By macleans.ca - Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 0 Comments
Mitt Romney may be trying to put the heat on President Obama, but there…
Mitt Romney may be trying to put the heat on President Obama, but there is one president he should have left alone.
According to the Associated Press, the man responsible for unearthing the now-infamous 47% video is James Carter IV—the grandson of President Jimmy Carter. He came forward yesterday to describe how he tracked down the video after he saw a small clip of it used in a YouTube video, which attacked Romney for using Chinese labour at Bain Capital.
Carter, an online researcher, got in contact with the uploader of the YouTube video, and convinced her to give the full tape to Mother Jones magazine. While his motive was partially professional, the 35-year-old is currently looking for work, Carter admits that it was also personal. He told reporters that he is tired of Republicans treating his grandfather like a joke, and using the Carter name in any reference to a weak president.
While Carter’s involvement has left many Republicans frothing at the mouth, Democrats have called it “poetic justice.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 5:50 PM - 0 Comments
The president’s post-convention jump in the polls has the Republicans flummoxed
The U.S. conventions did what months of campaigning couldn’t: change the dynamics of the race. President Barack Obama got a much-needed bump in the polls, while Mitt Romney is now the official underdog, and nervous Republicans are calling for everything from the firing of his advisers to an economic road show.
And in a race that, for months, had been a dead heat, polls now show Obama emerging with as much as a six-point boost from the televised spectacle. His wife, Michelle, the popular first lady, gave a passionate speech laden with veiled slams at the Republican presidential nominee (“When you walk through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you”). And former president Bill Clinton summoned his Rhodes Scholar-meets-hillbilly charm to make the case that Romney’s economic plans don’t pass basic country boy arithmetic (“I came from a place where people still thought two and two was four”). Obama’s speech underwhelmed, both in its run-of-the-mill delivery and its failure to lay out a substantive policy agenda matching the enormity of the fiscal challenges facing the U.S. (“Help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers within 10 years”). But, apparently, it was enough.
It’s not that Republicans didn’t try. Romney’s wife, Ann, gave a personal pledge about her exceptionally successful husband (“This. Man. Will. Not. Fail”). The former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, inspired with a speech that linked broad policy themes to her rise from a childhood in segregated Alabama with rhetoric worthy of Obama in 2008 (“America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable”). Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s speech sent fact-checkers into overdrive, but also delivered a stinging line on high youth unemployment (“College graduates should not have to live out their twenties in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters”). But Romney’s economic-themed speech (“This President cannot tell us that you are better off today than when he took office”) was overshadowed by a surreal opening act in which actor Clint Eastwood rambled at an imaginary Obama in an empty chair (“What do you want me to tell Romney? I can’t tell him to do that. I can’t tell him to do that to himself]”). All the stage-managed ethnic diversity and heart-rending testimonials by Mormon parishioners whose lives were touched by Romney’s good works were eclipsed by the image of an angry, old white guy.
By Barbara Amiel - Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 4:30 PM - 0 Comments
Family anecdotes sideline frightening issues on the U.S. campaign
Michelle Obama loves her husband. He is the “guy” who had a car so rusted she could see the pavement through a hole in the passenger side door. His only pair of decent shoes was half a size too small. Her own father had multiple sclerosis and had to prop himself up with his walker to shave. Mitt Romney’s father began as a carpenter. His parents were married 64 years and every day his dad put a rose on his wife’s bedside table. She knew he had died when “that morning there was no rose.” Ann Romney has a “deep and abiding love” for Mitt. When they married their dining room table was an ironing board. Ann’s grandfather was a Welsh coal miner. Ann has fought breast cancer and MS. Ann loves her five children. Barack loves his two children. God, it makes me wish for the old Chinese and Russian political model.
Those rows of stern grey men in ill-tailored identical suits whose very middle name was a state secret let alone their marital status. No politburo member talked about the illnesses of their spouses. Evil people, the product of an evil system, but they spared their population the soap opera narrative of happy families. They didn’t talk prayerfully about braving Siberia without overshoes. Indeed, this very week China’s Vice-President Xi Jinping, the man expected to take China’s top post next, has gone missing and you can’t even find his name on some Chinese websites, let alone the diseases his family had.
That total dehumanization was to make government as remote and scary as possible. Even in Western Europe, to be seen without a tie or to take off one’s jacket was to detract from the dignity of political office. Now, it seems, America has decided to explore the lower depths in the other direction—shirtsleeves all the way, and I am fully expecting people in the next election to campaign in swimming trunks.
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 6:46 AM - 0 Comments
Until Bill Clinton spoke last night, the Democratic National Convention was like a bar mitzvah where all the speakers have dementia and sing identical praises of the bar mitzvah boy over and over again: Barack Obama is a gift to God who will push you “forward, not back!” and Mitt Romney is the guy on Mad Men who slaps your ass and fires you. Forward, back, forward, back …
It was nauseating.
Then came Clinton, who drew an applause bigger than any other speaker at both conventions combined, and gave a speech as rich in actual policy as it was rousing. (He is probably the first person in history to say the word “arithmetic” and get a standing ovation.)
His alluson to humble beginnings was, thank God, mostly a joke.
“Bob Strauss used to say that every politician wants every voter to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself. But, as Strauss then admitted, it ain’t so.”
