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From: LindyBill8/1/2011 3:57:20 AM
1 Recommendation   of 658870
Face-ID Tools Pose New Risk
Study Shows Power, Privacy Peril, of Software That Recognizes People's Features

As Internet giants Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. race to expand their facial-recognition abilities, new research shows how powerful, and potentially detrimental to privacy, these tools have become.

Armed with nothing but a snapshot, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh successfully identified about one-third of the people they tested, using a powerful facial-recognition technology recently acquired by Google.

Prof. Alessandro Acquisti, the study's author, also found that about 27% of the time, using data gleaned from Facebook profiles of the subjects he identified, he could correctly predict the first five digits of their Social Security numbers.

The research demonstrates the potentially intrusive power of a facial-recognition technology, when combined with publicly available personal data. The study was funded largely by a grant from the National Science Foundation, with smaller sums from Carnegie Mellon and the U.S. Army.

Paul Ohm, a law professor at University of Colorado Law School, who has read Prof. Acquisti's paper, said it shows how easy it is becoming to "re-identify" people from bits of supposedly anonymous information. "This paper really establishes that re-identification is much easier than experts think it's going to be," he said.

For his study, Prof. Acquisti used a webcam to take pictures of student volunteers, then used off-the-shelf facial-recognition software to match the students' faces with those in publicly available Facebook photos. "We call it the democratization of surveillance," he said.

The professor said the study also shows how Facebook, with its 750 million users, whose names and profile photos are automatically public, is becoming a de facto identity-verification service.

A Facebook spokesman said that Facebook profiles don't always contain pictures of people's faces. Users can choose whether "to upload a profile picture, what that picture is of, when to delete that picture," he said.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt discussed his concerns about Facebook at the D: All Things Digital conference in June.

Facebook is "the first generally available way of disambiguating identity," he said. "Historically, on the Internet such a fundamental service wouldn't be owned by a single company. …I think the industry would benefit from an alternative to that."

Google has been racing to create a rival social-networking service. In June, it launched Google+ to compete with Facebook. In July, Google acquired Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition, or PittPatt, the facial-recognition technology that was used in the Carnegie Mellon study.

Facebook rolled out its facial-recognition service world-wide in June. The service lets people automatically identify photos of their friends. Facebook users who don't want to be automatically identified in photos must change their privacy settings.

A Google spokesman said the company won't introduce facial-recognition technology "to our apps or product features" without putting strong privacy protections in place. At the D conference, Mr. Schmidt said Google had withdrawn a facial-recognition service for mobile phones that it considered too intrusive.

The race to acquire facial-recognition technology reflects the technology's sharp improvement in recent years. The number of matching photos that were incorrectly rejected by state-of-the-art recognition technology declined to 0.29% in 2010 from 79% in 1993, according to a study by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.

"It's certainly not science fiction anymore," said Peter N. Belhumeur, professor of computer science at Columbia University.

One big reason for the leap forward: the wide availability of photos that people have uploaded to the Internet through social-networking sites. Previously, publicly available pictures of individuals were mostly limited to driver's-license photos, school portraits or criminal mug shots, all of which were difficult to obtain.

In the Carnegie Mellon study, 93 students agreed to be photographed using a web camera attached to a laptop. The shots were immediately uploaded to a cloud computer and compared with a database of 261,262 publicly available photos downloaded from Carnegie Mellon students' Facebook profiles.

In less than three seconds, the system found 10 possible matching photos in the Facebook database. The students confirmed their face was among the top results more than 30% of the time.

Prof. Acquisti said the research "suggests that the identity of about one-third of subjects walking by the campus building may be inferred in a few seconds combining social-network data, cloud computing and an inexpensive webcam."

He then tried to discover whether he could predict sensitive information from the Facebook profile of individuals he had identified. He exploited the fact that, after 1987, the Social Security Administration started assigning Social Security numbers in a way that inadvertently made it easier to predict them based on the person's birthdate.

Drawing from knowledge of the Social Security numbering system used in a previous experiment, Prof. Acquisti was able to predict the first five digits of the subject's nine-digit Social Security numbers 27% of the time, with just four attempts. "The chain of inferences comes from one single piece of anonymous information—somebody's face."

The last four digits of the number also are predictable: In a 2009 paper, Prof. Acquisti showed that he could predict an entire Social Security number with fewer than 1,000 attempts for close to 10% of people born after 1988.

