Kiernan Majerus-Collins is a student at Bates College as well as a Democratic Town Committee member from West Hartford. Plus he went to a Trump rally in New Hampshire so now you don’t have to. Just read his account in CT News Junkie. Excerpt:
After getting past the slew of part-time models Trump had manning the door, we joined the long line of old white people (and College Republicans, who are old white people in the making), and waited for the doors to open. While we stood there, I managed to snag a Trump shirt, which I’m willing to trade for an O’Malley button and a bumper sticker to be named later.
After waiting for about an hour, and talking to a local woman who “really likes” Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, we managed to get into the college gym where Trump would make the magic happen. First, though, we had to hear from a variety of warm-up speakers — a talk-show host, a failed gubernatorial candidate, a state representative, and so on. My favorite was Miss New Hampshire USA, who said being a beauty queen was the greatest achievement a little girl could dream of. Someone should introduce her to Hillary Clinton. (As an aside, I’m betting either Miss New Hampshire or Miss Iowa wins the Trump-sponsored Miss USA contest this year.)
As exciting as it was to hear from various unknown New Hampshire politicos, it was even better to meet some of my fellow rally attendees. Mingling in the crowd was political satirist and perennial presidential candidate Vermin Supreme. I chatted with him about what it’s like to run for president, and he gave me a lollipop and showed me his dental records…
No, [Dick] Morris and those like him are right now attempting to paint Hillary Clinton as more Republican than Republican. It’s deliberate and you can tell because Morris specifically didn’t mention certain things, such as: Abortion, Climate Change, Minimum Wage, Income Inequality, Marriage Equality, Education, and etcetera.
Morris and his friends are not trying to make conservatives hate Hillary Clinton, obviously there’s no need for that. They’re trying to make liberals stay home…
Conservatives hated Barack Obama, but they didn’t like Mitt Romney either. So they stayed home. Two years later, liberals hated their truculent obstructionist Congress, but they didn’t much care for Obama either. So they stayed home…
And that, that right there, is exactly what people like Morris are counting on in 2016. Your apathy. They’ve got a clown car full of unlikeable nuts. And Hillary Clinton.
And if they can convince liberals, and progressives, and the fickle free-range undecideds to just stay home, they’ll take back the White House.
Ain’t nobody here but just us folks:
Andrew Ogles, the young director of AFP-Tenn, laughed off intimations of Koch-conspiracy, saying “Obviously David Koch is our chairman and we appreciate everything he does for us, but we’re grassroots.” Ogles says that the group’s opposition to Insure Tennessee is rooted in the ACA. “From the onset we’ve opposed Obamacare. Insure Tennessee is funded by the Affordable Care Act and it’s an extension of Obamacare.” Toppling the ACA is a priority and their opposition to insuring low-income Tennesseans is part of that plan.
In a post on Scott Walker at Gin and Tonics, Ed has the best 16-word description of the GOP you’re ever likely to come across:
“… A coalition of smart people trying to sound dumb and dumb people trying to sound smart; Walker is a tool of the former and the archetype of the latter.
I do hear him criticize America much more often than other American presidents. And when it’s not in the context of an overwhelming number of statements about the exceptionalism of America, it sounds like he’s more of a critic than he is a supporter…
He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.
Edmund Burke, in Reflections on the French Revolution:
The precept given by a wise man, as well as a great critic, for the construction of poems, is equally true as to states:—Non satis est pulchra esse poemata, dulcia sunto. There ought to be a system of manners in every nation, which a well-formed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.
I’ve been trying to think of something nice to say about Rudolph Giuliani, but the only thing I could come up with is that at least he out-grew the comb-over. For the nasty bits, you’ll have to read this dissection of the great patriot by Wayne Barrett in The New York Daily News.
“Encourage Critical Thinking in the Classroom” is the title of HB 321. The preamble of this legislation says, “The scientific community has not resolved or answered the questions related to the origins of all life or the origin of our universe.” It would give public school teachers legal immunity if they want to teach “alternative” theories.
From the Facebook of a major political party’s pick to be vice president of the United States:
I have never and will never let the shroud of victimization cover me — God’s given me way too many undeserved blessings to dishonor His goodness by wasting time crying “victim” — but I’m happy to recall the hundreds of Palin-centric false reports if it helps America understand you must never trust JournoList-types. (Well, not exactly “happy” to do it, but willing — all the whilst throwing up a little bit in my mouth, believing the reason the harshness perpetuates may be for others’ edification.)
Here’s Brown University economics professor Mark Blyth explaining how lucky we were that Paul Ryan’s efforts to wreck the American economy were only partially successful:
Europe is about to basically fall apart by trying to teach a tiny little country the size of Alabama a lesson in moral hazards, which could lead to the implosion of its banking system once again, and this time [ECB President Mario] Draghi has no more tricks in his bag to solve the problem. They really are on a path to blowing up the eurozone and it’s looking very likely that they’ll do that.
Back in the United States, you went through the craziness of the sequester and that stuff and, ultimately, $78 billion of discretionary, nondiscretionary, on a $17 trillion economy is enough to be annoying but it wasn’t enough to actually do real damage. Once the brakes were off, then, of course, the economy started to recover more. Now, you’ve got the eurozone dragging the world economy down; you’ve got China slowing down; the United States is the only place left that’s actually growing. Why is that? Because it’s the one that cut the least. It doesn’t mean austerity is over and it doesn’t mean the Republicans aren’t going to come back with the same old-time medicine and illogical nonsense masquerading as economics — because, basically, they represent people who don’t want to pay taxes — it doesn’t mean that that’s gone, that we’ve all woken up and said, Whoop dee do!
From Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Guy, a good point:
The real shame is that even though members of the non-“fake” news media respected Stewart, and spoke reverentially about his influence on their understanding of their own business, no one in the legitimate press followed him up Bullshit Mountain to pursue Fox News as a story. Do you understand what I mean by that? Fox isn’t just a news organization with a somewhat different take on current events — it’s an Orwellian propaganda ministry for a large, white nation-within-a-nation that votes in every election and therefore decides the political course of the larger America no matter how much of a lock Democrats seem to have on the presidency.
What Fox has done to America is the great untold news story of our generation. Jon Stewart got that, and mainstream media figures admired him, but the mainstream press never followed up on his stories. The MSM figured he had it covered (or, more likely, figured that he never had to worry about suddenly needing a job in an industry where only Murdoch seemed to be expanding).
The only major takeout on Fox News that I recall was a New Yorker profile way back in 2003. Its focus was on Roger Ailes, the former GOP hitman who still runs the network. But not only is Fox an even more newsworthy target today, it’s also an easy one. By now there must be hundreds of disaffected employees and ex-employees wandering around and willing to talk. They wouldn’t even have to be disaffected, actually: no greater blabbermouth exists than a newsman (or in this case a television “news”man). I’d do the job myself, only I’m on social security now so I don’t have to get my hands dirty anymore.
They say that the first person in any political argument who stoops to invoking Nazi Germany automatically loses. But you can look it up: According to a 2006 article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, the English word “privatization” derives from a coinage, Reprivatisierung, formulated in the 1930s to describe the Third Reich’s policy of winning businessmen’s loyalty by handing over state property to them.
In the American context, the idea also began on the Right (to be fair, entirely independent of the Nazis) — and promptly went nowhere for decades. In 1963, when Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater mused “I think we ought to sell the TVA”— referring to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the giant complex of New Deal dams that delivered electricity for the first time to vast swaths of the rural Southeast — it helped seal his campaign’s doom. Things only really took off after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s sale of U.K. state assets like British Petroleum and Rolls Royce in the 1980s made the idea fashionable among elites — including a rightward tending Democratic Party.
This from Richard Hofstadter’s 1965 book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics:
Goldwater’s departure from the Republican pattern was compounded by his position on civil rights. One of the oldest, though hardly the most efficacious, of the traditions of many conservatives in the North — and even to a degree in the South as well — has been a certain persistent sympathy with the Negro and a disposition to help him in moderate ways to relieve his distress. This tradition goes back to the Federalist party; it was continued by the Whig gentry; it infused the early Republican party. By adopting “the Southern strategy,” the Goldwater men abandoned this inheritance. They committed themselves not merely to a drive for a core of Southern states in the electoral college but to a strategic counterpart in the North which required the search for racist votes. They thought they saw a good issue in the white backlash, which they could indirectly exploit by talking of violence in the streets, crime, juvenile delinquency, and the dangers faced by our mothers and daughters.I had forgotten that it was Goldwater in 1964 and not Nixon in 1968 who first embraced and named the racist strategy that ever since has been at the heart of Republican electoral strategy.
Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station. Go here to appreciate fully the double bind he applies to the torture lovers of the GOP.
You know, it’s goddamned appalling that you actually have to torture a Republican to get them to act like a decent moral human being, to live up the morals and the ideals and the exceptionalism that we, the United States of America, that shining city on the hill, are supposed to represent.
John McCain the POW gets no credit from me for coming out against torture.
…nor do I play one on TV like some Republicans I could mention. Watch this amazing time-lapse picture of the sun and wonder. There are more things in heaven and earth, Marco Rubio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy
I knew if I looked hard enough there’d be some good news coming out of yesterday’s election. From the New York Times::
PORTLAND, Maine — Bear hunting with bait, dogs, traps will stay legal in Maine because voters rejected a ballot initiative to ban the methods.
Animal rights advocates and others pushed for the law change, which they said would have eliminated cruel and unsportsmanlike hunting methods. Hunting groups, outfitters and the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife campaigned hard against the referendum.
Bait — typically sugary human food such as doughnuts — is by far the most common method of bear hunting and accounts for about four-fifths of the hunt.
Here’s William Greider in The Nation:
The Republican Party has not given up on racism. It has developed new ways to play the “race card” without ever mentioning race. With Obama in the White House, the GOP does not need to run TV ads featuring “black hands” taking jobs from “white hands” or the one that shows Willie Horton, the black rapist. Obama’s own face on television is sufficient. It reminds hard-core supporters why they hate the man.
To understand The Paul Ryan and his hapless plans to save America (the latest one, under discussion here, is a doozie), we need to start with The Ronald — just as to get the idea of silly putty you ought to have some idea of what putty is.
Ever since President Reagan uttered his most notorious Zen koan — “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem” — conservatives of the heartless type (the neoconservatives) have been running around trying to convince the unwashed, the gullible, and the angry old white men and women of a myth: that if government is shrunk, then the nation, its young and old, its rich and poor, will soar to ever-higher prosperity. National and international greatness will soar in step.
Soar, that is, if and only if: costly government-run social “entitlement” programs (what a wretched label!) are cut back or eliminated; certain taxes shrunk or eliminated; union extortion of free-enterprise, job-creating heroes is blocked; and certain (note that word again) government regulatory powers are neutered or eliminated. Then and only then will riches and happiness pour down along the Laffer Curve and spray upon the rabble.
Of course, Reagan’s principle, so sweeping and unmodified, is for that very reason empty of rational support, either empirical or deductive — another way of saying that it is rubbish. But constitutionally harmful rubbish. Cloaked in the drama of the Immense and Immediate Danger of the “runaway” national deficit, this approach of favoring wealth and the wealthy served Ronald and Nancy well politically during their ascension and reign in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, it undermines attention to what our Constitution refers to centrally as “the common welfare,” which one would have thought comprises the welfare of all our people — welfare of many kinds and in many shapes. Hey, Willard and Grover and “Dick,” we live here too! Are we really supposed to mope around in the national sump waiting for scraps of largesse to trickle down upon us?
Governments everywhere are established in order to … govern. The Reagan principle, as if the excited impulse of a child, blatantly ignores the raft of things our national government, in particular, does that everyone seems to like. This is a looong list, such as getting a man on the moon, researching medical applications (which are then usually handed over to Big Pharma), providing disaster relief, building the Interstate Highway System, making sure airplanes don’t crash into each other, bringing aid to people suffering from massive disasters, making sure the economically marginal elderly have food and get medical care, and — oops, better be careful here — invading countries that are not imminent threats to us, with 100% of routine congressional Republican support…
The primary target of Reagan and his whining acolytes of our own day has been the power to regulate activity within our society, a power which is of course vested at all levels of … yes, government. Regulation is an aspect of social control. And it is overwhelmingly the conservative mentality to glorify control, and has been since Edmund Burke at least. Control is needed to protect and, yes, conserve the social order that serves them well, keeping the disorderly riff and the raff out of the gated communities and the lobbies of doorman condos. It so happens that the Big Daddy of social control is none other than government regulatory activity: by dint of laws, statutes, and all sorts of other rules. The relevant term of art here is “police power.” But wasn’t it the founding neoconservative, The Ronald, who ordained that government is the problem, not the solution? What’s going on here?
INTO THE AMERICAN WEEDS:
We need control: traffic lights, drivers’ licenses, and such. The efforts of conservative control go beyond those things, into extended control of behavior in the general population. This starts locally, with zoning laws and other restrictions on property us such as un-mowed lawns, the prohibition of “saggy” pants (as in Ferguson, Missouri), and the like. In short order it rises to government-ordered vaginal ultrasounds (Virginia and elsewhere) and oversight and control of women’s uteruses, and of bedroom activity they deem to be contrary to God’s natural order, as they claim He has been telling them. On the still-wider stage, they have vigorously taken up The Ronald’s lead to more closely regulate union organizing.
Yes, that’s right: the conservatives do want some government regulations. (Union counter-pressure against corporations of course reduces the corporations’ own powers of control — and which friends sit highest at the Republican table?) The full list of controlling activity on the neoconservative wish list — some active, some reactive — is achingly long: prohibiting personal use of marijuana; shrinking the use of food stamps for the poor; minimizing supplemental school meals for poor children; removing pesky industrial safety inspections; reducing the power of organized workers…. It’s a list that is always growing.
Growing, because control is addictive and — like most addictions — it is dynamic, always driven by the feeling that a higher dose is needed to get that warm glow of well-being. Control never lays back in calm satisfaction with a task well done. Laws to control the behavior of us ordinary citizens are always seen to be in need of extension, as cracks in existing controls — real, potential, or imagined — rise to mind. Threats abound, if you put yourself to looking for them. The neoconservatives are always a-trembling about something.
Note that most of the social control of us folks down in the weeds, selectively cataloged above, is exercised by … why, by government. It’s the very same entity Reagan’s neoconservative camp followers loudly and consistently disparage. Aren’t their principles, taken together with their fondness for social regulation, a fundamentally unstable system internally? How to resolve this paradox?
AMERICAN VALUES AS SEEN FROM ON HIGH:
Wait — there’s even more confusion. There appears to be a big blank space on that ever-lengthening conservative list of aspects of our society deemed necessary to regulate. What about the activities of our financial and corporate giants? Say what? Stifle the exercise of The Free Enterprise that Made America Great? Tax corporations and hit high personal incomes, both engorged with the plunder derived from various financial rent-taking schemes plus tricky but mostly legal tax avoidance? No, regulating those things would be unfair to those “persons” who create jobs. Inheritance tax on those who have not themselves earned the money? A rape of God-given property rights. (Yet unfettered inheritance is an “entitlement” program, truly labeled, if there ever was one.)
Given the loud woes and the gnashing of teeth by the neoconservative Republicans about corporate and financial regulation, it is no accident that the people down in the weeds perceive the Republican Party as the party of business and wealth. (Wealth which today massively bankrolls the legislative and judicial election efforts largely within the Republican Party — a mutually self-sustaining ecological cycle.)
Still, we must consider the scholarly macroeconomic evidence the Republicans have to offer on the overriding value to our nation of these trade-offs away from the poor and needy and powerless, and in favor of the ever-greater benefit of the wealthy and powerful? Well, there isn’t any such evidence. In fact, there is mounting hard economic evidence supporting the contrary view. No matter: Reagan has spoken, and that is just fine with the beneficiaries of his dicta. Control of the rich and powerful and their interests is deemed a no-fly zone; it is socialistic and contrary to individual liberty. It violates a concoction called natural law. At best, it is socialism. But … this fervent conservative tic further deepens the internal instability of neoconservative thought.
Neoconservative thought seems to have become the default position in much of our country, especially in the halls of Congress. And so the paradox lying at the heart of our nation’s polity and politics as of Labor Day 2014 remains unresolved. Government to control the unwashed: OK. Government control for the plutocracy and the corporations they control: not OK, un-American. If history is any guide here, this inner “cultural” contradiction suggests that dynamics will build up within society at large and the national polity until there is some kind of major, tectonic shift-like resolution. We can only hope that it will not be violent.
So far, these broad thoughts about the neoconservative right are a distillation of what might be looked at as a kind of astrophysics-like Standard Model of the twenty-first century American polity. In other words, these are not new views. They are commonplaces among intelligent, balanced, good-spirited observers, people who can and do actually think and who get their news and commentary from The New York Times' side of things, that is, and not the MSNBC’s or Fox’s or National Review’s. This Standard Model is summarized here for the purpose of setting up a discussion of Paul Ryan’s latest plan to save the America that matters.
Before finally getting to the new Ryan plan, however, we might recall the Reagan principle and keep in front of mind the neoconservative mantra of reducing government. It is precisely that absolutely central anti-government consensus on the Right which Ryan seems now to be bucking. Ryan is no addled wanderer in life who thinks that there is such a thing as libertarianism that is not actually anarchism. No, this supposed change of spots comes from a — if not the — leading Village Philosopher of the congressional Right. A man who has read unreadable concept novels in order to forge his own soul and go forth to heal the soul of America.
SLASHING AT THE GORDIAN KNOT OF POVERTY IN AMERICA:
After having been caught receiving anal intercourse from the fat cats during the 2012 election campaign, Republicans have been struggling to find ways to get ordinary, not-so-fat-catlike folks to believe that their party really, truly cares about them (it doesn’t). It is within that context that U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, R-Wis., recently completed a tour of America to “listen to Americans in poorer cities” about “their needs,” as reported in The New York Times largely from a Ryan press release. (Don’t you love the “poorer” cities twist?) Imagine Ryan in a college class being asked, What might the needs of poor people be? “Uh, uh … money? Maybe food? No, everyone can afford some food, can’t they? We can’t all live on caviar, ha ha. Medical care? Well, I guess they have the ER. Uh, they need jobs, too, I guess. Why don’t they just go out and get them? And they have houses, don’t they? Yeah, they’re already living somewhere, right?”
The transparent listening-tour cliché is laughable in its own right, of course, but there’s more. As reported in the July 25, 2014, New York Times, Ryan — having subsequently become deeply knowledgeable about poverty in America during his whole week of photo ops with Americans in a carefully selected posy of those poorer cities, has come up with yet another of his seat-of-the-pants plans to “combat it.” Shades of the bizarro old “war on drugs.”
Chairman of the House budget committee, Ryan is renowned within his circle of apparently less intellectually endowed fellow Republican congressmen and craven, sell-out think-tank camp followers as something of a economic genius. (The hard evidence of that is … well, there really isn’t any for that, either, except that he pontificates a lot on the economy; in the country of the blind….) According to the Times, Ryan’s plan “includes a mix of both traditional Republican proposals to expand the earned-income tax credit and [but of course!] reduce regulations.”
The first step of Ryan’s plan is the consolidation of a dozen federal anti-poverty programs, then to move responsibility for administering the new stew from the federal government to the individual states (states such as Texas, Mississippi, Kansas, and Wisconsin, whose governments are so notable committed to providing succor to their poorest and neediest).
Right away, an overpowering scent of rat arises. Each state would have autonomy to spend the federal anti-poverty funds on whatever anti-poverty programs it, the individual state, desires — so long as Washington approves the state’s plan. (Note: or not spend, on poverty or anything else? And “Washington” means the Administration? Congress? Hey, gang, when that money would leave the U.S. Treasury and hit Madison or Atlanta or Jackson or Boise or Lansing or Austin, it would be whisked away out of public sight forever.)
The shift of anti-poverty efforts to the states is not a casual prescription. It is direct and slavish obeisance to the states-rights platform, a corollary to the Reagan anti-government principle. It is the national government that has been a burr under many American saddles since the days of Jefferson, John Taylor of Caroline, and of course John Calhoun and the slaveholders in the major slaveholding states. It is thus the Apostles’ Creed of the Southern secessionists — a critical tool of the shifty Nixon, with his “Southern strategy” that successfully hobbled the Democratic Party. States-rights efforts remain virulent, hobbling our Republic.
If the neoconservatives cannot neuter Washington, DC, they can at least cry states’ rights — while moving as many regulatory and police powers as possible down to the state or local level. There, the “good” conservative controls can be expanded, and the “bad,” so-called liberal regulations — environmental, safety, equal rights, and in particular financial regulations and taxation — can be drowned in Grover Norquist’s bathtub.
Ryan has christened his states-centered consolidated program one of “Opportunity Grants.” “Opportunity” is one of the Republican juju words, signifying the great promise America offers with open hands. But if that rather mysterious but supposedly omnipresent opportunity happens not to be grasped by some person, such as a poor person and family — maybe single mothers working at shit jobs, or an elderly widow living alone — and they remain impoverished, that’s regrettable, but it’s the way of the world. Jesus said so.
To the conservative mind, it is ipso facto their own fault; more than a hundred years ago Herbert Spencer and the conservative doctrines of Social Darwinism ordained it so. The opportunity-averse poor — including their infants, little children, and other dependents such as aged parents — must reap what they have failed to sow. Why, the oldsters should have been saving ten percent of their income every month for those golden retirement years, as the Wall Street Journal has been saying for decades, but they themselves chose to ignore that wise counsel. So far in this story, the Ryan plan is just more same old, same old.
OK, but what about the administration of these Grants. How will they work? The devil really is in the details here. So, hold onto your chair! This is where Ryan, that sworn enemy of government and its regulations, converts, like Saul on his way to Damascus — prostrating himself before the need for even more regulation. A huge brand-new steaming heap of it, and so anathema to the Reaganites? Well, let’s take a look: control of whom, exactly?
Per the Times’s summary of Ryan’s “Grants” program: [Step A] “If a state opted into the … program, it would have low-income residents meet with case managers who would create an ‘opportunity plan’ offering both financial advice and coordinating the provisions of the several different programs they need. [Step B] The residents would sign contracts with these case managers [i.e., with the state?] that would offer incentives [for the residents] to reach financial security and sanctions if they do not. A neutral agency would evaluate each provider’s success at moving poor Americans out of poverty.”
Mother of pearl! What a Rube Goldberg apparatus this would be, and stretching from coast to coast! Case managers. Contracts. Incentives. Providers (?). And sanctions. Oversight by a “neutral” agency (whatever the hell that might mean). All a vast new-from-the-ground-up nationwide (but definitely not national) bureaucracy — one luscious and ripe for outsourcing to private contractors within each state, which is to say the more avid contributors to a state’s political hacks. Can this really be what the top line of the Ryan plan means by “reduce regulations”?
We do have to be especially curious about those “sanctions.” They may turn out to be steps to push the failed applicants even deeper into debt and poverty if not actual incarceration (in private-capital funded facilities, of course), even though that last would contradict another of the Ryan plan’s anti-poverty tools: sentencing reform. With marijuana on its way to legalization, private prisons’ business models may however need some shoring up with a new class of customers.
REACTION FROM THE RIGHT:
Keep in mind that the underlying theme of this polemic is the absolutely central principle of conservative Republicans, their Holy Trinity: to reduce the size and reach of government and its regulations, a k a control — albeit highly selective in that reduction. So, what would neoconservative saint Ronald Reagan say about Ryan’s heaping up of new government scaffolding? You can only imagine his horror. But not to worry. None of that Opportunity Grant night soil will ever hit our statute books, so long as there is a Democrat in the White House, or a Republican president who is not mean spirited and devoid of understanding of what it means to have government for the people (or devoid of a brain and a heart).
Even many Republicans are likely to recoil, perhaps the ones who privately loathe “Bill” Kristol’s Mephistophelean smirk and the felon Ralph Reed’s Uriah Heep imitation and the lies and horrors that pour out of “Dick” Cheney’s mouth in a deadly monotone. After the Ryan plan was unveiled, Paul Krugman commented on Ryan in his Times column: “One of the best insults I’ve ever read came from Ezra Klein…. In 2007, he described Dick Armey, the former House majority leader, as ‘a stupid person’s idea of what a thoughtful person sounds like.’ It … applies to quite a few public figures. Rep. Paul Ryan … is a prime current example.” The chairman has no clothes.
But then another columnist, Ross Douthat, entered the lists with an especially witless column, even for him. Douthat, the Times’s second-string conservative-opinion placeholder, concocted an admiring distillation of Ryan’s latest Plan to Restore America’s Greatness and Cure Poverty. After cataloging other conservative, libertarian, or tea party public-policy fabulists — Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul — he goes on, “Now that list includes Paul Ryan, who last week released a blueprint that folds together many of the strongest reformist [??] and libertarian ideas…. [As if there exists a coherent set of Libertarian ideas, beyond the classic, I’m all right, Jack; how about you?]”
Douthat continued, “There’s…
• a larger earned-income tax credit [only for childless single filers, not so incidentally],
• proposed cuts to corporate welfare [You have to smile at the artful term “proposed” reserved for the corporate item in an anti-poverty plan],
• a call for sentencing reform for nonviolent offenses,
• a critique of ‘regressive regulations’ like licensing requirements [Ah, yes, regulations yet again. Which might those be? What might the ‘critique’ entail? And which progressive regulations, if such things are even deemed to exist in Neocon World, would survive? If any, let’s hope they include eighteen-wheeler truckers’ driving licenses and licenses to practice medicine.],
• and much more.” [Bullets added.]
So after we pour this cocktail of single-filer tax credit (how much?); “proposed” cuts to corporate welfare; sentencing reform; and fewer regulations and license requirements, then — voilà — poverty in America will surely become a thing of memory, like polio and typewriters.
We have to wonder: were those people in “poorer” cities to whom Ryan supposedly listened actually poor? If so, did they really tell him that they need a reduction in those terrible governmental regulations suppressing them? Or an urgent need for more earned-income tax credits for all those poor but childless single people who are careful to file on April 15th every year? Did they actually call for a reduction of corporate welfare to help them and their families out of poverty?
Hmmm. Did the Word file Ross zapped down to the Times pressroom accidentally delete the account of Ryan’s revolutionary poverty-fighting “Opportunity Grants” program, with its phalanx of case managers and sanctions and “neutral” review agencies? His published column contains not a single word about the “Grants” program, not even a breath of a hint. Or, as is more likely, did the power player wannabe Douthat sense how loony the program is, and put his thumb over the “Grants” stuff as he cobbled together his copy.
We might well suspect that the ol’ sly-boots Ryan is indeed floating mock-liberal proposals on poverty so his Party can say, “See, we do so care about poverty. Hence we care about you.” He and his benighted staffers may even have glimmers of how brainless their poverty proposals are, but Chairman Paul and fellow party hypocrites may think they can hoodwink the public into delight over the St. Francis- and Pope Francis-inspired charity that the party of the plutocrats has miraculously become. As the public is pretty dim-witted, chockablock with millions of low-information voters in what liberal writers call the Moron Crescent, Ryan and his cynical buddies may well be right.
That seems to indicated by the way Arthur C. Brooks, identified as president of the neoconservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, chimed in on the Times OpEd page following the Douthat nonsense — quickly, and, as it were, out of hand. Mr. Brooks’s flimsy column fits in pretty well with a golly-how-Republicans-really-hate-poverty-wink-wink conspiracy hypothesis. Brooks: “Mr. Ryan’s new anti-poverty plan, for example, features an expansion of the earned-income tax credit for childless workers — an outstanding idea the Democrats have favored for decades. The Washington Post declared the Ryan plan ‘so bipartisan it doesn’t sound like [sic] he’s running in 2016,’” the gullible Post adding the supposition that Ryan’s proposal might hurt him with the Republican base. Ooooh, it’s a risky move for Paulie, so it must be the real deal. What a mensch!
Arthur Enterprise then hears a sour note to his left. “The influential progressive blog Think Progress quickly posted a series of pieces dismissing Mr. Ryan’s plan out of hand. ‘While Ryan is trying out new rhetoric around the issue of poverty,’ they wrote, his plan ‘is full of the same empty promises he’s been making for years.’ Other progressive pundits followed suit, some appearing more eager to silence Mr. Ryan than to build a compromise that would help the poor.” (“Compromise?” What compromise?) Arthur Enterprise — who may be cynical but is probably very intelligent, unlike Ryan — goes on to suggest that the Democrats would do well with voters if they would openly discuss “personal morality” and extol “strong leadership in foreign affairs.” Thanks for the advice, Arthur; we’ll get back to you on it. Well, it seems unlikely to at least one polemic-writer that any politician or political party has something of any value whatsoever to say about “personal morality.” As for Enterprise Brooks’s phrase “strong leadership in foreign affairs”: a stirring concept, but wonderfully empty of any specificity, hence meaning. (By the way, we must remember to go to Think Progress more often, as their quick, out-of-hand assessment is spot-on about the ludicrous Ryan “plan.”)
To spend a minute analyzing Arthur C. Brooks’s cunning wordplay in the preceding: “quickly” is quack commentators’ code for knee-jerk; “out of hand” is also think-tank code for knee-jerk, as in, No thought being applied. “Pundits” is the old polemic substitute for commentators or authorities — but of course Arthur Enterprise is himself a pundit. And a polemicist, like me! Hello, my brother. Dear Reader, there is another well concealed but telling clue. Note the slick use of “for example,” above, when Arthur mentions a single detail — only one — of the Ryan “anti-poverty” plan (the childless single-filer earned-income tax credit). So there: that should put an end to poverty in America. But not a word from Enterprise Brooks, not even a tantalizing hint, about the wildly lunatic “Opportunity Grants” part of the Ryan plan, or any other example (because there is none).
THE KNOT YET STANDS:
Let’s not beat around the bush. Today’s Reagan-worshipping mainstream Republican Party, not just the snarling neoconservatives, doesn’t give two farts about reducing poverty or helping make more opportunities available to that formulaic entity “all Americans.” If they did, our Congress would long ago have expanded pre-school nationally, as well as full funding for school breakfasts and lunches for our needy children, and after-school programs. The Democratic President would have signed the bills in a heartbeat. The leading Democrats wouldn’t have had to trade off some of the family jewels to get the supplemental child nutrition program (SNAP) approved. The food stamp program would have been expanded, not cut — paid for maybe by reducing socially and economically useless subsidies to “farmers” (giant agribusiness corporations). Sorely needed major public works projects would be pumping up economies from coast to coast. And so on, in ways actually to help reduce poverty in America, ways that operate far from the influence of insipid anti-poverty plans enshrined in press releases.
Is it too much to hope that angry old white Americans, even in the Moron Crescent, will suddenly wake up and figure out that increased government help for themselves is more important to them and their children than social fluff such as keeping gays from marrying — or shielding the “job creators” who are dicking the country over for ever more profit to be sequestered among the One Percent? Yes, it probably is too much to hope. “The American People” is, as so many of the Founders fretted about, ignorant and emotionally vulnerable.
So, no more Mr. Nice Guy. Only a polemic can do justice to the foolishness — and the ugliness — of all this flapdoodle from Ryan and the chorus of neoconservative toadies. How else we can convey the stench of the evident lack of intellectual application and statesmanship of so many of our leading political figures, some of whom — not including Ryan — actually do possess smarts? Paul Ryan is no statesman. More than that, he is a jerk. This polemic has a serious purpose: to try to demonstrate why he’s a jerk, not just throw out an epithet. To think that he might have become Vice President — or President! And may still. It’s time to send him back to the smug little village that spawned him.
Wisdom from Ronald Reagan’s Peggy Noonan, in the immigrant Rudolph Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal:
There is every sign [Obama] let the crisis on the border build to put heat on Republicans and make them pass his idea of good immigration reform. It would be “comprehensive,” meaning huge, impenetrable and probably full of mischief. His base wants it. It would no doubt benefit the Democratic Party in the long term.
The little children in great danger, holding hands, staring blankly ahead, are pawns in a larger game. That game is run by adults. How cold do you have to be to use children in this way?
Judging by the above excerpt, Peggy, precisely as cold as you.
On that April morning of 1983, when Ronald Reagan was presumably in the Oval Office, John Reid was in what remained of his office in our Beirut embassy, lying under the debris of a fallen wall:
“The first thing I heard was Beth in the adjacent office, shouting, ‘John, are you okay?’ I replied, ‘I don’t think so.’ Blood was running from my face and scalp, I had lost my glasses, I could see out of only one eye, and I was pinned to the floor.”
John, later a colleague of mine in Laos, survived his injuries and so did Ambassador Robert Dillon. But 63 others died. The quote above and the picture below are from Reid’s article, “The Deadliest Attack Ever,” in American Diplomacy. More from that article:
Recently, I listened to recordings of some statements to media after the 1983 bombing. I am astonished by some of my mistakes, some of the details I got wrong. I had not seen or remembered things correctly, I had not yet compared with my experiences with those of others, everything was chaotic and confused, and everyone was under enormous pressure to say something, to do something, to understand and explain what had happened. I regret my errors, I am glad that, 30 years later, they don’t matter, and that’s my excuse. I was not engaged in conspiracy or cover-up, nor were people responsible for errors and contradictions in similar circumstances after the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attack. To allege that they were is demeaning, self-serving and ridiculous.
Several months after the embassy bombing (and after Reagan had ignored numerous warnings that the detachment of American troops at the Beirut airport was a magnet for future terrorist attacks) a suicide bomber killed 241 U.S. Marines there. A mere two days later Reagan responded forcefully by launching “Operation Urgent Fury” (Seriously. You can’t make this shit up.) — an attack on Grenada. Eighty-seven people died in Reagan’s hasty changing of the subject, 18 of them American soldiers and sailors.
Most of our troops, however, were luckier:
The Army has awarded 8,612 medals to individual Americans involved in the October invasion of Grenada, although it never had more than about 7,000 officers and enlisted soldiers on the island.
So was Reagan, whose murderous little misdirection worked so well that he was not only not impeached, but re-elected by the fools he had kept safe from the threat to our freedoms posed by Grenada (population 91,000).
Word has reached the Koch brothers that a few North Carolina judges remain unbought. From the New York Times:
RALEIGH, N.C. — The ad first appeared on television the Friday before last, a black-and-white spot charging that Justice Robin Hudson coddled child molesters and “sided with the predators” in a North Carolina Supreme Court dissent. It has run constantly since.
As notable as the ad’s content and frequency, though, is its source. It was created and aired not by one of Justice Hudson’s two opponents in Tuesday’s primary election, but by a group that had just received $650,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee in Washington, which pools donations from corporations and individuals to promote conservatives in state politics and is now broadening its scope to target judicial races.
The sums have been unusual for such elections. The primary race for Justice Hudson’s Supreme Court seat alone has drawn more than $1 million — the bulk of it by independent groups including the Republican committee and an arm of the state Chamber of Commerce, which has spent $250,000 to promote both of her opponents with money from companies including Reynolds American, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Koch Industries…
This from The Washington Post. Why am I not outraged?
Roughly half of the money — nearly $18 million — has gone to pay for fundraising and direct mail, largely provided by Washington-area firms. Meanwhile, tea party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, while their groups have doled out large sums for airfare, a retirement plan and even interior decorating.
The lavish spending underscores how the protest movement has gone professional, with national groups transforming themselves into multimillion-dollar organizations run by activists collecting six-figure salaries.
Three well-known groups — the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express and the Madison Project — have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle. Two other prominent tea party groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have devoted about 40 percent of their money to direct candidate support such as ads and yard signs.
Frank Rich’s monthly essay in New York is out, and let’s hope he’s right. Which I think he is. Excerpt:
The received wisdom that sex scandals threaten a Hillary run is preposterous. It’s the reverse that’s true. The right’s inability to stanch its verbal diarrhea on the subject of female sexuality — whether provoked by rape, contraception, abortion, “traditional marriage,” gay marriage, gay parenting, or pop culture — did as much as anything to defeat Mitt Romney, his “binders full of women” notwithstanding, in 2012. (He lost women voters to Obama by 11 percentage points.) And that obsession with sex can defeat the GOP again. Todd Akin, the avatar of “legitimate rape,” may be gone, but many of the same political players will be in place in 2016 as in 2012 — more than a few of them alumni of the Clinton sexcapades of the 1990s.
No matter how much Republican leaders talk of reining in their sexist language (though not their policies) to counter charges that the GOP conducts a war on women, they just can’t help themselves. Whether or not there’s a war on women in 2016, there will be a rancorous and tasteless war on one woman. And it is guaranteed to backfire, drowning out fair G-rated questions about the Clintons’ dealings just as Monica and other “bimbo eruptions” drowned out such now-forgotten Clinton scandals as Filegate and Castle Grande.
…and we’re here to help. From The New Yorker:
Because West Virginia has a population of only 1.8 million — less than the city of Houston — an investment in influence goes far. The conservative fossil-fuel magnates Charles and David Koch, through their charitable foundations, have devoted particular attention to the state. The Investigative Reporting Workshop, at American University, found that, between 2007 and 2011, the Kochs gave $30.5 million to two hundred and twenty-one universities; West Virginia University received nine hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars, the third-highest amount, behind George Mason and Florida State. In February, the university announced that it was creating a five-million-dollar Center for Free Enterprise, funded in part by the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
The Kochs also helped fund research at the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia, a think tank that, in 2007, published “Unleashing Capitalism: Why Prosperity Stops at the West Virginia Border and How to Fix It,” edited by a West Virginia University economics professor named Russell Sobel. The book argued against mine-safety regulations, on the ground that “improved safety conditions result in lower money wages for workers,” and asked, “Are workers really better off being safer but making less income?” It also called for relaxing rules on water usage. “Although they are intended to benefit citizens, water use regulations will only hamper prosperity by impeding the state’s ability to retain and attract businesses and to generate new employment opportunities.”
Governor Manchin invited Sobel to brief his cabinet, as well as a joint session of the Senate and the House Finance Committees. The state Republican Party chairman said, “Unleashing capitalism will be our party platform.” In February, Americans for Prosperity, the political-advocacy group funded heavily by the Koch brothers, established a chapter in West Virginia. A state Republican consultant told me, “You can do things here incredibly, incredibly cheaply. For instance, A.F.P., the Koch brothers, went and did North Carolina last time. Well, a legislative seat here is about one-fourth the size of a legislative seat in North Carolina. So there’s bang for your buck.” In any given district, he said, “You can go in for twenty grand, and probably fix a problem.” He also noted, “People are just showing up with pockets full of money, saying, ‘We want to help you out.’ ”
Thank God Almighty, the 1% is free at last! The Kochsucking majority on the Supreme Court just ruled that money speaks louder than words — your words anyway:
(CNN) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down current limits on the total amount individual donors can make to political campaigns…
The 5-4 ruling could have an immediate impact on November's congressional midterm elections, and add another layer of high-stakes spending in the crowded political arena.
Scalia Thomas & Roberts LLC, the legal branch of the Republican Party, thus returns us to the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Constitutional precedent for today’s ruling is to be found in the three fifths compromise, which took imaginary votes away from slaves and awarded them to their masters.
…and May, June, July and so on.
The scum just keeps bubbling up in Jersey. You’ll love the tawdry details in Shawn Boburg’s story at NorthJersey.com. Here’s a teaser:
Years before they resigned amid a scandal over politically motivated lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, Governor Christie’s top two executives at the Port Authority led a secretive campaign to quickly push through controversial toll hikes on the Hudson River bridges and tunnels by drowning out criticism, limiting public input and portraying the governors of New York and New Jersey as fiscal hawks who reined in an out-of-control agency.
At its heart was a plan to have the Port Authority, an independent bi-state agency, propose an enormous toll hike — a $6 increase that would bring the E-ZPass toll to $14 by 2014 — so that the governors could then scale it back. The smaller increases that were ultimately approved in 2011 — $4.50 over four years — allowed both governors to claim credit while they set the stage for each state to claim hundreds of millions of dollars to fund pet projects not directly related to the Port Authority.
From Andrew Sullivan:
…As for the case for allowing fundamentalists to discriminate against anyone associated with what they regard as sin, I’m much more sympathetic. I favor maximal liberty in these cases. The idea that you should respond to a hurtful refusal to bake a wedding cake by suing the bakers is a real stretch to me. Yes, they may simply be homophobic, rather than attached to a coherent religious worldview. But so what? There are plenty of non-homophobic bakers in Arizona. If we decide that our only response to discrimination is a lawsuit, we gays are ratcheting up a culture war we would do better to leave alone. We run the risk of becoming just as intolerant as the anti-gay bigots, if we seek to coerce people into tolerance. If we value our freedom as gay people in living our lives the way we wish, we should defend that same freedom to sincere religious believers and also, yes, to bigots and haters. You do not conquer intolerance with intolerance. As a gay Christian, I’m particularly horrified by the attempt to force anyone to do anything they really feel violates their conscience, sense of self, or even just comfort.
So I’m with Big Gay Al, and always have been. Let bigots be bigots. Let gays be gays. And when those values conflict, lets do all we can not to force the issue. We’re living in a time of drastic change with respect to homosexuality. It is perfectly understandable that many traditional-minded people, especially in the older age brackets, are disconcerted, upset and confused. So give them some space; instead of suing them, talk to them. Try seeing things from their point of view. Appeal to their better nature as Christians. And start defusing by your tolerance the paranoia and hysteria Roger Ailes lives off…
This item was delicately buried on page three of the Business section of the February 12th New York Times (excerpted): “As workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., prepare to vote this week on whether to join the United Automobile Workers … State Senator Bo Watson warned that if VW’s workers voted to embrace the U.A.W., the Republican-controlled legislature might vote against approving future incentives to help the plant expand.
“A loss of such incentives,” the report continued, “could persuade Volkswagen to award production of a new S.U.V. to its plant in Mexico instead of to the Chattanooga plant.…” Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee also weighed in against the union, calling it “a Detroit-based organization” (gasp! touché.) whose key to survival was to organize plants in the South. Well, Bob, yes – just as Volkswagen is a Germany-based organization, the U.A.W.’s thrust is (hold onto your seat) … to organize workers at plants.” Communist trickery!
The Times goes on to report that the union’s chances at the plant “have been buoyed by Volkswagen’s decision not to oppose” the union’s drive, and even its “hint” of support for it. “Volkswagen is eager to have a German-style works council” at the plant, in order to bring together managers and workers for more effective operations. But for this to happen, according to the report, there has to be union representation at the plant. Oh, oh.
So, to protect businesses in America, the Republican bosses will condone blocking business expansion, even if it means that a business may well move its work to, say, Mexico in response? How can it be that the party of self-proclaimed conservative American values would threaten a manufacturer’s well being if it merely and legally agrees to unionize – and for its own corporate benefit? And, at that, after state legislators had lured the company to Tennessee in the first place, with all sorts of heavy incentives? Is this the way to get the “job creation” and “opportunity for all Americans” that the Republicans in Washington DC rhapsodize about day and night?
So, my fellow Americans, here is the ugly upshot of this story: we once again find the Republican establishment shilling crudely and destructively for the corporate powers, which are deathly afraid American working people might regain their voice within what John Kenneth Galbraith called the “countervailing powers” – the three-legged stool of corporation, labor union, and government – that held each other in check in the years of American prosperity and relative equality following the Second World War.
The Tea Party know-nothings are barking up the wrong tree if they really care about that “Don’t Tread on Me” thing. Dear simpletons: it’s not the government that should be driving you into a frenzy; it’s the corporations. They’re on a roll toward gaining essentially unhindered control over the affairs of your Republic and mine. First, they, with their political flunkies, are in the late stages of neutering the private- and now the public-sector unions. Recently, they – through their Republican puppets – have turned up the heat on government, the next leg of the countervailing stool. They have been especially hysterical about the national government since their latest stooge left the presidency and a Kenyan socialist took over. They already own much of Congress and the regulatory agencies, and are now legally freer with their billions to buy more.
But … an uppity union is showing a sign of life in Tennessee. Well, better to wound a genuine, non-theoretical job creator (and the American families in the community around it) than to give a union a single modest advance in cahoots with that job creator itself. (That’s a scary slippery slope, boys.) The Corporation-Republican Party is not only mean – these are real jobs at stake, for real workers, real families – but batshit crazy. They are threatening to devour their own. No wonder some of us (that includes the new Pope) have a bad attitude.
…it’s bound to be rotten enough for them. From the New York Times:
The yearlong effort to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, which had the support of President Obama, Republican leaders and much of American business and labor, was seriously imperiled on Thursday when Speaker John A. Boehner conceded that it was unlikely he could pass a bill…
Mr. Boehner’s remarks came a week after he and other House Republican leaders offered a statement of principles intended to win support for the measure. But, he said, House Republicans are not prepared to move forward in partnership with a Democratic administration that they believe will not fairly and impartially carry out the laws they pass.
Psychiatrists call this “projection.” Suppose for instance that you were the House Speaker of a political party which had spent the past three years trying unfairly and in a nakedly partisan way to hamstring a healthcare law that…
…nothing to see here:
A mysterious disease is causing starfish to tear themselves to pieces. The arms of infected starfish begin to twist and then ‘crawl’ away from the creature’s body, until they tear off and the animal’s insides spill out.
It’s just the Republican Party.
For the absolutely final final word on those anti-Christian and anti-life subhuman obscenities in Texas who tried to use a corpse to delay the still-birth of a doomed deformity, go to Stonekettle. And be glad you don’t live in Texas, unless you do. In which case embarrassment, despair, shame, regret or emigration would all be appropriate.
Our 13-year-old granddaughter Georgia sings with a youth band in New Haven. The kids had worked out the music for a number they wanted to perform at a concert last Sunday, but no words. How about we make it about the government shutdown, somebody suggested. (Kids these days, huh?) So anyway Georgia volunteered to write some lyrics, and here is what she sang:
Chorus: Sitting on our imaginary throne,
preach to the choir,
and we drone and we drone
V2: unbending, never broken, change is never open
stuck in one single mindset, many blinded advocates
we pledge allegiance to the flag, to the republic for which it stands
but the real question is, what are we standing for?
V3: we’re sinking not swimming, our eyes are brimming
an eye for an eye, unless it’s mine
weak minds think alike, all bark and no bite
spilt blood on the playground, will we ever be found?
Here is James Truslow Adams, from his 1929 essay collection, Our Business Civilization:
The Republican Party may well look back to Hamilton as its high priest, but the odd thing is that Hamilton created all this heritage of strength and power and banks and tariffs for a very simple reason, and that reason the Republican Party would not dare to breathe about in any party convention, campaign, or speech: “The People, your People, Sir, is a great Beast.”
Imagine that as an exordium of a keynote speech to nominate Calvin Coolidge or Herbert Hoover. Hamilton deliberately set out to create special privileges for certain classes so that those classes would in turn support the government and control the people. What does the Republican Party do? It hangs on for dear life to all these special privileges, it preaches Hamilton’s corollaries as the one pure political gospel, and then it steals Jefferson’s major premise, and preaches the wisdom and the nobility and the political acumen of the common people!
One feels like inquiring in the vernacular, with deep emotion, “How did you get that way?” As when watching a prestidigitator, one’s jaw drops with amazement as the rabbit pops from the one hat we could not possibly have expected it from.
From the New York Times:
Mr. Sherman said in the source notes that he interviewed 614 people who knew or worked with Mr. Ailes for the book, which took more than three years to report and write. More than 100 pages are devoted to source notes and bibliography.
Former employees cited in the book talked of Mr. Ailes’s volatile temper and domineering behavior. In one anecdote, a television producer, Randi Harrison, told Mr. Sherman that while negotiating her salary with Mr. Ailes at NBC in the 1980s, he offered her an additional $100 each week “if you agree to have sex with me whenever I want.”
A Fox News spokeswoman said in a statement on Tuesday: “These charges are false. While we have not read the book, the only reality here is that Gabe was not provided any direct access to Roger Ailes and the book was never fact-checked with Fox News.”
Why bother? Would you hymen-check a whorehouse?
I gave David Brooks a pass on his embarrassing marijuana column this week, feeling that the poor fellow was just a mild-mannered deluded doofus and why bother? But now comes this, from a printed exchange with Gail Collins in today’s Times. Give me a minute and I could come up with half a dozen Republicans I’d rather see in the White House than Hillary Clinton, but this? This?
GAIL: Ah, the Clinton health care proposal. Back in the days of yore, when giants roamed the earth and senators still engaged in bipartisan drinking sessions.
DAVID: If she can prove that she now understands that dumb, simple laws are better than smart, complex ones, I could definitely feel some comfort with her. I do think she is hardheaded and practical. If she runs against Ted Cruz, I’m going to be in an awful pickle.
This is the conclusion of a long and closely reasoned essay by John Michael Greer arguing that the GOP has become, literally, the party of Satan. He may or may not be entirely serious, but I’m convinced. What else could explain Ted Cruz, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Antonin Scalia, and etc. and et cetera and so on ad infinitum?
Only one of the seven deadly sins has gotten by without extravagant praise from so-called Christian conservatives in recent years — it’s hard to glorify an economic system that depends on avarice, gluttony, envy and sloth, and a foreign policy defined by pride and wrath, in any other way — and no doubt they’ll find a way to fit lust in there somewhere one of these days, and finish collecting the whole set.
At this point, though, it’s hard to see any reason why the Satanists in the GOP need to keep the pretense going any longer. In an era when most discussions of the Christmas season in the mass media fixate on whether retailers are making a big enough profit to keep the economy stumbling blindly onward for one more year, I think a strong case can be made that America is ready to shake off the last of its qualms and openly embrace a Satanic political agenda. Among its other benefits, putting public devil worship at the heart of the GOP, where it so evidently belongs, can’t help but improve the flagging ratings of Republican national conventions; the otherwise tedious proceedings of the 2016 GOP convention, for example, would be enlivened no end by a Black Mass celebrated by the GOP nominee, perhaps with Ann Coulter’s nude form draped over the altar and a chorus of delegates chanting “Evil, be thou my good!” from the bleachers.
The excerpt below is from Charles Pierce’s double evisceration of the utterly unspeakable Elliott Abrams and the painfully pathetic David Gregory. Read it all here. Please.
The last time a president was as “bold” as Gregory wants this one to be, he lied us into a war that continues to wreak ruin to this day. Elliott Abrams was working for him at the time. The time before that, peasants got slaughtered and American nuns got raped and murdered, and archbishops got ventilated on the altar, and Elliott Abrams, to whom the Dancin’ Master directed his volley of bad history, cheered all of this on, lied about it as part of his official duties, and continues to believe that to have been the height of patriotism and public service. Ghosts of the dead should howl him awake every night. He should be spat upon by the surviving families of the dead every day on his way to teach his history class. History itself should vomit him out of its mouth. Journalism should revolt at the very sight of him. He should be whatever is one rung below a pariah. Instead, he gets a guest shot to tell the nation he has spent his career misleading into armed conflicts in which he never would have picked up a weapon or stood a post that its foreign policy is not blood-soaked enough for his taste. It was a living parable of the uselessness of dead memory.
— University of Chicago Professor Emeritus of History Andrew C. McLaughlin, from his concluding remarks in his The Foundations of American Constitutionalism, lectures delivered in 1932 for the Anson G. Phelps Lectureship at New York University:
“I have spoken much of law and of institutional forms, of the mechanisms which help to bind the Union together, but cannot close without pointing out that a nation, if it be a nation, must have in its possession certain common beliefs and principles. About seventy-one years ago, Abraham Lincoln, on his way to Washington, made a brief but signally significant though extemporaneous speech at Philadelphia. He declared the Union had been held together by the principles of the Declaration of Independence, those principles which promised the blessings of liberty to all mankind. The compelling thought, then, is this: the nation is held together as a living thing not by courts or armies or congresses, but by an ethical principle of justice. Without it the nation, the American nation at least, would be without the very essence of nationalism. I wonder if it is necessary in these days to emphasize the need of social ethics as the heart of a vital community, a community that would really live and be a community in more than outward seeming.”
Here’s Tan Man, trying out the party’s new pickup line:
Boehner urged his colleagues Thursday in response to this POLITICO story to “be a little more sensitive” when running against women. “Some of our members just aren’t as sensitive as they ought to be,” Boehner said.
Boehner (R-Ohio) said bluntly that “when you look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democrat caucus than there are in the Republican caucus.”
Yeah, but the females in the Republic caucus are hotter… Oops, is it okay to say that? Chicks are so damned sensitive nowadays.
Young, old, democracies are all the same. From the New York Times:
NEW DELHI — At a certain point this fall, the presidential elections in the Maldives stopped looking like the hiccups of a young democracy and veered into the realm of farce.
Mohammed Nasheed was the leader after a first-round election back in September, but the country’s Supreme Court begged to differ. The court, which was allied with one of his rivals, voided the September election before it could reach a second round, citing irregularities in voter rolls…
The medical term for this sort of behavior is “autophagia.” Soldiers in Vietnam used to call it “stepping on your own dick.”
When Republicans and the Tea Party contribute to hunger by attacking food stamps, people of color aren’t the only ones who suffer: Republicans are physically harming their own base. Slashing food stamp benefits won’t harm the Koch brothers or JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, but it will definitely harm poor whites in a place like McDowell County, West Virginia, which is 94% white (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), rural and has a life expectancy of only 63.9 for males and 72.9 for females (according to a report that the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington released in July 2013). If life expectancy is any indication, the economic conditions for white males in McDowell County aren’t much better than the economic conditions in Haiti, where, according to the World Health Organization, males have a life expectancy of 62. In contrast to McDowell County, that study showed a life expectancy of 81.4 for males and 85.0 for females in Marin County, California — which is affluent and heavily Democratic.
“The Republican Party, I really believe, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from years and years of bullying and taunting. The Republican Party is Jonathan Martin. The Democrat Party and the media are Richie Incognito.”
Well, yeah, maybe. Except for Jonathan Martin being black.
Ted Cruz tells a Heritage Foundation audience we need a hundred more senators like the gratefully dead racist Jesse Helms, whose own hero was the equally dead miscegenist Strom Thurmond. Wonderment at this public display of GOP racism is widely feigned, which is like being surprised every morning when the sun rises. “Oh, my God, Mabel, come look what’s outside. There’s sunlight everywhere!”
Although to be fair there has been a slight change for the better, in the sense that at least Cruz is being honest about it. In the good old days of the Grand Old Party a Republican could risk apologizing for committing racism in public. Here’s former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, after expressing regret that Thurmond hadn’t been elected president on the States’ Rights ticket in 1948:
“A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embrace the discarded policies of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement.”
And here’s my post on December 11 of 2002, which doesn’t seem to me to require any updating:
This is what most of the press referred to as an “apology” from the racist Trent Lott for his most recent embrace of the policies of the past which others have discarded. It is a curious piece of linguistic work, immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with southern politics.
In 1966 Georgia State Senator Jimmy Carter was beaten for the governorship by an Old South racist named Lester Maddox. The moderate Carter had allowed himself to be, as they say in Dixie, out-niggered. He didn’t make that mistake in 1970, when he beat a moderate former governor by opposing bussing and inviting George Wallace to campaign for him.
Safely elected governor, Carter said in his inaugural address, “I say to you quite frankly that the time for racial discrimination was over.” Quite frankly, this bears a certain resemblance to Lott’s “apology.” Racial discrimination was fun while it lasted? Huh?
Carter, though, was sort of apologizing for having earlier lied that he was a racist when he wasn’t. Lott is lying that he’s not a racist when he is.
This isn’t just Lott’s lie. It’s the lie of the entire Republican Party, which has built its political success on a bedrock of racism since Richard Nixon adopted the Southern Strategy that Lyndon Johnson had handed him on a platter with the civil rights bills.
After the Vietnam War had driven Johnson from office, Richard Nixon ran for president as a “law and order” man. Both black and white voters understood exactly what he meant by that.
They still knew when Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency in 1980 promising even more law and order. They understood what color his “welfare queens” were, too, and they knew why he opposed affirmative action.
Reagan’s second presidential campaign, against the hapless Walter Mondale, was even more openly racist. And George Herbert Walker Bush’s campaign against Dukakis four years later was worse than that. Even the press noticed, as they hadn’t when racism wore Reagan’s smiling face.
All this time, back in the south, the Republicans were at work creating political ghettos — congressional districts with black majorities where African American voters could be safely quarantined while the Republicans corralled the more populous suburbs.
And now the Republican Party, much of the federal judiciary, the White House and both Houses of Congress are ruled by men of the hard right. They have many things in common — militarism, worship of wealth, contempt for the poor, a taste for repression, a distaste for dissent, on and on.
These men — the Lotts and Armeys, the DeLays and Ashcrofts, the Falwells and the Robertsons, the Rehnquists and the Thomases — share another thing, too. Although they lie about it, as Lott is so unconvincingly doing right now, they are every one of them in the service of racism.
And this is the large, putrescent dead rat on the floor of America’s kitchen that we pretend isn’t there.
From today’s Paul Krugman New York Times, words that ought to be tattooed on every Democratic politician’s teleprompter :
A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government.
…if only Charles Pierce hadn’t gotten there first:
You work for the bilge pump of wingnut propaganda. The “professional thing” for you to do is to slink off and do five years penance reading the hog reports on a 300-watt station in west Texas before you’re allowed in respectable company again. The “professional thing” for journalists with any pride to do is to spit at the mention of your network’s name and to hang bells around the neck of you and all your colleagues so that we know when you’re coming and can clear the room. You’re lucky you have Jay Carney. Put me in that job and you’re doing your stand-ups from a chicken wagon halfway down the mall. Put me in that job and your picture is in every guard shack.
Your organization is a running sore on the profession. It’s what happens when a craft fails to keep its septic system up to date. You do not deserve the respect given to a schizophrenic in Lafayette Park who screams about the aliens from Zontar and the Rockefellers. I know people who staple their screeds to lamp posts in Central Square who are far more worthy of professional courtesy than you are. You work for a Chronic Ward of grifters, unemployables, and whatever else sticks to the bottom of journalism’s shoes on a hot summer’s day.
From Jennifer Senior’s interview of Justice Anthony Scalia in New York Magazine:
Flogging. And what I would say now is, yes, if a state enacted a law permitting flogging, it is immensely stupid, but it is not unconstitutional. A lot of stuff that’s stupid is not unconstitutional. I gave a talk once where I said they ought to pass out to all federal judges a stamp, and the stamp says — Whack! [Pounds his fist.] — STUPID BUT — CONSTITUTIONAL. Whack! [Pounds again.] STUPID BUT — CONSTITUTIONAL! Whack! — STUPID BUT CONSTITUTIONAL … [Laughs.] And then somebody sent me one.
From the Constitution of the United States, Article [IX]:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Flagellation or flogging is the act of methodically beating or whipping (Latin flagellum, “whip”) the human body. Specialised implements for it include rods, switches, the cat o’ nine tails and the sjambok.
…is bigger than Barack’s wee wee any day.
“This is not just about Obamacare anymore,” centrist Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., said.
“We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
… in just six words the GOP’s threats to shut down their own country’s government and destroy its credit rating:
Alice Rivlin ran the Office of Management and Budget in 1995 when the Republicans forced one of their earlier government shutdowns. Here is a memory from that childish GOP tantrum of yesteryear:
AR: The questions you get are “Let me tell you about this activity; is it essential.” So you have to make a call on that.
My two favorite stories of that period are these. One was [the National Institutes of Health]. The clinical facilities where they had patients, that was clearly essential. But most of NIH is research and research management. We decided that was not essential. And so we sent the researchers home. But then you have laboratory animals. You can’t leave the laboratory animals to starve. So the technicians that take care of the laboratory animals are essential and the researchers are not.
— Ogden Nash
From Jay Bookman:
“The General Assembly finds and declares that outdoor advertising provides a substantial service and benefit to Georgia and Georgia’s citizens as well as the traveling public. Therefore, the General Assembly declares it to be in the public interest that provisions be made for the visibility of outdoor advertising signs”…
Well, if a publicly owned tree, growing on public property, might possibly interfere with the visibility of a privately owned billboard, state law gives the billboard owner the right to come onto public property and chop that tree down. Previous law exempted hardwoods with a diameter of more than eight inches and pines with a diameter of more than a foot, but under HB 179 those protections, like the trees, are gone.
From David Sessions at Patrol, here’s a new idea for the party of new ideas:
So Teetsel can’t pretend that the gay rights movement won simply by circumventing an intellectual debate. They had the intellectual debate when the religious right so took its own position for granted that it thought it didn’t need to argue; when the right finally started playing catch-up, even the most sophisticated versions of its ideas were too far outside the mainstream for a secular capitalist democracy. The right didn’t lose because of the “packaging” of its ideas, it lost because those ideas themselves were defeated in battle. (Similarly, Romney lost the election not because he didn’t get the conservative message across, but precisely because he did.)
This from Syrbal at Herlander-Walking:
So, all you holy-rolling-fetus-ophiles? Ignoring the pains and suffering and needs of not only living CHILDREN and their inconveniently mouthy MOTHERS is working against your “every sperm-result-is-sacred” mission. Maybe women wouldn’t reluctantly (I have yet to meet a woman choosing abortion who is happy with the choice) select to NOT be pregnant if they weren’t treated so poorly WHILE pregnant. And maybe – just maybe – if they thought they might get a reasonable amount of aid AFTER they had the helpless little thing that would attach to a kneecap within months of leaving the womb, even nasty evil liberal feminist “bitches/sluts” like me would be more inclined to select “live birth” on some survey?
Besides, wtf is your beef? After all, all those wee dead fetus-beings? They are innocent and go direct to the arms of your loving (if singularly neglectful) Jesus, right? What, heaven isn’t good enough for the wee tissue-bits? They HAVE to go through the same shit on earth as the rest of us first? Well, now …. just how loving and gentle “let the little children come unto me” is that shit? Maybe you all anti-abortion allegedly pro-life sorts are just afraid that the full measure of mean-minded ‘told you so’ suffering is being escaped by SOMEbody?
Syrbal has been pregnant at least seven times and has three living children, which gives her what lawyers call “standing” in the current anti-abortion debate. In a perfect world she’d be called before Congress to explore the issue with Tennessee Representative Marsh Blackburn, who is the GOP’s attempt to put a female face on the effort to pass what Rachel Maddow calls “the most sweeping restrictions on reproductive rights to reach the floor of Congress in a decade.”
Not that I’m suggesting a ladylike discussion of ladyparts conducted under Robert’s Rules of Order. I’m thinking more under the Rules of the Knife Fight here — “There are no rules in a knife fight.”
Congressperson Blackburn and Syrbal are pictured below. See if you can tell which is the witch and which just rhymes with it. (h/t to Nancy Reagan. But you knew that already, didn’t you?)
Texas (are you surprised?) Republican congressman Michael Burgess stays classy:
“Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful,” said Burgess, a former OB/GYN. “They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?”
I’m in Minnesota at the moment, involved with granddaughter graduations and related festivities. As I slowly improve at using the touchscreen and keyboard on her MacBook, posting will resume.
My thought for today is that the GOP is the gift that keeps on giving. Take for instance Senator Saxby Chambliss from Georgia, who just added the diagnosis below to our store of medical knowledge. Media attention so far has centered on the “hormone level created by nature” passage. But don’t miss an earlier snicker from the sly old solon — the part about “folks who slip through that crack.” Unintentional? You be the judge.
…from hard-bitten political pundit Dana Perino of Fock Snooze:
When I got a call to volunteer on the campaign in early 2000, I had to turn it down due to a new job and a new life we were trying to start in San Diego. When I hung up the phone, I cried, “Now I’ll never get to work for George Bush…
He used to catch my eye during policy meetings and tip me a wink with a little smile as we had noticed when Vice President Cheney had been “resting his eyes.” Then we’d share a laugh realizing once again that it was clear the VP had heard every word.
To refresh your memory, here’s the Cliff Notes version of the Atlanta test-rigging scandal:
In the two and a half years since, the state’s investigation reached from Ms. Parks’s third-grade classroom all the way to the district superintendent at the time, Beverly L. Hall, who was one of 35 Atlanta educators indicted Friday by a Fulton County grand jury.Sadly for Dr. Hall she is not — unlike Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, John Paulson, Ken Lewis of Bank of America, et cetera and ad nauseam — too big to jail. As are also the massed forces of the Republican Party working so effectively to destroy our public school system. Dr. Hall and her teachers were just caught up in the process. Jay Bookman explains:
Dr. Hall, who retired in 2011, was charged with racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. Prosecutors recommended a $7.5 million bond for her; she could face up to 45 years in prison.
After all, Hall and other education leaders operate within a structure of reward and punishment every bit as real as that within APS. And as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets have reported, similar cheating problems have popped up in school districts around the country. Most have occurred in poverty-stricken districts where the educational challenges can be overwhelming, the pressure to improve is immense and the needle is very hard to move.
Hall did not enact the federal No Child Left Behind policy mandating a strict regimen of testing, including a menu of rewards for success and harsh punishment for failure. She did not wave hundreds of millions of dollars in private foundation money in front of school districts to encourage them to hire, fire, promote and pay almost exclusively on the basis of standardized testing. Hall didn’t treat academic progress as an economic development tool too useful to Atlanta’s “brand” to be questioned, as some in the business community did. Like her APS underlings, Hall merely responded, somewhat rationally, to a system that was designed by others and that demanded results too good to be true too quickly.
That is an underappreciated aspect of this tragedy. By other standards, including untainted National Assessment of Educational Progress testing, Atlanta public schools did make measurable, sustained progress during the Hall era. But in an environment that demands a scale of improvement that only charlatans can deliver, it wasn’t enough.
Now and then life gives you a big, sweet, juicy red apple instead of a lemon. For instance, I just came across this from Wonkette:
James O’Keefe — the blonde bombshell who set the conservative world of hidden-camera YouTube movies ablaze — has just agreed to a $100,000 settlement to calm down the unjustly fired (and weirdly litigious about it) ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera. According to a copy of the deal, obtained late last night by your wonkettes and viewable after the jump, O’Keefe has also agreed to ink an 11-word non-apology apology, that sources close to reality are calling “insincere” and “suuuuuuuch bullshit.”
According to the final 5-page agreement, signed by O’Keefe and his legal counsel Mike Madigan this past Tuesday, the boy detective now publicly “regrets any pain suffered by Mr. Vera or his family.” O’Keefe and his counsel have also consented to fork over the $100,000 within 30 business days of the settlement agreement’s being signed…
This is from the settlement: “O’Keefe states that at the time of the publication of the video of Juan Carlos Vera he was unaware of Vera’s claim to have notified a police officer of the incident. O’Keefe regrets any pain suffered by Mr. Vera or his family.”
O’Keefe, that is, tried to trap Vera into taking part in a plan to smuggle underage girls into the United States from Mexico. When this didn’t work, he doctored tapes of the encounter so as to falsely implicate Vera and sent them to the media. Back in the real world though, Vera had actually called the cops.
It is to the eternal shame of the MSM that O’Keefe was able to play them into destroying ACORN. Any reporter dumb enough to fall for a nasty little shit like O’Keefe is in the wrong business. Or maybe not, now that I think about it.
To get a fuller picture of just how nasty and how shitty O’Keefe is, see this from The Phoenix. And reflect on how even more nasty and shitty his grownup employers must be.
Unable to find any actual voter fraud anywhere, the Republics were forced to create their own. See, the Republics were then able to cry to the Democratics, we told you so! Nyaah nyaah.
Two former employees of Strategic Allied Consulting, a company once hired by the Republican Party of Florida, admitted that they forged voter registration forms. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Tuesday that the two, Rebekah Joy Paul and Christian Davis Price, were charged with a third-degree felony. Republicans hired the company for registration drives in Florida and other states. Last fall, the state party fired the company and filed an election fraud complaint with the state.
Here’s your monthly link to Frank Rich’s column in New York magazine, and an excerpt:
Plan B for a GOP resuscitation is — or was — the quick fix of finding a ready-made messiah, preferably one who could be anointed the new Ronald Reagan. Such was the Platonic idea, if not the reality, of Marco Rubio, the 41-year-old first-term Cuban-American senator from Florida who induced orgasms among conservative elders with his potential to put “a new face” on the party. Rubio is “the best communicator” since Reagan, in the estimation of Rove — an analogy echoed by many, including John McCain. (McCain has also judged Romney and Sarah Palin to be Reaganesque, but never mind.) Rubio “can explain his views on Univision without a translator,” enthused the awestruck Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush speechwriter. Or, as another onetime Bush spin artist, Nicolle Wallace, chimed in: “He’s everything we need and more. He’s modern. He knows who Tupac is. He’s on social media.” A Spanish-speaking young (or at least youngish) guy who has listened to a black person (if only through headphones) and is on that newfangled Facebook — cool! The only way he could check more demographic boxes coveted by Republicans would be if he turned out to be gay. Alas, Plan B fizzled while the Time cover anointing Rubio “The Republican Savior” was still on the newsstands. The savior’s disastrous response to Obama’s State of the Union address did for a bottle of Poland Spring water what Clint Eastwood did for an empty chair…
This from Sheila C. Bair, former chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, writing in the New York Times:
But I fear that government actions, not merit, have fueled these extremes in income distribution through taxpayer bailouts, central-bank-engineered financial asset bubbles and unjustified tax breaks that favor the rich.
This is not a situation that any freethinking Republican should accept.
This is believed to be the first time since the early 20th century that the words “freethinking” and “Republican” have been seen out together, holding hands in public.
Here’s the GOP’s Messiah of the Month, Senator Ted Cruz, remembering grim times at Harvard Law School from 1992 to 1995:
“There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”
OMG, back then I used to walk past the law school every day on my way to work! Innocent me, I never dreamed there was a Republican inside.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it,” according to Upton Sinclair. But suppose you were a top executive of, let’s say, something called the Cerner Corporation. Your salary just went through the roof due to a Democrat president whereas you yourself were a staunch Republic. Would self-interest and maybe even a smidgen of gratitude then lead you to become a Democratic? Upton Sinclair would have predicted just that, but then what would you expect from a Social?
Meanwhile, back in the real world, we learn from the New York Times that:
While proponents say new record-keeping technologies will one day reduce costs and improve care, profits and sales are soaring now across the records industry. At Allscripts, annual sales have more than doubled from $548 million in 2009 to an estimated $1.44 billion last year, partly reflecting daring acquisitions made on the bet that [Obamacare] would be a boon for the industry. At the Cerner Corporation of Kansas City, Mo., sales rose 60 percent during that period. With money pouring in, top executives are enjoying Wall Street-style paydays…
Cerner’s lobbying dollars doubled to nearly $400,000 between 2006 and last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. While its political action committee contributed a little to some Democrats in 2008, including Senator Baucus, its contributions last year went almost entirely to Republicans, with a large amount going to the Mitt Romney campaign.
Current and former industry executives say that big digital records companies like Cerner, Allscripts and Epic Systems of Verona, Wis., have reaped enormous rewards because of the legislation they pushed for. “Nothing that these companies did in my eyes was spectacular,” said John Gomez, the former head of technology at Allscripts. “They grew as a result of government incentives.”
I came to this via Democratic Underground, which led me to the an archived website called Moondog Madness, which contained a remarkably prophetic political analysis from the late beat novelist William Burroughs. For the gentle reader I have left out certain parts of his essay, but enough remains to explain just what the hell has happened to your father’s Republican Party anyway. The unabridged version is here.
Did I ever tell you about the man who taught his ass to talk? …After a while the ass start talking on its own.…the asshole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights. It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth. Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it, but nothing did any good and the asshole said to him: ‘It’s you who will shut up in the end. Not me. Because we don’t need you around here any more. I can talk and eat AND shit.’
…One thing the asshole COULDN’T do was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophied so the brain couldn’t give orders any more. It was trapped in the skull, sealed off. For a while you could see the silent, helpless suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes WENT OUT, and there was no more feeling in them than a crab’s eyes on the end of a stalk.
Let us now consider Richard Mourdock’s view of God’s role in childbirth. Mourdock (have you forgotten so quickly?) is the Republican who lost his U.S. Senate bid last fall after telling the voters of Indiana that pregnancies caused by rape are all part of God’s plan:
“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” Mourdock said during Tuesday’s Senate debate, choking up.
On the likely assumption that Mourdock believes God to be both good and omnipotent, the Almighty must therefore have intended for Mrs. Darwin to carry Charles to term. What did God have in mind with that? While we’re at it, why did Mourdock’s God forsake him on election day? And wouldn’t an actually good God have forsaken Obama on election day? Furthermore, why didn’t Barry Bonds make it into the Hall of Fame? God made steroids, didn’t She?
From the Congressional Record of September 16, 1981:
The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism.
Mulvaney, however, waged a silent protest that lit up the Internet as reporters and political junkies around the country watched the proceedings live at the U.S. Capitol and broadcast on C-SPAN.
Nine Republican lawmakers voted for someone other than Boehner, three of them backing his deputy, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Mulvaney, by contrast, declined to vote for anyone despite being present in the House chamber. Raul Labrador of Idaho, like Mulvaney a tea party favorite who first gained election in 2010, chose the same tactic.
On his way into the House chamber, Mulvaney signaled that Boehner might face a rocky ride to re-election as speaker, urging reporters to “bring your calculator” and telling them the vote “should be interesting…”
Mulvaney, who represents South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District, later declined to respond to subsequent requests for comment from reporters.
“Mick won’t be available to speak,” his press secretary, Stephanie Faile, told McClatchy. “He is spending the rest of the day with his family.”
…Instead of reading Ralph Waldo Emerson, over and over and over, until he has it memorized: “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.”
Tired of feeling optimistic? Frank Rich can help with that:
What’s more, the right thinks long-term, and if you look at the long-term, the whole ugly “fiscal cliff” standoff was a win-win for conservatives, no matter what their passing defeats in this week’s deal. The more Washington looks dysfunctional, the more it sows dissatisfaction with the very idea of a Federal government. Yes, Democrats and the White House can argue that polls show that the Republicans would be getting most of the blame if Congress couldn’t reach agreement on the “fiscal cliff.” But that’s short-term liberal wishful thinking. Long-term, this intractable dispute has undermined Americans’ faith in government, period, and the voters’ plague-on-all-your-houses view of Washington is overall a resounding ideological win for a party that wants to dismantle government, the GOP. The conservative movement is no more dead after its 2012 defeat than it was after the Goldwater debacle of 1964.
The GOP is continuing its charm offensive among the lesser breeds. Here (h/t to Sister Pat in Ann Arbor) is one Ron Weiser, who was named finance chairman for the Republican National Committee last year:
“There’s no machine to go to the pool halls and the barbershops and put those people on buses and then bus them from precinct to precinct where they vote multiple times,” Weiser says in the video. “And there’s no machine to get ’em to stop playing pool and drinking beer in the pool hall. And it does make a difference.”
He added: “Obama has hired a lot of people to help him get that vote out. But if you’re not from Detroit, the places where those pool halls and barbershops are, you’re not going to be going at 6:30 in November. Not without a side arm.”
I was greeted today with the news that Robert Bork has passed away. Robert Reich offered this generous assessment on his Facebook page:
We all can get angry with people who don’t share our views and values, attributing to them the worst motives. But permit me a personal note. Robert Bork died today. He was a conservative, lionized by the right, condemned by the left, rejected by the Senate for the Supreme Court. But I knew him as a man of great honor, extraordinary wit, and deep commitment.... And although we disagreed on many issues, he was always willing to listen carefully and debate forcefully. I admired his intellect and his courage. He cared deeply about America.
I cannot quibble with Professor Reich’s firsthand knowledge of Judge Bork’s temperament. No doubt he was a nice enough guy to those who knew him personally. But that’s one of my complaints — most of these guys are nice to those around them. It’s the people who aren’t around them to whom they are unpleasant. As Dave Barry so astutely pointed out, “A person who is nice to you but not nice to the waiter is not a nice person.” From where I’m sitting, Robert Bork was not nice to the waiter.
During his confirmation hearing, I was working as a messenger. Since I was in the car all day I tuned my radio to NPR, which carried the hearings live. Bork was articulate and had a very pleasant speaking voice. He sure didn’t sound like a nut. But there was something troubling about him that actually took me several days to identify. It came down to two assertions that he made. 1) There was no right to privacy in the Constitution because it wasn’t explicitly spelled out. 2) The Fourteenth Amendment only applied to African Americans because clearly that was what its drafters intended.
Maybe you spotted the problem already. In one instance there had to be explicit provision, in the other there didn’t. But there was consistency in the two positions nonetheless: Bork’s assertions in each instance curtailed the rights of individuals.
It was a wonderful education, listening to those hearings. Robert Bork taught me to listen — really listen — to what his side is saying. And to really think about the words themselves. Plus once I figured out how they put their arguments together, I could punch holes in them much more quickly. For that I am grateful.
And for the fact that he was not confirmed, I am even more grateful.
So RIP, I guess, Robert Bork. I do not know what lies on the other side, but I hope when you got there you learned something as useful as what you taught me.
Here they come again, hordes of undead gentleman farmers lurching toward Congress:
A significant increase in the federal estate tax is possibly just days away. And without quick congressional changes, the farmers say, their heirs could face crushing taxes that could force the breakup of their decades-old family farms…
“Death should not be a taxable event,” said U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, Republican of Missouri. “At the very least we need to increase the exemption and drop the tax rate. We need family farms more than ever, and the death tax as it stands right now will force too many families to sell their land.”
Sen. Roy Blunt, also a Missouri Republican, said he faces estate tax concerns across the state.
“Missouri has 100,000 family farms,” he said. Of those, “15,000 farms would be impacted (by the new rates) ... More often than not, that means the family will have to sell the farm to save the farm.”
And here is David Kay Johnston, writing in the New York Times back in 2005 :
The number of farms on which estate tax is owed when the owners die has fallen by 82 percent since 2000, to just 300 farms, as Congress has more than doubled the threshold at which the tax applies, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report released last week.
All but 27 farmers left enough liquid assets to pay taxes owed, the budget office found, although it hinted that the actual number might be zero. The study examined how much in cash, stocks and bonds these farmers left to pay estate taxes, but the report noted that no data existed on how much life insurance the farmers had put into trusts. Virtually all wealthy farmers own life insurance in trusts, say estate tax lawyers who specialize in working with farmers…
President Bush, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association have asserted that the estate tax is destroying family farms. None, however, have cited a case of a farm lost to estate taxes, although in June 2001 Mr. Bush said he had talked to such farmers.
The number of farms subject to the estate tax, always a minority, has fallen because Mr. Bush persuaded Congress to raise the threshold for estate taxes to $1.5 million, double that for married couples, for last year and this year. With simple planning, couples with children can shield several million more dollars from the tax.
In 2000, when the threshold was $675,000, taxes were owed by 1,659 farm estates, the study found. Had the current threshold been in effect, only 300 farms would have owed any tax.
Next year, when the threshold rises to $2 million per person, just 123 farms will be subject to the estate tax, the study found. And in 2009, when it rises to $3.5 million, only 65 of the nation's 2.2 million farms will be affected, the study said.
And now me, in November of 2003 (full post here):
First of all, I would point out to Mr. Norquist’s suppositional seventy percent that it is not a death tax. The dead no longer possess their money, being dead. Lacking money with which to pay taxes, they cannot be taxed. Are we clear so far?
Nor is the estate tax double-taxation. The dead man presumably paid his taxes while still alive. But he cannot be required to pay further taxes after death on money he no longer has. Being, you see, dead.
And so the “death” tax is not levied on the dead at all, but upon the heirs of the dead. These heirs did not earn that money, nor have they ever paid taxes on it. Their inheritance is income to them, and is taxed on the same theory that lottery winnings, found money and large cash gifts are taxed.
Thus the estate tax is not paid by dead millionaires who dedicated their lives to creating jobs for their less fortunate countrymen, but rather by their fat rich kids.
Examples would be Bush the Elder, Donald Trump, Richard Mellon Scaife, and Rupert Murdoch. Other examples would be John F. Kennedy, Ted Turner, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Estate taxes are levied on a nonideological basis, but only conservatives whine about them.
From an interview with Gail Collins on her new book, As Texas Goes: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda.
Martha Rosenberg: You write, “Quite a bit of the information Texas students are getting seems to have arrived from another era. An abstinence-only program used in three districts assures them that if, ‘if a woman is dry, the sperm will die’ — which harks back to colonial-era theories that it was impossible for a woman to get pregnant unless she enjoyed the sex.”
…had thought of this:
TOKYO — Shintaro Ishihara has been a rare, flamboyant presence in Japan’s otherwise drab political world for four decades. A novelist turned right-wing firebrand, he has long held celebrity status on the political margins, where he was known for dramatic flourish. He once signed a pact in blood to oppose diplomatic ties with China because of its communist government…
Well, only 37 Republican members of it did. The 38th was Louisiana’s Diaper Dave Vitter. Still, it was enough to shame the United States in the eyes of the world. And yet these 38 despicable men didn’t even have the customary excuse of political cowardice; doing the decent thing would have cost them no more than a handful of votes at home. No, they were acting out of principle. Which ought to tell you something.
WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, his 89-year old body now weakened by age, illness and war injuries, sat quietly in a wheelchair on the Senate floor Tuesday, watching the debate over a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled.
He may have recalled an earlier time.
More than 43 years ago, Dole delivered his first speech on the very same floor — on disability rights. Later, as one of the most powerful members of the Senate, he pushed through the Americans with Disabilities Act, a measure designed to protect citizens grappling with accidents and disease.
Now he had come the Senate floor, perhaps for the last time, to persuade lawmakers to adopt a treaty supporters said would extend disability protections around the world…
Only 61 senators voted for the treaty, officially known as the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Sixty-six votes were needed for passage.
For those who wonder what would happen if the GOP had won the presidency and both houses last month, an interesting experiment is playing out right now in Kansas. It turns out that the laws of math still apply, even inside The Bubble:
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Acknowledging that the state is facing a “hard dip” in revenues, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Tuesday that the Legislature should consider ways to pay for massive income tax cuts that he signed into law earlier this year…
Legislative fiscal analysts predicted the tax cuts would cost the state about $3.7 billion in revenue over five years.
Brownback and other advocates of the tax plan are banking that a short-term dip in tax revenues will eventually be replaced with revenues created by economic growth spurred by the tax cuts.
When Brownback first proposed the income tax plan in January, he did propose a number of ways to cover lost revenue, but he ran into trouble when lawmakers received a cool reception from constituents who didn’t want to give up their home mortgage interest deduction.
He also ran into a public relations problem when it was revealed that his tax plan — as originally proposed — would actually have raised taxes on people with incomes under $25,000 while lowering taxes for everyone else.
This from Corey Robin. Does it remind you of any major American political party?
But there was another side to this embrace of the fugitive intellect: the acute sense of wounded victimhood, which sounded like nothing so much as the grievances of a revolutionary class in the making. The master class performed that strange alchemy, so peculiar to privileged groups, by which the enjoyment of power — not just on the plantation or in the South but in national political institutions as well — is turned into the anxiety of persecution.
Calhoun was the master of this transposition, borrowing directly from the abolitionist canon to make the case that it was the slaveholder that was the true slave. He compared the tariff to the exploitation and extraction of slavery and the federal government’s use of coercive power against the states to the “bond between master and slave — a union of exaction on one side and of unqualified obedience on the other.”
It seems these days High Lord Romney doesn’t quite know what to do with himself.
Four weeks after losing a presidential election he was convinced he would win, Romney’s rapid retreat into seclusion has been marked by repressed emotions, second-guessing and, perhaps for the first time in the overachiever’s adult life, sustained boredom, according to interviews with more than a dozen of Romney’s closest friends and advisers.
Dear Mitt: I know this won’t help you, but millions of middle-aged men find themselves in your position every single day in this country. That is, they find out the hard way that all their years of experience and all their hard-won expertise count for absolutely nothing at all. And they learn that, in part, because of a philosophy of business that you yourself have helped to foster, and have profited from. No, Mitt, you’re not a victim of age discrimination like they are. But I bet they feel a lot of what you’re feeling. Unfortunately, they do not have multiple houses in which to brood. Chances are they lost the single home they did have.
Here’s another way in which those millions differ from you, Mitt: They genuinely have something to offer.
I'm sure none of this has occurred to you. After all, if you were the kind of guy who was capable of picking up on things like that, it’s entirely possible you would not be in the position in which you now find yourself.
● April 30, 2013: Bobby Jindal grows mustache, looks in mirror, says to himself, “I could pass.”
● May 25, 2014: Washington Post ombudsman takes George Will to task for over-reliance on obscure Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende references in his columns.
● December 18, 2015: Arizona governor Joe Arpaio thrilled to announce that Nogales has been chosen as the site of 2016 Republican National Convention.
● January 4, 2016: In desperate last-ditch effort to win Iowa caucus, Rick Santorum changes first name to “Speedy.”
Now this is just plain pathetic—
…Romney’s event here had been scheduled to be a “victory rally.” But on Monday, his campaign announced he would cancel his political events on Tuesday out of respect for those affected by the storm.
KETTERING, Ohio — There was no Kid Rock playing on the loudspeakers, and the campaign signs were gone, replaced by a giant American flag. But Mitt Romney’s “storm relief event” held at a local athletic complex here still had some of the trappings of a regular campaign rally, from the biographical Romney video to the woman in the crowd who wore a shirt that read, “Obama, You’re Fired.”
It also featured the same celebrity guests, including Randy Owen, the lead singer of the country group Alabama, who performed after Romney spoke.
But the Republican nominee still tried to cast a nonpolitical tone, scrapping his usual stump speech in favor of remarks about those “suffering” and “hurting” in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy…
From the Associated Press:
The Tennessee Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the state’s new law requiring voters to show photo identification at polling places and ruled that election officials must accept an ID issued by the Memphis public library. A three-judge panel of the court ruled unanimously in a case brought by the City of Memphis and two voters who lacked photo ID and cast provisional ballots during the August primary. The opinion said that the identification requirement was allowed under the State Constitution and that the cost of obtaining a birth certificate to get a photo ID did not amount to a poll tax.
The court cited Tennessee case law in finding that the City of Memphis is a branch of the state, so the library card, which was redesigned this year to include a photo, is sufficient for proving identity. The Tennessee secretary of state, Tre Hargett, said the library provision would be appealed.
Mr. Hargett, bless his heart, understands that the greatest threat to 21st-century-style American democracy is from voters who are all the time reading books. Here’s Albert Jay Nock on the subject:
[Universal literacy] makes many articulate who should not be so. It enables mediocrity and submediocrity to run rampant, to the detriment of both intelligence and taste. In a word, it puts into a people’s hands an instrument which very few can use, but which everyone supposes himself fully able to use; and the mischief thus wrought is very great.
Go here for a long and frightening Wichita Eagle story about a hometown boy who didn’t have to run away to seek his fortune. It was right there in Wichita, piled up for him by his daddy, Fred Koch. The word bully never appears in this profile of son Charles. It didn’t have to. It rises from the page.
From the Kansas City Star:
Republican Todd Akin compared his Democratic opponent in the Senate race, incumbent Claire McCaskill, to a dog at a Springfield fundraiser Saturday.
In audio leaked to PoliticMo, Akin is heard saying, “She goes to Washington, D.C., it’s a little bit like one of those dogs, you know, ‘fetch.’
“She goes to Washington, D.C., and gets all of these taxes and red tape and bureaucracy and executive orders and agencies, and she brings all of this stuff and dumps it on us in Missouri.”
Among my circle of Facebook friends — many of whom I used to interact with in the real world before the internets relieved me of that burden — there is a tendency to celebrate the common-sense wisdom of one Dwight David Eisenhower. (There is also a seemingly endless fascination with kittens and Star Wars, but that's for another post.) The good general’s quotes are brought up to demonstrate that the Republican Party was not always dominated by con artists, shills, and flat-out lunatics. “Why isn’t the GOP this sensible today?” or something similar is usually the comment that accompanies these citations.
What my friends don’t seem to realize is that The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today (since it would be an oxymoron to call it “The Modern GOP" or even “Today's GOP”) has its roots in a reaction against the very moderation that Eisenhower embodied. The short version is that early in Ike’s first term, a small group of right-wing reactionaries concluded that Eisenhower was a communist dupe (!) because he did not move immediately to uproot every last trace of the New Deal immediately upon taking office. So they decided they would do it themselves. Step One was to take control of one of the two major political parties, and we can all guess which one they picked.
Step Two was to get a candidate of their choosing onto the national ticket. That turned out to be Goldwater in 1964 — which was rather sooner than expected. Goldwater’s campaign is usually depicted as a setback for this peculiar brand of conservatism. But the reality is that winning the election was not the point of his candidacy, although I’m sure the folks who put him there would have viewed it as a nice perk if he had actually won. (All of this is admirably recounted by Rick Perlstein in Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, which I consider indispensable in understanding how we got into this mess.)
Step Three was to actually take the White House, which as we all know was accomplished by Saint Ronnie of Reagan.
Which brings us to another point my Facebook friends have made fairly regularly: The notion that Ronald Reagan — yes, even Ronald Reagan — would be “too liberal” for The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today. Nor is this point limited to Facebook. It seems to be Conventional Wisdom (which would explain why it’s disseminated on Facebook.) Last week it showed up here:
A lot of people have said that Reagan wouldn’t even recognize the Republican Party of today. Do you think that’s right?
I think that’s right. I don’t think Reagan or myself or any of us could win a primary now with these standards...
The problem with this idea is that it completely ignores the basic reality of what Reagan was — an opportunist. He would have become whatever his handlers told him to become in order to win a primary, and then a general election. I know The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today likes to claim that Reagan was a great leader. And certainly he exhibited many of the outward qualities of leadership. What he never exhibited was any actual leadership. Reagan was a follower, not a leader. It’s as simple as that.
So, let’s review:
1) Eisenhower was not representative of the GOP even when he was its nominal head.
2) Ronald Reagan is not our friend. Not then. Not now. Not ever.
Please make a note of it.
A hundred and fifty-one years and still counting, the Civil War goes on. The Confederacy morphed into the Dixiecrats and then into the GOP which was easily swallowed by the Tea Party and here we are. I cannot think of a single core principle of American conservatism which does not, upon close examination, serve the interests of the master over those of the slaves. Wage slaves to be sure, and no longer exclusively black, but a slave is a slave.
An excerpt from Michael Lind’s analysis of the Confederacy’s continuation of war by other means:
…Notwithstanding slavery, segregation and today’s covert racism, the Southern system has always been based on economics, not race. Its rulers have always seen the comparative advantage of the South as arising from the South’s character as a low-wage, low-tax, low-regulation site in the U.S. and world economy. The Southern strategy of attracting foreign investment from New York, London and other centers of capital depends on having a local Southern work force that is forced to work at low wages by the absence of bargaining power.
Anything that increases the bargaining power of Southern workers vs. Southern employers must be opposed, in the interest of the South’s regional economic development model. Unions, federal wage and workplace regulations, and a generous, national welfare state all increase the bargaining power of Southern workers, by reducing their economic desperation. Anti-union right-to-work laws, state control of wages and workplace regulations, and an inadequate welfare state all make Southern workers more helpless, pliant and dependent on the mercy of their employers.
A weak welfare state also maximizes the dependence of ordinary Southerners on the tax-favored clerical allies of the local Southern ruling class, the Protestant megachurches, whose own lucrative business model is to perform welfare functions that are performed by public agencies elsewhere, like child care…
Following up on Pennsylvania’s shame when the legislature and governor decreed that in order to vote citizens needed two government issued forms of picture IDs, now finally the courts have thrown the whole thing out.
Registered voters now may sign the voter roll book and vote just like last year. The shame, though, continues because the GOP-controlled administration decided to send a full color mailer to every voter in the state saying two government-issued picture IDs were needed to vote. Conveniently they sent the mistaken mailer before the courts threw out the controlling law. No corrective mailers have been sent.
In addition, several counties in this cradle of democracy have failed to change their online voter directions to reflect the court’s rulings. It is fair to say that thousands of Keystone State voters will believe they can’t vote because of the Republican efforts to suppress the vote. This is all part of the continuing effort by the GOP to deny large groups of voters their Constitutional rights.
Incidentally there has never been a prosecuted case of voter ID misrepresentation in Pennsylvania, though Florida has seen a wholesale voter fraud attempt this year funded by, you guessed it, the Republicans.
Interviewer: So, how’s your visit going?
Martian: Cool. Love your planet.
Int: And you’re campaigning for Romney?
Mar: Yeah, Martians love Romney.
Int: What is it you like about him?
Mar: We love that he’s rich. And he says funny things.
Int: How so?
Mar. Just funny, man. When he told the Brits they probably couldn’t pull off the Olympics — that was a gasser. And how about insulting forty-seven percent of all American voters? That was fall-down-on-the-floor funny. The man ought to be on Comedy Central.
Int: If you say so. I see you’ve been doing some shopping.
Mar: Yeah, this is a great planet for shopping.
Int: Looks like you’ve got some hats in that tote bag.
Mar: That’s right. I needed some sun hats for my heads. Not much shade back home. So I thought, why not Romney hats? Talk though your hat. Isn’t that the expression?
Int: Not exactly, but I see the hats say, “Have a Nice Day.” What’s that got to do with Romney?
Mar: “Have a Nice Day”— that’s the Romney campaign platform…
Mar: “Have a Nice Day” is a great message. It captures Romney’s philosophy of government, the way he solves problems. It would go over great on Mars.
Int: But down here, we like things a little more — I don’t know — pointed.
Mar: What’s the point of pointed?
Int: Never mind. What do Martians for Romney think of Obama?
Mar: Bad news.
Mar: He’s a commie.
Int: Anything else?
Mar: He wasn’t born in the U.S. He was born on Mars.
Int: Obama’s a Martian?
Mar: You got it.
Int: How many Martians are there?
Mar: Twelve. Well, eleven since we got rid of Obama.
Int: You threw him out?
Mar: Yeah. Martians hate big government. Also, didn’t like his looks. Also, he’s a Muslim.
Int: What wrong with his looks?
Mar: He’s odd-looking. Got a weird color and only one head.
Int: You’re a little odd-looking yourself, if you ask me.
Mar: Yeah, but nobody asked you.
Int: Did the other Martians come with you?
Mar: Just my other half. Most Martians hate politics.
Int: I noticed that half of you was missing.
Mar: Yeah, she went to Wal-Mart. Loves the prices.
Int: Is your other half also a Martian for Romney?
Mar: Damn straight. She thinks he’s handsome. And she loves that he has a speedboat.
Int: Those are good reasons.
Mar: You bet. Listen, gotta run. Meeting the other half at a Have a Nice Day rally. Don’t want to be late. Maybe Romney will actually say something. You never know, right?
…are sisters under their skins, as Rudyard Kipling wrote. So are Republicans and Democrats, at least when it comes to Obamacare.
The best explanation of this latest chapter in America’s efforts to join the civilized world that I’ve come across is in today’s New York Times. It starts out this way:
If Mitt Romney’s pivots on President’s Obama’s health care reform act have accelerated to a blur — from repealing on Day 1, to preserving this or that piece, to punting the decision to the states — it is for an odd reason buried beneath two and a half years of Republican political condemnations: the architecture of the Affordable Care Act is based on conservative, not liberal, ideas about individual responsibility and the power of market forces.
This fundamental ideological paradox, drowned out by partisan shouting since before the plan’s passage in 2010, explains why Obamacare has only lukewarm support from many liberals, who wanted a real, not imagined, “government takeover of health care.” It explains why Republicans have been unable since its passage to come up with anything better. And it explains why the law is nearly identical in design to the legislation Mr. Romney passed in Massachusetts while governor…
It continues here.
From the Washington Post:
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said Tuesday that contributions by teachers’ unions to the Democratic Party represent an “extraordinary conflict of interest” because many times those unions will be sitting across the table from Democratic lawmakers in negotiating their contract terms…
The most important factor in having a “productive relationship” between government and teachers’ unions, he continued, is “that the person sitting across the table from them should not have received the largest campaign contributions from the teachers’ union themselves.”
It would also be an extraordinary conflict of interest for Wall Street banksters to sit across the table from Republican lawmakers as they gutted financial reform. That, Mitt, is the whole point of large campaign contributions. Surely you must have noticed?
From the Washington Post:
A federal judge won’t block Florida’s plan to cut the required early voting days from 14 down to eight.
Judge Timothy Corrigan ruled that there was not enough proof that the change burdened the ability of African-Americans to vote. Nor did opponents prove that the law was discriminatory in intent or effect, he wrote.
In addition to cutting the number of mandatory early voting days, the new Florida law eliminates early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, a day when high percentages of minority voters headed to the polls in 2008. (That surge might be in part due to black church activism, known as “Souls to the Polls.”) The new law mandates two Saturdays and one Sunday for early voting, but not the Sunday before Election Day.
You will be astonished to learn that Judge Corrigan was appointed by George W. Bush, who was an American president for eight years despite what the Republican Party would like you to think.
From an article by Judge Corrigan, on a possibly unrelated matter:
Finally, how many of us have faithfully followed the admonition that we “never reject from any consideration personal to ourselves, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay anyone’s cause for lucre or malice”?
Connecting.the.Dots evaluates Mitt Romney, a presidential candidate:
“There’s two ways to look at this guy. One is that the glass is half empty,” said a Republican dean of public policy at the University of Massachusetts in 2007. “The other is that the glass is totally empty.”
It’s that time of month again: Frank Rich’s column in New York Magazine.
I had tuned in as part of a thought experiment then entering its final lap: an attempt to put myself in the Republican brain by spending a solid week listening to, watching, reading, surfing, and otherwise gorging on conservative media. As would also be true of an overdose of liberal media, it was lulling me into a stupor, and I was desperate for a jolt. Glenn Beck provided exactly that, in the form of comedy, and to my astonishment, I found myself laughing out loud — with him, not at him…
Jay Bookman nails it:
In his tweets urging Romney to “draw clear line: offer specific path,” [Rupert] Murdoch hits on one probable cause for the GOP nominee’s aversion to specifics: “Stop fearing far right which has nowhere else to go.”
Romney understands that the policy specifics that would be acceptable to his party’s base would be unacceptable to the general-election voter, and vice versa. So he grimly refuses to go there, judging that the cost of silence will be lower than the cost of clarity. His entire presidential campaign has been built around the goal of establishing himself as “severely conservative,” to use his own description, and he has internalized that goal to such a degree that he simply doesn’t dare to put that reputation at risk.
The problem is, there’s no reason to believe that he would show any more independence while governing than he has in campaigning. As Grover Norquist said back in February, “We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it.”
That’s the job description that Romney is attempting to fill.
From the Washington Post:
Republicans have in recent months sought to drive a wedge between Clinton and Obama, casting Clinton as a leader who pursued bipartisan compromise and Obama as a president who has taken his party farther to the left. Clinton is expected to reject the Republicans’ claim about Obama’s welfare policy in his speech tonight as he places Obama’s name in nomination.
So now let’s return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, courtesy of Jay Bookman:
I find it endlessly amusing to watch Republicans all but swoon these days when they hear the names of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as if to say “now THOSE are Democrats we could work with… if only we had reasonable Democratic leaders like THAT…”
The president was reviled and attacked bitterly, for failures both real but mainly imagined, and was granted not a scintilla of respect for the office that he held. In fact, the extremist hatred of all things Clinton became downright surreal, to the point that the president and his wife were investigated by the House Government Oversight Committee for involvement in the “murder” of aide Vince Foster. The committee chairman even took a pistol to a watermelon in his backyard to demonstrate how the vile deed was done.
Republican congressional leaders shut down the government repeatedly in their effort to bring Clinton down, and he was publicly accused of everything from rape — yes, “legitimate rape” — to running a major cocaine ring. Hillary Clinton in particular was turned into an object of misogynistic hate and ridicule, under attack for everything from her cookie-baking skills to her gender preference. Republicans at the time could not bring themselves to even utter her first name without spitting it out as a venom-inflected invective.
In other words, the Republicans tried to do to the Clintons precisely what they have since tried so gleefully to do to Barack Obama.
Saying he could no longer abide the burden of deceit, Mitt Romney announced last night that he is withdrawing from the presidential race.
The Republican nominee, who has been running for president since he was fourteen years-old, told a gathering of sobbing supporters at his Boston campaign headquarters that “he just couldn’t take it anymore — the smugness, the deceit, the gross distortions of the facts, the cheap racial innuendoes, the hypocrisy, the nauseating outright lying. Oh, the lying, the lying, the endless disgusting lying.
“My father brought me up to tell the truth and that’s what I’m going to do,” Mr. Romney told a hastily gathered press conference attended by a few disbelieving reporters and stunned supporters. Gone were the paste-on smile and the pathetic regular-guy pose as the former Massachusetts Governor, tears gathering in the corners of his eyes, tried to explain why he was withdrawing from his endless quest for the presidency only two months shy of the election.
“A couple of nights ago I was in bed and I heard the voice of my father, saying, ‘Hey, boy, I know you want to be President so bad you can hardly stand it, but, Mitt, was it worth turning yourself into a cheesy, two-faced, double-talking, flip-flopping, lying faker?’
“Well, you can imagine how I felt. I adored my father and to hear this from him was painful beyond description. It was like having Newt Gingrich call you a friend. It was like a Rush Limbaugh lecture on ethics and morals. What people admired most about my father was his integrity. He always told the truth, and it came to me that these days I almost never tell the truth.
“I had thought maybe if I could just win the presidency then I could go back to the time when I told the truth too, back when I was fourteen years-old. But then what’s-his-name — Ryan — came out of nowhere and started piling whoppers on my fibs and there was no chance, no hope, that I could ever pretend to be a truth-teller like my father unless I quit the game here and now.
“They’re saying I made a great speech at the convention and I could tell the crowd really liked it. The problem was that the whole speech was as phony as that look I get on my face when I’m trying to seem like a caring human being. Believe me, I hate that face as much as anybody else. And that walk of mine! Those little, mincing steps. They told me to walk that way to look more presidential. But it doesn’t look presidential at all; it looks stupid and I’m not going to do it anymore.
“I’ve been under increasing pressure to reveal my plans for the country — the economy, health care, Afghanistan, whatever. Well, here’s the truth — I don’t have a plan. I haven’t the slightest idea what to do about the economy or anything else. Ryan has a plan. It’s called The Ryan Plan, and he’s been shouting about it for a couple of years. His plan will fix the economy by doing away with everything except more tax breaks for rich people. I guess I could adopt his plan but there are at least two things wrong with that strategy: One, it’s the Ryan Plan, not the Romney Plan, and, two, it’s the worst plan I’ve ever seen.
“People say Mitt’ll fix the economy because he knows all about business and that’s how he got so rich. Well, here’s the truth: The reason I haven’t released my tax returns is that I don’t have any money. Bain Capital was a three-card-monte scheme that made a lot of noise but not much money. Best-paying job I ever had was Governor of Massachusetts. Nowadays, Sheldon Adelson gives me an allowance and all the rest of it — the houses, the cars, the boats — all that is owned by the RNC. “Heck, even my family is a fake. Those fine-looking young men — some of whom speak foreign languages — they’re not my sons. They’re Rick Santorum’s kids. On loan for the duration of the campaign. You know Rick and birth-control; he’s got about thirty kids and they’re having a hard time finding work.
“So that’s the story: No more fibs, no more distortions, no more empty promises. I feel like a man freed from prison. I feel great. And you know what? I don’t think I would have been a very good president anyway.”
Dave Barry sums it all up:
The Republicans are fired up about their ticket after listening to three days of carefully themed speeches, which for your convenience I have condensed here into a single All-Purpose Republican Convention Speech:
“Good evening. I stand before you tonight as the lieutenant governor of a critical swing state as well as a member of a minority group and CEO of the nation’s third-largest manufacturer of curtain rods.
“Yes, I am living the American dream. But let me tell you about my childhood. My family was dirt poor. In fact we didn’t even have enough dirt to go around. We all had to share one small dirt clod. At bath time, you would smear the clod onto yourself and sit in the bathtub; then, when you were done, you would smear the clod onto the next family member. The dirt didn’t get washed away, because we also had no water. For that matter, we didn’t have a real bathtub. We had to sit in an imaginary bathtub. And not a fancy imaginary bathtub, either: It was a nasty old used imaginary bathtub.
‘But we did not complain. We did not ask the government for a handout. And do you know why? Because we also could not afford vocal cords.
“No, seriously, we did not complain because we believed in hard work. Everyone pitched in with the family business, even us kids. My father woke us up every morning before dawn and put us to work. It wasn’t easy: You try selling curtain rods door-to-door at 4:30 a.m. People would throw rocks at us. We collected these and ground them up to make dirt.
Headline on Yahoo NewsGOP convention story:
Big deal. So what? I mean really, who cares? What if somebody followed Jesus around all the time, fact-checking every little thing He said? Where would we be today? Think about it.
I had not realized that ladies were present when Congressman Kevin Yoder skinny-dipped last summer in the Sea of Galilee. And not just ladies. Think of the trauma suffered by poor little preborn Evie.
Mr. Quayle devoted much of his time last week to explaining what he did and did not do in the Sea of Galilee, an episode first reported by Politico.
“I went in the water. I had shorts on,” he said. His wife, Tiffany, who was eight months pregnant at the time, waited for him on the shore, he said. He also said he was able to take home some of the water in a vial he will use in the baptism of his daughter, Evie, who is now 11 months old.
One thing about Republicans, they never underestimate the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.
And to the wonderment of those of us still clinging stubbornly to reality, nonsense works. Consider death panels, birtherism, trickle-down economics and rape-detecting vaginas. Consider this, from a New York Times story headlined “Romney Adopts Harder Message for Last Stretch”—
Mitt Romney is heading into his nominating convention with his advisers convinced he needs a more combative footing against President Obama in order to appeal to white, working-class voters and to persuade them that he is the best answer to their economic frustrations…
“We will absolutely be able to get our message out,” said Russ Schriefer, a senior campaign adviser. “We still have an opportunity to tell the story of the last four years of how President Obama has failed the country…”
Mr. Law said his group, Crossroads, had reserved roughly $35 million in advertising for the rest of the campaign and planned to spend more on efforts speaking to their other perception, that Mr. Obama had not been able to deliver.
“These folks know they are not happy with what Obama has done, but they are struggling between, ‘I voted for him, I liked him, but he’s not getting the job done,’ ” said Carl Forti, political director for American Crossroads. “That’s where Mitt needs to take advantage.”
A close textual reading of this compelling new message reveals its meaning to be, “Vote Republican, suckers, because Obama let us sabotage his economic recovery plan.”
It’s a message that could only resonate in empty heads, which ought to make the rest of us very afraid.
The shame of Pennsylvania keeps piling up. For me it’s personal because I have worked for the county at the polls each election day. I assume they’ll call me like always before the November election. I will decline, saying, “I will not, even for a much-needed $120, participate in the GOP effort to disenfranchise voters.”
The poll workers will be the on-site enforcers, and they are required to take an oath upholding the law in Pennsylvania. That part of the law which requires picture ID issued by the government is outrageous and immoral. It will deny the vote to young and old alike. l’ll have no part in it.
There are more important things than money.
It’s kind of endearing, really, the way the vote suppressors of the GOP are coming right out and saying what they really mean. Fom The Columbus Dispatch:
…A study by the Franklin County Board of Elections shows that 48 percent of early, in-person votes in 2008 were cast after hours on weekdays, on weekends or on the Monday before the election — almost none of which is available to 2012 voters.
And those late ballots came predominantly from blacks and Democrats, the research shows. In all, 8 percent of whites cast early in-person ballots, while 13.3 percent of blacks did, said the study, which used census data to estimate the racial breakdown of voters…
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the county Republican Party and elections board member who voted against weekend hours, in an email to The Dispatch. “Let’s be fair and reasonable.”
He called claims of unfairness by Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern and others “bullshit. Quote me!”
In 1980, attorney James Leon Holmes wrote, in a letter arguing for a constitutional ban on abortion, “Concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami.”
He later apologized for his comment and was successfully nominated to a federal judgeship by George W. Bush in 2004, the inside-Washington controversy over his remarks notwithstanding. Today he serves as the chief judge of the Eastern District of Arkansas.
Besides, what’s the big deal about forcible rape, anyway? For the Ayn Rand crowd, it’s kind of hot. As it used to be back in the 40s and 50s for Smith and Vassar coeds, who lapped up Rand's description of Howard Roark raping the haughty Dominique. What real woman could fail to grow moist over prose like this:
She fought like an animal. But she made no sound. She did not call for help… He did it as an act of scorn. Not as love, but as defilement. And this made her lie still and submit. One gesture of tenderness from him — and she would have remained cold, untouched by the things done to her body. But the act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted…
She turned the light on in the bathroom. She saw herself in a tall mirror. She saw the purple bruises left on her body by his mouth. She heard a moan muffled in her throat, not very loud. It was not the sight, but the sudden flash of knowledge. She knew she would not take a bath. She knew that she wanted to keep the feeling of his body, the traces of his body on hers, knowing also what such a desire implied…
She had found joy in her revulsion, in her terror and in his strength. That was the degradation she had wanted and she hated him for it.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A group of former U.S. intelligence and Special Forces operatives is set to launch a media campaign, including TV ads, that scolds President Barack Obama for taking credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden and argues that high-level leaks are endangering American lives…
Calling itself “OPSEC” for short — which in spy jargon means “operational security” — the anti-leak group incorporated last June in Delaware, a state that has the most secretive corporate registration rules in the U.S.
It also set itself up as a nonprofit organization under section 501(c)4 of the U.S. Tax Code, allowing it to keep donors’ identities secret. Spokesmen for the group declined to discuss its sources of financing.
And so the Swiftboating begins. Can Karl Rove and those adorable Koch boys be far behind?
Reagan’s budget director, since come to Jesus, tells it like it is:
…Mr. Ryan professes to be a defense hawk, though the true conservatives of modern times — Calvin Coolidge, Herbert C. Hoover, Robert A. Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, even Gerald R. Ford — would have had no use for the neoconconservative imperialism that the G.O.P. cobbled from policy salons run by Irving Kristol’s ex-Trotskyites three decades ago. These doctrines now saddle our bankrupt nation with a roughly $775 billion “defense” budget in a world where we have no advanced industrial state enemies and have been fired (appropriately) as the global policeman.
Indeed, adjusted for inflation, today’s national security budget is nearly double Eisenhower’s when he left office in 1961 (about $400 billion in today’s dollars) — a level Ike deemed sufficient to contain the very real Soviet nuclear threat in the era just after Sputnik. By contrast, the Romney-Ryan version of shrinking Big Government is to increase our already outlandish warfare-state budget and risk even more spending by saber-rattling at a benighted but irrelevant Iran…
The Perrspectives piece from which the following excerpt comes is the most powerful indictment of Romney’s character that I’ve seen yet. It’s worth reading in its entirety.
In his interview with David Muir of ABC last week, Governor Romney trotted out a new defense of keeping his secret tax returns secret:
“From time to time I’ve been audited as happens I think to other citizens as well and the accounting firm which prepares my taxes has done a very thorough and complete job pay taxes as legally due. I don’t pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president. I’d think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires.”
Put another way, if you paid a penny more to Uncle Sam than you could’ve, you’re not just a sucker; you should be disqualified from becoming President.
Just like Mitt’s dad, George Romney.
Mitt’s idol didn’t merely establish a precedent by releasing 12 years of tax returns during his failed 1968 presidential campaign. As Paul Krugman recently reminded voters, the auto magnate and Michigan governor not only paid a lot to the U.S. Treasury, but probably much more than he needed to.
Those returns also reveal that he paid a lot of taxes — 36 percent of his income in 1960, 37 percent over the whole period. This was in part because, as one report at the time put it, he “seldom took advantage of loopholes to escape his tax obligations.”
(The contrasts between father and son hardly end there. As Rick Perlstein documented, George Romney didn’t merely develop an innovative profit sharing plan for his employees at AMC and return bonuses if he thought them too high. He also believed that “rugged individualism” is “nothing but a political banner to cover up greed.”)
Exciting news from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
FORT WORTH, Texas — George P. Bush has signed on to serve as deputy finance chairman for the Republican Party of Texas.
The nephew of former President George W. Bush and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the 36-year-old Bush has been closely watched from his days at law school to his deployment to Afghanistan as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve…
“Clearly he is being groomed for great things in Texas and perhaps beyond,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “This is about his current visibility, his access to fundraising lists and his name recognition to people who will be on the other end of his fundraising calls.”
Paul Ryan’s intellectual development was tragically halted in his teen years by exposure to a Russian atheist calling herself Ayn Rand. To this day the congressman requires his staff to read her books, which are very long and full of words arranged so as to resemble thought, if you are a semi-bright 19-year-old coming across books for the first time.
Presumably, though, Ryan’s staffers are not required to adopt every single one of Rand’s insights, any more than conservatives are required to believe some of the New Testament’s more preposterous notions, such as the Golden Rule and the Rule Against Eating Eagles [Leviticus 11.13]. They are permitted to pick the cherries and ignore the lemons, or let’s hope so.
Because this is what the childless Philosopher Queen had to say about abortion:
An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).That was from Rand’s book, The Voice of Reason, not one that Ryan passes out to Republican staffers on Capitol Hill. And here’s another salient quote Ryan and his cronies ignore, from The Ayn Rand Letter: “Never mind the vicious nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a “right to life.” A piece of protoplasm has no rights — and no life in the human sense of the term. One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months. To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable...
Abortion is a moral right — which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?
Observe that by ascribing rights to the unborn, i.e., the nonliving, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living: the right of young people to set the course of their own lives. The task of raising a child is a tremendous, lifelong responsibility, which no one should undertake unwittingly or unwillingly.
Procreation is not a duty: human beings are not stock-farm animals. For conscientious persons, an unwanted pregnancy is a disaster; to oppose its termination is to advocate sacrifice, not for the sake of anyone’s benefit, but for the sake of misery qua misery, for the sake of forbidding happiness and fulfillment to living human beings.”
Mitt Romney returned to his many stateside homes this week after a triumphant foreign tour that left no doubt that The Mitten has a delicate sense of foreign relations unequaled by any presidential candidate in recent memory.
Possibly more at ease than usual in a place where no one was going to ask about his tax returns, Mitt felt free to warn the English that the country’s ability to run the Olympic Games might fall short. Tricky business, those Olympics, especially if you’re not a go-to, standup financial kind of guy, a guy like, say, Mitt. The English — why are they so prickly? — apparently took offense at Mitt’s generous and good-natured advice. The Prime Minister himself joined the discussion with an entirely gratuitous observation that running the games in London is not quite the same as putting them on “in the middle of nowhere,” a nasty reference to Salt Lake City, the scene of Mr. Romney’s Olympic administrative triumph. In a matter of hours, London newspapers were vilifying the presumptive Republican presidential candidate with headlines referring to him as “Mitt the Twit.” With allies like this, who needs enemies?
Never mind: the English were always thin-skinned, not to mention perfidious, viper-tongued, pretentious, and self-important. On to Israel where a man can speak his mind and not worry about stepping on someone’s precious little feelings. In no time, Mitt had Netanyahu and the whole country eating out of his hand, or his pocket, or something. He told them if he were president he would consider all options, including force, to keep nuclear arms out of Iran. The Israelis were glad to hear this but wondered why the perpetual presidential candidate was presenting as new a policy that was already in force. You mean Obama’s policy? the Israelis asked.
Sensing that he had stumbled into a cul de sac, The Mitten saw that the best way out was to inflame tensions with the Palestinians, usually a winning strategy when you’re dealing with hardliners, but not so great for wimpy peaceniks, of which there are far too many. Next thing you know, the creepy liberal media are saying that the well-intentioned, upright, front-running, standard-bearing, square-jawed conservative GOP putative presidential candidate has insulted an entire people by suggesting that they are culturally backward, especially when compared to the Israelis, who, it must be remembered, have an influence on American presidential politics beyond all reason.
So what’s the big flap about? Of course the Palestinians are culturally backward. They’re Arabs, for God sakes. And almost all of them are Muslims. And Muslims, as everyone knows, are terrorists. Just like Osama bin Laden.
The creepy news media finally got what they deserved on the last day of Mitten’s trip, in Poland. Rich Gorka, one of Mitt’s press aides, let ’em have it when they kept asking annoying questions about all the so-called gaffes the candidate had committed during the trip. “Kiss my ass,” said Gorka to some impertinent news hounds. And then he closed the, er, discussion down with a statement that was hard to misunderstand. “Shove it,” he said. Now, maybe that kind of language doesn’t have Mitt’s subtlety, but it’s the only way to talk to these people. News people have no respect for anybody’s feelings and they have no sense of the fragile nature of foreign relations.
But that’s politics and nobody has a better feel for it than the Mitten. Sometimes the wise guy reporters think they can have a good laugh at Mitt’s expense. But he always turns the tables on them. He always has the last word. People say he hasn’t got much of a sense of humor, but they mistake the stiff, robotic, clueless, mincing, foot-in-mouth public Mitt for the real Mitt. The Mitt who will take opposite positions on any subject with equal force, the Mitt who in the same sentence can answer yes and no to the same question — that’s the political Mitten, the vote-getter. The real Mitt is the one we saw in Europe and the Middle East, the one with the Mitten touch.
It is practically never that Thomas L. Friedman commits good sense in good writing, both at the very same time. Let us all rejoice, therefore, in this:
I’ll make this quick. I have one question and one observation about Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel. The question is this: Since the whole trip was not about learning anything but about how to satisfy the political whims of the right-wing, super pro-Bibi Netanyahu, American Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, why didn’t they just do the whole thing in Las Vegas? I mean, it was all about money anyway — how much Romney would abase himself by saying whatever the Israeli right wanted to hear and how big a jackpot of donations Adelson would shower on the Romney campaign in return. Really, Vegas would have been so much more appropriate than Jerusalem. They could have constructed a plastic Wailing Wall and saved so much on gas…
Mitt the Twit offers us this assessment of the choices we face in November:
...I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free.
Mitt, Mitt, Mitt… “stuff from government” is not free. We pay for it. That’s what those things we call “taxes” are supposed to be used for. It’s not free. And most of us realize it’s not free. You only think “stuff from government” is free because you’re not paying those same taxes.
I hope this has been helpful, Mitt. Feel free to drop me a line if you find any other fundamentals of the social contract to be confusing.
Here’s Frank Rich, making a vidious comparison:
Q: House Speaker John Boehner told supporters at a West Virginia fund-raiser that hating Obama is enough reason to go to the polls and conceded that “Americans aren’t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney.” (The latest Washington Post/ABC poll backs him up.) Can people really vote for Romney in spite of him?
Frank Rich: In the television era, only one hopelessly stiff, awkward, and socially inept candidate has ever been elected to the presidency, Richard Nixon. What he also had in common with Romney was a rogue’s gallery of secret fat-cat donors who would only become known after Election Day, thanks to Watergate.
Well, yes, of course Attorney General Eric Holder is in contempt of Congress. Who isn’t?
Many of us who try to comprehend the amazing shenanigans of our Republican-dominated House of Representatives would naturally choose some form of ‘contemptible’ as a descriptive of the august body. But today we’ll shun the language of extremes.
Let’s just call them, er, regressive and leave it at that. Well, retarded might be better. (Apologies here to those hardy and decent souls in the House who keep trying, against all odds, to do the job for which they were sent to Washington.)
Having lost the legal battle to wreck the Affordable Health Care Act, now the Republicans are going to waste who knows how much time and money trying to repeal it. These are the proud ideological descendants of the conservative politicians of the past who tried so hard to block Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And while they’re at it, the Know Nothings will try to drive Obama’s Attorney General from office.
Holder may have screwed up but that’s not why they’re after him. The real problem is he’s arrogant, like Obama, and he’s too tall. The thing is, it’s getting harder all the time to be a responsible House member with these Kenyans in high office and a socialist who’s not even an American in the White House. How do we know that? Because Donald Trump said so, that’s how.
And Donald’s rich so he must be right. If rich people weren’t right about everything they wouldn’t be rich, would they? Why is this so hard for the Democrats to understand? Rich people know what is best for themselves, and therefore for the rest of us. How do you suppose they got rich in the first place? There’s shouldn’t be anything inherently wrong with being rich, but it does seem to coarsen the sensibilities. Warren Buffet and a few others appear to have escaped this malady.
(But here’s a really important question: If Donald Trump is so rich and so smart, why does he want to look and act like Howdy Doody? And why does he always wear the same awful red tie?)
Badly shocked by Chief Justice Roberts’s perfidy in upholding Obamacare, Republican Congressmen are once again telling us that the American people hate Obama’s socialized medical insurance plan and won’t stand for it. What the American people want is limited medical insurance with constantly rising premiums. What the American people want is to pay through the nose for the bloated, inefficient bureaucracy that administers the private insurance industry — at about twenty percent of the total cost. (The administrative costs for universal health care in England and Canada are five and six percent, respectively.) I have a couple of doctor friends who tell me that Medicare is infinitely preferable to the private insurance industry for fairness, efficiency and overall decency.
But never mind all that nonsense. The Republicans know better. What the American people want, the Republican Congressmen tell us, is to know that 30 million of their fellows have no insurance and, if those uninsured get medical treatment at all, they will have to get it in emergency rooms. The cost of emergency room treatment is, of course, astronomical, and is borne by all of us who do have insurance. But so be it, anything is better than having the government stand between us and our doctors.
But this they tell us is what the American people want. Republicans love to tell us what the American people think, feel and want. As always, one wonders which American people they are talking about. They’re not talking about anybody I know.
From the Los Angeles Times:
EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — As protesters assembled on a beach in advance of Mitt Romney’s evening event at the home of conservative billionaire David Koch, the candidate slipped to East Hampton for his first of three fundraisers on this tony stretch of Long Island…
A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. “I don’t think the common person is getting it,” she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. “Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.
"We've got the message," she added. "But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies — everybody who's got the right to vote — they don't understand what's going on. I just think if you're lower income — one, you're not as educated, two, they don't understand how it works, they don't understand how the systems work, they don't understand the impact."
Something I've done that I’ll bet Mitt Romney has never done is... fill out a job application.
Guys like Romney don’t fill out job applications, y’see. According to Mitt’s Wikipedia page — and here Wikipedia's notorious subjectivity works in our favor — his employment history begins thusly:
Romney was recruited by several firms and chose to remain in Massachusetts to work for Boston Consulting Group (BCG), reasoning that working as a management consultant to a variety of companies would better prepare him for a future position as a chief executive.
In contrast, my employment history began with a clean shirt, my own pen, and an index card on which I had jotted down three personal references. I went to the mall just north of town and went from store to store, asking at each one if they were accepting applications. If they were, I reasoned it would make a better impression if I had my own pen than if I asked to borrow one. There’s something else I bet Mitt Romney has never done: give an iota of thought to the impression he would make by asking to borrow a pen.
Eventually, my efforts yielded the sort of job one would expect from a shopping mall in the late 70s — a minimum wage gig that turned out to be seasonal. I was told when I was hired in September that this particular store did not hire seasonally, which led me to expect that I could work there for as long as I did a good job. However, when there were massive layoffs the following January — myself among them — I realized that I had been lied to about that. I would bet that, too, is an experience Mitt Romney has never had. Rather, my guess would be that Mitt has always been the one lying to employees. (Although one could argue that currently he is lying to his prospective employers, which to varying degrees we have all done.)
Since then, I have filled out many job applications for all sorts of jobs. One is worth mentioning. When I fled Ohio for San Francisco (to launch my illustrious stand-up career) I had to choose between necessities and luxuries. One of the things that came under the heading of luxury was... a telephone. Ya know why? Because I had no credit history, the phone company required a prohibitively large (for me) deposit. And because I had no phone, a prospective employer refused to take my application. Apparently, what I considered a minor inconvenience he considered an insurmountable barrier. I will bet Mitt has never had to worry that he would not be seriously considered for any position in which he was interested. And I don't have to bet on this one — I will guarantee you Willard M. Romney has never had to do without a phone, for any reason.
I am happy to report that it has been a long time since I’ve had to fill out a job application. I have graduated to the ranks of people who get hired by circulating resumes, and from there to the exalted ranks of those who have their resumes dismissed out of hand. I am quite sure the being in that latter category is another experience that Mr. Romney and I will never have in common.
Romney recently suggested adding a Constitutional qualification that “the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become president of the United States.’” I might go along with that — if those three years began with filling out a job application. Unlike Mr. Romney, I think that would educate any would-be president in the way this country reallyworks.
From Krugman’s blog:
So it comes as something of a shock to look at Eurostat data (pdf) on real GDP per capita (or productivity, which look similar). Sure, Greece and Portugal are relatively poor, with GDP per capita of 82 and 77 percent, respectively, of the EU average; this means roughly 76 and 71 percent of the eurozone average, since the euro countries are a bit richer than the EU as a whole. Meanwhile, Germany is at 120 percent of the EU, or 112 percent of the eurozone.
But it’s no different, really, than the US situation (look under per capita GDP). Alabama is at 74 percent of the US average, Mississippi at 67, with New England and the Middle Atlantic states at 118 and 116.
In other words, as far as underlying economic inequalities are concerned, the EZ is no worse than the US.
The difference, mainly, is that we think of ourselves as a nation, and blithely accept fiscal measures that routinely transfer large sums to the poorer states without even thinking of it as a regional issue — in fact, the states that are effectively on the dole tend to vote Republican and imagine themselves deeply self-reliant.
After all, who can say they have never used the bus? Maybe not on a regular basis, maybe only for an emergency. I myself have done both. When I lived in San Francisco I could not afford a car (something else Mitt Romney has never experienced.) But I didn’t actually need one. I could get just about anywhere in 30 minutes or so. All sorts of people took the bus. People in business suits, people in waitress uniforms — some of those were even women — people in jeans and t-shirts. It was all very democratic. (And I got some decent exercise and a lot of reading done.)
In Los Angeles, the buses aren’t quite as useful. Oh, they go just about everywhere, but LA is so goddam big that relying on them is something of a desperation move. (Mind you, I don’t denigrate the people who depend on them - rather, they have my sympathy.) So I use the buses every now and then, usually when my car is in the shop. I make a conscious decision to do without a rental, and take a bus home. My wife will invariably ask why I didn’t call someone to pick me up. But the fact is I like to take the bus every so often. I feel it’s an experience to which I should maintain a connection.
Sometimes it’s quite an experience. The last time I took an LA bus there was a guy sitting in the back having a very spirited conversation with his own reflection in the window. At one point he said to his reflection, “I don’t care — I’ve got a bullet for everyone on this goddam bus!” To which I mentally replied: “And it’s neatly mounted on a nifty plaque, right? With a commemorative T-shirt?” I was quite relieved when he got off at the next stop.
So that’s something else I’ll be Mitt Romney has never done — having to wonder, really wonder, what someone five feet away from you is contemplating. Even in San Francisco where the “right” people also took the bus, I was engaged in conversation by a guy who kept his entire right arm suspiciously concealed in his coat. Turned out he was a Moonie, turned out he’d hurt his hand and it was in a cast, but it took a good ten minutes to find that out. And then there were all those guys who wandered past the bus stops shouting at the air. (This was in the 80s, when he had not yet started electing people who shout at the air to state legislatures and Congress.)
So there are several experiences that are not uncommon that I’ll just bet Mitt Romney has never had. I’d also be willing to bet that were he to have them, he would not learn the same things from him that I did. If Mitt Romney is elected, there will most likely be fewer buses, and they will wind up costing more. Those who have to wait will find themselves waiting longer — for a lot of things.
I figured the quote below would get at least as much MSM attention as Ed Rendell kvetching about Obama, but either nobody noticed or nobody cared. It’s Grover Norquist, during episode 16 of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher (my transcription). I see no other way to read this than that the GOP’s leading intellectual expects President Obama to win a second term, with the Democrats retaining the White House till at least 2032.
The modern Republican Party has been president-centric for the last 40 or 50 years because they knew they’d never have the House and Senate. In the same way that the Democrats for the last 60 years have been a congressional party. Their power is in the congress and then when Obama came in, what did he do? He signed the stimulus package that the Democrats in congress wrote. He signed the Dodd-Frank Bill which was not the Geithner bill, it was written in Congress…
The Democrat party for the last 60 years has been run out of the House and Senate. Republicans have been president-centric. That shifts, because if you look at the next 5, 10, 20 years the Republican are more likely to have the House and
Senate than the President, and that’s where the leadership is going to come from.
You gotta hand it to the Republicans, at least they’re equal opportunity election-riggers and ballot box-stuffers. They even do it to each other. Read the whole amazing story from which this excerpt comes (h/t to Charles P. Pierce):
Opinions remain divided as to whether the convention chaos that has been witnessed at recent state conventions across the country is a result of a coordinated national effort by Republican party leaders to disenfranchise Ron Paul delegates.
In both Maine and Nevada, for example, Romney supporters were caught distributing counterfeit delegate slates. In Arizona, there were complaints of ballot stuffing and the convention was eventually shut down when it appeared likely that a Ron Paul supporter would be elected as the national committeewoman. In Massachusetts, after Ron Paul supporters won 16 of 27 district delegate slots, state party leaders quickly moved to try to invalidate the results.
Missouri legislators have developed a cure for those suffering from an inability to vomit:
It came out this week that Mitt Romney was an asshole back in prep school, too. The hijinks cited in the Washington Post article include assault and battery, and whimsically tricking a vision-impaired teacher into walking into a door. Romneybot’s empathy simulation protocols were malfunctioning even then. In short, our Willard was something of a bully.
Oddly enough, that’s okay. Or it might be. Sort of.* People do stupid things when they’re young, and some of them are egregiously, even criminally stupid. Part of growing up is learning that those things were stupid or wrong. Part of being a grownup is to be able to acknowledge one’s mistakes, and what one learned from them.
I’ll let Steve Almond explain that part that is not and could never ever be by any stretch of the imagination even sort of okay:
I don’t mean to suggest that Romney is without compassion. I believe, for instance, that he loves his wife and his children, and that he believes in God and the flag. But there is something in his character that I am starting to get frightened about, an unwillingness, or an inability, to feel remorse, to simply own up to a moral failing, to apologize not just if “somebody was hurt” but because you know, deep down, that you hurt someone.
Think about it: here are these half dozen men who took part in a savage act nearly fifty years ago. It has haunted all of them. And the ringleader, the guy who made the plan and led the mob and cut the victim’s hair off remembers … nothing?
It’s just bullshit, total fucking sociopathic bullshit. And it makes me sad that such an episode comes to light and all Romney can do — a guy who wants to be elected to our highest office — is nervously lie and make excuses, as if this were political problem.
Nicely put. And it got me to asking a very simple question: What is Romney afraid of here? Is he afraid to admit to having been cruel and thoughtless as a teenager? Or is he afraid to admit that he is no longer cruel and thoughtless as an adult? Frankly, it’s pretty clear that he’s still thoughtless, if not cruel, as an adult. But hell, even George W. Bush knew enough to pretend to care. Even George W. Bush could declare, however glibly, “When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.”**
All of this has crystallized in my mind just what it is I find so troubling about Mitt Romney. I don’t think this guy has the slightest idea just who it is he wants us to think he is. Never mind who he actually is — I don’t think that one’s even knowable. Who does he want us to see when we look at Mitt Romney?
Obviously, Mitt wants to be president in the worst way. And if elected, he would be. (Ba dum pum!) But here’s the thing: He’s not even willing to pretend to do the first part of the job — i.e. act like he gives a shit during the process of campaigning. He was willing to pretend to be something he wasn’t when he ran for Governor of Massachusetts. And in the earlier primaries he was obviously willing to pretend to be anything else. But here — when he arguably should have the sense to put up a good front — nothing. I guess putting up a good front, like laws and taxes, are for little people.
(In reflecting on this I can’t help hearing in my head the voice of Greg Marmalard from Animal House saying, “Let the unacceptable candidates worry about that.”)
There’s one other thing that really bothers me about the bullying story. Consider: Mitt was born into a rich family. His father was the goddam governor. He didn’t just go to Harvard, he knew he was going to Harvard, pretty much from the moment the doctor announced “It’s a boy!” What’s more Harvard knew it too. And all of this wasn’t good enough for our Willard. No, he had to torment classmates and teachers alike to prove — what, exactly?
I’m guessing we’ll never know that one either.
* By saying it might be okay, I don’t mean that bullying is acceptable or something to shrug off. I was myself bullied in high school for being gay — even though I wasn’t gay. My point here is that if Mitt showed an iota of reflection or empathy, we could at least put his actions in prep school in some sort of perspective.
** Okay, it’s waaaaaay too early to be starting any sentence with “Even George W. Bush...” Hell, it took 35 years for things to get bad enough to start sentences with “Even Richard Nixon...” Says something about our friends in the GOP that they can hit a moral nadir and keep going down.
The RNC, long known for its deft use of humor, is at it again:
The Republican National Committee is out with its first explicitly pro-Mitt Romney web ad, which mocks President Obama for “slow jamming” Tuesday on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
The video, entitled “A Tale of Two Leaders,” intermingles clips of Obama’s appearance on the show, in which Fallon calls Obama the “Preezy of the United Steezy” as the president stands in the background, with cuts from Romney’s general election kick-off speech the same day.
Pay special attention as Richie Rich tells the cheering crowd, “I see children even more successful than their parents — some successful even beyond their wildest dreams — and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.” Nobody loves a whiner, Mitt. Didn’t your less successful father ever tell you that?
From Robert Stein, at Connecting.the.Dots:
After morphing into a Tea Party zealot to win nomination, the GOP choice is in the kind of tricky transition described by JFK while running against Nixon in 1960: “It must be hard getting up every morning trying to decide who you’re going to be that day.”
Nixon lost then but won eight years later by virtually erasing himself to edge out disorganized Democrats. Covering his campaign, Gloria Steinem wrote: “When Nixon is alone in a room, is anyone there?”
In celebration of Easter here’s (via Brainstorm) Spiro Agnew whining about people smarter than him. Nixon’s soon-to-be-former vice president disparages such vermin, in words insinuated into his oral orifice by his amanuensis, Pat Buchanan, as “an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”
While the rest of us were giggling over Rick Santorum’s fact-free attack in California’s university system, Sara Robinson wasn’t. I’d bet ten thousand Romney dollars that her decoding of Santorum’s babble is right on target.
Santorum was setting the stage. He warned us, very clearly: Following the War on Public Employees and the War on Women, this will be the summer of the War on Public Universities. Whether the proposals will be to revoke their charters, close campuses, or sell off their facilities to for-profit colleges, you can bet that ALEC already has the bills in the can, and will be introducing them in state legislatures presently.
…you really can’t. From Yahoo News:
Per ABC News’ Emily Friedman, Ann Romney told Baltimore WBAL radio that she’s working to show another side of her husband. Asked about criticism that Romney is “too stiff,” Ann Romney laughed and replied, “I guess we better unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out because he is not!”
Frank Rich explores the history of the GOP’s devolution from birth control crusaders to vaginal probers. You will be astonished to learn that politics and not primitive religious doctrine was behind the shift. A taste:
…The GOP started backing away from its traditional beneficence on women’s issues at the tail end of the Nixon presidency. Nixon had a progressive GOP take for his time: He supported the Equal Rights Amendment, appointed an impressive number of talented women, and in 1972 signed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act to strengthen the policing of workplace discrimination. But, in a telling shift a few months earlier, he also vetoed a bipartisan bill enabling child care for the millions of mothers then rapidly joining the workforce. As Melich observes, it would have been consistent with GOP frugality if Nixon had rejected the bill solely because of its cost. But his veto was accompanied by a jarring statement that child care would threaten American families by encouraging women to work. The inspiration for this unexpected reactionary broadside came not from fundamentalist clergy but from cynical, secular political strategists eager to exploit the growing backlash against the sixties feminist movement, much as the “southern strategy” was exploiting the backlash against the sixties civil-rights movement.
This tactic preceded Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973. The new GOP was hostile to female liberation, period, not just female sexual freedom. The pitch was articulated by Newt Gingrich in his first successful congressional race in Georgia in 1978. His opponent, a state senator named Virginia Shapard, crusaded for the Equal Rights Amendment and bankrolled her own campaign. That uppity profile gave the Gingrich forces an advertising message: “Newt will take his family to Washington and keep them together; Virginia will go to Washington and leave her husband and children in the care of a nanny.” Newt won by nine percentage points. One of his campaign officials tied his victory to the strategy of “appealing to the prejudice against working women, against their not being home…”
More from The Twentieth Century by historian Howard Zinn:
1976 was not only a presidential election year — it was the much-anticipated year of the bicentennial celebration, and it was filled with much-publicized events all over the country. The great effort that went into the celebration suggests that it was seen as a way of restoring American patriotism, invoking the symbols of history to unite people and government and put aside the protest mood of the recent past.
But there did not seem to be great enthusiasm for it. When the 200th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party was celebrated in Boston, an enormous crowd turned out, not for the official celebration, but for the “People’s Bi-Centennial” counter-celebration, where packages marked “Gulf Oil” and “Exxon” were dumped into the Boston Harbor, to symbolize opposition to corporate power in America.
This is a letter dated 17th July 1902 to Mr. W.F. Clark of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, from George F. Baer, president of the Philadephia & Reading Railway Company. Mr. Clark had urged Mr. Baer to end an ongoing strike of his railroad:
I see that you are a religious man; but you are evidently biased in favor of the right of the working man to control a business in which he has no other interest than to secure fair wages for the work he does.
I beg of you not to be discouraged. The rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected and cared for — not by the labor agitators, but by the Christian men to whom God in His infinite wisdom has given the control of the property interests of the country, and upon the successful management of which so much depends. Do not be discouraged. Pray earnestly that right may triumph, always remembering that the Lord God Omnipotent still reigns, and that His reign is one of law and order, and not of violence and crime.
The Hearst paper in New York said, “The pious pirate is no new thing. Baer and the relations between a just God and the thieving trusts must be left to the pulpit for adequate treatment.” The Times said the letter “verged very close upon unconscious blasphemy.”
The religious newspapers went farther. From Chicago: “selfish ignorant cant that this captain of industry mistakes for religion. This is the sort of thing that makes anarchists.”
From New York: “A ghastly blasphemy.”
From Boston: “The doctrine of the divine right of kings was bad enough, but not so intolerable as the doctrine of the divine right of plutocrats to administer things in general with the presumption that what it pleases them to do is the will of God.”
Today these hostile reactions from the MSM of 1902 read as odd relics of the nation’s remote pre-Christian past. Today Mr. Baer’s views have become the guiding principle of one of America’s two large — I can’t bring myself to say great — political parties.
Alex Henderson, on Alternet:
Meanwhile, in Laurens County, South Carolina, the local Republican Party is asking possible candidates to swear off all porn consumption. In late February, the Laurens County GOP unanimously adopted a resolution asking local Republicans who want to get on the primary ballot to sign a 28-point pledge that includes opposition to abortion, gay marriage and same-sex civil unions as well as vows to abstain from premarital sex and not view any porn. The pledge states: “You cannot now, from the moment you sign this pledge, look at pornography.”
From Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
In his mind, of course, the best proof of that rampant stupidity is the failure of Newt’s party, opponents and the country at large to ask him to save the country. If you fail to recognize the frankly astonishing, the profoundly fundamental and the fundamentally profound transformational genius contained in the skull of Newton Leroy Gingrich, well then, you must be stupid.
On the other hand, wouldn’t a smart person understand that you don’t win friends and support by going around and treating everyone else in the world as stupid? Isn’t that pretty basic stuff? I don’t recall Ronald Reagan, for example, lecturing people on how stupid they must be not to appreciate him.
In fact, most of us learn that lesson no later than the third grade. If at the age of 68 you’re still making that mistake and still wondering why people don’t like you, then no, you’re not very smart after all.
From Public Policy Polling:
On our Georgia, Ohio, and Tennessee Republican polls in addition to looking at the Presidential race we also polled on some of the issues that have been in the news over the last week: Rush Limbaugh and the reemergence of birtherism…Here’s the question they should have asked: “Was Obama born in the United States or Hawaii?”
In Georgia 40% of Republican primary voters think Obama was born in the United States, while 38% do not.
What do the Oscar presentations and the Republican debates have in common?
Most of my male friends prefer the soft, rounded kind to the Republican kind, but it should be noted that these preferences are by no means unanimous, or political. I am told there are people, real masculine persons, who actually admire one or two of the boys on the Republican presidential debate team. No kidding. Think they’re swell, win-one-for-the-Gipper kind of guys, men you’d want with you in your foxhole or riding at the head of the cavalry column.
But…had the last debate aired at the same time as the Oscars, would those same admiring male persons have been watching Ron Paul’s Adam’s apple go up and down or would they have been ogling J-Lo’s cleavage? We’ll never know but it’s a question that will haunt us like all the great mysteries of human existence. Why are we here? What is the meaning of it all? Is God a Republican or a Democrat?
Over at the Oscars, Meryl Streep took the best actress award for playing Margaret Thatcher almost as well as the old bat played herself. A remarkable performance and one that might serve to inspire Mitt and Rick and Newt when they’re rehearsing for their next audition for the Big Part.
Meanwhile, Mitt, who can play the role of a desperate man as well as any actor alive, tried hard to get his foot into his mouth once again — not easy when your mouth is already jam-packed with feet. Mitt told the voters that in the great state of Michigan, one of his several home states, the trees were just the right height. Many people found this puzzling so Mitt enlightened them by repeating the statement. Apparently, Mitt believes that if you say something incredibly stupid and baffling you can make it right by saying the same incredibly stupid and baffling thing again. Don’t explain, repeat — that’s the idea.
Mitt tried to win some Motown points by reassuring Michiganders that the Romneys were an American-car family. His wife drives not one but two Cadillacs. This is the sort of factoid that resonates so well with the unemployed and the foreclosed-upon. No matter, you need a good car if you’re going to drive to Canada with a dog strapped to the roof.
Newt the Cheerful was named best historian/non-lobbyist in a trailing role based on an existing work of fiction. Good actor though he is, Newt has always had trouble playing anybody but himself. Kind of like Jimmy Stewart but not as tall, a lot chubbier and immeasurably less likeable. As if to confirm that he hasn’t even a skinny ghost of a chance to land the Republican presidential nomination, Newt released an “infomercial” in which he sits at a desk and talks about energy for half an hour. If anyone has sat through the whole thing he or she is not telling.
And let’s not forget Santorum the Sanctimonious, who has also done some fine work in front of the cameras in recent days. Rick ran well against the Mitten in Michigan and he has scored numerous points among the backward, the intolerant and the ignorant. His main problem is that he is running in 21st-century America instead of 15th-century Spain.
But the Rickster knows what plays in the media. He called President Obama a snob for wanting all American children to go to college and he characterized as sickening John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech reaffirming the constitutional separation of church and state. Made him want to throw up, he said. So, not surprisingly, Rick walked away with the award for the biggest hypocrite in a sometimes leading role except maybe for Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney.
Of course any awards ceremony or political debate is thrilling. But the GOP debates might have been that much more interesting if J-Lo and Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek and a few others had made an appearance. Just a thought.
Here’s another (see previous post) of George W. Bush’s adornments to the federal bench:
HELENA — Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull on Wednesday admitted to sending a racially charged email about President Barack Obama from his courthouse chambers…
The subject line of the email, which Cebull sent from his official courthouse email address at 3:42 p.m. Feb. 20, reads: “A MOM’S MEMORY.”
The forwarded text reads as follows:
“Normally I don’t send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.
“A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’
“His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’”
From the Washington Post:
Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Rules Committee, announced his retirement on the floor of the chamber Wednesday morning.
“I take the unusual step of announcing this from the floor of Congress for two reasons,” Dreier said of his surprise announcement. “First, this is where my fellow Californians sent me to represent them. Second, I am a proud institutionalist, and I believe that this institution is as great as it has ever been.”
One wonders what remains
Inside Mitt’s head
That he has had the brains
To leave unsaid.
At last night’s debate — which I made a point of not watching — we had this exchange, when John King asked each candidate what was the top misconception about them, and Romney responded with the usual blather:
KING: Is there a misconception about you? The question is the misconception.
ROMNEY: You know, you get to ask the questions you want, I get to give the answers I want.
KING: Fair enough.
Far be it from me to tell John King how to do his job. But I humbly suggest a better response might be along these lines:
“Governor Romney, has it occurred to you that while I’m employed as a journalist, I am also a citizen and a taxpayer? Has it occurred to you that the reason we are here is that you are asking me as a citizen to vote for you, and as a taxpayer to cover your salary and benefits for four to eight years? Do you understand that one of the fundamental principles of this republic is that the president is answerable to the citizens — like me, for instance? Is it your contention that you are not in fact answerable to citizens — or only answerable to those with whom you happen to agree?”
I’m not holding my breath for that kind to follow-up to any exchange with a Republican...
Professor Wolff did:
The nation’s Catholic Bishops, a shameful cabal of child molesters and enablers of child molestation, have found in Rick Santorum the perfect embodiment of their ideal altar boy.
This from Mike Lofgren, a retired Republican staffer on the House and Senate budget committees:
An observer of the right-wing phenomenon must explain the paradox of followers who would escape from freedom even as they incessantly invoke the word freedom as if it were a mantra. But freedom so defined does not mean ordinary civil liberties like the prohibition of illegal government search and seizure, the right of due process, or the right not to be tortured. The hard right has never protested the de facto abrogation of much of the Bill of Rights during the last decade.
In the right-wing id, freedom is the emotional release that a hostile and psychologically repressed person feels when he is finally able to lash out at the objects of his resentment. Freedom is his prerogative to rid himself of people who are different, or who unsettle him. Freedom is merging into a like-minded herd. Right-wing alchemy transforms freedom into authoritarianism.
Sure, it’s Alabama. But still…
Alabama legislators were given a 62 percent raise in 2007, and State Senator Shadrack McGill (R-AL) says the raise discourages corruption among lawmakers. The previous low salaries “played into the corruption, guys, big time,” he says. “You had your higher-ranking legislators that were connected with the lobbyists making up in the millions of dollars. They weren’t worried about that $30,000 paid salary they were getting.” By paying lawmakers more up front, he says, they are less susceptible to taking bribes: “He needs to make enough that he can say no, in regards to temptation.”
However, if teachers were given pay raises, then people who are not “called” to teach would begin joining the profession, he says. “Teachers need to make the money that they need to make. There needs to be a balance there. If you double what you’re paying education, you know what’s going to happen? I’ve heard the comment many times, ‘Well, the quality of education’s going to go up.’ That’s never proven to happen, guys. It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach. To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK? And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach.
Foster Friess, one of the leading bidders in the current E-Bay auction of the 2012 election, is being rightly excoriated for saying this:
“This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s such [sic] inexpensive. Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly,” he said.
There are men in this world still who think contraception is solely the woman’s problem. Clearly, Mr. Friess is among them. That would be fine, maybe, if they would at least get out of the way and leave it to the women to solve. Right?
Apparently not. For we also have this:
Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the hearing in protest of [Issa’s] decision, citing frustration over the fact that the first panel of witnesses consisted only of male religious leaders against the rule. Holmes Norton said she will not return, calling Issa’s chairmanship an “autocratic regime.”
So what we have is what we always have, in the Republican worldview: It’s your problem, whatever it is - until you try to do something about it. Then and only then will they take an interest - and only to tell you that you can’t solve it at all.
And they call this process “freedom.”
It’s been far too long since I visited with Princess Sparkle Pony. What would the doyenne of coiffure criticism make of Callista Gingrich? Plenty, as it turns out. A snippet of which is below:
…Instead of just touching up the roots, some slipshod (local?) hairdresser went wayyyy overboard and redyed the Platinum Orb in its entirety, and it is FRIED. Chemical burns are clearly evident. Judging from wire photos, the coiffure vandalism happened either yesterday afternoon/evening or (more likely) this morning…
The Moderator, a self-important TV news person, a man called Wolf: Gentlemen, let’s begin with a question for Speaker Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, could you tell us…
A Man Called Newt: What I’d like to know is how so many seriously stupid people could get on the same stage with me and challenge my right to be president?
A Man Called Mitt: I’ll answer that one, Fig Newton, but first let me say this. I make no apology for being successful, although I must admit I was a little surprised to find out I made $45 million last year for doing absolutely nothing. Of course, it helps if you don’t pay much tax.
Wolf: Gentlemen, could we get back to the question?
Mitt: I’ll answer Newt’s question. You’re never going to be president, Tons o’ Fun, because you’re simply too weird to be president. The American people don’t want weird; they want boring. They want me.
Rick Somebody or Other: That wasn’t the question. The question was…
Newt: Wait a minute. Isn’t your name Rick Somebody or Other? I thought you dropped out of the race.
Rick: That was the other Rick. Rick Perry, the Texas dude who couldn’t remember the name of one of the federal agencies he was going to shut down. I’m Rick Sanitorium.
A Man Called Ron, Also Paul: I remember you very well; you used to stand next to Michele Bachmann in the early debates. Where is Michele, by the way? Always liked that girl, even if she was an idiot.
Rick: She dropped out, too. But I’m not dropping out. I’m from Pennsylvania and I think contraception is a sin and so is abortion and so is sex, for that matter, although I love my kids.
Ron: Well, I’ll be damned, all this time I thought you were the other Rick. Hey, while I’ve got the floor, let me suggest that a good way to bring down the deficit would be to get rid of the navy, the air force and the Supreme Court.
Newt: Snappy thinking, Ron. While we’re at it, let’s get rid of Congress, too, okay? Ah… Bear, Wolf, Coyote — whatever your name is — might we move things along? Why don’t you ask me a question and thereby raise the level of discourse.
Wolf: I tried to ask you a question, you lard-assed egomaniac, but you interrupted…Oh, for God sakes, will you stop crying.
Mitt: See that! He’s crying again! The American People don’t want a crybaby for president. They want a kindly family-oriented businessman who pulled himself up from nothing, made some important dough, and figured out how to game the tax system.
Wolf: Hold on, I’m getting a call in my earpiece. Did anyone order a pizza?
Ron: Good Lord, it must be that double-talking screwball Cain.
Wolf: Mushrooms, peppers, extra cheese?
Newt: Could be Cain. He makes a good pizza. I ate about twenty-five of them in New Hampshire.
Mitt: I can see that.
Newt: Don’t get smart with me, Mitten. You’re nothing but a vulture capitalist who made his money feasting on corporate carrion. I am a jolly, amazingly intelligent historical advisor to quasi-public real estate lenders. Who happens to be pleasingly plump.
Mitt: Whatever you say, fat boy. Blubber is as blubber does.
Rick: I have a question for you, Newt. What do you and the gang up at Freddy Mac talk about if not how to exert influence on the government?
Newt: Oh, we talk about the Missouri Compromise, Truman’s relationship with the Soviet Union, George Washington’s idea of government — things like that.
Wolf: So Freddy Mac pays you a bundle to get your thoughts on the French and Indian War… is that what you’re saying?
Newt: Oh, are you still here, Coyote? I was hoping you’d shut yourself up in the Situation Room. And it’s none of your business what Freddy Mac and I talk about.
Ron: Well, look who’s here — the pizza king!
Herman Cain: Hi, everybody. Who ordered the pepperoni? Who had the extra cheese?
From Gail Sheehy’s 1995 profile in Vanity Fair comes all you need to know about Newt — semi-smart but with nutty ideas, poor follow-through, and a mess left for somebody else to clean up.
Surprisingly, the boy in the bottle-thick glasses with a plaid shirt and plastic pocket protector was only a runner-up as a National Merit Scholar. He did make the debate team, but, according to his stepfather, Bob Gingrich, “he wasn’t an A student … He wasn’t the class pride.” His mother Kit claims that Newt’s I.Q measured in the 120s…
“He always tried to be one of the boys,” says Kip Carter. “He never quite was.” To illustrate the point, Carter tells a down-home kind of story from the 1970s. Newt and Carter, who was then his campaign treasurer, used to barbecue hogs in the Gingriches’ driveway in Carrollton, Georgia. They would go to a friend’s farm and pick out a hog and shoot it.
“One day, Newt says to me, ‘I need to be the one to kill the hog. It’s only right, just morally.’”
Carter showed Newt how to use a Walther P-38, a W.W. II German pistol. “I said, ‘Put some corn in your left hand. When the pig comes over to get it, put the pistol against his head and shoot him between his eyes.’”
“So the pig comes over and he starts eating,” says Carter. “Newt flinches as the round hits the pig on the side of the head and ricochets down.” But the shot only stunned the hog and sent it fleeing back into the pen. “Newt keeps trying to get this pig to come back to him. Newt’s getting madder and madder. I said to him, ‘You just shot the son of a bitch in the head, Newt, why do you think he’s gonna come to you?’”
Carter recalls urging his comrade-in-arms, “‘You gotta get in there, in the hogpen, and go get him.’ But Newt wouldn’t do it. So I ended up going in the pen and killing the hog.”
Robert Paul Wolff is a Jewish philosopher who taught at Harvard, Columbia and Chicago before becoming head of the Afro-American Studies department at the University of Massachusetts. Now retired in North Carolina, he blogs at The Philosopher’s Stone. The excerpt below is from an essay called “Free, White, and Twenty-one.” In it he takes on the political question of the week: What Can South Carolina Possibly See in Newt?
It was more or less at this time that a new and curious linguistic practice entered the public speech of America. Ordinary White working class families began to be referred to, and increasingly referred to themselves, as “middle class.” Now “middle class” is itself a rather suspicious bastard sociological category. It does not have the historical roots and deeper meaning of “petty bourgeoisie,” which conveys the notion of shopkeepers and small business owners who, although owners of their means of production, are yet not the great geldbesitzeren or haute bourgeois who command the economic heights. But it also does not merely mean “between rich and poor.” It does, in the American context, somewhat correspond to the old distinction between “suits” and “shirts” or “white collar” and “blue collar.” However, in the racially segregated America of the ’50s and ’60s, “middle class” clearly meant suburban, respectable, not living in an inner city ghetto. It meant NOT BLACK.
The Civil Rights Movement challenged the Black Codes, it challenged Jim Crow, it challenged the deeply embedded caste system of American society. And it was successful! I will yield to no one in my outrage at the discriminations that still afflict Black Americans, but I am old enough to recall what this country was like in the ’40s and ’50s, and that change has been dramatic, transformative, and irreversible.
We may celebrate this change as the greatest progressive victory of the twentieth century, but to a large number of Americans, the change has been devastating, incomprehensible, and hateful. No longer can Whites at the bottom of the economic ladder console themselves, in the dark night of their souls, with the secret thought, AT LEAST I AM NOT BLACK.
The Rude Pundit quotes Martin Luther King:
Dives went to hell because he sought to be a conscientious objector in the war against poverty.
Exactly. Greenspan and the Chicago boys. Newtie. Governor Walker. The Koch brothers. Cantor. Perry. Reagan. Bush the Lesser. McConnell. The Tea Party. The two Pauls. On and on. All of them conscientious objectors in the war against poverty. And all of them bound, if the Bible is right, for the same place as Dives.
From Tom Degan at The Rant, a line I wish I had written:
Well over a year ago I predicted on this site that the religious bigots and crazy people who long ago hijacked the “the party of Abraham Lincoln” would never nominate Mormon Mitt Romney. “David Duke will be named head of the NAACP before that ever happens” I speculated at the time. It appears that I might be forced to eat a healthy dish of crow on the occasion of Mitt’s victory in the New Hampshire Primary last night. This is not to imply that the half-witted “base” of that party are happy about what happened last evening. Anything but. Let me put it to you this way: The Republicans just got the news that they’re pregnant and they’re trying to fall in love as rapidly as possible.
Tacked on to the end of The Rude Pundit’s daily scatology is the question below. None of Romney’s Republic opponents will dare to raise it, for fear of having to answer it himself. However we can surely count on the truth-seeking pit bulls of the MSM to… Okay, okay, forget it.
In other words, everything Mitt Romney wants to do would harm Americans. Everything. So of course he’s gotta get out there and be the total dickhead he always was and always will be.
Here’s the question someone needs to ask, repeatedly, of Romney: “If you had been elected in 2008, what would you have done to clear the wreckage left behind by George W. Bush?”
Hot off the wire from CNN:
In his last days in office, outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned two men convicted of murder, a state official said Monday…
OMG, is it possible I’ve been wrong about Haley Barbour all these years? Is it possible he’s not a complete, top-to-bottom, front-to-back vicious asshole? Could he really be correcting some hideous miscarriage of justice? Nah—
Both men, according to the affiliates, were working as trusties at the governor's mansion.
Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest and a history professor at Barnard College, writing in RD Magazine:
When I lived in Iowa in the 1970s, my father was pastor of one of the largest evangelical congregations in the state. Although he remained a Republican to his death, my father was resolutely apolitical in the pulpit.
Things began to change for Iowa evangelicals — and for politically conservative evangelicals elsewhere — in the late 1970s. Iowa, in fact, was the proving ground for abortion as a political issue. Until 1978, evangelicals in Iowa (as elsewhere) were overwhelmingly indifferent to abortion, even after the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973; they considered it a Catholic issue.
The Iowa race for United States Senate in 1978 pitted Dick Clark, the incumbent Democratic senator, against a Republican challenger, Roger Jepsen. All of the polling and the pundits considered it an easy win for Clark. In the final weekend of the campaign, however, pro-lifers (predominantly Catholic) leafleted church parking lots all over the state. Two days later, in an election with a very low turnout, Jepsen narrowly defeated Clark, thereby persuading Paul Weyrich and other architects of the religious right that abortion would work for them as a political issue.
Politically conservative evangelicals in Iowa began to mobilize. Ronald Reagan carried Iowa in 1980 over Jimmy Carter, the incumbent, evangelical Democrat. In 1988 I returned to Iowa for the precinct caucuses to write about evangelicals negotiating the vagaries of political life. Many were self-identified “housewives” who were “lobbying from the kitchen table.”
The religious right in Iowa never looked back. Concerned Women for America, Beverly LaHaye’s organization, became a political force. Rush Limbaugh and other fixtures of the downstream media became staples on WHO, Iowa’s Clear Channel radio station. The radio station KWKY, located — literally — in the middle of an Iowa cornfield, became a beacon of evangelical political rhetoric, most of it leaning toward the hard right. Gannett’s purchase of the Des Moines Register in 1985 diminished the newspaper’s independent voice.
Here’s a post from W.W., on The Economist’s Democracy in America blog. You won’t get any argument from me, except over the author’s assumption that religions other than Mormonism are not equally “weird and made-up”:
Pundits keep talking about the “non-Romney” candidates, but what they really mean is the “non-Romney, non-Paul” candidates. Mr Paul, who clinched a close third-place finish Tuesday night, filled Iowa’s airwaves for months with ads aimed squarely at social conservatives, but he didn’t win anything close to Mr Santorum’s support from evangelicals or tea-party movement symps, despite the fact that Mr Santorum barely advertised at all. Why? Because Ron Paul is anti-war.
Mr Weigel, citing Sarah Posner, is spot on; the tea-party movement is “a new framework for the same conservatives who dominated the GOP a month before the Tea Party began.” Which is to say, the tea-party movement is just another expression of the American right’s signature brand of identity politics. It’s overriding concern is elevating the power and social status of those who hold dear a certain conception of American authenticity — white, evangelical, exceptionalist nationalism — and it does this, bizarrely, using the rhetoric of constitutionalism, limited government, and free markets.
Actual laissez-faire constitutionalists, such as Mr Paul, don’t stand a chance as long as they insist on leavening their exceptionalist rhetoric with the insistence that it is appropriate to evaluate American foreign policy by the same standards we use to judge others. Mr Romney’s desperate, almost lunatic jingoism keeps him in the running, but the suspicion that he is a squish on zygote murder and gay nuptials, in addition to his membership in a weird, made-up religion, keeps American-authenticity conservatives casting about for a better champion.
Mr Santorum may or may not have the talent necessary to obscure his brand of big-government, right-wing paternalism with tea-party rhetoric. But it’s certain he can’t obscure his Catholicism, which isn’t nearly as bad as Mormonism, but sure isn’t great. I reckon a combination of Mr Santorum’s popery and unusually explicit hostility to freedom will do him in. That’s why Rick Perry’s staying in the race, I think. American-authenticity conservatives don’t mind that much if their man can’t utter a non-mangled sentence, as long as he’s right with God, and it’s the right sentence.
Son Ted boils it down for us: “So coming out of Iowa, the GOP contest is Senator Man-on-Dog vs. Governor Dog-on-Car.”
Jimmy from Sharon sends along this reminder from Capital Gains and Games that Saint Ronald, when it came to taxes, was actually playing for the other team. Of course you already knew this, but you might want to pass it on to your Republican friends. You do have Republican friends, don’t you? They will appreciate your input.
The cornerstone of Governor Reagan’s economic program was not the ballyhooed budget reductions but a sweeping tax package four times larger than the previous record California tax increase obtained by Governor Brown in 1959. Reagan’s proposal had the distinction of being the largest tax hike ever proposed by any governor in the history of the United States.”
The top income tax rate was raised from 7 percent to 10 percent, the sales tax rate went from 3 percent to 5 percent, the cigarette tax was increased from 3 cents to 10 cents per pack, the alcohol tax was raised from $1.50 to $2 per gallon, the bank and corporate tax rate went up from 5.5 percent to 7 percent, and the inheritance tax rose from a range of 2 percent to 10 percent to a range of 3 percent to 15 percent. According to Cannon, this was essentially the Democrats’ wish list of tax initiatives, with the sole exception that it did not institute tax withholding, which Reagan adamantly opposed. In Cannon’s words, “An economist who analyzed the tax bill without knowing its political background might conclude that it had been crafted by a New Deal Democrat…
[President Reagan’s] aides began pressuring him to support a tax increase. Conservative activists were appalled that Reagan would even consider such a thing, but he eventually endorsed the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982. According to a Treasury Department analysis, it raised taxes by close to one percent of GDP, equivalent to $150 billion per year today, and was probably the largest peacetime tax increase in American history.
I think you should all watch this holiday beauty:
God know what he was telling Freddie Mac, but here's a summary of the clueless Newtster’s most recent attempt on history:
Gingrich, who explained that he was outraged by activist liberal elitist judges imposing their secular values on America (and more generally by “lawyers” who have come “to think that they can dictate to the rest of us”), declared that as president he would simply ignore Supreme Court decisions he didn’t like, abolish Federal appeals courts whose “anti-American” judges ruled in ways he didn’t like, and encourage Congress to subpoena judges to explain their decisions.
He claimed that Lincoln had similarly “just ignored” the Dred Scott decision, when he issued his Emancipation Proclamation; he said that Jefferson had similarly abolished Federal circuit courts whose judges he opposed; and he asserted that Jackson and FDR had also taken stances against what he declared to be the spurious doctrine of “judicial supremacy”— that the courts can pass judgment on the constitutionality of presidential actions or acts of Congress.
He insisted that the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision on detainees at Guantanamo could be declared “null and void” by the president “because it infringes on my duties as commander in chief to protect the country.”
He wrapped up his case by invoking those infallible and all-seeing guides, the Founding Fathers, who he said “were very distrustful of judges, saw them as an elite instrument of government designed to oppress people. And, as a result, consciously made the judicial branch the third branch and the weakest branch.”
You knew instinctively, of course, that all this was just more waste product from the GOP’s current White Hope (its Black Hope having self-destructed). But you probably didn’t have the time or inclination to do exploratory surgery. However The Liberal Curmudgeon (from which the above excerpt comes) has done a thorough dissection for you; sadly, the patient did not survive.
From The Liberal Curmudgeon:
I have been perplexed for some time why Newt Gingrich is routinely acknowledged even by his bitter enemies within the Republican Party as a “genius,” but the answer turns out to be simple: he acts exactly like one of those obnoxious elitist intellectual know-it-alls that the right-wing know-nothings think is the hallmark of an intellectual. He is constantly reminding us of his doctorate in history; he routinely claims he understands issues more deeply than anyone else; he has made a career of denouncing or (when he had the authority) eliminating professional expertise that might challenge his own certain pronouncements; and he is a veritable fount of crackpot “big” ideas (mining minerals on the moon, protecting the United States from sci-fi doomsday scenarios, and “fundamentally transforming” everything as a first step to doing anything.
Another useful rule of thumb: real geniuses, as opposed to simple egomaniacs, do not generally refer to themselves in the third person.
From The Carter Center:
Half of the workforce of the artisanal mining sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is comprised of children. Children as young as two years. Without viable economic alternatives, most children must join their parents in rudimentary mining pits. Children as young as two years transport, wash, and crush minerals to earn half a dollar a day.
These schools should get rid of unionized janitors, have one master janitor, pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work; they’d have cash; they’d have pride in the schools. They’d begin the process of rising…
Go out and talk to people who are really successful in one generation. They all started their first job at 9 to 14 years of age. They are selling newspapers, going door to door, washing cars. They were all making money at a very young age.
One of the great puzzlements in politics is the lock that the GOP has on businessmen, from Main Street to corporate America. Are they blind to their own self interest? The truth is out there, after all, and not hard to find.
By virtually every measure, over the lifetimes of every voter in the country, Democratic administrations have been better for the economy than Republican ones. Not by a little, either. By a lot.
In a sense this is a vindication of the GOP’s economic principles, which are the opposite of its actual practices once in power. The GOP, in fact rather than in theory, is historically the party of big deficits and big government. Reagan busted the budget. Clinton balanced it. Bush busted it again, even worse.
What’s going on, then? Are all these tough-minded, hard-nosed, bottom-line business men actually suckers? Well, yes and no. Yes if the businessmen are engaged in what Samuel Ricard called gentle commerce. This is positive-sum commerce, in which both parties profit from a transaction. It characterizes much of what we thing of as Small Business and it largely depends on return customers.
But the answer is no if the businessmen are engaged in zero-sum transactions where there is a loser for every winner. Think of a monopoly electric utility, as we are doing so unhappily in Connecticut right now. Think of a broker selling a mortgage to a man who can’t afford it. Think of most of the credit “industry.” These people don’t need to care if they cost the other fellow his job, his health or his home; they’ve got yours, Jack, and now they’re off to the Hamptons with it.
When they win, everybody else loses. This is one of the reasons for the seemingly odd disconnect between the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the real economy in which most of us live. After all, profits go up when you fire workers.
The small businessman easily grasps this point, and so he votes Republican in order to bust the unions and do away with the minimum wage — even, if Newt Gingrich has his way, to bring back child labor. He only grasps when it’s too late the further point that fired workers can no longer afford to be his customers.
Wall Street and the corporations may grasp the point, but don't much care. Their operating principle is that of those Enron energy traders who cashed out after collapsing California’s economy — IBG, YBG. I’ll Be Gone, You’ll Be Gone.
More tomorrow on the role played by budget deficits in implementing this great Republic moral principle. (As a member of the Democrat Party, I guess I can turn Republic into an adjective if I want to…)
I suppose dopey comments from Michelle Bachmann aren’t really worthy of notice. Stupid people have been saying stupid things for millennia, after all. But this one caught my eye, nonetheless.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she would add former presidents Ronald Reagan, James Garfield and Calvin Coolidge to Mount Rushmore Tuesday in an ABC News/Yahoo! interview Tuesday.
When asked who she would add to the South Dakota monument, she proposed Reagan. She then mentioned James Garfield, who was president for just over seven months before being assassinated. She reportedly said she chose him because he is the only person to become president from the House of Representatives. (Bachmann could be the second if she is elected president.) She then said Calvin Coolidge would be a good candidate for the monument, since he “got the country’s budget back on track.”
Of course she would. But I have to ask, why not Eisenhower? Why not Grant? I mean, Garfield and Coolidge aren’t exactly heavy hitters in the proud history of the GOP. Of course, history doesn’t seem to hold much interest for our Republican friends, not even when they might invoke it to their credit.
For the record, there is a reason each of those four men is memorialized on Mt. Rushmore. Washington was instrumental — if not indispensable — in creating this nation. Jefferson doubled its size. Lincoln kept it from tearing itself apart. And Roosevelt turned it into an empire (although McKinley helped on that one.) Each of them, in other words, fundamentally transformed the country — physically, not just ideologically. The reality is that there aren’t any other presidents about which that can be said. That’s not to say those are our four best presidents ever (FDR, anyone?), of course, or that these men did not have flaws to balance against their achievements.
As for Bachmann’s choices, Reagan began the dismantling of this country. Coolidge is generally cited as a positive example by his admirers precisely because he did next to nothing, and Garfield is remembered for being shot. (Robert Klein once observed that when you look up Garfield in the encyclopedia, it says “See ‘Assassination.’”) Like Sarah Palin invoking Paul Revere’s bells, this doesn’t even cut it as glib and superficial pandering.
Luckily, Mt. Rushmore isn’t exactly sound enough structurally to add another sculpture. Unless, of course, the plan is for Marcus Bachmann to pray away all the parts of Mt. Rushmore that don’t look like Reagan, Garfield and Coolidge. So I guess we don’t have to worry about that happening any time soon. We do, however, have to worry for the foreseeable future about boneheaded conservatives proposing that Saint Ronnie be added to Mt. Rushmore…
Why you never, ever want to get Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi on your case:
Perry lumbers onstage looking exceedingly well-groomed, but also ashen and exhausted, like a funeral director with a hangover… Then he waves and walks offstage. The whole thing has taken barely 10 minutes.
I can’t believe it, and neither can the assembled crowd of Georgia conservatives, who hesitate before breaking into polite applause. I feel like a high school cheerleader who just had her leg jizzed on in the back of a convertible. That’s it? It’s over? That was Rick Perry’s stump speech?…
After all, you have to go pretty far to stand out as a whore and a sellout when you come from a state that has produced such luminaries in the history of political corruption as LBJ, Karl Rove and George W. Bush. But Rick Perry has managed to set a scary new low in the annals of opportunism, turning Texas into a swamp of political incest and backroom dealing on a scale not often seen this side of the Congo or Sierra Leone…
Perry is a human price tag – Being There meets Left Behind…
He sweats profusely. He can’t stand still. When he does manage to get off a zinger, he cracks a smug grin, looking like he’s just sewn up the blue ribbon in a frat-house dong-measuring contest.
How dumb can the GOP get? How dumb ya got? How about this, for example, from McClatchy Newspapers:
WASHINGTON — In a move aimed at improving national security, House Republicans want to give the U.S. Border Patrol unprecedented authority to ignore 36 environmental laws on federal land in a 100-mile zone stretching along the Canadian and Mexican borders.
If the legislation is approved, the Border Patrol would not have to comply with the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act and 32 other federal laws in such popular places as Olympic National Park, Glacier Park, the Great Lakes and the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area…
This doesn’t seem to have made it from the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times into the MSM, so I guess I’ll have to step in. For the latest in libertarian cosmetology, by all means go here. Laugh if you like. Or cry.
Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, filed a bill this week to bring back “dwarf tossing,” the barbaric and dangerous barroom spectacle that was imported from Australia and thrived briefly in Florida before it was outlawed in 1989.
“I’m on a quest to seek and destroy unnecessary burdens on the freedom and liberties of people,” Workman said. “This is an example of Big Brother government.
“All that it does is prevent some dwarfs from getting jobs they would be happy to get,” Workman said. “In this economy, or any economy, why would we want to prevent people from getting gainful employment?”
I suppose there are the obvious observations: In the midst of what is a Depression in all but name, this is what a (nominal) public servant decides to focus on??? Just how many jobs does Workman think this move is going to create? Are there a lot of little people clamoring for this particular remedy? Did it not perhaps occur to Mr. Workman that maybe — just maybe — the “jobs they would be happy to get” are the same jobs the rest of us would be happy to get? Y’know — the ones that pay decently and offer benefits, like our parents’ jobs generally did in a bygone age?
But apart from the WTF quality of this particular proposal, there is something deeper. Namely that Mr. Workman and his fellow Republicans consistently see “freedom” in terms of the crassest exploitation. That Terrible Horrible No-Good Very Bad government is preventing the free market from exploiting dwarfs! Surely there is no other word for this but Tyranny. And just as surely it must be as beneficial to dwarfs to be exploited as it is for those who would exploit them!
Or children, for that matter — as the various state-level proposals from our Republican friends to do away with child-labor laws demonstrate.
So dwarfs opting to be tossed — that’s Freedom! Of course, if these same individuals were to decide to congregate outside Mr.Workman’s office to demand decent jobs and real economic fairness, I have no doubt that he would waste no time in denouncing them as un-American. Such is the compassion of today’s conservatives.
The point, which Teddy Roosevelt was the last Republican president to grasp, is that the natural and inevitable result of “free market” competition is not efficiency, invention, a level playing field, personal freedom, or the greatest good for the greatest number. It is monopoly.
This is what the Republican small government types would fear if they had a clue. Not government regulation. Ask anyone for his or her worst experiences with unresponsive, uncaring, indifferent, and rapacious bureaucracies. The answer will seldom be the Post Office or the Social Security Administration or even the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Nine times out of ten it will be a bank, an insurance company, a giant utililty, a cable provider. You can’t vote the rascals out. There is no congressman to complain to. You haven’t got a hope of successfully suing them. Corporate decisions are unappealable, mercilessly and mindlessly enforced by courts and bill collectors.
You can’t even get past the phone tree to speak to anybody in actual authority. Such people must exist, but they are faceless and unaccountable. You are in Kafka country. Just ask any of the poor bastards defrauded and evicted in the great mortgage swindle that blew up the economy for everyone but the bankers responsible.
This is the “big government” the useful idiots of the Tea Party ought to fear. Instead they are speeding its arrival. Perhaps it has already arrived. Look at the chart.
The only thing capable of standing in its way is the regulatory authority of the “big government” that the boobies have been taught to fear. Indeed it may already be too late. The Citizens United decision and the corporate-owned Congress and Obama’s economic team may have seen to that.
In which case God bless us all, and Tiny Tim Geithner.
It was probably not a great idea for Rick Perry to rent a hunting camp once called Niggerhead. Not that Rick minds offending blacks — he questioned President Obama’s patriotism, didn’t he? — it’s just that sensibilities have changed in the past fifty years in ways that the Texas Governor may not have noticed.
He has called Hispanics in his state “Josés,” as in, “The Josés will sue you at the drop of a hat.” He has implied that President Obama, while lacking any true feeling for the country, is also a coward. Likewise he has said that the head of the Federal Reserve Bank, Ben Bernanke, is “almost treasonous” if he orders more money to be printed before the election. He has called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. He thinks Medicare is a socialist conspiracy and will bankrupt the country. He says government is the problem and the best place to create jobs is in the private sector. To make his point, he cites the large number of new jobs in Texas during his tenure and doesn’t mention that most of them are government jobs.
Even if this latest blow-up on the tough-talking Texan’s yellow brick road is just another dust devil, does it suggest that in his case the N-word might have a different meaning? Nitwit, perhaps? Do you get the feeling that soon enough we won’t have Rick Perry to kick around any more? The cowboy governor’s campaign is reeling.
Yesterday, it was stammering performances against the likes of Michelle Bachmann, Newt and the Mitten. Today it’s the hunting camp; tomorrow, who knows? Pick your favorite gaff, stumble, screw-up, but whatever the reason, the ‘charismatic’ governor is falling fast in the polls and nowhere more precipitously than among those of a tea-party persuasion.
Apparently the tea partiers are disillusioned with Ricky because he’s started to tone down some of his best attention-getting positions. They liked him better when he was completely irrational, like them. Now he’s beginning to sound more like the other Republican candidates, except they’re better at grammar than he is.
Politicians are forever blathering about how canny the American electorate is: “The American people are too smart to be taken in by empty promises,” they say as they make yet another empty promise. Of course, to be fair, when your choice eventually comes down to two candidates, both of whom are running on a platform constructed entirely of empty promises, what are you supposed to do?
Still, there is little evidence to suggest that ‘smart’ is a good word to describe the American voting public. ‘Smarting’ might be better. ‘Fed up’ is good. But ‘smart?’ We elected George W. Bush, not once but twice. Was that smart? Look where it got us. Thousands dead and maimed and trillions of dollars spent, a huge increase in the national debt, and nobody can say for what. Nobody except, of course, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who chant, “We won. We won.” Won what? What did we win? Halliburton won enormous defense contracts and Cheney and Rumsfeld both won fat book contracts. Maybe that’s what they meant.
So now we’re in for another whole year of political bluster and bombast. A lot of us may be disappointed in Obama’s leadership but we can at least be thankful that we will be spared any serious challenge to his candidacy and all the misstatements, cheap posturing, and flatulence that would entail.
The Republicans will have to carry the burden for most of the year and we can all take comfort in the obvious talents they bring to the party. There are lots more N-words to draw on. Yes, N is for nitwit, but that’s not all. N is also for nothing, nada, nil, not, nonentity, nowhere, nobody home, nausea, numskull, nincompoop, none, no one, and no, no, no.
…in this case from The American Conservative:
…The Sailer analysis is ruthlessly logical. Whites are still the overwhelming majority of voters, and will remain so for many decades to come, so raising your share of the white vote by just a couple of points has much more political impact than huge shifts in the non-white vote. As whites become a smaller and smaller portion of the local population in more and more regions, they will naturally become ripe for political polarization based on appeals to their interests as whites. And if Republicans focus their campaigning on racially charged issues such as immigration and affirmative action, they will promote this polarization, gradually transforming the two national political parties into crude proxies for direct racial interests, effectively becoming the “white party” and the “non-white party.” Since white voters are still close to 80 percent of the national electorate, the “white party” — the Republicans — will end up controlling almost all political power and could enact whatever policies they desired, on both racial and non-racial issues.
From Frank Rich’s latest, in New York magazine:
The important thing to remember about Perry is that he’s anathema to Mitt Romney, Karl Rove, and many conservative pundits no less than to liberals. His swift rise does not just reflect his enthusiasts’ detestation of Barack Obama. Perry’s constituency rejects the entire bipartisan Establishment of which Obama is merely the latest and shiniest product.
For two decades, the elites in both parties and in the Beltway media-political combine have venerated a vanilla centrism, from Bush 41’s “thousand points of light” to Clinton’s triangulation to Bush 43’s “compassionate conservatism.” They’ve endorsed every useless bipartisan commission and every hapless bipartisan congressional “Gang of Six” (or Twelve, or Twenty, not to mention the new too-big-not-to-fail budget supercommittee).
Perry, by contrast, is a proud and unabashed partisan. If he’s talking about gangs, chances are they’re chain gangs, not dithering conclaves of legislators. He doesn’t aspire to be the adult in the room, as Obama does, but the bull in the china shop of received opinion…
Should Perry get the GOP nomination, he could capsize like Goldwater on Election Day. That’s the universal prediction of today’s Restons. But maybe he won’t. Perry would have a cratered economy to exploit, unlike Goldwater, who ran in a boom time when unemployment was under 6 percent and the GDP was up 5.8 percent from the previous year. Whatever Perry’s 2012 electoral fate, his lightning ascent is final proof, if any further is needed in the day of the tea-party GOP, that a bipartisan consensus in America is as unachievable now as it was after 1964…
From New York magazine:
The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” finally opened Wednesday at 45–51 Park Place. Last year, Park51, as the mosque–community center two iconic blocks from the WTC is called, was the flashpoint of the most heated New York City public debate in decades, prompting raucous community-board meetings, much incendiary rhetoric about the supposed Islamization of America, and, eventually, the uncommon sight of Mayor Bloomberg crying on television while defending New York as an unending beacon of tolerance where “no neighborhood is off-limits to God’s love and mercy.”From Kevin Drum, in Mother Jones:
On Wednesday night, however, aside from the cop car that sits outside the building 24/7 and a number of burly, black-clad bouncers, Park51’s recent history was little in evidence…
No one I talked to wanted to discuss the outrageous events of the past year. In fact, neither Pamela Geller or Robert Spencer — the firebrand bloggers who concocted the bulk of the anti-mosque talking points — even mentioned the Park51 opening on their sites. Then again, they may still by lying low in the wake of the disclosure that their views were widely quoted in the papers of Norwegian gunman Anders Behring Breivik.
The mosque was introduced to the public in December 2009, Pamela Geller shrieked about it, and no one cared. In May 2010 the project was approved, Pamela Geller shrieked about it, and no one cared. A week later, a New York Post columnist wrote a piece called “Mosque Madness at Ground Zero,” Pamela Geller continued shrieking about it, and —
And suddenly Rupert Murdoch’s other New York-based news operation took notice. After all, there was an election coming in November, and what better way to rally the troops? It was just one more log for Fox to toss onto its Bonfire of Xenophobia last summer..
The New Yorker has a wonderful story this week about the only pharmacist in Nucla, Colorado (population 700). His name is Don Colcord, and he does his best to serve an area of 4,000 square miles. Somehow he manages in spite of Medicare Part D, George W. Bush’s unfunded gift to the insurance industry and the nation’s deficit:
…He keeps watch-repair tools behind the counter, and he uses them almost as frequently as he complains about Walmart, insurance companies, and Medicare Part D. Since 2006, the program has provided prescription-drug coverage for the elderly and disabled, insuring that millions of people get their medication. But it’s also had the unintended [Editor’s note: my ass] effect of driving rural pharmacies out of business.
Instead of establishing a national formulary with standard drug prices, the way many countries do, the U.S. government allows private insurance plans to negotiate with drug providers. Big chains and mail-order pharmacies receive much better rates than independent stores, because of volume. Within the first two years of the program, more than five hundred rural pharmacies went out of business.
Don gives the example of a local customer who needs Humira for rheumatoid arthritis. The insurance company reimburses $1,721.83 for a month’s supply, but Don pays $1,765.23 for the drug. “I lose $43.40 every time I fill it, once a month,” he says. Don’s customer doesn’t like using mail-order pharmacies; he worries about missing a delivery, and he wants to be able to ask a pharmacist questions face to face. “I like the guy,” Don says. “So I keep doing it.” Don’s margins have grown so small that on three occasions he has had to put his savings into the Apothecary Shoppe in order to keep the doors open…
Rick Santorum offers up this frothy bit of wisdom:
“Does anybody in this room believe that somebody that’s 62 years old is too old to work in America today?” Santorum asked. “Social Security was established for people who were too old to work and therefore they needed the support of the federal government.”
For the moment, let’s leave aside that this is not historically correct. (Thom Hartmann neatly pointed out on his show today that both Roosevelts believed people should be able to retire after a lifetime of work. But since they were both commies, that probably doesn’t count.) Instead, let’s take Santorum’s statement on its own terms. Just for a few moments.
I don’t know specifically who was in the room when the statement was made. But the reality is that there are a lot of people who believe that someone who is 62 years old is too old to work in America today. Most CEOs. Most HR managers. Most of the so-called “job creators.” Pretty much everybody, in other words, in a position to actually hire someone who is 62 years old.
But don’t worry — they feel the same way about someone who is 52 years old. This is the reality in America today: the de facto retirement age is somewhere in the neighborhood of 49. That’s the age at which business is done with you — unless it’s your own business, of course. But if that’s the case, you’re most likely not hiring people older than 49 either. And if you’re a Republican you are most likely berating everyone you think is too old to hire for being lazy when everyone else with a job to offer makes the same unfair assessment of older workers that you did.
So, Rickster, here’s a modest proposal: Ask your campaign contributors if they think 62 is too old to work.
And then get ready to offer “the support of the federal government” to a whole lot of middle-aged, able-bodied people.
Here’s Rick Hertzberg, hitting below the belt again. Way to go, Rick.
Obama made a forthright argument that primitive individualism has to be paired with what he called “another thread running throughout our history — a belief that we are all connected and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.” He cited the example of his (and history’s) favorite Republican:
We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future — a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad, launch the National Academy of Sciences, and set up the first land-grant colleges.
All true. But it helped that, in the middle of the Civil War, there were no Senators or Congressmen from the part of the nation that, at the time, styled itself the Confederate States of America. In other words, Lincoln didn't have to deal with so many of the sort of people of the type we would today call “Republicans.”
How can I not run this? Slate’s David Weigel took it at a Tea Party rally yesterday in New Hampshire. Feel free to interpret.
Turns out Michele Bachmann doesn’t have a title yet for her forthcoming campaign bio, so The 6th Floor asked readers to help:
The Age of Disenlightenment: How Science and Reason Ruined America
Good with Animals
Certifiable: Michelle Bachmann in Her Own Words
Doncha Know: Words of Wisdom from the Queen of Flyover Country
I'm Straight-Talking, and So Is my Husband
Not As Dumb as I Sound
Are You There, Michele? It's Me, God
A little one-sided? Well, so were the comments. What did you expect from Times readers? But here’s one from Brad, in Arizona:
Here’s an excerpt (via Jay Bookman), but watch the video for the full intellectual experience. That Rick Perry will probably be the GOP’s White Hope in 2012 would be hard to believe — if we hadn’t just lived through eight years of George W. Bush.
SMITH: Governor, why does Texas continue with abstinence education programs when they don’t seem to be working? In fact, I think we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.
PERRY: “Abstinence … works.”
SMITH: “But we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate among all states in the country. The questioner’s point is, it doesn’t seem to be working — abstinence education.”
PERRY: “It, it, it works. Maybe it’s the way it’s being taught, or the way it’s being applied out there, but the fact of the matter is it is the best form of — uh — to teach our children.”
SMITH: “Can you give a statistic telling me that it works?”
PERRY: “I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works …”
Karl Rove attacks James Richard Perry (incidentally, is America ready for a president with three first names?) and Seasoned Political Observers examine the tea leaves as far back as the 1990 race for Texas agriculture commissioner.
It’s simpler than that, people.
Rove is a courtier, at the moment without a king. If I had a shot at becoming president, Rove would be indifferent to the fact I am a socialist, agnostic, semi-anarchist enemy of everything he thinks the Founding Oligarchs stood for. He would be prancing around me 24/7, blowing kisses and moistening his lips suggestively.
That Rove is sticking it to Perry today has nothing to do with old feuds. It means only that he needs a new king and he doesn’t think he could make this particular enemy of the people into one.
So he’s abandoning Perry early as a signal of friendship and availability to all the other Republican hopefuls.
Speaking of whom, I went to a meet-and-greet Saturday with four Democratic contenders for our district’s seat in the U.S. Congress. One was the speaker of the Connecticut House, another a House representative, and the other two were very young men with no political experience but impressive backgrounds in academia and foreign affairs. Each spoke briefly, then answered questions and worked the crowd for an hour or so.
On the drive home it struck me that any one of the four would in all likelihood make a better president than any of the Republican aspirants. (I’m open to persuasion on Huntsman, but just barely. My general feeling about anyone who would seek the nomination of today’s Republican Party is summed up by the old graffito: A man’s ambition must be small, to write his name on a shit-house wall.)
Remember, folks, you read it here first. Even if you didn’t.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Wayne Slater, let’s assume Governor Perry has no shortage of confidence here.
Tell us something else about Governor Rick Perry that folks outside the great state of Texas may not know.
WAYNE SLATER, COLUMNIST, “THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS”: Well, let me tell you a couple things. One, you’re right. He is George Bush on steroids.
People who thought they knew who George Bush was, Rick Perry is the real thing. He was actually born on a west Texas — raised on a West Texas ranch. He wears cowboy boots every day, as do a lot Texans. He was educated at Texas A&M. That’s the Aggie college, where he was a Yell Leader.
He carries a pistol with him, laser-fired pistol, laser-lighted pistol when he jogs. And at least this is not necessarily Texan, he’s a man of trust in his family. His father-in-law actually did his vasectomy. He’s a man who trusts his family and lives big in Texas.
The MSM media will no doubt be on this story like white on rice in the next few days. Here’s a handy check list for reporters:
1. Was the operation a success? Normally semen samples are tested for sperm following this procedure. Were these taken? How?
2. Was the operation done under general or local anesthesia? If the latter, what did the two men chat about?
3. Whose idea was the vasectomy? Possible answers include but are not limited to: Governor Perry, Mrs. Perry, the governor’s father-in-law, the governor’s mother-in-law, and the governor's parents.
4. The governor and his wife have two children. Would God consider this to qualify as being fruitful and multiplying? Has the governor brought the question up in his talks with Him?
5. Romney has five children. Compare and contrast.
6. Is vasectomy a family value?
7. Does the governor plan to provide foster care for 23 teenage girls? Related question: How come Michele Bachmann didn’t take in any teenage boys?
8. Is Governor Perry’s father-in-law a doctor?
Tim Dickinson disassembles Roger Ailes in The Guardian, from which this excerpt comes. Dickinson writes that Nixon was married twice instead of once and that Ailes lives in New Jersey instead of Putnam County, New York. But no one’s perfect, and the rest of the piece looks pretty solid to me. Scary stuff.
Ailes knows exactly who is watching Fox News each day, and he is adept at playing to their darkest fears in the age of Obama. The network’s viewers are old, with a median age of 65. Ads cater to the immobile, the infirm and the incontinent, with appeals to join class action hip-replacement lawsuits, commercials for products such as Colon Flow and testimonials for the services of Liberator Medical (“Liberator gave me back the freedom I haven’t had since I started using catheters”). The audience is also almost exclusively white — only 1.38% of viewers are African-American. “Roger understands audiences,” says Rollins, the former Reagan consultant. “He knew how to target, which is what Fox News is all about.” The typical viewer of Sean Hannity’s show, to take the most stark example, is a pro-business (86%), Christian conservative (78%), Tea Party-backer (75%) with no college degree (66%), who is over 50 (65%), supports the NRA (73%), doesn’t back gay rights (78%) and thinks government “does too much” (84%)…
In fact, a study by the University of Maryland revealed that ignorance of Fox viewers actually increases the longer they watch the network. That’s because Ailes isn’t interested in providing people with information, or even a balanced range of perspectives. Like his political mentor, Richard Nixon, Ailes traffics in the emotions of victimisation.
“What Nixon did — and what Ailes does today in the age of Obama — is unravel and rewire one of the most powerful of human emotions: shame,” says Perlstein, the author of Nixonland. “He takes the shame of people who feel that they are being looked down on, and he mobilises it for political purposes. Roger Ailes is a direct link between the Nixonian politics of resentment and Sarah Palin’s politics of resentment. He’s the golden thread.”
Quick note on the occasionally entertaining but never enlightening Republican candidates’ debate still going on as I write this:
A few moments ago — I swear I heard it — Rick Santorum dumped all over Iran for its anti-gay policies. Rick Santorum? Man-on-Dog Rick Santorum? Could I have misunderstood somehow? Or was Rick slipping in, through the back door as it were, something he wants us to know about him? If so, what is it? Who is the real Rick Santorum? And who cares?
Addendum on the morning after:
At least one other person noticed Santorum’s newly-found solicitude for gay rights. Here’s Michael Scherer, live-blogging on Time.com:
80 minutes. This is where things start to get weird. Santorum is asked if he really thinks Attorney General Eric Holder is “perhaps smoking mushrooms” for wanting to try terrorists in civilian court. Santorum responds by saying that the Iranian regime “tramples the rights of women, gays and people throughout their society.” This is Santorum, the guy who was saying just a few minutes ago that it would be good to impose morality from the federal government. The non-sequiter is jarring. But perhaps it can only be understood by injecting marijuana or drinking cocaine.
Why should I sound off on President Obama’s talk yesterday, when the Rude Pundit has done it better? And in language suitable, at least in this carefully chosen excerpt, for reprint in a family-values blog:
Yesterday, the Rude Pundit wrote that President Barack Obama was suffering from delusional thinking when it came to dealing with the GOP. Then, as if to prove the him correct, Obama spoke shortly after the Rude Pundit scribbled his bloggy meanderings, and the President doubled down on the delusional as a way of supposedly calming the panicky markets and populace. At some point, one must wonder who the hell Obama is talking to. Because the “most - reasonable - guy - in - the - room - c’mon - independents - love - me” train was blown off the tracks by the depraved mad bombers in the GOP.
Seriously, check this out. Obama said, “Making these reforms doesn’t require any radical steps. What it does require is common sense and compromise. There are plenty of good ideas about how to achieve long-term deficit reduction that doesn’t hamper economic growth right now. Republicans and Democrats on the bipartisan fiscal commission that I set up put forth good proposals. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate’s Gang of Six came up with some good proposals. John Boehner and I came up with some good proposals when we came close to agreeing on a grand bargain.”
It’s as if Obama has created this imaginary friend called “Mr. Nice the Elephant,” and he’s so happy to have Mr. Nice the Elephant around to play with that he just wants everyone to know about Mr. Nice the Elephant. He may as well have said, “Mr. Nice the Elephant and I come up with great ideas all the time. We should all have a pal as terrific as Mr. Nice the Elephant. Isn’t that true, Mr. Nice? He says it’s true. You just can’t hear him, but I can.”
How must you feel if you’re a Member of Congress these days? Embarrassed? Unclean? Do you mind being classified with the creepy-crawlies?
There was a time when members of the U.S. House of Representatives were not held in the same esteem as slugs, rodents and lice. But nowadays, when they’re not carrying on like demented five-year-olds, they are featured in ads fleeing from the Orkin man or checking into a Roach Motel.
How did so many Congressmen and Congresswomen fall from respect to obloquy? How many times have you heard your neighbors say, “Let’s get rid of all of them in the next election? Wipe the slate clean and start over. The next batch couldn’t possibly do any worse.”
This is of course the old “Throw the bums out!” refrain, but it doesn’t bode well for the country when people start to think of Congress as so much mildew. It will be a sad day when voters bring bottles of Tilex to the polls. And this day is coming soon.
Was it always thus? Well, maybe not always but too often. The problem seems to be that so many Congresspersons can’t hold a thought for very long. They forget who they are, where they are, and why. Many of them don’t seem to grasp the fundamentals of representative government, and those who do can’t seem to cope with those who don’t. This pathetic corrosion of reasonable governance has now infected both houses and the Oval Office. Nobody can do anything except to vigorously do nothing.
So now, after an incredibly drawn-out and tiresome exercise in schoolyard power politics, we have a “deal,” a bill that creates another commission to study the debt problem and come up with recommendations. Congress apparently forgot that we’ve already done that — twice. But why do something only once if you can spend another few millions doing it again, and again, all the while calling for fiscal responsibility?
Fiscal responsibility used to be the byword of the Republican Party and Republicans are still trumpeting this conceit as the bedrock of their political philosophy. Once upon a time it was a respectable, if selfish, position, but now mainly draws exasperated guffaws and clucking from all but the most deranged right-wingers, the tea party extremists, for instance. Except for its own highly paid ideologues and a profoundly ignorant and mean-spirited segment of the electorate, no one in the GOP, including its elected officials, can possibly believe in its claim to fiscal responsibility.
George W. Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress added more than four trillion dollars to the national debt, which he carried as a non-budget item, off the books, as it were, to finance not one but two ill-advised wars, wars that have accomplished absolutely nothing except to take or ruin the lives of thousands of American soldiers and countless Iraqis and Afghans. Bush loaded more onto the national debt than any president in history.
He also lowered the tax rates to give an unneeded bonanza to the richest people in the country, did much to protect the various exemptions and tax advantages enjoyed by some of the richest companies and then he tried to privatize Social Security, an idea that some scholars have called the single-most irresponsible initiative ever undertaken by an American president.
But, hey, fiscal responsibility takes many forms. And sometimes the people, they just don’t know what’s good for ‘em. But that’s what we’ve got the tea party for, to show us the way. And that’s what the Democrats are for, to mount the loyal opposition — Quiet Please! — and then to roll over so the Republicans can scratch their bellies. Thanks so much; that feels so good.
The very thought of it all brings to mind the first verse (actually, the only verse) of a favorite childhood rhyme:
…how to figure out which harlot would just as soon see the baby drowned in the bathtub. Once King Solomon determined that, he returned the baby to its mother. Once our solons made the same determination, they decided to leave the kid with the kidnapper.
There’s a upside, though. The harlot who actually gives a shit about the baby will be granted visitation rights. Details yet to be worked out, but the best guess at the moment is from five to seven p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Supervised visits, of course, so she won’t smuggle in food stamps or Medicaid.
Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.
And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.
And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.
Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.
Generations hence, when the river of time has worn this presidency’s importance to a small, smooth pebble in the stream of history, people will still marvel that its defining trait was a mania for high-speed rail projects. This disorder illuminates the progressive mind…
Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons — to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.
To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.
Will gives away the game with the phrase “delusions of adequacy.” It is pure projection, since the whole point of the GOP’s own marketing is to keep the suckers quiet with delusions of adequacy. If the boobs can drive their car anywhere they damn please, no damn government Nazi is going push them around (that’s the bank’s job, the minute they’re late with a payment.) An AK-47 over every hearth is adequate to the task of protecting freedom-loving Americans from the feds who would otherwise enslave them (never mind Waco or Ruby Ridge.) And of course there’s nothing like a submissive wife and obedient children to make a fellow feel adequate. Except maybe pushing around a minority while you’re still, precariously, in the majority. Or that greatest delusion of adequacy of them all: belief in American exceptionalism as our ship of fools slowly sinks under the weight of their delusions.
From historian Taylor Branch’s 2009 book, The Clinton Tapes:
At home, the president analyzed twisted political maneuvers heading toward the fall elections. He focused on Newt Gingrich. The speaker had given spring speeches across the presidential testing state of Iowa, discussing his thoughtful book about future challenges from cyberspace to the world economy. Gingrich also met with Clinton’s chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, whom the president had persuaded to stay on awhile, about a compromise legislative agenda before congress adjourned.
Bowles was optimistic, but the speaker’s pollsters brought him disastrous results the same day. Clinton said he knew, because Gingrich later confirmed it himself, that all the numbers recorded a sharply negative reaction to him from core GOP voters across the nation, not just in Iowa. They rejected overwhelmingly the speaker’s softer, pragmatic image. The White House had similar poll numbers, and so did House Republicans who were jockeying to replace Gingrich if he ran for president.
Overnight, the speaker reverted to red-meat politics. He turned publicly against all Clinton’s legislation, including a bipartisan tobacco bill sponsored by Senator John McCain. He accused Clinton of “blackmailing” Israel to help the Palestinians. He called Clinton the nation’s “Defendant-in-Chief” for cover-up, corruption and crime. He said Clinton was wrong to claim that tobacco advertising induced young people to smoke …
In their singular request to choke off all but the military aspects of government, Republicans were reduced to invective and cries for perpetual tax cuts. Clinton hoped a proper campaign, by framing and comparing programs for the voters, could expose the Republican strategy as anemic and spent, if not cynical. Their few moderates in Congress were resigned, and the dominant conservatives were splintered.
Almost enough to make a fellow sorry for Sarah. Almost:
“…We looked online for the latest movie playing,” Jessie added. “But all the Harry Potters were sold out, and then we saw ‘The Undefeated.’ We don’t even actually know what we’re seeing.”
“Well welcome to California,” I said. “You’re about to see a documentary about Sarah Palin.”
“Oh, really?” they said, and started giggling again. I think they were expecting an action flick. When I returned to my seat, I thought maybe I’d talk to them after the movie, and get the perspective of two people who went in with no expectations. But they only lasted 20 minutes before walking out.
After that, it is strictly accurate to say that the theater was empty, except for me. On screen there were clips of a younger Sarah Palin helping to reform Alaskan governance. “In politics, you’re either eating well or sleeping well,” she said. I jotted this down: “And which of those are you doing now?”
Shortly before the end of the film, a young couple entered, walked to the back row, started making out, then interrupted their session and left (spoiler alert) as Andrew Breitbart, who made one of several guest appearances, started talking about eunuchs. Then I was alone again, working. Instead of researching civil liberties violations, or the war in Libya, or the contest to elect the next president of the United States, I was both a journalist and the only member of the public willfully paying attention to Sarah Palin, as if standing in for the pathologies of my profession…
We look back at the Great Depression and out the window at our present one, and wonder why we never seem to learn from our mistakes. At the cycle of deficits and income inequality and again wonder why. At Vietnam and Iraq and wonder why. Are we blind? Amnesiacs? Idiots?
If an individual citizen presented with symptoms so repetitive and self-destructive, no psychiatrist would hesitate to pronounce him, in layman’s terms, crazy. Why can’t they — the conservatives of both parties — ever learn?
This, though, is to misunderstand matters. They have learned. The disasters brought on so predictably and persistently by Republican administrations were not, in their view, deplorable. They were, and are, great victories.
From the GOP’s point of view both Reagan’s and George W. Bush’s stewardships of the economy were not failures, but wildly successful. Wages stayed flat or dropped, unions were busted, public and private debt skyrocketed. Good news everywhere you looked — if you were a stock gambler or an asset-stripping takeover artist or a money lender. Jobs lost to assembly lines in China, call centers in India? Marvelous. Pointless and endless wars? God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world. Without war what would become of war profiteers?
What would become of the rest of us, you ask? Who cares. We’ve got ours, Jack. And yours, too.
I never thought I’d be holding up Bill Clinton as a profile in ballsiness, but here goes. This is from historian Taylor Branch’s 2009 book, The Clinton Tapes:
On tape, Clinton said he had pleaded for calm, and he described the climactic confrontation since as deceptively quiet. A week ago tonight, he almost whispered to Gingrich and Dole his reasons to veto their last, loaded resolutions keeping the government afloat. “You’re not the only people with convictions,” he told them.
His spiel extended full credit for sincerity to the other side. They all wanted to balance the budget, but they could finish the job without riders to the budget that would throw 380,000 kids out of Head Start. Or slash college funds or Medicaid.
If he must close the government to uphold countervailing values, so be it. He promised Gingrich and Dole that they would feel his priorities before this was over. Gingrich especially seemed shaken by the final notice. They were going over the cliff after all, and the Speaker quickly confided his surprise. All his calculations had assumed Clinton would bend or fold.
Clinton said he thought Gingrich and his caucus were fooled by their own propaganda about the moral force of their proclaimed crusade. In the past week of shock or shutdown, as the President’s approval ratings skyrocketed while those of Congress plummeted, they clung to hopes that the adverse reaction was temporary panic. The president thought the mainstream press fed their delusion by attributing his success to nimble posturing and salesmanship — anything but a strong stand on principle…
Since the 1980s, Republicans projected absurdly high growth and low inflation in order to conceal their massive accumulation of public debt, while the Republican Congress now was predicting years of low growth and high inflation to justify their maximum cuts in nonmilitary programs…
His polls had shot up nearly to 70 percent with the likeliest voters, 55 and older, even though he had not yet gotten to veto appropriations slashing Medicare and Medicaid. He said these shutdown vetoes were magnificent teaching tools … If the next continuing resolution contained more poisoned riders as the price of reopening the government, he would veto that, too, gaining a platform to explain. “There are horrible things in there,” he said. “People have no idea.”
…and that nice Bachmann couple have made it:
Along with offering faith-based counseling at his clinic, Bachmann also gives presentations at various conferences. In November 2005, he and Rep. Bachmann both ran sessions at a “Minnesota Pastors’ Summit” in Eden Prairie, Minnesota: hers focused on the gay marriage amendment she was trying to push through the state legislature, and his was titled “The Truth About the Homosexual Agenda…”
The climax of the presentation was when, according to Prins, Bachmann brought up “three ex-gays, like part of a PowerPoint presentation.” The trio, two white men and a black woman, all testified that they had renounced their homosexuality. “One of them said, ‘If I was born gay, then I’ll have to be born again,’” Prins recalls. “The crowd went crazy.”
This is from a speech by native-born Iowan Michele Bachmann, announcing in Iowa her candidacy for president of Iowa and the other 49 states, none of which can hold a candle to Iowa, poor things.
My late father-in-law was also from Waterloo, although he was too modest to boast of it outside the family. His were the instinctive good manners of the American peasant, and he would never have lorded it over those unfortunate enough to have been born in states without caucuses. “T’warn’t no big thing being born in Iowa,” he would say to us young’uns. “Ma done the hard part.”
But enough of my own deep roots in Waterloo. Here’s Congresswoman Bachmann:
It’s great to be in Iowa and even better to be in Waterloo where I was born. It’s fitting to be here at the Snowden House, the place that once served as the home of the Waterloo Women’s Club. I stand here today in front of many friends and family to formally announce my candidacy for President of the United States…
I often say that everything I needed to know I learned in Iowa. It was at Hawthorne and Valley Park Elementary Schools and my home, both a short distance from here, where those Iowan roots were firmly planted. It’s those roots and my faith in God that guide me today. I’m a descendant of generations of Iowans. I know what it means to be from Iowa — what we value and what’s important. Those are the values that helped make Iowa the breadbasket of the world and those are the values, the best of all of us that we must recapture to secure the promise of the future.
Below is footage of Congresswoman Bachmann groping George W. Bush as he flees her advances like a Guinean housekeeper in the Hotel Sofitel. Bush himself was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, although he never gives speeches about it. It’s like he was ashamed or something.
From pages eight and nine of historian Taylor Branch’s 2009 book, The Clinton Tapes:
[President Clinton] remarked, for instance, that he had no idea what Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas thought about the merits of gays in the military. “He may genuinely be for it or against it,” said Clinton. “All of our discussions have been about the politics.” He said Dole advised him quite candidly that he intended to keep the issue alive as long as he could to trap Clinton on weak ground, where he would “take a pretty good beating.”
Similarly the president said Dole consistently advised that budgets were the most partisan matters between Congress and the White House, and that Clinton could expect to get few if any Republican votes for his omnibus bill on taxes and spending. Clinton said Dole spoke of the opposition’s job not as making deals but rather making the president fail.
On page 158, same book:
Clinton praised [Democratic] Senator Robb’s spirited riposte in a recent debate when senatorial opponent Oliver North called him a lackey who voted mostly with Clinton. Robb replied that he had voted mostly with President Bush, too, because his duty was to help presidents when he could, not tear them down.
From the New York Times:
Mr. Cox, now 32, is the only child of Tricia Nixon Cox and Edward F. Cox. His father, a member of an old New York family, is a lawyer and the chairman of the New York Republican State Committee. His aunt, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, is married to David D. Eisenhower II, a grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
As a child, Christopher Cox would go to sleep listening to tapes of President Nixon reading books.
From the Washington Post:
In one-quarter of the country, girls born today may live shorter lives than their mothers, and the country as a whole is falling behind other industrialized nations in the march toward longer life, according to the study…
What surprised Murray and his team was that despite increased consciousness about disparities and per capita spending on health care that is at least 50 percent higher than European countries, the United States is falling farther behind them with each passing year.
What failed to surprise me and my team was this:
The region where life expectancy is lowest, and in some places declining, begins in West Virginia, runs through the southern Appalachian Mountains and west through the Deep South into North Texas.
This is a swath of red states where the right to bear arms is particularly cherished. Without it, voters would have trouble shooting themselves in the foot on election day.
From Kitty Kelley’s dissection of the Bush dynasty, The Family:
As President, Bush kept a male fertility figure, which he had received from the President of Mozambique, in the Oval Office bathroom. The carved wooden statue, facing the toilet, stood three feet high and was anatomically correct, if somewhat exaggerated. The President kept a roll of toilet paper on the extended male organ. He liked to send young women into the bathroom and watch their reaction when they emerged.
“Alixe Glenn, who was deputy press secretary and about twenty-six years old at the time, told a group of reporters about George Herbert Walker Bush’s weird sex thing,” recalled one White House correspondent. “She said the President told her to go into his bathroom and wash her hands. She did as she was told and came out red-faced with embarrassment. The President thought it was killingly funny.”
2. Why did Ms. Glenn tell this story to reporters?
3. Why didn’t they print it?
4. If George Herbert Walker Bush were president today, would he Tweet?
5. If so, what?
6. Would Andrew Breitbart post it?
7. For sheer classiness, would you prefer (A) a president who finds it funny to embarrass a young female employee by exposing her to a giant wooden penis from Mozambique or (B) a president who allows a smitten young female employee to fellate him? “Neither” is not an acceptable answer; this is not a test of your political correctness. Choose one, and be honest.
8. Now rank the two presidents again, this time on the basis of psychosexual health.
9. Go to the bathroom and wash your own hands, as necessary.
Sarah Palin had this to say on the subject of Paul Revere:
He who warned, uh, the ... British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.
But here's what really pisses me off: Paul Revere's ride had already been distilled down to its simplest possible terms. It was already shorthand. It was already a cartoon. It doesn't require an explanation of any kind. And Palin doesn't know even that.
It's as if she was trying to explain what Bugs Bunny looks like, but doing so by describing Daffy Duck.
A couple of particularly stupid remarks from Republicans have been bothering me for a while, so I thought I’d get them off my chest.
Rep. Rob Woodall, a Georgia Republican, made a vigorous ideological defense of ending Medicare as it currently exists, telling seniors at a local town hall that they ought not look to the government to provide health care for the elderly just because their private employer doesn't offer health benefits for retirees.
A Woodall constituent raised a practical obstacle to obtaining coverage in the private market within the confines of an employer-based health insurance system: What happens when you retire?
"The private corporation that I retired from does not give medical benefits to retirees," the woman told the congressman in video captured a local Patch reporter in Dacula, Ga.
"Hear yourself, ma'am. Hear yourself," Woodall told the woman. "You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, 'When do I decide I'm going to take care of me?'"
I’m sure it never occurred to Rep. Woodall that government IS one of the ways we take care of ourselves. We all contribute to the cost of building and maintaining a civilized nation in order that we may all reap the benefits of being citizens of that nation. It’s the first thing in the Constitution. You can look it up and everything.
And that's leaving aside the sad irony that Woodall and his ilk have dedicated their political lives to ensuring that this woman and the majority of all Americans will be denied the wherewithal to "take care of me."
A Kansas state Representative had this to say last week, on the subject of rape:
During the House’s debate, Rep. Pete DeGraaf, a Mulvane Republican who supports the bill, told [state Rep. Barbara Bollier]: “We do need to plan ahead, don’t we, in life?”
Bollier asked him, “And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with a pregnancy?”
DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, “I have spare tire on my car.”
“I also have life insurance,” he added. “I have a lot of things that I plan ahead - for.”
So what Rep. DeGraaf seems to be saying is that women should expect to be raped. Is that what he tells his wife? Or daughters, if he has any? For that matter, how would Rep. DeGraaf feel if anyone so cavalierly treated the rape of his wife or daughter? (Hey, if we can ask Michael Dukakis how he'd react to his wife being raped, I think a similar question may be fairly asked of Rep. DeGraaf.) And just what sort of “planning ahead” does he have in mind? Surely he doesn't mean that women should be saving up for an abortion. If women should expect to be raped, then every man they encounter is a likely rapist, right? Perhaps women should just pre-emptively mace the men they come across in their day-to-day affairs. They might want to start with Pete DeGraaf.
Between this and the unconscionable response of congressional Republicans to the tornado in Joplin, I have to ask myself, Is there any human tragedy dire enough to to register on the Republican psyche as a genuine misfortune?
Available evidence suggests there is not.
… the mystery of what ails Limbaugh’s dittoheads and the Tea Party and Fox News listeners and Glenn Beck fans and birthers and the entire alumni body of Liberty University as well as the electorates of Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina. It turns out that these unfortunates may suffer from frontotemporal dementia, rendering them unable to recognize lies and sarcasm. No cure is in sight, but at least their malady now has a name.
While millions of dollars are being spent on scientific research to find an early detection system for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco think they have found a simple method. They say senior citizens unable to detect sarcasm and lies are likely victims of dementia.
By asking a group of older adults to analyze videos of other people conversing — some talking truthfully, some insincerely — a group of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco has determined which areas of the brain govern a person’s ability to detect sarcasm and lies.
Some of the adults in the group were healthy, but many of the test subjects had neurodegenerative diseases that cause certain parts of the brain to deteriorate. The UCSF team mapped their brains using magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, which showed associations between the deteriorations of particular parts of the brain and the inability to detect insincere speech…
The ability to detect lies resides in the brain’s frontal lobe. In diseases like frontotemporal dementia, this is one of the areas that progressively degenerates because of the accumulation of damaged proteins known as tau and the death of neurons in those areas.
Because the frontal lobes play a significant role in complex, higher-order human behaviors, losing the ability to detect lies is only one of several ways the disease may manifest. The first signs of the disease may be any number of severe behavioral changes. People sometimes behave in socially inappropriate ways or undergoing fundamental shifts in outlook — switching political affiliations or changing religions, for instance.
Here’s Jonathan Chait on “Liberalism’s Bumper Sticker Problem:”
The bumper sticker problem is endemic for American liberalism. On foreign policy, it’s actually a murky split, with ideologies cutting across both party coalitions. But on economics, there’s a persistent phenomenon of conservatives having clear bumper-sticker answers and liberals lacking them. That’s because, as I’ve argued before, conservatism is philosophically anti-government in a way that liberalism is not philosophically pro-government. “Market good, government bad” fits on a bumper sticker. So does “Government good, market bad.” The problem is that the former pretty well describes the Republican philosophy, while the latter describes the philosophy only of a tiny socialist fringe operating mainly outside the two-party system.
Here’s my solution to the problem: BE KIND TO STRANGERS. What’s yours?
For some reason (denseness?) it hadn’t occurred to me till reading this that the attack on public unions, like so much from the GOP, has its roots in racism:
While Beltway media portray a dual effort by Republicans and Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, the unavoidable question must be asked: Hasn’t a shutdown been the GOP’s goal the entire time? The Nation’s Melissa Harris-Perry agreed with Rachel Maddow on her show last night that many of the programs — and individuals — that have been targeted for funding cuts are beloved in American society; post office employees, teachers, Medicare. But the Republican Party, with little resistance from Democratic leaders, has been able to successfully demonize these figures and programs.
According to Harris-Perry, the GOP has manipulated popular opinion by linking these programs and workers with “less beloved” figures in American society: African-Americans, poor people and immigrant populations.
“The growth of the African-American middle class in the 1970’s was mostly men working at post offices and women working as teachers,” she says. “Republicans have been very successful in linking … even things for example like public schools to populations and communities that are less beloved, more stereotyped, more stigmatized. They’ve been able to lap those onto each other and sort of create these anxieties in populations that actually need and benefit from — on a daily basis — government actions.”
Just about four years ago the Grand Old Tea Party held a cattle call in South Carolina for its hapless crew of presidential hopefuls. A lot of the old gang are still around and still hopeful. One is Ron Paul, for whom I’ve had a soft spot ever since. Here’s why, from my post of May 16, 2007:
Sure enough, Pastor Mike Huckabee had the crowd in giggles right off the bat with this thigh-slapper: “We've done what Senator McCain has suggested. We've had a Congress that's spent money like Edwards at a beauty shop.”
My, how they laughed! The folks wouldn’t have been more delighted if good old Mike had just gay-bashed Mark Foley or Ted Haggard or Ken Mehlman or Mary Cheney or Karl Rove’s beloved stepfather. Probably less delighted, actually.
But enough of that.
A few minutes later an odd thing happened. Some guy that nobody ever even heard of grabbed a mike and committed common sense, right up there on the stage with women and innocent children watching.
It came as a mild but not unpleasant shock, like pulling up the lid and finding a rose in the toilet …
The perpetrator was named Ron Paul, who turned out upon investigation to be an obstetrician with libertarian leanings, an Air Force vet and an obscure Texas congressman who once represented Tom DeLay’s old district. Here’s some of what he said:
We’ve started with — we’ve just — the Republicans put in the Department of Homeland — it’s a monstrous type of bureaucracy. It was supposed to be streamlining our security and it’s unmanageable. I mean, just think of the efficiency of FEMA in its efforts to take care of the floods and the hurricanes…
We were spending $40 billion on security prior to 9/11, and they had all the information they needed there to deal with the threat, and it was inefficiency. So what do we do? We add a gigantic bureaucracy, which they’re still working on trying to put it together, and a tremendous amount of increase in funds…
There’s a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican party. It is the constitutional position. It is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.
Q: Congressman, you don’t think that changed with the 9/11 attacks, sir?
No. Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years …
We don’t understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we’re building an embassy in Iraq that’s bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us. (Applause.)
Q:Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?
I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we’re over there because Osama bin Laden has said, “I am glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.” They have already now since that time — have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don’t think it was necessary.
MR. GIULIANI: Wendell, may I comment on that? That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause, cheers.)
And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that. (Applause.)
I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.
They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think if we were — if other foreign countries were doing that to us?
This is the first time I can remember that any candidate for the presidency, of either party, has taken seriously the question that Osama bin Laden once suggested we ask ourselves: Why didn’t his men attack Stockholm? The misnamed “War on Terror” can only be won once we react to that question like grownups, not like Rudolph Giuliani and the fools who cheered him so wildly last night.
Remember, you read it here first. Unless you read Naked Politics:
During last week’s discussion about a bill that would prohibit governments from deducting union dues from a worker’s paycheck, state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, used his time during floor debate to argue that Republicans are against regulations — except when it comes to the little guys, or serves their specific interests.
At one point Randolph suggested that his wife “incorporate her uterus” to stop Republicans from pushing measures that would restrict abortions. Republicans, after all, wouldn’t want to further regulate a Florida business.
Apparently the GOP leadership of the House didn’t like the one-liner.
They told Democrats that Randolph is not to discuss body parts on the House floor.
“The point was that Republicans are always talking about deregulation and big government,” Randolph said Thursday. “And I always say their philosophy is small government for the big guy and big government for the little guy. And so, if my wife’s uterus was incorporated or my friend’s bedroom was incorporated, maybe they (Republicans) would be talking about deregulating.
“It’s not like I used slang,” said Randolph, who actually got the line from his wife. He said Republicans voiced concern about young pages hearing the word uterus.
Chuck Butcher at Chuck for… says something that probably needs saying:
In Wisconsin half of you bothered to vote. Half. That means about a quarter of the eligible voters picked your elected officials. How many of you teachers didn’t bother, how many of you public janitors didn’t bother, how many whatevers of you just didn’t bother?
That begs the question of how many of you ignored your actual interests to vote against Obama or for some social right wing hobbyhorse that you won’t get. In point of fact, regarding the “Family Values Party,” not only won’t you get it but they don’t bother with it themselves.
You folks are providing endless amusement for the national media. What the hell, you haven’t listened to what the GOP has actually had to say? You didn’t pay any attention when reputable analysts said, “liars, liars, pants on fire?” Are you now saying, “We thought we were voting for reasonable, responsible Republicans,” and continue to believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa?
Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn expressed doubt Wednesday that likely Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has what it takes to be president. “He is undoubtedly the smartest man I’ve ever met,” Coburn said of the former Speaker of the House in an interview with C-SPAN. “He is a thinker. He has great vision. The question to me is, does he have the capability to lead the country? And having served under him in the House, he is probably not one that I would choose to support in a presidential primary.”
When you think about all the people Coburn must have met in the course of his life, you have to conclude that he wouldn’t recognize smart if it came up and bit him in the ass.
Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, whose heart brimmeth over with compassion for the littlest people of all, spake thus to the Conservative Political Action Conference:
“My first year as governor my pro-life agenda was adopted by our Democrat-majority legislature, and Americans United for Life, I am proud to say, named Mississippi the safest state in America for an unborn child,” Barbour said.
He made no mention of born children, perhaps because life expectancy in Mississippi, 73.6 years, is fiftieth among the states. Topping the list at 80.0 years is Hawaii, where President Obama may have been born in the summer of 1961. If so, he can be expected to live until August 4, 2041, a Sunday.
As if facts made any difference, but here they are:
…If you prefer it in non-graph form: “Wisconsin public-sector workers face an annual compensation penalty of 11%. Adjusting for the slightly fewer hours worked per week on average, these public workers still face a compensation penalty of 5% for choosing to work in the public sector.”
The deal that unions, state government and — by extension — state residents have made to defer the compensation of public employees was a bad deal — but it was a bad deal for the public employees, not for the state government. State and local governments have been able to hire better workers and get more work out of them by negotiating contracts that they might not follow through on.
The ones who got played here are the public employees, not the residents of the various states. The residents of the various states, when all is said and done, will probably have gotten the work at a steep discount. They’ll force a renegotiation of the contracts and blame overprivileged public employees for resisting shared sacrifice. It’s a neat trick…
What’s going on in Wisconsin is a replay of what Bush did to the whole country’s economy, except that Bin Laden handed Bush a crisis to exploit. While the country was still in the fetal position, whimpering with existential fear, he was able to put two wars and a huge security bureaucracy on the national credit card. Then he cut taxes on the nation’s hard-working millionaires so that the nonproductive rest of us would be stuck with the bill.
But if Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker wanted to succeed in his new job as butler to the rich, he had to do something fast about that pesky balanced budget he inherited. Since he couldn’t go to war (although he’d plainly like to), he did the next best thing. He created a fiscal 9/11 by looting the state treasury for his bosses:
Like just about every other state in the country, Wisconsin is managing in a weak economy. The difference is that Wisconsin is managing better — or at least it had been managing better until Walker took over. Despite shortfalls in revenue following the economic downturn that hit its peak with the Bush-era stock market collapse, the state has balanced budgets, maintained basic services and high-quality schools, and kept employment and business development steadier than the rest of the country. It has managed so well, in fact, that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently released a memo detailing how the state will end the 2009-2011 budget biennium with a budget surplus.
In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.
To the extent that there is an imbalance — Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes — or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues — the “crisis” would not exist.
It’s all about The Finesse, The Donald explains to The Fox News:
I think my whole life has sort of been about finesse when you get right down to it. I mean it's — what running a country is, is to a certain extent we have to bring principle back and we have to also bring common sense back," Trump said.
From the New York Times review of Donald Rumsfeld’s apologia pro sua vita. It is titled Known and Unknown, and its 800 pages can be yours for the low, low price of $36 — less than a nickel a page! (All sales final.)
“Too many troops could hurt our ability to win Iraqi confidence,” [Rumsfeld] writes, “and it could translate into more casualties, because more troops would mean more targets for our enemies.”
I pass along this from Robert Paul Wolff so you won’t have to waste any more of your time reading crap about Sarah Palin’s presidential prospects.
Back in the early seventies (when the late unlamented Richard Nixon was as yet an undisgraced president), I was sitting around with several UMass colleagues gossiping, as was our wont, about a mutual friend. He had just been elevated from the faculty to a Deanship, and we were speculating about what sort of administrator he would be. Since he had not even served as a Department Chair, we had no track record on which to base our speculations, so we were very much at a loss.
Then Zina Tillona, a Professor of Italian in the Romance Languages Department (since phased out as part of a long, tragic world-wide assault on the Humanities) offered a bit of folk wisdom that, with the benefit of many years of hindsight, I now recognize as truly profound.
“Well,” she said, “most people do most things the way they do most other things.”
At first, what she said struck me as being very close to tautological, but as I reflected on it, I began to realize the deep insight of that simple remark. People have styles of behavior, modes of interacting with the world, that are grounded in their character, and a person’s style of being manifests itself in small things as much as in large.
If a person is perpetually late, lingering with a student in her office rather than promptly moving on to the next student on her appointment list, she will probably continue to be late when it is Deans and Provosts she is dealing with. If a professor’s desk is neat and cleared of all papers, with six pencils lined up in a row, their newly sharpened points exactly aligned, then he will almost certainly be punctilious, precise, and obsessively complete in his scholarly work.
I thought of Zina’s maxim when trying to puzzle out the political ambitions and intentions of Sarah Palin. Would she run for the Republican presidential nomination? Did she even want to be president? One of my sons, to whom I had long since passed on Zina’s folk wisdom, recalled it for me, and went on to suggest that it held the answer to my questions.
Palin has held three significant positions in her life: mayor of Wasilla, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission, and Governor of Alaska. She walked away from the second and third, each time because she saw an opportunity to maximize her fame and personal wealth. She clearly had no interest in actually being Governor of Alaska, nor is there the slightest indication that she wanted actually to be, or even had any idea what was involved in being, Vice-President of the United States.
Since most people do most things the way they do most other things, she will almost certainly run for the nomination, because that is the best way to remain famous and to develop new money-making opportunities without working for them. But should she have early successes in the 2012 primaries, as well she may, she will find some way, before the nomination process is complete, to drop out of the race, presenting herself as a victim of all manner of plots and prejudices.
Indeed, even if she secures the nomination, it is a virtual certainty that she will quit the race before she is defeated on election day. That this will cause chaos in the Republican Party will be of no concern to her, for at no time in her entire career has she ever exhibited the slightest loyalty to anyone or anything beyond her own immediate interest.
History repeats itself, no question. And no surprise either. It was formed and deformed back then by human beings; it still is, and by an unimproved species.
There are two ways of looking at this regular reemergence of past follies in almost identical shapes: either we have learned nothing from our mistakes, never will, and are therefore all doomed; or what the hell, we lived through these stupid patches before and so we probably will this time too. Take your pick, bearing in mind that it is Christmas, a season of hope.
Meanwhile, here’s a patch that I lived through as a young man, more or less intact and still bitching. This description of it is by Richard Hofstadter, in a 1963 speech at Oxford which was later published in Harper’s Magazine as “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Read “socialism” for “Communism” and “Obama” for “Roosevelt” and you’ll feel right at home. Professor Beck and Deacon McConnell make their appearances, too, along with many other familiar folks.
But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialist and communist schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners but major statesmen seated at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors discovered foreign conspiracies; the modern radical right finds that conspiracy also embraces betrayal at home…
The basic elements of contemporary right-wing thought can be reduced to three: First, there has been the now familiar sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt’s New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for s0cialism or communism. Details might be open to argument among right-wingers, but many would agree with Frank Chodorov, the author of The Income Tax: The Root of All Evil, that this campaign began with the passage of the income tax amendment to the Constitution in 1913.
The second contention is that top government officialdom has been so infiltrated by Communists that American policy, at least since the days leading up to Pearl Harbor, has been dominated by sinister men who were shrewdly and consistently selling out American national interests.
The final contention is that the country is infused with a network of Communist agents, just as in the old days it was infiltrated by Jesuit agents, so that the whole apparatus of education, religion, the press, and the mass media are engaged in a common effort to paralyze the resistance of loyal Americans…
As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, the quality needed is not a willingness to compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Nothing but complete victory will do.
Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated — if not from the world, at least from the theater of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for unqualified victories leads to the formulation of hopelessly demanding and unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same sense of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.
This enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman: sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, luxury-loving…
Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he directs the public mind through “managed news”; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional); he is gaining a stranglehold on the educational system.
This enemy seems to be on many counts a projection of the self: both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. A fundamental paradox of the paranoid style is the imitation of the enemy. The enemy, for example, may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry…
One of the impressive things about paranoid literature is precisely the elaborate concern with demonstration it almost invariably shows. One should not be misled by the fantastic conclusions that are so characteristic of this political style into imagining that it is not, so to speak, argued out along factual lines. The very fantastic character of its conclusions leads to heroic strivings for “evidence” to prove that the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed…
The singular thing about all this laborious work is that the passion for factual evidence does not, as in most intellectual exchanges, have the effect of putting the paranoid spokesman into effective two-way communication with the world outside his group — least of all with those who doubt his views. He has little real hope that his evidence will convince a hostile world. His effort to amass it has rather the quality of a defensive act which shuts off his receptive apparatus and protects him from having to attend to disturbing considerations that do not fortify his ideas. He has all the evidence he needs; he is not a receiver, he is a transmitter…
It’s standard to date the underlying racism of Republican politics to Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy.” It’s also wrong. Here’s Richard Hofstadter, writing in 1965:
Goldwater’s departure from the Republican pattern was compounded by his position on civil rights. One of the oldest, through hardly the most efficacious, of the traditions of many conservatives in the North — and even to a degree in the South as well — has been a certain persistent sympathy with the Negro and a disposition to help him in moderate ways to relieve his distress. This tradition goes back to the Federalist party; it was continued by the Whig gentry; it infused the early Republican party.
By adopting the “Southern strategy,” the Goldwater men abandoned this inheritance. They committed themselvels not merely to a drive for a core of Southern states in the electoral college but to a strategic counterpart in the North which required a search for racist votes. They thought they saw a good mass issue in the white backlash, which they could indirectly exploit by talking of violence in the streets, crime, juvenile deliquency, and the dangers faced by our mothers and daughters.
Eisenhower, like Goldwater, had been unmoved by noble visions of progress toward racial justice, but he at least gave lip service to the ideal and found it important to enforce the laws himself and to speak out for public compliance. But Goldwater arrived at the position, far from conservative in its implications, that the decisions of the Supreme Court are “not necessarily” the law of the land.
From Reconstitution 2.0. Picture McConnell or Boehner as Jeeves, and you will never see either of them quite the same way again.
Since the Rushpubliscums are pissing and moaning about raising taxes on the wealthy, let’s turn it up a few notches. Let’s propose raising taxes on only the ULTRAwealthy. And then, let the Rushpubliscums fight tooth and nail for their REAL constituency (or rather, their owners, since the Rushpubliscum Party has become an organization of butlers.)
David Weigel reports on what Mitch McConnell was to call “one of the most important speeches in the history of the Senate” — Democrat Chris Dodd’s farewell address after 30 years of representing Connecticut in the Senate:
Most of the Democratic conference was there. Joe Manchin, the new senator from West Virginia, stared intently at Dodd while resting his chin on his hand; after the speech, he spent the longest time of any senator talking to Dodd. Only four Republicans watched the speech from the chamber — Richard Lugar, Susan Collins, Thad Cochran, and Mitch McConnell.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A third of Americans say they have gone without medical care or skipped filling a prescription because of cost, compared to 5 percent in the Netherlands, according to study released on Thursday…
Healthcare reform was U.S. President Barack Obama's signature policy effort, but not a single Republican voted for the bill that Obama signed into law this year and conservatives in Congress have promised to try to dismantle it…
And this from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health:
Fifteen-year survival rates for men and women ages 45 and 65 in the U.S. have fallen relative to the other 12 countries over the past 30 years. Forty-five year old U.S. white women fared the worst — by 2005 their 15-year survival rates were lower than that of all the other countries. Moreover, the survival rates of this group in 2005 had not even surpassed the 1975 15-year survival rates for Swiss, Swedish, Dutch or Japanese women. The U.S. ranking for 15-year life expectancy for 45-year-old men also declined, falling from 3rd in 1975 to 12th in 2005.
When the researchers compared risk factors among the 13 countries, they found very little difference in smoking habits between the U.S. and the comparison countries—in fact, the U.S. had faster declines in smoking between 1975 and 2005 than almost all of the other countries. In terms of obesity, researchers found that, while people in the U.S. are more likely to be obese, this was also the case in 1975, when the U.S. was not so far behind in life expectancy…
The researchers say that the failure of the U.S. to make greater gains in survival rates with its greater spending on health care may be attributable to flaws in the overall health care system. Specifically, they point to the role of unregulated fee-for-service payments and our reliance on specialty care as possible drivers of high spending without commensurate gains in life expectancy.
“It was shocking to see the U.S. falling behind other countries even as costs soared ahead of them,” said lead author Peter Muennig, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Health Policy and Management at the Mailman School of Public Health. “But what really surprised us was that all of the usual suspects — smoking, obesity, traffic accidents, homicides, and racial and ethnic diversity are not the culprits. The U.S. doesn’t stand out as doing any worse in these areas than any of the other countries we studied, leading us to believe that failings in the U.S. health care system, such as costly specialized and fragmented care, are likely playing a large role in this relatively poor performance on improvements in life expectancy.”
Did you know that we had hundreds of tactical nuclear weapons stashed away in Europe in case the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ever decides to attack? No? Neither did I.
Read Daniel Larison’s whole article, excerpted below, on the shameful failure of the United States to lead the way in nuclear disarmament. If an individual reacted this way to a threat from a deceased enemy he would be considered clinically insane. Or, as we say in American English, a Republican.
Any U.S.-Russian arms control agreement brings new opportunities to denuclearize the European continent. The strongest advocates of this idea are the European “non-nuclear weapon states” who are hosting U.S. warheads under a NATO flag. These countries — Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Turkey — together host an estimated total of 150 to 220 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. In 2006, the Belgian Senate passed a bill to remove U.S. weapons from Kleine Brogel Air Force Base. Last year, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle singled out the issue of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Germany during his first visits to NATO and the United States. Parliamentarians of all host countries have urged Obama to withdraw U.S. warheads from Europe, and foreign ministers have written to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen asking for the issue to be placed higher on the alliance’s agenda. These European “abolitionists” fear that, without New START, Russia will be more reluctant to negotiate further arms limitations, giving fewer reasons for Washington to remove its weapons from Europe.
The news that U.S. tactical nuclear weapons will remain in Europe means that relations these governments are about to become more difficult. The leaked document ahead of the Lisbon summit means that the Europeans that had hoped New START would lead to the withdrawal of these weapons would have been disappointed no matter what happened in the Senate here. The failure of New START will ensure that there will be no discussion of tactical nuclear weapons with the Russians, who will have no reason to negotiate new arms reduction agreements if the U.S. cannot ratify this agreement. U.S.-Russian relations are going to take a hit because of Republican opposition to the arms reduction treaty, and our relations with Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Turkey are also going to suffer.
My God, what have they turned me into? Just now, watching the news from Alaska, I discovered myself rooting for Lisa Murkowski:
…are wasting no time — as you will see by the whole article (and links) from which this excerpt comes:
Republicans who were elected on Tuesday are beginning to deliver on their campaign promises to kill America’s future. Within hours of declaring victory, the incoming tea-party governors of Wisconsin and Ohio stood fast on pledges to kill $1.2 billion in funding for high-speed rail in their states.
The funding, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will revert to the federal government for investment in other states — unless Republicans in Congress are able to kill that, too. Walker warned he would fight President Obama to keep the Milwaukee-Madison link killed “if he tries to force this down the throats of the taxpayers.” Kasich — who called the high-speed rail project linking Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati “one of the dumbest ideas” he’s ever heard — used his victory speech to announce, “That train is dead.”
So is that brain.
Just got this from a reader who, unlike me and probably you, actually knows something about the business of health care:
Watched much of Obama’s really egregious and saddening tail-between-the-legs performance in his press conference. What would be the matter with just quietly and with dignity stating that the lesson of the election is that negativity and obstructionism work, and that Obama is the very embodiment of moderation and bipartisanship?
He is serious about there not being a Red States of America, or a Blue States of America, but rather a United States of America. The proof being that Obama showed substantial skill, leadership and muscle, and invested a huge amount of political capital, in getting the left wing of his party in Congress to hold their noses and agree practically unanimously with the health care plan that was passed — a plan which Obama had selected not because he is a socialist/fascist, but because it was a fairly good Republican plan. Obamacare is a Republican proposal, modeled on the Republican plan passed in Massachusetts, and a Republican proposal from 1993. (Chart here.)
So if people really are looking for reasonable politicians who will take good ideas from the opposition party, and make them their own, then that is in fact Obama — not John Boehner. Over 200 Republicans in both houses of Congress unanimously refused to provide even a single Republican vote for a Republican plan, just because Obama and the Democrats adopted it.
…Which part of “Fuck you” don’t you understand?
“Over the past week, some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term in office,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell plans to tell the conservative Heritage Foundation, according to excerpts of his speech provided to POLITICO.
“But the fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill; to end the bailouts; cut spending; and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won’t veto any of these things,” the Kentucky Republican will say.
How to explain the mostly dismal results of yesterday’s elections? Here are a few comments on the AP’s story on Tea Party-backed Republican Paul LePage’s victory in Maine’s gubernatorial race over a moderate, experienced and able independent challenger, Eliot Cutler:
LePage will do some good.Maine has too many unemployed bums roaming the streets.Busy bodies in everyones personal business are driving people away that could benefit the state…
good things still do happen, thank you Maine…
Their brains seem to be working better up there ,maybe it's the water, maybe it's the air, and maybe its because, they are tired of dimschit socialist bullschit, which would be my first choice…
Finally - a true American has ousted the communist & racist left from Maine. Power to American moraled values that founded this country!…
Still haven't heard........DID MAINE VOTE YES TO LET ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS VOTE???? I didn't think I'd have to ask this question in AMERICA!!!!…
This man should be praised for once being a homeless child, and then making his mark in the business world. It would have been easier for him to grow up in a gang like the inner city kids, and then sell drugs I guess.. huh Democrats? Then all of America could have helped pay his way through life. This is a win for America! It shows that the dream is still alive and well…
There is an old political saying: As Goes Maine, So Goes the Nation! Republicans, Democratic Conservatives and TEA Party members will make their voices heard in 2012. The new wind sweeping across our great country will blow away the Socialist, Libertarians and weak Social Democrats, who are freeloaders of any society. No Red Flags here! Fascism and Socialistic Communism is dead-let them stay that way, RIP!…
Umm Since when is it the job of the Federal Government to FORCE companies to hire American workers? You REALLY have no concept of how our Government works, what it can and can not do. Do you realize that , The Takeover of GM and Chrysler by Obama caused to loss of 7 million jobs to other nations and counting? GM is now owned by Canada and the US Governent and Chrysler is owned by FIAT. Not to mention what Cap and Tax would have done to send jobs over seas. Regulation, the EPA, and Taxiation caused jobs to flee the Nation. I know its a strange concept but companies are in business TO MAKE A PROFIT, not to provide you with a job or health care or anything else. It is not up to the Government to say who can make what where and employ who. that is the job of COMMUNIST Governments not Free ones and we have all seen what success stories Communist Governments are. Get a clue, Get a life, or maybe get a girlfriend andmaybe you would not be so prone to rants on subjects you know nothing about
Lauren treaded right on my foot with her mean old head, mommy. Really, really hard, too. It really, really hurt. Really, I’m not kidding.
When she was on the ground, [Timothy] Profitt put his foot on her. “I said, ‘Now you stay down,’” he said.
Profitt said he and others were only trying to subdue Valle because of the potential threat to Paul. Profitt apologized, but also blamed MoveOn for forcing the incident.
“It was actually like a self-defense thing, the way I see it,” said Profitt, who is retired.
Who can blame the poor little frightened fellow (shown below with a friend)? Not the even more little friend, who bravely manned up as follows:
“It really was something where you walk into a daze of lights flashing, people yelling and screaming, bumping up. There was a bit of a crowd control problem,” Paul said. “I don’t want anybody, though, to be involved in things that aren’t civil. I think this should always be about the issues. It is an unusual situation to have so many people, so passionate on both sides, jockeying back and forth, and it wasn’t something that I liked or anybody liked about that situation.”
This is excerpted from Claude G. Bowers’ 1925 study, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Struggle for Democracy in America. I would like Christine O’Donnell to read it and take it to heart. I would also like pigs to fly.
Just as the landed aristocracy of Virginia pursued him [ed. note: Thomas Jefferson, a Famous Founding Father] with increasing venom because of his land reforms, the clergy hated him for forcing the separation of Church and State. When he made the fight for this reform, it was a crime not to baptize a child into the Episcopal Church; a crime to bring a Quaker into the colony; and, according to the law, a heretic could be burned. If the latter law was not observed, that compelling all to pay tithes regardless of their religious affiliations and opinions was rigidly enforced.
This outraged Jefferson’s love of liberty. The Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists, who were making inroads on the membership of the Established Church, were prosecuted, and their ministers were declared disturbers of the peace, and thrown into jail like common felons. Patrick Henry and his followers fought Jefferson’s plan for a disestablishment — but he won. The ‘atheist’ law, which was never forgiven by the ministers of Virginia and Connecticut, was simple and brief:No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burdened in his mind or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
Nearly two decades after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his fractious Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it remains unclear who was lying…
Really? Consider this, then:
Lillian McEwen, a retired administrative law judge who said she dated Clarence Thomas from 1979 through the mid-1980s, told The Washington Post: “The Clarence I know was certainly capable of not only doing the things that Anita Hill said he did, but it would be totally consistent with the way he lived his personal life then…”
And most of all, consider that at the time of his confirmation hearing in 1991 nobody but those with a political reason to do so believed Clarence Thomas for a New York minute. This is because his denials so obviously flunked the Pubic Hair Test, first described in the literature by me in January of 2001, which I now repost as a public service:
Fans of political theater will recall that Professor Anita Hill had charged her former boss with a pattern of sexual harassment which included showing her a Coke can with a pubic hair sticking to it. Judge Thomas swore, no doubt truthfully as the truth is vouchsafed unto him, that he had never in his life done such an ungentlemanly thing.
How could we, the millions of spectators at this morality play, know what to think? Was it the stern federal judge who was telling the truth, or was it the demure law professor? Along with thousands of others, no doubt, I applied the principles that comprise the Pubic Hair Test:
Could Professor Hill could have made up a story so peculiar? In other words, was there anything in the accuser’s much-investigated background to suggest that she was a pathological liar? Did she suffer from hallucinations? Was she “creative?” Perhaps even an aspiring novelist?
And if she were such a pathetic fantast, as the Republicans pretended to think, would the Coke can invention be more destructive to her presumed enemy than any other lie she could just as easily have dreamed up?
No to the first question. Professor Hill seemed depressingly literal and humorless. It was impossible to imagine her engaged in a flight of fancy. The only suggestion to the contrary came from a young black man who seemed principally interested in reciting his resume on national TV. He thought Professor Hill had imagined that he was attracted to her, whereas she was really attracted to him, poor thing. This textbook case of projection could hardly have seemed plausible even to Orrin Hatch.
And no to the second. The tale of the pubic hair and the Coke can was so meaningless and bizarre that the most simple-minded listeners (and there were several among the senators) would have rejected it as a lie casting doubt on the rest of her story. To do maximum damage, any competent slanderer would have stuck to such old standbys as indecent exposure, groping, and dirty pictures.
The Pubic Hair Test therefore indicated with zero probability of error that this particular woman could not and would not have invented this particular senseless and incomprehensible story.
God knows whose pubic hair that was, or what the future Supreme Court justice thought its presence on a Coke can signified, or what made him imagine that his weird performance might be seductive, but the incident plainly happened pretty much the way Professor Hill said it did.
Both the Rude Pundit and I watched last night’s debate between Sharron Angle and Harry Reid, but only he had the wit to call it an inarticulate tortoise fight, and to caption the picture below
“Photos That Make the Rude Pundit Wonder if Parents Can Be Aborted.”
So I’ll spare you my reactions and refer you instead to his obscene, pornographic, scatalogical, thoroughly tasteless and absolutely dead-on coverage here.
From Larry Beinart’s political thriller, The Librarian:
They had two prophets. The first, of course, was Jesus Christ. Scott claimed to have been saved, and the hard core of his support were Jesus people…
Their second prophet, and to Hagopian their real prophet, was Adam Smith, the eighteenth century economist and philosopher who had coined the phrase “invisible hand” to describe the surprising, unplanned, and unlooked-for effects of each individual pursuing his own domestic plans for gain.
To the intellectual mind, that was a simile, an “as if,” but to the believer mind it was God and God wanted us each to pursue profit to our utmost and then His “invisible hand” would combine those efforts and guide them to the true good.
Adam Smith had also said, “Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.”
Hagopian thought that was true.
If Scott’s people were men of vice, merely greedy, there would be limits to what they might do. If they were men of virtue, there were no limits, no point at which they would stop. There was no lie they would not tell, no fraud they would not perpetrate. No murder they would not commit.
More news from the swill kings who caused the present depression. (Don’t tell me this isn’t a depression; I have eyes.)
However, while Paulson has been criticized, unfairly or not, because $12.9 billion of the bailout money went to Goldman, he’s drawn little scrutiny for what he did in his first 18 months in office, during the final frenzied stages of the housing bubble.
In his eight years as Goldman’s chief executive, Paulson had presided over the firm’s plunge into the business of buying up subprime mortgages to marginal borrowers and then repackaging them into securities, overseeing the firm’s huge positions in what became a fraud-infested market.
During Paulson’s first 15 months as the treasury secretary and chief presidential economic adviser, Goldman unloaded more than $30 billion in dicey residential mortgage securities to pension funds, foreign banks and other investors and became the only major Wall Street firm to dramatically cut its losses and exit the housing market safely. Goldman also racked up billions of dollars in profits by secretly betting on a downturn in home mortgage securities.
“No one was better positioned . . . than Mr. Paulson to understand exactly what the implications of his moving against the (housing) bubble would have been for Goldman Sachs, because he knew what the Goldman Sachs positions were,” said William Black, a former senior thrift regulator who delivered the harshest criticism of the former secretary.
Paulson “knew that if he acted the way he should, that would have burst the bubble. Then Goldman Sachs would have been left with a very substantial loss, and that would have been the end of bonuses at Goldman Sachs.
This is from The Authoritarians, by Bob Altemeyer:
But research reveals that authoritarian followers drive through life under the influence of impaired thinking a lot more than most people do, exhibiting sloppy reasoning, highly compartmentalized beliefs, double standards, hypocrisy, self-blindness, a profound ethnocentrism, and — to top it all off a ferocious dogmatism that makes it unlikely anyone could ever change their minds with evidence or logic. These seven deadly shortfalls of authoritarian thinking eminently qualify them to follow a wouldbe dictator. As Hitler is reported to have said, “What good fortune for those in power that people do not think…”
Intrigued, I gave the inferences test that Mary Wegmann had used to two large samples of students at my university. In both studies high Right Wing Authoritarians went down in flames more than others did. They particularly had trouble figuring out that an inference or deduction was wrong. To illustrate, suppose they had gotten the following syllogism:
All fish live in the sea.
Sharks live in the sea..
Therefore, sharks are fish.
The conclusion does not follow, but high RWAs would be more likely to say the reasoning is correct than most people would. If you ask them why it seems right, they would likely tell you, “Because sharks are fish.” In other words, they thought the reasoning was sound because they agreed with the last statement. If the conclusion is right, they figure, then the reasoning must have been right.
Turns out the Greeks had a word for what ails the Republican Party — Anosognosia. To explore this disorder on its home turf, go to a Tea Party rally armed with official budget figures, agreed upon by economists of both the Keynesian and the Friedman schools, which prove beyond the shadow of a mathematical doubt that the Republicans are, historically, the party of high deficits. Now try to convince any random demonstrator of this simple historical fact.
The thing can’t be done, because the poor devil suffers from anosognosia. It is what allows him to cry out “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” without his head exploding.
Here’s a dictionary definition of what keeps his head together:
Anosognosia is a condition in which a person who suffers from a disability seems unaware of or denies the existence of his or her disability.
For more, go here.
First, appearances are everything. To be a good Republican you have to look like a good Republican. Which is not so easy these days. It used to be that a good Republican looked like a small-town banker — an agreeable Kiwanian with a prosperous paunch, dressed in a dark gray suit, a white shirt and a red tie drawn at the neck into a carefully constructed knot. If he had an adventurous bent, the banker might essay a triangular Windsor knot. Winter or summer, he always wore a hat.
The Windsor knot, by the way, is said to have originated with the Duke of Windsor, whose only other contribution to the world was to demonstrate just how thin royal blood could get. Before the war started, the newly minted Duke and Duchess made nice with the Nazis on one of their endless trips to nowhere, and were eventually shuffled off to the Bahamas by an exasperated British government. The Duke spent the war years perfecting his knot and studying the tango. Had he been an American citizen, there is no doubt the Duke would have been a Republican.
Republican women used to look like the banker’s wife, who was considered a style trendsetter and a model of sensible, plump American womanhood. She subscribed to family values before the phrase was invented. She was chairwoman of the annual bake-off fund-raiser for the hospital and wore a silver fox stole in the winter. She also wore a hat with some sort of bird feather in it and thought New York City was the home of the Devil. She was an enthusiastic Republican because her husband was an enthusiastic Republican. That’s all there was to it. She would have thought the Tea Party was inhabited by dangerous lunatics with terrible manners, sort of like the Hell’s Angels.
But all that was a long time ago, before everything got so confusing. Now where does a good Republican look for inspiration and guidance? Where once there was Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater and Dwight Eisenhower, all earnest and boring and utterly unsurprising, now we have John McCain, Michelle Bachmann, John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich? Oh, what a rich choice! But first…
No matter how you knot your tie, as a good Republican you will want to keep your eye on the donut. You will want to embrace the essence of Republicanism, the spirit of conservatism; you must long for the way things used to be, or at least say you do, before Big Government came along and ruined everything. You will want to have at hand a few phrases about fiscal responsibility, self-reliance and the American Way, even if you don’t quite know what the American Way is. If you happen to have one of the old GOP handbooks, go through it and cross out Communism wherever you see it and substitute Terrorism with a capital T. Cross out Roosevelt and insert Obama. Cross out New Deal and replace it with Bad Deal. Make sure you’ve got the words of the “Pledge of Allegiance” and “God Bless America” down pat and memorize the First Amendment.
Now you’re ready to adopt the GOP style that suits you. Which do you like best? Boehner or Bachmann, Palin or Gingrich? And don’t forget the Old Pilot. Maybe the bolts have popped out of his wings but he’s still flying the plane, more or less. How about Orrin Hatch? Now there’s a guy knows how to knot a tie. He can do it one-handed while the other hand is busy wielding the scalpel. How about Mitch McConnell? Isn’t he cuddly cute? Nobody said this was going to be an easy choice.
Perhaps it would be easier to make a selection from a list of GOP adjectives and construct your very own Republican persona. Here are a few descriptive words to help you: smug, hypocritical, selfish, greedy, hawkish, myopic, negative, reckless, stupid.
And, finally, let’s not forget wrong.
It’s worth reading Matt Taibbi’s whole article in Rolling Stone on the tea party. This tiny sample contains a particularly fine specimen of snark — one that will ring true to anyone who has attempted communication with these muddled patriots.
Hardcore young libertarians like Koch — the kind of people who were outside the tent during the elder Paul’s presidential run in 2008 — cared enough about the issues to jump off the younger Paul’s bandwagon when he cozied up to the Republican Party establishment. But it isn’t young intellectuals like Koch who will usher Paul into the U.S. Senate in the general election; it’s those huge crowds of pissed-off old people who dig Sarah Palin and Fox News and call themselves Tea Partiers. And those people really don’t pay attention to specifics too much. Like dogs, they listen to tone of voice and emotional attitude.
The immediate impact is that the GOP became that much less likely to take over the Senate in November. A clear Republican win in Delaware became a likely Republican loss. But though that’s getting all the headlines, it slightly misses the point: The long-term impact of these primaries is not going to be on the incumbents who have been defeated. It’ll be on the incumbents who survived.
It was hard for incumbent Republicans to see Sens. Bob Bennett and Lisa Murkowski unexpectedly toppled in their primaries. But Alaska and Utah are conservative, quirky states. They were likely targets for an angry conservative electorate. The same cannot be said for Delaware, a moderate state that often goes blue. Rep. Mike Castle’s defeat was proof that no heterodox Republican is safe from a primary defeat — it doesn’t matter how popular you’ve been, or how clearly purple your electorate was. You’re not safe. You’re never safe.
Politicians are, by nature, a fearful species. But their nightmares became a lot more specific last night. The Tea Party, for all its unexpected successes, cannot topple every incumbent Republican in the country. But by toppling the right ones, it can make every incumbent Republican vote and speak and act with the Tea Party in mind. So though the Tea Party isn’t likely to send all that many of its own Republicans to Washington, the likely outcome of last night’s primaries is that the Tea Party takes over the Republicans who are already in Washington, and don’t want to be sent home.
All those opinion polls must be sinking in at last. This is the first time, so far as I can remember, that John the Bronze has yielded so much as a millimeter in his lifelong battle to hand everybody else’s money over to the rich. Presumably Boehner’s about-face is due to President Obama’s recent discovery that class warfare is a game two can play.
WASHINGTON — House Republican leader John Boehner says he would support extending tax cuts only for middle-class earners even though he considers it “bad policy” to exclude the highest-earning Americans from tax relief during a recession.
President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser said Sunday he is happy that Boehner, R-Ohio, isn’t willing to hold hostage an extension of tax cuts for those earning under $250,000 a year, or more than 97 percent of earners, to try to gain a continuation of breaks enjoyed by the wealthiest…
More good sense, as usual, from Daniel Larison at The American Conservative:
According to the story Republicans tell themselves, they lost power because they spent too much, and they believe they are proving that they understand where they went wrong by opposing all forms of new spending. Even though they may be winning by default because of economic conditions, they very much want to link any success they have with this new opposition to more spending.
It’s a very neat, tidy, convenient and completely false narrative. According to the same narrative, the public supposedly soured on the stimulus because they became anxious about deficits. In fact, the stimulus lost support because it wasn’t enough of an actual stimulus bill, and so did not “work.” In some of the early Republican criticism of the bill, there was a basic acceptance of the belief that enough money spent in the right way would be stimulative. Now that a majority finds fault with the original bill, the new interpretation is that there should never have been one at all.
This makes the same mistake that Barone and a thousand others have made about the health care bill. They take all opposition to a complex, flawed, compromised, unaffordable bill and treat it as if it were all one thing, but opposition to the bill came from many different sources, including from those on the left who thought it was too weak, too much of a sell-out to insurance companies, or insufficiently ambitious in some other way.
Hostility to the compromised bill that was passed does not imply support for returning to the way things were, and hostility to the compromised bill does not necessarily reflect opposition to an increased government role in the health care sector. Barone wants you to think that it does, and he is basing almost his entire interpretation of the public mood and his expectation of a big midterm victory for the GOP on this misunderstanding. Barone’s mistake is the national GOP’s mistake in miniature: he is treating the election as a national one with a unifying theme that has a clear ideological meaning when it isn’t and it doesn’t.
Barone may end up being right that the GOP is going to win the House, but it will have been mostly by accident, because he refuses to acknowledge the real reasons why the GOP is in a position to win. The party is in a similar position: possibly on the verge of a great victory, but unable or unwilling to accept the real reason for it.
Here’s Steve Benen, who knows what happens in the middle of the road:
Lindsey Graham wants Obama to “come back to the middle?” Here’s a silly question for Graham: when might your party “come back the middle?” When was the last time congressional Republicans offered a centrist compromise on literally any policy dispute? When was the last time Graham’s Senate caucus allowed the Senate to vote up or down on meaningful legislation without a filibuster, a hold, or both? When was the last time the GOP mainstream responded to White House outreach with a single idea where the parties could work together?
Here’s Daniel Larison in The American Conservative, making some excellent points (points, that is, with which I agree).
As I have said before, I don’t think the GOP will win the House, but if that did happen it would primarily be bad news for the Republican Party and the conservative movement. If that seems a little too counterintuitive for you, let me explain. Should the GOP somehow win the House, they will not have earned it and they will not deserve it, and they will proceed to destroy themselves in very short order.
Arguably, there was nothing worse for the American right than to be given the free gift of winning the 2002 midterms, because this win encouraged them to pursue the policies that proved to be their undoing, and a similar win in 2010 would have the same effect of enabling Republicans’ most destructively self-indulgent impulses. As one horrified by the prospect of Republicans in power, Erik should look forward to this.
After all, even if the Republicans won the House there would not be much that they could do once in office, except waste their time as they did in the ’90s hauling executive branch officials before committees to testify on this or that outrage of the week. They would likely be stymied by the Democratic majority in the Senate on any major legislation, and Obama would veto just about anything they passed if it somehow got to his desk. At the same time, Obama would make them into a much more effective foil for his arguments once they had some hold on power, and out of frustration they would become increasingly obsessed with “getting” Obama and become even less interested in representing the interests of their constituents…
Should we let those terrorists build that mosque on what Chris Matthews keeps calling hollowed ground? Or not until they let us build a megachurch in Mecca? Or until hell freezes over? Or is the whole squalid fuss actually, literally, about nothing? It looks that way, to judge by a Politico story which has so far attracted zero attention.
In GOP World, however, enormous structures can be fabricated easily and profitably on the basis of impossible hypotheticals. One might think the suckers would have wised up by now, but one would be wrong. Look at the birther myth, which has no more substance than a floating figure in a Macy’s parade. Or than a nonexistent non-Mosque never to be built on the unhallowed ground formerly occupied by a Burlington Coat Factory.
When President Barack Obama turned the battle over a planned New York Islamic center into a national debate over religious freedom, he unwittingly allied himself and his party with an ill-planned, long-shot development project described by one of its most prominent allies as “amateur hour.”
The efforts to launch the $100 million Cordoba House (now dubbed Park51) two blocks north of the World Trade Center site have been an uphill battle from the start, and not just because of controversy. And even as the “Ground Zero Mosque” emerges as a hotly debated national symbol, New York government officials and real estate insiders are privately questioning whether the project has much chance of coming to fruition.
The Cordoba Initiative hasn’t begun fundraising yet for its $100 million goal. The group’s latest fundraising report with the State Attorney General’s office, from 2008, shows exactly $18,255 — not enough even for a down payment on the half of the site the group has yet to purchase…
Except for the pecs and the lats and the delts and the abs, this could be John A. Boehner getting made up for a Fox News love-in with Chris Wallace. But actually, Reuters says, it’s just some guy with a severe case of melanin envy getting all pretty for a bodybuilding contest in Tehran.
From the Times coverage of the Reverend Glenn Beck’s revival meeting:
Becky Benson, 56, traveled from Orlando, Florida, because, she said, “we believe in Jesus Christ,” and Jesus, she said, would not have agreed with the economic stimulus package, bank bailouts and welfare. “You cannot sit and expect someone to hand out to you,” she said. “You don’t spend your way out of debt.”
People in the crowd echoed Mr. Beck’s ideas that “progressives” were moving the United States toward socialism and that entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid must be ended.
You may have noticed, to the point of nausea, how deeply in love Republicans are with small business. They just have a funny way of showing it, as George W. Bush demonstrated after Katrina:
While stories of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s contaminated trailers and the Army Corps of Engineers’ inability to shore up the levees captured the headlines in the aftermath of the deadly storms of 2005, the bungling of the SBA, the lead federal agency helping people rebuild their homes and businesses, has largely been untold.
The sagas of Schmitz, Bazile and the SBA’s Young, who worked out of the agency’s massive loan processing center in Fort Worth, Texas, collectively reveal how the SBA failed in so many ways, an ominous experience as the agency prepares to play a similar role in the aftermath of the massive BP PLC oil spill.
These are stories of a mismanaged bureaucracy that still hurt half a decade later: tales of applications for low-interest disaster loans that should have been approved but were not, of applications deleted from the SBA computer system for no valid reason, of impossible-to-meet deadlines manufactured to clear backlogs, and of a process so chaotic and painful that thousands simply gave up…
However… [my note]:
• Country clubs, yacht clubs, exclusive private schools and megachurches received millions in loans from the agency founded in 1953 with a mission to “aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns.” Some of the more substantial operations rebuilt bigger and better, often contradicting SBA rules that say damaged buildings should be repaired only to their original state.
• Homeowners and businesses in higher-income areas were more likely to get a loan than those in lower-income areas, according to AP’s analysis of SBA data by ZIP code. “The truth is that only the wealthy moved through the system easily,” said Gale Martin, another former SBA loan officer. “If you were of a certain income, we funded you first, which is not the way the system is supposed to work.” Martin contended that contrary to the SBA mission to especially help people who didn’t always have the means to rebuild, applicants with higher credit scores and bigger incomes were cherry-picked for processing first because those files could be closed quicker.
Before we go all warm and fuzzy over Vaughn R. Walker, the federal judge who just knocked down Prop 8, remember this. He may have a soft spot in his heart for gays, but he is a vicious, torture-loving son of a bitch when it comes to helpless prisoners. Tell me that holding four women’s eyes open and daubing their eyeballs with pepper spray isn’t torture. Go ahead, tell me.
More on the good judge here.
From the Colorado Independent:
The program in question? Denver’s bike-sharing program, B-Cycle. [Republican candidate for governor] Maes later told the Denver Post, “At first, I thought, ‘Gosh, public transportation, what’s wrong with that, and what’s wrong with people parking their cars and riding their bikes? And what’s wrong with incentives for green cars?’ But if you do your homework and research, you realize ICLEI is part of a greater strategy to rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty.”
From the Washington Post:
At a media breakfast Wednesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner attempted to show that he sympathizes with the unemployed. But in the process he admitted that he didn’t even know whether his own siblings had jobs.
“I’ve got real empathy for those who are unemployed,” the Ohio Republican said. “As most of you know, I’ve got 11 brothers and sisters. I know that three of my brothers lost their jobs. I’m not sure whether they’ve found jobs, yet, so I’ve got a lot of empathy for those caught in this economic downturn.”
Steve Benen picked up this seriously weird column by some seriously weird columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. Excerpt below, but you can read the whole pathetic thing here, and the best part is — “It’s free!”
His fiancée smiled and commented, “Isn’t that cute. They have the spirit of giving…”
“No!” I exclaimed from the back seat. “That’s not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own. They’re giving away their parents’ things — the lemonade, cups, candy. It’s not theirs to give.”
I pushed the button to roll down the window and stuck my head out to set them straight.
“You must charge something for the lemonade,” I explained. “That’s the whole point of a lemonade stand. You figure out your costs — how much the lemonade costs, and the cups — and then you charge a little more than what it costs you, so you can make money. Then you can buy more stuff, and make more lemonade, and sell it and make more money…”
If that’s what America’s children think — that there’s a free lunch waiting — then our country has larger problems ahead. The Declaration of Independence promised “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It didn’t promise anything free. Something to think about this July 4th holiday weekend.
Below is the revenge of Lance Baxter. He’s the actor who drunk-dialed the freedom lovers at Freedom Works, who got him fired from his voice-over gig in the Geico ads. Probably everybody in the world has already seen this clip, but since I hadn’t, maybe you haven’t.
From the Portland Press Herald:
Late Friday afternoon, as Maine’s Republican State Convention fanned out from the Portland Expo to county caucuses at nearby King Middle School, GOP loyalists from Knox County found themselves directed to Classroom 110 — the domain of eighth-grade social studies teacher Paul Clifford…
When he went home for the weekend on Friday, one of Clifford’s most prized teaching tools — a collage-type poster depicting the history of the U.S. labor movement — was affixed to his classroom door. Clifford uses it each year to teach his students how to incorporate collages into their annual project on Norman Rockwell’s historic “Four Freedoms” illustrations…
Details are sketchy — as they often can be when political passion gives way to apparent criminal activity. But this much we know: When Clifford returned to school Monday morning, his cherished labor poster was gone.
In its place, taped to the same door, was a red-white-and-blue bumper sticker that read, “Working People Vote Republican…”
[Republican callers] also objected to the contents of a closed cardboard box they found near Clifford’s desk. Upon opening it for a look-see, they found copies of the U.S. Constitution printed and donated to the school by (gasp) the American Civil Liberties Union.
Mississippi governor Haley Barbour tells the Associated Press:
Oil has not started washing up on shore in any large quantities, and Barbour likened much of the spill to the gasoline sheen commonly found around ski boats.
“We don’t wash our face in it, but it doesn’t stop us from jumping off the boat to ski,” Barbour said.
The real, immutable core concern of the Republican Party is, and has forever been, to shift taxes from the very rich to the rest of us. Everything else — abortion, immigration, creationism, small government, law and order, gay rights — is just bait to lure the suckers into the net. Here’s Daniel Larison at The American Conservative, cutting to the chase:
On the other point, it is not all that remarkable that Republican officeholders are being punished entirely for their fiscal errors. It is difficult to think of incumbent Republicans abandoning their party because of a backlash against their social liberalism, but it is fairly easy in recent years to find examples of fiscal moderates and liberals in the party that the rank-and-file have turned against or liberal Republican incumbents who switched parties at least partly because of disagreements over fiscal policy (e.g., Jeffords).
Indeed, we can look at Arlen Specter’s recent political career as proof that social conservative litmus tests frequently count for a lot less than fiscal conservative tests in the modern GOP. In 2004, the party establishment rallied around Specter on the grounds that the party supported incumbents against primary challengers. To his lasting embarrassment and discredit, Santorum endorsed Specter over Toomey.
Pro-lifers’ objections to Specter’s position on abortion weren’t important enough to Santorum or to the administration to risk losing that seat to the Democrats, and in the end they weren’t quite important enough to the primary voters, either. Five years later, one vote Specter cast for the stimulus made him persona non grata in the Pennsylvania GOP. Had Specter not cast that vote, it is questionable whether Toomey’s challenge would have still driven Specter to switch parties.
In practice, fiscal issues tend to be more important to more Republican activists and primary voters than social issues in almost every contest, except perhaps presidential primaries, and even in these contests it depends. Huckabee translated his strong social conservative record and evangelical Christianity into a sizeable following by the end of the primaries, but he never won outside the South and he was widely loathed in the conservative movement for his fiscal record as governor. His combination of social conservatism and economic pseudo-populism went over very badly with party and movement leaders generally, even though there is some reason to think that socially conservative and economically populist candidates could tap into a much broader base of support nationally.
For party and movement leaders, Romney had become sufficiently conservative on social issues to pass muster, despite having zero credibility on these issues, and what really mattered to them was his position on fiscal and economic issues. McCain took a lot of grief from activists and conservative voters for several reasons, but his opposition to Bush’s tax cuts earlier in the decade was always high on the list of McCain’s errors.
In a world that has elevated hypocrisy to an art-form, an unprepossessing, virtual unknown emerged this week as the solid frontrunner for the 2010 Superheroes of Hypocrisy Title. By day, George Rekers is a 61-year-old father of three; a Baptist minister; co-founder, with James Dobson, of the Family Research Council – the lobbying arm of US Christianity; a professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina; a sex therapist specializing in teenage gender identity “issues”; an officer of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH); and a prolific author with a bad back. That’s enough to keep two men busy. But, lo and behold, when Daddy gets his ticket punched and slips out of his mild-mannered “Professor George” persona he’s a wild man worth every inch of that Superheroes title.
Professor George’s “closet” is bigger than a walk-in and needs to be, because that’s where he likes to spend his quality time with rent boys younger than his own kids. Not for Professor George, the quick grope in a public restroom or sexting with Congressional aides — no, Professor George is a stylish man of means who knows how to do things right. Professor George took his rent boy on a ten-day tour of Europe, a sublime getaway for man and boy, that might have been a totally fabulous performance except that the good Prof didn’t quite “stick the landing.” George Rekers (gotta love that name) was “caught on camera” coming down the stretch on his triumphal return to Miami International Airport with his rent boy — er, travel assistant — still in tow.
Rekers is an old hand at his chosen lifestyle, though, and immediately flew into damage control mode … which makes for entertaining reading because Rekers is no ordinary closet-case; this Extreme Gay Makeover has constructed his entire life around secretly embracing and publicly denying his gender identity. Every waking minute of Rekers day is spent on some aspect of homosexuality. He has two websites dedicated to counseling teenagers who are troubled by gender identity issues — one is called “Professor George” (gimme a break) and the other is called TeenSexToday.com that promises that readers who submit questions can “count on me to be logical, ethical, and scientific in my answers.” Right. This is Rekers’ favorite subject and favorite age group — color me cynical but this is just a front for a cyber-peeping Tom.
Rekers was recently paid a handsome $87,000 to serve as an “expert” witness in a case to determine whether the state of Florida’s ban on gay adoptions was legal (the judge ultimately ruled against the state). Reker’s testified that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt for the usual fact-free homophobic pseudoscience reasons. For whatever reason, while he had the microphone, Rekers also decided to throw Native Americans under the “no adoptions” bus. At the end of that trial, Judge Cindy Lederman singled out Rekers’ testimony for Dishonorable Mention thus:
“Dr. Rekers’ testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers’ beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.”
The usual suspects have dealt quite expertly with the more salacious details of Rekers’ “Roman holiday” which leave little room for doubt about the true nature of Rekers’ tryst — in other words, I, happily, do not need to go into detail over what did and did not occur. For me, and other Hypocrisy Epicures, the juiciest tidbits lie in how the cornered hypocrite chooses to extricate him/herself from a world of trouble.
At 61, Professor George has set himself up pretty well, none of his lucrative gigs — ministry, expert witnessing, screed publishing, teen sex therapy etc. require any “heavy lifting.” The only thing that could put a dent in his little homo cottage industry would be exposure as a cynical, hypocritical charlatan making money giving advice to others from a thoroughly self-delusional background. That could mess up everything …
So it is that the good professor has decided to go the absolute denial route — and, as he thinks of even better excuses, he piles them on as he goes. He started, of course, with the lame story that his hunk-y “rent boy” was selected for his baggage handling skills. Professor George isn’t getting any younger and his doctor warned him to do no heavy lifting. Since the Prof was interested in “renting a boy” to lug his bags all over Europe, rentboy.com was the logical place to look, right? Now, I defy anyone reading this article to spend just a few minutes trolling through the rentboy.com site and come back and tell me (with a straight face) that you never would have guessed that those boys were gay male prostitutes. Our “expert witness” claims that he was fooled, indeed he claims it wasn’t until halfway through the trip that he guessed that his travel assistant was a male prostitute.
How unreasonable is it to expect that a man who has dedicated his life to counseling teenagers on gender identity and offering therapy to “cure” unhappy gays, would immediately recognize rentboy.com for exactly what it is?
After the media responded with a collective snort of derision, Reker amended his position on his Facebook page (which is predictably MIA, at the moment) in this way:
“If you talk with my travel assistant you will find I spent a great deal of time sharing scientific information on the desirability of abandoning homosexual intercourse, and I shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him in great detail.”
“My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them.”
From having Jesus as his hero, Rekers made the leap to litigant declaring that he would be suing the Miami reporters who wrote the original Rekers story for defamation. Which just goes to show that Rekers is living in his own nasty little world where being gay is grist for the “defamation” mill. The juridical trend, these days, is that calling someone “gay” is not defamatory. Such rulings have been made in many states; although I wouldn’t recommend testing it, yet, in states like Texas, Arizona or Arkansas.
As usual in such cases, former associates “vote with their feet” lest they get some of this doody on them. The CEO of Family Research Council was quick to point out that he never heard of Rekers and that when he did a little digging he found that it had been decades since Reker played an active role in FRC.
NARTH, for its part, weighed in with this:
“While NARTH is focused on the science of homosexual attraction, personal controversies often deepen the existing cultural divide on this issue. Such is the case in the recent news stories concerning one of our members, Dr. George Rekers.”
“NARTH takes seriously the accusations that have been made, and we are currently attempting to understand the details behind these press reports. We are always saddened when this type of controversy impacts the lives of individuals, and we urge all parties to allow a respectful and thorough investigation to take place.”
“NARTH continues to support scientific research, and to value client autonomy, client self-determination and client diversity.”
In closing, I’ll say that I honestly feel bad for George Rekers. Not because he appears to be gay – I’m gay and surrounded and supported by a mixed gay and straight community of gifted and loving friends; and, despite Professor George’s dire warning about gays’ parenting abilities, I raised a son who is brilliant, successful, heterosexual and who has presented me with an equally marvelous granddaughter. My life is rich and full and ultimately very satisfying. The reason that I feel bad for George Reker is because I seriously doubt that the life that he has built to “fix” his gender identity crisis and live a lie is cold comfort to him today.
In Stieg Larsson’s best-selling mystery, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, an elderly Swedish industrialist remembers his long-dead brother:
“In 1924, now seventeen, Richard was a fanatical nationalist and anti-Semite. He joined the Swedish National Socialist Freedom League, one of the first Nazi groups in Sweden. Isn’t it fascinating that Nazis always manage to adopt the word freedom?”
In Doonesbury, yesterday:
What moved GOP Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Soviet-style show-me-your-papers law is the exploding number of legal Hispanics, US citizens all, who are daring to vote — and daring to vote Democratic by more than two-to-one. Unless this demographic locomotive is halted, Arizona Republicans know their party will soon be electoral toast. Or, if you like, tortillas…
Brewer, then Secretary of State, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer’s command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected…
The weapon she used to slice the Arizona voter rolls was a 2004 law, known as “Prop 200,” which required proof of citizenship to register. It is important to see the Republicans’ latest legislative horror show, sanctioning cops to stop residents and prove citizenship, as just one more step in the party’s desperate plan to impede Mexican-Americans from marching to the ballot box.
[By the way, no one elected Brewer. Weirdly, Barack Obama placed her in office last year when, for reasons known only to the Devil and Rahm Emanuel, the President appointed Arizona’s Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano to his cabinet, which automatically moved Republican Brewer into the Governor’s office.]
Republican consultant Ed Rollins has spent much of his life working for monsters, but that doesn’t make him stupid. He just fell in with the wrong crowd at a young age. After a talk he gave years ago at the Kennedy School, I came away hoping he’d change sides some day.
He was too smart for the 1980s GOP, and he’s way too smart for the malformed creature it has now become. Which I’m sure he knows. This is from a piece he did today for CNN. Goldman Sachs should hire him, but won’t. He’s too smart for them, too.
…Goldman denied the charges, and its sympathizers accused President Obama — who got nearly $1 million in campaign contributions from Goldman employees — of orchestrating the SEC lawsuit to sell his banking reform package. And then, it turns out that Goldman has done something else dumb — by hiring Obama’s recently departed White House lawyer, Gregory Craig, to help handle its legal strategy.
Craig is an extremely competent and respected lawyer. He knows the town and the players. But Washington is full of competent lawyers and people who know the game. Obama said his administration was going to be different and the revolving door of government service and back to the private sector was going to stop. It hasn’t. This is not the president’s mistake. It is another Goldman Sachs mistake.
And then Monday, Goldman announced its “good news.” In the first quarter of this year, the bank’s earnings of $3.46 billion were 91 percent higher than a year ago. It also announced it has set aside $5.5 billion (up 17 percent) to pay salaries and bonuses to employees…
…where it is no longer legal to hold you down and insert a microchip in your head:
In Gov. Roy Barnes’ stump speech, the bill has become a routine example of the Republican tendency to attack problems that don’t exist, and ignore the ones that do. Besides, Barnes argues, if someone holds him down to insert a microchip in his head, “it should be more than a damned misdemeanor.”
Three states have instituted bans, and others have considered the legislation. In Virginia, a bill supporter declared microchips to be the “666” mark of the beast referred to in the Book of Revelation…
At the House hearing, state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Kennesaw), who is shouldering the legislation in the House, spoke earnestly for better than a half hour on microchips as a literal invasion of privacy.
He was followed by a hefty woman who described herself as a resident of DeKalb County. “I’m also one of the people in Georgia who has a microchip,” the woman said. Slowly, she began to lead the assembled lawmakers down a path they didn’t want to take.
