Saturday, October 4, 2008

Blog #56: Republicans prepare to deflect & defame

Michael D. Shear writing in the Washington Post on Saturday, Oct. 4, reports that: Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama's character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation from the economy back to questions about the Democrat's judgment, honesty and personal associations, several top Republicans said.

You damn right they have to try and switch the agenda away from the economy. Since Republican policies through the years have created this mess, they don’t stand a chance unless they can deflect and defame. So what else is new? The deflect and defame syndrome worked all too well during George H.W. Bush’s race against Michael Dukakis as the notorious Willie Horton ad depicted the Democratic candidate as signing onto a weekend prison furlough program which resulted in a homicide. You can bet your sweet bippie that Repugnicants will comb every scrap of dirt to try and link Obama to some real or imagined faux pas.

Perhaps the best man won in the Bush vs Dukakis tussle, in spite of the weapon which helped bring about the victory. But character assassination is no way to elect a president, and we Americans deserve better than the kind of sleaze which helped George W. Bush win the nomination in 2000, and which helped him win both his initial election and he re-election in 2004. When you let yourself get fooled by lies the results can be disastrous, as we have seen for the past eight years. A blood sucking war, a shattered economy, only a nation of lemmings would voluntarily choose four more years of this madness. Be so warned and be aware. They will try their damndest.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
As the sun rose on the day of the much anticipated vice presidential debate, the Washington Post brought us news of a swelling of skepticism in regards to Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s qualifications for the job. Her image is now laden with speculation that among key voter groups she might be a drag on the Republican ticket. This is according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, which found that six in ten see her as lacking the experience to be an effective president, and a third are now less likely to vote for McCain because of her. But it is the experience question that may prove her highest hurdle, particularly when paired with the public’s concern about McCain's age. About half of all voters said they were uncomfortable with the idea of McCain taking office at age 72, and 85 percent of those voters said Palin does not have the requisite experience to be president.

And so, with that in mind let’s bring on the debates. It was Sarah Palin’s night to prove her relevance, and she barely managed to do that, exuding her unique version of a smiling, winking, personable Joe Six-Pack and soccer mom in lieu of answering tough questions. Again and again she echoed John McCain’s talking points, but she did not answer the questions she wasn’t comfortable with. Most objective listeners gave the evening to Joe Biden, who did answer all questions directed at him and who repeatedly corrected Palin mistatements about Obama’s policies. The Houston Chronicle’s debate coverage was followed by readers comments, several of which I feel pretty well summed up the night, and four of which I reprint below:

nonewsisgoodnews wrote: Watching Palin's combination of cockiness, smirks, grins, and total ignorance of anything that was not written on her note cards, it seemed familiar...then I remembered: George Bush in his first debate with Al Gore...same cockiness, same smirks, same grins....same astounding ignorance of the issues...where do Republicans find candidates who think a big grin makes up for having never read a book in their life?

Owl_of_Bellaire wrote: The hardcore Republican right wing will eat up the "Aw shucks, I'm a soccer mom, and complicated problems have simple answers" shtick that is Palin's only strength. Everyone else, Democrats and independents both, will give the nod to Joe Biden, who proved that real-world experience and rigorous intellect will beat cram-studying notecards and folksy winking any day of the week.

Jill_Again wrote: I was pleased to see that Sarah Palin, although really not addressing the questions asked, did not commit the type of gaffe that would be this Saturday night's fodder for Tina Fey. On the other hand, she didn't say anything to impart a feeling of confidence that she could capably step in if required in an emergency. She just parroted the campaign position lines, which this time, she is apparently able to repeat. But Biden did win, hands down.

carlybee wrote: She avoided a lot of the questions by tooting her own horn. She reminds me of a Stepford wife. Scary. By golly, you betcha!
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
The vice presidential debate happened on Thursday night, but it has been two recent Wednesdays which have been the harbinger of good news, at least to those of us who believe that what the U. S. really needs is genuine change. On the most recent Wednesday, Oct. 1st, 2008, Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press reported that after recently trailing or at the least being tied, Democrat Barack Obama now leads Republican John McCain in a trio of the most critical, vote-rich states five weeks before the election.

