The Agonist



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Site Upgrade Heads-Upvisit
We're going live with the new Wordpress site overnight. I'll be doing a "welcome" post to give everyone the ten-cent tour and firing off an automated email to all Agonist members. See y'all there!

GOP Can?t Out-Hawk Obama And Still Stay In Touch With Realityvisit
Conor Friedersdorf writes that he personally finds Obama's national security policy to be too objectionable to vote for the guy, but that the GOP are shooting at the wrong targets when they critique the incumbent's foreign policy - and even then, still missing.
President Obama's foreign policy is vulnerable to all sorts of accurate attacks. But Mitt Romney, the Republican Party, and the conservative movement are totally unable to exploit them. This is partly because the last four years have been spent advancing critiques so self-evidently implausible to anyone outside the movement that calling attention to them seems impolite. There is no factual basis for the assertion that Obama rejects American exceptionalism; or that he embarked on an apology tour; or that he is allied with our Islamist enemy in a "grand jihad" against America; or that his every action is motivated by Kenyan anti-colonialism. And while those critiques are especially inane, they aren't cherry-picked to discredit conservatives. They're actually all critiques advanced by prominent people, publications, and/or Republican politicians. (Like I said, the right's process for identifying the worst ideas is broken.) The fact that the vast majority of conservatives give no indication of having learned anything from the Iraq War is an even more significant reason that the GOP has lost its traditional edge on national-security issues, with a majority of Americans telling pollsters they trust Democrats more. Romney himself said that (what he saw as) the quick pace of the U.S. drawdown in Iraq was "tragic." Romney also says Russia is America's number one enemy in the world, and that if elected he might commit U.S. troops in Syria to contain chemical weapons. Nowhere has he been worse than on Libya. I don't mean his recent, much-ridiculed response to the embassy attack, so much as his insistence that Obama was too slow to commit U.S. troops to oppose Moammar Gadhafi ... until Obama committed troops, at which point Romney said that he did so too precipitously.
As ever, read the whole thing.

More Trouble At Foxconn's Chinese Sweatshopsvisit
At the beginning of the month I wrote about thousands of Chinese students being forced to miss classes while they were compelled to work in a Foxconn plant after the company couldn't find sufficient workers for the production of Apple's much-anticipated iPhone 5. Now, there's news of far more serious problems at another Foxconn factory, again brought on by terrible working conditions. The NYT reports:
Foxconn Technology, a major supplier to some of the world?s electronics giants, including Apple, said it had closed one of its large Chinese plants Monday after the police were called in to break up a fight among factory employees. A spokesman said some people had been hurt and detained by the police after the disturbance escalated into a riot involving more than 1,000 workers late Sunday. ...One Foxconn employee reached by telephone Monday afternoon, however, said the incident began when workers started brawling with security guards. Unconfirmed photographs and video circulated on social networking sites, purporting to be from the factory, showed smashed windows, riot police officers and large groups of workers milling around. The Foxconn plant, in the Chinese city of Taiyuan, employs about 79,000 workers. The Chinese state-run news media said 5,000 police officers had been called in to quell the riot.
Engadget adds that the riot began because the guards were beating up a worker. Cory Robin skewers the neoliberal view of the effects on labor rights of such outsourcing, in the person of Matt Yglesias.

What Mitt Romney Did Nextvisit
Read David Corn today.
When Romney was in mid-rant about the 47 percent?simplistically and erroneously conflating three subsets of Americans: those who voted for Barack Obama, those who receive some form of government assistance, and those who pay no federal income taxes?he said: "I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Here was Romney sharing his view that Americans who don't make enough money to pay income taxes and his fellow citizens who rely on Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, or other government programs are lesser people than he and the millionaires before him. These people, Romney was saying, are not adults; they do not, and will not, fend for themselves or do what they must to feed, clothe, shelter, educate, and care for themselves and their family members. It was an arrogant insult spoken with true detachment. This was 100-percent 1-percent.
Click on over and read about one college-educated worker in a poorly paid job told David. Just do it.

Obama Apologizes For GOP Obstructivism, GOP Fails To See The Sucker Punchvisit
Barack Obama may not be a mult-dimensional chessmaster, but he's a very effective political prizefighter, able to feint and lead his opponent into opening himself for a counterattack. Republicans are trying to spin it as a massive gaffe from the "apologist-in-chief" but I think many will see Obama's admission that "My biggest disappointment is that we haven't changed the tone in Washington" and that he bears responsibility for that "to some degree" in a different light by the time it's all played out. After all, as Melissa points out:
One of my major criticisms of President Bush was that he rejected accountability and could never admit mistakes, and one of my major criticisms of President Obama when he ran for president in '08 was that I felt like he was tremendously naïve/arrogant about his capacity to change Washington by sheer force of will. So, frankly, I like what the President said, and I respect him for saying it.
This is going to echo Mitt's 47% comments and Obama's riposte that the President has to be everyone's president, to Romney's detriment. It's inescapably true that Obama is currently the GOP's President too, no matter how little they like it - and therefore the buck for their inaction or active obstruction stops at least partly with him. Moreover, Romney is fond of saying he'll change the tone in Washington too, playing to what his Tea Party base wants to hear - but when pressed on how, he's light on the details. With most Americans saying what's most wrong with Washington is a corporate-funded inability to deal with corporate corruption, I do believe Obama's just floated a feint in front of Mitt to draw him out of position and prepare him for a debate follow-up in which Obama again points out that Mitt is a man with more money than God who has been making the bulk of the big donor dollars from rich corporatist sponsors. The knock-out punch might then be a reiteration of something Obama's mentioned before - a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizen's United, which Romney could in no way survive backing yet will play well to the great American public. Well, at least that's how I'd play it. The same confusion between playing to the base and being presidential is evident in Romney and his proxies piling on Obama's comment that "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 right wing are all over this, again, with calls to defer to Bibi Netanyahu in setting American policy, and again it's going to backfire. We've seen this already as Obama challenged Romney "If Governor Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so," and we'll see it again in the debates as Obama makes Romney look like someone who isn't ready to be president, who isn't ready to embrace all Americans and to look out for America's interests first. As Melissa says, Romney doesn't even seem to understand that it's not his campaign that's running for president, even as he's finally shouldering some responsibility for himself.
In an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes," the Republican presidential nominee rejected criticism from conservative pundits who have called his campaign incompetent. "It doesn't need a turnaround," Romney insisted, pointing to national polls that have him "tied" with Obama. "I've got a very effective campaign. It's doing a very good job." Asked about GOP worries over a hidden video that caught him dismissing Obama supporters?which he estimated to be 47 percent of the country?as having a victim mentality and being too dependent on the government, Romney said he was responsible for those comments, not his campaign. "That's not the campaign," Romney said. "That was me, right?"
No wonder even David Brooks thinks Romney's wheels are coming off.

Our fallible prophetvisit
Sara Azmeh Rasmussen (Originally posted by openDemocracy, republished under a Creative Commons license) In a brief interlude between two debates at a culture festival, I encountered the film ?Innocence of Muslims?. Fast-forwarding through the trailer, three minutes was sufficient to make up my mind: an amateurish mishmash of overplayed, parodic scenes unworthy of notice. But notice it got. Anger is boiling in the Muslim world, with mass mobilisation to restore the honour of the prophet in East and West. In a few days an intricate picture emerged, too complicated for anyone to pretend they have grasped its complexities. Suicide bombings and attacks on embassies have led to the loss of many lives. Large demonstrations are held daily. We?re flooded with news and analysis. We see, hear and are tormented by the riddle of how a low budget flick of this calibre can trigger an international crisis. After all our efforts at drawing acceptable borders between freedom of religion and freedom of speech, we should have progressed further than this. But here we are again: conflict and strife. Some attempt to explain the new wave of protest by pointing to the post-revolutionary chaos in the Arab world, the rampant unemployment and widespread anti-American attitudes. One notes the growth of right wing extremist groups and increasing scepticism, or outright hostility, towards Muslims in the west. Experts have covered all these economic and political aspects. But where did the religious perspective go, in a conflict triggered by criticism of religion and festering because of the defence of it? It seems the analysts? judgement is coloured by their local atmosphere, where the liberal version of religions has long since buried all memory of religious wars. As someone whose background is in Muslim culture and faith, I find these analyses good, but inadequate. [More after the jump] The enraged demonstrators inside and outside the Muslim world, valuing the honour of the Muslim prophet over not only freedom of speech, but human rights and other man made laws, have different motives as well as varying political, social and moral values. But they all emphasize the status of the prophet in Islam. Exalted and unassailable. Infallible and untouchable. I argue that the questions arising from the current, tense situation cannot be formulated ? far less answered ? without taking the religious aspect into consideration. The history of religion So let me write a few words on religion, not as a static artefact, but as an historic process. The tradition and collective experience of Islam has been shaped by a multitude of influences ? and I believe that is grounds for cautious optimism. The explosive rage on behalf of the prophet is inextricably connected to dogma and doctrine developed in a phase of Islam long after the death of the prophet himself. The orthodox dogma of the Quran an eternally existing, rather than created, message, and the doctrine of the infallibility of the messenger of God, is a theological-philosophical pairing constructed in a time when civil war raged under the caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib. In the year 827 the dogma was consolidated by the caliph al-Ma´mun, after one of two rival factions, the Umayyads (today?s Sunnis), had marginalised Ali?s followers (the Shias). In other words, centralizing political power in the newly established Islamic empire went hand in hand with the cementing of the holy texts and elimination of all theological challenges. A significant school at the time, Mu´tazila, distanced itself from these irrational doctrines, and for that reason had to go into hiding. But what has history from eight and ninth century Arabia to do with the attacks on embassies and widespread violence in response to a film critical of Islam produced in 21st century USA? Everything! To attack the ?sacredness? of the prophet was, logically, interpreted as an attack on the fundaments of the classical faith. In this rigid theological context, a caricature that humanises and reduces the prophet is an outright attack on the very underpinnings of thefaith. I?ve spent a lot of time pondering this in recent years. It has become apparent to me that this dogma must be challenged, not only to resolve the current conflict between speech versus faith, but to free the Islamic tradition from the cage that has led to intellectual and philosophical stagnation for centuries. This is the most significant barrier to a reform theology, and to the introduction of liberal ideas into Muslim culture and society. Reading with new eyes A simple feat of logic should be what is needed to break this wall of dogma, on which such a large volume of classical theological literature is based. But as we know, logic isn?t the optimal way to counter what resides in the spiritual and religious sphere. Nevertheless, it is my moral duty to present this challenge to my own. I keep within the Islamic tradition, and will not support my argument with a single non-Muslim source. I adamantly believe we Muslims have the knowledge and tools we need for analysis within our own tradition. All we need is to read with new eyes. The following story is found in classical Islamic history books and is known to most Muslims: shortly before the battle at Badr in the western park of the Arabian peninsula (624), and after the prophet Muhammad had placed his troops in formation, a disciple, Hubab, asks if this choice of military position is revealed by God, or is a tactical choice by the prophet himself. The prophet replies it was his own choice, to which Hubab replies: ?Prophet, this isn?t the right position.? In the story, the prophet follows the advice of Hubab and orders the troops to march to the nearest source of water and block the enemy from accessing it. Only due to this new tactic do the Muslims win the battle, considered the turning point in the Muslim fight against the heathen tribes. The prophet made a serious miscalculation in a critical war situation, in a crucial phase of Islamic history. The guidance that corrected it came from an individual in the Muslim community, not directly from God. What should this tell us about the prophet and the creation of the Quran? An infallible and holy figure can give us a heavenly book where not a character shall change. But a regular, chosen human being can convey the message of God that is needed for the times. Reforming Islamic theology does not involve throwing all our tradition overboard. It is about establishing methods for rational reflection and reasoning. To discard imitation and repetition. We need to stop branding the rationalists amongst us as heretics, and rather look upon them as creative challengers and renewers. Only by freeing our religion from the shackles of history, the paralyzing dogmas, can we deny amateur films and simple caricatures the destructive powers capable of inducing the apocalyptic scenes we see today.

