Posts Tagged ‘Republican Party’

I am endlessly fascinated by the way that the GOP makes itself look perpetually un-electable thanks to the idiot lack of control of its wilder fringes. I see someone with the wonderful monniker of Elias Isquith (I want his name!) at Salon.com has noticed a real doozey. In his recently released memoir, New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce says the family should be run using a rigid chain of command.

GOP congressman: Wives should obey their husbands

Elias’s article follows with a few comments from us at the end:

It’s a well-established reality of contemporary American politics: The Republican Party is struggling to find ways to better connect with female voters. The “War on Women” and all that.

Well, here’s some unsolicited advice to the GOP on how it could perhaps have more success convincing women that they, too, care about their freedom and autonomy — tell New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce to go far, far away.

In his initially little-noticed memoir —”Just Fly the Plane, Stupid!” — Steve Pearce argues that, like the military’s chain of command, every household should be run according to a rigid hierarchy. And, wouldn’t you know it, guess who Pearce imagines should be at the tippy-top of the family pyramid? Steve Pearce!

Not just Pearce, of course, but rather all men, in the Republican’s opinion, should be the clear and undisputed masters of their families and homes. And best of all, it’s all based on the Bible. (For more on this disturbingly widespread belief within the right-wing Christian fundamentalist community, check out this report from Mother Jones.)

“The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice,” Pearce writes. ”The husband’s part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else.”

No doubt anticipating that writing about how women should submit to their husbands might give people the impression that he thinks women should assume the subordinate role to their husbands (via submission), Pearce assures the reader that this Bible-based understanding of marital relations is “not a matter of superior versus inferior; rather, it is self-imposed [by the wife] as a matter of obedience to the Lord and of love for her husband.” Got it?

Anyway, good luck with the whole rebranding thing, GOP. You’re going to need it.

Wellthisiswhatithink says:

Actually, Pearce is being just a bit disingenuous here. The bits of the Bible arguing that people wearing cloths of two different kinds together should be put to death (get that polyester cotton shirt off immediately, bro!) not to mention the numerous injunctions in favour of taking slaves, especially nice juicy young female ones, or of having hundreds of wives, might be just a TAD more controversial?  And given that C’man Pearce seems keen to focus on this one, is it just that he’s ill-educated and doesn’t know the others, is he an outrider for a general “get that woman back in her box” movement, or do we assume from his focus on this and not other rules for civilisation that he actually believes some bits of the Bible are true, and others aren’t. Hmmm, Congressman? And in which case, why is this bit true?

Anyway, back to the real point of the article, (before my Theology degree kicks in and I start frothing at the mouth), while the Republican Party remains in thrall to these (take your pick) religious fundamentalists, anti-climate science, anti-evolution, anti-abortionist, anti-contraception, anti-equality, anti-health care, wide-eyed anti-gay homophobes, racists, conspiracy theorists, and Tea Party fruitcakes, they are – and should be – unelectable. And that’s bad for democracy, bad for America, and bad for the world.

For God’s sake, someone on the right show some leadership.

So there.

Anyway, Dear Reader, we are just off home now to explain to Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink that from now she is to voluntarily submit, while your correspondent lovingly leads and sacrifices. If you don’t hear from us again, you’ll know why …

 

Mike Lee of utah - one of a number of tea Party representatives facing an uncertain future

Mike Lee of utah – one of a number of tea Party representatives facing an uncertain future

 

Fascinating article on Bloomberg making the same case that we have been making for some time that the grassroots Republican Party, and its central establishment, faced with increasing irrelevance, will turn on its recently-minted hard-right, Tea Party-supported Senators and Congresspeople.

The article is fair and reasonable as it nevertheless draws a bead on the Tea Party reps. As with this paragraph:

The meltdown on Capitol Hill doesn’t mean the end of the Tea Party. In fact, most of those lawmakers accurately point out that they are doing what the constituents in their painfully drawn, one-sided, overwhelmingly white, aging, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, science-denying districts want. Still, there are emerging signs — from declining poll numbers to the breach with the Republican Party’s traditional business allies — that the act is getting old. Mess with Democratic totems such as Social Security and nutritional programs for pregnant mothers, send Sarah Palin to Washington periodically to pour salt on open wounds, but don’t mess with Treasury bills and the markets.

We believe the article captures a key issue: the alarm felt in the business community, locally in the US and worldwide, at the prospect of an American default. In simple terms, those who recognise the scale of the looming disaster seem to be saying ‘this far and no further”.

What is interesting now is what will happen to Tea Party lawmakers in 2014 and in pre-selections/primaries.

One case the article singles out is:

Senator Mike Lee of Utah, a Tea Party darling since his surprising defeat in 2010 of Robert Bennett, a beloved conservative senator. He’s become sidekick to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, chiming in during the recent filibuster about a childhood accident and his dream of being a pirate.

Lee is one of the new lawmakers who have been dubbed “wacko birds” by Senator John McCain of Arizona. Karl Rove said Lee’s scorched-earth strategy was “the one tactic that might be able to guarantee that the Democrats pick up seats in the Congress in 2014.” Even Lee’s friend and Capitol Hill roommate, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, refused to back his plan to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Lee’s favorable rating has dropped 10 percentage points since a June Brigham Young University poll, which – important note – doesn’t skew liberal. More than half of Utah voters see him unfavorably; 57 percent said he should be more willing to compromise. In a separate survey, a majority of Utah voters now disapprove of the Tea Party’s influence.”

Josh Romney

Josh Romney

What makes this particular seat really interesting is that Lee will be challenged from his left. And fascinatingly, Josh Romney is one of the options waiting in the wings. Back in June the telegenic son of former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said in an interview with KSL that he wouldn’t rule out a potential run for office in the future.