The Democratic candidate's support jumped to 50 percent or above in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania in Quinnipiac University surveys which were taken during the weekend — after the opening presidential debate and during Monday's dramatic stock market plunge as the House rejected a $700 billion financial bailout plan. The new surveys show Obama leading McCain in Florida 51 percent to 43 percent, in Ohio 50 percent to 42 percent and in Pennsylvania 54 percent to 39 percent. Combined, these states offer 68 of the 270 electoral votes needed for victory on Election Day, Nov. 4. Since 1960, no president has been elected without winning two of those three states.

Pollsters attributed Obama's improved standing to the public's general approval of his debate performance, antipathy toward GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and heightened confidence in the Illinois senator's ability to handle the economic crisis. The fresh polling is the latest troublesome turn for McCain, the Arizona senator who is trying to regain control of the campaign conversation amid increasingly difficult circumstances for Republicans. It comes on the eve of a debate between Ms Palin and her Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden, as the financial crisis shapes the presidential race in unpredictable ways.

The war in Iraq, national security and foreign policy issues — McCain's strengths — have largely fallen by the wayside as each campaign tries to chart a course to the presidency through extraordinarily choppy economic waters. For now and probably for the next month, the race will be entirely about who can best handle an economy in peril.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
However it was the Wednesday before, Sept. 24, which brought the first glimmer of hope for those of us who lean towards a return to fair and responsible government operating for the benefit of the majority of the people, not just corporations and the very rich. That Wednesday was the first truly Red Letter Day since the conventions. It was the day the ABC-Washington Post poll issued showed that support for Obama has been rising markedly, undoubtedly in reaction to the current financial downturn. 52% of registered voters in that poll supported Barack Obama, to 43% supporting John McCain. As a point of comparison, neither of the last two Democratic nominees – John Kerry in 2004 or Al Gore in 2000 – recorded support above 50 percent in a pre-election poll by the Post and ABC News.

Praise the Lord and Pass the Malnutrition! The bump Sen. McCain had gotten from the Republican Convention and his selection of Sarah Palin, the moose wrangling governor of Alaska, seems to have disintegrated, although it took the fiscal collapse of four of America’s leading financial institutions to begin to seal the deal. And ironically the financial collapse followed by one week Sen. McCain’s sage declaration that the nation’s economy was “sound.” With a perception like that, who would not want to vote for him? (Line forms here!)

Of course, the nation’s economic collapse followed by the House rejection of the president’s own stimulus package, have served to further reinforce Sen. Obama’s position. Poor John McCain, he is running under a distinct disadvantage, people are not stupid, they can put together the dots which link the nation’s present financial collapse to the hysterical Republican led deregulation of the banking and financial industries. The chief architect of the gelding of the regulators of the banks and financial markets was Phil Gramm, the financial whiz from Texas A&M College, who as a senator blazed the trail to financial deregulation, and who has since left Senate t0 work as a lobbyist for the Swiss banking firm UBS. Gramm is the leading economic adviser for the McCain campaign, or was until he labeled Americans suffering from losing their homes as “whiners”. McCain has been silent on Gramm's position since.

From Wikipedia: Many believe that legislation written primarily by Gramm in 1999 (signed into law by Clinton), is in large part to blame for leading to the 2008 mortgage crisis. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act is perhaps most famous for repealing the Glass-Steagall Act which regulated the financial services industry. The legislation allowed Swiss Bank UBS to purchase several American institutions. Gramm later became a lobbyist for UBS, collecting over $750,000 USD in fees. UBS alone issues over 18 Billion USD in subprime mortgages.

Also thankfully the public’s reaction to McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, seems to be leveling off. Ms Palin is attractive and affable, and she certainly fires up the right wing of the Republican party, a group which feels cold about McCain himself. However, the McCain campaign’s constant shielding of Ms Palin from the media is beginning to turn off many independents. And those females who covet economic fairness in the workplace and who desire to retain control of their own bodies are likely to be in direct conflict with Ms. Palin’s views, and not the least bit sympathetic to her vice presidential ambitions.