It's 100% probability for Obama right now (could change, of course)visit
I have been an admirer and fan of Richard Charnin's work (TruthIsAll) on election forecasting and election fraud since 2004. This is his latest. It's based on the most recent polls so the 100% can drop (although, I'm told, it cannot increase, regardless of Romney's foolishness;)
  9/19/ 2012 Presidential True Vote/Election Fraud Simulation Model:Obama 320 EV; 100% Win Probability By Richard Charnin Sept.19, 2012 From Richard Charnin's Blog Posted with the permission of the author The analysis assumes that the election is held on the latest poll date. 2012 Presidential True Vote and Monte Carlo Simulation Forecast Model Forecast Summary Obama has jumped to a commanding 49-44% lead in the latest state polls and has 320 expected electoral votes based on the win probabilities. The 500 trial Monte Carlo simulation indicates that if the election were held today, he would have a 100% probability of winning the electoral vote (he won all 500 election simulation trials). But it?s still too early to project him a winner. (Image) Approximately 7% of voters are undecided and may hold the key to the election. I suspect they are mostly Democrats disillusioned with Obama but scared by Romney and Ryan. The model currently assumes an equal split of the undecided vote. If undecided voters break for Obama, he will be in a commanding position to win re-election. But look for an October surprise. The polls are anticipating the inevitable 5% reduction in Obama?s True Vote. Immediately after the Democratic Convention, Obama moved into a 5% lead in the Gallup (RV) and Rasmussen (LV) national tracking polls, but the polls are tied once again. The forecast model is a combination of a) a pre-election Monte Carlo Simulation Model, which is based on the latest state polls, and b) the True Vote Model, based on a feasible estimate of new and returning 2008 voters and corresponding estimated vote shares. The model will be updated periodically for the latest state and national polls. 9/19/2012 True Vote Model Obama Romney True Vote...... 55.25% 44.75% Expected EV.... 379.64 158.36 Snapshot EV.... 380 158 EV Win Prob.... 99.97% 0.03% State Polls Average........ 49.3% 44.4% Projection..... 52.5% 47.5% Pop. Win Prob.. 94.8% 5.2% Expected EV.... 320.2 217.8 Snapshot EV.... 322 216 National Polls Average..... .. 48.20% 45.30% Projection.. .. 51.45% 48.55% Pop. Win Prob.. 92.2% 7.8% Gallup......... 47.0% 46.0% Rasmussen...... 46.0% 47.0% Simulation Projection..... 52.5% 47.5% Mean EV........ 320.4 217.6 Max EV......... 351 187 Min EV......... 278 260 EV Win Prob.... 100.0% 0.0% Polling samples are based on prior election recorded votes ? not the previous True Vote or unadjusted exit poll. Likely voter (LV) polls discount the pervasive systematic fraud factor. They are traditionally excellent predictors of the recorded vote ? which always understate the Democratic True Vote. In the six presidential elections from 1988-2008, the Democrats won the average recorded vote by 48-46%. But they led both state and national exit polls by 52-42%. There were approximately 375,000 respondents in the 274 state polls and 90,000 respondents in the six national polls. Overall, an extremely low margin of error. Based on the historical record, Obama?s True Vote share is about 4-5% higher than the latest polls indicate. It is a certainty that he will lose millions of votes on Election Day to fraud. The only question is: Will he overcome the systemic fraud factor? As of today, it appears he will. The 2008 True Vote Model (TVM) determined that Obama won in a landslide by 58-40.3%. Based on the historical red-shift, he needs at least a 55% True Vote share to overcome the systemic 5% fraud factor. The TVM was confirmed by the unadjusted state exit poll aggregate: Obama had an identical 58-40.5% margin (76,000 respondents). He won unadjusted National Exit Poll (17,836 respondents) by an even bigger 61-37% margin. The National Exit Poll displayed on mainstream media websites (Fox, CNN, ABC, CBS, NYT, etc.) indicate that Obama had 52.9% ? his recorded vote. Unadjusted state and national exit polls are always forced to match the recorded share. The source of the polling data is the Real Clear Politics (RCP) website. The simulation uses the latest state polls. Recorded 2008 vote shares are used for states which have not yet been polled. The True Vote Model In projecting the national vote, the required input to the TVM are returning 2008 voter turnout rates in 2012 and estimated 2012 vote shares. The rates are applied to each state in order to derive the national aggregate turnout . A 1.25% annual voter mortality rate is assumed. There are two options for estimating returning voters. The default option assumes that 2008 voters return in proportion to the unadjusted 2008 exit poll aggregate (Obama won by 58-40.5%). In this scenario, Obama wins by 55-45% with 380 EV and has a 100% EV win probability. It is important to note that the True Vote is never the same as the recorded vote. The 1988-2008 True Vote Model utilizes estimates of previous election returning and new voters and and adjusted state and national exit poll vote shares. Sensitivity analysis The TVM displays the effects of effects of incremental changes in turnout rates and shares of returning voters. Three tables are generated consisting of nine scenario combinations of a) Obama and McCain turnout rates and b) the Obama/Romney shares of returning Obama and McCain voters. The output tables display resulting vote shares, vote margins and popular vote win probabilities. Monte Carlo Simulation: 500 election trials There are two options for the simulation model. Both should be used and the results compared. The default option uses the TVM projected state vote shares. The second option uses projections based on the latest pre-election state polls. The projected vote share is the sum of the poll share and the undecided voter allocation (UVA). The model uses state vote share projections as input to the Normal Distribution function to determine the state win probability. The simulation consists of 500 election trials. The electoral vote win probability is the number of winning election trials divided by 500. In each election trial, a random number (RND) between 0 and 1 is generated for each state and compared to Obama?s state win probability. If RND is greater than the win probability, the Republican wins the state. If RND is less than the win probability, Obama wins the state. The winner of the election trial is the candidate who has at least 270 electoral votes. The process is repeated in 500 election trials. 2008 State Exit Poll and recorded vote data is displayed in the ?2008? worksheet. The latest state polls are listed in the ?Trend/Chart? worksheet, The data is displayed graphically in the ?PollChart? worksheet. A histogram of the Monte Carlo Simulation (500 trials) is displayed in the ?ObamaEVChart? worksheet. Electoral Votes and Win Probabilities The Electoral Vote is calculated in three ways. 1. The Snapshot EV is a simple summation of the state electoral votes. It could be misleading since there may be several very close elections which favor one candidate. 2. The Mean EV is the average electoral vote of the 500 simulated elections. 3. The Theoretical (expected) EV is the product sum of all state electoral votes and corresponding win probabilities. A simulation or meta-analysis is not required to calculate the expected EV. The Mean EV approaches the Theoretical EV as the number of election trials increase. This is an illustration of the Law of Large Numbers. Obama?s electoral vote win probability is his winning percentage of 500 simulated election trials. The national popular vote win probability is calculated using the normal distribution using the national aggregate of the the projected vote shares. The national aggregate margin of error is 1-2% lower than the average MoE of the individual states. That is, if you believe the Law of Large Numbers and convergence to the mean. The Fraud Factor Election fraud reduced the 1988-2008 Democratic presidential unadjusted exit poll margin from 52-42% to 48-46%. View the 1988-2008 Unadjusted State and National Exit Poll Database The combination of True Vote Model and state poll-based Monte Carlo Simulation enables the analyst to determine if the electoral and popular vote share estimates are plausible. The aggregate state poll shares can be compared to the default TVM. The TVM can be forced to match the aggregate poll projection by? - Adjusting vote shares by an incremental change. A red flag would be raised if the match required, if for example Obama captured 85% of returning Obama voters and Romney had 95% of returning McCain voters (a 10% net defection). - Adjusting 2008 voter turnout in 2012. For example, if McCain voter turnout is required to be 10-15% higher than Obama?s, that would raise a red flag. - Setting the returning voter option to the 2008 recorded vote. The implicit assumption is that the 2008 recorded vote was the True Vote. But the 2008 election was highly fraudulent. Therefore, model vote shares will closely match the likely voter polls. Check the simulated, theoretical and snapshot electoral vote projections and corresponding win probabilities. Election Model Projections: 2004-2010 In 2004, I created the Election Model , and posted weekly forecasts using the latest state and national polls. The model was the first one to use Monte Carlo simulation and sensitivity analysis to calculate the probability of winning the electoral vote. The final Nov.1 forecast had Kerry winning 337 electoral votes with 51.8% of the two-party vote. The forecast closely matched the unadjusted exit polls. In 2006, the adjusted National Exit Poll indicated that the Democrats won the House by a 52-46% vote share. But the 120 Generic Poll Forecasting Regression Model indicated that they would have 56.4% ? exactly matching the unadjusted exit poll. The 2008 Election Model projection exactly matched Obama?s 365 electoral votes and was within 0.2% of his 52.9% recorded share. He won by 9.5 million votes. But the model understated his True Vote. The forecast was based on final likely voter (LV) polls that had Obama leading by 7%. Registered voter (RV) polls had him up by 13% ? before undecided voter allocation. The landslide was denied. The post-election True Vote Model determined that Obama won by 23 million votes with 420 EV. His 58% share matched the unadjusted state exit poll aggregate (83,000 respondents). Exit pollsters and media pundits have never explained the massive 11% state exit poll margin discrepancy or the impossible 17% National Exit Poll discrepancy. If they did, they would surely claim that the discrepancies were due to reluctant Republican responders. But they will not even try to explain the impossible returning voter adjustments required to force the polls to match the recorded vote in the 1988, 1992, 2004 and 2008 elections. Pre-election RV and LV Polls Virtually all early pre-election polls are of Registered Voters (RV). An exception is the Rasmussen poll. It uses the Likely Voter (LV) subset of the full RV sample. Rasmussen is an admitted GOP pollster. One month prior to the election, pollsters replace the full RV sample polls with LV subsamples. The RV polls are transformed to LVs to promote an artificial ?horse race? ? and the poll shares invariably tighten. The Likely Voter Cutoff Model (LVCM) effectively understates the turnout of millions of new Democratic voters ? and therefore increases the projected Republican share. Democrats always do better in RV polls than in the LVs. Media pundits and pollsters are paid to project the recorded vote ? not the True Vote. And they are usually right. The closer they are, the better they look. They expect there will be fraud, so they prepare the public for it by switching to LV polls which are usually excellent predictors of the recorded vote. But they never mention the fraud factor which gets them there. Historically, RV polls have closely matched the unadjusted exit polls after undecided voters were allocated and have confirmed the True Vote Model. The loop is closed when implausible or impossible exit polls are forced to match the recorded votes predicted by LV pre-election polls that were overweighted for the Republicans. Like Be the first to like this. About Richard Charnin In 1965, I graduated from Queens College (NY) with a BA in Mathematics. I later obtained an MS in Applied Mathematics from Adelphi University and an MS in Operations Research from the Polytechnic Institute of NY. I started out as a numerical control engineer/programmer for a major defense/aerospace manufacturer and then moved to Wall Street as a manager/developer of corporate finance quantitative applications for several major investment banks. I consulted in quantitative applications development for major domestic and foreign financial institutions, investment firms and industrial corporations. In 2004 l began posting weekly "Election Model" projections based on state and national polls. As "TruthIsAll", I have been posting election analysis to determine the True Vote ever since. View all posts by Richard Charnin

Site Revamp Updatevisit
First the good news; as of eight hours ago, our tech people succeeded in getting the database of Agonist posts and their comments to convert to Wordpress and got it installed on the new site. That means we'll definitely be able to go ahead with the changeover. Now the bad news: we seem to have a problem with the new Forums, which were working before. Don't worry, I'm sure it's fixable. So, the next step is to take a day or two to test the new site with the database in place and make sure it works, then go "live". We couldn't transfer any posts put up after the database convertion began so we'll be transferring in some of those manually too. We'll now be sending out automated emails to all registered Agonist users with their new login details, so watch for that mail. Contributors and editors, I need to hear from you once you have that login, to check your permissions are set correctly. New users should now also be able to register on the new site. I'm excited about this, I hope you are too. Warmest regards, Steve EiC.

Is Even Romney Dumb Enough To Listen To Hill Republicans On Afghanistan?visit
The Hill reports that sen. Lindsay Graham and other Republican hawks are urging Mitt Romney to distinguish himself from Obama on Afghanistan policy - by saying he'd double down and stay longer. Madness. If there's one foreign policy move guaranteed to lose an incumbent this election, it would be exactly this. Over 75% of Americans think the US should get out of the Afghan quagmire sooner rather than later. However, I don't think even Romney's that self-destructive. He's more likely to be listening to just about every military commander and thinker agreeing with the UK's Rory Stewart as he writes that "What we have seen is roughly what we will get".
It is time to be honest about Afghanistan: we face a desperate situation and an intolerable choice. If the US, Britain and their allies leave Afghanistan, there will be chaos and perhaps civil war. The economy will falter and the Afghan government will probably be unable to command the loyalty or support of its people. The Taliban could significantly strengthen their position in the south and east, and attack other areas. Powerful men, gorged on foreign money, extravagantly armed and connected to the deepest veins of corruption and gangsterism, will flex their muscles. For all these reasons departure will feel ? rightly ? like a betrayal of Afghans and of the soldiers who have died. But keeping foreign troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 will not secure the country?s future either. Every year since 2004, generals and politicians have acknowledged a disastrous situation, produced a new strategy and demanded new resources. They have tried ?ink-spots? and ?development zones?; counterinsurgency and nation-building; partnering and mentoring; military surges, civilian surges and reconciliation. Generals and ministers called 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 ?decisive? years in Afghanistan. None was. None will be.
That's the reality, trying to act as if it isn't would be tantamount to sending young men to suicide.

Romney's Tax Form "Foreign Country" Gaffevisit
Mitt Romney?s 2011 tax return has "USA" in the space for "Foreign country name." No, really. It's a storm in what should be a teacup, on the scale of the jacket for Obama's book mistakenly saying he was born in Kenya, but it still made me chuckle.

Sunday Jukebox Overspillvisit
So many good things about the Saturday Jukebox this week, so here's a Sunday swagger. Post them if you've got them.

Ecuador weighs Assange transfer to Swedenvisit
Quito | Sept 22AFP - Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino has proposed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange be transferred from London to Sweden, where he would remain under Quito's protection. Patino on Friday told journalists Ecuador was weighing such a transfer as a possible alternative for Assange to "remain under our protection while also satisfying the demands of the Swedish justice system." Assange took shelter in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June after exhausting all appeals against extradition from Britain to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault allegations. Ecuador has granted him diplomatic asylum. The 41-year-old Australian fears Sweden will hand him over to the United States, where he could face prosecution over the release of a vast cache of leaked Iraq and Afghanistan war reports and diplomatic cables. Patino hinted to "new" developments in the Swedish case, saying "several elements of proof have been dismissed," though he declined to provide further details. He stressed that the best option, in Ecuador's view, would be for Britain to grant Assange safe passage. On the margins of next week's United Nations General Assembly in New York, Patino plans to discuss Assange's case with his British counterpart William Hague.

Top Chinese official makes landmark Afghan visitvisit
Beijing | Sept 23AFP - China's top security official has made the first high-level trip to Afghanistan by a senior Chinese leader in nearly half a century, meeting President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, state media said Sunday. Zhou Yongkang made the four-hour visit on Saturday, in a secretive trip aimed at shoring up ties between the neighbours, Xinhua news agency reported. The visit was not previously announced due to security concerns, the report said. Late president Liu Shaoqi, the last senior Chinese official to visit Afghanistan, visited in 1966, Xinhua said. Beijing has stepped up diplomacy with Afghanistan in recent months as the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops approaches. China, which shares a 76-kilometre (47-mile) border with Afghanistan's far northeast, has already secured major oil and copper mining concessions in Afghanistan, which is believed to have more than $1 trillion worth of minerals. The scramble for influence in Afghanistan is expected to intensify in the run-up to 2014, with its central position in a volatile region having shaped its history for centuries. Xinhua provided few details about the visit, other than quoting Zhou as saying: "It is in line with the fundamental interests of the two peoples for China and Afghanistan to strengthen a strategic and cooperative partnership... conducive to regional peace, stability and development."

Gary Johnson for presidentvisit
Did you know there's a third-party candidate running for president? I didn't until a few minutes ago. I did however notice that Republicans culled him from debates early on and I like his message far better than the two pieces of work the primary parties profer.

Voter Harassment, Circa 2012visit
NYT Editorial | September 21 ... a Tea Party group, True the Vote, descends on a largely minority precinct and combs the registration records for the slightest misspelling or address error. It uses this information to challenge voters at the polls, and though almost every challenge is baseless, the arguments and delays frustrate those in line and reduce turnout. ...True the Vote grew out of a Tea Party group in Texas, the King Street Patriots, with the assistance of Americans for Prosperity, a group founded by the Koch brothers that works to elect conservative Republicans. It has developed its own software to check voter registration lists against driver?s license and property records. Those kinds of database matches are notoriously unreliable because names and addresses are often slightly different in various databases, but the group uses this technique to challenge more voters.

"...That's Funny..., But It's Not A Laughing Matter..."visit
The title is a quote from Bill Moyer's on tonight's show. A while back a poll here at The Agonist asked what the most important issue was in the election. I commented that I believed that the most important issue wasn't a choice in the poll..., that I thought that "Campaign Finance Reform" was the most important issue. That comment may have been influenced by a Stephan Colbert segment that Bill Moyers made the quote in the title about. You really should view or read tonights show with guest, Trevor Potter, who appeared on that Colbert show. Here's the introduction:
BILL MOYERS: Welcome. The humorist Andy Borowitz says it would be nice to spend billions on schools and roads, but right now that money is desperately needed for political ads. Sure enough, our political class is wallowing in cash, most of it going to your local TV stations. Last week, NBC reported that total spending on ads by both sides in the presidential race had surpassed $600 million: $318.5 million for Team Romney, $287.2 million for Team Obama. And get this: More than half of all that money for ads has been sent in just three swing states ? Florida, Ohio and Virginia. What?s more, huge sums ? not only for ads but for get-out-the-vote efforts like mailings and robocalls -- are going into House and Senate races in the fight to control Congress. Altogether, three billion dollars in campaign cash have been raised so far, and a projected $6 billion by the election, less than seven weeks away. It?s not just that we?re being hit by swarms of ads thicker than locusts. What?s truly frightening is that we don?t know who?s really paying for them. ... BILL MOYERS: If you?re a super PAC, empowered by the Supreme Court?s Citizens United decision to take unlimited donations, you?re supposed to make your donors public. And you're not supposed to coordinate your efforts with the candidate. But there are ways to get around both requirements and to hide those campaign mega-dollars. Instead of calling yourself a super PAC you become a ?social welfare? group. That?s right, a ?social welfare? group, and the IRS designates you a 501(c)(4) non-profit. These are sucking up more and more of the big money precisely because their donors can remain secret. And just to add insult to injury, they?re tax exempt. By the way, ?The Washington Post?s? Chris Cillizza reports that pro-Romney outside groups have paid for three out of four of the ads supporting him in this election cycle while pro-Obama outside groups have paid for one in every five ads backing the president. The conservative groups, Cillizza writes, "have kept Romney in the game" and he should be able to "outspend Obama rather significantly in the final weeks of the race." So whether you want to call it an arms race, a plague of Biblical proportions, or the death spiral of democracy, take it seriously. Especially all that secret money. It?s poison being mainlined into our country?s arteries, as destructive as arsenic in your drinking water. And you?ll never know who put it there. No one knows the ins-and-outs of this cash-and-carry racket better than Trevor Potter, and no one is more committed to cleaning it up. A former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, he served as general counsel to John McCain during the senator?s presidential campaigns in 2000 and again in 2008. Trevor Potter is with the law firm of Caplin and Drysdale in Washington, and he?s the founding president of the Campaign Legal Center, that?s a non-partisan group committed to ?representing the public interest in enforcement of campaign and media law.? All very impressive, but let?s face it, these days Trevor Potter?s greatest claim to fame is as the man who keeps Stephen Colbert out of jail. He advised Colbert on how to create his own super PAC and then to set up his more clandestine 501(c)(4). Take a look. ...
The Quillayute Cowboy

Saturday Jukebox: Swagger like usvisit
Some blues-saturated raunch to put a little cream money in your coffee: What song is making you strut this superlative Saturday?

Mittens Releases A Tax Return Showing He's Not Like Normal Folksvisit
So, Romney has released his 2011 tax return. The Romneys paid $1,935,708 in taxes on $13,696,951 of mostly investment income for a measly effective tax rate of 14.1 percent. But Mitt deliberately overpaid, telling the IRS not to count over $1.75 million in charitable donations because otherwise the Romneys' tax rate would be more like 9%, probably a bit too low for even the average Tea Partier to swallow, and the Romneys can always recoup the deduction for the donations not counted in later years. Think Progress notes that, back in July, Romney said "I don?t pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don?t think I?d be qualified to become president." But now we know that he paid more than he was legally due so.... Romneys' tax preparer, PricewaterhouseCoopers, also provided a letter summarizing the tax rates that the Romneys paid from 1990 to 2009 and showing an average annual effective federal tax rate of 20.2% with the lowest year's rate being 13.66%. Looks like Harry Reid or his mysterious source were just making s**t up, but it's made up s**t that forced this disclosure today. Turns out Mitt was right that we'd find a lot to crticize in his returns if he released them.

Romney Shifts To Israel's Red Line On Iran, For Todayvisit
I wanted to title this post "Bibi has his hand up Romney's ass, working him like a puppet", but then I realized that wouldn't be true if Romney figures his listeners at the time want to hear something different. Think Progress:
Mitt Romney told a group of rabbis and other Jewish leaders on a telephone call on Thursday that an Iranian nuclear weapons capability would be his threshold in which he would launch a military strike on the Islamic Republic, Foreign Policy reports:
?With regards to the red line, I would image Prime Minister Netanyahu is referring to a red line over which if Iran crossed it would take military action. And for me, it is unacceptable or Iran to have the capability of building a nuclear weapon, which they could use in the Middle East or elsewhere,? Romney said. ?So for me, the red line is nuclear capability. We do not want them to have the capacity of building a bomb that threatens ourselves, our friends, and the world.?
Romney?s new so-called ?red line? represents a shift from what he said just last week, telling ABC?s George Stephanopoulos that his red line is the same as President Obama?s.
Of course, this is a dumb-ass stance to take for a prospective US president, quickly enmiring the nation in yet another costly and disasterous war in the Middle East, and by the time the foreign policy debate rolls around old Etch-a-Sketh will have returned to his former stance next to Obama. It's just...he was talking to Rabbis!

MeK to be delisted - isn't buying politicians grand?visit
CNN's Security Clearance blog has this scoop:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to notify Congress as early as Friday that she intends to take the Iranian exile group Mujahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK, off a State Department terror list, three senor administration officials told CNN. The notification will be followed by a formal de-listing from the State Department?s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in the coming days.
Despite the MeK being an Islamo-marxist quasi-religious cult with some very dodgy practises, which has killed Americans and more recently Iranians in terror attacks over the years, money talks louder than terror. The MeK has been spending lavishly on buying political advocacy, using proxy groups to make the payments so that the people taking $25,000 and more at a time to speak up for the cult could evade US law against support for a terror organisation. This entirely expected move is a huge fail for Clinton, State and justice, exposing the hypocrisy behind the "great war on terror" lie, but a massive win for corruption. Bleh. Update "Revealed: the steady flow of funds to members of Congress, lobbying firms and former officials in support of Iranian group." The Guardian follows the multi-millions.

They hate him. They REALLY hate him.visit
Newsbeast's John Avlon on why nobody -- not even fellow former GOP primary candidates -- can stand Mittens:
It?s often said that when it comes to presidential nominees, Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line. Conservatives have long warned about the inability of Romney to excite the base, but the new Pew Survey quantified this dynamic, showing that ?roughly half of Romney?s supporters say they are voting against Obama rather than for the Republican nominee." I?ve come to believe this disconnect is rooted in Mitt Romney?s essentially businesslike approach to politics. Most Republican politicians who came of age in the Reagan Era are Conviction Politicians. They were moved to public service by a deep commitment to a set of principles and policies. Mitt Romney approaches politics in a more transactional way. He wants to improve the country but he is fundamentally a salesman and in this world view, it would be illogical not to tailor sales to the needs of different audiences. Why would Mitt try to make the same pitch to a Massachusetts electorate as Republican primaries voters? It?s not personal; it?s business. This businesslike approach to politics also explains Mitt?s willingness to go negative. On the surface, the ?death star? approach of burying opponents in an avalanche of negative ads, as Romney did in Iowa and Florida, seems inconsistent with a man of deep morals and religious faith. But if you believe that politics is essentially a dirty business?a necessary evil to get ahead and eventually do good, then you make a mental division: you render unto Caesar that which is Caesar?s. And so going negative is simply the coin of the realm. Honor in politics is misplaced. The combination of these two factors ends up alienating many of Mitt?s fellow political figures. Those who have run against him feel that he is quick to amplify dishonest attacks?and the sting is more infuriating because it comes with a base alloy of hypocrisy.

Ann Tries Her Own #Romneyshambles, Tells GOP They're "Lucky" To Have Mittvisit
Raw Story:
During an interview with radio Iowa, Ann Romney was asked how she would respond to influential conservative critics like Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. ?Stop it!? she snapped. ?You want to try it? Get in the ring.? Ann Romney added: ?This is hard and, you know, it?s an important thing that we?re doing right now and it?s an important election and it is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt?s qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country.? ?It?s nonsense. And the chattering class, they ? you know, it?s hard, of course. They don?t ? I don?t let it sink in. You hear it and then you just let it go right by. And you?re used to it. Honestly at this point, I?m not surprised by anything.?
Yeah, conservative pundits, stop sponging off Mitt's gaffes and go and get a real job. Moochers!

Friday Cat Blogging - Rmoney campaign collapse editionvisit

Talking About A United States Of Europevisit
ITN's Europe editor, James Mates, writes that, in the past, whenever people started to talk about "federalism' and a 'United States of Europe", European leaders would be at pains to point out that no-one in power was seriously talking about that particular f-word. With the current eurozone economic bother (no, not really a crisis) though, that has changed. The President of the European Commission, Manuel Barroso last week said that no-one should be afraid of the word "federation" and is proposing new fiscal powers over common banking, budgeting and taxation for the EU which just about everyone accepts will happen within the next two years. Mates continues:
But it is increasingly clear that plans for the next "great leap forward" go much further than doing what?s necessary to save the Euro. Following hard on the heels of the Barroso speech came a wide-ranging list of proposals from a group of 11 EU states - led by the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle - that would go way beyond anything that any UK Government (not just this one) could sign up to. The list is spectacular in both its breadth and ambition. There would be a directly elected European President and new powers for the European Parliament. There would be a pan-European foreign ministry with greatly expanded powers to run an EU foreign policy decided by majority voting (so no vetoes by the UK or anyone else). Defence policy would also be Europeanised, with the explicit aim that ?this could eventually involve a European army?. There would be a new EU police organisation to guard all external borders, with all visas run from Brussels. Perhaps most controversially of all, in the future it?s proposed that EU Treaties could be changed by majority voting. In other words, changes as significant as those in the Maastricht or Lisbon Treaties could simply be imposed on a country, whether it liked them or not. And in case anyone still really believes that the UK is ?winning the debate in Europe? the list of governments backing these proposals include every major EU state except?Britain. Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland are all behing them, although it has to be said that the debate in France over such a decisive move towards federalism is likely to be pretty lively.
ZOMG, really? Block the Chunnel, mobilize the Home Guard on the White Cliffs! They may take our lives but they'll never take our bowler hats! Or not. It seems to me that the Blighty Brigade of Unionist always-be-an-England-ers are protesting over a goose/gander distinction they don't see themselves. All of the things listed above are already foisted upon Scotland as part of the United Kingdom and it's supposed to be good for the Scots - but when the shoe's on the other foot, ah well. At the end of the day, of course, both ends of this hypocrisy are all about preserving power for the chinless-wonder elite who comprise the English political class. As a Scot who believes fiercely in Independence, I've never been too enamoured of the "Scotland in Europe" formula the SNP believes it needs to talk up to have a chance of winning. I'd rather see Scotland follow Norway's path. However, if the Unionists themselves are to have any intellectual consistency then they have to concede that, for Scotland at least, if taking orders from and being part of a far larger union is a good thing then it's better for Scotland to be part of the largest on offer in it's own right, rather than being a province of a province in the United States of Europe.

Winds of change in the Horn of Africavisit
Sally Healy (Originally posted by New Internationalist, republished under a Creative Commons license) New Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Photo: VOA, reproduced under a CC license. On 20 August the Ethiopian authorities announced the sudden death of the Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, who had been at the helm of Ethiopian politics for twenty-one years. At the age of 57, Meles still seemed to be at the height of his powers but had announced his intention to step down from the leadership in 2015. He was admired internationally for his intellectual brilliance and had spoken of his hopes for a second career as an academic. Despite Meles? promise to quit office, few observers of the Ethiopian scene expected that he would cease to be the main force in politics for the foreseeable future. His sudden departure has prompted reflection on a complex legacy. His undoubted success in making Ethiopia a top development partner has been tempered by a record of intolerance and increasing political repression at home. [More after the jump] Just three weeks later in neighbouring Somalia, another 57 year-old man, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, came to sudden prominence. Against all expectations, Hassan Sheikh emerged successfully from a parliamentary election process to become the President of Somalia. He faced twenty-two opponents in the contest. Many of them had gained notoriety as members of the deeply discredited Transitional Federal Government that had done so little to restore peace and order in the country. Hassan Sheikh, on the other hand, is well known in Mogadishu as a man of integrity. His background as a peace activist in civil society and a respected academic has raised expectations that the long political nightmare unfolding in South Central Somalia might at last be coming to an end. The political fortunes of Ethiopia and Somalia have coincided once before: in 1991 both countries saw off military dictatorships and started a new chapter. Their political trajectory since then could hardly be more different. Ethiopia has shaken off its humiliating 1980s image of famine, starvation and extreme poverty. The country is now feted as an exemplary development partner, DFID?s biggest bilateral aid recipient, boasting real progress on the Millennium Development Goals and ?double digit? percentage economic growth figures. Somalia, in contrast, appeared to have lost its way, a failed state, known internationally only for warlordism, violent conflict, famine, corruption and anarchy. Ethiopia?s attempt to forcibly impose a government of its choice on Somalia in 2006 only made matters worse, fuelling the radical extremism of Al Shabab. The dramatic developments of recent weeks could start to change the outlook for both Ethiopia and Somalia. Ethiopia, with a long history of indigenous statehood, has robust institutions but the country has never yet experienced a change of leadership that did not involve some turmoil and violence. For now the ruling party is playing the lead role. On 15 September, Haile Mariam Desalegn, Meles? former deputy, was elected party chairperson. This is a prelude to his inauguration as prime minister by parliament, an assembly with only one member who does not belong to the ruling party. Somalia?s state institutions have been largely eroded, but its democratic and participatory political traditions are stronger than those of its powerful neighbour. The election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his inauguration as president on 16 September marks a much needed break with the past. He is neither part of the corrupt political establishment nor under the sway of foreign powers. He stayed in Mogadishu through all the hard times, established a successful university there and worked consistently for reconciliation among Somali factions. His challenge is to bring this approach to the national stage. The outside world will miss Meles, a pro-Western regional ally in a dangerous neighbourhood. But there is room to hope that the momentous changes in the Horn this summer will include a positive transformation for Somalia. Sally Healy is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute.

Conservatives Continue To Back Away From Mitt's 47%visit
When you've lost the New York Daily News...and Rich Lowry:
How does this look in the real world? If a couple earning $35,000 with two kids has no income tax liability thanks to various exemptions, deductions and credits (the child tax credit has been especially important in removing families from the rolls), how much should we tax them to get them to shape up and fly right? How much do they have to fork over to the Internal Revenue Service to learn a lesson in basic civics? This line of argument represents a backdoor return to Country Club Republicanism, with the approval of part of the Republican base. Fear of the creation of a class of ?takers? can slide into disdain for people who are too poor ? or have too many kids or are too old ? to pay their damn taxes. For a whiff of how politically unattractive this point of view can be, just look at the Romney fundraising video.
Romney's given up on New Mexico, apparently - and probably given up on any meaningful sliver of the hispanic vote, after his offensive and ludicrously brown-faced appearance on Univision. I think we can call this - Romney's now officially toast. I cannot imagine him coming out ahead in the presidential debates, indeed I can only imagine each to be a progressively worse trainwreck for his campaign.

The Afghanistan Retconvisit
Spencer Ackerman points to the US military assiduously trying to rewrite history.
The Afghanistan troop surge is almost over. But before it ends on October 1, U.S. and NATO military officials are retroactively redefining its goals. Once it was about blunting the momentum of the Taliban. The new line is that it was about getting the Afghan military prepared to take over the country. As he returned from a trip to Turkey on Tuesday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the point of the surge was to ?buy us some time to push back on some Taliban initiatives? and ?to buy us some space to grow the Afghan security forces.? Echoing the chairman, Australian Brig. Gen. Roger Noble, a top NATO planning officer in Afghanistan, told Pentagon reporters Wednesday that the surge ?effectively covered and enabled the training and fielding of the Afghan national security force? ? an ?amazing outcome? ? and ?directly delivered the time and space for the ANSF to stand up and assume the lead for the security of Afghanistan.? That was not the point of the surge when President Obama sold it to the American people. ?We must reverse the Taliban?s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government,? Obama said at West Point in December 2009 when he announced his decision to order an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. Increased training for the Afghans was always part of Obama?s Afghanistan strategy. But it wasn?t a main focus of the surge. Most of the increased U.S. forces went to fight the Taliban, so much so that nearly a year later, NATO had a shortfall of troops dedicated to training the Afghans.
Gone are the glowing words about "momentum" and "pushing back the Taliban". Attacks are only down a measly three percent on last year. Arif Rafiq writes:
Beyond al Qaeda, the U.S. president has achieved little of strategic importance in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is incorrect, if not disingenuous, when he says that the Taliban's momentum has been "blunted." The Taliban's spear is sharp as ever. Last week, on Sept. 14, it cut through Camp Bastion, one of the most secure foreign bases in Afghanistan. There, in a complex attack that cost $10,000 or $20,000 at most, it destroyed six jets valued at up to $180 million. The ratio of cost to achievement of the $100 billion-a-year war in Afghanistan is indefensible
Our own JPD, in commenting on an earlier post, writes that "The American public actively doesn't want to talk about Afghanistan. This is much more than they won't notice - they'll actively punish any candidate that talks about it too much." That's quite possibly true, although it's truer of the many media pundits and Beltway insiders who cheerled this disasterous misadventure and now want it kept quiet long enough for them to disassociate themselves from it. Still, I'm an idealistic old duffer, enough of one to think that a true leader tells people the bad news no matter the effect it might have on his personal fortunes. I find myself wondering if Romney and Obama can go a whole foreign policy debate without mentioning Afghanistan even once. Surely they're going to have to try to defend the indefensible then.

