Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Key Advisors Are Abandoning Cain Over His Flubs, Not Harrassment Allegations

The beleaguered Herman Cain, who never had much of a campaign staff, is losing the backing of key conservative advisers who were providing him with free positive press and were fundraising conduits.

Talking Points Memo reports that these powerful voices — ranging from Mike Huckabee to Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham -- are privately expressing concern about a man they once praised, but less because of the sexual harassment allegations against him than repeated flubs on Libya and other foreign policy matters that have revealed him to be an ignoramus.

Meanwhile, every new revelation about Cain’s extra-marital dalliances has provoked increasingly bizarre responses from the Republican president wannabe, but his pushback against Ginger White’s detailed and credible account of her 13-year affair with him may represent the last nail in the coffin of a man who never could be taken seriously.

Even the candidate seems to realize this with The New York Times, among other media outlets, reporting that he told members of his staff in a conference call on Tuesday morning that he was reassessing whether to proceed and would make a decision in the coming days. As it is, the first crucial primary-season votes will be cast at caucuses in Iowa on January 3, which is less than five weeks away.

Cain had entered the campaign with the wind at his back. His unconventional and anti-Washington views captured the imagination of some Republican voters, but he has plummeted further and further in the polls with each new allegation and revelation.

White, who blabbed to an Atlanta television station, is not claiming that Cain harassed her as have four other women. In fact, she described their affair in terms of a romance and said that she only came forward after seeing how Cain has treated the other women who have accused him of harassment.

"It was pretty simple," White said of their relationship, which she hinted was sexual. "It wasn’t complicated. I was aware that he was married. And I was also aware I was involved in a very inappropriate situation, relationship."

Cain's response was that he was just trying to help the woman financially, an alibi first strutted out when Sharon Bialek, a former employee of the National Restaurant Association's educational foundation, stated that Cain approached her on the pretense of showing her the association’s offices but parked his car and essentially assaulted her, slipping his hand under her skirt and trying to bring her head toward his lap. Bialek said that when she protested and reminded Cain that she had a boyfriend, he replied, "You want a job, right?"

Asked directly by
CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "Was this an affair?" Cain responded, "It was not," yet again calling to mind Bill Clinton's classic assertion that "I did not have sexual relations with that woman . . . Monica Lewinsky."

Cain's response was effectively undercut by his lawyer, L. Lin Wood, who said "This appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults -- a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public."

A number of pundits have opined that consensual affairs are private affairs. But wasn't that exactly the case with Clinton and Lewinsky? And isn't Cain just another political hypocrites, more often Republicans than not, who blather about the sanctity of marriage while living shadow lives?

Cartoon du Jour

Tom Toles/The Washington Post

When Greatness Rubs Shoulders With Greatness, The Result Is Superb Jazz

If you're not an aficionado of jazz, you'll probably want to skip this post. But if you are, read on and groove to the sounds and sensations of Zoot Fest 2011.

Zoot Fest is an annual do in honor of two of the all-time great sax players -- John Haley "Zoot"
Sims and Alvin Gilbert "Al" Cohn (photo, left).

Long story short, Cohn was among the first of the
world-class jazz musicians to move to Delaware Water Gap in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Attracted by low home prices and the relatively easy commute to Manhattan jazz clubs and recording studios, Bob Dorough, Giacomo Gates, Dave, Liebman and Phil Woods, among others, followed, giving the one-stoplight town the honor of probably having more jazz greats per capita than anywhere else in the world.

"I'm an after midnight guy in a 9 o'clock town," Cohn remarked in a teasing putdown of the Water Gap, but he and the cats who migrated after him liked the tranquil scene there so much that they always came back to it from their world tours. Cohn bequeathed his magnificent collection of jazz records, sheet music and ephemera to East Stroudsburg University, which in turn begat the Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection.

In addition to honoring Sims and Cohn, Zoot Fest raises much needed money to keep the collection open to the public, and the 2011 edition was a joy.

his year's fest featured a remembrance of the jazz loft scene in New York City in the late 1950s and early 60s, including that of Time magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith at 821 Sixth Avenue. Sims and Cohn were frequent visitors to this infamous location in the Village, but the biggest hits were a musical chairs jam session featuring tenor sax greats Phil Woods and Lew Tabackin, young alto sax up and comers Jay Rattman and Adam Niewood, trombonist Rick Chamberlain, vocalese and keyboard maestro Bob Dorough, pianist Court Stewart, drummers Bill Goodwin, Marco Marcinko and Ronnie Free, and bassist Bill Crow. The day concluded with a big band blowout by all of the above artists and more.

As so often is the case when greatness rubs shoulders with greatness, these musicians outdid themselves, and Tabackin's soaring solos were beyond marvelous.

'The Bottom Of The Fox' Now On Kindle

The second edition of The Bottom of The Fox: A True Story of Love, Devotion & Cold-Blood Murder is now available on Kindle. From the back dust jacket blurb:
Eddie Joubert's midlife crisis had arrived right on schedule. He fell hard for the Poconos, a resort area in Pennsylvania where he bought a rundown tavern that became a magnet for an eclectic clientele that ranged from world-class jazz musicians to bikers to returning Vietnam War veterans. But the Poconos held a dark secret. When Joubert was hacked to death in 1981, it was yet another in a series of gruesome unsolved murders and puzzling deaths involving hippies, gays and other people whom the authorities cared little about because they were considered to be lowlifes.