Although Ms Palin gave a momentary boost to the McCain campaign following the Republican convention, three subsequent interviews with network news anchors have had the effect of seeing several well known conservatives including George Will question her qualifications as a vice presidential nominee. Her first interview with Katie Couric of CBS news went so poorly that the McCain campaign sought and obtained a second interview, this one with McCain present to hold her hand. Thursday night’s debate between Ms Palin and Democratic vp nominee Joe Biden is awaited with great interest by a large segment of the public and promises to be a watershed event.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
Wednesday, Sept 24 was indeed a Red Letter Day! Besides the Obama campaign’s swing in the polls it also brought two other items heralding good news. These were all originally in Blog #55, but they only lasted 24 hours before I pulled them in favor of the post debate opinion pieces from the Huffington Post. I decided to repost both pieces this week, because in the case of Capitol Records vs Jamie Thomas, we have followed her case almost from the beginning, and we reprinted Ms Thomas’ blog telling her side of the story. And in the case of Barney Rosset, his legal suits for the right to publish unexpurgated versions of books by James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence and Henry Miller, made him was instrumental in liberating all of the American publishing industry.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
Anyway, from we learned that the judge in the RIAA-Jamie Thomas Trial which had originally ended with her being levied a $222,000 penalty, $9,250 for each of the 24 infinging music tracks she made public on the Kazaa file sharing network has declared a mistrial. Davis’ decision means the Recording Industry Association of America’s five-year copyright infringement litigation campaign has never been successful at trial.

The legal brouhaha prompting Davis to declare a mistrial focused at the heart of all file sharing cases: What level of proof was necessary for the RIAA to prevail. Davis had instructed the jury last year that the recording industry did not have to prove anybody downloaded the songs from Thomas' open Kazaa share folder. Davis read Jury Instruction No. 15 to jurors saying they could find unauthorized distribution – copyright infringement – if Thomas was "making copyrighted sound recordings available" over a peer-to-peer network "regardless of whether actual distribution has been shown." But Davis had second thoughts and, without any urging from the litigants in the case, summoned the parties back to his courtroom in August, writing in a brief order that he may have committed a "manifest error of the law." He heard arguments from both sides and said he would issue ruling soon.

With Wednesday's opinion, Davis made his revised position official and ordered a retrial – one with different jury instructions. "Jury Instruction No. 15 was erroneous, and that error substantially prejudiced Thomas' rights. Based on the court's error in instructing the jury, it grants Thomas a new trial," the judge ruled. The RIAA, which is the music industry's lobbying and litigation arm, fought hard to keep Jury Instruction No. 15 in play. "Requiring proof of actual transfers would cripple efforts to enforce copyright owners' rights online – and would solely benefit those who seek to freeload off plaintiff's investment," RIAA attorney Timothy Reynolds said in a court filing.

The RIAA sues after online detectives log onto Kazaa, Limewire and other file sharing services. They look into open share folders, take screenshots of the music listed and download some of the songs. They also obtain IP addresses, which are easily determined on open networks. With those addresses, the RIAA subpoenas internet service providers to cough up the identity of the account holder. The RIAA then sues the account holder, who usually settles out of court because it is substantially cheaper than hiring a lawyer and fighting.

The judge also took a few pages to decry as exorbitant the award the jury rendered against Thomas and urged Congress to change the law. “While the court does not discount plaintiffs’ claim that, cumulatively, illegal downloading has far-reaching effects on their business, the damages awarded in this case are wholly disproportionate to the damages suffered by plaintiffs. Thomas allegedly infringed on the copyrights of 24 songs – the equivalent of approximately three CDs, costing less than $54, and yet the total damages awarded is $222,000, more than 500 times the cost of buying 24 separate CDs and more than 4,000 times the cost of three CDs.