T-Paw Quits Romney Campaignvisit
Tim Pawlenty has quit his post as co-chair of Romney's campaign to become head of a group of highly paid lobbyists for Wall Street looking to repeal much of Dodd-Frank. Only last year, Pawlenty was telling Wall Street to "Get your snout out of the trough" and decrying special deals "based on your connections to a congressman". Tone-deaf Mitt, for his part, says that T-Paw's new job is "vital to the future of our country". You can't make this stuff up. Update The Romney campaign realises it needs a rescue plan, and that rescue plan will consist of...more Mitt! Yeah, that'll work!

Mitt Thurmvisit
One of my favorite Saturday Night Live characters of all time was Nathan Thurm, created by Martin Short. In brief, the character was a weasel, a corrupt politicking jerk who would lie and then deny he lied, then deny his denial. Ladies and gentlemen, last night we met Mitt Thurm:
"I said I'm not in favor of a deportation, a mass deportation effort rounding up 12 million people and kicking them out of the country," Romney said. "I believe people make their own choices as to whether they want to go home and that's what I mean by self-deportation. People decide if they want to go back to the country of their origin and get in line legally to be able to come to this country." Democrats have attacked Romney's "self-deportation" concept since the primary campaign, when Romney used immigration as an issue with which to attack his rivals from the right, essentially promising to make economic opportunity so scarce for illegal immigrants that they would leave the United States voluntarily.
To quote Nate, "I never said that! It's so funny to me that you would think I said that!" After all, forcing people to "self-deport" rather than starve their families is hardly voluntary, is it? It's called "ethnic cleansing." Mitt backpedaled and flagrantly denied his own words in front of a live audience and on live network (Univision) television. He denied his full-throated support of Arizona's racist immigration law, saying that, no, he only supported the employer verification rules, and claimed Obama, who had actually ramped up the number of deportations in his first term, was soft of illegal immigration. He then denied that he ever denied that his Massachussetts healthcare plan was the blueprint for the Affordable Healthcare Act, and that he thinks anyone who received public assistance is not worth his time, mentioning that his own father received welfare when he had to flee Mexico ahead of a revolution. Hmmmmmmmmm, he doesn't do nuance all that well.

The Flashman Questionvisit

Beating Our Hothouse Future With Technology?visit
Government scientists at the US Department of Energy?s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, have succeeded in gene-tailoring a phtosynthetic bacterium which turns carbon-dioxide into ethelyne, the major feedstock of the plastics industry and a chemical that can be polymerized into gasoline or ethelene. The by-product is...oxygen. At present, ethelyne production is a significant greenhouse gas emitter, but this bacterium holds hope of reversing that and turning it into a major carbon sink. In any kind of reasonable world, government and energy companies would be falling over each other to try to take this breakthrough and industrialize it, but that would mean leaving all the money represented by oil reserves owned by those big energy companies underground rather than in corporate pockets. I'm not going to hold my breath -- cyanotic blue is so not my color.

Italy upholds verdict on CIA agents in rendition casevisit
Sept 19BBC - Italy's highest appeals court has upheld the guilty verdicts of 23 Americans, all but one of them CIA agents, accused of kidnapping a terror suspect. Their case related to the abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan in 2003. The man, known as Abu Omar, was allegedly flown to Egypt and tortured. The Americans were tried in absentia, in the first trial involving the CIA's practice of transferring suspects to countries where torture is permitted.

Poll: 63% Say They'd Vote For The Guy Who Promises To Crack Down On Corporate Corruptionvisit
So far, that's "none of the above". From Reuters:
With less than two months to go before the U.S. presidential election, a new survey found 61 percent of Americans say a candidate's commitment to rooting out corporate wrongdoing will be key in deciding who gets their vote. Along with keen interest in knowing each candidate's plans to fix the struggling economy, voters want government to do more to fight corporate misconduct - which they say helped cause the financial crisis. "In these difficult economic times, Americans are mad as hell about corporate wrongdoing and are going to do something about it in the November elections and beyond," said Jordan Thomas, a partner at law firm Labaton Sucharow, which commissioned the survey and which represents corporate whistleblowers. A telephone poll of 1,015 people conducted from Aug. 16-19 found that 64 percent of Americans said corporate misconduct helped bring about the current economic crisis. And 81 percent of respondents said the government has not done enough to stop corporate wrongdoing.
The poll also found 77% of Americans think politicians favor corporations over citizens, and 63% want more money spent on regulation and enforcing laws on corporate wrongdoing.

Strikes End In South Africa and Chicagovisit
As striking miners in South Africa and teachers in Chicago return to work, who won? According to the UK's Morning Star, the communist daily newspaper, the workers did of course. In South Africa they won a 22% pay rise but, more importantly, according to the Star, made themselves political kingmakers while forcing government to crack down on mining corporations' shabby treatment:
Media coverage of miners living in tin shacks without electricity or running water has highlighted government failure to force the mining companies to live up to the provisions of laws which link mining licences to social conditions. The country's 2002 Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act laid out duties for mining companies operating in the country regarding the rights and living conditions of their workers which they have uniformly failed to meet. On Monday, trade union federation Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini warned that government failures could bring down the ruling party. He said that 30 million of South Africa's 48 million people still survived on less than 10 rand (75p) a day. "Workers are simply saying that 'we produce the wealth and we want our reasonable share' and they expect to be given a fair share," he said.
In Chicago, returning teachers seemed to think they'd won too.
Union delegates voted overwhelmingly to suspend the strike on Tuesday afternoon after discussing a proposed settlement. Jubilant delegates poured out of a South Side union hall singing "solidarity forever," cheering, honking horns and yelling, "We're going back." "I'm relieved because I think this contract was better than what they offered first," said teacher America Olmedo. "They tried to take everything away." Union president Karen Lewis said delegates had voted 98 per cent to 2 per cent to reopen the schools and the agreement would be ratified by a ballot of the full membership in the coming weeks. "We couldn't solve all the problems of the world with one contract," Ms Lewis said. "And it was time to end the strike."
Again, the strikers reasserted their political power, upsetting the applecart to the extent that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was revealed in his true colors as just as much a labor-hater as any Republican governor. In both Chicago and South Africa, strikers didn't change the world, and they didn't even get everything they would have liked - but they won an improvement in their living and working conditions against intransigent bosses who wanted workers to "eat cake" and showed themselves they had power to effect change. That's a win.

Why Does Mitt Romney Talk The Way He Does? He's a Consultant!visit
Steven Walt today ponders a Mitt Romney mystery that occurs to me off and on. And then I come up with the answer, which I will now share with you. The mystery is why the guy says so many dumb, fact-free things; sometimes counterfactual, in fact. Then there's the tin ear, which is part of it, but perhaps more difficult to understand through my hypothesis. Back in the eighties, when management consulting was really ramping up, a great many consultant studies were inflicted on the Los Alamos National Laboratory. At the time, I was doing system studies, for which some consultant reports appeared to be relevant. IIRC, at the time, there were a lot of jokes about the uselessness of management consultants. There was a reason for that. The consultants would arrive at the Lab, take up a great amount of a great number of people's time, and produce a report that a) missed the point b) betrayed little or no understanding of how the Lab worked, and c) appeared to have been written from a standard template, sometimes including basic facts. The consultant reports that I tried to use in my systems studies were superficial and seldom provided any usable information or insight. I've had the opportunity in the past few weeks to read a report by Bain and Company in an area of my interest. Nothing has changed. Correction: the motivation for the report was clearly predatory in ways that I don't recall the earlier ones being. But that may be my perceptions getting sharper. This is where Mitt Romney received his training. Facts superficial and arbitrary, apply a predetermined template, give the customer what they want, if you can figure it out. Looks to me like this explains a lot. Cross-posted at Phronesisaical.

France ramps up embassy security after magazine caricatures Prophet Muhammad amid new protestsvisit
Paris | September 19AP - A French magazine published vulgar caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad on Wednesday, inflaming global tensions over a movie insulting to Islam and prompting France to step up security at its embassies. The move by the provocative weekly Charlie Hebdo followed days of violent protests from Asia to Africa against the U.S.-produced film ?Innocence of Muslims? and turned France into a potential target of Muslim rage. Up to now, American government sites have drawn the most ire. [...] The French government ordered embassies and schools abroad to close on Friday, the Muslim holy day, as a precautionary measure. It ordered the immediate closure of the French Embassy and the French school in Tunisia, which saw deadly film-related protests at the U.S. Embassy on Friday. The French Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning Wednesday urging French citizens in the Muslim world to exercise ?the greatest vigilance,? avoiding public gatherings and ?sensitive buildings? such as those representing the West or religious sites. At the same time, the country ? which has western Europe?s largest Muslim population ? plunged into a new debate over the limits of free speech in a modern democracy. France?s prime minister said freedom of expression is guaranteed, but cautioned that it ?should be exercised with responsibility and respect.? Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned that Charlie Hebdo could be throwing ?oil on the fire,? but said it?s up to the courts to decide whether the magazine went too far. The magazine?s crude cartoons played off the film and ridiculed the violent reaction to it. Riot police took up positions outside the offices of the magazine, which was firebombed last year after it released an edition that mocked radical Islam. Charlie Hebdo?s chief editor, who goes by the name of Charb and has been under police protection for a year, defended the cartoons. ?Muhammad isn?t sacred to me,? he said in an interview at the weekly?s offices on the northeast edge of Paris. ?I don?t blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. I live under French law; I don?t live under Quranic law.? Charb said he had no regrets and felt no responsibility for any violence. ?I?m not the one going into the streets with stones and Kalashnikovs,? he said. ?We?ve had 1,000 issues and only three problems, all after front pages about radical Islam.? [...] ?This is a disgraceful and hateful, useless and stupid provocation,? Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Paris Mosque, told The Associated Press. ?We are not Pavlov?s animals to react at each insult.? [...] The cartoonist of the French caricatures published Wednesday, who goes by the name Luz, was defiant. ?We treat the news like journalists. Some use cameras, some use computers. For us, it?s a paper and pencil,? he said. ?A pencil is not a weapon. It?s just a means of expression.?

