Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tussauds' latest

Madame Tussauds' studio artists Les Punter (R) and Jim Kempton work on clay head molds of presidential candidates Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (2nd L) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) at Madame Tussauds Studios in London October 16, 2008. The clay molds are a crucial step in the up to 6-month-long figure creation process. The full wax figures will be unveiled in all three U.S. Madame Tussauds attractions

The alienation of voting America

by Gene Lyons

With fewer than two weeks until the presidential election, there's plenty of time for surprises. Virtually anything could still happen. But you'd never know it from the behavior of many Republican pundits and thinkers. Among GOP savants, the bitterness, recrimination and finger-pointing have already begun—a heartening sign, actually. After eight years of lock-step conformity and near-total fealty to the Bush administration's every destructive whim, one wouldn't have thought they had it in them. Needless wars ? Staggering corruption ? Illegal wiretaps ? Kidnapping ? Secret prisons ? Torture ? So-called conservatives have rationalized them all. Sarah Palin, however, many cannot abide. Alaska's winking governor, who goes around complaining that CBS' Katie Couric asked her "gotcha" questions like "What magazines and newspapers do you read ?" has become a flash point.

Christopher Buckley, sacked from the National Review, a magazine founded by his late father, William F. Buckley, after endorsing Barack Obama on Tina Brown's Web site, The Daily Beast, explains that he initially was captivated by Palin's backwoods charm.

"But it's kind of like dating a supermodel," he says. "There comes a moment, unfortunately, where they start talking."

NYT Mag Lifts Curtain On Palin Choice, Angst With Schmidt, Worry In McCain Campaign

Sam Stein

The piece, written by Robert Draper and titled "The Making (and Remaking and Remaking) of the Candidate," breaks some new reportorial ground, including a growing weariness within a campaign that seems more interested in tactical victories and the next compelling narratives than an overarching strategy. Draper writes:

"By October, the succession of backfiring narratives would compel some to reappraise not only McCain's chances but also the decisions made by [Chief Strategist Steve] Schmidt, who only a short time ago was hailed as the savior who brought discipline and unrepentant toughness to a listing campaign."

Having interviewed several of the Senator's chief aides, Draper details the process by which McCain ultimately chose his running mate (New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg was surprisingly high on the list). And the decision may have been even more impulsive than initially thought. Gov. Sarah Palin, who had never been on the VP shortlist, was advanced at the last minute by Schmidt and Rick Davis, and was picked after a chat with McCain at his ranch in Arizona.

From there, Draper tracks the campaign through Palin's widely praised convention speech, the roaring early campaign events, and then the first glimmer of doubts. There are additional, juicy nuggets that he uncovers earlier and along the way. These include the birth of the Obama-as-celebrity attack line -- the campaign felt it was on the wrong track, its pollster described their situation as "third and nine," and Schmidt "blurted out the epiphany concerning Obama. 'Face it, gentlemen,' he said. 'He's being treated like a celebrity.'"

Let's Have a New Civil War!

By Ken Layne

Ken Layne's OutrageLet's see, what did the racists do today? Oh, in Richmond Virginia, they pulled the big Obama sign off the lawn of a 78-year-old black pastor and Army veteran ... and replaced it with a Confederate flag. Oh, and somebody killed a black bear, covered its dead body with Obama signs, and dumped it at Western Carolina University.

We are told by the experts that Americans are so racist that even a double-digit lead in the polls could become a loss at the polling place, because so many voters will only admit their racism in the privacy of the voting booth.

The poor are getting poorer, the middle class is gone, millions of people are losing their homes, millions more can't afford the heating oil for this winter, some 40 million people lack basic medical insurance, and all the wealth in this country is held by 10% of U.S. households. You know what happens when there's no middle class and a seething mob of bitter losers start looking for a fight? A Sarah Palin rally, sure, but also Civil War. Bring it on.

Sic him!

The candidate as rabble-rouser

Sarah Palin in Clearwater, Fla., on Oct. 6. (AP)

By Roger Ebert

Sarah Palin seems giddy with her newfound power as a rabble-rouser. She's using her charm to stir crowds of supporters toward hate. Have you been listening? What frightens me is that she is inciting to violence, which is a felony. Why do I say this? Because supporters have been videotaped at her rallies, screaming "kill him!" "traitor!" "off with his head!" and "terrorist!" At one rally, they started screaming at an African-American TV cameraman, using the n-word. The Secret Service is investigating some of these threats.