The story above tends to show that there is still a modicum of justice in the U.S., if you can afford to seek it, and have the patience and wherewithal to be able to suffer through a misstep or two along the way.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
And finally on that Wednesday the New York Times rounded out my day with a piece on Barney Rossett, which they titled, the Publisher Who Fought Puritanism and Won. In its heyday during the 1960’s, Grove Press was famous for publishing books nobody else would touch. The Grove list included writers like Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, William S. Burroughs, Che Guevara and Malcolm X. The books, with their distinctive black and white covers, were reliably ahead of their time and often fascinated by sex. The same was, and is, true of Grove’s maverick publisher, Barney Rosset, who loved highbrow literature but also brought out a very profitable line of Victorian spanking porn.

On November 19 Mr. Rosset will receive a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation in honor of his many contributions to American publishing, especially his groundbreaking legal battles to print uncensored versions of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” D. H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer.”

In the N.Y. Time’s article written by Charles McGrath, he tells how in 1951 Mr. Rosset got into publishing by accident when, at the suggestion of his ex-wife, he took over a stillborn company called Grove Press, whose entire list consisted of three reprints: Melville’s novel “The Confidence Man,” some writings by Aphra Behn and a volume of poems by Richard Crashaw. He quickly turned the company into what he later called “a breach in the dam of American Puritanism — a whiplashing live cable of zeitgeist.”

Now 86 and a little shrunken, Mr. Rosset, who has just finished writing an autobiography, lives with Astrid Myers in a fourth-floor walkup near Union Square. There is a pool table in the living room, and the walls are lined with loose-leaf binders containing Grove-related photos and correspondence. Over a rum and Coke the other evening, Mr. Rosset recalled that in the famous 1959 obscenity case he had used “Lady Chatterley” as a kind of stalking horse for Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer,” a book he had discovered in college but whose raunchiness he thought would have a much tougher time in the courts.

“I loved that book,” he said. “When I was a young man, it never occurred to me that it was about sex. What interested me was that Miller didn’t like Americans very much.”

He went to California to meet Miller, Mr. Rosset recalled, and Miller refused to sell him the rights. “He had all sorts of silly reasons,” Mr. Rosset said. “Too many people would have it. It might become a college textbook.” Mr. Rosset eventually secured the book through the intervention of Maurice Girodias, the publisher of the Olympia Press in Paris, and Heinrich Ledig-Rowohlt, Miller’s German publisher.

In 1961 he set about the very expensive business of fighting for the book in the courts. “The greatest joy that came out of my life in publishing was when ‘Tropic of Cancer’ went on trial in Chicago,” Mr. Rosset said. “The judge was a friend of my father’s, and at one point when the prosecutor accused me of just trying to make money, I took out my Henry Miller term paper from Swarthmore College and read from it. I remember leaving the courtroom and somehow getting lost going home. It was snowing. But I was so happy I thought, ‘If I fall down and die right here, it will be fine.’ ”

Mr. Rosset went on: “All my life I followed the things that I liked — people, things, books — and when things were offered to me, I published them. I never did anything I really didn’t like. I had no set plan, but on the other hand we sometimes found ourselves on a trail. For example, out of Beckett came Pinter, and Pinter was responsible for Mamet. It was like a baseball team — Mamet to Pinter to Beckett.”

Mr. Rosset sipped from his drink and smiled. “Should we have had more of a business plan?” he added. “Probably. But then the publishers that did have business plans didn’t do any better.”

Though he was forced to sell Grove Press, Mr. Rosset still publishes The Evergreen Review online at And we at Little Eddy’s Blog bless Mr. Rosset for his ground breaking publishing. He and a few others of the times helped many of us 20th Century Americans to break out of our puritanical cucoons and begin to discover a brand new world swathed in honesty and truth. This is not the world as espoused by Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin. Fortunately however, Senator Obama’s Democratic tent is quite a bit larger than that of his Republican counterpart, large enough to fit the more diverse among us under its shelter.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
These are indeed interesting times. The House finally joined the Senate in passing that “bailout” turned “rescue” operation, and George W. wasted not a minute signing it into law. Will it do any good? Who the hell knows? However Barack Obama supports it and Lou Dobbs rails against it. That’s enough for me.

The Real Little Eddy

No comments: