For Auld Lang Syne

It’s the New Year somewhere on the planet. Here’s a link to a chart with countdowns. (And get this: There are more than 24 time zones, which means if you’re following the countdowns, you could be celebrating 15 minutes after your last celebration.)

A view from the 80th floor (Freedom Tower)

An amazing photo from the 80th floor of the still-to-be-completed Freedom Tower in Manhattan, at the site of the World Trade Center, overlooking the World Financial Center and the Hudson River.  Upon completion, the building will be 105 stories tall.

(From the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)

How a bill moves through Congress, via Jean Arthur

A lesson in legislation, from Jean Arthur:

So let’s put this in context using currently active legislators running for president.

Ron Paul has been in the U.S. House for a little more than 11 terms. That’s more than two decades. In that time, he has sponsored 620 bills. Four have been voted on. One passed: a measure that allowed for the sale of a Custom House in Texas.

Another example?

Michele Bachmann has been in Congress for five years and has introduced 45 bills. None passed.

According to the Washington Post:

During Paul’s years in office, only 4 percent of the more than 69,000 bills filed by House members have become law.

By the end of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” you knew that the bill Jefferson Smith was writing was going to pass. That would have given him a 100% rating.

If only life were like the movies.

A quick GOP roundup

A melange of GOP updates to prepare you for next week’s Iowa caucuses:

Rick Perry said this at a speech in Iowa:

“Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source,” Mr. Perry said in Clarinda, earning a loud round of enthusiastic applause.

Later, the audience reacted again to Mr. Perry’s assertion that buying so much energy from foreign countries is “not good policy, it’s not good politics and frankly it’s un-American.”

Obviously he’s been talking to Ron Paul, who used this in his 2008 campaign:

“NAFTA’s superhighway is just one part of a plan to erase the borders between the U.S. and Mexico, called the North American Union. This spawn of powerful special interests, would create a single nation out of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, with a new unelected bureaucracy and money system. Forget about controlling immigration under this scheme.”

And since Ron Paul’s statements are so crazy they’ve made Michele Bachmann sound semi-lucid, who in their right mind would back him?

Meanwhile, what’s the serial adulterer and former frontrunner doing?

On Wednesday evening around 6:30 ET, Newt Gingrich strategist Joe DeSantis declared the Gingrich surge in Iowa officially over.

“Oh I think anywhere in the top five would be surviving Iowa,” DiSantis told CNN.

Top five? Is there a new not-Romney?

A new survey of people likely to attend Iowa’s Republican caucuses indicates that the former House speaker’s support in the Hawkeye State is plunging. And according to a CNN/Time/ORC International Poll, one-time long shot candidate Rick Santorum has more than tripled his support since the beginning of the month.

Perhaps Mitt Romney is focusing on serious issues before the vote:

“I like PBS,” Romney told a town hall in Clinton, Iowa Wednesday. “We subsidize PBS. Look, I’m going to stop that. I’m going to say PBS is going to have to have advertisements. …
“We’re not going to kill Big Bird,” Romney said. “Big Bird’s going to have advertisements, alright?”

An attack on a Muppet? OK, they’ve asked for it:

The serial adulterer’s first divorce

You’ve probably heard Newt Gingrich‘s defending himself concerning his first divorce, as he got his daughter to join him in saying that he didn’t request it. This was while his first wife was in the hospital being treated for cancer.

If you haven’t, here’s the defense on his campaign Web site:

Asking Wife For Divorce While She Was In The Hospital Dying of Cancer

This story is a vicious lie.  It was first reported by a left wing magazine in the 1980s based on hearsay and has survived in left-wing chat rooms on the Internet until today.  It is completely false.

Recently, Newt’s daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, wrote a column to set the record straight about this smear.  The column reveals that 1) It was her mother that requested the divorce, not Newt, and it was months before the hospital visit in question; 2) Her mother was in the hospital to remove a tumor, but it was benign, and she is still alive today; 3) Newt visited the hospital for the purpose of taking his two children to see their mother, not to discuss a divorce.  You can read it here.