“I’m not ruling anything in or out,” Romney told the Salt Lake City station. “But obviously, having spent the last couple of years on the political trail, it’s hard to give all that up.”

He continued, “I haven’t made any decisions on anything like that … I’m just really focused on my family and work right now and not looking at any particular office.”

Even if Lee survives a primary contest, there’s an excellent chance that Democratic Representative Jim Matheson — who’s been gerrymandered into unwinnable districts twice but still wins — could win a statewide race in the reddest state in the country.

Utah Republicans have been heading toward buyer’s remorse for some time. At last year’s convention in Salt Lake City, a robust 125,000 Republicans turned out. This was a reaction to the 2010 convention, when 50,000 Tea Party activists took over and eliminated Bennett in favor of Lee. By 2012, the establishment was back in charge, and Bennett got a long and loud standing ovation. At that same convention, Senator Orrin Hatch easily won the nomination and re-election.”

94bMeanwhile, the political ambitions of Mitt Romney’s son have long been an open secret.

One of the funniest moments of the 2012 election was when he became the unwitting star of a short-lived by amusing satirical meme that sprang from his intense look of concentration – well, that’s the polite way of describing it – while watching President Obama make mincemeat of his Dad in the second Presidential debate.

If Romney the Younger gets up in Utah, no doubt the meme will be revivified. Which is slightly unfair, as the man himself seems like a perfectly respectable, mainstream GOP type, and not at all like the menacing lunatic of one unfortunate photo. Still, such are the joys of public life, especially in America. No doubt he’ll laugh it off.

 

 rape victims

“I can’t say it’s your own fault any more, so we’ll blame it on God.”

The following article, from the excellent Emily Hauser, argues quite correctly that this Republican politician has done the world, and America voters, a great service.

From Todd Aiken to here is a straight line. Because here, for once, unambiguously, is the argument laid out for all to see. And that argument is: if you get raped, and you get pregnant, then it is what God intended, and you are honour-bound to carry that child to term and give birth. (No word yet on whether God intended you to bring the child up as well.)

This is nothing new: the recent kerfuffle in the news about Todd Akin was simply because he said out loud what he and his colleagues think but aren’t supposed to say.  Todd Akin simply said out loud what his voting record and the voting record of his conservative colleagues  showed for years.  Three weeks before he walked straight into a shit-storm 203 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to prohibit abortions even in cases of rape or incest. And earlier this year the Republican party didn’t want to extend funding of $455 million a year for rape crisis centers that already are being funded on the books.  They felt it was excessive use of government spending and an over-reach in the size of the federal government (source); it only passed when the Republican leadership said that this would damage the GOP politically.

And in February of this year – Fox News said the Pentagon was spending too much money to defend women soldiers from rape (source) even though a woman soldier is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire (source).

Well, turning to this story, I have a degree in Theology, I am a democrat (note the small D, despite my feelings about this particular election), and I am a man.

On all three counts, I respect this man’s right to express his point of view.

But I also unalterably and completely reject his nonsense as yet another product of the Neanderthal extremist hyper-religious right in America, typified by lunatic old neo-fascists masquerading as Roman Catholic archbishops, raving “pastors” of mainly Southern extreme Protestant cliques, and all the rest of the literalistic fundamentalist Christians that America delights in nurturing.

Just let’s consider this argument carefully. ” Rape is something God intended to happen.”

Apart from how I feel that insults God, it’s only a very small step from that complete abrogation and abnegation of intellectual responsibility to argue that “Slavery is something God intended to happen.”  Or “the Holocaust is something God intended to happen.”

The inevitable result of blaming everything on God is we don’t NEED to improve the world ourselves. Well, we can try, of course, but if we happen to fail, well, fuck it – it’s God’s will that we fail, and we can all just accept the consequences.

My dear old Mother would have had a response to that. She would have said, in her delightful Welsh brogue, ” Well, Stephen, God helps those who help themselves.” Meaning, not that we are all supposed to become uber-rich by asset stripping companies, but that God does not, in fact, carefully orchestrate every lifetime moment of every human being on the planet, and he looks to us to look after not only the planet, but ourselves, and our societies.

Hell yes there’s a reason to vote for Obama in this election, and it is to keep nut-cases like this guy and his comrades out of power. And out of your bedroom, and out of your bodies.

Women of America: don’t say you weren’t warned …

Romney/Ryan, abortion, and the humanity of women. (And church and state, too).

Yesterday I had the honor of being on a panel with Daniel Ellsberg on HuffPost Live, and the good fortune to be given the opportunity to talk about how, in fact, the little matter of which party sits in the White House is hugely important to American women, because there’s one party that treats 50% of this nation’s citizens as autonomous people, and one party that doesn’t.

Then a little later in the day, this was reported:

Defending his stance that abortion should be illegal even in the case of rape, [Indiana Treasurer/candidate for US Senate Richard] Mourdock explained that pregnancy resulting from non-consensual sex is the will of God.

“I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said. “And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

And I honestly found it refreshing. Because Richard Mourdock said, out loud and for all to hear, that which so many of these anti-choice culture warriors carry in their hearts: This is God’s will, and if you abort any pregnancy, regardless of its provenance, you are acting to thwart the Almighty Himself.

This isn’t about compassion for the poor witless woman who might not know what she’s missing out on if you don’t force her to undergo state-sanctioned rape in the form of a trans-vaginal ultrasound; this isn’t even, really, about human life. This is about the will of God, and the belief held by a great many people that humans are required to bend to that will — and that for women, there’s a lot more will to go around:

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man…. [A man] the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 1 Corinthians 11:3 & 7

To be clear: There are millions upon millions of Christians who have grappled with verses like those I’ve just quoted and come to an understanding of their faith and Scripture that support women’s equality and our right to bodily autonomy. (And just to be clearer still: I believe that all modern-day monotheism, including my own, requires this kind of grappling, because none of our Scriptures are without ugliness).

But the Christians standing at the head of the American right wing are not that kind of Christian, and they’re the ones we’re facing.

God is above man, and man is above woman. If you were raped, that’s not cool (in no small part because rape is equated with sex, and a woman’s sexuality belongs to the man she married/will marry), but if that rape made you pregnant? Well, that’s what God wanted. And women who attempt to thwart God’s will are not only making God really really mad, they are upsetting the natural order of things, and that cannot be allowed.

I think it’s helpful to be told flat-out that this is what we’re battling. Many anti-choice activists may honestly believe that they’re acting to protect children (though I might argue that if they really want to protect children, they might consider the needs of the fetus after it becomes a baby, but I digress), but leaders of the anti-choice movement are acting to protect what they know to be the Divine order.

But I live in a secular nation. I live in a country where the separation of church and state is written into law. I live in a place where your knowledge of the Divine order should have absolutely no legal bearing on my life.

There is one party that agrees with that notion, and one party — the vice-presidential candidate of which stands behind some of the most extreme anti-choice bills on the American scene – that does not.

One party that is working — however fitfully, however imperfectly — to protect the right of half of this country’s citizens to be legally recognized as humans with autonomy over their own bodies, and one party working to declare zygotes legal people, to require physicians to lie to patients about the established medical facts of abortion, and to allow hospitals to deny abortions to women even when their lives are in immediate danger.

This is not about the medical procedure called “abortion.” This is about the separation of church and state, and it is about allowing women to be human.

Don’t tell me the parties are the same. 

Update: Mitt Romney taped an endorsement for Mourdock on Monday, but his campaign told TPM yesterday that Mourdock’s views do not reflect Romney’s. And yet for all that, the campaign has said today that it has not asked Mourdock to pull the ad. So.

There’s that.

The First Vote

1867 drawing of newly-freed black men voting. Women would not get the vote until 1920. Near-total resistance to blacks voting went on in some areas well into the 1960s. In some states, it appears to persist to this day.

A clutch of vital swing states (run by Republicans) are under the microscope for the efforts they are making to ensure it is so hard as to almost be impossible for hundreds of thousands of EX prisoners to vote in the Presidential election.

Needless to say, the vast majority of these ex inmates are black. They’re likely to favour a black President. You do the math …

Just another example why “the greatest democracy in the world” is actually a democracy basket case.

As UPI report from Washington, civil rights activists stepped up efforts this week to allow more than 1.5 million voting-eligible felons in Florida — and millions more nationwide — access to elections, urging that laws they see as discriminatory need to be changed.

“Keep in mind that two-thirds are not in a prison cell right now,” said Hilary O. Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Nearly 6 million – 6 million, overwhelmingly poor, overwhelmingly black – American felons have no voting rights, says the Sentencing Project, a non-profit group that works on criminal justice reform issues. Florida leads the nation with the highest rate per capita of disenfranchised felons.

In swing states like Florida and Virginia, another state with a large number of disenfranchised felons, those votes could well make the difference in close elections. The deadline to register for the November election is Tuesday in Florida and Oct. 15 in Virginia.

Advocates say they worry the laws are part of larger voter suppression efforts, some designed to keep minorities from casting ballots this fall.

The NAACP launched a national campaign against felon disenfranchisement Tuesday in Tallahassee, Fla. The group is seeking changes in laws that keep felons from voting.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who sits on the state’s executive clemency board, calls the practice fair to law-abiding citizens and victims of crime.

“It is reasonable to ask felons to apply to have their rights restored and to demonstrate rehabilitation by living crime-free during a waiting period after the completion of their sentences,” said an official in Bondi’s office.

But laws governing the restoration of voting rights vary by state, making this an uneven playing field at best. Most U.S. states restore felons’ voting rights automatically after completion of their prison term, parole or probation. Several states allow prisoners with misdemeanor convictions to cast absentee ballots.

But some states with right-wing governors have been rolling back voting rights for felons.

Florida, under Republican Gov. Rick Scott, and Virginia, under Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, are among 12 states — including Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming — where felon voting rights may be permanently withheld.

“The problem is the Florida Constitution,” said Randy Berg, the executive director of the Florida Justice Institute, a public interest law firm in Miami. He cited a provision added in 1865 that hasn’t been repealed.

“Legislators refuse to change the rules on clemency,” Berg said.

Scott’s administration rescinded a more liberal policy for felons in March 2011. Florida now requires felons to wait 5-7 years before they can apply for restoration of civil rights. So much for paying your debt to society.

In a statement from Scott’s office, ex-felons must demonstrate “willingness to request to have their rights restored.”

In 2011, 13,000 ex-felons applied for civil rights restoration.

But since Scott’s administration amended the law, fewer than 300 ex-felons have voting rights restored.

Under the earlier policy introduced in 2007 by Gov. Charlie Crist, who was then also a Republican, 155,000 ex-felons had their voting rights restored.

In Iowa, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad rescinded a law in 2011 to automatically restore voter rights, which was instituted in 2005 by former Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat who is now the U.S. secretary of Agriculture.

The danger with executive clemency law is reflected in changes depending on administration.

In Virginia, Shelton said, “If the governor wasn’t so moved, (the) people’s rights could not be restored.”

Restore the right to vote

Natural justice surely demands that EX felons should have their civil rights restored.

Thirty-one percent of all voting-age African-American men in Virginia are disenfranchised because of felony records, Shelton said.

Let’s just run that fact again. Thirty-one per cent of all black men in Virginia cannot vote.

Nearly one in three. So much for the land of the free.

Disenfranchisement after criminal conviction remains the most significant barrier to voting rights.  Nationally, 5.3 million American citizens are not allowed to vote because of a criminal conviction – 4 million of whom live, work, and raise families in their communities.

Two states — Vermont and Maine — don’t disenfranchise felons. Prisoners registered to vote in Vermont, regardless of where they are incarcerated, may submit absentee ballots.

An official in the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office called voting part of the restorative process. Community educators conduct voter registration drives in prisons to ensure that prisoners can participate in elections.

Neither Vermont nor Maine maintain records on how many prisoners register to vote because many use addresses from prior to incarceration.

The NAACP, in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, provides former felons with information upon release on how to regain voting rights. Additionally, the organization maintains prison units in Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi and Missouri for providing absentee ballots.

One can only hope at least some of those disenfranchised by these outrageous tactics can have their rights restored promptly, but time is probably against them. They will stand by and watch the process take place without them.

Rehabilitation? Don’t make me laugh. We are creating a permanent black underclass in parts of America. Don’t be surprised when they bite back. It won’t be pretty.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney – Mr Nice Guy’s mask slips, possibly terminally

Whilst no one with any commonsense would argue that the size of the American Government needs to be trimmed to match more closely the productivity of the country, an interesting attitude from the man who would be President for all Americans – and not just those worth millions and billions of dollars – is now on public display for all to see.

As AFP report from Washington, Mitt Romney’s campaign was rocked Monday by a secretly filmed video in which the Republican tells rich Republican Party donors that nearly half of Americans are government-dependent ‘victims’ who dodge taxes.

President Barack Obama’s team quickly seized on the film, released by the liberal Mother Jones magazine, as proof that the multi-millionaire Romney had written off half the nation, and was not fit to serve as president.

The video was the latest blow to the Romney team as it fought off reports that the Republican’s White House bid is in disarray, as he struggles to close a small but growing and consistent gap to Obama in national polls and battleground states.

In excerpts from the video, which has emerged 50 days before the November 6 election, Romney is seen to say in a closed-door, private fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans will vote for the president “no matter what.”

“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.”

“These are people who pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

I find this attitude astonishing, but it is great to see the bullsh*t stripped from the carefully-posed performances that have characterised the uber-rich billionaire’s campaign so far. Here, laid bare for all to see (except those who don’t wish to) is the reality of the new ultra-right Republican party’s attitude to the American people.

Of course, if Americans are in receipt of Government care, it doesn’t mean that they are entirely dependent on the Government. It can be anything from medical support, education and retraining, to the more desperate needs of unemployment benefit, to food staples delivered (via food stamps) to people who would otherwise, literally, be in danger of starving, starving. In the richest country in the world.

Wellthisiswhatithink asks: Is it beyond the wit and ability of the right to understand many millions of people receiving some sort of welfare support are EX tax payers who are now GETTING THEIR TAXES BACK AGAIN – loaned to the Government to do with whatever it wishes – to survive in a tough period? Frankly, I would have thought that small government right wingers would approve of that concept?

“President Romney” is, thank goodness, looking increasingly unlikely. Because increasingly he looks like a buffoon, and not a very nice one at that. As one Bloomberg correspondent put it today:

You can mark my prediction now: A secret recording from a closed-door Mitt Romney fundraiser, released today by Mother Jones, has killed Mitt Romney’s campaign for President.

On the tape, Romney explains that his electoral strategy involves writing off nearly half the country as unmoveable Obama voters. As Romney explains, 47 percent of Americans “believe that they are victims.” He laments:  “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

So what’s the upshot? “My job is not to worry about those people,” he says. He also notes, describing President Obama’s base, “These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax.”

This is an utter disaster for Romney.

Romney already has trouble relating to the public and convincing people he cares about them. Now, he’s been caught on video saying that nearly half the country consists of hopeless losers.

Romney has been vigorously denying President Obama’s claims that his tax plan would raise taxes on the middle class. But now, he’s been caught on video suggesting that low- and middle-income Americans are undertaxed.

(That one is especially problematic given the speculation about what’s on Mitt’s unreleased pre-2010 tax returns.)

Corn tells us there are more embarrassing moments on segments of the video he hasn’t released yet. For example, Romney jokes that he’d be more likely to win the election if he were Hispanic. And he makes some awkward comments about whether he was born with a “silver spoon” in his mouth.

But those are survivable. The really disastrous thing is the clip about “victims,” and the combination of contempt and pity that Romney shows for anyone who isn’t going to vote for him.

Romney is the most opaque presidential nominee since Nixon, and people have been reduced to guessing what his true feelings are.

This video provides an answer: He feels that you’re a loser. It’s not an answer that wins elections.

Poll: Obama widens lead over Romney despite weaker jobs data – see the end of this article for 17 Sept update confirming trend is in Obama’s favour.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Ashland today

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Ashland today. I think Ryan looks too young to run. Oh, sorry, my bad. (Photo credit: tvnewsbadge)

As predicted in the pages of Wellthisiswhatithink a few days ago, Obama has done better out of the conference season than Romney. The scheduling of the Democrat convention immediately after the Republican one may come to be seen as a strategic masterstroke when the experts parse the result of a Democrat win in November.

The President widened his narrow lead over Republican U.S. presidential challenger Mitt Romney in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Saturday.

The latest daily tracking poll showed Obama with a lead of 4 percentage points over Romney. Forty-seven percent of 1,457 likely voters surveyed online over the previous four days said they would vote for Obama if the November 6 elections were held today, compared with 43 percent for Romney.

“The bump is actually happening. I know there was some debate whether it would happen, but it’s here,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark, referring to the “bounce” in support that many presidential candidates enjoy after nominating conventions.

Obama had leapfrogged Romney in the daily tracking poll on Friday with a lead of 46 percent to 44 percent.