Did Palin observe these crowd reactions? Read her body language. She uses the tiniest of smiles and briefest of pauses we all use when we want to signal, "I hear you but I'm pretending not to." She uses the same sound bites at every speech, and they get similar responses. Like demagogues before her, she draws energy from the mob. She doesn't care what she's saying. She can't stop herself. She loves the applause. Don't for a moment assume she would be allowed to use those words in every speech if John McCain hadn't signed off on them.

What would a decent politician do? The same thing that all decent politicians of both parties have always done: Defuse the hate speech. Calm things down. Tell the wingnuts to chill out. When was the last time you heard a political nominee of either major party accused of treason? You'd have to go back to Joe McCarthy.

Any Pay Cuts on Wall Street Yet?

by Dean Baker


    Congress assured us that there would be no more big paychecks for incompetent Wall Street bankers when they passed their bailout bill. They told us that the tough pay provisions would put an end to the multimillion-dollar payouts to these folks.

    Last week, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson mailed $150 billion in checks to the big banks. From that point forward, the CEOs and all the other top executives of these banks are now our dependents. They are living off the tax dollars of schoolteachers in Iowa, truck drivers in Montana and even Joe the Plumber.

    It is difficult to understand why we should be taxing people who make $40,000 a year to boost the paychecks of bankers who make more than $1 million a year and in many cases more than $10 million a year. Senator McCain has called Senator Obama a socialist because Obama believes that it is O.K. to impose higher tax rates on rich people than poor people. Senator McCain considers this sort of redistribution unacceptable.

    But, if redistribution from the rich to the rest of the country is socialist, what do you call the upward redistribution that Congress approved in the bailout package? It's hard to justify taxing people who make $40,000 a year to benefit bankers who make more than 100 times as much.

Who are the 15 percent who say U.S. is on right track?


WASHINGTON — They're almost an endangered species, the dwindling number of people who say the country is heading in the right direction. But they're out there.

The way they see it, the U.S. has come through tough times before and will do it again.

Fewer than one in seven, or 15 percent, say the country is on the right path, according to the latest Associated Press-Yahoo News poll of adults. In these economically tough times, they tend to be older, less educated, conservative and supporters of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

"Things go in cycles. Even when things are at their worst, there's still an upturn" afterward, said Paula Fortin, 63, a retired bank supervisor from Marysville, Wash., who said in the survey that things are going the right way. "We're still living at a higher level than most other countries in the world."

Since last fall, the AP-Yahoo News poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks, has tracked how the same group of about 2,000 voters has reacted to the presidential campaign and other events.

Just last month, nearly three in 10 said the country was on the right course. That figure has declined sharply, tracking the catastrophic financial problems of recent weeks and widespread expectations of a serious recession.

"We're faltering a little bit," said Tom Waters, 24, a sales trainer from Brooklyn, N.Y. "But America has proven itself when things were more serious. I know times can be tough, but we'll find our way again."

The poll shows a relationship between people's views of the country and their own lives. Sixty-nine percent of those saying the U.S. is heading the right way report being happy in their own lives, while 52 percent of those sensing the country is on the wrong track are happy personally.

In addition, 41 percent of right-track people report difficulties getting ahead financially these days — compared with 68 percent of wrong-track people.

"For us personally, things are going very well," said Hilary Smith, 29, a substitute teacher from Mattoon, Ill., who owns some rental properties with her husband and sees the country heading the right way. "My parents always say that we're the exception to the rule, but we're very hard workers."

Olbermann: Divisive politics is anti-American

GOP ticket's willingness to say anything to win ultimately damages America

  Olbermann: Divisive politics is anti-American
Oct. 20: In a Special Comment, Keith Olbermann lists examples of hateful, divisive politics from the right that actually do more to undermine America than the bogus accusations of anti-Americanism being leveled against Barack Obama.


By Keith Olbermann
I have frequently insisted I would never turn the platform of the Special Comment into a regular feature. But as these last two weeks of this extraordinary, and extraordinarily disturbing, presidential campaign project out in front of us, I fear I may have to temporarily amend that presumption.

I hope it will be otherwise, but I suspect this will be the first of nightly pieces, most shorter than this until further notice. And thus a Special Comment tonight about the last five days of the divisive, ugly, paranoid bleatings of this Presidential race, culminating in the sliming of Colin Powell for his endorsement of Sen. Obama.

There was once a very prominent sportswriter named Dick Young whose work, with ever-increasing frequency, became peppered with references to "my America."