But CNN reported this yesterday:

Newt Gingrich claims that it was his first wife, not Gingrich himself, who wanted their divorce in 1980, but court documents obtained by CNN appear to show otherwise. …

Newt Gingrich filed a divorce complaint on July 14, 1980, in Carroll County, saying that “the marriage of the parties is irretriebably (sic) broken.”

Jackie Battley Gingrich, the congressman’s wife and the mother of Jackie Gingrich Cushman, responded by asking the judge to reject her husband’s filing.

“Defendant shows that she has adequate and ample grounds for divorce, but that she does not desire one at this time,” her petition said.

“Although defendant does not admit that this marriage is irretrievably broken, defendant has been hopeful that an arrangement for temporary support of defendant and the two minor daughters of the parties could be mutually agreed upon without the intervention of this court,” her petition said. “All efforts to date have been unsuccessful.”

And why was Newt so eager to get a divorce?

Leonard H. “Kip” Carter, a former close Gingrich friend, backed the contention that it was Newt Gingrich who wanted the divorce.

“He (Gingrich) said, ‘You know and I know that she’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a president,’ ” Carter, who now lives in South Carolina, told CNN recently, relating the conversation he had with Gingrich the day Gingrich revealed he was filing for divorce. Carter served as treasurer of Gingrich’s first congressional campaigns.

Carter, who was a fellow history professor when Gingrich taught at West Georgia College in Carrollton, said he broke off his friendship with Newt Gingrich because of the congressman’s treatment of his wife during the divorce.

Blue Gal sums it up pretty nicely:

Autism in black and white

The Web site Liquor & Spice caught this in the New York Times this weekend involving a 19-year-old kid named Jack Robison in Massachusetts with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism:

A chemistry whiz, he had spent much of his adolescence teaching himself to make explosives and setting them off in the woods in experiments that he hoped would earn him a patent but that instead led the state police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to charge him with several counts of malicious explosion.

By the following spring, he would be cleared of all the charges and recruited by the director of the undergraduate chemistry program at the University of Massachusetts, who was impressed by a newspaper account of Jack’s home-built laboratory.

And then caught this information involving a case in Virginia.

Reginald “Neli” Latson, is a 19 year-old autistic young man, who on the morning of May 24, 2010, sat in the grass outside the local library in Stafford, Va., and waited for it to open. Police allege that it was reported that there was a suspicious black male who had a gun. Deputy Calverley then approached Latson and searched him for a gun. No gun was found. Calverly asked Latson for his name, and Latson refused and tried to walk away as he had committed no crime. Calverly then grabbed Latson and attempted to arrest him without reading him his Miranda Rights or calling for backup.

After a 3-day trial, Latson was found guilty of assaulting a law enforcement officer, among other charges, and 10 1/2 years in prison was recommended. Latson’s defense centered around the fact that he has Asperger’s syndrome, part of the autism spectrum, a condition caused by an abnormality of the brain.

Massachusetts didn’t see a crime in making explosives at home. Virginia saw a crime in waiting to go to the library. Robison was blowing things up. Latson was waiting for the library to open. Robison is rewarded. Latson is going to jail.

Robison is white. Latson is black.

We don’t want to admit it, but race does matter.

Representative income inequality

Can a congressman be concerned with income inequality when his income has risen faster than that of his constituents?

From the Washington Post:

Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House rose by more than 21/2 times, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home ­equity.

Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500, according to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan.

The accompanying charts on the net worth of senators and representatives is worth taking a look at. Both chambers are filled with millionaires, which leaves you with the impression that the odds are totally against an average person being able to successfully run for a seat.