In June, the Social Security agency launched a new "randomized" numbering system, which will make such predictions more difficult for future generations. An agency spokesman said that even under the old system "there is no foolproof method for predicting a person's Social Security number."

As a demonstration of his latest project, Prof. Acquisti also built a mobile-phone app that takes pictures of people and overlays on the picture a prediction of the subject's name and Social Security number. He said he won't release the app, but that he wanted to showcase the power of the data that can be generated from a single photo.

Write to Julia Angwin at"

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From: LindyBill8/1/2011 4:17:41 AM
4 Recommendations   of 658870
Hatred, smears and the liberals hell-bent on bullying millions of us into silence
By Melanie Phillips

Last updated at 12:25 AM on 1st August 2011

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The baleful effects of the recent attacks in Norway, where Anders Breivik bombed Oslo’s government district and then gunned down teenagers at a Labour party camp, murdering at least 77 people, have not been limited to that horrific carnage.

For the atrocity has produced a reaction among people on the political Left in Britain, Europe and the U.S. that is in itself shocking and terrifying.

Former Norwegian prime minister and current chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize committee Thorbjorn Jagland has said that, in response to the violent attacks, David Cameron and other European leaders should use a more ‘cautious’ approach when talking about multiculturalism.

Former Norwegian prime minister Thorbjorn Jagland, right, has said that David Cameron and other European leaders should use a more ‘cautious’ approach when talking about multiculturalism

Cameron has said multiculturalism (the doctrine that gives the values of minorities equal status to those of the majority) has failed, and has also talked about ‘Islamist extremism’ as a cause of terrorism.

Jagland, however, said leaders would be ‘playing with fire’ if they continued to use rhetoric that could be exploited by extremists such as Breivik.

This is because Breivik’s so-called manifesto shows that he is violently against mass immigration, multiculturalism and Islamisation — and that he wants the forced repatriation of Muslims from Europe and the murder of all who have promoted multiculturalism.

But to connect such abhorrent ravings with Cameron’s comments is simply grotesque.

First and foremost, this is treating Breivik as if his words deserve to be taken seriously and at face value.

As of now, however, we don’t know whether Breivik is psychotic, a psychopath or under the influence of all the drugs he claims to have taken.

We also don’t know what part, if any, his political views actually played in this atrocity.

After all, since his target was his country’s Labour party one might just as well surmise that he was motivated by hatred of his father, who was a Labour party supporter and who was divorced from Breivik’s mother when the killer was a baby.

In any event, someone who travels to a teenagers’ summer camp and invites them all to gather round so that he can kill them all cannot be considered rational.

Yet the former Norwegian premier is treating Breivik as if he is a political terrorist whose words have the authority of a sane and coherent creed.

Even if he was motivated by hostility to multiculturalism and Islam, it is perverse to suggest that no one should write about these things because some deranged person raving about such ideas has run amok.

It’s a bit like saying no one should express concern about late abortions or animal cruelty because it leads straight to the firebombing of abortion clinics or animal-testing laboratories.

Breivik's wants the forced repatriation of Muslims from Europe and the murder of all who have promoted multiculturalism

Multiculturalism and Islamic extremism raise entirely legitimate and very serious concerns about defending a culture from attack both from within and from without.

Jagland seems to be cynically exploiting the murder of more than 70 innocents to make a connection which is as obnoxious as it is opportunistic in order to bully into silence those who express such legitimate democratic concerns.

Shockingly, he is merely one of many who are doing so.

As soon as the atrocity happened, people on the Left saw a heaven-sent opportunity to smear mainstream conservative thinkers and writers by making a grossly distorted association between Breivik’s attack and their ideas.

They claimed that anyone on ‘the Right’ who had spoken out against multiculturalism or Islamic extremism was complicit in the atrocity and therefore had a moral duty to stop writing about such things.

To my stupefaction, I have become a principal target of this incendiary witch-hunt, being smeared for having helped provoke the Norway massacre.

One of the first out of the trap was British blogger Sunny Hundal, who delt at length upon two of my articles which had been quoted in Breivik’s purported manifesto and gave the impression that I was a major influence on Breivik’s thinking.

But in Breivik’s 1,500-page diatribe, I was mentioned precisely twice. The first time was a quote from an article in this newspaper about family breakdown.

Thousands of flowers and tributes laid outside the Oslo Cathedral in Norway in memory of the victims of the bomb attack and shooting rampage

The second was another article about the revelation by a former civil servant that the previous Labour government had kept the public in the dark about a covert policy of mass immigration.