Elegantly Statedvisit
Mitt Romney believes he could have more "elegantly stated" his contention about nearly half this country being victims, dependent on government and basically useless to him. Paul Ryan would phrase it as "makers vs takers." Right out of Ayn Rand, that one, and about as hurtful. John McCormack of the Weekly Standard (Bill Kristol's publication, if you're playing along at home) says Mitt's words play right into the liberal playbook, along with Mitt's comments that the Republican party is the "party of people who want to get rich." I have an idea for Mitt: How about "Let them eat cake"? See, here I think is the problem with the current dynamics of American politics: in this country, it should be a given that there will be poor, trod upon, disadvantaged folks but those folks are as important to the American dream of all of us as the folks who live in Park Avenue apartments and summer in the Hamptons. Indeed, if anything, those poor souls deserve a shot, an opportunity, to make something of their lives that's better than the current "40-40-40 plan." That's where you work forty hours a week for forty years only to retire on 40% of what you were barely able to live on while you were working. A true conservative believes this opportunity can be achieved through the free market. A liberal believes that the government should be involved, in order to make sure everyone gets some shot at the dream. And that's what the basic dialogue in this nation should be. A true conservative understands that, but for the grace of God there go I. Good DNA, a little bit of bad luck in school, a good mentor, a bad community, all of these are involved in determining the opportunities available to a person as he develops. All this is before we actually take into account the individual. Modern conservatisim gets into "blaming the victim," which is just wrong. That's not to say an individual is blameless for the state of his well-being. He or she makes choices, some of them smart, many really dumb. But here's the thing: at the very least, we all ought to recognize that even if someone makes perfect choices, circumstances can align so that they cannot find the opportunities available to even the average American, and to expect extraordinary outcomes in circumstances like those goes beyond silly and all the way to cruel. Does that describe the so-called 47%? No, not all of them. Most of that number are in transition, like students with Federally guaranteed loans, or the long-term unemployed. These are people who will eventually bounce back and put their lives together in some form that resembles a typical American life. Another large piece of that puzzle is the already-retired. They took their best shot and are now leaving the stage. We care for them, of course, but they are not "victims" by any stretch of the imagination, except of the predations of modern conservatives. The rest? Ahhh, these are the poor, tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. These are the people who suffer the most every time a Republican tosses around phrases like "victim," "dependent," "don't care about them." These are the disabled. The chronically disadvantaged, like people who had to drop out of high school to support their parents or a newborn baby. These are people whose best opportunities lie in fast food jobs and day work, home healthcare aides that might make $10 an hour if they are lucky, and so need a little supplement to their income because market forces are cruel. It costs money to live any place, and even though market wages may vary to reflect that, they rarely cross the cost-of-living line in order to support the person fully. And are you going to tell Grandma she can't have her attendant? Or your kids that they can't go to McDonald's because it's closed? Market forces are very cruel, and this is an issue that we can take up with both forms of conservativism: who gets to decide who really needs help versus those who are just "slacking"? Which leads me to another aspect of modern conservativism: the ability to paint everyone with broad strokes. Like Romney's comment. His 47% includes around 50 million elderly folks who favor Romney by about 8 percentage points. Well, they did until he just wrote them off. But then, look at his running mate and how he wants to treat Social Security and Medicare. I'm not sure he really cares. Let them eat cake, after all.

The Federal Reserve, a Privately Owned Banking Cartel, Has Been Given Police Powers, with Glock 22s and Patrol Carsvisit
Shocking signs of business control of government AlterNet, By Pam Martens, September 17 By mid morning on Monday, September 17, as Occupy Wall Street protesters marched around the perimeter of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, all signs that an FRPD (Federal Reserve Police Department) existed had disappeared. The FRPD patrol cars and law enforcement officers had been replaced by NYPD patrol cars and officers. That decision may have been made to keep from drawing attention to a mushrooming new domestic police force that most Americans do not know exists. Quietly, without fanfare or Congressional hearings, the USA Patriot Act in 2001 bestowed on the 12 privately owned Federal Reserve Banks, domestic policing powers. Section 364 of the Act, ?Uniform Protection Authority for Federal Reserve,? reads: ?Law enforcement officers designated or authorized by the Board or a reserve bank under paragraph (1) or (2) are authorized while on duty to carry firearms and make arrests without warrants for any offense against the United States committed in their presence?Such officers shall have access to law enforcement information that may be necessary for the protection of the property or personnel of the Board or a reserve bank.? The police officers are technically known as FRLEO, short for Federal Reserve Law Enforcement Officer. The system has its own police academies for training, their own patch and badges, uniforms, pistols, rifles, police cars and the power to arrest coast to coast without a warrant. They have ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain and a recruitment ad campaign with the slogan: ?It?s about respect and recognition from your peers. It?s you.? According to a former St. Louis Federal Reserve Law Enforcement Training Instructor, the officers are trained on pistol, rifle, auto-rifle, sub-gun and shotgun with manufacturers encompassing Smith & Wesson, Glock, Remington and Armalite. The FRLEOs employed by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. are considered employees of the Federal government since the Board is a government entity. Each of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks, as settled law under Lewis v. United States confirms, is a private corporation owned by commercial banks in its region. An email to several of the Federal Reserve Banks confirmed that they regard their FRLEOs to be privately employed by the bank. [...] There is also the obvious question as to why the expense, training and potential liability of armed police would be necessary when all of the Federal Reserve Banks are in cities with large municipal police forces. With private bankers sitting on the Boards of each of these Reserve Banks, many of whom are officers of banks under criminal investigation, there is the serious need for Congressional investigation into how the Nation?s criminal databases are being used by the private sector as well as the further chilling of protest and dissent from another new sheriff in town.

You are "parasites" - Republicans to 47%visit
Michael Collins These are possibly the most cruel and offensive words by a candidate's surrogate in any election that I can recall.
There are makers and takers, there are producers and there are parasites," she said. "Americans can distinguish between those who have produced and paid in through no fault of their own and because of Obama's horrible polices who cannot get a job or are underemployed. That's what the campaign is about.Crooks & Liars
Conservative commentator Mary Matalin hailed Mitt Romney's "47 percent" line on CNN as good news for Republicans. Who are the 47%?"
About half of those folks are basically exempt from federal income taxes because they are low-income and also may have large families, according to the Tax Policy Center, a project of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. The other half are exempted because of other provisions in the tax code, including seniors who live off Social Security or people who were able to zero out their federal income tax liability with itemized deductions such as charitable donations, or tax code features such as the child tax credit. Life Inc on Today
So when to Mitt and Mary and all the rest of the callous, uninformed elitists apologize? Never! We are nothing to them. They just need enough of us to swallow their fear tactics of divide and conquer and they'll implement the final beat down on the citizens of this country.  

In Defense of "The National Enquirer For the Left" (Er...)visit
I don't know who the fuck the clown shoes co-hosts wasting precious oxygen on Bloomberg's dime are, but Josh Barro totally drinks their under-16oz 1% milkshakes: h/t James Fallows & co.

Israeli Defense Force: Part of Romney's 47%visit
Dear Mr Mittsby, you know who are real moochers? The IDF.
Preserving strong ties with the United States is a necessity for Israel's security, former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said at the Calcalist conference on Tuesday. "We must preserve ties with the United States. I believe this is a security necessity," he said. In the past three years, he noted, US taxpayers have contributed more to the Israeli defense budget than Israeli taxpayers.
I look forward to your mocking of President Obama for buying the IDF's vote this way and the inclusion of a policy plank in your platform to put an end to this welfarist sense of entitlement. Kthxbai.

Obama Administration Fights To Keep Indefinite Military Detentionvisit
Oh dear, we're back to my red lines.
The United States won an emergency suspension of a ruling that blocked the indefinite military detention of terrorism suspects after arguing it would hurt America's ability to fight wars overseas. An appeals court order late on Monday granted a temporary stay sought by the Justice Department after a judge had ruled unconstitutional part of a statute that authorizes indefinite military detention for people deemed to have "substantially supported" al Qaeda, the Taliban or "associated forces." The government had asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on Monday to freeze the ruling by U.S District Judge Katherine Forrest. The Justice Department, which represents U.S. President Barack Obama, argued the judge's Sept. 12 injunction barring enforcement of a portion of the National Defense Authorization Act's "Homeland Battlefield" provisions would harm U.S. war efforts abroad. The case stems from a lawsuit filed in January by former New York Times war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges and others. They said they had no assurance that their writing and advocacy activities would not fall under the scope of the provisions.
The Obama administration argued in court that the judge's order interfered with the president's powers at a time of war and would harm U.S. war efforts abroad. Sigh.

