Alice Stewarts sends a publicity notice about a movie preview today in Little Rock for "Seasons of Gray: The Modern Day Story of Joseph." It's the work of EchoLight Studio, said to be America's "largest faith and family film company." Its CEO is former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, who's going to be on hand for the screening at 7 p.m. at the Dickenson Chenal 9.
Lots of buzz this morning about a story from the Missouri State Fair, where a rodeo clown wearing an Obama mask delighted the crowd when the announcer suggested that the Obama clown be run down by a bull.
Some spectators were not amused. And some politicians, including at least one Republican, have said the joking about doing violence to the president, even in clown form. was in bad taste.
You might remember that rodeo clowns roughing up an Obama effigy made news in Greenwood, Arkansas last year, with a similar divergence of opinion. A Siloam Springs club had discouraged the same act a few years earlier.
In Missouri, a spectator said the crowd went wild when the announcer started talking about having the bull run "Obama" down. He said the announcer mentioned Obama's name dozens of times. "It was sickening,” he said. “It was feeling like some kind of Klan rally you’d see on TV.”
It's impossible to tell from the story if the Missouri fair featured any of the same people — announcer or clowns — who performed in Arkansas.
He does favor a change in procedure for the secret court that reviews wiretap applications but has broadened its role into privacy concerns without arguments from legal adversaries.
No, he doesn't think Edward Snowden is a "patriot."
Speaker Boehner responds. "Our priority should continue to be saving American lives, not saving face."
On another subject: The president said he opposed an Olympic boycott and said he hoped lesbian and gay athletes would bring home medals.
Congressional Republicans are moving to gut many of President Obama’s top priorities with the sharpest spending cuts in a generation and a new push to hold government financing hostage unless the president’s signature health care law is stripped of money this fall.
My question: Is single-minded obstructionism against government spending in a time of modest recovery a political winner? I'd hope not. But, particularly in Arkansas, it's not a given.
Too extreme? Too extreme for Arkansas? I think that's almost certainly one of the key themes of the expected Senate race between the Club for Growth's aide de camp Tom Cotton and incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor.
But really. Is this the kind of consensus government most Americans want?
Rep. Harold Rogers, the Kentucky Republican who leads the House Appropriations Committee, outlining the Republican view of President Obama's proposals, from environmental protection to public broadcasting:
“His priorities are going nowhere.”
The U.S. didn't elect the House Republican majority president in 2012. They think they were elected pope.
I don't read it as second-guessing. But he endeavors to provide important, irrefutable context black Americans see in this case and raises the question of whether events would have been different if, top to bottom, they involved white people.
And what if Trayvon Martin had been armed? Could he have stood HIS ground? The president understands that the stand-your-ground law was not an element in the criminal trial, but it's undeniably an element in prevailing attitudes in Florida. Perhaps, he said, the law encourages, rather than diffuses, situations such as those that led to Martin's slaying by George Zimmerman.
For those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these stand your ground laws, I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened. And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.
While acknowledging that young black males are disproportionately involved in criminal events, both as perpetrator and victim, Obama reached back to his own experience:
... I think it is important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away. There are very few African-Americans in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are probably very few African-American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often. And I don't want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.
There's more. Seems reasonable, heartfelt and, while pointed on some policy questions, not of a finger-pointing nature. I'll be surprised, however, if his usual foes don't see it through their usual prism for all things Obama. Negatively, in other words.
Let's think about addressing racial profiling, he said. Let's talk about stand your ground laws. Let's talk about helping African-American boys (his word). Maybe we should all examine whether we are "wringing" us much bias out of ourselves as we can. He closed modestly upbeat.
Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. Doesn't mean we're in a post-racial society. It doesn't mean that racism is eliminated. But, you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they're better than we are. They're better than we were on these issues. That's true in every community that I've visited all across the country. And so we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues and those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature as opposed to using those episodes to heighten divisions.
Good talk from where I sit.
I mentioned earlier that a UA poll on presidential politics would be discussed at the Clinton School at lunch today.
Here's the University release on the event, with this presidential finding:
Poll questions released Wednesday also covered the 2012 presidential election results, attitudes toward women in the workplace and hypothetical 2016 presidential election match-ups involving the possible candidacy of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The poll results showed Clinton with leads over former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (61 percent to 32 percent), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (61 percent to 30 percent) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (58 percent to 34 percent).
These are national numbers, not Arkansas numbers. I suspect she'd do a touch better than Obama here, too. Don't ask me why they left out The Huckster.
The broader report was titled "Is There a War on Women? Attitudes about Women in the Workplace and Politics." Read it all here.
* About 1 in 4 Southern white men exhibit sexist tendencies based on answers to questions.
* Obama's national gender gap (disproportionate female support) did not appear in the South, with votes for him by men and woman about equal.
* There was a big racial gap in the South, with minorities favoring Obama heavily and vice versa. (But, please. Don't view the Jason Rapert anti-Obama speech to the Tea Party in that context whatsoever. It was NOT about race.)
* Most people surveyed believe they'll see a woman president in their lifetime.
* Hillary would cut into Republican votes among women. She's also enjoy broad edges among minority voters, black and Latino.
A former campaigner for George H.W. Bush writes in the Daily Beast that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a particularly dangerous opponent for Republicans in 2016, as evidenced by her popularity among voters in Texas and Kentucky over Republican candidates.
Although Obama lost among non-college-graduate whites by 19 points nationwide, his deficit among that same demographic in the Great Lakes was only in the single digits. Significantly, Ohio and Pennsylvania held for Obama in 2012, two of the states which Obama lost to Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primaries.
And that is where the GOP's problem begins. In addition to benefiting from Obama's ascendant coalition of younger voters, minorities, and women, Hillary connects with the white working class and would likely improve upon Obama's showing among this bloc. Instead of the forced optics of Obama sitting down to a beer with the prof and the cop, voters would likely be treated to moments of a relaxed Hillary knocking back a boilermaker in Youngstown or Dearborn.
Clinton could make a serious play in the South and build upon existing margins in the Midwest. North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas would be in play. Indeed, Hillary could reclaim the newest bloc of swing voters: America's wealthy.
LOCAL ANGLE: Further information is to be released at noon today at the Clinton School on a UA poll that delved into presidential politics. I think it will underscore the Daily Beast article with numbers favorable to Hillary, including in the South.
An interesting analysis in the New York Times on President Obama's apparent dominance - again - in 2012 in social media. Short version: Old white men watch cable TV. Younger people - particularly women and minorities, categories in which Obama dominated - use smart phones.
This is about more than media. The Obama campaign correctly understood that to reach certain cohorts most effectively it would have to move beyond traditional media to the media that most resonates with Hispanics, young women, African-Americans and even Asian-Americans. Consider Latinos. The 50.5 million Hispanics in the country have higher usage rates of mobile and social media than Anglos. African Americans and Hispanics have adopted Twitter at faster rates than whites or Anglos.
Consider women, too, of various ethnic backgrounds, who have embraced smart phones faster than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. More than three in five women who are of African American, Hispanic or Asian-American had a smartphone in 2011, compared to just one in three white women, according to Nielsen.
More than three in four Asian-American women believe that smartphones improve their lives, while just one in four is inclined to say the same thing about the most tried and trusted medium in American politics: Television.
This isn't just about tools and software, of course. It's about the changing ways people receive information.
All of this suggests not only that a key shift has long since gotten underway in demographics and media, but also that younger voters make decisions differently. They are constantly informed, messaged and reinforced by their deluge of text and Twitter messages — all coming from their friends, families and co-workers — hundreds if not thousands of times a day. While Obama lost a few points off his overall white vote, he still swamped Romney among all people under 30, the first and fastest adopters of social media, by 5 million votes (even though fewer younger voters turned out than in 2008). As if to underscore the Democratic edge, even after the polls closed in Virginia, the Obama campaign was still texting volunteers to make sure everyone in line stayed and voted.
Well, here we go. I lift a commemorative Republican mug this morning to the GOP sweep of Arkansas congressional seats and the new Republican majority in the Arkansas Senate and, perhaps, though this is still distantly in doubt, in the House. (PS — I trust regular readers know I'm only congratulating, not celebrating.)
Though built on enmity toward Barack Obama, who'll lead our country for four more years thanks to an electoral college landslide, the GOP victory is no passing fancy. It is a cultural shift of Arkansas political leaning to align with the rest of the Deep South and likely to be with us for many years to come. I heard a first-time voter explain in a radio interview today that she voted Republican because that was her family tradition.
Rich irony: Many Republicans were elected on mailed pleas to defeat Democrats who'd voted to put a highway sales tax proposal on the ballot. The sales tax was overwhelmingly approved the same night many of those criticzed Democrats were turned out.
The night's results likely will be reflected in a still-divided Congress.
The Arkansas legislature will grow to more resemble Washington, beginning with a Senate controlled by a party different from that of the chief executive. Republicans rode to power on very specific promises on taxes and reduction in the size of government. They'll press those issues — as they should to keep their promises. They'll be understandably reluctant to work with a governor who spent $1 million to defeat them, often with personal dirt dug up in research of business, tax and criminal records.
Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, ultimately, must accede to the legislative majority in many things, because a simple majority can override a veto. The 75 percent vote requirement for most spending bills presents a challenge for both sides.
But will there be a Republican majority in both houses? The answer is not yet wholly certain, though it appears so.
If the Republican majority in both houses prevails, there'll be no constitutional impediment to a raft of social issue legislation, voter ID laws and other GOP agenda items already in place in neighboring states. Massive resistance will continue to expansion of Medicaid. The health institutions that will be harmed by this might bring some Republicans to their side, but a solid bloc of the new Republican majority truly means what it says about reducing the size of government (and employment and services by government).
There will be a lot to cover that's for sure in the brave new world.
Good news on the local scene was spotty, but there was some:
* BIG NEWS IN THE HOUSE: I gave up too soon last night and believed the bold and repeated cocky (and dramatically exaggerated) assertions of Republican pollsters and consultants that they were headed to a giant win in the House. The early trends didn't hold up as Democrats won a number of seats they were expected to lose. The Republican majority fell well short of the lofty heights predicted by Republican sycophants and putative polling experts. They talked of wins of high as 65, 70 seats. The scant 1-vote majority of 51 also came on the strength of very tight wins.
Here's where it stands this morning in the Arkansas House.
With tallies completed, the count: 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one Green candidate, Fred Smith, who once was a Democrat until the party sued to disqualify him from an earlier term on account of a theft conviction. He was succeeded by a Democrat himself ruled ineligible in a vote buying scheme.
That's a working majority — enough to elect Terry Rice as speaker over Democrat Darrin Williams and to turn over the House staff. (The Senate staff is likely in peril as well, though that new governing bunch isn't quite as mean and vengeful as the rising Republican House majority.) But ....
Roby Brock of Talk Business reports that L.J. Bryant, a Democrat from Augusta, who trailed Republican John Hutchinson of Harrisburg by 45 votes, will likely seek a recount and there may be ground for a change in this election. Talk Business quotes Bryant as saying some 200 provisional ballots are at issue in this race. A swing here would move the count to 50-49-1 and make Fred Smith a very important man.
The Senate currently is split 21-14, but this counts a very close race between Mike Akin and Eddie Cheatham in Southeast Arkansas as Democratic, where Democrat Cheatham has a 342-vote lead but a couple of precincts (in Democratic Chicot County) are unaccounted for. (UPDATE: Akin has now conceded.) This again falls short of the number which Republicans had publicly boasted they'd win.
* THE THREE REPUBLICAN STOOGES: David Kizzia of Malvern beat neo-Confederate Republican Loy Mauch of Bismarck; Harold Copenhaver of Jonesboro defeated another Republican slavery apologist and imnmigrant hater, Rep. Jon Hubbard, and James McLean beat the wacky former Republican Rep. Charlie Fuqua in Batesville. A flurry of last-minute publicity about these races (yes, it was driven by the Arkansas Times and this blog) helped Democrats immeasurably and tightened the final House count considerably.
* SO MUCH FOR RESUME PADDING: Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, a heavily funded, disciplined and energetic candidate with national backing scored the lowest of any of the Republican congressional winners Tuesday night, only about 55 percent of the vote in his district against a lightly funded, low-profile challenger. He suffered a sound loss in his home county of Pulaski, where he only got 44 percent of the vote. It's not a great start for a planned U.S. Senate race in 2014. Republican Tom Cotton, the big winner in the 4th Congressional District, may be a stronger Senate contender when all is said and done. I'm expecting Griffin also will lose his own voting precinct, as he lost his home county, to Democratic challenger Herb Rule. UPDATE: In fairness, Griffin eked out a win at the Fire Station in the Heights — 579-552 for the other candidates at one of the precincts there; 536-510 at the other.
* HUMAN RIGHTS: Talk about a bright spot. As the old folks die and younger people come forward, human rights advance. Maine voters made history, passing the first voter-approved marriage equality law for gay couples. Maryland voters affirmed the state's marriage equality law. A same sex marriage law won in the state of Washington, 52-48. Minnesota voters, by a similar margin, defeated a proposal to constitutionally ban same sex marriage. A four-state sweep on this issue would be a watershed, even if that mighty stream isn't going to roll down on Arkansas and the rest of the South anytime soon. Arkansan Chad Griffin, another proud product of Hope, Ark., is the leader of the nation's most important gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign. It mounted a smart and massive effort in behalf of these outcomes. A lesbian was elected to the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin. Iowa voters refused to turn out more of the state Supreme Court justices who'd permitted same-sex marriage there. This was an unalloyed great night for sexual minorities, particularly when you add the president's re-election and his record in support of same-sex marriage, gays in the military and all the rest. More here from NY Times.
AND GETTA LOAD OF THIS: Mike Huckabee was quoted as saying yesterday was going to be a national show of support for Chick-fil-A and all those who endorsed its owners' work against gay rights. Say what?
* WOMEN'S CHOICE: Strident anti-abortion candidates were the reason the Republicans failed to make gains in the U.S. Senate. A majority in America is not ready to strip American women of choice or birth control pills, Jason Rapert's victory in the Conway-centered Arkansas Senate district over the valiant Linda Tyler notwithstanding. Will the new Republican majority, if it holds, really join Rapert in his bill to require forced vaginal probes of women seeking abortion in the earliest stages of pregnancy? We'll see.
Whatever else, the sun will still rise tomorrow.
PS — The ready assumption of Republicans and some others is that President Obama will remain an albatross to state Democrats in 2014, when statewide races will be on the ballot. I heard Jay Barth explain reasons that might not be so, beginning with hopes that an improved economy will change electoral dynamics tremendously. Obama didn't cost Democrats congressional seats. Lack of strong, well-financed candidates spelled defeat in two districts wiith potential to go Democratic. Obama didn't prove nearly the drag that Republicans expected on legislative elections. Their predictions for victory were exaggerated by 20 percent in the House and by 15 to 20 percent in the Senate. How Republicans govern in the next two years in tandem with a still-popular Democratic governor might give Democrats something to run with in two years. Dustin McDaniel or Bill Halter best hope so. Old Southern white men won't vote for Obama, no doubt about it. But the Arkansas variety of the species might still have enough memory of the recent past to cast some votes for Democratic candidates down ballot in two years. Tuesday night's outcomes — see state legislative races in the 1st District particularly — offered a little hope for that premise.
I predicted on the radio yesterday that President Obama would be re-elected if there's a fair election. I claim no insight. I also believe in climate change. The science of public opinion research favors Obama's re-election tomorrow just as science supports climate change. The margins are close, of course.
And that's where fairness becomes critical. Consider:
President Obama and Mitt Romney hunted for last-minute support on Sunday in a frenetic sprint across battleground states, even as their parties faced off in the first of what could be a growing number of legal disputes over presidential ballots and how they are counted.
* FLORIDA AGAIN: Republicans in Florida truncated early voting because they know it discourages Democratic voters who can more easily get to the polls on weekends than on a working day. A lawsuit was necessary to get polls open for early voters.
* CRITICAL OHIO: Republican vote suppression has been rampant there for a decade and it's back again.
Republican election officials will go to court on Monday to defend an 11th-hour directive to local election officials that critics say could invalidate thousands of provisional ballots by forcing voters to attest to the type of identification they provide.
* GREEN PARTY ALLEGATION: The Green Party promises a lawsuit today to demand removal of patches implanted on electronic vote count software. It says the process there has already been tainted by systematic disenfranchisement and computerized vote count rigging.
The Republican Party simply wants fewer voters, particularly the people who have a harder time getting to the polls and thus tend to be more receptive to the kinder view of government's role than the GOP holds. That's why voter ID laws. They'll fight to suppress votes until the polls close. They'll fight to count votes they suspect are unfriendly after they close. That's why I'm not wholly confident the science of measuring public opinion will predict the election outcome. Recounts are possible in key states. At the end of the line is a Republican-dominated U.S. Supreme Court that ignored state law and ended a recount once before because of its belief in the importance of keeping a Republican president in office.
Better than a sharp stick in the eye (NYT) four days before election day.
In the last assessment of the job market before the presidential election, the Labor Department announced Friday that the nation’s employers had added 171,000 positions in October, as well as more jobs than initially estimated in both August and September.
The unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 7.9 percent in October, from 7.8 percent in September, as more workers joined the labor force.
The report showed persistent but modest improvement in the American economy, and broad-based gains in every industry except the government. It was based on surveys conducted too early in the month to capture the work stoppages across the East Coast from Hurricane Sandy.
Stock markets opened up on the news.