Breivik made no mention of anything I had written about Muslims, Islamic terrorism or Islamisation.

Moreover, he also mentioned dozens of other conservative or liberal writers and thinkers. Among others, he quoted: Winston Churchill, George Orwell, Mahatma Gandhi, the Labour MP Frank Field, Tory Nicholas Soames, philosopher Roger Scruton, Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and Swedish thriller writer Lars Hedegaard.

Oh, and William Shakespeare, as well as the fathers of English liberalism John Stuart Mill and John Locke.

So the fact that Hundal singled me out like this while failing to mention these others (apart from a brief reference to Mr Clarkson) was an egregious smear — which was soon circulating and building up hatred on Twitter and the internet.

Soon, others joined in the hate-fest — even across the Atlantic. In the Toronto Star, columnist Heather Mallick wrote that unlike ‘almost everyone else praised by the killer’, I had not said I was horrified by the atrocity in Norway. Not only that, but whereas everyone else had wept at the murder of schoolchildren, ‘she [Phillips] spits’.

But, on the contrary, I had written on my own website in terms far stronger than many other writers that there could never be any excuse for mass murder.

And the quote from my writing on which she based her ‘spitting’ claim was actually not about the atrocity at all, but about the people using those murders to foment just this kind of hatred.

Norweigan police at Anders Breivik's farm outside Oslo, Norway

Then there was Seumas Milne in the Guardian — who tried to make the smear stick by insisting that my criticism of the secret policy of using mass immigration to destroy British identity was ‘Breivik’s feeling precisely’.

But the truth is that the outrage at that policy is shared by millions of decent British people. So Milne was in effect smearing not just me, but all those millions by implying that their opinions also formed a ‘continuum’ with Breivik’s actions.

As one Guardian reader commented following Milne’s contemptible attack, the fact that he had deliberately blurred the distinction between reasonable political opinions with which one might disagree and the actions of a terrorist meant he was creating hysteria and polarisation.

Indeed, the result of such incitement has been a veritable tsunami of electronically-generated mob hatred.

Some of the comments about me that the Guardian allowed on its website below Milne’s article were vicious.

And people have been emailing me a steady stream of positively unhinged hatred and bigotry, including comments such as ‘evil witch’, ‘your vile outpourings have substantially contributed to fear, hatred and violence’, and ‘you have blood on your hands’.

Some words undoubtedly do have hateful or violent consequences — but they are by definition hateful or violent words.

Nothing I have ever written falls into either of those categories. On the contrary, I try to defend people against hatred and violence.

I’m always careful, for example, to draw distinctions between individuals and causes, such as the ‘human rights’ agenda, and I have always stressed the distinction between peaceful Muslims and Islamic extremism.

No, it is those who under the cover of accusing me of incendiary writing are themselves inciting hatred.

The claim that ‘blood is on my hands’ can so easily translate into someone seeking my own blood. Heaven forbid that should happen — but if it did, there would be a direct causal link with those who have whipped up this wicked firestorm.

Indeed, those who have exploited the killing of innocents in Norway to provoke such an eruption of distortion, demonisation and irrationality should disgust and alarm all decent people everywhere.

Read more:

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To: KLP who wrote (438312)8/1/2011 6:06:36 AM
From: Tom Clarke
4 Recommendations   of 658870
"What if the people who hate government are good at it and the people who love government are bad at it?"

Maureen Dowd observes that "Obama and John Boehner have been completely outplayed by the 'hobbits'":
Consider what the towel-snapping Tea Party crazies have already accomplished. They’ve changed the entire discussion. They’ve neutralized the White House. They’ve whipped their leadership into submission. They’ve taken taxes and revenues off the table. They’ve withered the stock and bond markets. They’ve made journalists speak to them as though they’re John Calhoun and Alexander Hamilton.That term, "hobbits" (for tea partiers), comes from the Wall Street Journal and John McCain. I'm not sure what hobbits — the actual literary characters — have to do with "towel-snappin" and "whipping" anybody "into submission."

Dowd is not kind to President Obama:
As one Democratic senator complained: “The president veers between talking like a peevish professor and a scolding parent.” (Not to mention a jilted lover.) Another moaned: “We are watching him turn into Jimmy Carter right before our eyes.”

Obama’s “We must lift ourselves to a higher place” trope doesn’t work on this rough crowd. If somebody at dinner is about to kill you, you don’t worry about his table manners.