Microchips, the woman began, “infringe on issues that are fundamental to our very existence. Our rights to privacy, our rights to bodily integrity, the right to say no to foreign objects being put in our body.”
She spoke of the “right to work without being tortured by co-workers who are activating these microchips by using their cell phones and other electronic devices.”
She continued. “Microchips are like little beepers. Just imagine, if you will, having a beeper in your rectum or genital area, the most sensitive area of your body. And your beeper numbers displayed on billboards throughout the city. All done without your permission,” she said.
It was not funny, and no one laughed.
“Ma’am, did you say you have a microchip?” asked state Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold).
“Yes, I do. This microchip was put in my vaginal-rectum area,” she replied. Setzler, the sponsoring lawmaker, sat next to the witness — his head bowed.
“You’re saying this was involuntary?” Weldon continued. The woman said she had been pushing a court case through the system for the last eight years to have the device removed.
Wendell Willard (R-Atlanta), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, picked up the questioning. “Who implanted this in you?” he asked.
“Researchers with the federal government,” she said.
“And who in the federal government implanted it?” Willard asked.
“The Department of Defense.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
The woman was allowed to go about her business, and the House Judiciary Committee approved passage of SB 235.
Here is Ezra Klein, the Great Explicator, explaining why Br’er Mitch is hollering so hard for Br’er Barack not to throw him in dat brier patch:
A bank is judged failing. The FDIC submits a plan for the bank’s liquidation — which includes firing management, wiping out shareholders, handing losses to creditors, and selling off the firm — and gets it approved by the Treasury secretary. Then the FDIC takes over the banks. The $50 billion fund is used to keep the lights on while all this happens. It’s there to prevent taxpayers from having to foot the bill for the chaos that will occur between when we recognize a bank is failing and when we shut it down.
Whatever you want to call this, it isn’t a bailout. It’s the death of the company. And the fund is way of forcing too-big-to-fail banks to pay for the execution. But stung by Republican criticisms, the administration is telling Democrats to let the fund go. And they’re not all that unhappy to see it die. “The fund isn’t a priority for the Obama administration,” reported Business Week, “which instead proposed having the financial industry repay the government for the cost of disassembling a failed firm, an approach preferred by the industry.”
So let’s just be clear: The alternative to the liquidation fund is Wall Street’s preference. That should tell you pretty much all you need to know about whether the industry really views this as a bailout.
Who says the Tea Party is racist? As long as you’re clueless, folks, step right on in. We’re like Stephen Colbert that way. We don’t see color.
The photo is from Generik, who took his camera to a Tea Party rally Thursday in San Francisco. Follow the link to the best collection of Tea Party art I’ve ever come across.
Today’s Waterbury Republican-American carried this story on the appearance of beloved elder statesman Henry Kissinger at the Kent, Connecticut, Lions Club:
Kissinger delighted the audience with his humorous remarks and took his time answering a half-dozen different questions.
First Selectman Bruce K. Adams was the last in line and he took the opportunity to ask Kissinger for advice in governing and leading the small town he lived in. Kissinger candidly admitted that he has been focused on foreign policy rather than local politics. “I’m counting on you in making this the special place it is.”
Also today, the Associated Press carried some earlier advice from the retired Sage of Foggy Bottom:
WASHINGTON — As secretary of state, Henry Kissinger canceled a U.S. warning against carrying out international political assassinations that was to have gone to Chile and two neighboring nations just days before a former ambassador was killed by Chilean agents on Washington’s Embassy Row in 1976…
In 1976, the South American nations of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay were engaged in a program of repression code-named Operation Condor that targeted those governments’ political opponents throughout Latin America, Europe and even the United States.
Based on information from the CIA, the U.S. State Department became concerned that Condor included plans for political assassination around the world. The State Department drafted a plan to deliver a stern message to the three governments not to engage in such murders.
In the Sept. 16, 1976 cable, the topic of one paragraph is listed as “Operation Condor,” preceded by the words “(KISSINGER, HENRY A.) SUBJECT: ACTIONS TAKEN.” The cable states that “secretary declined to approve message to Montevideo” Uruguay “and has instructed that no further action be taken on this matter…”
“You can instruct” the U.S. ambassadors “to take no further action” on the subject of Operation Condor, said the Sept. 20 cable by Harry Shlaudeman, assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, to Shlaudeman’s deputy.
The next day, on Sept. 21, 1976, agents of Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet planted a car bomb and exploded it on a Washington, D.C., street, killing both former Ambassador Orlando Letelier, and an American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt [below]. Letelier was one of the most outspoken critics of the Pinochet government.
This is Shelby Steele in The Wall Street Journal, telling it like he thinks it is:
The old fashioned, big government liberalism that Mr. Obama uses to make himself history-making also alienates him in the center-right America of today. It makes him the most divisive president in memory — a president who elicits narcissistic identification on the one hand and an enraged tea party movement on the other. His health-care victory has renewed his narcissistic charge for the moment, but if he continues to be a 1965 liberal it will become more and more impossible for Americans to see themselves in him…
Mr. Obama’s success has always been ephemeral because it was based on an illusion: that if we Americans could transcend race enough to elect a black president, we could transcend all manner of human banalities and be on our way to human perfectibility. A black president would put us in a higher human territory. And yet the poor man we elected to play out this fantasy is now torturing us with his need to reflect our grandiosity back to us.
Many presidents have been historically significant in retrospect, but Mr. Obama had historic significance on his inauguration day. His inauguration told a transcendent American story. Other presidents work forward into their legacy. Mr. Obama is working backwards into his.
Mr. Steele, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is the author most recently of “A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win” (Free Press, 2007).
Which last paragraph leads irresistibly to the question: “So Why Should We Be Excited About What Shelby Steele Thinks?” Which in turn leads to the question: “Is Shelby related to Michael?” (No.) Which of course leads to this final question: “Was Michael Steele’s sister once married to Mike Tyson?” (Yes.)
Back in the early days of our Southeast Asian War Games a Washington Post and Times-Herald editor sent me to the District Building to cover what he figured had to be a mob scene at the marriage license bureau. After all, the White House had just announced that married men would become eligible for the draft in just a few days’ time. I reported back that there was no mob and consequently no news. “There you go,” the editor said. “There’s your story.”
When I bitched about this nonsense to an older reporter he said, “Don’t sweat it, kid. We call that a ‘no-snow story.’ Some idiot on the desk looks out the window and sees it isn’t snowing when it said in his own paper it would. To an idiot it’s news when the world fails to cooperate with him.”
I have been sensitive to no-snow stories ever since, and once you start looking, they’re everywhere. Thus I sympathize with a certain Jonathan Strong who writes for Tucker Carlson’s new conservative website, The Daily Caller. Poor Strong did the best he could with what he had.
The idiots topped his story with this headline, which is almost totally divorced from the perfect blizzard of no-snow that follows it:
Meet Texas congressman Randy Neugebauer, the ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee's Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Subcommittee. He’s opposed to killing babies, too!
…or so says former Bush speechwriter David Frum. Myself, I would never impute ulterior motives to the fat freak.
When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say — but what is equally true — is that he also wants Republicans to fail.
If Republicans succeed — if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office — Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less and hear fewer ads for Sleep Number beds.
So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished.
For the cause they purport to represent, however, the “Waterloo” threatened by GOP Sen. Jim DeMint last year regarding Obama and health care has finally arrived all right: Only it turns out to be our own.
Peggy Noonan, in The Wall Street Journal:
Fox is owned by News Corp., which also owns this newspaper, so one should probably take pains to demonstrate that one is attempting to speak with disinterest and impartiality, in pursuit of which let me note that Glenn Beck has long appeared to be insane.
Well, Washington, DC hosted “Armey’s Last Stand” yesterday. About two weeks ago Health Care Reform was officially designated a Tea Party “Code Red situation” calling for urgent mobilization; forthwith a couple hundred TPers dutifully shaped up at the Capitol in their signature Tea Party regalia, carrying their signature “down with everything” posters and placards.
This group has evolved, since their first appearance last year around this time, in ways that would have been impossible to predict. Yesterday’s street theater successfully demonstrated that evolution, if not much else. Over time, Republican Party outpourings of solidarity and support for Tea Party activism have dwindled, coincident with the Tea Party’s repudiation of Republican apparatchiks as just as undesirable as any other target “government-as-usual” group which the TP has singled out for extinction.
Signs of strain were not that difficult to sniff out. By now, everyone has probably seen pictures of the TP placards that were supplied by the RNC earlier in the game. This time around, RNC was still distributing the things but had gone to the trouble of placing “blackout” stickers over their endorsement. Then, too, GOP notables were conspicuously absent from yesterday’s pep rally, signaling Republicans’ wariness of how truly the Tea Party actually speaks for the “silent majority” they profess to represent…
A few die-hard Washington wing-nuts still turned out for Code Red — Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Steve King (R-IA) and Joe “You Lie” Wilson (R-SC) were there to incite hundreds to new levels of insanity. Fox News, doing the best with what they had, described the Code Red Rally as featuring “a host of Republican speakers, including Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Tom Price (R-GA) and Marsha Blackburn, (R-TN).”
Notably missing from that lineup was Sen. Jim DeMint who has been working assiduously at being the Tea Party’s Best Friend in Washington, according to a recent article in Politico. And while DeMint’s efforts might be scoring him points with the Tea Party (although there’s not a lot of evidence of that yet) it’s definitely not making him any more popular with his own party, which appears to have decided to give the TP a wide berth, for now at least.
So, it appears that the past year has brought evolution, some contraction as well as greater “clarity” (if you can call it that) to both the Tea Party and the Republican Party platforms. The Tea Party, despite its astro-turf beginnings, has gelled into what looks like a fairly adamant anti-government movement, strong on fear and loathing and short on solid facts – but, then, in the Tea Party world, facts and people who deal in facts are not to be trusted; history, like the Bible, is meant to validate their views and effectively rubber stamp their agenda “best for everyone involved.”
The Tea Party has morphed into a conservative populist movement willing to take conservatism to new extremes to represent the wishes of a (largely mythical) “silent majority.” I think that the “silent majority” notion is part and parcel of a mythology of fear and imagined oppression; freedom and liberty, in this mythology, are freedom “from anything I don’t like or agree with” and the liberty “to do as I please” without regard to how it affects the common good. Proponents of this mythology populate their world with like-minded fellow travelers who are too meek to speak up – but they’re out there. There also seems to be that Christian Conservative, homespun American Puritan influence that says “this is right and this wrong for all God’s children, end of argument” substantiation not required. And so it is that the Tea Party quickly gets to a place where facts are subordinate to ideology and the ends always justify the means.
If you think I overstate, here are a few samplings of yesterday’s commentary coming from the Tea Party itself:
The following “sentiments” appeared on the America’s News Online website which describes itself thus:
“As a company, AmericasNewsOnline.com is a dedicated group of writers covering the topics that are making a difference in people’s lives. Our goal is to give the reader a balanced perspective of both sides of the news. In our opinion, it should be up to the reader to decide the real truth.This from contributor Susan Thompson:
“We have a team of 6 researchers submitting breaking news everyday. With our team’s diverse background, we are able to cover news from different points of view.”
“The Tea Party Movement along with a little help from Rush Limbaugh turned the face of Washington red today. Even Barrack Obama is coming with his tail between his legs and is to appear for an interview with Fox News.
“There are members of the Tea Party Movement, in fact all of the Tea Party, that are outraged on the way that the Obama administration and the Dems in Congress are trying to find the sneakiest ways imaginable to pass the healthcare bill. Americans are very much in shock that the Dems would try to ram this bill through with an 80% disapproval rating.”
“Pelosi was heard to be paraphrased saying, ‘Americans aren’t smart enough to figure out how we’re doing this and aren’t interested in the process.’ She went on to same (sic) we will pass this bill for the good of American citizens. The Tea Party is holding strongly to ‘kill the bill.’”
Really, really awful writing aside, this stuff is pure propaganda, not to mention poppycock; but it is emotionally appealing to a crowd that believes that all of their ills have been caused by government and that, furthermore, they don’t need or want anything that government provides. It’s not that they have conflicting views on how the government should operate, no alternative methods are ever promoted beyond “sending Obama’s socialism ‘back to Russia.’”
Speaking to a CNS News interviewer, a woman who would only identify herself as “Jamie” said congressional arrogance is the main reason she came to the rally.
“I’m here, because I’m really concerned about how the legislative process is being bastardized to push this through. Whether you’re for it or against it, if they can bastardize our legislative process like this, what’s to stop them for anything? Why do we even have elected officials?”
Russ Cote of New Jersey told CNS this is the third event he has attended to protest a proposed health care system that he said is unsustainable and unconstitutional: “It’s simple economics. We’re going to go broke. We’re going to go broke fast.”
What these people seem to be saying is that they are afraid – afraid that something is terribly wrong with the day-to-day operation of government that they have, by and large, chosen to ignore lo these many years. They are afraid of “bastardized legislative processes,” the passage of unconstitutional legislation, death panels and socialism — now; despite the fact that extrajudicial renditions, assassinations, the use of torture, and warrant-less wiretapping caused barely ripple in their deeply-running still waters.
Neither do these emotional, impressionable people seem to care a fig about unsustainable health care costs in the status quo, or rampant US global militarization, or rapacious defense corporations defrauding the US government as a matter of course. They don’t even seem to worry much about the erosion of their constitutional rights to privacy and due process or the loss of America’s moral standing in the world due to high officials condoning, even expressing pride in having committed war crimes.
Why do you suppose that is? My theory is that it’s all in the packaging. People enjoy a good scare, sometimes. Generally, when things are not going so well, it helps to believe that the problem is “larger than life” and that we’re “all in this together.” Anyone with “I told you so, on their lips” is cruisin’ for a bruisin’ and it’s human nature to try to deflect blame and shame.
Republicans have suffered some electoral humiliations over the pickle we find ourselves in and they are more than ready for that to change. The trick is to make enough people believe that the Democrats are even worse or that Republicans, having made the mess in the first place, are the only ones who can effectively clean it up. Clumsiness over this messaging, so far, has engendered some pretty entertaining political positions on both sides of the aisle. For a while the large number of uncommitted Tea Partiers looked pretty attractive to the GOP with its 28% approval rating. In order to come roaring back, Republicans needed some fresh voters. From the beginning, it was pretty obvious what the TP hot buttons were and, in an effort to court them, the GOP made the Tea Party causes their causes.
A year later, clearly Republican leadership is rethinking that one. Appealing to the Tea Party is a lot like herding cats…
Nevertheless, a few stalwarts are still banging that drum for lack of anything better to do. One of those is Rep. Steve King from Iowa who has always had a lot to say that made little sense. The problem with King’s embrace of the Tea Party is that clearly, these Tea Partiers either can’t or don’t want to distinguish between fact and fiction and to them King represents a voice of authority (telling them it’s quite all right to be crazy).
King’s contribution, this time around, was to whip the Tea Partiers into an anarchic frenzy to paralyze the Capitol. He said, “Fill this city up, fill this city, jam this place full so that they can’t get in, they can’t get out and they will have to capitulate to the will of the American people.”
Elsewhere in his speech, he spouted his usual disinformation about the health care bill funding abortion as well as care for 6.1 million illegal immigrants, winding up with an impassioned plea for concerned citizens to “continue to rise up.”
I haven’t yet decided whether I think King is just simple-minded or whether he’s a world-class demagogue – either way, King has spent his years in Washington filling the air with a giant load of misleading crap – below are some samples of King’s wit and wisdom, taken from Wikipedia, which lists links for all comments.
On Joseph McCarthy:
In 2005, King whipped up a group to oppose honoring a Berkeley, California councilwomen because of her “affiliation” with the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library in Berkeley. Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee claimed that King’s “campaign of innuendo and unsubstantiated ‘concern’ is better suited to the era of Joseph McCarthy than today’s House of Representatives,” King claimed that history showed McCarthy to be “a hero for America.”
On the May 1, 2006 “Day Without an Immigrant” rallies, King offered his opinion to the Op-Ed editor of the Des Moines Register:
“What would that May 1st look like without illegal immigration? There would be no one to smuggle across our southern border the heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines that plague the United States, reducing the U.S. supply of meth that day by 80%. The lives of 12 U.S. citizens would be saved who otherwise die a violent death at the hands of murderous illegal aliens each day. Another 13 Americans would survive who are otherwise killed each day by uninsured drunk driving illegals. Our hospital emergency rooms would not be flooded with everything from gunshot wounds, to anchor babies, to imported diseases to hangnails, giving American citizens the day off from standing in line behind illegals. Eight American children would not suffer the horror as a victim of a sex crime.”
[Critics immediately argued that King's daily numbers in the editorial are inflated, based on the incorrect premise that 28% of all prisoners in all American jails and prisons are illegal aliens. King cited an April, 2005 GAO report as the source of that statistic; that report actually says that 27% of federal prisoners were "criminal aliens," a term that includes both legal and illegal aliens. "Criminal aliens" doesn't mean "illegal aliens". State prisons and local jails together hold 92% of US prisoners. The actual percentage of illegal aliens held at the time in state prisons and local jails can be determined by comparing figures for SCAAP federal compensation to states and localities with federal Bureau of Justice Statistics prisoner censuses. Such a comparison reveals that the accurate illegal alien percentage being held was less than 4%, rather than the 28% claimed by King.
In May 2008, King downgraded his original claims about the contents and reliability of the GAO report from which he "extrapolated" them saying: “ . . . that report came back not quite apples to apples.”]
On Washington, D.C.:
“My wife lives here with me, and I can tell you… she’s at far greater risk being a civilian in Washington, D.C., than an average civilian in Iraq.”
King said that there were 45 violent deaths per 100,000 in Washington, D.C., in 2003 while he calculated that there were 27.51 per 100,000 in Iraq as a whole.
The Iraqi Health Ministry casualty survey, however, estimated 151,000 violent deaths in Iraq due to the war from 2003 to 2006, or roughly 162.37 per 100,000 per year. The Lancet survey published in 2006 estimated that 2.5% of the population of Iraq had died from the war as of June 2006.
On State Department appropriations:
On June 21, 2007, King introduced an amendment to the $34 billion State and Foreign Operations bill to prohibit funds from being used by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to travel to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria. When asked why the measure did not apply to Republican House members who had also made trips to the countries in question, King’s spokesman replied that he was unsure whether that had been considered, or why it might not have been.
UPDATE: At the end of 2009, Rep. King went on his own “fact-finding” junket to Afghanistan. Upon his return he reported that he met with President Muhammad (sic) Karzai and found him to be “human.”
On Barack Obama:
On March 7, 2008, during his press engagements to announce his reelection campaign, King made his now famous remarks about Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama and his middle name, saying:
“ … if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror.”
[At the time, Obama said he did not take the comments too seriously, describing King as “an individual who thrives on making controversial statements to get media coverage.” The McCain campaign disavowed King's comments, saying "John McCain rejects the type of politics that degrades our civics…and obviously that extends to Congressman King's statement.”
On the Iowa Supreme Court:
In April, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a state ban on same-sex marriage violated the Iowa constitution. King opined that the judges "should resign from their position" and the state legislature "must also enact marriage license residency requirements so that Iowa does not become the gay marriage Mecca."
On the IRS building bombing in Austin, Texas:
Last month, in his closing remarks at CPAC, King said he could “empathize” with the man who flew a plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, killing himself and an IRS employee.
On Washington lobbyists:
On the House floor in February 2010, King made remarks defending and supporting lobbyists as a source of “valuable information”:
“Lobbyists do a very effective and useful job on this Hill, and if anyone gave me information that wasn’t accurate or honest, if they found out about it they would bring it back and correct it to me first. If I thought they were doing so intentionally, they would not come back to talk to me ever. There is credibility there, in that arena, that I think somebody needs to stand up for the lobby. It is a matter of providing a lot of valuable information.”
One might reasonably ask whether Rep. King would recognize “valuable information” if it bit him in the ass …
After King’s latest outing a Huffington Post reporter asked him about his comparison of the Tea Party protest with the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Prague. Here’s how that went:
HuffPo: “So this is just like Prague under communist rule?” the Huffington Post asked.
King: “Oh yeah, it is very, very close,” King replied. “It is the nationalization of our liberty and the federal government taking our liberty over. So there are a lot of similarities there.”
“I look back 20 years ago in the square in Prague ... when tens of thousands showed up there and they shook their keys peacefully and they took over their country and they achieved their freedom back again,” he said. “If you can keep coming to this city, fill up the congressional offices across the country but jam this city. If you can get on your cell phones, and get on your Blackberries and your email, and ask people to keep coming to this town. Storm this city, fill up Washington D.C., jam this capital so they can’t move. And if tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of you show up, we will win. We will defeat this bill and you will have your liberty back.”
Of course, part of the reason that Prague is so idyllic is because they have government-sponsored health care — just like you do, Rep. King…
From the Washington Independent:
Kathy Ropte — like Jackson, a member of the Harris County, Ga. Tea Party, had started to move beyond lobbying. As cameras snapped away, she stood in front of the Cannon Building and announced the termination, “to take effect in November,” of pro-health care reform members. One activist chided her for the display, which included a massive sign reading “Waterboard Congress.” Jackson didn’t care. She was in the fight, whether or not health care reform passed.
“One day I turned off American Idol,” Ropte told TWI, “and I turned on Fox News. Before this year I’d never voted in my life.”
From Reconstitution 2.0:
According to the Reverend John Hagee, Adolph Hitler was a “hunter,” sent by God, who was tasked with expediting God’s will of having the Jews re-establish a state of Israel.
Going in and out of biblical verse, Hagee preached: “‘And they the hunters should hunt them,’ that will be the Jews. ‘From every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.’ If that doesn’t describe what Hitler did in the holocaust you can’t see that.”
Yes, Hitler the Hunter came to the Earth to do the Lord’s work. This attitude among Jesusistanis is not an uncommon one; the simple fact of the matter is that most Jesusistanis are more or less open anti-Semites. A lot of people seem to think that the unwavering support the Jesusistanis have for Israel “proves” that they aren’t anti-Semites, but that belief is wholly mistaken. In order for the “Rapture” dogma of the Jesusistanis to come to pass, the Jews have to be in Jerusalem to be burned alive and sent to Hell. Understand that this, and only this, is why the Jesusistanis are such unabashed, staunch supporters of Israel.
Our unending state of stress-out is al-Qaeda’s greatest victory against the United States. As the AP reports today, al-Qaeda got one big message from the Underwear Bomber’s failure: “the group that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks and has prided itself on its ideological purism seems to be eyeing a more pragmatic and arguably more dangerous shift in tactics. The emerging message appears to be: Big successes are great, but sometimes simply trying can be just as good.”
Yeah, it seems like the simple cave dwellers have figured out big, complex, allegedly bad-ass America: we’re just a bunch of sticky fat kids crying because our ice cream fell off the cone. That wedgie-bait, Adam Gadahn (née “Pearlman”), an American in al-Qaeda, taunted, “Even apparently unsuccessful attacks on Western mass transportation systems can bring major cities to a halt, cost the enemy billions and send his corporations into bankruptcy.” He may be a traitorous asshole who can’t grow a decent beard, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Ask anyone who was at Newark Airport in January, where security imprisoned thousands of innocent people for six hours because some idiot took a shortcut…
Indeed, the right has so successfully torqued the country into what our enemies believe it is, it’s almost as if the GOP is a subversive arm of al-Qaeda. They have nearly bankrupted us, thus making any great social advances impossible; they have turned mild dissent into sedition; and they have turned the Constitution into a loophole-ridden contract, filled with more fine print than a subprime mortgage. They did most of that shit when they were in power. Now, out of power, the right is seeking, as it did in the Clinton years, but even more insidiously, to undermine the very functioning of government…
You’d expect this sort of thing from the Rude Pundit or the Huffington Post. But the Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s new cybersheet?
Sarah Palin took a leave of absence from her Russia-watching post in Alaska to become a Fox News contributor. Who could have seen that coming? She represents diversity on Fox as that network’s only non-blonde correspondent…
Sarah Palin does have charisma and a certain following. A woman resembling her once walked into a Florida breakfast place and nearly caused a riot. Folks soon realized she was not the former Alaska governor when she started reading a newspaper.
A California Republican family values legislator who was arrested early Wednesday morning for drunk driving had recently left a gay club, sources tell a local news channel… [Roy] Ashburn, who has a history of opposing gay rights, issued a contrite apology for the drunk driving arrest yesterday.
Ezra Klein and Paul Krugman are onto something in this excerpt. Klein used the word “thoughtful” in the quote below. He meant “smart,” of course, but was too thoughtful to say so.
[Jonathan] Chait professes himself puzzled by the right’s intellectual insecurity. Me, not so much. Here’s how I see it: in our current political culture, the background noise is overwhelmingly one of conservative platitudes. People who have strong feelings about politics but are intellectually incurious tend to pick up those platitudes, and repeat them in the belief that this makes them sound smart. (Ezra Klein once described Dick Armey thus: “He’s like a stupid person’s idea of what a thoughtful person sounds like.”)
…Do we want to live in a country in which the fortunate (medically speaking) accept additional insurance costs in order to provide for the unfortunate? Or do we wish to live in a country in which the fortunate are permitted to separate what happens to them from what happens to the unfortunate? Notice that by “fortunate” and “unfortunate” I do not mean “those who do not get sick” and “those who do get sick.” That would be looking at the matter ex post. I mean by fortunate “those less less likely ex ante to get sick,” and by “unfortunate” I mean “those more likely ex ante to get sick.” We are still talking probabilities here, of course. Even the young and healthy sometimes get cancer and have heart attacks. They just do so much less often. And by the same token, even multiple cancer sufferers sometimes go cancer free for the rest of their lives. But that too occurs much less often.
When we clear away all the bafflegab, all the confusion, all the posturing and bickering and procedural wrangling, all the political maneuvering, what we find is that the Democrats want America to be a country in which the fortunate shoulder some of the burdens of the unfortunate. And the Republicans want America to be a country in which they do not. In short, if I may put it this way, the Democrats want America to be a Christian country, and the Republicans want America to be a Godless country…
Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of the increasingly few reasons America’s newspapers should not be taken out behind the barn and shot, gives judicious consideration to the speech given by the GOP’s Heart Throb of the Week, Marco Rubio, before the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday. Rubio outlined a bold new agenda of cutting taxes on estates, capital gains, interest, dividends and corporations.
To which Bookman replies:
Let me be blunt: That’s infantile. It’s an infantile appeal to an infantile sentiment. Politicians of every stripe make promises they can’t keep and tell us things we want to hear, but rarely is the disconnect from reality so blatant.
I mean, let’s just do away with taxes altogether — nobody likes ’em, right? — and then the national debt will surely vanish altogether! It’s like shooting yourself in the face and calling it cosmetic surgery. It’s like saying four minus two equals eight, and then building your economic future on that “fact.” It’s a world of fantasy.
Or as the great Merle Haggard would put it:
“When they find out how to burn water,
And the gasoline car is gone.
When an airplane flies without any fuel,
And the satellite heats our home.
One of these days when the air clears up,
And the sun comes shinin’ through.
We’ll all be drinkin’ free bubble-up,
An’ eatin’ that rainbow stew.”
And when that happy day comes, Marco Rubio will be right there, dishing out heapin’ servings of that delicious rainbow stew for everybody, with Jim DeMint looking on, crying in happiness.
Emanuel Rahm’s “retard” has become an increasingly complicated political bankshot: from the White House to Sarah Palin to Rush Limbaugh, back to Palin and now to Connecticut’s Senate race:
One of the two candidates, Linda McMahon, was the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment — and it turns out that there was a mentally handicapped WWE wrestling character who was savagely beaten in a steel cage and worse. And in light of the flap over Rahm, I’m told that McMahon’s opponent, Rob Simmons, is going to demand that she account for it…For your viewing pleasure (h/t Greenwich Time), here’s Eugene:
“Eugene” is the stage name of a mentally handicapped wrestling character who performed on WWE’s “Raw” brand. When he was introduced in 2004, according to press reports at the time, viewers complained to WWE, forcing them to issue a statement saying they intended him to be portrayed as a “hero” who would inspire “other people with disabilities to strive to achieve their dreams.”
But there’s footage all over the internet of Eugene getting savagely stomped and beaten, and even demeaned, and one storyline even ended up with him getting savaged in a steel cage. And the Simmons campaign is going to demand that McMahon account for this.
Markos Moulitsas, as you probably know, has commissioned a poll of the views held by self-identified Republicans on a number of issues. The results are here. In a way they are unsurprising — 60% think Obama is a socialist, 21% think ACORN stole the election, while 55% aren’t quite sure. These things can be put down to a stew of misinformation, ignorance and racism.
But what can explain the 31% who believe contraceptives should be outlawed? They may not know what ACORN does or what socialism is, but they’re pretty clear about condoms and the pill. Is this a partisan or a religious issue that I’m unaware of? Are they afraid that dusky immigrants are going to outbreed them? What?
Here is an economic primer for all your teabagger friends from Fred Clark at slacktivist. It deserves as wide circulation as it can possibly get. Now I’ve done my part. Do yours.
Hey you. You there in the Glenn Beck T-shirt headed off to the Tea Party Patriot rally.
Stop shouting for a moment, please, I want to explain to you why you’re so very angry. You should be angry. You’re getting screwed. I think you know that. But you don’t seem to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can stop it. You can stop it easily because the system that’s screwing you over can only keep screwing you over if you keep demanding that it do so.
So stop demanding that. Stop helping the system screw you over.
Look, you can go back to yelling at me in a minute, but just read this first.
1. Get out your pay stub.
Or, if you have direct deposit — you really should get direct deposit, it saves a lot of time and money (I point this out because, honestly, I’m trying to help you here, even though you don’t make that easy Mr. Angry Screamy Guy) — then take out that little paper receipt they give you when your pay gets directly deposited.
2. Notice that your net pay is lower than your gross pay. This is because some of your wages are withheld every pay period.
3. Notice that only some of this money that was withheld went to pay taxes. (I know, I know — yeearrrgh! me hates taxes! — but just try to stick with me for just a second here.)
4. Notice that some of the money that was withheld didn’t go to taxes, but to your health insurance company.
5. Now go get a pay stub from last year around this time, from January of 2009.
6. Notice that the amount of your pay withheld for taxes in your current paycheck is less than the amount that was withheld a year ago.
That’s because of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, which included more than $200 billion in tax cuts, including the one you’re holding right there in your hand, the tax cut that’s now staring you in the face. Republicans all voted against that tax cut. And then they told you to get angry about the stimulus plan. They didn’t explain, however, why you were supposed to get angry about getting a tax cut. Why would you be? Wouldn’t it make more sense to get angry at the people who voted against that Obama tax cut?
But taxes aren’t the really important thing here. The really important thing starts with the next point…
7. Notice that the amount of your pay withheld to pay for your health insurance is more than it was last year.
8. Notice that the amount of your pay withheld to pay for your health insurance is a lot more than it was last year. I won’t ask you to dig up old paychecks from 2008 and 2007, but this has been going on for a long time. Every year, the amount of your paycheck withheld to pay for your health insurance goes up. A lot.
9. Notice the one figure there on your two pay stubs that hasn’t changed: Your wage. The raise you didn’t get this year went to pay for that big increase in the cost of your health insurance.
10. Here’s where I need you to start doing a better job of putting two and two together. If you didn’t get a raise last year because the cost of your health insurance went up by a lot, and the cost of your health insurance is going to go up by a lot again this year, what do you think that means for any chance you might have of getting a raise this year?
11. Did you figure it out? That’s right. The increasing cost of health insurance means you won’t get a raise this year. Or next year. Or the year after that. The increasing cost of health insurance means you will never get a raise again.
That’s what I meant when I said you really should be angry. That’s what I meant when I said you’re getting screwed.
OK, we’re almost done. Just a few more points, I promise.
12. The only hope you have of ever seeing another pay raise is if Congress passes health care reform. Without health care reform, the increasing cost of your health insurance will swallow this year’s raise. And next year’s raise. And pretty soon it won’t stop with just your raise. Without health care reform, the increasing cost of your health insurance will start making your pay go down.
13. I wish I could tell you that this was just a worst-case scenario, that this was only something that might, maybe happen, but that wouldn’t be true. Without health care reform, this is what will happen. We know this because this is what is happening now. It has been happening for the past 10 years. In 2008, employers spent on average 25 percent more per employee than they did in 2001, but wages on average did not increase during those years. The price of milk went up. The price of gas went up. But wages did not. All of the money that would have gone to higher wages went to pay the higher and higher and higher cost of health insurance. And unless Congress passes health care reform, that will not change.
Well, it will change in the sense that it will keep getting worse, but it won’t get better. Unless the problem gets fixed, the problem won’t be fixed. That’s kind of what “problem” and “fixed” mean.
14. Sadly for any chance you have of ever seeing a raise again, it looks like Congress may not pass health care reform. It looks like they won’t do that because they’re scared of angry voters who are demanding that they oppose health care reform, angry voters who demand that Congress not do anything that would keep the cost of health insurance from going up and up and up. Angry voters like you.
15. Do you see the point here? You are angrily, loudly demanding that Congress make sure that you never, ever get another pay raise as long as you live. Because of you and because of your angry demands, you and your family and your kids are going to have to get by with less this year than last year. And next year you’re going to have to get by with even less. And if you keep angrily demanding that no one must ever fix this problem, then you’re going to have to figure out how to get by on less and less every year for the rest of your life.
16. So please, for your own sake, for your family’s sake and the sake of your children, stop. Stop demanding that problems not get fixed. Stop demanding that you keep getting screwed. Stay angry — you should be angry — but start directing that anger toward the system that’s screwing you over and taking money out of your pocket. Start directing that anger toward fixing problems instead of toward making sure they never get fixed. Instead of demanding that Congress oppose health care reform so that you never, ever, get another pay raise, start demanding that they pass health care reform, as soon as possible. Because until they do, you’re just going to keep on getting screwed.
And it’s going to be that much worse knowing that you brought this on yourself — that you demanded it.
Thanks for your time.
This is from a speech by another of South Carolina’s many statesmen, Republican Lieutenant Governor Rudolph Andreas “André” Bauer. For the full flavor, listen to it all. Bauer is shown below with another college varsity cheerleader, George W. Bush:
“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals,” Bauer told a Greenville-area crowd. “You know why? Because they breed.
“You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”
Let’s continue the Hard Hitting Songs Series for those mentioned in the headline and George Bush and Tom Corbett too. Hey Tom, Legal Ethics take precedence over prosecuting political opponents, guilty or not. You better read up on that. I was taught in a system that made legal ethics the number one educational priority. Legal Ethics don’t seem to be something they teach well over there in Pennsylvania. It's quite ironic that the one doing the prosecuting is engaging in conduct as egregious as that of those who he is prosecuting. Even Ralph Nader has asked that law firms that gave Corbett money and has complained about this conflict of interest and wanted the money to be paid back by the law firm Corbett received from a law firm he was investigating. Corbett refused. Ethics 101 here again, but it may just be meanness as Woody sung about.
So it goes.
Well, anyway, this song is dedicated to all you fascists and obstructionists and otherwise just plain mean people, or as former Republican John Dean notes, mean authoritarians and their mean followers. Barry Goldwater was ashamed of you before he died. Dean knows.
A Teddy Roosevelt quote (h/t to The Epicurean Dealmaker) from the distant — the very distant — ideological past of the Republican Party:
We stand equally against government by a plutocracy and government by a mob. There is something to be said for government by a great aristocracy which has furnished leaders to the nation in peace and war for generations; even a democrat like myself must admit this. But there is absolutely nothing to be said for government by a plutocracy, for government by men very powerful in certain lines and gifted with “the money touch,” but with ideals which in their essence are merely those of so many glorified pawnbrokers.
Breaking news from the party of family values:
Blake Hall, a leading figure in Idaho and national politics for 25 years, was fired Monday as a deputy prosecuting attorney in eastern Idaho and has resigned from the Republican National Committee…
Idaho Falls police reported that witnesses said Hall disposed of used condoms on the lawn of the woman’s house. Nineteen condoms were turned over to police, collected on 10 different dates, according to a police report. Both Hall and his lawyer acknowledged the condoms belonged to him, according to a police report.
Seems odd that they would “acknowledge” whose condoms those were. Gosh, anybody could have thrown those condoms onto the lawn, couldn’t they? Or at least before DNA testing they could have.
He’s not a Blue Dog and he’s not a Red Dog. He’s not the Hit Dog and he’s not a hot dog. So what kind of dog is he?
He is Lieberdog, the only one of its kind in all of nature, a species unto itself, sui generis, the one and only. In Connecticut, where he lives and pontificates, Lieberdog even has his own political party: the Lieberdog for Senator Party.
Well then, what sort of creature is Lieberdog? Also known as Stealth Dog, Lieberdog makes very little noise, looks like a shoe store clerk, and does not show up on radar. Lieberdog appears to be harmless but is known for his treachery. Although he has an unusually big mouth, he speaks through his nose. What he says, especially on the subject of health care reform, makes no sense except to the people who run the insurance industry, particularly the healthcare part of it. Lieberdog is an insurance man’s best friend.
Lieberdog is also a faithful companion to Republican presidential candidates who flap their arms like flightless birds and speak in riddles. He will perform any number of clever tricks on command and loves nothing more than rolling over. He will fetch and play dead. He will do anything for attention, sometimes to the point where his sniffing and licking can cause embarrassment to sniffee and lickee alike.
Not very long ago, in a public career that has gone on far, far too long, Lieberdog was a Democrat. Indeed, he was the party’s candidate for vice president when Lock Box Man headed the ticket in year 2,000 of the Modern Era. How soon we forget, but it is a matter of fact that this dynamic duo actually won the election, and not just the popular vote. But for a few hanging chads and a shameless Supreme Court, Lieberdog would have stood the proverbial heartbeat from the presidency for four, and most likely eight, years.
He would then have been in a favorable position to grab the Democratic nomination for The Big Job, and instead of traipsing around the country holding John McCain’s privates, he would have been running against him, holding his own. There were plenty of reasons to vote against McCain without any help from Lieberdog. Yet there he was. Wherever McCain went, he went. At every picnic, in every auditorium, at every GOP rubber chicken dinner, at every “spontaneous event,” there was Lieberdog, tongue lolling, tail wagging, fetching, licking and sniffing for the Republican candidate.
But … but, we thought he was a Democrat. What was he doing at that rally introducing Old Ironsides, the Republican candidate, for the four hundredth time? No, no, no, you don’t understand. He used to be a Democrat. But the Democrats in Connecticut turned their backs on him and nominated someone else. So he did what any beaten dog would do. He got mean and he got even.
And as the sole member of the Lieberdog for Senator Party he beat the candidates of both major parties and he’s still a senator and he still caucuses with the Democrats and he’s still the chairman of the homeland security committee. This doesn’t say much for Democratic Party discipline but does Lieberdog care about that?
Lieberdog is a religious dog, a dog of conscience. He has never voted against his principles and he never will. He believes passionately in the right of the big insurance companies to block any meaningful healthcare reform and he thinks we should stay in Iraq forever. He thinks Israel is right in everything it does even when it costs the lives of hundreds — thousands — of innocent people.
Lieberdog is a fiscal conservative except where Iraq is concerned. You can’t spend too much to support our brave boys and girls over there and anybody who suggests winding down that Bushian enterprise isn’t much better than a rotten coward.
If Lieberdog hadn’t defected from the party he might be considered a Blue Dog Democrat, whatever that is. The term’s derivation is as murky as its politics, but it seems to have had something to do with turning blue as a result of choking, the very thing that many exasperated Democrats would like to do to Lieberdog. Besides, Blue Dogs are all members of the House. Lieberdog disports himself in more important company, in the Senate, where the fire hydrants are the best that insurance money can buy.
Here’s the Word of the Lord from John Hart, who is communications director for famed Christian Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma:
Coburn’s opposition to government programs, Hart said, stemmed from his concern for the poor. “His faith informs everything he does,” Hart said. He went on to say that, in the New Testament, Jesus mentions the poor some 300 times. “He doesn’t view the Bible as a think-tank document.,” Hart said. So, Coburn, before he contemplates a policy, Hart said, first asks himself, “How will it impact the people least able to fend for themselves?”
“He has come to the conclusion that large government enterprises harm poor more than help them,” Hart said, offering Medicaid as an example. He conceded that the government health-care program does help some poor people, but he contends that it hurts others, because “40 percent of doctors refuse to accept Medicaid.” (Coburn is an MD himself.)
Hart said that the expansion of Medicaid beyond the ranks of the “truly poor” will only hurt more people.
And, in a not unrelated story, we learn that, “Only one in four Oklahoma public high school students can name the first President of the United States, according to a survey released today.”
The snippets below are from a survey of the Right of the Right, carried out by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Not much you didn’t know, perhaps, but the words are often interesting even if the tune is familiar.
Most fascinating to me was the way the respondents talked about President Obama himself. They thought he was a socialist, Manchurian candidate control freak, sure. But it kept peeping through that they couldn’t help respecting and admiring the guy — maybe even liking him. Most peculiar, Obama…
For the complete text, download file.
The conservative Republican base represents almost one in five voters in the electorate, and nearly two out of every three self-identified Republicans…
Asked about the issues of greatest importance to them in choosing a candidate for Congress, health care ranked sixth among the Republicans, below issues such as tax cuts, immigration, and a candidate’s personal values and faith; but for the independents, health care was number one…
—I think it is another media attack on people who have views other than their own… It almost makes you think they are trying to create some kind of a divide… Tearing us up. Fabrication to prove the point that they want to prove that may or may not be truth. It is relative to their need to get a headline and they are stupid if they think we’re not seeing this stuff. They’re stupid if they think we’re so stupid.
—There’s a school of thought that if you overload the system with programs and bailouts and all that, that it will create an opportunity, some people believe it started in the 60’s with welfare and Medicare and Medicaid; if you load the system down enough till it totally collapses it, I mean, I know it sounds kind of like a conspiracy theory, but it opens the door for this whole new way of governing. I’m not saying he’s a sleeper or anything like that, but it is something to think about…
—I think [Glenn Beck’s] brilliant. No one goes after him because he does his homework. He checks, double checks, triple checks and he says he refuses to put it on the air unless it’s been checked a hundred different times. So when you can’t get at him, you start calling him names and start digging into his past.
Assuming you need a scapegoat to make you feel better, the Republican Party has a rep for you. Eric Hoffer is rolling over in his grave I’m sure. Since we don’t watch television anymore, I wasn’t aware that this parody is based on an Apple app commercial until I read about it, but all you television watchers already know that I suppose. Thanks to the author of this video who has a great new blog, Waking Up Now that will undoubtedly be worth keeping an eye on and also has a detailed explanation of how and why he created the video with intricate explanations for each rep. Watch the video first, then read the explanations. That’s the creator of the video’s advice.
This is the greatest political TV ad ever made (h/t Jay Bookman), and I’m pretty confident we shall not see its like again. John Oxendine is the Georgia insurance commissioner, hoping to be the next governor. The rat is onetime governor Roy Barnes, for whom see this.
Below we see the famed Republican moralist, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, as he explores the subtleties of President Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. A written excerpt, followed by the Full Monty on tape:
If you’re oriented toward animals, bestiality, then, you know, that’s not something that can be used, held against you or any bias be held against you for that. Which means you’d have to strike any laws against bestiality, if you’re oriented toward corpses, toward children, you know, there are all kinds of perversions…
Next thing you know, it’ll be perfectly legal to mate with anything at all, even Republican Congressmen from Texas.
I run the following first as an admirable piece of snark, but also read Colin McEnroe’s whole posting here, for news on why Japan is buying up American political blogs — and for more on the wonderful candidacy of wrestling queen Linda McMahon for Chris Dodd’s senate seat.
While were on the subject of Chris Dodd, I wholeheartedly support his reelection, not in spite of the fact that he accepted a handcrafted mortage on his home from subprime grifter Anthony Mozilo but because he did.
Dodd’s indiscreet mortgage was pretty tame stuff as Congressional behavior goes, but nevertheless he is now obliged to be a bulldog on reform of the financial sector. And that particular strain of bulldog is pretty scarce on Capitol Hill.
Okay, back to the snark:
Alan Schlesinger was the Republican nominee for Senate in Connecticut, and it’s generally accepted that he would have found that experience a lot more enjoyable if the Republican Party had actually decided to support him. Instead, Joe Lieberman ran on the slogan, “There is no principle of the Democratic Party that I am not prepared to swap for a reasonably good chocolate chip cookie,” and Republicans took that as a sign they should probably vote for him.
We here in Connecticut are sick and tired of all the attention South Carolina has been getting for being ridiculous. So here’s what we’re doing about it:
WASHINGTON – Pro wrestling executive Linda McMahon has never been shy about wading into the ring — and now she’s plotting a smackdown of Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd.
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. said Wednesday McMahon has resigned as the company's chief executive to seek the Republican nomination for Dodd's Connecticut seat, providing a show-business twist to one of the nation's marquee Senate races…
McMahon, who typically worked behind the scenes at World Wrestling Entertainment, has said she’s appeared in portions of the shows at least several dozen times during her more than 25-year-career. One video on the Internet shows her in the ring, appearing to kick a man in the groin.
“If you’ve been in a poker game for half an hour and you don’t know who the patsy is yet, you’re the patsy.”
Republican appointees outnumber Democratic justices two to one on the Supreme Court. Of the six Republicans, five were named by multimillionaires (the Bushes and Reagan; Ford appointed the other).
These things render tomorrow’s arguments over Austin and McConnell all but irrelevant. The fix is in. The Roberts court wouldn’t have taken the case at all if the Chief Justice didn’t intend to use it to scrap the last few limits remaining on the power of the rich to buy our government.
A few shreds of today’s legal fig leaf may survive, but basically the game is finally over. Democracy lost. If Joe the Plumber and the government-hating tea-baggers had even the dimmest grasp of who was really responsible for their troubles, they would be rioting in the streets already.