The Bottom of the Fox lays bare that secret for the first time. It details the astonishing level of violence in an area known for resorts and verdant woodlands while revealing how evil doers could literally get away with murder.
Order a copy through Amazon USA here. The Kindle edition also is available through Amazon in the UK, France and Germany.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cartoon du Jour

Pat Oliphant/Universal Press Syndicate

Lana Peters (1926-2011)

Lana Peters, the only daughter and surviving child of Josef Stalin, perhaps the greatest tyrant of the last century, has died impoverished and in obscurity 12 years into the new century in a nursing home in a quiet Wisconsin community. She was 86.

The death of Peters, who was named Svetlana Stalina at birth, was like a barely audible echo from an explosion in a galaxy far, far away, in this case the rein of terror of her father, Soviet Premier Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, whose improbably defeat of the German armies on the Eastern Front will forever be overshadowed by his murder of perhaps 20 million of his countryman.

Peters' life was largely coincidental to her father's deeds and the path of Soviet history. She often said that she had been a slave to public circumstances although she was a willing propaganda tool for the U.S., where she defected in 1967, and then the Soviet Union, where she returned in 1984, and reaped royalties from not one but two best-selling autobiographies.

Her life seems to have been painfully unsettled. She was beset by emotional problems, sampled religions from Catholicism to Christian Science to Hinduism and repeatedly moved. At one time or another she lived in India, England, France, Switzerland and Soviet Georgia, finally resettling in the U.S.

Peters had a loving relationship with Stalin, who would cuddle and kiss his "little sparrow" while ordering mass executions. But all was not sweetness and light for her in the Kremlin. Her mother, Nadezhda Alliluyeva,who was Stalin’s second wife, committed suicide in 1932. Svetlana, then 6, was told that her mother had died of appendicitis and did not learn the truth for a decade.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Uh Oh! There Are Only 36 Shopping Days Until The Iowa Republican Caucuses

The Vampire Elite Runs Our Lives. The corporatocracy has become more powerful than government. Congress is bought by special interests. The Supreme Court has ruled that Dow Chemical and Exxon Mobil have the same rights as people. It is for these reasons that it is time for a national referendum on what I call Proposition 29.

Proposition 29 is simple in the extreme: "It is the will of the American people that the tyranny of the elites must be checked. Therefore, lobbyists and government must be kept separate at all times and in all respects."

Wait a minute! What a stupid idea.

* * * * *
It is difficult to view immigration as the third-rail issue it was only a couple of years ago.

The more draconian state anti-immigration laws are being rolled back or reconsidered, while Newt Gingrich seems to have joined Rick Perry in endorsing what President Bush called for: a general amnesty for illegal immigrants who have paid taxes and lived within the law. Like Bush, the views of these two GOP presidential wannabes are apostacy to Michele Bachmann and others of the hard right-wing persuasion.

"I don’t see how the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century," Gingrich said during the most recent presidential debate. "And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying let's be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship, but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families."

* * * * *
Has there ever been a more openly racist candidate for president that Herman Cain?

As ironic as it seems for a man whose race was enslaved, then emancipated but still victimized well into the latter half of the 20th century to be spouting bigoted blather, Cain does so with an extraordinary nonchalance whether it is the suggestion that an electrified fence be erected on the Mexican border or his dismay when he found out that the doctor operating on him for colon cancer might be a Muslim.

The physician was named Dr. Abdallah, which he told a crowd at a Christian-themed amusement park "sounded too foreign."

Don't worry, he's a Christian from Lebanon," a medical aide reassured him.

* * * * *
Speaking of Cain, it turns out that he is a bit of an embarrassment to students at his alma mater, Morehouse College in Atlanta, or at least freshman Daniel West.

Speaking at a student-sponsored political forum, West said he was dismayed by Cain when he watched him in a debate pitching his 9-9-9 plan in a manner that reminded him of an infomercial hawker.

"I was like, 'You're the only black person in a room full of white people, and that's the way you act? Come on!' "

* * * * *
The mantra of the Anyone But Mitt Romney crowd is simple: If the former Massachusetts governor is the nominee, conservatism dies and Obama wins.

My question is, does Romney even need purity-test conservatives to get the nomination? Possibly not considering that John McCain got the nomination in 2008 despite a right-wing revolt against him led by Rush Limbaugh, who considered the Arizona senator "an imposter."

Limbaugh eventually came around and is likely to do so again, while Ann Coulter already has broken ranks and endorsed Romney.

* * * * *
It is beyond obvious that Rick Perry is at war with history. The man who as Texas governor promoted the secession of the Lone Star State from the Union, which is a constitutional no-no, he is now arguing that the military and not the commander in chief should have the final say in wartime.

This also is a constitutional no-no, but Perry is having none of that: "For us to micromanage them, in a civilian way, without their commanders being truly in charge, is absolutely irresponsible, and as commander-in-chief of this country, I will not let it happen."
Well, it's highly unlikely that he'll get the chance.