Kill you?! The hobbits?

From that Wall Street Journal article:
The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.Sorry, but I don't remember all that "Lord of the Rings" stuff enough to understand that. Mordor is a place, right? Yes. "Mordor was the realm of the Dark Lord Sauron. It was a terrible land of darkness and fear, inhabited by Orcs and other evil creatures." Does that make Obama the "Dark Lord"? I understand the Journal's hope that the Tea Party will go back to their modest home towns after they do whatever they think is their mission in Washington, that "terrible land of darkness and fear."

Posted by Ann Althouse at 7:06 AM

I wonder how McCain likes those Tea Party hobbits now?

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To: Nadine Carroll who wrote (438314)8/1/2011 6:11:12 AM
From: Tom Clarke
4 Recommendations   of 658870
Dick Durbin - "I would say ... that symbolically, that agreement is moving us to the point where we are having the final interment of John Maynard Keynes," he said, referring to the British economist. "He normally died in 1946 but it appears we are going to put him to his final rest with this agreement."

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To: DMaA who wrote (438301)8/1/2011 6:33:50 AM
From: Bill
8 Recommendations   of 658870
Liveshot Kerry just wanted to get some face time. He wanted everyone to know that he is off his tax free yacht and back from Nantucket to cast his vote.

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To: Bill who wrote (438327)8/1/2011 6:54:49 AM
From: Tom Clarke
7 Recommendations   of 658870
Leftist Blogger Slams Progressive Caucus : Praises Tea Party For Standing On Principle

Influential leftist blogger Jane Hamsher slams the Democrats. Here's Jane with some pointed words for progressives:It is unquestionable that the Tea Party moved the entire debt ceiling deal to the right. How did they do it? By taking out the people who failed them. Arlen Specter. Charlie Crist. Lincoln Chaffee. The people they felt betrayed their principles. Even if you don’t agree with those principles, their consistent adherence to them got results.

Whenever the talk of a primary comes up, I always ask “who is going to do this?” The answer is always someone like Bernie Sanders or Jan Schakowsky, the same people whose job it is to put the Good Liberal Housekeeping Seal of Approval on whatever piece of neoliberal shit the White House cooks up to please the bond vigilantes. The people who suddenly become okay with war when the White House says so, who shake their fists in the air with outrage right before they fold, the people you can count on to always be there when there’s nothing they can do…and are nowhere to be found when they can.

This is civil war in the Democrat party.

Posted by Steve Bartin

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To: Tom Clarke who wrote (438328)8/1/2011 7:16:30 AM
From: Tom Clarke
   of 658870
Why Voters Tune Out Democrats
July 30, 2011

Stanley B. Greenberg is the chief executive of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a polling company that works with center-left political parties in the United States and abroad.

BARACK OBAMA can’t catch a break from the American public on the economy, even though he prevented a depression and saved global capitalism.

Perhaps the president finds solace in knowing he’s not alone. During this period of economic crisis and uncertainty, voters are generally turning to conservative and right-wing political parties, most notably in Europe and in Canada.

It’s perplexing. When unemployment is high, and the rich are getting richer, you would think that voters of average means would flock to progressives, who are supposed to have their interests in mind — and who historically have delivered for them.

During the last half-century or so, when a Democratic president has led the country, people have tended to experience lower unemployment, less inequality and rising income compared with periods of Republican governance. There is a reason, however, that many voters in the developed world are turning away from Democrats, Socialists, liberals and progressives.

My vantage point on voter behavior comes through my company, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and its work for center-left parties globally, starting with Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992. For the last decade, I have worked in partnership with James Carville conducting monthly polls digging into America’s mood and studying how progressives can develop successful electoral strategies. (I am also married to a Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut, Rosa L. DeLauro.)

In analyzing these polls in the United States, I see clearly that voters feel ever more estranged from government — and that they associate Democrats with government. If Democrats are going to be encumbered by that link, they need to change voters’ feelings about government. They can recite their good plans as a mantra and raise their voices as if they had not been heard, but voters will not listen to them if government is disreputable.

Oddly, many voters prefer the policies of Democrats to the policies of Republicans. They just don’t trust the Democrats to carry out those promises.

When we conducted our election-night national survey after last year’s Republican sweep, voters strongly chose new investment over a new national austerity. They thought Democrats were more likely to champion the middle class. And as has become clear in the months since, the public does not share conservatives’ views on rejecting tax cuts and cutting retirement programs. Numerous recent polls have shown that the public sides with the president and Democrats on raising taxes to get to a balanced budget.

But in smaller, more probing focus groups, voters show they are fairly cynical about Democratic politicians’ stands. They tune out the politicians’ fine speeches and plans and express sentiments like these: “It’s just words.” “There’s just such a control of government by the wealthy that whatever happens, it’s not working for all the people; it’s working for a few of the people.” “We don’t have a representative government anymore.”

This distrust of government and politicians is unfolding as a full-blown crisis of legitimacy sidelines Democrats and liberalism. Just a quarter of the country is optimistic about our system of government — the lowest since polls by ABC and others began asking this question in 1974. But a crisis of government legitimacy is a crisis of liberalism. It doesn’t hurt Republicans. If government is seen as useless, what is the point of electing Democrats who aim to use government to advance some public end?

In earlier periods, confidence in the economy and rising personal incomes put limits on voter discontent. Today, a dispiriting economy combined with a well-developed critique of government leaves government not just distrusted but illegitimate.

GOVERNMENT operates by the wrong values and rules, for the wrong people and purposes, the Americans I’ve surveyed believe. Government rushes to help the irresponsible and does little for the responsible. Wall Street lobbyists govern, not Main Street voters. Vexingly, this promotes both national and middle-class decline yet cannot be moved by conventional democratic politics. Lost jobs, soaring spending and crippling debt make America ever weaker, unable to meet its basic obligations to educate and protect its citizens. Yet politicians take care of themselves and party interests, while government grows remote and unresponsive, leaving people feeling powerless.

If they are to win trust, and votes, Democrats must show they are as determined as the Tea Party movement to change the rules of the game. In our surveys and media work for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, we found that only if people thought a candidate was going to change government in fundamental ways — starting with welfare and reinventing government — would they give permission to spend their money.

The same is true today. In our recent Web survey of 2,000 respondents, voters respond strongly to Democratic messages on the economy only when a party leader declares, “We have to start by changing Washington. ... The middle class won’t catch a break until we confront the power of money and the lobbyists.”

Why is that?

You do not have to look very far. If there is an article of faith among contemporary center-left leaders, it is that investment in education will pay dividends with increased productivity and increased income. And yet the evidence is piling up that the economy is not working for the middle class. Productivity and education increase but wages do not follow.

When presented with vivid descriptions of income inequality in America, people are deflated, rather than empowered to bring change. In surveys, they tell me that they think the politicians and the chief executives are “piggybacking off each other.” They think that the game is rigged and that the wealthy and big industries get policies that reinforce their advantage. And they do not think their voices matter.

That government and the elite appear blithely to promote globalization and economic integration, while the working population loses income, makes the frustration more intense.

Our research shows that the growth of self-identified conservatives began in the fall of 2008 with the Wall Street bailout, well before Mr. Obama embarked on his recovery and spending program. The public watched the elite and leaders of both parties rush to the rescue. The government saved irresponsible executives who bankrupted their own companies, hurt many people and threatened the welfare of the country. When Mr. Obama championed the bailout of the auto companies and allowed senior executives at bailed-out companies to take bonuses, voters concluded that he was part of the operating elite consensus. If you owned a small business that was in trouble or a home or pension that lost much of its value, you were on your own. As people across the country told me, the average citizen doesn’t “get money for free.” Their conclusion: Government works for the irresponsible, not the responsible.

Everything they witness affirms the public’s developing view of how government really works. They see a nexus of money and power, greased by special interest lobbyists and large campaign donations, that makes these outcomes irresistible. They do not believe the fundamentals have really changed in Mr. Obama’s Washington.

What should Democrats do?

The Democrats have to start detoxifying politics by proposing to severely limit or bar individual and corporate campaign contributions, which would mean a fight with the Supreme Court. They must make the case for public financing of campaigns and force the broadcast and cable networks to provide free time for candidate ads. And they must become the strongest advocates for transparency in campaign donations and in the lobbying of elected officials.

IF they want to win the trust of the public, Democrats should propose taxing lobbyist expenses and excessive chief executive bonuses and put a small fee on the sale of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments. By radically simplifying the tax code to allow only a few deductions, the Democrats would generate new revenue and remove the loopholes that allow special interests to win favorable treatment. The ordinary citizen, according to our surveys and focus groups, feels there is no way to play that game and views simplifying the tax code as an important reform.

To show that government can protect the nation’s interests, Democrats should advocate policies that would control the borders and address problems of undocumented workers.

Dealing with this is even more important in Europe, where anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic parties are surging at the expense of the mainstream left and right parties in France, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, site of the recent slaughter for which an extreme right-winger has claimed responsibility.

In the face of such madness, it is tempting to view the issue as illegitimate, but mainstream parties do so at great cost. Our work in Austria and Britain shows that it is possible for progressives to champion immigration policies that protect the labor market and promote and require integration, beginning with language and schooling.

In the United States, those who advocate comprehensive immigration reform are demonstrating that they consider responsibility a primary value. My surveys show that voters want comprehensive immigration reform rather than half measures. They would like to see strong enforcement at the border and in the workplace, and the expulsion of troublesome undocumented immigrants. While favoring toughness, they also want to find ways to put undocumented workers on a path to citizenship.

These measures, if pushed by Democrats, would show that government operated by the right values. Just as Mr. Clinton’s welfare reform in 1996 required efforts to make work pay and expand child care, immigration reform can show how progressives punish irresponsibility and reward responsibility.

Finally, progressives have to be serious about reducing the country’s long-term deficits, constraining special interest spending and tax breaks and making government accountable to the ordinary citizen. The deficit matters to people and has real meaning and consequences. A government that spends and borrows without the kind of limits that would govern an ordinary family is going to have big troubles. Voters I’ve studied say things like, if “we keep spending like this, we’re going to be bankrupt and there won’t be anything for anybody,” especially “our children.” The final straw is the government’s decision to continue spending and to put the country deeper into debt and more dependent on China.

President Obama understood this essential lesson when he decided to unveil his own plan for long-term deficit reduction. The fog of the debt-limit debate has obscured that commitment, and his determination to raise taxes on the most fortunate to reduce our indebtedness and fund his priorities. Polls show that the public is with him, scornful of the Republican demand for no tax increases. Rather than treating deficit reduction as an “eat your peas moment,” progressives should embrace the liberal think tanks’ bold deficit plans, which would raise taxes more and defend progressive priorities.

That would be in the spirit of President Clinton’s first economic plan, which used a 50-50 mix of tax increases and spending cuts to cut the deficit. That laid the groundwork for a restoration in trust in government later in the 1990s.

Recently, it has been the conservatives, the Tea Party members and the anti-immigrant groups who understand the anger with government, and rush in to exploit it. Perhaps now, with the debacle in Washington, liberals will become instinctively angry with this illegitimate government and build their politics from there.

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To: Tom Clarke who wrote (438329)8/1/2011 7:33:36 AM
From: Tom Clarke
2 Recommendations   of 658870
A Hard Day’s Night
Robert Costa
AUGUST 1, 2011 4:00 A.M.
Pella, Iowa

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s whimsical presidential campaign is anchored by one key constituency: insomniacs. The Michigan Republican, who launched an improbable White House bid in July, can credit his (scant) national profile to the viewers of Red Eye, Greg Gutfeld’s snarky 3 a.m. talk show on the Fox News Channel.

Red Eye may be an obscure fiefdom in Rupert Murdoch’s empire, but the 60-minute broadcast has a cult following among night owls. These past few years, McCotter has become a frequent guest, charming the hipster panelists with his droll observations. At first, he was a curiosity — a balding, unsmiling Ichabod Crane. Eventually, as Gutfeld concluded that McCotter’s mumbling, sweater-clad persona was authentic, the congressman became a regular.

A presidential campaign, if only for the giggles, was bound to follow. This spring, Gutfeld began to beg McCotter to run. “In my mind, he is one of the few pols who seem less interested in impressing celebrities, or making cheap points of sentimentality, than preserving the freedoms unique to our delightful island nation,” Gutfeld said during one monologue. “Please,” he pleaded with McCotter, “make this interesting, if anything, so I can get a free campaign button.”

By now, Gutfeld must be swimming in McCotter paraphernalia. The congressman is making frequent trips to Iowa and New Hampshire as a full-fledged, no-joke contender. At least that was my impression when we recently spoke in a coffee shop about 50 miles east of Des Moines.

McCotter, slightly perspiring in his dark suit, did not order an espresso, nor did he need one. His wiry fingers moved nonstop, tapping the linoleum table. For an hour, he fidgeted and made his case. It’s easy to see why Gutfeld is intrigued. McCotter is weird, but pleasantly so.