The president’s lead comes despite a somewhat mixed reaction to his convention speech on Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Friday’s government data showing that jobs growth slowed sharply last month.

Obama’s lead over Romney is comparable to Romney’s former lead over the president after the Republican National Convention finished last week, Clark said.

“We don’t have another convention now to turn our attention to, so (Obama’s bounce) may maintain,” Clark said. “How big it’ll be and how long it will last remains to be seen.”

I am frankly surprised that the candidates aren’t closer this week, and in my opinion, as I explained the other day, the bounce will become slightly more pronounced next week, as this week’s averaged polls drop off polls from when Obama was in a comfortable lead.

From that point on, it is Obama’s election to lose. The difficulty for the Republicans is that the next major opportunity for them to draw blood is the debates, and these will almost certainly favour Obama, as, regardless of one’s political bias, he is clearly a stronger candidate than Romney – more charismatic, more likeable, and despite the mixed scorecard for the first term of his Presidency, appearing more capable. This is born out when one analyses the poll’s investigation of specific qualities of the two candidates.

Obama increased his lead over Romney in certain favorable characteristics. Asked who was more “eloquent,” 50 percent of the 1,720 registered voters questioned in the poll favored Obama, compared to 25 percent for Romney. Asked about being “smart enough for the job,” 46 percent sided with Obama compared to 37 percent for Romney.

In fact, Obama led Romney in a dozen such favorable characteristics, such as “represents America” or “has the right values.”

The only such category in which Romney had an advantage was being “a man of faith,” as 44 percent picked Romney, who is Mormon, compared to 31 percent for Obama, who is Christian, but who is dogged by rumours spread by his opponents, completely unfounded, that he secretly a Muslim.

The Democratic National Convention itself received a rather muted response in the poll. Of those registered voters who had heard, seen or read at least something about it, 41 percent rated it as “average” and 29 percent as “good.”

The Republican National Convention that wrapped up August 30 in Tampa, Florida similarly was rated slightly worse: “average” by 38 percent and “good” by 27 percent in Saturday’s polling results. Although these two results seem “nip and tuck”, this is actually further evidence of a setback for the republicans, who needed to attract a couple of percentage points from the very small group of “undecideds” in order to be competitive.

This election is close, but barring a disaster, should be won by Obama with a reasonable margin. As Harold Wilson said, however, “a week is a long time in politics”. That makes nearly two months a veritable aeon, in a world where the effect of banana skins are amplified tenfold by the voracity of the media.

In any two horse race, either can win, because one can falter or fall. But as we speak, Obama looks like he is a few furlongs from home with a handy lead.

Material sourced from Reuters. The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

UPDATE 17 SEPTEMBER 2012 10.50PM AEST

As predicted – almost to the day – by this column, Obama’s bounce has solidified in key battleground states this week. Here is the data:

As the Monitor’s Liz Marlantes reported last Friday, Obama’s post-convention bounce apparently endures, most significantly in key battleground states.

According to a new set of NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls, Obama is now leading Romney by 7 points in Ohio and 5 points in Florida and Virginia, and the RealClearPolitics polling average right now has Obama up by 4.2 percentage points in Ohio, 1.3 points in Florida, and 0.4 points in Virginia.

(Note, if Romney does not win Florida then he needs a clean sweep of all the other battleground states to beat Obama – highly unlikely.)

A Philadelphia Inquirer poll released Saturday has Obama leading Romney in Pennsylvania, 50 percent to 39 percent, reports Politico.

“Pennsylvania Democrats are more consolidated behind Obama, with 77 percent in favor of Obama and 13 percent in favor of Romney, while Republicans are 18 percent in favor of Obama and 71 percent in favor of Romney,” according to the poll press release.

“Following the conventions, Obama’s favorability rating has increased by 3 points, while his unfavorable rating has decreased by 6 points. Opinions of Romney have improved slightly following the conventions, but he still has a net negative personal popularity rating among voters in state, with 46 percent favorable/48 percent unfavorable rating.”

Politico also reports on an internal Republican poll that has Romney behind by 4 points in Ohio, not as bad as his 7-point deficit in the NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls but behind in the key battleground state nonetheless.

“The numbers underline Romney’s longstanding problems in Ohio, where he’s taken a beating from Obama’s campaign and liberal groups,” writes Politico’s Jonathan Martin.

“But it’s actually a sign of the depth of Romney’s hole in the state that the results were greeted favorably by Republicans. Polling in Ohio before the conventions last month showed Romney with an even larger deficit, closer to double-digits.”

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll of likely voters has Obama widening his advantage to 7 points, a gap that’s been increasing since the Democratic convention. “What that really means is that Obama is in good shape,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.

“Thursday’s online poll also found far more registered voters preferred the incumbent’s policies and approach on taxes (41 percent picked Obama, 30 percent Romney), healthcare (44 percent Obama, 28 percent Romney) and Social Security (39 percent Obama, 27 percent Romney),” Reuters reported.

Obama appears to be winning in foreign affairs, too. “Asked which of the candidates had a better plan, policy or approach to the war on terrorism, more registered voters again favored Obama: 39 percent to Romney’s 25 percent.” (Note that the poll was taken two days after the attack on the US consulate in Libya.)

One sleeper poll that may have particular importance given the tension between the US and Israel over drawing a “red line” regarding Iran’s nuclear facilities: Obama has extended his lead among registered Jewish voters to 70-25 percent, according to unreleased Gallup daily tracking poll data reported by BuzzFeed.

“The data, obtained through a Democratic source, shows Obama up from leading 64-29 in polling this spring – and on par with his 2008 performance at this point when he led 69-25 over John McCain in Gallup polling,” reports BuzzFeed.

Does this man now “own” the Republican Party?

Did billionaire David Koch bribe the Romney campaign to put Paul Ryan on the ticket?

If this allegation is true – and if it is, it is presumably illegal – will anyone do anything?

If this is illegal – and the story has been very widely covered – will it be investigated?

Will charges be laid?

And ultimately, what does this do for Romney and the Republican Party’s credibility?

Watch the story here. It is a story ALL Americans, indeed all who believe in freedom and democracy, wherever they may live, should watch and make up their own minds.

If you can’t see the video, here’s the story in essence.

On Friday night’s edition of “The Young Turks,” host Cenk Uygur highlighted a report by controversial Republican political operative Roger Stone. The report alleges that vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) arrived at his place on the ticket through the machinations of David Koch, half of the powerful billionaire Koch brothers.

Stone claims to have heard from sources inside the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney that the governor was approached at a fundraiser in the Hamptons (the notorious “We are V.I.P.!” bash) by David Koch and his wife.

Koch, who has worked cheek by jowl with the Wisconsin Republican cabal that launched the career of Gov. Scott Walker and famously stalled out that state’s government for months in 2011, reportedly offered Romney an additional $100 million in campaign donations to C-4 and super PAC organizations dedicated to Romney’s election on the condition that Romney take Ryan as his running mate.

“In other words,” said Uygur, “a flat-out bribe. Now, I give you a $100 million for your campaign, and you give me the VP selection that I want. Now this is not a Democrat or a reporter reporting this, it’s a Republican, and that’s fascinating. If it’s true, by the way, 100 percent illegal.”

Uygur specifically points to one key piece of Ryan’s platform as a possible motivation for the billionaire conservative’s investment in his own vice president. Ryan wants to lower the capital gains tax — already low at 15 percent — to zero, which would bring David Koch personally an estimated $187.5 million per year. ($750 million over a four year term.)

“That’s why they bribe the politicians,” Uygur said. “What’s outrageous is that we allow them to do it.”

I am often criticised (in 99% of cases by ironed-on conservatives or Republicans) for being too critical about the quality of American politics, (which I freely admit fascinates me), and the performance of the right in particular. So I was pleased to see today’s report that the most popular politician (by opinion poll) in Australia appears to completely agree with my point of view.

Malcolm Turnbull says American politics is becoming 'profoundly dysfuntional'.

As reported in The Age, re-reporting an interview with The Monthly, published today, Malcolm Turnbull says American politics is becoming ‘profoundly dysfunctional’. 

He has sharply criticised the corrupting power of money in the US and described America as looking ”like a country that is barely governed”.

The former Liberal leader and member of  Tony Abbott’s shadow cabinet (note, “Liberal” in Australian political terms means the main Conservative party, and current Official Opposition, and not the “progressive” position it means in America, nor the centrist position it means in the UK), says American politics is becoming ”profoundly dysfunctional”.

He attacks the Republican idea that the budgetary situation can be improved by cutting the taxes of the wealthy as ”just bizarre”, and describes the right-wing Tea Party as extreme, reactionary and radical.

Author of the interview article Robert Manne writes: ”He thinks that American voluntary voting encourages Republican extremism and the search for ‘hot-button issues’, like abortion or guns or gay marriage or Obama as a secret Muslim.

”He is concerned about the fragmentation of opinion and collapse of the rational centre. He is profoundly concerned about the ‘self-evident’ corrupting influence of ‘the power of money’.”

Mr Turnbull is also very critical of the Iraq war – in which Australia was an enthusiastic US ally under the previous conservative Howard government.

”The argument for saying it was a mistake and misconceived is a very powerful one … There are plenty of people on both sides of politics in the US who take that view.’

I am delighted to hear a conservative politician break ranks on this, which is surely now one of the most accepted facts in international conflict studies. The Iraq war was launched on lies, conducted without adequate legal authority, with no exit strategy, managed appallingly badly by Rumsfeld and others, and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. Hardly a family in Iraq has been untouched.

Mr Turnbull, who agreed to the interview on condition he would not be asked about his leader Mr Abbott, says climate change denialism is ”contrary to the views of, I think, just about everybody in the Coalition party room”. Manne however notes Mr Abbott once described as ”absolute crap” the view that climate scientists had a consensus position.

The interesting thing for me is how much more mainstream Turnbull is than the current leadership of his party. I have little doubt that were they to dump Abbott for him, (Abbott having only defeated him by one vote in the party room, remember, after a well-organised right-wing coup), that they would be elected in the largest landslide in Australian political history, regardless of how well the Government does in the next 18 months.

Almost unthinkably by current received wisdom, as things stand, I firmly believe Abbott is on track to lose the un-loseable election.

We will see.

Limbaugh busted

This is what passes for a rich and famous media star in America. It's also what dumb and ignorant looks like.

On his radio show Rush Limbaugh admitted that he has gotten exactly 7 new advertisers to replace the 160+ who have dropped, or no longer want to be associated with his show.

Limbaugh said, “This is the first broadcast week in April. Let’s go back a month. The month of March in the United States opened with the left convinced that they were finally going to drive me off the air once and for all. By the end of the month I’m still on the air with a higher audience, seven new advertisers to replace the five — actually, less than five, that abandoned us and hurt themselves. And in that month Al Gore as fired Keith Olbermann, thrown him off the air and replaced him with Client No. 9. Eliot Spitzer’s taking over for Olbermann and his 56 viewers. (interruption) How does who do what? It’s an audience of 56 people. What do you mean, how does Spitzer do it? How does Olbermann keep getting hired? That’s the question.”

But Rush was not being honest with his audience. I don’t know why he chose the number five, but according to Media Matters the actual number of direct advertisers who have dropped him is 64. According to the Stop Rush Project, the number of advertisers who no longer want their ads associated with his program in any way totals 100. This brings the total number of advertisers who have abandoned Limbaugh to 164. Not five as Limbaugh suggested, but 164.