* * * * *
How serious are the presidential wannabes about foreign policy? Not serious at all, and that's fine with the news media. Europe, which is on the verge of imploding, did not come up a single time in the two foreign policy debates, nor was there any discuss about North Korea, the crisis in Egypt and the Arab Spring in general, let alone other hot spots.

There was, however, time for a robust discussion about further stressing America's national security apparatus by monitoring Muslims more closely than other citizens.

Cartoon du Jour

Tom Toles/The Washington Post

Tom Wicker (1926-2011)

As self-unaware as this may seem, I didn't realized until hearing of his death that the journalist that I had modeled myself most closely after was the legendary New York Times op-ed columnist, who died on Friday of an apparent heart attack at his Vermont home.

During the 25-year run of his column, “In the Nation,” Wicker never courted controversy but he never shied away from it. He was an iconoclast and his politics were liberal, but that did not prevent him from turning his praise for President Johnson for pushing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 to bitter condemnation for the ever deepening American involvement in Vietnam. Jimmy Carter got both barrels of the Wicker shotgun for his poor stewardship of the economy and Iran hostage crisis. President Nixon put him on his “Enemies List” and President Bush the elder was roundly condemned for letting the Persian Gulf War take precedence over education and social programs.

I rose through the newspaper business from being a lowly obituary writer to beat reporter, then rewrite man, city editor and investigative editor in part because of my ability to think on my feet.

Wicker vaulted to prominence overnight because of his extraordinary coverage of the assassination of President Kennedy. He dictated the searing images of the day — the rifle shots across Dealey Plaza, the wounded president lurching forward in his limousine, the high-speed drive to Parkland Memorial Hospital, and the doctors there giving way to priests — from a phone both. Like myself, Wicker valued stark but detailed prose.

I grew up in a household where Sundays revolved around The Times, back then a behemoth that ran to as many as 20 sections and sometimes weighed as much as 10 pounds.

Wicker was a must read as a teenager who aspired to be a journalist, and he was a breath of fresh air compared to his op-ed predecessor, the fusty Arthur Crock, who had covered every president since Calvin Coolidge and was long past his prime.

Wicker sometimes allowed himself to become part of a story, most notably when 1,300 inmates seized 38 guards and workers at Attica prison in upstate New York in September 1971.

Having written a sympathetic column on the death of the black militant George Jackson at San Quentin, Wicker acceded to a plea by the rebellious inmates to join a group of outsiders to inspect prison conditions and monitor negotiations between inmates and officials. The negotiations ended more or less peacefully but then state officials reneged on their promises.

He was 85.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22, 1963: Living The Illusion That It Could Never Ever Happen Again

If you are of a certain age, the events of November 22, 1963 and the following days are deeply seared in your mind, but as yet another anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy comes and goes, those memories do not automatically flood our minds as they did in earlier years. Part of this, of course, is the passage of time, but it also is the fact that with the exception of Ronald Reagan, there has not been a serious attempt to take the life of a president in nearly half a century and most of us live under the comfortable illusion that it could never ever happen again.

Yet the safety of Barack Obama has been very much on my mind and not just because of a certain president of a Republican group at a Texas university who infamously suggested a few days ago that it is "tempting" to assassinate him.

Every president has had their hardcore detractors. In fact, an ad was running in a Dallas newspaper accusing JFK of treason the day of the president's visit. Yet Obama has been the recipient of an unusual amount of animus.

Charlie Pierce, writing in Esquire, says that:

"Every president has to live with the notion that any random nut can buy a gun and stand a pretty good chance of getting the job done if the random nut doesn’t mind getting ventilated in return. Presidents get briefed on this stuff. But, as is the case in so many things, this president is different. History has made him so. An attempt on this president’s life would resonate, in history and in memory, far beyond Ford’s Theater, and Union Station in Washington, and the Exposition Grounds in Buffalo, and Dealey Plaza. It would resonate, in history and in memory, back to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, and to an earthen dam in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and to 2332 Guynes Street in Jackson, Mississippi, where the blood of Medgar Evers still stains a driveway, and to a hundred dark roads, and to a thousand ghastly trees, freighted down with so much more than Spanish moss. Some bullets make history. A bullet fired at this president would gain its power from a history that we all have worked so hard to pretend never really happened before, and really could never happen again."

I don't really want to go here, but here I go: Would the assassination of the first African-American president really be so surprising in a nation where state-sanctioned violence against blacks was eliminated barely a half century ago?

There already have been a few ham-handed plots on Obama's life, and that certainly has something to do with the supercharged political climate. Then there are religious fanatics like Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, whom investigators say fired a semiautomatic rifle at the White House the other day because he believes Obama to be the Antichrist.

But Obama is an African-American and while there never has been comprehensibly plausible explanation for the circumstances behind JFK's assassination would we ever believe the commission that would weigh in on the assassination of the 44th president?

Of course not, because American history would not be on officialdom's side.

Cartoon du Jour

Glenn McCoy/Universal Press Syndicate

Monday, November 21, 2011

30 Years On, The Question Remains: Was Natalie Wood Murdered By Her Hubbo?

It was November 29, 1981 and Hollywood star Natalie Wood had a few days off over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend from shooting Brainstorm. She and actor-husband Robert Wagner were doing what they often did on weekends, spending some time on their yacht Splendor, which was docked at Isthmus Cove on Catalina Island, drinking and drugging. Christopher Walken , who also was appeared in Brainstorm, was with them.