The Michigander’s offbeat style extends to his politics, which are generally of the tea-party school, but notably pro-labor. McCotter hails from Livonia, a suburb northwest of Detroit, where many of his constituents are Big Three employees. He made his presidential announcement there over the Fourth of July weekend, not far from his childhood home, surrounded by his family and a smattering of blue-collar workers, many of whom appreciate McCotter’s vocal support for the 2009 auto bailouts.

Onstage, McCotter railed against various Obama-administration misdeeds, but his venom was saved for the Wall Street bailouts. McCotter may have supported ladling loans to the automakers, but when it comes to bankers, he may be the most populist member of the 2012 field. Other candidates, such as Michele Bachmann, also opposed the Troubled Asset Relief Program, but McCotter takes the suffering of the post-industrial heartland personally. He speaks about hardship the way Bruce Springsteen sings about it.

The United States, McCotter said at his announcement, needs a president “who will truly feel and understand the pain, the anguish of 14 million unemployed Americans, the feeling of being trapped.” He pledged to be that man. “Through your hard work, and through your principled devotion, bequeathing to your children a better nation than the one we inherited, have no doubt that we will restructure the government,” he vowed. “While it is a hard road ahead, we will have better days.” On that note, he abruptly picked up his red-white-and-blue Fender Telecaster and began to jam Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock.”

Born in 1965 on the west side of the Motor City, the son of two strict Roman Catholic special-education teachers, McCotter spent much of his impressionable years debating music with his brother, Dennis, who remains the congressman’s preferred bassist. “When you are growing up in the Seventies, you had glam rock or disco, or you could go back,” he says. “We went back.” His epiphany came one evening when a pair of films — the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night and Help! — popped on Channel 7. “It clicked,” he says. “I liked the sound — they didn’t sound like my father’s Irish Rover tapes or his eight tracks.”

The McCotter brothers never looked back. The Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones, you name it — if it’s classic rock, they likely own the original vinyl records — and McCotter can play Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” solo with his guitar behind his neck. Growing up, the boys’ bands echoed their heroes. First, the Flying Squirrels, a name they picked after the keyboard player accidentally sent one unfortunate rodent airborne while he was driving to band practice. Next was Sir Funk-a-Lot and the Knights of the Terrestrial Jam. “My brother was heavy into Bootsy Collins at the time,” McCotter explains.

McCotter went on to graduate summa cum laude from the University of Detroit Mercy, a Jesuit institution, then attended its law school, graduating in 1990. From his early years till today, whether as a Wayne County commissioner or a small-time attorney, he has used rock-and-roll to smooth out his awkward-schoolboy edge.
“I have always been a guitar guy,” McCotter says. “My brother is a bass guy. It’s like some people are born wrestlers. Like my son, Timothy, we don’t know how it happened, but he’s a wrestler. Bassists are born, they just like it.” He pauses. “It worked for Mike Huckabee,” he says, noting that the bass-playing former Arkansas governor won the Iowa caucuses last cycle.

McCotter sees a lot to like in Huckabee, who rode his working-class rhetoric into contention. McCotter, to the surprise of his big-name rivals, is aiming to do the same. He is already making a real play for the Ames straw poll on August 13. The summertime convention is an early test of momentum in the run-up to the first-in-the-nation caucuses. McCotter’s campaign raised eyebrows when it paid $18,000 to use the space Huckabee occupied during the 2007 straw poll, where the Arkansan’s motley crew of evangelicals and conservative farmers spooked the highly organized winner, Mitt Romney.

McCotter believes he can make a similar splash, especially with Romney hesitant to compete in the raucous political bazaar. Bachmann, he acknowledges, is likely to do well, as are Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain, three others who have been visiting the state for months. Still, he sees an opening. “The way I view Iowa is that you really have to be here for the caucus. It’s not dispositive if you lose it, it just shows whether you can organize and talk to good people. . . . The vast majority of voters, when they look at this field, are going, Huh?” he sighs, rolling his eyes. “They have not settled on a candidate.” Ames, he hopes, “will be an introduction,” not a test of his fledgling campaign, which features a website, a couple of advisers, and a few dollars. He will be bringing the band along, brother Dennis included.

Of course, a presidential campaign is an uphill battle for any House member. The last sitting member of the House to move to Pennsylvania Avenue was James Garfield in 1880. McCotter is finding it hard to secure support. At the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans in June, he finished dead last in the straw poll. A recent bipartisan poll also found him struggling to gain traction in Michigan, pulling 1.7 percent support, 27 points behind Romney, the leader, and in sixth place behind the near-collapsed candidacy of former House speaker Newt Gingrich.