Ron Paul isn’t a racist, homophobic anti-Semite … to a point

Here’s a bizarre column from a former Ron Paul staffer named Eric Dondero. According to his bio box, he’s:

Fmr. Senior Aide, US Cong. Ron Paul, 1997 – 2003
Campaign Coordinator, Ron Paul for Congress, 1995/96
National Organizer, Draft Ron Paul for President, 1991/92
Travel Aide/Personal Asst. Ron Paul, Libertarian for President
1987/88

And he’s defending the Texas congressman. Imagine if he was trying to stab him in the back:

Is Ron Paul a “racist.” In short, No. I worked for the man for 12 years, pretty consistently. I never heard a racist word expressed towards Blacks or Jews come out of his mouth. Not once. And understand, I was his close personal assistant. It’s safe to say that I was with him on the campaign trail more than any other individual, whether it be traveling to Fairbanks, Alaska or Boston, Massachusetts in the presidential race, or across the congressional district to San Antonio or Corpus Christi, Texas.

He has frequently hired blacks for his office staff, starting as early as 1988 for the Libertarian campaign. He has also hired many Hispanics, including his current District staffer Dianna Gilbert-Kile.

One caveat: He is what I would describe as “out of touch,” with both Hispanic and Black culture. Ron is far from being the hippest guy around. He is completely clueless when it comes to Hispanic and Black culture, particularly Mexican-American culture. And he is most certainly intolerant of Spanish and those who speak strictly Spanish in his presence, (as are a number of Americans, nothing out of the ordinary here.)

Is Ron Paul an Anti-Semite? Absolutely No. As a Jew, (half on my mother’s side), I can categorically say that I never heard anything out of his mouth, in hundreds of speeches I listened too over the years, or in my personal presence that could be called, “Anti-Semite.” No slurs. No derogatory remarks.

He is however, most certainly Anti-Israel, and Anti-Israeli in general. He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations. His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the America taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs.

Again, American Jews, Ron Paul has no problem with. In fact, there were a few Jews in our congressional district, and Ron befriended them with the specific intent of winning their support for our campaign. (One synagogue in Victoria, and tiny one in Wharton headed by a well-known Jewish lawyer).

On the incident that’s being talked about in some blog media about the campaign manager directing me to a press conference of our opponent Lefty Morris in Victoria to push back on Anti-Jewish charges from the Morris campaign, yes, that did happen. The Victoria Advocate described the press conference very accurately. Yes, I was asked (not forced), to attend the conference dressed in a Jewish yarlmuke, and other Jewish adornments.

There was another incident when Ron finally agreed to a meeting with Houston Jewish Young Republicans at the Freeport office. He berated them, and even shouted at one point, over their un-flinching support for Israel. So, much so, that the 6 of them walked out of the office. I was left chasing them down the hallway apologizing for my boss.

Is Ron Paul a homo-phobe? Well, yes and no. He is not all bigoted towards homosexuals. He supports their rights to do whatever they please in their private lives. He is however, personally uncomfortable around homosexuals, no different from a lot of older folks of his era.

There were two incidents that I will cite, for the record. One that involved me directly, and another that involved another congressional staffer or two.

(I am revealing this for the very first time, and I’m sure Jim Peron will be quite surprised to learn this.)

In 1988, Ron had a hardcore Libertarian supporter, Jim Peron, Owner of Laissez Faire Books in San Francisco. Jim set up a magnificent 3-day campaign swing for us in the SF Bay Area. Jim was what you would call very openly Gay. But Ron thought the world of him. For 3 days we had a great time trouncing from one campaign event to another with Jim’s Gay lover. The atmosphere was simply jovial between the four of us. (As an aside we also met former Cong. Pete McCloskey during this campaign trip.) We used Jim’s home/office as a “base.” Ron pulled me aside the first time we went there, and specifically instructed me to find an excuse to excuse him to a local fast food restaurant so that he could use the bathroom. He told me very clearly, that although he liked Jim, he did not wish to use his bathroom facilities. I chided him a bit, but he sternly reacted, as he often did to me, Eric, just do what I say. Perhaps “sternly” is an understatement. Ron looked at me directly, and with a very angry look in his eye, and shouted under his breath: “Just do what I say NOW.”