Things are getting better, if slowly. Fox and the Republican Party of Arkansas will respin this for you shortly. They hate good news for America.
The Catholic bishop in Peoria, Illinois has ordered priests there to read an anti-Obama letter from their pulpits. His required reading is factually challenged, Huffington Post notes.
By comparison, the heavy-handed political homily by Arkansas's Catholic bishop Anthony Taylor, though also deficient factually, seems pretty mild.
Catholic clergy involvement in this year's election has become so abundant that you wonder if it's been directed from higher up. Among the episodes are Huckabee-style threats of hellfire for those who don't follow the bishop's instructions:
Last week, Bishop David Laurin Ricken informed the 300,000-plus members of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., that voting for candidates whose positions contradict any so-called "non-negotiables" of Catholic teaching "could put [one's] soul in jeopardy," HuffPost blogger John Becker notes in his piece.
Those "non-negotiables" include abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and gay marriage, according to a letter Ricken wrote and posted on the diocesan website. The letter was reportedly also emailed to the offices of every parish.
"Ricken has forgotten that we live in a republic, not a theocracy, as separation of church and state is clearly established by constitutional law," wrote the Green Bay Press Gazette's John Reiman in response to Ricken's letter. "Simply put, it is ethically wrong for the bishop to connect one’s salvation through participating in the civic act of voting, ostensibly, against church doctrine."
An old cartoon by Tom Toles seems appropriate to discussion of "non-negotiables." Don't they also include a definition of marriage, not only between man and woman, but for life?
I'd say this beats all. But, really, it's more of the same from the faith-based Republican dogma that distinguishes every campaign for office, from president on down. Facts don't matter. Faith alone will triumph, beginning with tax cuts for the wealthy.
The Congressional Research Service has withdrawn an economic report that found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth, a central tenet of conservative economic theory, after Senate Republicans raised concerns about the paper’s findings and wording.
This is a familiar strategy by now. Don't like the polls? Say they're skewed. Don't like the improving employment numbers? Say they're rigged. Don't like a nonpartisan research group's blowup of Mitt Romney's tax plan math? Trash the people who did the arithmetic.
When independent agencies like the Congressional Research Service and the Tax Policy Center and the Bureau of Labor Statistics or distinguished climate scientists no longer have any credibility whenever they depart from Republican dogma, we will have reached the point that science no longer matters. Turn policy over to Grover Norquist and Rush Limbaugh. And pray.
Arkansas Republicans may succeed in blocking the Medicaid expansion in Arkansas under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, but the broader law is almost certainly here to stay regardless of what happens on Nov. 6. In the first place, and most obviously, a Romney victory without Republicans taking control of the Senate—which looks increasingly unlikely based on polling — takes "repeal and replace" and much of the broader Republican agenda off the table, as Talking Points Memo explains.
Without a Senate majority, Republicans can’t control the budget process. Which means they can’t cram their entire agenda into a reconciliation bill that’s immune from the filibuster. It means that even if they force votes on repealing the Affordable Care Act, they’ll need 60 votes — or about a dozen Democratic defectors. Not likely. President Romney would have to stymie implementation of the law from within the executive branch — a difficult task — and his tax agenda would be a non-starter. So would his plans for Medicare and Medicaid. He’d still be able to appoint Supreme Court justices and lower court judges, but Democrats would be able to block conservatives they deemed too objectionable.
Even if Romney and Senate Republicans overcome poll deficits, it would still be incredibly difficult to dismantle the law. As NPR's excellent health reporter, Julie Rovner, explained yesterday, Romney's promise to immediately grant waivers to states to opt out of the law would be halted by courts. Reconciliation takes forever and, crucially, parts of the law such as requiring insurers to accept patients with preexisting conditions would almost certainly require the same 60 votes from the Senate that were required to pass the law to undo it.
"There are waivers under the law, but not an across-the-board waiver," said Tom Miller, a lawyer with the conservative American Enterprise Institute. For the record, Miller is an avid opponent of the health law. But he's also a veteran of Capitol Hill and knows what can and can't happen.
"You can try anything under the law," he said. But in many cases, "a federal court will usually step in and say, 'You've gone a little bit too far.' "
In this case, the part of the law that allows the president to grant states waivers doesn't actually kick in until 2017. And even the waivers that are allowed require states to cover as many uninsured people as would be covered by the Affordable Care Act."
>>I think about a lot of things, Paul. If you have listened, or cared to…
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World's Ugliest Dog - That's a good idea.
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