“Look, these days, it’s hard for anyone to win,” McCotter replies, when asked about how he can compete with little to no national name recognition. “The public, however, knows what they don’t want, especially on our side. My attitude is: Do they want another proposition? If there’s room for that, put it out there, and whatever happens, happens. It’s easier, in a sense, to win it now. We’ve already seen Donald Trump — vroom, he’s gone. We’ve seen Herman Cain — vroom, he’s fading. Now, we’re watching Michele.”

The Bachmann factor is crucial to McCotter’s minuscule chances. If she continues to rise, his window will quickly close. But if she stumbles, there could be a scramble to pick up the pieces. In that scenario, Iowa Republicans, McCotter says, might be interested in considering a quirky policy wonk — one who can play guitar to boot. “In a chaotic time, people may feel an immediate attraction to the person going ‘rah-rah,’ but the best thing is to calm the problem, asking how we fix something so others can pursue their happiness,” he says. To help with the effort, he has enlisted Chris Rants, a former Iowa house speaker, and a handful of former Fred Thompson advisers, who have experience in trying to sell a dry-humored conservative to caucus-goers.

Thing is, McCotter’s legislative record is mixed. A longtime ally of Speaker John Boehner, he recently served as policy chairman of the House GOP conference, the fifth-ranking leadership slot, and by most accounts performed admirably. But there is no signature bill, no heroic piece of legislation. Beyond his colorful floor speeches, McCotter is no master legislator. GOP aides, in background conversations, describe him as either a Russell Kirk–quoting genius or a pretentious clown. In a recent editorial, the Oakland Press, a local newspaper in his district, called the thought of McCotter in the Oval Office “a bit scary.”
Part of this is unfair, more attributable to his cold demeanor than to anything else. Still, beyond his longwinded orations, McCotter has a tendency to brazenly seek publicity, such as when he drafted legislation chastising President Obama for his comments about a Cambridge, Mass., police officer. This presidential campaign, in the eyes of many, is that impulse run out of control.

McCotter may be unknown in the early-primary states, but he’s far from obscure at home. His name was floated earlier this year as a possible challenger to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a two-term Democrat. “He’s a smart guy, he’s very acerbic,” said L. Brooks Patterson, an Oakland County GOP bigwig, to a local newspaper. “If he ran for Stabenow’s seat, he would be Stabenow’s worst nightmare.” But if the White House fever continues, he predicted, McCotter will end up “about a billion short.” Meanwhile, Michigan’s GOP struggles to field a top-tier candidate.

McCotter has little patience for the killjoys, at home or on the Hill. He tells me that he is itching for a bigger fight, that his brand of union-friendly conservatism needs to go national. “Conservative Democrats, who were at the heart of Ronald Reagan’s coalition, are looking to see if the GOP is still the party of Reagan, or whether we will continue in the mode we’re in now, whatever you want to call it,” he says. “Obama realizes this. Just look at his schedule. He’s in Ohio, Michigan, in Iowa — all the manufacturing centers. He’s laying the groundwork, telling workers that Republicans don’t like them, that they want you to go bankrupt, and that they’ll bail out their Wall Street friends.”

Conservatives, he predicts, if not intrigued by his Red Eye appearances, may find his message refreshing. Or they may simply find him curious. “When I first met my wife,” he recalls, “she wondered what a Thaddeus is.” I wait for McCotter to answer that question, but he lets it hang. “That’s a rather existential question,” he smiles. But it’s true, he says, that St. Jude Thaddeus, his namesake, is the patron saint of desperate causes.

— Robert Costa is a political reporter for National Review. This article first appeared in the Aug. 1, 2011, issue of National Review.

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To: LindyBill who wrote (438324)8/1/2011 7:34:19 AM
From: unclewest
5 Recommendations   of 658870
Best line I heard on FOX news this AM -

Whoever heard of a poor man spending himself into prosperity?

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To: DMaA who wrote (438214)8/1/2011 7:47:59 AM
From: Zakrosian
1 Recommendation   of 658870
and April is usually a net surplus month.

Deficits are running at 40% and this moron thinks we could actually have a surplus in April.

Actually, that's true. Even during the high deficits of the Bush Administration, April was a surplus month. That's when tax returns are due.

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