"I can't believe this is happening in My America;" "We do not tolerate these people in My America;" "This man does not belong in my America."  His America gradually revealed itself.

Insular. Isolationist. Backwards-looking. Mindlessly flag-waving. Racist. No second chances. A million rules, but only for the other guy. Dick Young died in 1987, but he has been re-born in the presidential campaign as it has unfolded since last Thursday night.

McCain Defeats Obama

Should Pat Boone be part of rock hall of fame?

When Pat Boone launched his singing career, rock 'n' roll was a new term.

"I've called myself one of the midwives at the birth of rock 'n' roll," says Pat, who will sign copies of his Christmas album and autobiography today from 2 to 4 p.m. at Ernest Tubb Record Shop, 417 Broadway.

He has sold 45 million records, has 38 Top 40 hits and holds the Billboard record for spending 220 consecutive weeks on the charts with more than one song. Elvis Presley opened for him. Yet he's not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, something his friend Mike Curb, the record executive, is trying to correct.

"The incredible thing about Pat's career is, next to Elvis Presley, he had the best statistics of any rock 'n' roll artist," Mike says. "Pat doesn't get the credit he deserves. He deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I'm talking to members of the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, asking them why he's not in."

Pat, 74, who notes that he's had more hits than some of the inductees, says he doesn't care that he hasn't been inducted. "It has become diluted and unclear as to who is and who was rock 'n' roll.

"Brenda Lee was never rock 'n' roll," he says. "I love her — she was introduced on my father-in-law Red Foley's show — but she was country and maybe pop country, but never rock 'n' roll. Gene Pitney and Billy Joel were never rock 'n' roll."

Why the economy fares much better under Democrats

On job and income growth, the record couldn't be clearer.

John McCain is a maverick and Barack Obama is a postpartisan problem-solver. But you wouldn't know it by looking at their economic plans. Both candidates' proposals faithfully reflect the traditional economic priorities of their respective parties. That makes the track records of past Democratic and Republican administrations a very useful benchmark for assessing how the economy might perform under a President McCain or a President Obama. The bottom line: During the past 60 years, Democrats have presided over much less unemployment and much more robust income growth.

The $52.5 billion plan Senator McCain announced last week includes $36 billion in tax breaks for senior citizens withdrawing funds from retirement accounts and $10 billion for a reduction in the capital gains tax. Those are perks for investors, most of whom are relatively affluent. (McCain is also proposing a two-year suspension of taxes on unemployment benefits, but that's a fraction of the plan's cost.) He also favors broader tax cuts for businesses and wants to extend President Bush's massive tax cuts indefinitely, even for people earning more than $250,000 per year.

McCain's proposals reflect the traditional Republican emphasis on cutting taxes for businesses and wealthy people in hopes of stimulating investment – "trickle down" economics, as it came to be called during Ronald Reagan's administration. But will proposals of this sort really "stop and reverse the rise of unemployment" and "create millions of new jobs" as McCain has claimed? The historical record suggests not.

Attacks on Obama have many roots

By David Lightman
WASHINGTON — An ugly line has been crossed in this presidential campaign, one in which some people don't mind calling Barack Obama a dangerous Muslim, a terrorist and worse.

"To me, this all feels much worse than we've seen in some time," said Kathryn Kolbert, the president of People for the American Way, which monitors political speech.

Experts agree on the reasons: Obama, the Democratic nominee, is different from any other major presidential candidate in history in many ways, and people often don't accept such change gracefully.

That different background fuels many fears, said Penni Pier, who's an expert on political rhetoric. People are still scared that terrorists are ready to strike and wonder about Obama's background, she said, while the Internet and other outlets are endless sources of misinformation.

Some think that Republican strategists are, as Kolbert put it, "orchestrating" the vitriol.

Republicans heatedly deny that.

McCain Employing GOP Operative Accused Of Voter Registration Fraud

by Sam Stein

According to campaign finance records, a joint committee of the McCain-Palin campaign, the RNC and the the California Republican Party, made a $175,000 payment to the group Lincoln Strategy in June for purposes of "registering voters." The managing partner of that firm is Nathan Sproul, a renowned GOP operative who has been investigated on multiple occasions for suppressing Democratic voter turnout, throwing away registration forms and even spearheading efforts to get Ralph Nader on ballots to hinder the Democratic ticket.

In a letter to the Justice Department last October, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said that that Sproul's alleged activities "clearly suppress votes and violate the law."