Wednesday, November 30, 2011

George Step-on-all-of-us Grinds His Heel into Herman Cain

When George Stephanopoulos interviews Ginger White, who says she had an affair with Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain, the irony of the great defender of Bill Clinton's sexual foibles asking the questions about someone else is just too much:

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Some journalistic curiosities:

(1) Ginger White admits that Herman Cain was telling the truth when he said they didn't have a 13-year affair. That goes right past George.

(2) Ginger White shows phone records of recent calls and text messages from Herman Cain. Why doesn't George ask to see the text messages themselves?

(3) Ginger White says that Herman Cain gave her money over the last 2 1/2 years but asked for nothing in return. George fails to ask her when she got the last gift, how much it was, or how much in total she received.

(4) Ginger White says Herman Cain took her on several trips, including to the Mike Tyson v. Evander Holyfield fight in Las Vegas. George fails to ask her whether that was the first fight on November 9, 1996 or the rematch on June 28, 1997.

(5) When Ginger White says she has never been evicted, I think she means she moved out after receiving the eviction notices that have been reported in the press, but George doesn't ask.

Ginger White is charged with exaggerating her relationship with Herman Cain, and as much as admits that. How much is truth, how much is exaggeration? Don't look to George Stephanopoulos for answers, or even for questions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gold for Cain and Silver for Gingrich at the Neocon Town Hall

This latest Repulican debate on national security issues was a strange episode, with CNN host Wolf Blitzer hurling questions from various odd fellows at the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

Perhaps the oddest of those fellows was the once influential Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Secretary of Defense and former head of the World Bank, now reduced to the roll of question from the audience at the neocon town hall.

Looking at the Facebook support numbers, as we always do here, we score this as the fifth win in a row for Herman Cain with second place going to Newt Gingrich.

CandidateSun 11/13 NoonWed 11/23 NoonPickup
Herman Cain371,583392,32620,743
Newt Gingrich168,048184,09616,048
Mitt Romney1,176,6261,191,54014,914
Ron Paul583,074596,85313,779
Jon Huntsman22,89724,8001,903
Gary Johnson143,063144,5841,521
Rick Santorum31,95832,778820
Rick Perry170,943171,496553
Michele Bachmann459,154459,16410

Newt Gingrich has become the man to watch, but looking at overall support he's still got a way to go to cross the Biden Line let alone overtake the support leaders in the Republican field

If Newt Gingrich stays on his current pace, he doesn't cross the Biden Line until 2/9/2012, and he doesn't catch up to Herman Cain until 3/31/2012, Ron Paul until 8/6/2012, and Mitt Romney until 8/11/2013. That assumes that the other candidates stand still, and they are continuing to build support. Newt's best hope may be that the election is held on Twitter.

Speaking of standing still, that's essentially been the case for Michele Bachmann all fall. Perhaps Rick Perry and Rick Santorum should go into that category too, as they can't even beat Gary Johnson, they guy who is not even being invited to the debates.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Republican Field May Have Finally Found Its Equilibrium

The Republican field may have finally found its equilibrium, judging from support on Facebook. Beyond Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry trading places and a continuing Herman Cain surge into a solid 4th place, there has not been much change in position in the last 2 months.

CandidateFriends on 1/16/2011Friends on 3/16/2011Friends on 5/16/2011Friends on 7/16/2011Friends on 9/16/2011Friends on 11/16/2011
Barack Obama17,822,15218,632,33120,413,24522,038,06723,133,52224,076,264
Joe Biden271,971274,670282,433299,388304,953308,062
Mitt Romney751,391814,705899,0551,041,4541,110,9381,182,511
Ron Paul307,493307,495356,452419,099510,540588,239
Michele Bachmann150,467187,433258,370422,366462,345459,318
Herman Cain42,28955,72090,146149,820176,534381,105
Newt Gingrich100,489113,269131,779142,281148,009172,841
Rick Perry51,45552,18052,85470,425160,305171,194
Gary Johnson-110,466114,000129,275134,036143,460
Rick Santorum12,21113,25216,22123,48227,86032,215
Jon Huntsman-1,5552,2809,34717,83223,476
Sarah Palin2,606,5862,777,5092,957,6273,191,7113,238,0663,254,960
Mike Huckabee522,079541,409586,020
Donald Trump146,866184,512272,108300,401318,603330,822
Scott Brown--237,462239,086239,053239,094
Bobby Jindal121,977122,353125,614
Rand Paul-105,001117,287137,580146,080150,434
Jim DeMint127,177129,848133,363143,436148,845149,053
Tim Pawlenty69,98573,13586,907
Paul Ryan50,90856,49671,923
Allen West--64,05767,33074,56876,237
John Thune74,75474,83775,21175,44275,24475,222
Scott Walker-61,52763,12964,62166,08367,763
Chris Christie29,38833,99036,53642,56346,67152,405
Mitch Daniels39,41344,52849,90850,61451,17551,548
Mike Pence45,92347,71248,54248,89348,94949,065
Mike Bloomberg29,86230,34431,31632,87936,99538,175
Haley Barbour16,85417,45918,16818,60418,77519,006
Thaddeus McCotter--9,90911,81212,55212,581
Peter King--11,23211,52511,65211,766
Jimmy McMillan-8,3628,6759,1419,98810,676
Roy Moore--708,2358,2948,321
Buddy Roemer-5701,4961,8064,5907,024
John Bolton5,1705,6586,0566,3546,8266,991
Jeb Bush4,8415,0275,3005,5565,7455,803
Fred Karger6818261,4582,1173,3985,355
Rudy Giuliani1,8912,1942,5353,2114,2894,545
Andy Martin--560570573583
Jonathon Sharkey--159170352414
Jon Greenspon581584583583--
Total Democratic Friends18,094,123
Total Republican Friends5,310,731

