mary Kate Cary, a former speech writer for President George H. W. Bush, went on to confuse the fact that women probably do make more decisions about health care treatment than men since they are still most likely to take the children to the doctor, with the male legislators setting boundaries on what kind of treatment women can actually choose.  (Thanks to my husband for helping me clarify that.)

So what does all this mean?  It means that Todd Akin, Paul Ryan and the Republican platform are imposing their religious ideas on everyone and removing choice.  And here I thought that they were the party of small government!  What with banning abortion in all situations and/or requiring vaginal ultrasounds before an abortion, I think they are actually intruding in health care decisions.  At the same time, none of them cares about what happens to the child after this forced birth because there will be no available safety net for her or for her mother under the Ryan/Romney cuts to the safety net in the budget combined with the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  There will also be no way for women to prevent pregnancies as there will be no contraception available under the ACA and no funding for Planned Parenthood.

Todd Akin and all his pals who don’t believe that a woman can get pregnant during rape, make that forcible rape, may be on the extreme edge of an extreme edge but they do represent the majority view of the Republican party.  This from the New York Times this morning

As an orator, Representative Todd Akin of Missouri may stand out for his clumsiness. But as a legislator, Mr. Akin has a record on abortion that is largely indistinguishable from those of most of his Republican House colleagues, who have viewed restricting abortion rights as one of their top priorities.

It is an agenda that has enjoyed the support of House leaders, including Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, the majority leader, who has called anti-abortion measures “obviously very important in terms of the priorities we set out initially in our pledge to America.” It became inextricably linked to the near-shutdown of the federal government last year when an agreement to keep the government open was reached only after it was linked to a measure restricting abortion in the District of Columbia.

Even as Congressional Republicans, including Mr. Boehner, denounced Mr. Akin’s remark that victims of “legitimate rape” were able to somehow prevent pregnancy, an agenda to roll back abortion is one that House Republicans have largely moved in step with.

In an anti-abortion measure once sponsored by Mr. Akin, Mr. Ryan and scores of other Republican lawmakers, an exemption was made for victims of “forcible” rape, though that word was later removed.

On Tuesday, Republicans approved platform language for next week’s nominating convention that calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion with no explicit exceptions for cases of rape or incest. That is a view more restrictive than Mr. Romney’s, who has said that he supports exceptions to allow abortions in cases of rape.

Ryan center and Akin to the right in a photograph by J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

So Democrats can now keep tying Paul Ryan, Todd Akin and the Republican Platform together while Mitt, as usual, tries to dance away from taking a position.  After all as Republican Party Chair, Reince Priebus said “this is the platform of the Republican Party, it is not the platform of Mitt Romney.”  I titled this “Akin, Ryan, Romney and Women’s Health Care” but if they have their way, women won’t have health care.  There is already a large gender gap.  We can enjoy watching it get bigger.

Why Obama may lose

OK. I’ve been a little out of sorts the last few days election=wise.  I’ve been spending a little time working in one of Elizabeth Warren’s field offices making voter ID calls and doing data entry.  It is going to be a close race with Scott Brown and every vote is going to count.  And then I saw this in yesterday’s New York Times as part of Charles M. Blow’s column.

If you know any of these people tell them to register and/or to vote.  There is still time.  If even some of them vote, it will make a difference and if all of them do, it will be a landslide re-election for President Obama.

This is one of the reasons why Patrick McDonnell and Mutts have captured my mood perfectly

August 16th 2012 - Mutts

[From August 16th.]

Let’s get out there, find those voters and get them to the polls.  Then maybe Crabby won’t have to be quite so crabby!

Joe Speaks

Yesterday Vice President Joe Biden got carried away and maybe used an unfortunate turn of phrase, but, as usual Joe spoke honestly and told the truth.  And how do I know he told the truth?  Just look at Mitt Romney’s reaction.

So what did Joe actually say?  According to the Washington Post

Campaigning in southern Virginia on Tuesday, Vice President Biden told an audience that Mitt Romney’s approach to regulating the financial industry will “put y’all back in chains,” a remark that triggered a flurry of Republican criticism, including a sharp rebuke from the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

“Look at their budget and what they’re proposing,” Biden said. “Romney wants to let the – he said in the first hundred days, he is going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They are going to put y’all back in chains.”

This set off a firestorm.  Joe walked back the remark a little, but basically stood by what he said.   Mitt Romney went a little nuts.  (and, according to the Daily Kos, a scripted nuts since Mitt used a teleprompter).  The New York Times put it this way

Standing in front of a stately town hall here in central Ohio, under a giant banner that read “Victory in Ohio,” Mr. Romney called Mr. Biden’s claim “another outrageous charge.”

“This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like,” he said.

In a personal dig that he wrote at the last minute Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Romney told the president to “take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America.”

The Times also reported that the White House stood by the Biden remarks.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney is seen in a tele prompter reflection waiting to speak to supporters at the Chillicothe Victory rally in Chillicothe, Ohio August 14, 2012.    REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES)

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney is seen in a tele prompter reflection waiting to speak to supporters at the Chillicothe
Victory rally in Chillicothe, Ohio August 14, 2012.  Photograph by Shannon Stapleton.
So what are we to make of all this?  The campaign is going to get very ugly.  I think the Democrats are right to let Joe Biden be the attack dog and hopefully let President Obama be above the fray. But on a fundamental level, Joe Biden is right.  The impact of the Republican proposals is on the poor even more that on the middle class.  And the poor are still to a great extent people of color who understood what Joe was saying. 

So much for the selection of Paul Ryan as the veep nominee as the end of the petty bickering and the start of the campaign of “big ideas.” Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul claims that “President Obama’s campaign keeps sinking lower.” What was the offense? Vice President Biden said the word “chains.”

In tone and bite, Biden is to the Obama campaign what John Sununu is to the Romney campaign. Only the vice president is polished and likeable. Biden was speaking at a Virginia rally that the Associated Press reports “included hundreds of black people,” and he warned the assembled that Romney wanted to do away with the post-2008 regulations on Wall Street. “Unchain Wall Street,” Biden said. “They’re going to put y’all back in chains.” Yeah, that was wince-worthy. It shall join all the others on the Biden blooper reel. But the high dudgeon of the Romney campaign is rather precious.

This is the campaign that seemed perfectly fine with Sununu saying he wished the president “would learn to be an American.”

This is the campaign that has been mute in the face of Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) hyperbolic assertion that Obama would “rather you be his slave.”

This is the campaign that is allowing Newt Gingrich to host “Newt University” at the Tampa convention this month. The former House speaker is fond of calling Obama a “food stamp president.”A wicked phrase that has more racial baggage than a klansman’s El Camino.

This is the campaign of the candidate who uttered the equally racially fraught “if they want more stuff from government … more free stuff” when talking to supporters in Montana about what he told the NAACP about his desire to repeal Obamacare.

Let’s all be honest.  This is a campaign about race.  There is a black man in the White House.  The Republican’s are fighting a last ditch battle to maintain a white majority in the United States electorate.  We see this in the allegations of voter fraud and the purging of voter rolls.  We see this in the audiences that surround Mitt and Paul Ryan.  Yes, this is an election about economic policy and jobs, but the subtext is always race.