He laced rhetoric with actual experience.
“I had the same thing happen in 1994 and early ‘95. We could see that the policies were working, that the economy was growing. But most people didn’t feel it yet. Thankfully, by 1996 the economy was roaring, everybody felt it, and we were halfway through the longest peacetime expansion in the history of the United States. And if you will renew the president’s contract, you will feel it.”
He turned assumed foes into good friends.
“When I was a governor, I worked with President Reagan and his White House on the first round of welfare reform and with President George H.W. Bush on national education goals. I’m actually very grateful to — if you saw from the film what I do today, I have to be grateful, and you should be, too — that President George W. Bush supported PEPFAR. It saved the lives of millions of people in poor countries.”
But most of all he did what no one on either side of the political fence has been able to do to this election campaign: he injected it with some positivity. The reason his speech was so well received is because he rose above the divisive culture wars that have overshadowed the campaign. Why? Because he spoke to an entirely bi-partisan theme: co-operation.
“When times are tough and people are frustrated and angry and hurting and uncertain, the politics of constant conflict may be good. But what is good politics does not necessarily work in the real world. What works in the real world is co-operation.”
When he went after Romney and Ryan it wasn’t, for the most part, to accuse them of being heartless ideologues, but to admonish their party’s unwillingness to co-operate with the other side. His remedy for American success wasn’t a Democratic government, but a Democratic government that worked in conjunction with a Republican one. “Just ask the mayors,” he said.
It takes a special kind of speaker to be able to patiently explain policy decisions to a televisized audience and bring the one before him to its feet.
I would go the other way for Bill Clinton. And I’m sure after last night, Barack Obama would too.
By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 2:27 PM - 0 Comments
Republicans have become the fantasists and Democrats, by default, are now the true American realists
From the north side of the border, it can be difficult for a Canadian to parse exactly what Americans mean when they talk about left and right in politics, especially in this hyper-partisan presidential season. Whatever core ideologies U.S citizens attach to the different halves of the dichotomy, it’s a pretty good guess that they’re not the Canadian ones. We, after all, have a conservative government, but we also have universal health care and gay marriage. If we had to characterize the American notions of left and right, we’d probably refer to reflections of what each side traditionally says about the other, what Republicans say about Democrats and vice versa. What Republicans traditionally say is that Democrats are airy-fairy types, more concerned with idealism than reality, as in Barack Obama’s now worn-out words, “hope and change.” What the left says about the right is that they are concrete, unfeeling, and far too concerned with what was, not what should be. The left, you could say, are the stereotypical fantasists, the right, stereotypical realists. Except that the 2012 presidential election campaign has effectively turned that conception on its head. On the campaign trail and at the respective party conventions, the Republicans have been remarkably out of touch with reality. Democrats, by default, have become the true American realists.
Consider one of the main crises the Republicans have been citing throughout this campaign: voter fraud. They imply that fraud at the polling booth—ineligible voters casting ballots—is epidemic in the U.S., and that it consistently threatens to distort election results. Their solution has been to propose and pass a series of laws in Republican-controlled states stipulating that to vote you have to have a driver’s license or a passport. But in fact there is no crisis—nor has there ever been a crisis—around voter fraud in the United States. A widespread study by the U.S. Justice Department between 2002 and 2007 found that of the 300 million people who cast votes in that time period, only 86 were convicted of voter fraud; and the majority of those people weren’t even aware of their ineligibility to vote in the first place. So why the sudden urgency for voter ID laws? Because, as Rolling Stone magazine has pointed out, “the estimated 10 per cent of Americans whom the laws would render ineligible to vote belong to constituencies that traditionally lean Democratic—including 18 per cent of young voters and 25 per cent of African-Americans.”
By Emma Teitel - Monday, September 3, 2012 at 7:43 AM - 0 Comments
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni lamented the lack of gayness at the Republican National Convention, especially in light of how keen the GOP was to court other minority voters — women and Latinos, in particular. “You certainly didn’t see anyone openly gay on the stage in Tampa,” Bruni wrote on Sunday. (Apparently Marcus Bachmann had a prior engagement). “More to the point,” he wrote, “you didn’t hear mention of gays and lesbians.”
What the RNC lacked in gay voices, however, and more importantly, gay rights, the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, is making up for in—well—a hell of a lot of gay people. A total of 534 openly LGBT Democrats—the most in convention history—will take part in the DNC this week (the RNC had roughly two dozen). Charlotte will play host to gay and lesbian caucuses and parties all convention long, and openly gay Wisconsin rep. Tammy Baldwin (vying to become the first openly lesbian senator) is set to speak. In many ways, this convention is shaping up to be a kind of miniature political pride parade.
In fact, so great is the number of gays descending upon Charlotte that popular Conservative radio host and professional bigot Bryan Fischer, (the man who shamed Romney’s only openly gay staffer, Richard Grenell, into resigning) has cancelled his DNC appearance, literally fearing for his life. “I’ll miss the fun, and potentially vigorous interviews with folks on the other side of the aisle,” he said, “but I might live longer this way.”
Let’s hope he’s wrong.
The Democrats are expected to officially write marriage equality into their platform on Tuesday, which could give new life to a viciously negative campaign that desperately needs it. After all, as the Republicans rightly pointed out in Tampa last week, Obama’s lofty oratory doesn’t quite resonate in trying times. The best line in Paul Ryan’s convention speech (and possibly the only one based in reality) was his proclamation that “college graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”
The only problem is that for many Americans—and the LGBT community, in particular — it isn’t Barack Obama who’s preventing them from “getting going” in life, but the GOP.
I spoke with a number of gay and lesbian delegates last night at Unity Charlotte, what is likely to be the convention’s largest and most stereotypically gay event (Beyonce techno remixes were at full blast all night long), and it became clear to me that while the rest of America is increasingly aloof when it comes to Barack Obama’s last four years, the gay community (Log Cabin Republicans excluded) is decidedly not. What was a dissapointment for many Americans, was overall, a victory for the gays:
“With the president coming out for marriage equality,” says 42-year-old Texan Democrat Jeff Strater, “we’ve seen other elected officials come out in support.” In other words, another term of Barack Obama may mean another term of gay-friendly legislation averse to the kind preventing 30-year-old Erin Goldstein from getting married.
Goldstein, a third-generation North Carolinian and lesbian social worker (“I’m Rush Limbaugh’s worst nightmare,” she says) would like to start a family with her partner, but they want to get married first; something they can’t do in North Carolina, where a recently approved constitutional amendment—amendment 1—prohibits same-sex marriage. And they don’t want to move either. “I shouldn’t have to move to Canada to be treated equally,” says Goldstein.
This is a common sentiment among proud gay southerners. LGBT activist Omar Narvaez, from Dallas, Texas, would also like to marry his partner of 16 years, but he can’t because his state outlaws same sex marriage. “I shouldn’t have to move,” he says, echoing Goldstein. Narvaez believes that Barack Obama can and will (if he is elected) repeal DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act). “That’s not going to fix everything,” he says, “but once we get that fixed we will be a little closer.” Elect Romney, he argues, and the goal for equal rights will slip farther and farther away.
This is why the 2008 campaign spirit remains very much alive for this year’s LGBT delegates at the DNC. There is only one party, one leader who recognizes their civil rights. The Romney/Ryan “Comeback Team” is not “coming back” for gay people. And until it does, gays in America have only one viable political option: to look up at their fading Obama posters and hope for change.
By Jesse Brown - Friday, August 31, 2012 at 2:32 PM - 0 Comments
Pop quiz: which political party is promising the following?
“We will remove regulatory barriers that protect outdated technologies and business plans from innovation and competition”
“We will resist any effort to shift control away from the successful multi-stakeholder approach of Internet governance and toward governance by international organizations”
“We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach and that individuals retain the right to control the use of their data”
If you guessed the Pirate Party, you’re wrong. The above is part of the just-announced Republican party platform. While Obama may hang out on Reddit and Hilary Clinton may grandstand on the need for digital rights in countries other than America, the GOP is the party that has definitively pledged support for Internet freedom. We have no specific policies yet, but their platform does suggest a strong stance against the U.N. seizing control of Internet regulation, and Hollywood and telecom interference with the open Internet ( this covers Net Neutrality) as well as incursions into personal privacy. It all sounds great!
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 2:47 PM - 0 Comments
Why gaffe-prone, wooden Romney could—with the help of some big backers and a sputtering economy—still unseat Obama
When Mitt Romney took the stage at the fairgrounds in the Denver suburb of Golden, the midday heat was blistering. In the distance, the sunscorched Rockies had lost their usual snowcaps, and entire tracts of Colorado had gone up in the flames of the summer’s historic wildfires. It’s been a season of extreme heat in the United States, in both weather and politics.
But the man who could unseat President Barack Obama keeps stepping out from the furnace cool and collected. The former Massachusetts governor emerged from an ugly Republican primary contest this spring without the permanent political scars many observers had predicted. The Republican party has largely now embraced him under the unifying “Anyone But Obama” banner—and the conservatives who were wary of the once-moderate Romney are thrilled with his announcement this month of budget-axing, socially traditionalist Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. For months Romney has withstood a breathtaking pounding from the Obama campaign and its allies: they have attacked his character, his business record, his reluctance to release his tax returns, even his wife’s white-gloved “horse ballet” hobby. One Obama aide went so far as to suggest that he may have committed securities crimes in filling out regulatory forms that said he was still the CEO of Bain Capital years after he claimed he’d left. Meanwhile, the Democratic party’s majority leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, said he had been told by an anonymous former Bain investor that Romney hadn’t paid income taxes in a decade, labelling him “the most secretive presidential candidate since Richard Nixon.” Romney denied it; and the Republican party called Reid “a dirty liar.” But the controversy kept alive questions about Romney’s finances.
As roughly 1,000 people gathered in Golden in early August to hear Romney speak, a small plane circled overhead trailing a banner with the words: “WELCOME HOME MITT—NOW RELEASE THOSE RETURNS.”
By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 1:24 PM - 0 Comments
The Republican National Convention is an opportunity for the GOP to close the gender gap, and convince women it cares more about restoring the economy than controlling their vaginas. Too bad it has already failed. Miserably. Not only because of its recent platform pledge to ban abortions, but because the party’s new matriarch—Ann Romney—gave a speech so old fashioned my grandmother would have gagged. To sum it up, Mitt is master of the universe. Ann would be dead without him. And her fragile teenaged body is a metaphor for the fragile state of the nation:
“He [Mitt] will take us to a better place just as he took me home safely from that dance.” (four score and seven years ago?)