Obama-Biden fell just short of adding 1 million followers in the last two months, as their pace continues to slow. Perhaps potential supporters have been occupied elsewhere. Still they added 945,851 supporters versus 477,902 for all the Republicans in and out of the race combined.

It was time to scratch all those who never declared or have dropped out. Sarah Palin does stand out with a solid base of support for the future, while Donald Trump has a wet raccoon. The neocon favorite John Bolton and the dynastic Jeb Bush can't even clear the Jimmy McMillan Rent Is Too Damn High line.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cain Wins Again in SC, Gingrich Surges Fourth

All anyone is talking about this week is the new surge by Newt Gingrich. But looking at the support numbers after the debate in South Carolina last night, Newt is definitely surging but still hasn't gotten out of fourth place in adding new support on Facebook, sixth place overall.

CandidateThu 11/10 NoonSun 11/13 NoonPickup
Herman Cain362,749371,5838,834
Mitt Romney1,171,5321,176,6265,094
Ron Paul578,427583,0744,647
Newt Gingrich163,762168,0484,286
Rick Perry170,178170,943765
Jon Huntsman22,41822,897479
Gary Johnson142,816143,063247
Rick Santorum31,81931,958139
Michele Bachmann459,167459,154-13

You don't need to take the Newt Gingrich surge too seriously until he's added the almost 140,000 supporters he needs to cross the Biden Line. At his current pace, that won't happen until February 19, 2012. That's if he can maintain his current pace of adding supporters, he really needs to double it.

Herman Cain continues to run the table, with his fourth win in a row. Foreign policy is supposed to be his weak suit, but apparently he has been studying up.

The big loser at the South Carolina debate was CBS. They televised the first 60 minutes of the 90 minute debate, then preempted the last 30 minutes for its regularly scheduled show NCIS. The abrupt cutoff of live TV coverage sent the political junkies to the website for the live stream, but at least for me it streamed with such fits and starts as to be unwatchable.

"And that's the way it is?" Walter Cronkite might ask.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Herman Cain Support Swells as He Wins the Michigan Debate

The Republican Presidential debate show was back on CNBC in Michigan after a three week hiatus following the Vegas episode. And if you thought the last week was going to be a bye week for Herman Cain, you'd be wrong.

Herman Cain continues to rack up new supporters on Facebook. If anything the Cain wave has swelled in the last 10 days. It now is coming down to a three way race for new support between Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul.

CandidateWed 10/19 NoonThu 11/10 NoonPickup
Herman Cain289,490362,74973,259
Mitt Romney1,137,7601,171,53233,772
Ron Paul552,264578,42726,163
Newt Gingrich154,081163,7629,681
Gary Johnson139,921142,8162,895
Rick Perry167,513170,1782,665
Jon Huntsman20,62822,4181,790
Rick Santorum30,55031,8191,269
Michele Bachmann459,979459,167-812

Rick Perry committed the big gaffe in last night's debate. It will be interesting to see what happens with his support in the next week going into the next debate in Iowa on C-Span on Saturday, November 19. Perry support may go into Bachmann territory.

Update: There is a debate this Saturday, November 12 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. So a whole week won't be necessary to test the Perry weakness.

Did Cambridge Voters Just Favor Charter School Ideas Over Public Schools?

The municipal election results are in for Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In the city council race, after you sort out all the noise, Minka vanBeuzekom is replacing incumbent Sam Seidel. Leland Cheung, the newcomer and first Asian-American councilor elected two years ago, has become the highest vote getter.