The sci-fi film would be the diminutive actresses' last. At some point a heated argument broke
out between the two men and sometime after that Wood, who was wearing a down jacket, nightgown and socks, drowned. The official ruling was that it was an accident. Police and famous L.A. Coroner Thomas Noguchi ruled that Wood had fallen into the water trying to secure a dinghy that was banging against the Splendor's hull.

Noguchi concluded Wood had drunk "seven or eight" glasses of wine and was intoxicated when she died. He also found Wood's fingernail scratches on the side of the rubber dinghy indicating she was trying to get into it.

But a witness on a nearby boat gave police another account.

She recalled hearing a woman's cries for help around midnight that lasted for 15 minutes. "Someone else said, 'Take it easy. We'll be over to get you,'" the witness said. "It was laid back . . . There was no urgency or immediacy in their shouts."

Now some 30 years later almost to the day of Wood's death, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced the case has been reopened because investigators had been contacted "by persons who stated they had additional information about the Natalie Wood Wagner drowning. Due to the additional information, Sheriff's homicide bureau has decided to take another look at the case."

Wagner, who twice married Wood, said the argument with Walken was about "how much of one's personal life should be sacrificed in pursuit of one's career," has insisted over and over again that no one heard anything that night, but in true L.A. fashion not only has the investigation been reopened but there is a new book out on the case, Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, an account of the fateful evening by Dennis Davern, the captain of the yacht.

Davern says that in addition to drinking, Wood, Wagner and Walken were taking Quaaludes before she disappeared. Wagner became enraged when he saw Wood and Walken speaking, and smashed a wine bottle, yelling at Walken, "What do you want to do, f--k my wife? Is that what you want?"

At that point, Walken returned to his cabin and Wood and Wagner went to their state room, according to the captain. He said he heard a loud argument between the couple and thumping sounds, and eventually silence.. A short time later, Davern went to the deck and was told by Wagner, "Natalie is missing," but he refused to let the captain call the Coast Guard.

Wagner told Davern that he dinghy was gone, along with Natalie, but some people have doubted that account because Wood was deathly afraid of dark water.

I was a huge fan of Wood, whose outstanding film roles include Rebel With Out a Cause, West Side Story and Splendor in the Grass. She was nominated for two Best Actress Oscars and several Golden Globes. While the official account did not quite add up for me at the time, I am skeptical of Davern's account because it took him 30 years to come clean and he has 0done so in the form of a tawdry true-crime memoir.

PHOTOS: Wood in (from top) Brainstorm, Rebel Without a Cause, West Side Story and with Warren Beatty in Splendor in the Grass.

And Jane Austen Was Poisoned. Maybe.

Jane Austen's untimely end at the age of 41 has long been a cause for speculation among historians.

Austen, the author of classics including Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, may have died of arsenic poisoning, according to a crime writer who has reviewed the last letters of the British novelist.

The crucial clue lies in a line written by Austen a few months before her mysterious death in 1817.

Describing weeks of illness she had recently experienced, Austen wrote: "I am considerably better now and recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour."

According to Lindsay Ashford, a British crime writer, the description matches the symptoms of arsenic poisoning, "which causes skin spotting if taken in small doses over a long time."

The crime writer strengthened her theory when she learned that a lock of Austen's hair bought at an auction in 1948 by a now deceased American couple, had tested positive for arsenic.

"The arsenic in Jane’s hair meant that she had ingested the poison in the months before her death," Ashford said.

Cartoon du Jour

Ben Sargent/Universal Press Syndicate

Rick Santorum Should Just Go To Hell

The juxtaposition on The New York Times homepage of a shocking story that the Census Bureau has found that 51 million Americans have incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line and the latest frothings from Little Ricky Santorum was in all likelihood unintentional, but made a big point. Two, in fact.

Point One is that the number of new near poor in the U.S. as the lingering effects of the Bush Recession is much worse than supposed.

Point Two is that Santorum is a self-righteous jerk.

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Iowa the day the Census Bureau report was released, the Republican presidential wannabe and helpmate in launching the recession argued that Americans receive too many government benefits and ought to "suffer" in the Christian tradition.

If "you’re lower income, you can qualify for Medicaid, you can qualify for food stamps, you can qualify for housing assistance," Santorum complained, before adding, "suffering is part of life and it’s not a bad thing, it is an essential thing in life."

In case you're wondering, Santorum's net worth approaches $2 million.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Newt Gingrich Redux: Now Its His Turn To Drive The GOP Presidential Clown Car

I was going to wait until next week to write about the Newt Gingrich boomlet, but given the speed with which the keys to the Republican presidential clown car are being passed on that might be too late.

As predictably as Gingrich then Donald Trump then Michele Bachmann then Rick Perry and now Herman Cain went and are going down, Gingrich is now neck and neck or slightly ahead of Mitt Romney in most polls despite being badly damaged goods. By this . . . er, logic, Trump should be primping for his second boomlet.