By the end of it I felt less like she wanted us to elect her husband president, and more like she wanted us to marry him.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 1:12 PM - 0 Comments
There will be blood — all the way to Nov. 6
The cover story in this week’s Maclean’s argues that Mitt Romney can win the presidency. Author Luiza Ch. Savage is right: While Canadians fixate on Barack Obama and his meteoric rise to power, the Republican standard bearer is within the margin of error in most national polls. His choice of Paul Ryan may have re-energized the conservative base both organizationally and financially.
Speaking of money, Romney is building a comparative advantage over Obama. With the rise of Super Pacs, campaign funds will play a larger role in this campaign than in 2008, especially as things kick into high gear during the final 60 days before the vote. Big Money close to former Bush operative Karl Rove and the billionaire Koch brothers won’t spare Obama any punches (including those under the proverbial belt).
The case for a Romney-Ryan win, though, has much to do with the economy. While Obama’s record is far from the unmitigated disaster the GOP describes, the unemployment rate is stuck at 8.3 per cent and the recovery remains sluggish. With three more job reports (September, October, November) before ballots are cast, it is safe to bet the economy will remain the No. 1 issue of the campaign.
By Jesse Brown - Monday, August 20, 2012 at 11:48 AM - 0 Comments
On Twitter, where your face and name sit directly above your stats, it’s bad etiquette to talk about your stats. Everyone wants followers, everyone pays close attention to how many followers they have and who their followers are. When you get a new follower, it’s standard practice to check out how many followers that person has. Call it vanity, call it “the influence economy,” call it what you will, but followers are the currency of Twitter, and it was only a matter of time until you could buy them with actual money.
Here’s a dude who claims he can sell you up to 150,000 followers. To prove it, he has over 700,000 followers himself, whom he couldn’t possibly have earned with his 65 semi-literate tweets. According to the Internet security researchers at Barracuda Labs, Twitter followers cost, on average $18 per 1000. Barracuda found 20 vendors selling Twitter followers on eBay, and 58 websites specializing in the trade. Here’s a nifty infographic they released to illustrate their findings.
Of course, none of these buy-able followers are actual people. They are fake accounts, and no matter how many of them you buy, nobody will actually be reading all of your witty tweets. The idea is that other people, real people who visit your Twitter account will think that all of your followers are real, that they all care what you have to say, that you must be an important and influential and popular person. Who would be so insecure as to pay for something like that? Barracuda Labs points to this poor soul as an example.
By Scott Feschuk - Friday, August 17, 2012 at 1:36 PM - 0 Comments
It’s been a weird campaign, and it’s about to get weirder
Here in Canada, national political campaigns are brief: We begin by pretty much ignoring the whole thing for a few weeks—then there’s a debate, a little yelling, maybe some pointing, every leader buys a bunch of Timbits and, boom, suddenly it’s election day.
But in the United States, presidential campaigns last longer than all pregnancies and most wars. Even before the 2008 campaign had ended, candidates were laying the groundwork for 2012, engaging in such unsavory practices as raising money and visiting Iowa.
Perhaps you’ve been following the presidential race closely for the past many months. Good for you. You probably have vague memories of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and that weird pizza guy who kept screaming the number “nine” at everyone. You may even have succeeded in banishing all mental images related to Newt Gingrich’s yearning for an open marriage. If that’s true, I feel kind of badly for just having mentioned it. The open marriage, I mean. The one through which Gingrich would have been freed to have intimate relations with various ladies while not wearing any—ah, I see now that I’m only making matters worse.
By Scott Feschuk - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 6:48 AM - 0 Comments
“Congressman [Paul] Ryan is a decent man, he is a family man, he is an articulate spokesman for [Mitt] Romney’s vision. But it’s a vision that I fundamentally disagree with.” – U.S. President Barack Obama
This is a rather toothless version of a classic and always enjoyable form of political attack: the Ol’ Switcheroo. Although variations exist, the architecture is usually the same: 1. A nice thing. 2. Another nice thing. 3. Not a nice thing. It’s basically a way of Continue…
By Ken MacQueen - Sunday, August 5, 2012 at 3:26 PM - 0 Comments
Boris Johnson, the curiously coiffed and floridly worded Mayor of London, is hanging around…
Boris Johnson, the curiously coiffed and floridly worded Mayor of London, is hanging around everywhere during these 2012 Summer Olympic Games. And, of course, I do mean that literally: at events, on Twitter and, famously, high above Victoria Park.
The British papers continue to make a meal of Johnson, stranded and dangling from that zip line, flapping two Union Jacks in a failed effort to take flight. Thanks to Photoshop, he’ll live forever as a pair of swingy earrings, a marionette, and an automobile air freshener among other novelties.
“If any other politician anywhere in the world got stuck on a zip wire it would be a disaster,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron. “For Boris, it’s a triumph. He defies all forms of gravity.”
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 10:21 AM - 0 Comments
Gun control isn’t about fulfilling a utopian fantasy, an all-or-none sum game. It’s about harm reduction.