The second incident involved one or two other staffers many years later at the BBQ in Surfside Beach. I was not in direct presence of the incident. But another top staffer, and I believe one of our secretaries, was witnessed to it. This top staffer adores Ron, but was extremely insulted by his behavior, I would even say flabbergasted to the point of considering resigning from his staff over it.

“Bobby,” a well-known and rather flamboyant and well-liked gay man in Freeport came to the BBQ. Let me stress Ron likes Bobby personally, and Bobby was a hardcore campaign supporter. But after his speech, at the Surfside pavilion Bobby came up to Ron with his hand extended, and according to my fellow staffer, Ron literally swatted his hand away.

Again, let me stress. I would not categorize that as “homo-phobic,” but rather just unsettled by being around gays personally. Ron, like many folks his age, very much supports toleration, but chooses not to be around gays on a personal level. It’s a personal choice. And though, it may seem offensive to some, he has every right in my mind to feel and act that way.

It goes on like this.

Seems it’s time to just give the nomination to Romney already.

Don’t anybody move! I’ve got a cupcake!

From MSNBC:

PEABODY, Mass. — An airport security officer confiscated a frosted cupcake amid fears its icing could be a security risk, according to reports.

Rebecca Hains said the Transportation Security Administration agent at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas took her cupcake Wednesday. According to Hains, he told her its frosting was enough like a gel to violate TSA restrictions on allowing liquids and gels onto flights to prevent them from being used as explosives.

“I just thought this was terrible logic,” Hains said Friday.

Hains said the agent didn’t seem concerned that the red velvet cupcake, which was packaged in an 8-ounce mason jar, could actually be explosive, just that it fit some bureaucratic definition about what was prohibited.

“Once he had identified it as a security threat it was no longer mine and I couldn’t have it back,” Hains told NBC station WHDH.

I’m flying to D.C. today. One more thing to remove from my carry-on bag.

Infamy!

The deadline for the inclusion on the ballot for the Virginia GOP presidential primary has passed, and, amazingly, the only two candidates to qualify were Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Now this is a major primary, and any candidates serious about competing for its votes on Super Tuesday would have had a sophisticated enough campaign organization to make sure the required number of signatures were collected and verified.

But of the seven candidates who are seeking the GOP nomination, only four filled out the necessary paperwork. Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry came up short.

Which should tell you something.

1) Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann don’t have any organization in Virginia, which should be an indication that their national organizations are weak, so they really shouldn’t be taken seriously anymore. Any future debates should dump them.

2) Rick Perry, who was the perceive GOP darling at one time, couldn’t get the required number of signatures. He’s pretty much out of it.

3) The serial adulterer really wasn’t serious about getting the nomination to begin with, and when he found out he actually reached frontrunner status, he scrambled and tried to get the required votes. And now, like a sore loser, he’s complaining about a process that was long ago established:

Gingrich’s campaign blamed the Virginia rules for his failure to qualify and said he would mount a write-in campaign instead.

“Only a failed system excludes four out of the six major candidates seeking access to the ballot. Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates,” Gingrich campaign manager Michael Krull said in a statement. “We will work with the Republican Party of Virginia to pursue an aggressive write-in campaign to make sure that all the voters of Virginia are able to vote for the candidate of their choice.”

Dude! Rules are rules. Mitt and Ron figured it out. You’ve got no excuse.

Here’s the topper. On the Gingrich campaign page on Facebook, Krull said this:

Newt and I agreed that the analogy is December 1941: We have experienced an unexpected set-back, but we will re-group and re-focus with increased determination, commitment and positive action. Throughout the next months there will be ups and downs; there will be successes and failures; there will be easy victories and difficult days – but in the end we will stand victorious.

This is what happened in December 1941:

The similarities are striking, aren’t they?