On the school committee, Mervan Osborne defeated incumbent Nancy Tauber.

Nancy has been on the School Committee for four years and always pointed to her classroom experience as a teacher in Newton and her commitment to public school education.

Mervan is a teacher at Beacon Academy, a charter school in Boston that takes students from around the metro area for a bridge year between eighth and ninth grade. Before that he was a teacher at the private school Buckingham Browne & Nichols. And he is also on the board of directors at Concord Academy.

In other words, Cambridge voters just traded a public school teacher for a charter/private school teacher. That could be a sea change.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

This is What Democracy Does Not Look Like in Cambridge, Massachusetts

We've just had another municipal election here in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Elsewhere it's one man, one vote. Here it's you may fill in as many choices as you please, only one vote per candidate, only one vote per column, and do not use red to mark ballot. We end up with ballots that look like an SAT test from hell.

Voting in the city of Cambridge is more complicated than it needs to be. Cambridge uses a system of proportional representation that means you are asked to rank all the candidates in the city council race against each other (same for school committee). If you want, you can vote for all of the candidates by ranking every last one of them in your order of preference #1, #2, #3, etc.

When it came time to count the ballots for the 9 seats on the city council, here were the #1 votes for each candidate:

Candidate#1 VotesResult
Leland Cheung1974Elected on 1st count
Timothy J. Toomey, Jr.1654Elected on 1st count
David P. Maher1636Elected on 1st count
Henrietta Davis1407Elected on 9th count
E. Denise Simmons1224Elected on 13th count
Marjorie C. Decker1092Elected on 14th count
Craig A. Kelley1075Elected on 13th count
Minka Y. vanBeuzekom1011Elected on 14th count
Kenneth E. Reeves979Elected on 14th count
Larry W. Ward816Defeated on 13th count
Sam Seidel768Defeated on 12th count
Matthew P. Nelson523Defeated on 11th count
Charles J. Marquardt488Defeated on 10th count
Thomas Stohlman, Jr.336Defeated on 9th count
James M. Williamson171Defeated on 8th count
Gary W. Mello128Defeated on 7th count
Jamake Pascual57Defeated on 5th count
Gregg J. Moree54Defeated on 6th count

As the results column hints, it doesn’t stop with #1 votes under the proportional system. The “extra” votes from winning candidates over what was needed to win and “throwaway” votes for losing candidates get reallocated based on the #2, #3, #4 etc. preferences. For example, 434 #1 votes for Leland Cheung were redistributed to the other candidates based on the #2 votes on those ballots. Supposedly, these were selected randomly from among all the ballots cast for him.

That means the 979 votes for Ken Reeves weren’t actually what got him elected. It was all the #2, #3, #4, … #18 choices that got reallocated to him during the 14 successive ballot counts that put him over the top. That worked out to 35 votes from Leland Cheung, 18 votes from Timothy Toomey, 13 votes from David Maher, 2 votes from Jamake Pascual, 4 votes from Gregg Moree, 9 votes from Gary Mello, 8 votes from James Williamson, 16 votes from Thomas Stohlman, 21 votes from Charles Marquardt, 53 votes from Matthew Nelson, 107 votes from Sam Seidel, and 275 votes from Larry Ward.

That’s perfectly democratic, right? And perfectly opaque. It seems especially egregious that Ken Reeves’s election required redistributing 275 votes from Larry Ward, as he’s the candidate with the next highest vote total that Ken Reeves defeated. How does the “winner” getting to count votes for the “loser” make the election democratic?

The ballot could be made a lot simpler with no change to this year’s results by eliminating all but #1 votes. The 9 candidates with the most votes win, period. That would mean the ballot columns for #2, #3, #4, … #18 etc. could simply be eliminated, which would be 94% simpler. Yes, there might be some years where the 9th place finisher would actually rank 10th or 11th and out of the money after all the #2, #3, #2, #3, #4, … #18 preferences are reallocated. But, really, should someone’s #18 preference be able to cancel out someone else’s #1 preference? There is, after all, another election in two years.

The real failure of the Cambridge election system is in participation. Only 15,393 ballots were cast in the city council race and only 14,939 were cast in the school committee race. This in a city with 105,162 residents. That means each of the nine city councilors theoretically represents 11,685 people, between 80% to 90% of whom either can’t or didn’t vote. Of course, that could be because the great majority of us are happy with the job our city government is doing. Still.

That's how it goes in the People's Republic of Cambridge. The election results are in, and once again the people haven’t spoken.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Did Gloria Allred Sex Up Herman Cain's Alleged Two-Handed Move?