The reason for Newt Redux is simple: The Tea Partiers who have hijacked the Grand Old Party are in desperation mode as it becomes increasingly apparent that the former Massachusetts governor, whom they view as a moderate in conservative drag and a member of a religious cult, to boot, has an increasingly better shot at the nomination. This is because the more uncommitted voters who might not want to see Barack Obama re-elected are starting to pay attention to what the nuttier and dumber candidates are saying and they don’t like what they’re hearing.

Predictably, only milliseconds after Gingrich's surge was adjudged as real by the punditocracy, the latest of a long line of scandals broke:

Gingrich, for whom the truth always has been a malleable commodity, had said last week during one of the never-ending presidential debates that he had made a mere $300,000 in consulting fees from two contracts with Freddie Mac, the federal mortgage company that played a starring role in the housing industry collapse. The real figure, according to two people familiar with the arrangement, was between $1.6 million and $1.8 million, or roughly three to four times larger than the $500,000 line of credit that third wife Callista has at Tiffany's as the result of her influential position as a congressional committee staffer.

* * * * *
And so Gingrich, whose candidacy former campaign manager Rich Galen likened to "an airliner with no wings, no engines, and no landing gear" after quitting because the candidate was more interested in vacationing with his love muffin on a Greek isle than stumping in Iowa, has gotten his second wind. This is not because he is preferable to others in the field but simply by default, and it is taking an amazing case of willful amnesia for that to happen.

Back in May -- which seems like light years ago given the peregrinations of the Republican field -- Tea Partiers suffered a collective nervous breakdown when Gingrich assailed Tea Party darling Paul Ryan's Medicare plan as "right-wing social engineering" and then committed double heresy by adding that "all of us have a responsibility to pay for health care." As a matter of fact, in the mid-1990s, Gingrich argued in favor of requiring Americans to buy health coverage, which is the centerpiece of ObamaCare.

Then there is the matter of Gingrich's serial infidelities, which suddenly seem to matter less than Cain's alleged serial sexual harassing. Gingrich has another problem as well: He has little money, his campaign organization is a Potemkin village, and it is difficult to imagine him running a real let alone credible campaign if he were to steal the nomination.

* * * * *
Perhaps the most actute analysis of who Gingrich really is comes from think tanker John McWhorter:

"Gingrich may be a master of academic exercises -- his ability to make bookish references and formulate long sentences demonstrate as much -- but that does not mean he knows what he is talking about.

"Gingrich's patterns of speech are largely analytically acute, and sometimes aesthetically interesting, but substantively, they are very often lacking. Language is supposed to be a package that carries substance, but Gingrich is sometimes so pleased with his uninterrupted stream of words, that he mistakes it for an actual flow of ideas."

And so the ultimate insider, who is even more ideologically compromised than Romney, has become the new darling of the ultimate outsiders. At least for now.

Cartoon du Jour

Glenn McCoy/Universal Press Syndicate

Karl Slover (1918-2011)

Photo from MGM via Photofest

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Scandal That Keeps On Giving

The Paterno home near the Penn State campus
Eleven days after the arrest of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, the hydra-headed scandal shows no sign of abating.

In the last 48 hours, there have been these development:

* Mike McQueary, the assistant football coach under fire for his reported lack of action in an alleged 2002 anal rape of a boy by Sandusky in the team's locker room showers, said in an email to a former classmate that he stopped the assault and discussed it with police. This account contradicts the accounts of now-fired football coach Joe Paterno, university police and testimony given to the grand jury that indicted Sandusky.

* Paterno, who has been criticized for not taking more decisive action when after he spoke to Sandusky about one of the alleged incidents, transferred full ownership of his house to his wife, Sue, for $1 in July, less than four months before the scandal broke. Some legal experts suggested that the transfer was made to help shield himself from legal exposure if he became the target of lawsuits.

* NBC News made public Bob Costas' entire interview with Sandusky, a portion of which had aired on Monday night. The contortions he made in maintaining his innocence heightens the impression that he seems to be a very sick and remorse-free man perhaps unaware of his own addiction, as well as failing to comprehend that his on-air comments were the equivalent of throwing gasoline on a fire.

* Centre County, Pennsylvania District Judge Leslie Dutchcot, who was once a volunteer for Sandusky's Second Mile charity, was criticized for releasing Sandusky on $100,000 bail at the conclusion of a hearing in her court on November 5, far less than the $500,000 that prosecutors had called for.

McQueary states in an email dated November 8 obtained by the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call, that he "did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police" following the alleged incident. He wrote that he "is getting hammered for handling this the right way or what I thought at the time was right."

"I had to make tough impacting quick decisions," McQueary wrote.

In a brief interview with CBS News on yesterday, McQueary said he could not discuss specifics of the situation but described his emotions as "all over the place. . . . Just kind of shaking. Crazy. Like a snow globe."

McQueary has been criticized widely for not going directly to police to report the alleged abuse. In an appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said McQueary met "the minimum obligation" in reporting the incident to his superiors, including Paterno, but did not "meet a moral obligation that all of us would have."

According to the grand jury report, the graduate assistant, later identified as McQueary, said he saw a boy, whose age he estimated at 10 years old, "being subjected to anal intercourse" by a naked Sandusky in a shower at the Penn State football building in March 2002. The graduate assistant left "immediately," was "distraught" and called his father. His father told him to leave the building and come to his home.

In the email, McQueary said "I did stop it, not physically, but made sure it was stopped when I left that locker room."

