July 23, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


...how much more comfortable he is in his own skin than either of the guys running now.
Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


...how much more comfortable he is in his own skin than either of the guys running now.
Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


A Dark Knight for Romney? (TOM CARSON JULY 20, 2012, American Prospect)

The real joke, as Rush might have learned if he'd crammed his posterior into a theater seat before venting, is that The Dark Knight Rises is one of the most deeply conservative movies to come out of Hollywood in years.

Understand, I mean "conservative" in the traditional, more or less honorable sense that Rush and his fellow napalm-eaters have done their best to make obsolete. To a large extent, that's built right into the source material. To much grimmer effect than his rival, Superman--all that sunshine palaver about "the American way," feh--Batman has always been the guardian of a social order against chaos, with a pretty dour view of unbridled license and plenty of pessimism about humanity's prospects for improvement. That may be why the 1960s TV version boomers loved had to be campy, since presenting Batman with his dignity intact would have left Dragnet's Jack Webb looking like some damned hippie-lover. But Christopher Nolan, the director of TDKR and its two predecessors--2005's Batman Begins and 2008's mega-smash The Dark Knight--has hardly been shy about bringing out the saga's implicit political philosophy.

If The Dark Knight ended up as the ultimate pop-culture reflection of George W. Bush's Global War on Terror--and it did, from the way audiences couldn't help seeing Heath Ledger's destruction-bent Joker as Osama bin Laden to Batman's harsh "the ends justify the means" moral ambiguity--the new movie ups the ante, in a way. Lacking even the Joker's twisted charisma, Tom Hardy's Bane is about as far from a Romney stand-in as could be imagined; he's a sullen, lower-depths menace, with a musculature seldom encountered outside Soviet-era sculpture gardens. Though his ultimate plan is to blow up Gotham--c'mon, they all want to blow up Gotham--he means to torment a captive Batman first by turning the city into a stew of every conservative's worst nightmares.

It's not exactly an accident that the first place Bane wreaks havoc is the Stock Exchange. Declaring war on privilege with a rabble-rousing slogan of "Equality!," he incites mobs to throw the rich out of their fancy homes and take over. Moscow-style show trials are held to condemn anyone who objects. It's a pastiche of the French Revolution, the Paris Commune, urban rioters, Bolshevik terror, and punk nihilism, incidentally letting Nolan eat his cake and have it too: In practice, anarchy and totalitarianism haven't been known to mix well. The point is that we're seeing all of Batman's fears--not to mention those of his investment-capitalist millionaire alter ego--mashed up to demonic (and demotic) effect.

In other words, those who ought to be most offended by the movie are Occupy Wall Street's 99 percenters and their sympathizers. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


The scariest chart of the day for Democrats (Chris Cillizza, 07/23/2012, Washington Post)

Republican super PACs have brought in $228 million since January 2011 while Democratic super PACs have collected $80 million in that time. The Fix is no math major but that's roughly a three to one advantage for conservatives.

That chasm is even more consequential when you consider that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee ended June with $170 million in the bank as compared to $144 million for President Obama and the Democratic National Committee.

It's now an absolute certainty that Republicans -- from Romney's campaign to the RNC to super PACs -- will outspend the Democratic combined money efforts between now and November 6. 

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Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


Polar bears, brown bears interbred during warm periods. Is it happening again? (Wynne Parry, 7/23/12, LiveScience)

"If this trend continues, it is possible that future [polar bears] throughout most of their range may be forced to spend increasingly more time on land, perhaps even during the breeding season, and therefore come into contact with brown bears more frequently," the researchers write in results published today (July 23) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Recently, wild hybrids and even second-generation offspring have been documented in the Northern Beaufort Sea of Arctic Canada where the ranges of brown bears and [polar bears] appear to overlap, perhaps as a recent response to climatic changes," they write.

Nevermind the hash it makes of Darwinism, how can climate have ever been different than it was right before cars were introduced?  Isn't global warming man made?

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 AM


In Fight for the House, the Trajectory Is Clear (Stuart Rothenberg, 7/19/12, Roll Call)

House races often don't start getting attention until after Labor Day. But with the presidential contest sucking the air out of the political environment and defining the electoral landscape, House candidates may find they have an even harder time than usual defining themselves and their opponents.

That means the existing trajectory of the fight for the House may be harder and harder to change as Labor Day approaches, creating a growing problem for House Democrats who continue to insist that the House is "in play."

Democratic strategists need a dramatic shift in the House playing field if they are going to have any chance of netting the 25 seats they need to regain a majority in the House of Representatives. And that outcome looks increasingly remote.

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 AM


Bo Xilai: power, death and politics : The alleged murder of Neil Heywood has brought down one of China's most powerful politicians - and exposed a power struggle that has rocked the Communist party  (Jamil Anderlini)

As the cyanide took effect, Neil Percival Heywood must have looked around at the tacky photos of trees and waterfalls on the mustard-coloured wallpaper and wondered how he ever got involved in the vicious world of Chinese politics.