Did lawyer Gloria Allred sex up her client Sharon Bialek's accusation against Herman Cain?

Count 1 is Allred's introduction of her client:
"Instead of receiving help from Mr. Cain, he decided to provide her with his idea of a stimulus package."
That introduces both the politically controversial stimulus legislation that was passed at the beginning of the Obama administration and the image of an erect penis.

Count 2 goes to the details of what happened in the front seat of that parked car, as read from the statement that Gloria Allred no doubt help write:

"He suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg under my skirt and reached for my genitals. He also grabbed my head and brought it toward his crotch. I was very, very surprised and very shocked."
Look at the choice of words. Herman Cain is alleged not merely to have put a hand on the woman's leg but "under my skirt" and to have "reached for my genitals". And he is alleged not merely to have put his arm around the woman and to have drawn her towards him but to have "grabbed my head and brought it toward his crotch."

The classic front seat of the car move is for the man in the driver's seat to turn towards the woman in the passenger's seat, put his right arm around her shoulders and his left hand on her hand or her knee, then draw her in for a kiss. If the kiss is not rejected, he might move the free hand from her knee to her breast.

But who goes directly for the genitals? Is that even possible using the two-handed move way the accuser has described?

With one hand, let's say the left hand, he touches the woman's leg (if he gets skin and not cloth that is technically "under the skirt"). With the other hand, the right hand, he pulls the woman's head toward his lap which is of course blocked by his own outstretched left arm that is supposedly fiddling toward her genitals. That is quite a two-handed move.

Let's say he instead uses his right hand to grope her genital region and his left hand to grab her head. Again his right arm is in the way of bringing her head down into his lap. Find a willing partner and go practice in your car. This can't be done leading from the left or the right.

Count 3 is the strange sequence of events. First the accuser checks into her hotel, finding she has been upgraded from a standard room to a suite. Then she goes to dinner with Cain, where Cain asks her how she likes her hotel suite upgrade. Then, en route back to the hotel after dinner, Cain detours to the office where he parks and makes his move.

The clear suggestion is that Cain booked a suite for her because he meant to have sex with her there. Certainly that seems a more plausible and discreet venue for a tryst than the front seat of a parked car in front of his office building where any one of his 150 employees who happened to be working late might spot him.

The parked car in front of the office does set the scene for her to introduce the quid pro quo element, with the alleged exchange that broke off Cain's sexual advance:

She said: "Why are you doing this? You know I have a boyfriend!"

He said: "You want a job, don't you?"
That is the most damning part of the accusation. I have a great memory but a conversation 14 years ago? I might remember the subject of the conversation but exact words? In fact, about that time in the late 1990s I got a phoned death threat on my answering machine meant for someone else that I took seriously enough to report to the police. I would have to go back to the police report or the audio tape to tell you exactly the caller said.

On count 1, Gloria Allred is clearly guilty of sexing up her client's story. On count 2, the jury is still out but it looks to me that the classic front seat move has been sexed up by adding some titillating language describing a maneuver that just isn't possible to pull off. On count 3, something doesn't quite ring true but whether that can be attributed to Gloria Allred's lawyering, the accuser's poor ear for good fiction, or truth being more improbable than fiction I can't say.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

High-Tech Lynchings 0, Uppity Blacks 2

Politico stirred up a hornet's nest with a report last Sunday on sexual harassment charges against Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain.

Seven days in, the story has been more about the story of the story than about the story itself. To render any kind of independent judgment on Herman Cain's fitness for office one would want to know the details of what Cain is alleged to have done. While that has been the subject of rumor and speculation, the full details have not come out.

What we do know is that two women who worked with Herman Cain when he was CEO at the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s left the association with severance/settlement packages of $35,000 and $45,000. And that a least one of those two women objects, as you would expect she would, to Herman Cain describing the charges as baseless and false.

It may end there, with that woman saying through her lawyer that she doesn't want to revisit or discuss this matter further and the other woman not returning phone calls from the press. But not before a lot of people drew parallels to the sexual harassment charges made against Clarence Thomas when he was nominated to the Supreme Court. The Clarence Thomas hearings were a national embarassment, but he was ultimately confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Three points in favor of Herman Cain:

(1) Cain has left his wife out of this, rather than trotting her up to the press statement podium or interview couch for the ritual televised show of support.

(2) Cain hasn't run his campaign on a moral high horse. He has been consistent to a principle he expressed back in 2007 before the last election:

"People are too hung up on people's baggage. Everybody has baggage! Let it go! This country is starved for leadership."
(3) Cain's supporters are not running for the exits. I show him with 289,490 Facebook supporters on 10/19 and 333,762 today. That number has been building all week.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is It Ciao Baby Cucina for Herman Cain?