Politicians are experts at ambiguity. But one of those experts—President Barack Obama (remember his ever-“evolving” position on gay marriage?)—surprised us this week when he made an entirely unambiguous statement about the controversy of the day: gun control and the right to bear arms in America. In the aftermath of the horrific Aurora, Colo., movie-theatre shooting, Obama made his stance explicitly clear: Americans should continue to have the right to bear arms, he stated, but it was worth asking what kind of arms that entailed. “I think that a lot of gun owners would agree,” said Obama, “that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not criminals—that they belong in the battlefields of war, not on the streets of our cities.” Policy steps to reflect that perspective, he continued, “shouldn’t be controversial, they should be common sense.”
Would that common sense was bipartisan: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made his own statement about gun control this week (hint: he’s not a fan). “We can sometimes hope,” he said, “that changing a law will make all bad things go away. Well it won’t.” What can? “Changing the heart of the American people,” said Romney.
Let’s forget for a moment the fact that President Obama—a man consistently referred to as soft and weak by his opponents, offered his people a policy-driven, tough-on-crime solution to gun violence, and Mitt Romney—the man who’d like to unseat him—offered his nation what could be the tag line of the Oprah Winfrey show. And let’s look instead at Romney’s initial statement, the one about wishing laws would “make all the bad things go away,” with a particular emphasis on the word “all.” Why? Because that little word reveals one of the most glaring fallacies in the anti-gun-control argument: their apparent belief that gun-control advocates are hopeless idealists, under the impression that stricter gun legislation will eradicate gun violence forever. Of course, it won’t. What it might do, however, and what the pro-gun-control lobby actually thinks it might do, is mitigate some of that violence. Some. Not all.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
On the road today in Colorado where Mitt Romney is trying to turn the page form his fraught foreign trip with a laser focus on the economy.
His aides say he will announce a 5-point “Plan for a Stronger Middle Class.” From the sounds of it, the plan is a repackaging of the same economic policies Romney has already outlined in his campaign — cuts to income taxes and corporate taxes, deregulation, and reducing government spending to 20% of GDP.
Interestingly, the first plank of the “new” plan is a goal of achieving “North American energy independence by 2020.” It’s not an easy goal — that in practice would likely require both increases in production and reductions in energy consumption (and expensive investments in new technologies).
The Romney campaign said it would be done through increased domestic US production and building more infrastructure (including Keystone XL) within North America.
North American energy independence was for a long time the notion that Canadian representatives would pitch in Washington.
That changed with Stephen Harper’s comments on the subject during his April visit to Washington when he said continental independence was not in Canada’s interests any longer:
I’ve got to say that Canada’s interests here are a little bit different, and particularly—I might as well be frank with you—in light of the interim decision on Keystone. What it really has highlighted for Canada is that our issue when it comes to energy and energy security is not North American self-sufficiency; our energy issue is a necessity of diversifying our energy export markets.
We cannot be, as a country, in a situation where really our one and, in many cases, almost only energy partner could say no to our energy products. We just cannot be in that kind of position.
And the truth of the matter is that when it comes to oil in particular, we do face a significant discount in the marketplace because of the fact that we’re a captive supplier.
So we have made it clear to the people of Canada one of our national priorities is to make sure that we have the infrastructure and the capacity to export our energy products outside of North America. Now, look, we’re still going to be a major supplier to the United States. It’ll be a long time, if ever, before the United States isn’t our number one export market. But for us, the United States cannot be our only export market. That is not in our interests either commercially or even, as I say, in terms of price.
By Ken MacQueen - Friday, July 27, 2012 at 8:44 AM - 0 Comments
So, finally, it’s the opening morning of the XXX Summer Games. (Warning: don’t type that into your search engine)
It’s the morning of the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Summer Games and, ho-boy, I’ve seen this movie before. There’s a national biorhythm—an emotional arc de triomphe, if you will—that plays out during the span of every Olympics I’ve attended. I saw it in Calgary in 1988 and in Vancouver in 2010 and in a bunch of other Olympics in between.
It begins on the high of winning the Olympic bid, then it peaks and troughs many times over the long years of preparation. The successes, as the winning city basks in international limelight, are soon worn down by doubts, fears, cost concerns, internal bickering and impatience with a process that takes so bloody long that it seems the whole country is in the back seat of the family Buick screaming “Are we there yet?”
And then we are.
So, finally, it’s the opening morning of the XXX Summer Games. (A word of warning: don’t type that into your search engine because we’re talking Roman Numerals here and not the sort of, um, unsanctioned activities that a Google search will turn up.) But I digress.
What the Brits have been experiencing is an amped-up version of the anxiety that any good host feels in the moments before a pile of guests arrive at your home for an elaborate dinner party. You cast your eyes about the house and realize that, whoa! you really should have shampooed the rug, and the canapés got a bit singed, you neglected to ask if anyone has food allergies and, oh, my, whatever are we going to talk about with all these strange people?
Today, a read of the morning papers reveals the inevitable next phase. The door has been thrown open, you’ve shoved drinks at the guests and, by God, we just might pull this off! As the Guardian said in its lead editorial today: “London has a smile on its face and the country seems to have a sense that the next 17 days may actually be pretty wonderful.”
Or as The Times opined: “As the Games begin, we must remember that it is not only the athletes who have the attention of the world. All of Britain does. With the perfect combination of humility and pride, we should bask in it.” And, finally, the Daily Telegraph: “The Games of the XXX Olympiad, to give them their official title, promise to be one of the greatest spectacles this country has seen, to be remembered, we hope, for all the right sporting reasons.”
If anyone should know how this arc of angst goes, it’s Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency and the savior of the scandal-plagued 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. And yet he put his foot in it while visiting London, expressing to NBC anchor Brian Williams that he found the security cock-ups and the threats of labour unrest “disconcerting.” He wondered if the country will come together and celebrate. “That’s something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.”
Well, the newspapers here are aflame. Never mind that their scribes shouted the same doubts from their bully pulpits only yesterday. That a foreigner said more or less the same things, expressed in the mildest possible terms, is interpreted here as a major diplomatic blunder. “’Nowhere man’ Romney loses his way with gaffe about the Games,” quoth the Times.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, quick to read the welcome switch in national mood, fired back at Romney. “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”
Ouch, take that, Utah!
Oh yes, the Games have begun.
By Jesse Brown - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 6:07 PM - 0 Comments
Copyright is too often described as a “divisive” issue. The truth is that aside from some people who are passionate about copyright reform and some industries that are passionate about copyright enforcement, there are many, many more people who couldn’t care less. To this bewildered majority, the “copyfight” can seem a bizarre and geeky policy debate locked in time, forever repeating talking points from 2000′s Napster vs. Metallica fracas.
Those of us on the reform side of the debate are quick to counter such indifference with a passionate plea to our fellow citizens: “This isn’t about piracy,” we say. “It’s about freedom!” And our fellow citizens sigh, because even though they do not see how copyright is about freedom, they know that we will tell them.
The ensuing explanations too often rely on slippery-slope arguments set in a hypothetical future where copyright is used to shackle babies. But after last week, we can use a more tangible and immediate example to preach the gospel. Last week, copyright impeded democracy in America.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, July 23, 2012 at 11:16 AM - 0 Comments
Mitt Romney is taking his presidential campaign abroad. On Thursday and Friday he’ll be in England, meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron, cabinet ministers and opposition party leaders.
Then on Friday, he attends the Olympic opening ceremonies – a chance for him to change the subject from the relentless hammering the Obama campaign has been dishing out on his career at Bain Capital. It’ll allow him to focus on his tenure as the head of the Salt Lake City Olympics, where he was brought in to rescue the financially-strapped and scandal-plagued games. The Olympics marked his transition from business to public service and cemented his reputation as a fix-it guy.
There is one catch, though – his wife, Ann Romney, has a horse competing in the dressage competition – a sport that is performed in white gloves, top hat, and tails serves as yet another reminder of the Romney’s uncommon wealth. As is the fact that they Romney’s declared $77,000 financial losses associated with the horse on their tax return.
(The Democratic National Committee made an ad making fun of Ann’s horse – which was eventually yanked in the face of criticism. Ann Romney has used equestrian therapies to help with her multiple sclerosis.)
After London, Romney will travel to Israel and Poland, where he will meet with political leaders, visit historical sites and give speeches, presumably critiquing Obama’s foreign policy (such as Obama’s decision to withdraw missile defense system from Poland) and giving more details on his own foreign policy views.
And, so far at least, no talk of the Brandenburg Gate.
By Emma Teitel - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 3:03 PM - 0 Comments
Remember Sarah Silverman’s Great Schlep? It was the year 2008 and the Jewish comedian implored her people—the American ones, anyway—to prove that Jews are in fact, the “scrappy, civil-rightsy” types they claim to be, by making the schlep to Florida (where old Jewish people are known to hibernate) and convincing their grandparents to vote for Barack Obama.
Apparently it worked. In 2008, Obama won Florida 51-48 per cent against Republican hopeful John McCain.
But things are different this time around. Obama is currently trailing competitor Mitt Romney by three per cent in the Sunshine State. And there’s a substantial amount of Republican politicking going in Florida Senior —Israel—a country with an American expat community roughly the size of Fort Lauderdale. The Republican Jewish Coalition has been very busy in the Holy Land, most likely trying to convince its brethren that the man who orchestrated the murder of Osama Bin Laden is soft on foreign policy, especially when it comes to Israel. No doubt Zionist casino magnate and Republican Daddy Warbucks, Sheldon Adelson feels this way: the eighth richest man in America has pledged to shell out $100 million to the Romney campaign.
Which means his grandchildren must have already made the Great Schlep and failed, because Silverman has ditched the schlep strategy in favour of another one: offering Mr. Adelson her body (though not all of it, she’s a “good girl”) in exchange for a $100-million donation to Obama instead of Romney…
So what’ll it be, Sheldon? Protect the Jewish state from neighbouring terrorists and a socialist president, or be the only major Republican donor to get scissored by a bikini-clad Jewess with big naturals?
It turns out not even billionaires can have it all.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 12:58 PM - 0 Comments
Romney seems determined to stay the course despite a devastatingly negative ad by the Obama campaign
Back in 2004, Democratic presidential contender John Kerry came off his party’s national convention with better than reasonable odds to make George W. Bush a one-term president.
A political ad called the Swift Boat veterans for Truth took direct issue with the Kerry narrative of the war hero “ready to serve” once again for the greater good. The ad had a devastating effect not so much for its content, but for how the Kerry campaign managed the fallout. The contents were ultimately shown to be incorrect, but the initial inaction or slowness to respond to the ad by the Kerry campaign resulted in a drop in support for the Democratic contender at a crucial moment in the campaign. He never fully recovered, despite solid debate performances in the weeks that followed.
The Bain controversy involving Mitt Romney’s record and his disclosures between 1999-2002 continue to dominate the news and are creating an unnecessary diversion to his candidacy. Even noted conservative commentators like George Will and Bill Kristol are urging Romney to release his tax records for the past 10-12 years to put the issue at rest.
Romney seems determined to stay the course despite a devastatingly negative ad by the Obama campaign released this past weekend. Did he not learn from the Kerry experience? Does he not know that having his opponent define him is usually catastrophic in an election campaign?
Most voters would prefer a contest dominated by the issues, the assessment of the record of the incumbent, the policy choices, and the character of the contenders, especially with high unemployment and a slow economic recovery. Negative advertising, while a fact of political campaigning, has had the effect of turning off voters and adding to increasing cynicism from voters.
Yet, this Bain issue is not the result of a negative ad. It is the result of the Romney campaign not anticipating that running on the Bain record contained some risks. Romney, aware of his controversial healthcare law that served as the forerunner of Obamacare, chose to run more on his business experience and downplay his government record. It soon became fair game when he used his Bain record to show the failures of the Obama record.
Now Romney is faced with trying to change the subject. But holding back on divulging tax returns, or having Swiss bank accounts, or having money in the Caymans with its tax havens, are bound to raise questions after the 2008 financial meltdown and the TARP bailouts that followed to salvage Wall Street. The media is following the story not because Romney is rich , but because the issue of transparency is raised.
Just like John Kerry, Romney is a qualified candidate. He may not be politically agile as a politician, but he did win the primaries and the nomination will be his officially at the Republican National Convention in late August.
It is too early to think the unthinkable that Romney may have to reconsider his candidacy. However, transparency, integrity , and a compelling counter-narrative to Obama remain the best ways to the White House against an incumbent who is vulnerable on the number one election issue—the economy.
Romney has the tools to turn this around. Or, has he unconsciously chosen to “self-Swift-boat”? Time will tell.
And on this note , I will be off for a few days with family and friends. Enjoy your summer.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 6:03 PM - 0 Comments
Murdoch and Welch are overlooking one key detail about why the GOP’s team is underperforming
It’s a bit rich for Rupert Murdoch, of News Corp. and Fox News fame, to give advice to Mitt Romney and his staff. After all, Murdoch did not handle his very own public relations hot potato all that well last summer. But when Jack Welch of General Electric fame weighs in, it makes for big headlines and it actually may be indicative of more “beneath the surface” grumbling.
Earlier this week, a Romney political aide commented on the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare. He disputed Chief Justice John Roberts’ rationale that the individual mandate was constitutional because it was within the power of Congress to tax. The aide makes the point that Romney in his Massachusetts health care law never saw the mandate as a tax, and those who failed to fulfill their obligations under the law suffered a penalty. The remark went against the Republicans post-SCOTUS talking points that the president’s health care reform, albeit constitutional, amounts to a tax. Obama could not be happier.
In unrelated but equally damaging news, this week’s July 4 festivities showed a vacationing Mitt Romney on a luxurious powerboat, reminiscent of John Kerry’s windsurfing off Nantucket in 2004. Meanwhile, Vanity Fair comes out with a devastating story on Romney’s bank accounts in the Cayman’s Islands and beyond. Overall, not a good week for Romney.
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 10:03 AM - 0 Comments
As of this writing, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Obama health care law (popularly known, I believe, as “Hillarycare”) hasn’t come down yet. My own prediction would be that they strike down the mandate and use that to dismantle most of the law, or order Congress to try again and fix it, knowing that Congress will do no such thing. But we’ll see.
Update: So my prediction was wrong, but then again, so was Intrade. And when has Intrade ever been wrong, except all those other times it’s been wrong?
Update 2: CNN has changed its headline from “Mandate struck down” to “Correction: The Supreme Court backs all parts of President Obama’s signature health care law.” That’s why CNN is the most trusted name in news!
Update 3: The “money quote” from the decision upholding the mandate, as reported by Amy Howe at SCOTUSBLOG: “Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.”
Update 4: One of the most-analyzed parts of this decision is that Anthony Kennedy, whose vote was expected to be the deciding vote (because it usually is) voted to strike down the mandate, and read the dissent, saying that in his opinion, the entire health care law is invalid. If he had been the deciding vote, then the act would have been struck down as predicted. It was the more reliably conservative Chief Justice Roberts who voted to uphold it. Expect a lot of armchair psychoanalysis of Roberts to be voiced on cable news. Certainly this is one of the more unexpected developments in recent years; in most big cases you could basically predict eight out of nine votes, but not this time.
Update 5: Again from Howe, here’s a summary of Roberts’ reasoning for why the individual mandate is constitutional, and how he squared this with his narrow interpretation of the Commerce Clause. The argument he did buy, that the mandate is basically a tax, was the one advanced by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli during oral arguments. Verrilli received universally bad reviews for his performance in court, but he’s having the last laugh, because he won.
There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.
The dissent – which, again, would have taken down the entire law and not just the mandate – includes this instant classic of redundancy: “In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.”
The irony of this situation is well-known by now: the individual mandate was originally proposed by conservatives and supported by many of the same Republicans who recently decided it was unconstitutional. Democrats figured that by including an individual mandate, they would pick up Republican support (which they chased, with some futility, for over a year) and get credit for bipartisan moderate compromise. What they didn’t realize is that whatever they propose automatically, by default, becomes the “left-wing” position, so what was a bipartisan moderate proposal became an unconstitutional left-wing power grab.
In a way, it was inevitable that Republicans would change their tune on health care, and Democrats should have seen it coming. Politicians frequently do a 180 on positions while pretending that they haven’t flip-flopped out of political convenience: look at the Democrats who voted for the Iraq invasion and then acted as if they’d been against it all along. The Republicans, as outlined in this famous 1993 memo from Bill Kristol, are philosophically or at least politically opposed to the ideas behind universal government-sponsored health care. Ezra Klein is surprised, or at least disappointed, that Republicans have abandoned the idea of universal health care of any kind. But it’s just not that surprising given that universal health care is essentially a liberal idea, and conservatives have often considered it antithetical to freedom. Not all, but many.
An individual mandate was once seen by conservatives as a less-bad alternative to Clinton’s health care plan, just as liberals saw the individual mandate as a less-bad alternative to the current system. One of the arguments made in defense of Mitt Romney’s support of a mandate (now that Republicans have to support him) is that in a liberal state, the mandate was more conservative than the alternatives, and a “free-market” system was not an option in Massachusetts. But the ideal is a less regulated health care system, and there was no reason to think Republicans would get behind universal health care if they didn’t have to.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 6:58 AM - 0 Comments
The polls have consistently shown a close contest between President Barack Obama and Republican…
The polls have consistently shown a close contest between President Barack Obama and Republican standard bearer Mitt Romney as we approach the summer convention season. Political conventions usually allow the presidential challenger to present himself and his vision, along with illustrating his decision-making capacity in his choice of his vice presidential running mate. It can be a defining moment. John McCain remembers it well.In recent weeks, Mitt Romney has avoided presenting specific policy initiatives only raising doubts about whether the state of the economy will be sufficient to beat Obama in November.
A recent poll shows the American voter sees little difference between Romney and Obama in dealing with economic issues and claim neither candidate will impact the economy if he wins. This is not good news for Romney who has made the economy his wedge issue. It is still early to dismiss the economy as the primary campaign factor, but it does illustrate that Romney must do more than just making it about “the economy, stupid.”
After his ill-fated campaign run in 2008, one would think Mitt Romney would have done more to introduce himself to the American voter in this campaign cycle. The Republican primary season did little to improve our knowledge of whom Romney really is. The GOP field was weak and extreme. Actually it added to the ambiguity and confusion about Romney. Having to veer farther to the right than in 2008 to win the nomination, Romney comes across as a hardline right winger on immigration issues, gay rights and women issues. Yet, his Massachussetts record would indicate a more moderate, mainstream candidate. Which is it-far right or moderate right? No one knows for sure.
Therein lies Romney’s problem. No one knows ‘the real Romney’ despite the recently published book with the same title. Some have argued that it matters little as he is within the margin of error in matchup polls and this election will ultimately be about the President. They add that revulsion against Obama policies and dissatisfaction about the state of the economy will be enough to close the deal.
When one matches Romney’s identity problem with the president’s , one finds that Obama holds a distinct advantage. As an incumbent, he is far better known. His meteoric campaign of 2008 also did much to foster his identity by the time he entered the White House. A compelling narrative coupled with a hard-fought primary battle against an outstanding opponent called Hillary Clinton made him one of the best-known candidates to challenge for the presidency and eventually win.
Recent polls illustrate that Obama has an added advantage — the likeability factor. The man remains well liked and is much more popular than both his policies and his party. The Romney people would do well to address this aspect of the campaign. Their insouciance about Romney’s identity should be pause for concern and will start to be felt as we near the closing run of the campaign from September to November.
Currently, Obama leads in many swing states giving him the edge in electoral vote count. In a close contest where no one issue favors one candidate over the other, it is better to enter the final stretch with a likeability factor than an identity problem. And here Obama is clearly in the lead.
By Ken MacQueen, Nicholas Köhler, and Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 1:10 PM - 0 Comments
The mayor who cheesed off Obama, an Ottawa man’s unfortunate likeness, and taking flak for hating Nickelback
Granny will be so proud
It was third-time lucky for Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II. Horse injuries forced her from Olympic contention in 2004 and 2008, but now she has been selected for London 2012. Zara’s father, Mark Phillips, and mother, Princess Anne, were also Olympic equestrians.
Kids, just spinning their wheels
Jacques Villeneuve is a bit young, at 41, to be a grumpy old man, but he would seem to prefer that the kids get off his lawn, as it were. When protesters in Montreal threatened the Formula One Grand Prix, the racing champion said, “It’s time for people to wake up and stop loafing about. It’s lasted long enough. We heard them. We listened. They should stop.” Villeneuve said he thinks protesters grew up without their parents ever telling them no and deemed them “rebels without a cause.” Is it premature to speculate about Villeneuve running to be the next leader of the Quebec Liberal party?