The dingy room at the Lucky Holiday Hotel - a three-star hilltop resort in the Chinese metropolis of Chongqing where Heywood was found dead on November 15 last year - was a long way from his childhood in a middle-class London suburb and his education at Harrow, the elite private school attended by Winston Churchill and Lord Byron. Although he had become increasingly worried about his involvement with one of China's most powerful political families, and had seen enough to know how they dealt with those who crossed them, he thought it very unlikely they would kill a foreigner.

Heywood could not have imagined that his murder would spark the biggest Chinese political scandal in at least two decades and expose an elite power struggle that has shaken the ruling Communist party to its core. After spending nearly half his 41 years living in China, mostly working as a small-time business consultant and fixer, his death in the secluded, run-down guest house was blamed on "excessive alcohol consumption" by the Chongqing police.

His remains were quickly cremated, without an autopsy, on the authorisation of his family. According to people familiar with the matter, Heywood's Chinese wife Wang Lulu was pressured by the Chongqing authorities to agree to the quick cremation and was so distraught when she arrived in the city that she sent her brother with a British consular official to identify the body. Almost every single staff member at the Lucky Holiday Hotel was replaced over the following month and all current employees have been warned not to discuss the incident with anyone.

Back in the UK, Heywood's sister, elderly mother and friends were told he died of a heart attack, as his father Peter had in 2004 at the age of 63. At a memorial on December 19, in St Mary's Church in Battersea, London, the Heywood family was joined by many of Neil's old Harrovian schoolmates. "At least some of us were puzzled and concerned by the circumstances of Neil's death and the story that he'd died of a heart attack," says one person who attended. "Those of us that knew who he was connected to in China felt something more sinister had happened."

The Lucky Holiday Hotel was a favourite spot for Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, a member of the elite 25-member politburo of the Communist party and the man who ruled like a king over Chongqing, a city-province with a population of 33 million and a land area the size of Austria. For Heywood, virtually all of his modest success as a business consultant for British companies in China stemmed from his 15-year relationship with the Bo-Gu family and it was Gu Kailai who arranged for him to come to Chongqing and stay at the forlorn, mist-shrouded compound last November. It is here that she is alleged to have murdered him using potassium cyanide, reportedly administered in a drink with the help of a household orderly and bodyguard named Zhang Xiaojun. The government announcement on April 10 of her detention on suspicion of "intentional homicide", and her husband Bo Xilai's suspension from all his posts because of "serious discipline violations", sent shockwaves through Chinese politics.

The death of an obscure British consultant had brought down one of China's most powerful politicians, a man who had been favoured to ascend to the ruling nine-member Communist party politburo standing committee at a once-in-a-decade power transition later this autumn. While Gu and Bo remain in detention awaiting an official verdict, their downfall has also revealed a deep rift among the top echelons of the Communist party and debunked the idea that authoritarian China has managed to institutionalise an orderly succession process in the absence of democracy. But Heywood's suspicious death would have almost definitely remained a mystery and Bo would still be a rising political star if it wasn't for the actions of one man - Bo's once-loyal and fanatical chief of police in Chongqing, Wang Lijun.

...folks still want to be Kleptocrat-in-Chief.

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 AM


The Obama Campaign Is Unworthy of a Democratic President (Georges Uguex, 07/20/2012, Huffington Post)

As a Democrat and a staunch support of Barack Obama, I am completely disgusted by his campaign. Are we talking about the President of the United States? Are we talking about a principled man who has boosted our ideal for a fair and equitable America? Does this have anything to do with the American people?

1. A harassing campaign

Everybody takes turns to bombard us with e-mails, phone calls to chip in for one reason or the other. Even those of us who asked to only receive selective information.

To that "presidential" harassment one needs to add what the Democratic Party does: strangely enough they only call and e-mail to collect money. Never to tell us what are the important causes for the Party.

Last but not least, the individual candidates do the same: we have not heard from them either for the previous four years.

This creates an impression of frenetic nervousness and not the strength that we expect from the President and incumbent candidate.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 AM


California, look to Wisconsin : Golden State cities hoping to avoid bankruptcy should look east for ideas. (Steven Malanga
July 17, 2012, LA Times)

When Walker introduced his so-called budget repair bill in February 2011, he argued that the biggest beneficiaries of his plan would be cities, towns and school districts, which would gain the flexibility to cut costs without having to negotiate every change in compensation or work rules with local unions. His legislation specifically eliminated collective bargaining by government workers for benefits and required greater contributions from them toward pensions.