Some details are emerging on the Herman Cain sexual harassment story, as reported by PJ Media:

According to the female source, Mr. Cain and the woman had been with a large group for a long evening of food and drink at the Ciao Baby Cucina, a restaurant near NRA headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. This was a normal routine, as the trade association worked with the food and beverage industry. Afterwards, Mr. Cain allegedly took the woman by taxi to his apartment, where she spent the night and woke up.

The female source told PJ Media that she witnessed the woman and Herman Cain break away from the large group as part of a smaller group.

Neither source has direct knowledge of what occurred at Mr. Cain's residence, but several days after the alleged incident, the female source witnessed the woman returning to her workplace "distraught." "She was very upset."

One source told PJ Media: "Some people didn’t believe [the accuser]" at the time she made the allegation. The female source recalls the woman continued working at the NRA for several weeks after the encounter; the male source recalls the woman continued working there for a few months.

Both sources claim that during this period following the incident while the woman was still employed, the NRA’s human resources office held many "closed door meetings" that included her. The woman's parents retained legal counsel and arranged an undisclosed financial settlement. The New York Times has reported that a settlement was made with a female employee that constituted $35,000, or one year's salary.
We still need more facts and a timeline of the three complaints as this meager information could go four directions: (a) Date rape. (b) Regrets on a one-nght stand. (c) Nothing actually happened beyond sleeping off a night of over-drinking at Cain's pad possibly accompanied by partial memory loss. All we really know from this report is that the young staffer became too upset to continue working with Cain. (d) Office gossipers filling in a few fleeting observations with lots of innuendo.

A timeline of where this incident fits into the complaints by the two other accusers is important. Even if nothing happened beyond giving a young coworker a ride home, in the poisoned aftermath of office gossip other women who worked for him may well have begun to attribute ulterior motives to every little innocent thing Cain said or did.

In the vernacular this is called "shitting where you eat". In the parlance of sexual harassment lawsuts it's called creating a hostile work environment. Even if it's just gossip and innuendo, one can see why an employer would settle. And if it's not just gossip and innuendo ...

On the other hand, can the facts of this story be shifting because one or more or perhaps all of the participants and witnesses were blotto at the time and don't really remember what exactly happened?

No woman is going to want to come forward and say:
"I got drunk and woke up in my boss's apartment, I didn't want to go back to work. I talked to my mom and she talked to my dad and my dad hired a lawyer, and the lawyer said I had to go back to the office so that we could get the most out of my severance pay claim. Now I've got a great career and family and would just as soon forget the whole thing. But don't call me a liar. What happened, happened."
And Herman Cain, what is he supposed to say if that is the truth of it? After all, a gentleman should never tell.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How Many Lines Has Herman Cain Crossed?

We announced Saturday that Herman Cain had crossed the Biden Line. Now the question is whether he crossed another line, and subjected two female employees who worked for him at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s to unlawful sexual harassment.

The exact details and how much substance there was to the reported complaints have not been established. Herman Cain says they were false and baseless complaints. But it is a fact that the two women complained and were paid money by the Association as part of their separation agreements.

Another fact. You can't serve as President let alone get elected without stuff like this getting out. Now at least one of the women involved says she would like to come forward, provided the confidentiality clause in the settlement agreement is waived.

My guess is that Herman Cain is not party to the confidentiality agreements, in which case it's not really his beef whether the accusers talk or not. If he was a party to the agreements, that raises some questions about the accuracy of his public statements.

It would also raise the question of whether Herman Cain has already broken confidentiality by describing the accusations as baseless and false. You can't be sued for slander for an opinion, but you also can't expect the two accusers from the 1990s to stand silent while they are effectively called liars. They may well both be liars, but they are entitled to their own good opinion of themselves, as is Herman Cain.

Besides, don't we all want to know what the two women claimed that Herman Cain did to sexually harass them? And whether these women are young or old, pretty or ugly, skinny or fat, white or black, liberal or conservative, sane or crazy? Of course we do, and we're not party to any confidentiality agreement.

Let's remember that no one besides Herman Cain has any affirmative obligation to tell us their side of the story. If the National Restaurant Association won't release the confidentiality clause, or the two women lack the fiber to risk breaking it, or they come forward and offer no comment, we may never know any more than we know now. But we can always wonder.

But wondering goes both ways. We can wonder what Herman Cain did. And we can wonder why someone who was supposedly harmed by him would not come forward with Herman Cain running for President.