Paterno and his wife had jointly bought their off-campus house for $58,000 in 1969, while documents filed in Centre County show that it is now worth $594,484,40. The transfer of Paterno's share to his wife was made for a dollar plus "love and affection."

Wick Sollers, a lawyer for Paterno, said in an e-mail to The New York Times that the Paternos had been engaged in a “multiyear estate planning program” and the transfer “was simply one element of that plan.” He said it had nothing to do with the scandal.

Experts in estate planning and tax law, in interviews, cautioned that it would be hard to determine the Paternos' motivation simply from the available documents. It appears the family house had been the subject of years of complex and confusing transactions.

Lawrence A. Frolik, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in elder law, said that he had "never heard" of a husband selling his share of a house for $1 to his spouse for tax or government assistance purposes.

"I can’t see any tax advantages," Frolik told The Times. "If someone told me that, my reaction would be, 'Are they hoping to shield assets in case if there’s personal liability?' " He added,"“It sounds like an attempt to avoid personal liability in having assets in his wife’s name."

Having now listened to the entire Sandusky phone interview, I have to agree with Times television critic Alessandra Stanley, who writes that it was "one of the more disturbing and damaging attempts at spin control in recent memory — and this is an election year. Sandusky sounded a little like those men who are caught in pedophile sting operations on the program 'To Catch a Predator' and can’t stop talking. But Sandusky wasn't ambushed; his lawyer was the one who asked Costas if he wanted to talk directly to his client."

At one point, Sandusky seems to take credit for all the young boys he didn’t touch or shower with. Costas asked him about reports that still more possible victims from the Second Mile, the charity founded by Sandusky, could come forward.

"I would . . . I would guess that there are many young people who would come forward," Sandusky replied, "many more young people who would come forward and say that my methods, and what I had done for them made a very positive impact on their life."

Not content to leave it at that, he added: "And I didn't go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I've helped. There are many that I didn't have -- I hardly had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways."

Among those criticizing District Judge Dutchcot was Monroe County, Pennsylvania District Attorney David Christine.

"I won't comment about her decision in that case, but I will say I don't believe any district judge here in Monroe County would have set a bail amount that low for someone charged with what Sandusky is charged with," said Christine. "I think the prosecution's request in that case was reasonable."

Dutchcot is a former Monroe County assistant prosecutor and was a volunteer at The Second Mile at-risk children's camp Sandusky founded in 1977.

Cartoon du Jour

Walt Handelsman/Newsday

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Republican Wannabes Are Alienating Voters, Not Closing The Deal With Them

If Barack Obama is as awful a president as the Republican presidential wannabes claim, then why is he leading all of them in the polls despite the fact that three out of every four voters believe that American is on the wrong track?

That's easy: People are starting to pay attention to what these candidates are saying and they don't like what they're hearing, which may account for the meteoric falls of Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and now Herman Cain. It wasn't supposed to be that way, and in fact only two months ago Obama came out on the short end in a hypothetical match-up with a generic, unnamed Republican.

The biggest reason, as Eugene Robinson writes in The Washington Post, is that the candidates, following the lead of the party's congressional big shots, is tone deaf when it comes to the economy. They also have not taken to heart the real lesson of the 2010 midterm elections -- that the GOP victories were not a mandate for the party but disgust with Washington in general -- and seem to believe that Obama can be ousted by vilifying him, not offering workable alternatives to his economic policies.

The candidates' own prescriptions for fixing the ailing economy in never ending debate appearances are the usual combination of tax cuts across the board and deregulation of Wall Street, precisely the two things that George Bush promoted that tanked the economy in the first place. It's hard to judge who is more screwed up here -- the candidate or the party. I myself will settle for a tie.

"It is an 'Animal House.' It's a food fight," Kenneth Duberstein, a chief of staff to President Reagan, told The New York Times. "Honestly, the Republican debates have become a reality show. People have to be perceived as being capable of governing this country, of being the leader of the free world."

And isn't it rich that Newt Gingrich has surged in the polls and become the latest Tea Party darling? Rich because Gingrich represents all that Tea Partiers despise: An imperious, heavy-handed grifter with a Me First Always mentality who only last May called Paul Ryan's Medicare reforms "right-wing social engineering." It's hard to judge who is more screwed up here -- the candidate or the party. I myself will settle for . . . another tie.

Meanwhile, back in Washington the bi-partisan (sic) supercommittee charged with coming up with a deficit-reduction compromise by next Wednesday is making a hash of things.

Democrats are reluctant to put popular entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the chopping block, while Republicans continue their lip lock with the 1 percenters that Occupy Wall Street protesters have been railing about and want no part of raising taxes on them or closing the loopholes that enable them to skate on their obligations in a way no middle class family can.

Yes, the referendum on the Obama presidency is still a year away, but Republicans are not merely not closing the deal with voters, they seem to be alienating more of them by the day.

Cartoon du Jour

Ted Rall

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sandusky Denies Being A Pedophile As Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal Deepens

The healing at Penn State in the wake of the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno and the university president is on hold. As 10 more alleged victims came forward with allegations that Jerry Sandusky molested them, the former defensive coordinator and accused pedophile went on the offensive and maintained he was innocent of the charges.