How local officials employed those changes to cut costs proved revealing. The state's teachers union, Wisconsinites learned, had used its power to collectively bargain for healthcare benefits to demand that local school districts provide coverage through a nonprofit insurer affiliated with the union. Once the state ended bargaining on healthcare, school boards began competitively bidding out their health insurance.

By the opening of the new school year in September, just two months after the budget bill went into effect, 23 districts had rebid their contracts, saving $16 million, or an average of $211 per student. The MacIver Institute, a Madison-based think tank, estimated that if all the state's districts were able to negotiate similar deals once their contracts with the union-affiliated insurer expire, schools could save $186 million.

As mayor of Milwaukee, Barrett employed Walker's reforms before he knew he'd be facing the governor in the recall election. In mid-August 2011, barely a month after the changes went into effect, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the city would save as much as $36 million in its next budget from "healthcare benefit changes it didn't have to negotiate with unions" as a result of the new state legislation. When asked whether Walker's reforms should be credited for the savings, Barrett brushed aside the question and asserted that virtually everyone was in favor of having workers contribute more to their healthcare.

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 AM


Don't Jump to Conclusions About the Killer (Dave Cullen, 7/22/12, New York Times)

At every high school, college and school-safety conference I speak at, I hold up the journals left behind by the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The audience is shocked at what they learn. Perpetrators of mass murder are usually nothing like our conceptions of them. They are nothing like a vision of pure evil. They are complicated.

Mr. Harris kept a sort of journal for an entire year, focused largely on his plan to blow up his school and mow down survivors with high-powered rifles. Mr. Klebold kept a more traditional journal for two years, spewing a wild array of contradictory teen angst and deep depression, grappling seriously with suicide from the very first page.

Audiences are never surprised by the journal of Mr. Harris. It's hate-hate-hate all the way through. He was a coldblooded psychopath, in the clinical use of that term. He had no empathy, no regard for human suffering or even human life.

Mr. Klebold's journal is the revelation. Ten pages are consumed with drawings of giant fluffy hearts. Some fill entire pages, others dance about in happy clusters, with "I LOVE YOU" stenciled across. He was ferociously angry. He had one primary target for his anger. Not jocks, but himself. What a loathsome creature he found himself. No friends, no love, not a soul who cared about him or what became of his miserable life. None of that is objectively true. But that's what he saw.

It's a common high school malady, taken to extremes. Psychologists have a simple term for this state: depression. That surprises a lot of people. Depressives look sad, but that is the view from the outside. Of course they're sad; they've probably gone their entire day getting berated relentlessly, by the single person in the world whose opinion they hold most dear -- themselves.

Psychologists describe depression as anger turned inward. When that anger is somehow turned around, and projected outward, watch out.
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Posted by orrinj at 5:39 AM


Obama's Burn Rate Worries Some Democrats (PETER NICHOLAS and DANNY YADRON, 7/23/12, WSJ)

Unless fundraising picks up, the Obama campaign may enter the season's final stretch confronting hard choices: paring salaries, scaling back advertising or pulling out of swing states in a bid to control costs, these Democrats say.

The campaign of President Obama, shown above last week in Jacksonville, Fla., spent twice as much as that of Mitt Romney last month.

The president spent twice as much as Mr. Romney in June, as his campaign purchased more TV ads, paid more than twice as many employees and spent millions of dollars on public-opinion polls, federal records show.

June was the second month in a row that Mr. Obama's campaign dipped into the red, while the president was outraised by the Romney campaign.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 AM


How Thatcher Came to Be Euroskeptic : The Iron Lady was lukewarm on the EU before she was against it. (Charles C. W. Cooke, 7/22/12, National Review)

In her opposition to the European single currency and the ERM, history has confirmed a remarkable prescience. Mrs. Thatcher correctly predicted that a single currency could not simultaneously accommodate the likes of Germany and Greece -- countries she specifically named -- and that attempting to reconcile the two would lead to disaster for smaller nations: It will "devastate their inefficient economies," she warned a tentatively pro-euro chancellor, John Major, in 1990. Her staunch opposition within a divided party and her peremptory rejection of the views of those who disagreed with her cost her dearly politically, contributing to her downfall in 1990.

Her unilateral opposition to British involvement with the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, too, helped to end her premiership. But on this question, as on so many others, history has been kinder to her than her party was. In 1992, as she was gearing up to give a speech to the Economic Club of New York that recommended Britain leave the ERM, the ERM collapsed and Britain withdrew. This rendered her remarks a victorious post-mortem. By chance, former chancellor Nigel Lawson's memoirs were released at around the same time and were being serialized in the Times. The memoirs contained a passage explaining how Mrs. Thatcher's opposition to the ERM had contributed to her downfall. At the time of her dramatic ouster in 1990, the conventional wisdom had been that her "obstinacy" and unwillingness to accommodate the views of her colleagues on matters European had done her in. Now her "poor judgment" looks like great wisdom.