Conservatives Bash Obama For "Sending Gay Ambassador To Libya"visit
No really. The fever-swamp that is the conservative base has found a new and more fetid depth.

More Secret Tape: Romney the Likudnikvisit
MoJo has more of their secret tape today, and mainstream outlets are already starting to pick up this part of the story too. Basically, Romney admitted to his super-rich donors that he thinks there's no such thing as a Palestinian interested in peace, that there's no two-state solution, and that if elected he'd just kick the whole issue "down the field". He's entirely in the Netanyahu camp, with no appreciation of nuance or factions at all. In public, Romney has endorsed a two-state solution. In July he told Haaretz newspaper, "I believe in a two-state solution which suggests there will be two states, including a Jewish state." The Republican Party platform also backs a two-state solution and peace "negotiated between the parties themselves with the assistance of the US". In private, Romney wants nothing to do with any of that, telling his donors that "The idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world."

There Are Bad Days. There Are Worse Days.visit
...Then there's Mitt Romney's campaign:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what?These are people who pay no income tax?[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
Which contrasts nicely with this moment:
GOP front-runner Mitt Romney quickly sought today to clarify comments he made this morning about whether his campaign is focused on poor people. In an interview on CNN this morning, Romney he?s not concerned about the plight of the country?s very poor because there are social safety nets that take care of them. ?I?m in this race because I care about Americans,? Romney told CNN?s Soledad O?Brien this morning after his resounding victory in Florida on Tuesday. ?I?m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I?ll fix it.? ?I?m not concerned about the very rich, they?re doing just fine. I?m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling and I?ll continue to take that message across the nation.?
By my maths, that means up to 142% of Americans are American. By now, you've heard the outrage over Romney's comments at a fundraiser which he assumed was private. Silly, when you think about it, in a day and age when James O'Keefe can entrap innocent people into making inocuous comments that are then carefully edited to mean something completely different, or when the President's own realistic statement about infrastructure and business, "You didn't build that!", becomes a centerpiece lie of your campaign. I suppose there's a case to be made that the person who recorded the moment was a "trusted" entity, that he or she was there by invitation and expected to pony up significant money. Romney would be protected by a sort of "Fight Club" mentality that you don't talk about what he said except to people who already know. This moment reflects badly on Romney, to be sure, but it also reflects badly on the group he was speaking to that they were comfortable...well, most of them...hearing this and not tossing him out on his ear. Think about that: there is a significant number of people with money and influence in this nation who believe that 155,000,000 Americans do not buy into the American Dream of hard work and frugality. And those people carry enough stroke to influence a Presidential election enough that either a candidate let his hair down and spoke from the heart or pandered mightily to them. I'd like to think it was the latter, but even that's the lesser of two evils: it still means that those folks hold sway over him and they actually believe nearly half this nation is sucking the government dry. And these are successful people. We can presume they know how to read (unlike our Teabagger bretrhen, many of whom-- if not most-- are among that 47%) and can do a little arithmetic. Among these people are a hedge fund manager with a predilection for porn parties, and any number of hedge fund and venture capital managers, many of whom-- like Romney-- offshored and outsourced jobs that forced people onto the dole, in effect creating the very thing that they rail against. "Victims," indeed. Many, if not most, of the 47% have been victimized and can legitimately lay claim to that mantle, unlike Romney who will assuredly throw the victim card shortly. Through Ann, he's laid claim to being poor enough to eat off an ironing board-- subsisting on dividends and bond coupons, naturally. The follow up tape, about the unacceptability of a two-state solution to the Middle East crisis, is more revealing of Romney's character. A Presidential candidate would at the very least make the prediction that he will get fully engaged in the dilemma and try to work for a solution. If he was pandering in Boca, as Romney clearly was, he'd foreshadow that the solution would only be in Israel's best interests. The last thing a serious Presidential contender would claim is that he'd "kick that can down the road," which is Romney's precise metaphor. Unless, of course, that's what his audience of pussilanimous pudwhustles of pandering wanted to hear. It's possible they did. It's possible that they stand to make much more money off a stalemate that sees both sides arm while never really firing a shot in anger. It's possible that Israel as a nation stands to benefit from the charity and goodwill of nations around the globe only if they remain perilously under threat from a "barbaric horde"...of their own creation. There's serious discussion in the Tweetosphere that Romney is not a serious candidate. I wonder. It would make sense that he's using the Republican party as a springboard to a bigger hedge fund Rolodex.

Tuesday Musevisit
Jason deCaires Taylor is a British sculptor who creates massive installations and then sinks them into the ocean. His purpose is to create artificial reefs that provide homes for marine life and divert tourist divers from popular natural reefs vulnerable to damage by humans. According to Taylor's website, his 2010 installation The Silent Evolution "forms a permanent monumental artificial reef in Mexico. Occupying an area of over 420 square meters and with a total weight of over 200 tons, it consists of 400 life-size casts of individuals taken from a broad cross section of humanity and has been designed to aggregate fish and corals on a grand scale. Slowly but surely these sculptures are evolving... Eventually this underwater society will be totally assimilated by marine life..." TheSilentEvolution

Romney 47% statement and his response today in Californiavisit
Then, the secret tape Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy Now, speaking to the Press at 10:25 ET Transcripts after the break... Transcript from secret tape:
Question: For the past three years, all everybody's been told is "don't worry, we'll take care of you." How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections to convince everybody, you've got to take care of yourself? Romney: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean the president starts off with 48, 49, 4? he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. So he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell ever four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is to convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not. NBC Nightly News via The Last Word
And Romney at 10:25 pm EDT tonight on that statement (he backs off big time) video when available but see the transcript below: Transcript from DailyKos
September 17, 2012 7:27 PM PT: From the video: Romney: I'm talking about the political process of drawing people into my campaign. Of course people are going to take responsibility for their lives.... Then veers into canned stump material "do you believe in a government centered society or a free enterprise society?" My campaign is about how to bring people out of poverty into the middle class. My plan will create 12 million job. Q: Do you stand by your statement? "It's not elegantly stated. I did it off the cuff." Poster: cishart

ICYMI (On Mitt Romney's 47% Solution)visit
#Romneyshambles just went domestic:
During a private fundraiser earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a small group of wealthy contributors what he truly thinks of all the voters who support President Barack Obama. He dismissed these Americans as freeloaders who pay no taxes, who don't assume responsibility for their lives, and who think government should take care of them. Fielding a question from a donor about how he could triumph in November, Romney replied:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what?These are people who pay no income tax.
Romney went on: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Mother Jones has obtained video of Romney at this intimate fundraiser?where he candidly discussed his campaign strategy and foreign policy ideas in stark terms he does not use in public?and has confirmed its authenticity. To protect the confidential source who provided the video, we have blurred some of the image, and we will not identify the date or location of the event, which occurred after Romney had clinched the Republican presidential nomination. Here is Romney expressing his disdain for Americans who back the president:
But don't get yr granny-panties all bunched up now, moonbats. As Ann Altouse calmly notes between sips of Chianti, the video is "[p]resented by Mother Jones as if it's quite disturbing, but I don't see anything bad in there at all." Which is, of course, precisely the problem for the Romney campaign: if the wingnut-o-sphere fringe's finest are starting to see starbursts again then Mitt Romney really has lost the election today. You don't want to be seen playing to the base this close to November unless you want to marginalize, oh, say, at least 47% of the electorate, which includes a key voting block for Romney: the elderly. Tossing Grandma and Grandpa under the Greyhound? After picking Hayek's bastard grandson as your running mate and embracing Medicare cuts with a big fat bear hug and a shit-eating grin? Sweet baby Jesus chomping candy corn -- doesn't Romney realize that by now he's supposed to be Sister Soulja-ing these yahoos? Seriously, how the hell did this dumbass hedge fund motherfucker manage to ever win anything more prestigious than county dogcatcher? Oh, right, I forgot -- he's a TOTALLY SELF-MADE billion dollar baby. Regardless, Mittens may as well take the silver spoon out of his mouth (and stick it where the sun don't shine). His foot apparently needs the room. (BTW, can we stop pretending that Etch-a-Mitt is a closet moderate [sic] now? Digby nails it.)

Rahm Emanuel, What A Douchevisit
The Chicago mayor and former Obama chief-of-staff is going to court to seek an injunction to stop the teachers strike and force them back to work. Shades of Scott Walker. Does anyone want to argue this doesn't make Emanuel "Douche Of The Week" or that it won't hurt Dem election prospects among union members and the left in general?

Your "Tax Cuts For The Wealthy" Duh! Momentvisit
Common Dreams:
A new study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, which reviewed nearly 65 years of US tax policy and its impact on the overall economy, has found that though cutting the effective tax rate for the nation's wealthiest is a great way to increase undesireable economic inequality, it does not?as Republican rhetoric so frequently claims?do anything to boost employment or fuel economic growth. The report, Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945, found that "the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution."
Here's the report in PDF. What it confirms is that "trickle down economics" is more a case of being pissed on from an ever-greater height. However, with the Republicans wanting greater public austerity - affecting the poorest, not the richest - and massive tax cuts while the Democrats advocating only a little less austerity and a little smaller tax break for the richest, we don't look like we're on our way to over-coming income inequality anytime soon. All very apposite given we've arrived at the Occupy movement's one-year anniversary in the U.S. Already today, there have been over 100 arrests in New York and, despite every mainstream media outlet's claims to the contrary, Occupy is not dead yet. It is thriving in Europe and can be expected to make a comeback in the U.S as it's message of protest against failed austerity and rampant income inequality becomes an after-election issue whichever main party wins.