In a phone interview with NBC's Bob Costas last night, Sandusky admitted that he "shouldn't have showered with those kids" and branded as "false" a claim by former assistant coach Mike McQueary that he witnessed him have anal sex with a 10-year-old boy in the team's locker room showers in 2002.

"I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact," Sandusky said. "I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. But no, I'm not sexually attracted to young boys."

He also said Paterno never spoke to him directly about his behavior.

Sandusky, 67, has been charged with 21 felony counts for allegedly abusing eight male minors over a period of 15 years, and while he has to be presumed innocent the litany of allegations as detailed in a grand jury presentment and at least one eyewitness account show Sandusky seems to be a very sick and remorse-free man perhaps unaware of his own addiction.

Meanwhile, the longtime CEO of The Second Mile, a children's charity founded by Sandusky announced his resignation yesterday, and the Big Ten Conference said it removed Paterno's name from its conference championship trophy.

Jack Raykovitz, who headed the charity for 28 years, is the latest official to leave a post tied to Sandusky since child sex-abuse charges were filed against the former defensive coordinator Nov. 5.

"Although the allegations against Jerry Sandusky and the alleged incidents occurred outside Second Mile programs and events, this does not change the fact that the alleged sexual abuse involved Second Mile program children, nor does it lessen the terrible impact of sexual abuse on its victims," according to a press release from the organization.

The Pennsylvania attorney general has said that Sandusky used the charity to prey on young boys and that he met each of the eight boys mentioned in the grand jury report through the foundation.

In stripping Paterno's name from the trophy for their inaugural championship game, Big Ten officials changed the name to Stagg Championship Trophy in honor of the late Chicago coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. It will be presented next month when the Big Ten holds its first championship game under its new two-division format.

"The trophy and its namesake are intended to be celebratory and aspirational, not controversial," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in a statement. "We believe that it's important to keep the focus on the players and the teams that will be competing in the inaugural championship game."

As the police investigation continues, New York-based charity Fresh Air Fund said it is searching its records after a report that Sandusky briefly hosted children from the program in his home.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that scandal "reopens a wound" for Catholics, who have endured child sex scandals involving priests for the past decade.

In addition to the firings of Paterno and Spanier, the scandal forced Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, the vice president for finance and business, to step down last week. Both men have been charged with perjury and failure to report to the authorities what they knew about the allegations involving Sandusky, Penn State’s defensive coordinator from 1977 to 1999.

Cartoon du Jour

Tom Toles/Universal Press Syndicate

Roman Catholic Church Rejoins Culture Wars, Again Casts Itself As A Victim

The tone deafness of the Roman Catholic Church in American is in full regalia as the church's bishops this week rejoined the culture wars by recasting their opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage as a struggle for "religious liberty" against a government and culture that are infringing on the churc'’s rights. Yes, as in the pedophile priest scandal, the church is casting itself as the victim.

The move came as an increasing number of states have legalized same-sex marriage and the Obama administration has signaled that it will not defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which established the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

"We see in our culture a drive to neuter religion," declared Archbishop Timothy Nolan of New York, president of the church's bishops conference. Injecting a note of paranoia in the church's long-held opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, Nolan claimed that "Well-financed, well-oiled sectors" were trying “to push religion back into the sacristy." He did not name any such efforts nor do they appear to exist, although some liberal Catholic commentators have criticized the bishops' priorities, saying they are playing into the culture wars.

John Gehring, Catholic outreach coordinator with Faith in Public Life, a liberal religious advocacy group, said, "The bishops speak in hushed tones when it comes to poverty and economic justice issues, and use a big megaphone when it comes to abortion and religious liberty issues."

Photograph by Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Monday, November 14, 2011

We Have Not Yet Arrived At Obama's Post-Racial Moment. Not By A Long Shot.

Anyone hoping that the election of the first African-American president in 2008 would usher in a post-racial era, putting our sordid racial past behind us once and for all, is bound to be bitterly disappointed. I happen to have known better, but it still is jarring when you consider how race is playing such a large role in the comical, ugly and tragic scrum known as the sprint to the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

It wasn't supposed to be this way, but when the Republican Party effectively abandoned its outreach to blacks and extended a beefy hand to Southern whites who once had reliably voted Democratic, the die was cast.

Let's get a few things out of the way before proceeding: Some blacks are racists, not all Republicans are racists and not all Democrats aren't racists. In fact, the uglier chapters of America's racial history were written by Democratic politicians in Congress, statehouses, city halls and sheriffs departments. And the unwritten Republican policy of discouraging black interest, whether indirectly or by voter suppression efforts that are ongoing in the run-up to 2012, has been more of a tactical decision than one based on racism.

But the results are apparent: The last black Republican in the House of consequence gave up in disgust in 2003. There has not be a black Republican in the Senate since 1979. And beyond voter suppression, the GOP has consistently voted against black interests for years.

Meanwhile, a mere 4 percent of blacks voted for the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008 and while it would be logical to suggest this was because the top half of the Obama-Biden ticket was a black man, 43 percent of white voters overall (the largest number since Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford in 1976) and a record 54 percent of young white voters backed the upstart from Illinois.