(Article reprinted from politicsusa.com – read the full article here. )

More interesting facts on the spontaneous boycott of Limbuagh can be read here.

Nothing like a few facts to ruin your day, eh, Rush?

What is damn sure is that the whole anti-women focus of much of the American right’s attack on women in this election year – in the midst of the most complex economic situation since the thirties the best they can do is talk about abortion and contraception? – will not be forgotten by American women come November. As the wheel-less GOP bandwagon stumbles along, Obama increasingly looks safer than ever.

Frightening, isn't she?

Regular readers will know I am pretty much against generalisations – “all generalisations are false” being one of my favourite aphorisms –  other than those that are supportable by the obvious empirical evidence, such as “The Republican Party have selected a bunch of vicious right wingers and idiots for people to choose from in 2012 and do not stand a snowball in hell’s chance of winning against Obama in November”.

One of the generalisations that worries me sick is the creeping fear of Muslims that plagues daily life in the West. Our leaders (whether in a political sense, or opinion formers) regularly use coded language – or not so coded – to keep us constantly on edge about the likelihood of a home-grown Muslim – whether we’re in America, Europe, or Australia – launching a terrorist attack in our backyard. It simultaneously plays to our best side – instinctive defence of family, stability, our community – and to our worst – fear of the unknown (or little known), fear of “other”, fear of those not like us.

There is no doubt that the world is in thrall to terrorism. But the numbers of cases of “home-grown” Muslims actually engaging in violence against the countries they now call home have been remarkably few, given the millions of people living next door to us who have contacts or family in the Middle East and Asian sub-continent, and who might well have reason to be aggrieved at some (not all) of our involvement in those regions.

Well now Professor Charles Kurzman, of the  Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at the University of North Carolina, has released a report that found that radicalization among Muslim-Americans is “relatively low,” and has actually been on the decrease since 9/11.

Kurzman also points out that many of the suspects in 2011 “appeared to have been limited in competence.” In one arrest of a Muslim-American for terrorism-related charges, for example, Emerson Begolly, “a 21-year-old former white supremacist who converted to Islam and posted violent-sounding material on the Internet” was tricked by his mother into meeting with FBI agents outside of a restaurant. He then tried fight them off by biting them. In another case, on his way to attack a local Shia mosque, Roger Stockham bragged about the his plan to a bartender when he stopped in to a bar for a drink.

Kurzman notes that “The limited scale of Muslim-American terrorism in 2011 runs counter to the fears that many Americans shared in the days and months after 9/11, that domestic Muslim- American terrorism would escalate,” the report concludes. “The spike in terrorism cases in 2009 renewed these concerns, as have repeated warnings from U.S. government officials about a possible surge in homegrown Islamic terrorism. The predicted surge has not materialized.”

Blogger Emily Hauser notes that she wishes she “had a job that would justify me doing a comparative study of all the kinds of extremist violence perpetrated in this country on an annual basis. I’d like to see how, for instance, the 1 ,002 hate groups tracked by the Southern Law Poverty Center compare to extremist American Muslims (individuals or organizations).

If you’d like to know what most Muslims (American and non-) think about such extremism, I gathered some statistics and statements here (spoiler alert! They’re pretty solidly against it).

Well done again, Emily.

Judging the Ainger awards, and what it’s got to do with this story

This year I was a judge at The Ainger public speaking competition in Melbourne for teenagers. It was not a debating competition, in that the speakers had to persuade us of their point of view – rather it was designed to see who could present their case lucidly, compellingly, and convincingly, whether or not we were convinced of the merits of their argument.

The notes for contestants were very specific. Rule one read:

“Speakers must choose their own topic which should be based on fact. It should be
presented in a manner that will cause an audience to take a greater interest in a topic which
may not appeal to them. In addition to the content, the speaker should use analogies,
anecdotes and the music of the language to illustrate and enhance the delivery. The
presentation should inform, interest and entertain. Take heed of Cicero’s advice: “Oft an
argument of greater merit will be defeated by an argument of lesser merit, which is better
presented.”

It is worth noting, I think, that the winning speech (and including the heats, there were dozens of speeches on a huge variety of topics) came from a young Australian Muslim teenage girl in “Western” clothing and sans hijab who asked the audience  – who were mainly white, Anglo, middle-aged, and slightly more men than women – in a voice that was carefully modulated and barely rising above a quiet and calming tone for her entire speech, to simply look with her at some of the facts surrounding Muslims in our society.

In particular, in the four minutes alloted to her, she asked us why we were so obsessed with the issue of the burka, when less than 2% of Muslim females wordwide wear it, when it is a cultural item not a religious one, and when the figure in Western countries was way lower than that anyway.

Why, she was asking, with incredible self-control, subtlety and courtesy, did we, as democratic-minded people in free societies with great traditions of tolerance, allow ourselves to be distracted, overwhelmed or misled by caricatures and bias against her, her family, and her co-religionists. Why are we so easily led astray by the shock jocks, and those who seek to divide us, not unite us? By those who prefer simplistic sloganeering to facts. She didn’t even ask us to change our minds, just to hear her out, and pause for a moment, and think.

As we listened to her questions – so gently presented, and yet with such urgent import – I looked around the audience, and I fell to thinking about how our societies had absorbed and benefitted from the flow of immigration from so many areas over the centuries.

I grew up in Britain – a country made up almost entirely of immigrants, starting with the Romans, the Saxons and Vikings, through the Normans and hundreds of other groups and cultures, up to the West Indians, Indians and Pakistanis of the 60s and 70s, and the Eastern Europeans and Africans of today.

America wouldn’t even exist as a nation state were it not for the exhortation “Send me your poor and huddled masses”, and, indeed, because of the vast influx of Africans brought across the Atlantic by the slave trade, and Hispanic migrants from the south.