So it's easy to see why today's Republican Party -- yes, the party of Abraham Lincoln -- has become a haven for racists, some of whom openly loath Obama simply for his blackness, including the occasional state or county GOP leader who speaks their mind and for many others through an email, Tweet or ugly online image. And boy are these folks virtuosos when it comes to playing the dog whistle.

This climate is fostered by right-wing hate radio and most especially by Rush Limbaugh, the party's de facto leader. (If you don't think that's true, then who is the party's leader?)

Which makes the entry of Herman Cain into the 2012 presidential scrum all the more . . . well, interesting.

I initially welcomed Cain. I knew nothing about him other than he seemed to be a smart guy with a winning personality who had made millions of bucks selling pizzas. It didn't bother me in the least that he had sat out the Civil Rights Movement in the leafy confines of Morehouse College in Atlanta. After all, most blacks didn't become involved. And huzzah huzzah huzzah! An African American was taking on the first African-American president. Now that’s progress!

Well, it's not.

This is because the right wingers who have the keys to the Republican clown car have embraced a man who happens to be black (and in fact argues that he's "blacker" than Obama) who is unqualified to be president but can spew out vapid policy ideas with a toothy Cheshire cat-like grin.

That the serial allegations that Cain came on to women in unwelcome ways and in one case groped a woman in return for the promise of a job have hardly affected his standing in the polls speaks volumes about the GOP's disdain for women but introduces a twisted new dynamic into the annals of racism in general and racism in the Republican Party in particular.

Some if not many members of the party's shrunken base are white men from Southern states who become apoplectic and reflexively reach for their shotguns at the thought of blacks getting near their woman folk but think that Cain's alleged sexual assault of a white woman is okey-dokey. (And don’t give me any guff about terming it a sexual assault. It is.) To think that only a generation ago they wouldn't let Cain use the same water fountain or lunch counter and only a few generations before that would have lynched him for even looking at a white woman.

Limbaugh, of course, has poured his own special brand of high-octane gasoline on the scandal, accusing the news media of using "the ugliest racial stereotypes they can to attack a black conservative," something he has not hesitated to do in the past while attacking a certain black liberal or moderate or whatever Obama is. Limbaugh mocked Sharon Bialek, the white woman who says that Cain groped her, pronouncing her name "buy-a-lick" and asserted that the fact that she smiled in answer to a question at her press conference last week was proof that she had made the whole thing up.

(The Democratic Party, by the way, doesn't get a free pass. It is quick to put a racial spin on issues where it doesn't see eye to eye with their Republican peers that have little or nothing to do with race, but neither are Democrats who don't like Cain being racist. They just recognize the guy for what he is -- an ignorant, misogynistic boob.)

How is it that we still seem to be so obsessed by race?

I would like to think that the answer breaks down along generational lines, with that record 54 percent of young people who voted for Obama being substantially color blind (which is not to say that young people who voted for McCain were not), while race matters very much for members of older generations (Republicans and Democrats, right?).

The unashamedly racist and anti-Semite Pat Buchanan, the failed Republican presidential wannabe and historian with a demonstrably shaky grasp of history, is the (pardon the term) intellectual face of the older whites -- and I believe there are many of them -- who rue the day not so far in the future when whites will become a racial minority and a touchstone of what it means to be American (for them) will cease to exist.

It would be nice to think that when this occurs a post-racial era will indeed be ushered in. But it also would be naive. Just about the only thing certain is that today's Republican Party is slowly committing electoral suicide while perfectly positioning itself to be the standard bearer for the angrier element of that new minority as it becomes an increasingly minor party itself.

Top photo by Erik S. Lesser/The Washington Post

Cartoon du Jour

David Parkins/The Economist

He's Back With A Vengeance. Take Cover.

As Herman Cain continues to do whatever he is doing, Rick Perry continues to self destruct, Mitt Romney continues to keep the wind at his back for the simple reason that he's not like most of the other candidates, which is to say a slave to the Tea Party, Newt Gingrich is undergoing a back-from-the-dead metamorphosis.

In other years, this would be unlikely. After all, Gingrich's entire staff bailed on him earlier this year because he was more interested in jet setting with his third wife, Callista, than going out on the stump in Iowa, and then his fund raising dried up in the wake of the revelation that wifie had a $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany's.

But the former House speaker is back with a vengeance and a new CBS News poll has him running near the front of the pack, more or less neck-and-neck with Romney and not far behind Cain. The latest PPP poll has him in the lead.

Props to Gingrich for positioning himself as the lesser of other evils -- yes, it's been that kind of year as the Republican field is slowly winnowed down -- and he may yet be the go-to guy if the nominating convention deadlocks between, say, Cain and Romney.

I suspect that this would be fine for the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue because when all is said and done, Gingrich is a resume without a man.

Among the accomplishment on the resume of the man who led the impeachment charge against Bill Clinton are serial infidelities, beaucoup nutty ideas, a sucky relationship with the news media, and a legendarily short fuse. Gingrich, meanwhile, has been one of the major players in injecting a mean spiritedness into modern American political discourse, and at times he can be downright nasty. Oh, and an ego as big as some of Callista's diamonds.

None of that should necessarily be a disqualifier, but when Gingrich talks about bringing change to Washington a mere four years after Barack Obama gave that a try, it's time to take cover, because his weapon of choice is dynamite.