Australia is the most racially mixed country on the planet – with the possible exception of Israel, but as that is also virtually a uni-religionist state it could be considered in a different category – and also one of the safest and most peaceful, and similarly would not exist in its current form were it not for a proud tradition of accepting and integrating immigrants from all over the world, and from widely varying cultural backgrounds.

As I listened, I pondered how those previous flows of immigration had been received by the host nations. And it struck me that they had often caused a degree of tension – the clashes between the Irish and Italians in New York, the anxieties over immigration in the UK when Enoch Powell predicted “rivers of blood” flowing down the streets, the dismissive attitudes of the mainly British and Irish local stock in Australia when they were confronted by a vast influx of southern Europeans in the 50s and 60s – those “wogs” who “smelled funny” and talked incomprehensibly – or again in the 80s and 90s with concerns over the Asian-isation of this wide brown land. And how those tensions always existed, and exist, and probably always will, but how over time they always invariably seem to disappear, as we learn about the incoming culture, and come to value its distinctive contribution to our suburbs and our streets.

The wandering jew

When the Nazis began to wage war against the Jews, they used rhetoric and propaganda at first, then followed by action. On November 8, 1937 a propaganda exhibit entitled Der Ewige Jude (The Wandering Jew) opened which portrayed Jews as communists, swindlers and sex-fiends. Over 150,000 people attended the exhibit in just 3 days. Jews were frequently associated with communists and thieves. The Wandering Jew later became a notorious hate film, and associated the Jews with rats and other vermin.

And then I mused, at some length, about the Jews, and how they had been repeatedly marginalised and persecuted, and alternately embraced and celebrated, and then persecuted again, over hundreds of years. And how one of the major differences between the Jews and other immigrants was that they didn’t just believe different things, they often looked different, too, with their  yarmulkes or kippas, and some of them with funny haircuts and weird black 19th century clothes, too. And how in Europe and Russia that meant they became such an easy target for us to foist our fears on – see any propaganda materials of the time to understand how difference in appearance played a major role in whipping up fear – so that we slaughtered tens of millions of utterly innocent men, women, and children, giving away our own humanity in the process. And I say “We” deliberately, because although it was the Tsarist Cossacks and then the Stalinists and then the Nazis who actually did the deed, it was the rest of Western society – including great chunks of the political establishment, the cultural leadership, and the opinion formers – who stood by and let them do it when a timely intervention could have stopped the madness before it ran entirely out of control.

And two things occurred to me.

No, I still don’t think women should wear the burka, because I remain to be convinced that anyone truly wears it out of choice but rather through fear and cultural imposition, and I think it is demeaning to their personal freedom not to be able to wear whatever they damn well please*, and it is representative of an antiquated and patriarchal view of the family and the world that I simply do not agree with. And I also believe it is active cruelty to expect an Afghan woman to walk along the streets of Melbourne on a thirty eight degree day swathed in black heat-absorbing cloth while her husband wanders along beside her in white shorts and a t-shirt.

And also that the matter has nothing to do with Muslims in general, who in the main are far more like me than they are unlike me, who love their children, and worry about their jobs, and want to live in a decent house, and go to the footy, and contemplate art, and most of all just want to be left alone to get on as best they can, and make a contribution to the country they now live in. And that every time I forget that, I am zipping my mouth shut in a manner that could one day lead to marginalisation, or pogroms, or worse – and will certainly not lead to a rapprochement between my country and the countries Muslim migrants have come from any time soon. And that if there is not a rapprochement, that the tiny number of terrorists who make our life a misery under the cloak of radical Islam will continue to kill themselves and others, as sure as night follows day.

David Kossoff

David Kossoff

Driving home that evening, I remembered a short story told by David Kossoff, who was a popular actor and writer-philosopher when I was just a boy, and a Jew who wrote movingly for Christian audiences in his best-seller “The Book of Witnesses”, (first published 1971 and still available, and a heart-warming read for followers of both cultures), who talked on radio one day about the foolishness of one side of society instinctively mistrusting another.

As a child of Russian-Jewish emigrés to London himself, he told with gentle charm the story of a young man who was walking home one night to his hut near the Jewish outskirts of a Russian town, pushing his bicycle, when a mounted sabre-wielding Cossack thundered around the corner of the street with clearly murderous intent, and bore down on a small group of Jews huddled in fear against the wall of a nearby building.

As the Cossack raised his sabre to strike, the young man interposed himself between him and the Jews and called out “What on earth do you think you are you doing?”

Momentarily nonplussed, the Cossack looked down, and cried out “It’s all the fault of the Jews!”

The young man shook his head, and spoke quietly. “No, my friend,” he said, “It is all the fault of the bicycle riders. It is me you should kill if you are angry.”

The Cossack peered at him in confusion, and asked “Why the bicycle riders?”

The young man shyly looked up at him and smiled gently, and murmured “Why the Jews?”

Kossoff doesn’t say if the young man was Jew or Gentile, and I like to think that omission was deliberate. And as I thought back to the faces of those in the audience listening to the quiet urging of a young girl who could not understand why we didn’t trust her and her family, I realised that one thing was stamped on the face of the listeners, almost universally.

It was shame.

And as I pulled into the driveway of my very ordinary suburban house, which just happens, by sheer coincidence, to be right next door to the home of a family of Muslims of Lebanese extraction – who seem just like my family except they drink tea when we would drink wine, and look healthier for it, too –  I gave thanks to God, as I often do, for the innocent, naive honesty and passion of the young, and I made a mental promise to listen to them more intently and more respectfully, as I watch myself slide slowly but inexorably into ossified middle age, and beyond.

*This also means I accept their right to wear it, of course, if it is genuinely their choice and preference.