Today, one political class is the overwhelming majority — we express our preferences with our votes or volunteer efforts. The other class consists of those wielding real power — the ability to finance the bulk of candidates’ campaigns and effectively “set the menu” of candidates from which the rest of us may choose.
The justices’ motivation for treating money as speech may not be racist, but the impact is. Major political donors are fully unrepresentative of Americans. According to a 1996 study by the Joyce Foundation, eighty percent of people investing $200 or more in political candidates are males from households with annual income exceeding $100,000, and about 95 percent are white.
Not surprisingly, Congress closely mirrors those distinctly unrepresentative demographics.
When you get into the real money — donations of $1,000 or more — the picture is skewed even further. Just one in a thousand adult Americans contributed $1,000 or more to any candidate in the last election, yet candidates for the 2004 presidential nomination raised more than 80 percent of their individual investments from these elites. And people wonder how Congress can consider repealing inheritance taxes for multi-millionaires while plunging us ever-deeper into debt.
The power of that 1% of citizens making thousand-dollar investments is further amplified by their ability to “bundle” contributions in the name of family members, co-workers or employees to offer many thousands of dollars to a candidate in a lump sum. In George W. Bush’s 2004 presidential campaign, bundling $200,000 was the measure by which donors gained serious influence.
Most days David Brooks’s columns just make me mildly impatient. Not this time. Read what he says in today’s New York Times about President Obama and healthcare.
And while we’re on the subject, take a look at this depressing story out of Wisconsin, where a group of merciful and compassionate doctors tried to apply intelligence to end-of-life decisions — only to run into Sarah Palin and her fellow deathers. Of all the lies and hypocrisies spread by the GOP in this summer of discontent, surely this has been the most ignorant, the most cruel.
From Stephen Talbot’s letter to the editor in the current issue of The Nation:
I interviewed both men in 2001 for a PBS documentary, The Sixties: The Years That Shaped a Generation. McNamara told me that he’d come to realize the war was a tragedy that could have been avoided…
But Kissinger was unreconstructed, unapologetic. “If you are going to ask whether I feel guilty about Vietnam, the interview is over,” Kissinger said before I asked my first question. “I’ll walk out.”
I told him I had just interviewed McNamara. That got his attention. And then he did something I’ll never forget: he began to cry. Actually, he pretended to cry.
“Boohoo, boohoo,” Kissinger blubbered, rubbing his eyes. “He’s still beating his breast, right? Still feeling guilty.” He spoke in a mocking, singsong voice and patted his heart for emphasis.
It was one of those moments, before the camera rolls, when you get a rare glimpse into someone’s character and it’s even darker than you ever dreamed.
George F. Will, the elite conservative commentator, will call in his next column for U.S. ground troops to leave Afghanistan, according to publishing sources.
“[F]orces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters,” Will writes in the column, scheduled for publication later this week.
One wonder why this sage policy guidance never occurred to the tweety-bird of the right while George W. Bush was wandering around Afghanistan’s plains for all those years.
Alas, a lack, one supposes, of balls. One didn’t want to lose one’s access to the very best soirées, did one? But now that the albatross is around the other guy’s neck, Will’s equation has changed.
Pulling out of Afghanistan begins to look like a win-win proposition for the Party of No. It would give the chickenhawk patriots of the GOP a chance to holler surrender monkey at Obama in 2012 — an act akin to handing Jascha Heifetz a Stradivarius.
And not pulling out would be even more certain to defeat Obama’s reelection bid, since he would be hip-deep in his very own Big Muddy by 2012. And Mitt Romney could win just as Eisenhower did against Stevenson, on a promise to get us out of Afghanistan.
Whether Romney actually kept his word once in office would depend on whether he’d rather be remembered as Eisenhower or Nixon.
Watch the repulsive physician/senator Tom Coburn as he comforts a grief-stricken Oklahoma constituent with a sick husband. Oklahoma voters (their other senator is James Inhofe) have a lot to answer for.
Republican Tom Coburn is a medical doctor, a church deacon, and the junior U.S. Senator from Oklahoma. Here he is on Meet the Press yesterday:
Look, the, the idea that we ought to talk about our future health and what our family and what we want done is a good idea, it’s legitimate. What is not legitimate is having government even weigh in on it. It is intensely personal; your health care, your plans, your family. There is no role for government in that. And where we’ve seen a role — and, and this happens all the time, which goes to one of the things that never gets talked about in health care — is we have statements, living wills. We have people who have made those very tough decisions. And then, because they’ve made them, but because of the malpractice situation and liability, they’re ignored. And we still intubate and put people onto ventilators that never wanted it because a family member threatens through a situation, even though you have that end of life counseling there.Help me out here. Does Coburn mean, for instance, that government should keep its grubby paws off a woman’s decision to have an abortion? That he would defend Dr. Kerkorian? Would he oppose any effort by “the government” to punish medical malpractice? To regulate or otherwise control drugs and their prescription by doctors? Does all that stuff about ventilators and intubations mean anything, and if so, what? That he wants death panels but only if he’s on them?
Isn’t that little Rove boy just the cutest thing?
Robert Luskin, a lawyer for Mr. Rove, said the material released Tuesday demonstrated that there was “absolutely no evidence” the White House had used inappropriate political motivations to punish federal prosecutors. Mr. Luskin said Mr. Rove and other White House aides were legitimately concerned about voter fraud and were debating “completely reasonable and legitimate policy questions.”
Watch closely at the very beginning, as the polished debater in the red cap gets his lines from Coach before vomiting them up:
Here’s a post by Papa Bonk on Ketchup is a Vegetable. What think?
Benito Mussolini and Adolpf Hitler both came to power with the aid of hoodlums and thugs who showed up at political rallies, shouted down the speakers and beat up opposition leaders. As time went by, normal citizens learned to stay out of their way and shut up.
Politics by thuggery is a defining element of facism. That’s what the GOOP and the health care industry is practicing now in an attempt to derail real reform in health insurance. We are seeing it in town hall meetings held by Democratic Party leaders across the country. Hordes of unkempt, illiterate dumbasses shout down other speakers and drown out debate, the threat of violence simmering just below the surface. Their whole game is to disrupt and delay the health care agenda and ultimately defeat President Obama by forcing a failure on his most important policy objective.
Wiser heads tell us that we can use this behavior to our advantage. It demonstrates the true colors of the opposition, it is said, and will ultimately turn public opinion in our favor. I am sure the people in the choir believe that. I am not so certain.
There is a frightened, mindless wasteland out there. A landscape of uneducated clerks and real estate agents and shoe salespersons and Mary Kaye clients. They are frightened as sheep, and easily stampeded. A show of force, a hint of instability, a suspicion that the President of the United States may not be one of us after all, may be all it takes to return us the nightmare days of Busch GOOP leadership.
It’s a dangerous game and should not be taken lightly. I am very happy to allow the public relations boys and the political experts to take on this threat and solve it by peaceable means. But I think it shows us graphically why it is that liberals should forget about gun control and learn something about guns.
Speaking as one who was paying taxes back then, I would gladly have kicked in to give Todd Tiahrt’s mom the chance to deny us his great mind:
From McClatchy Newspapers:
…Speaking on the House floor, Representative Todd Tiahrt wondered: What if President Obama’s mom had had the chance for a taxpayer-funded abortion?
“If that financial incentive was in place, is it possible that his mother may have taken advantage of it?” he asked.
Tiahrt reasoned, “If you think of it in human terms, there is a financial incentive that will be put in place, paid for by tax dollars, that will encourage women who are single parents, living below the poverty level, to have the opportunity for a free abortion. If you take that scenario and apply it to many of the great minds we have today, who would we have been deprived of? Our president grew up in a similar circumstance.”
Tiahrt, who is running in the Republican Senate primary in Kansas next year, mentioned Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, too, asking “is it possible that we would be denied his great mind?”
You’ve been hearing about the C Street house where Sanford and Ensign and Wamp and many another sinner of the GOP lived and loved and laughed together.
But it’s all a whole lot creepier that you even think, unless you happen to remember Jeff Sharlet’s 2003 piece in Harper’s called “Jesus plus nothing: Undercover among America’s secret theocrats.”
The book which grew out of it, The Family, is just out in trade paperback, and I urge you to buy it. And you will, once you read the 2003 piece. Excerpt:
It is April 2002, and I have lived with these men for weeks now, not as a Christian — a term they deride as too narrow for the world they are building in Christ’s honor — but as a “believer.” I have shared the brothers’ meals and their work and their games. I have been numbered among them and have been given a part in their ministry. I have wrestled with them and showered with them and listened to their stories: I know which man resents his father’s fortune and which man succumbed to the flesh of a woman not once but twice and which man dances so well he is afraid of being taken for a fag. I know what it means to be a “brother,” which is to say that I know what it means to be a soldier in the army of God…
Now that Al Franken is on his way to join the other comedians in Washington can we expect the Senate to be more fun than ever?
Franken, a professional funnyman and avowed liberal, will finally take his seat as the junior senator from Minnesota after seven hilarious months of legal wrangling over the vote count with the (finally) outgoing Republican incumbent, Norm Coleman, who is a joke but a bad one.
The big question is whether Franken, for all his success as a satirist, book writer, radio guy, and onetime stalwart of Saturday Night Live, can match wits with the likes of Orrin Hatch, Jon Kyl, John Cornyn, and Chuck Grassley, four of the funniest Republicans ever to crack wise on the Senate floor.
Orrin Hatch is probably best known of the current crop of GOP wits because he has been around forever and has never been able to open his mouth wide enough to say anything controversial. Orrin is from Utah and looks rather like one of those scary clean-cut missionaries, which he was, who periodically show up at your door wanting to talk to you about Jesus. Because no one can understand what he is saying, Hatch always gets re-elected.
He is also wonderfully funny, but not as funny as Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who has made a huge contribution to the public weal by making life difficult for foundations and other philanthropic organizations that think their tax-free status gives them the right to give away money to good causes without asking him first. Chuck has kicked some eleemosynary ass and shown those smug foundation types a thing or two about who makes tax policy in this country. He’s funny but he’s also tough.
Funny and tough seem to be traits common to all the members of the Senate Finance Committee, which has set itself the daunting task of thwarting President Obama’s effort to reform the country’s perfectly healthy healthcare insurance system. You need a good sense of humor to go against overwhelming public opinion. Just because health care reform was one of the main reasons Obama got elected is no reason for smart, tough, funny Senators to get stampeded into something stupid, something that smells suspiciously like SOCIALIZED MEDICINE!
Do you want the government telling you what to eat, how many aspirin to take, how many hours of sleep you need? Do you want the government examining your prostate? Well, that’s what’s going to happen if Obama’s plan goes through. So let’s be thankful that the finance committee has some members smart, funny and tough enough to just say no. Solid, fiscally responsible Republicans like Jon Kyl of Arizona, John Ensign of Nevada, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, and Mike Crapo of Idaho, men elected by the few to block the will of the many.
And let’s not overlook the Democratic comedians whose tough, smart, funny performance as members of the Senate Finance Committee ensures their place in the history of tomfoolery. Senators Blanche Lincoln — who? — of Arkansas; Ron Wyden — huh? — of Oregon; Tom Carper — who’s he? — of Delaware; Jeff Bingaman — oh, him — of New Mexico, and some other jokesters you probably never heard of.
Then there are other Democratic Senators not on the committee who have joined the hallowed ranks: Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, to name three.
How do you feel about some clown from North Dakota, who represents about 140 people, wrecking the health plan that you sent Obama to Washington to enact? Pretty funny, eh? But this is the new fiscal responsibility. It’s okay to spend a trillion dollars smashing up a country where we’re not wanted but let’s not put money into creepy, creeping socialistic ideas about health care. Let’s be responsible.
It’s all pretty funny; well, not that funny. The big question is whether a true funnyman like Al Franken can fit in in the Senate. Maybe, in time, but it will probably cost him his sense of humor.
South Carolina’s governor just retired the Wandering Politico’s Apology Cup for all time.
He apologized to his wife. He apologized to his four sons. He apologized to his staff for “creating a fiction in regard to where I was going.” He apologized to his friend Tom Davis and to “all the Tom Davises of the world.” He apologized to people of faith in South Carolina and throughout the nation. He apologized to his spiritual adviser. He apologized to his father-in-law. He apologized to his “dear, dear friend” from Argentina, where he had “spent the last five days of my life crying.”
He did not apologize to me, but he didn’t need to. What he does with his dick is none of my damned business, and that goes for the dicks of McGreevey, Spitzer, Clinton, Edwards, Vitter, Warren G. Harding and so on and so forth throughout the long annals of American politics. It does not go for specimens like Ensign and Craig, who obsess unwholesomely over the uses to which other people put their dicks.
Actually I thought Governor Sanford handled himself with a certain amount of class during his public ordeal, and I applaud him for it. And I particularly applaud his wife for the dignity she displayed in not standing by her man during his self-crucifixion.
It behooves us all to STFU until we figure out what’s actually happening in Iran. I’m talkin’ to you, McCain.
This from McClatchy:
TEHRAN, Iran — Supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main rival in the disputed presidential election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, massed in competing rallies Tuesday as the country’s most senior Islamic cleric threw his weight behind opposition charges that Ahmadinejad’s re-election was rigged.
“No one in their right mind can believe” the official results from Friday’s contest, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said of the landslide victory claimed by Ahmadinejad. Montazeri accused the regime of handling Mousavi’s charges of fraud and the massive protests of his backers “in the worst way possible.”
“A government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy,” he declared in comments on his official Web site. “I ask the police and army personals (personnel) not to ‘sell their religion,’ and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before God…”
Carl Sandburg once wrote, “Why does a hearse horse snicker/ Hauling a lawyer away?”
And why should I snicker when yet another Republican pol is caught with his zipper down? Gingrich, Craig, Vitter, etc., etc., and now the beat goes on: Nevada senator John Ensign.
Snicker? When I gave Clinton and Edwards and Spitzer a pass?
Here’s why (h/t to Doonesbury):
“Last year I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage. It is the worst thing I have ever done in my life.”
— Senator John Ensign
“I came to that conclusion recently, and frankly it’s because of what he has put the country through. He has no credibility left.”
— Ensign, calling for Bill Clinton to resign over the Lewinsky affair
Father knows best, except, just maybe, when he’s sold us out to his campaign contributors in the insurance industry. Robert Parry at Consortium News:
As the health insurance industry and its defenders in Congress lay out their case against permitting a public option in a reform bill, perhaps their most curious argument is that some 119 million Americans are ready to dump their private plans and jump to something more like Medicare – and that’s why the choice can’t be permitted.
In other words, the industry and its backers are acknowledging that more than one-third of the American people are so dissatisfied with their private health insurance that they trust the U.S. government to give them a fairer shake on health care. The industry says its allies in Congress must prevent that.
The peculiar argument that 119 million Americans must be denied the public option that they prefer has been made most notably by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which is one of two panels that has jurisdiction over the health insurance bill…
Talk about your great bumper stickers, huh? Here’s one Pennsylvania Democrat’s welcome to her party’s newest senator:
Pam Janvey, a Democratic committeewoman from Bucks County, found Specter’s presence at the gathering more than a little odd. “Am I in a dream?” she asked.
Janvey said that Specter hit all the right notes in his speech on Saturday and that although she had worked to defeat Specter in the past and never voted for him, she would back him this time around.
“Even when I have worked against Arlen over the years,” Janvey said, “I never felt the kind of fear that I did when I worked against Santorum…”
Here’s Rush Limbaugh again, still scribbling away on the walls of America’s toilets:
They don’t like Gitmo, we have to shut it down. They don’t like what we’ve done, fine, Obama will run around and apologize. I’m telling you, folks, it is not the United States of America that serves as Barack Obama’s role model. It’s other socialist nations that have failed and the concept of socialism that is his role model. I’ll tell you what, stupid little community organizer, organize this.
Sparky Satori at Shorts and Pants reminds us of a former racist activist on the Supreme Court — Chief Justice William Rehnquist. A superior work of snark, found in its entirety here.
November of last year, it was assumed that the USofA had finally vanquished the lingering ghosts of racism and was poised on the cusp of a new post-racial dawn. The long dark night of lynching and discrimination was finally over. “Huzzah!” bleated the media, smugly self-congratulatory.
But that was then. This is worse. And leave it to the hyper-sensitive Republicans to sniff out whiffs of the new racism being foisted upon the nation by its first black President. GOP stalwarts Newt Gringrich and Rush Limbaugh were quick to alert the country to a leading practitioner of this new racism, Sonia “Maria” Sotomayor ["SoSo" to her non-friends]. But she’s not your average garden-variety racist, according to the GOP braintrust. Per Newt and Rush, she is a “reverse racist,” rarer than even the “Albino Negro.” This alone should disqualify her from sitting on the Supreme Court, which has never, ever had any benchers who suffered from an iota of racial insensitivity…
Here’s a snippet from the Nixon tapes to give you an idea of the vetting process from which Rehnquist emerged. Full transcript here. As always with Nixon, fascinating stuff. Sure he was evil, but nobody ever called him dumb.
RMN: Yeah, all right, call me back when you get it. But remember, let’s figure on the Rehnquist thing. The political mileage basically is the same kind of mileage if we were to go with Smith. The idea being that we are appointing a highly qualified man. That’s really what it gets down to.
[Attorney General] John Mitchell: Yeah.
RMN: And also he doesn’t smack of the corporate lawyer as much as Smith.
JM: No, he’s more of a general practitioner.
RMN: Incidentally, what is Rehnquist? I suppose he’s a damn Protestant?
JM: I’m sure of that. He’s just as WASPish as WASPish can be.
RMN: Yeah, well, that’s too damn bad. Tell him to change his religion.
JM: All right, I’ll get him baptized this afternoon.
RMN: Well, get him baptized and castrated, no, they don’t do that, I mean they circumcise— no, that’s the Jews. Well anyway, whatever he is, get him changed.
That rancid rust-bucket that is the Republican Party sits ever lower in the water and appears to be foundering. Should we attempt a rescue or let the wretched old tub sink to the bottom? The vote here is for the coup de grâce. Put a torpedo into her amidships and let her go down without further ado. Glub, glub, GOP; it’ll be a far better world without you.
There was a time when the Republican Party stood for something, or at least appeared to stand for something. It took its name and founding philosophy from the Jeffersonian republican ideal, although the party would soon enough make a mockery of its idealistic name by becoming the champion of short-sighted greed and selfishness, the party of business.
But it started out as the party of the antislavery activists in the 1850s and came to power with the election of Lincoln in 1860. It was the party of the Tafts, dull, toothy Ohioans, who championed a conservative philosophy of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility, a credo now honored mostly in the breach. For reckless economic policy, no party has ever come close to the modern GOP. And it started with Reagan and his supply-side shenanigans. You may recall that Bush Senior referred to this nonsense as “voodoo economics.”
It was the party of Teddy Roosevelt, who took on the big corporate monopolies and, when he wasn’t starting wars or shooting beautiful animals, upheld a certain maverick standard of governmental integrity. It was the party of Grant and Eisenhower, successful warriors, each of whom served two terms in the White House without ever quite getting the hang of the job or looking like they really wanted it.
Then there was handsome, hapless Warren Harding, another Ohioan, and his equally inspiring successor, Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge famously said, “The chief business of the American people is business.” He is remembered mostly for wearing an Indian headdress. And don’t forget Hoover, who said, after the great Wall Street crash, that the markets would restore financial order if given the chance.
And, of course, there was Nixon and his infamous Committee to Reelect the President, aptly shortened to CREEP. And Reagan, who played the part so well many people believed he actually knew what he was doing. And Bush Two. And Bush Two again.
Somehow the country survived two terms of W., but will his party? How can any self-respecting Republican even whisper words of fiscal integrity in the mountainous shadow of a Bush-incurred debt so high it blots out the sun? Well, silly question. Of course they can, have, and will again, but the difference is that now nobody takes them seriously. When Newt Gingrich emerges from under his troll’s bridge to test the presidential waters, is this not a sign that the party is in its death throes?
Meanwhile, all those Wall Street banks, those bastions of fiscal discipline and Republican virtue, have lined up for billion-dollar hand-outs from a Democratic administration. Whether or not the big bailouts were a good idea is debatable. What is not debatable is the spectacular hypocrisy of the big shots that flew down to Washington in private jets to beg Congress for public money. How many of them were not Republicans?
Sure it’s like kicking a cripple, but let’s explore the crossed synapses of the Newt brain anyway. Here’s Thomas Frank, the Wall Street Journal’s house liberal:
…As an example of this habit of mind, consider the essay that Mr. Gingrich published in Human Events last week. “The current liberal bloodlust over interrogations,” he wrote, referring to the Nancy Pelosi-CIA flap, is merely “the Left’s attempt to hunt down and purge its political opponents.” And yet, in a different essay he published on the very same day (this one in the Washington Times), Mr. Gingrich regretted that, in all the years of Republican rule, “there was a strategic failure to root out the left and the special interests of the left.”
Mr. Gingrich’s side failed to “root out” and destroy their opponents; now he imagines that this is what is being done to his team.
Psychotherapists might call this “projection,” and something similar pervades the essay the remarkable Mr. Gingrich published only two days later in the Washington Post. Here the former speaker can be found calling for a populist revolt in the “great tradition of political movements rising against arrogant, corrupt elites.”
A healthy sentiment, to be sure, except for the fact that “elites” are exactly what decades of conservative rule gave us by unleashing the banks, smashing the unions, and funneling the economy’s gains into the hands of the rich…
Facts have trouble making themselves heard over the orchestrated noise from offstage, right. But here are a couple anyway, from Paul Krugman’s blog:
Everyone knows that lots of Canadians come to America in search of medical care. But what everyone knows is wrong: a careful study concluded,The numbers of true medical refugees—Canadians coming south with their own money to purchase U.S. health care—appear to be handfuls rather than hordes.Driven by rising health care costs at home, nearly 1 million Californians cross the border each year to seek medical care in Mexico, according a new paper by UCLA researchers and colleagues published today in the journal Medical Care.
In which The Rude Pundit reminds us of how dewy-eyed the affirmative activists of the GOP got over Torture Boy Gonzales:
Here’s what Senate Judiciary Committee member Orrin “Still Crazy After All These Years” Hatch said back in 2005 about the opposition to Alberto Gonzales when the White House counsel was nominated to be Attorney General:
“Look, this is not just any nomination. This is a nomination for the Attorney General of the United States of America. This is the first Hispanic ever nominated for that position, or for any of the big four positions in the Cabinet of any President... I personally love Hispanic people. Frankly, I know my friends in the Hispanic community, and Hispanic people all over America, are watching this debate, and they are sensing something very unfair going on here…”
Of course, that was way back when, eh? A couple of weeks ago, in response to a remark by Judge Sonia Sotomayor that “the court of appeals is where policy is made,” Hatch said that it was “a problem... She would have, I think, a more difficult time if she was nominated because of statements like that... I’m not very happy about judges who will substitute their own policy preferences for what the law really is, who think that they can run the country from the bench when they actually have a limited role.”
Man, it’d be awesome to live with no self-awareness…
Brady Bonk already wrote it, so I don’t have to. Read his full post here:
The timeline in my head: President Bill Clinton is pursued on a variety of trumped up charges by insane people who clinch their teeth whenever they speak his name, mostly probably because President Bill Clinton gets more pussy than any of them could ever imagine. I am just speculating. One ridiculous charge sticks: He lied about sex. On that one silly charge they can hang a million silly hats. To this day, say “Bill Clinton” in front of a conservative. I guarantee you he will not be able to resist joking about Clinton and women and cigars and the blue dress.
Based on Monigate, the newly-appointed Bush administration could declare it opposite day in America. They are warned by transition team officials that international terrorism might be their biggest dread. The warnings are largely ignored in favor of a general consensus to fight the Cold War all over again and, as was likely discussed though we’ll never know in Chaney’s super-duper top-secret energy meetin’s, to go get all of that frickin’ oil. But the Bush Administration could turn its back on the Israeli peace process, could abrogate treaties, could and should, according to their wisdom, do everything the opposite of how that dumb bubba did it, because, you know … he got a blow job…
Every day in every way, the manufactured debate about closing Guantánamo gets sillier and sillier. Here’s a specimen from Texas laying out the logic:
“No good purpose is served by allowing known terrorists, who trained at terrorist training camps, to come to the U.S. and live among us,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior Republican on the committee. “Guantanamo Bay was never meant to be an Ellis Island.”There must be something in the water down in Texas that turns grown men into sniveling, whining, terrified little cowards. For an X-rated examination of this syndrome, see The Rude Pundit.
The picture below shows the GOP firebrand himself in a rare non-whimpering moment. A Vietnam non-vet, he fulfilled his military obligation by attending the Texas Military Institute, an Episcopal prep school in San Antonio.
From Paul Krugman’s blog:
So I see Richard Posner has decided that modern conservatism is intellectually bankrupt. And Bruce Bartlett has a new book saying it’s time to let go of Reagan.
At one level it’s good to see decent people showing some intellectual flexibility (Bartlett, in particular, has always come across as someone with whom one can have honest disagreements.) And yet — why, exactly, should we listen to people who by their own admission completely missed the story? I mean, anyone who actually listened to what Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey were saying in 1994, let alone what passed for thought in the Bush administration, should have realized long ago that if there ever was an intellectual basis for modern conservatism, it was long gone.
And the truth is that the Reaganauts were a pretty grotesque bunch too. Look for the golden age of conservative intellectualism in America, and you keep going back, and back, and back — and eventually you run up against William Buckley in the 1950s declaring that blacks weren’t advanced enough to vote, and that Franco was the savior of Spanish civilization.
I once sat next to a woman on a plane who told me she had a neurotic fear of Robin Williams. Lurid images of his face materialized in her mind when she tried to go to sleep at night, she told me, visibly shuddering as she described it. Poor woman, I thought. She’s obviously on the verge of some kind of breakdown. Little did I know I would soon fall prey to a similar neurosis, except the object of my revulsion isn’t Robin Williams, but Newt Gingrich.
Everything about the man fills me with neuralgic horror. If he comes on TV when my nephew and niece are in the room I instinctively shield them. He reminds me of the pushy, aggressive, stinky fat kid who sucked up to the teachers but made faces behind their backs in an effort to win friends; the first one to misbehave but the first one to go tattle on someone else; or the precociously horny perverted kid who rummaged through his own mother’s panty drawer and got caught masturbating in the bathroom in fourth grade. Now he’s like the guy whose eyes dart around your living room when he’s standing at your front door talking to you, and he leaves a slimy film on your hand after he shakes it.
He sits just a little too close to your eleven year old daughter, talks to her just a little too much, and looks at her just a little too long than is proper. He’s the kind of sleaze who would not only molest a girl scout, but steal her cookies too. Why is it so easy to imagine him in an oversized army surplus jacket lurking near a playground, jerking and twitching in the bushes, a dog-eared copy of The Third Wave falling out of his pocket? “Psst, little girl, come sit on Uncle Newty’s lap and he’ll tell you why women can’t live in foxholes.” He just seems to be, I think, what the pre-Clarence Thomas Supreme Court would have called prurient.
Just when I’m about to admit I have a problem, head down to mental health and beg for zoloft or prozac or valium, I tell myself no, it’s okay. I’m not crazy, American political culture is crazy. To prove it, I do a simple web search for some of Newt’s greatest hits, and it quickly yields the following:
If combat means living in a ditch, females have biological problems staying in a ditch for thirty days because they get infections and they don’t have upper body strength. I mean, some do, but they’re relatively rare. On the other hand, men are basically little piglets, you drop them in the ditch, they roll around in it, doesn’t matter, you know. These things are very real. On the other hand, if combat means being on an Aegis-class cruiser managing the computer controls for twelve ships and their rockets, a female may be again dramatically better than a male who gets very, very frustrated sitting in a chair all the time because males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes.
Men are basically little piglets, you drop them in a ditch, they roll around in it, doesn’t matter …
I rest my case.
Then I feel better, and I no longer worry about Newt’s efforts to become the Republican leader again. Any party that nominates that viscous worm to be their chief can’t possibly succeed, right?
Then I think about Mussolini, and Hitler, and Karl Rove, and all the other ugly little men who fomented even uglier coups and I’m back to square one. It is precisely these kinds of toad-like imps that are forever angling and scheming and plotting to gain power and upset the peace of the world. That’s why he bothers me so much. It’s enough to make we watch re-runs of Mork and Mindy in an effort to replace his face with the goofy but harmless image of Robin Williams in my mind.
Here’s The National Review’s recipe for bringing the Zombie Party back to life:
Strange as it may seem, the best GOP spokesman right now appears to be former Vice President Dick Cheney. He has taken the Obama administration to task over its declassification of CIA torture memos. He says Team Obama has made America less safe. He’s right. Perhaps he can rally the party?
This will be all over the news, of course, but I can’t resist putting it up. Fascinating and truly, truly important. Heute Specter, Morgen die Franken, as Hitler used to say. Well, something like that anyway.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Veteran Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter told colleagues Tuesday that he switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party, Sen. Harry Reid says.
The Specter party switch would give Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority of 60 seats if Al Franken holds his current lead in the disputed Minnesota Senate race.
“Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right,” Specter said in a statement posted by his office on PoliticsPA.com.
“Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.”
Theoretically the New York Times’ new conservative columnist, Ross Douthat, is supposed to run Tuesdays, starting today. He doesn’t appear on today’s website, though. But if you search for his name, his debut column shows up — datelined yesterday. It didn’t run in yesterday’s print edition, however, nor does it appear in the Opinion section of yesterday’s web site.
So who the hell knows what’s going on? Anyway, here’s the link to that damned, elusive columnist. And below is a sample. The improvement over his predecessor, the hapless and clueless William Kristol, is already striking.
At the very least, a Cheney-Obama contest would have clarified conservatism’s present political predicament. In the wake of two straight drubbings at the polls, much of the American right has comforted itself with the idea that conservatives lost the country primarily because the Bush-era Republican Party spent too much money on social programs. And John McCain’s defeat has been taken as the vindication of this premise…
As a candidate, Cheney would have doubtless been as disciplined and ideologically consistent as McCain was feckless. In debates with Barack Obama, he would have been as cuttingly effective as he was in his encounters with Joe Lieberman and John Edwards in 2000 and 2004 respectively. And when he went down to a landslide loss, the conservative movement might — might! — have been jolted into the kind of rethinking that’s necessary if it hopes to regain power.
David Brooks put his finger right on our main problem as a people today, although he doesn’t seem to recognize it as a problem. We are not individuals, standing squarely and independently on our two feet like mountain men. Neither were the mountain men.
We are herd animals, social animals. We cannot and do not live alone. Anyone who tries to tell us different is either a damned fool, ignorant of history and science, or a con man trying to hustle us. Or a Republican. Or do I repeat myself?
So whom do they turn to in times like these? Themselves. Americans have always felt that they are masters of their own fate. Decade after decade, Americans stand out from others in their belief that their own individual actions determine how they fare. That conviction has been utterly unshaken by the global crisis. In question after question, large majorities say their own actions will determine how much they will make, how well they will endure the recession, how healthy they will be and so on.
The crisis has not sent Americans running to government for relief. Nor has it led to a populist surge in anti-business sentiment. In a recent Gallup poll, 55 percent of Americans said that big government is the biggest threat to the country. Only 32 percent said big business. Those answers are near historical norms.
The Rude Pundit is shocked, shocked— You can tell because he got through an entire paragraph without potty-mouthing.
But what doesn’t come through immediately is the answer to a simple question: why? Why did the Bush administration commit and allow (and encourage, if not force others to commit) what are, seemingly without a doubt, treaty-busting crimes? Because, see, you read something like footnote 10 on page 2 and you come across this line: “According to Gonzales, the ‘positive’ consequences of setting aside the Third Geneva Convention include ‘preserving flexibility’ and ‘substantially reduc[ing] the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act,’” and you realize that, whatever the motivation of the people involved, they didn’t care. And they didn’t care for a simple reason to answer that simple question: the Bush administration thought it was the beginning of an ascendant Republican reign and that they’d never be investigated.
From Paul Krugman’s blog:
Matthew Yglesias notes that Tom DeLay is under the strange misapprehension that Texas is rich thanks to its low taxes and lack of regulation.
Just one minor issue: you really shouldn’t use median income, which can be distorted to the extent that inequality differs across states. You should instead use income per capita. As it happens, the comparison is even more striking. Texas, with its glorious free market regime and deeply incentive-creating 25 percent rate of health uninsurance, has a per capita income of $37,187; nanny-state New Jersey, with its oppressive taxes and regulation of everything (what it takes to get permission to cut down a dying tree … ), has a per capita income of $49,194.
Here’s a terrifying look into the mind of McCain, excerpted from a Politico posting. One wonders — well, one doesn’t really wonder — just how far out of the ball park Governor Palin’s answers were.
John McCain’s lead vice presidential vetter said Friday that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin “impressed” in her interview, knocking the senator’s most important questions “out of the park.”
A.B. Culvahouse, a powerful Washington lawyer and former counsel to President Reagan, told an audience of Republican lawyers that for McCain, selecting a vice president came down to three questions: Why do you want to be vice president? Are you prepared to use nuclear weapons? And the CIA has identified Osama bin Laden, but if you take the shot there will be multiple civilian casualties. Do you take the shot?
“She knocked those questions out of the park,” he said at an event held at the National Press Club by the Republican National Lawyers Association. “We came away impressed.”
Here and there small groups of misinformed and manipulated citizens are gathering today throughout this great land for the purpose of dropping tea bags into liquids. They have been told by Fox News and a billionaires’ lobbyist named Dick Armey that this orgy of tea bagging will put an end to taxation with representation. Or something.
Most of the foot soldiers in this army of Dick’s seem not to know that tea bagging has a very specific meaning in the adult entertainment world, a meaning which has nothing to do with relieving the anguish of the very richest Americans at the prospect of being taxed once more at the same rate that existed the last time the nation’s budget was balanced.
Nor are most of these poor saps likely to be aware that their movement has its very own song, like The Internationale, or Boola Boola. The tea baggers’ fight song is called “I Love It When They Bounce,” and Karen Marie has been kind enough to call it to our attention. Here it is, performed by Supafloss:
For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), John Batchelor is a conservative radio host whose show is heard in New York, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and many other markets. The sample below comes from an extended and astonishing rant he published today in The Daily Beast. If you could use a true Holy Shit moment, and who couldn’t, go read it all.
…What about the Republican Party right now? Isn’t it on radio and TV claiming to be the party of fiscal responsibility and American power? Bypassing the stupidity of these claims, I am on radio, on what is called right-wing radio, and it is easy for me to see that my loudest colleagues, who compulsively repeat the cant of Conservatism for Dummies, are not sincere students of the Republican Party but rather barkers, hookers, establishmentarian jesters, cultists, and, in the worst instance, just thatch-headed whiners.
Fox News is a parade of wet-eared Republican office holders, yet there is usually just one each allowed of the categories the Democrats own in multitudes: a Jewish-American, an Asian-American, an African-American, a Hispanic-American.
Then there is the beauty pageant of fast-talking, rude Fox blondes — if they are not all the same woman in mood swings — who stridently mock the Democrats, yet have almost nothing to say about the Republicans, as if the party was a disappointing ex or mother’s latest beau.
The party’s death 76 years ago was never more obvious than over the last six months of the financial crisis. The Democrats sensibly blamed the feckless, bootless Bush administration for the collapse of the markets. Tongue-tied Bush and dyspeptic Cheney defended themselves with grunts and sarcasm before they surrendered to Congress by sending out the plutocrat Hank Paulson with a plan called TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program).
A breathing Republican Party would have brought out the flintlocks, boarded the windows, and settled down for a defense of the republic. Instead, the Republican leadership in the House and Senate rushed to grab the pork bribery and vote with the Democrats. John Boehner, Roy Blunt, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, and Judd Gregg distinguished themselves as dhimmis and were later rewarded by the victorious Democrats by being granted parakeet cages for offices in the new Congress.
The House Republicans now boast that they voted a goose egg against the stimulus package, but this was just the twitching of the corpse. The truth about the House Republicans — cowards, sycophants, and snobs just like 1930s lot — is illustrated by the fact that 85 of them voted for the ludicrous AIG bonus-confiscation bill written on the back of a parking ticket.
The Republican Party’s death doesn’t really threaten anyone, and I puzzle why Democrats and independents who vote Democratic spend words and worry debating the look of the corpse. We few Republicans with long memories wander around the cemetery admiring the tombstones and enjoying the rain.
I can hear you doubting that this could truly be the end. The final stage of grief is acceptance.
See? The Peruvians can do it.
LIMA, Peru — A special tribunal convicted former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori of murder and kidnapping on Tuesday and sentenced him to 25 years in prison, saying he authorized a government death squad during the Shining Path insurgency.
The 70-year-old former leader, who remains popular for rescuing Peru from the brink of economic and political collapse in the early 1990s, was convicted of what the court called “crimes against humanity,” including 25 murders by a military hit squad.
Presiding judge Cesar San Martin told a hushed courtroom there was no question Fujimori authorized the creation of the Colina unit, which the court said killed at least 50 people during its 15 months as the state crushed the fanatical Shining Path rebels.
Interesting development. Maybe we’ll find out if my theory (two posts down) has anything to it. Judge Sullivan is an old friend and former colleague of Attorney General Holder, who is by today’s announcement taken off the spot.
Holder no longer has to investigate his own department — a job which, if vigorously done, might alienate DOJ’s career bureaucrats and would certainly bring charges of partisanship from the GOP. If the investigation turned into a whitewash, on the other hand, the attacks would come from the Democratic left.
But if done by Judge Sullivan, tough noogies. He’s got life tenure.
WASHINGTON — A federal judge today set aside a jury’s guilty verdict and the indictment against former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, then announced he was appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the government attorneys in the case for failing their constitutional duties to ensure a fair trial…
Holder said an internal investigation had been launched into the matter, but Judge Sullivan said he was not content to allow the Justice Department’s probe to serve as punishment for the lawyers involved in the case. He said he had asked a former military judge, Henry Schulke III of Washington D.C., to investigate the conduct of five prosecutors in the case for potential obstruction of justice.
They are: the head of the Justice Deparment’s Public Integrity Section, William Welch; the lead trial attorney, Brenda Morris; two trial attorneys in the Public Integrity Section, Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan; and two assistant U.S. Attorneys in Alaska, Joseph Bottini and James Goeke…
I need a little help from all you lawyers out there. In the coverage of the prosecutorial misconduct in ex-senator Ted Stevens’s trial, I haven’t seen a single mention of what seems to me at least a strong possibility.
Did the prosecutors from Bush’s Justice Department throw the case deliberately?
Consider the time line. The longest-serving Republican senator in history is facing corruption trial on charges so solid the chances of an acquittal were almost nonexistent. And at the same time, he’s up for reelection.
Normally the trial would have dragged on till the election was safely past, but unfortunately the charges were already public. Made public by whom? Why? Wouldn’t Rove’s sock puppets in the Justice Department simply have buried the whole matter?
Maybe they couldn’t. Maybe they knew somebody in the Alaska office would blow the whistle if a cover-up occurred. Was there such a somebody? We’ll get back to that.
Meanwhile, indulge me. Assume the prosecutors were afraid to deep-six the case for fear of being exposed. They make this known to Stevens. How can they possibly get him off the hook and back in the Senate so the Democrats won’t have a filibuster-proof majority?
The only thing they can come up with is for Stevens to ask for the trial to be speeded up so as to get it out of the way before the election. But that would only serve everybody’s purposes if the verdict were not guilty — and the evidence against him is overwhelming. Maybe that doesn’t matter, though.
Knowing that a guilty verdict (reached eight days before the election) was otherwise inevitable, mightn’t they have sabotaged their own case so that the judge would declare a mistrial — as he almost did on one occasion.
That would position the Republicans to argue that Stevens was an innocent man who deserves re-election — exactly the argument that they are in fact making today, now that Obama’s attorney general has moved to drop all charges.
Now let’s go back to why the case wasn’t just buried in the first place. Yes, there was a straight arrow on the prosecution side who was very likely to go public if the Bush Justice Department tried to bury the case. He is FBI agent Chad Joy, and he did indeed wind up filing a complaint against the FBI’s lead agent in the investigation.
I admit this sounds far-fetched, but then desperate times may have called for desperate measures. The thing that has puzzled me from the beginning is the blatant tactics of the prosecution. Time after time they seemed to be begging the judge to call them on their unconstitutional concealment of exculpatory evidence from the defense team.
And there wasn’t even any point to hiding that evidence: the charge was taking something of value in return for services rendered, not whether the renovation of Stevens’s chalet was only worth $80,000 rather than three times that. Either way Stevens is whoring out his office; how much he charges clients is legally irrelevant.
The only explanation for the prosecutors’ conduct that even vaguely makes sense to me is a calculated decision on their part to shoot themselves in the foot.
A big piece of the puzzle still missing — at least from any of the stories I’ve read — is the actual makeup of the prosecution team. The U.S. Attorney in Anchorage may be assumed to be a creature of Rove’s, but maybe not. The office seems to have been headed for the last couple of years by interim appointees. Career prosecutors, Bush hacks? Both? Were they vetted by the ineffable Monica Goodling?
If my idea is crazy or impossible, somebody explain to me what other explanation there could be. As Rachel Maddow says, talk me down.
Here’s TPM on how the GOP is twisting a scientist’s study of how much cap-and-trade legislation would cost. Cops, who are intimately familiar with this process, call it “testilying.”
• April, 2007: Reilly and several coauthors release a paper titled "Assessment of U.S. Cap-and-Trade Proposals, which estimates early annual revenues from such legislation would run $366 billion.
• Sometime between April, 2007 and March, 2009: House Republicans get a hold of his paper, divide $366 billion by the number of households in America, and conclude, erroneously, that the quotient ($3,128) will be the average cost per home.
• March, 2009: Republicans begin using this number in press releases, citing Reilly's study.
• Shortly thereafter: The Obama administration gets in touch with Dr. Reilly and asks him to explain his study and the number — he corrects the record.
• A week or so ago: Independently, a woman who says she's with the House Republicans calls Reilly — aware of the number, she invites him to come testify against cap and trade legislation. Reilly informs her that her number is probably wrong, and that he supports cap and trade legislation.
• A couple days ago: A group contacts Reilly to inform him that a large number of press releases were being issued, still trumpeting the false cost…
Larisa Alexandrovna is properly outraged that the sleazy Alaskan bagman Ted Stevens is catching a break from Obama’s Justice Department while the Bush holdovers who railroaded Don Siegelman, et al., for Karl Rove are still in their DOJ jobs. See it all here.
Misconduct won't be tolerated, right? Then someone explain to me why Alice Martin and Leura Canary are still US Attorneys? And someone also explain to me why Stevens is the priority? No really, not Don Siegelman, not Paul Minor, not Wes Teel, not John Whitfield, and not countless others. Ted Stevens apparently gets to go to the front of the line. Why?
Every good brainwashed American knows that the government couldn’t run a two-car funeral. Only the cleansing, invigorating winds of free competition can bring efficiency to large organizations. Without that what have you got?
The DMV, that’s what. Overpaid, lazy, surly bureaucrats. Poor service, long lines, arrogant indifference, cronyism. Yatata, yatata. You know the drill, because you’ve heard it all your life from the corporate community and its fully-owned subsidiary, the Republican Party.
Now think back over all the times in your own life that you’ve been scorned, cheated, ignored, defrauded, neglected and otherwise screwed over by giant, faceless, impersonal, uncaring bureaucracies. Was it the Post Office? Was it the Social Security Administration? Was it Medicare?
Or weren’t your most maddening experiences of all, now that you think about it, those losing battles with the power company, the cable company, the phone company, the insurance company, and the credit card company?
If so, you shouldn’t be surprised to read this:
As Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation explains in the new issue of the Washington Monthly, there is a bright shining example from not so long ago of government bureaucrats engineering the revival of an industry easily as troubled as today’s automakers and, if anything, more central to the economy.
In 1976 Washington took over Penn Central and five other bankrupt railroads and folded them into a government-sponsored entity, Conrail. New management was recruited, federal dollars pumped in, major structural reforms instituted. A decade later, a thriving Conrail was sold off in what was, at the time, the largest IPO in U.S. history. A fluke? Hardly. During World War I, Woodrow Wilson put the entire railroad industry under government control, and later placed it back in private hands in much better shape than when he got it.
While the parallels with yesterday’s railroads and today’s auto industry are not exact, they are close enough to provide many useful lessons. The most important is this: as the automakers return to Washington for a second round of assistance, the greatest danger may well be not that government will intervene too much, but that it won’t intervene enough.
“Changes in the structure of income distribution between 2002 and 2007 reveal three clearly distinct situations. Nine countries (Argentina, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Paraguay) have significantly narrowed the gap between the groups at the extreme ends of the spectrum, both by increasing the poorer groups’ share of total income and by lowering that of the highest-income households.
“The most notable reductions in the two aforementioned indicators (36% and 41%, respectively) were recorded in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Significant improvements were also observed in Bolivia, Brazil and Nicaragua, where both indicators fell by about 30…”
What Cepal fails to point out, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the politics of all this. Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela as the fastest improver? A pile of centre-left governments (Evo Morales in Bolivia, Lula in Brazil and — ahem — Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua) following close behind? This is provocative stuff.
Don’t get too excited, though. These improvements only get us back to the level of the early 1990s, (though that’s no small achievement in a world where inequality generally goes in the opposite direction). Moreover, a lot of these positive trends are now under threat from the impact of the global crisis, which is cutting regional growth to zero (from 5%), hitting employment and wage levels and reversing the trend towards formalization. Sigh.
William McGurn has been variously employed as a writer for the Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch and George W. Bush, entitling him to the soft bigotry of low expectations. In today’s WSJ, he manages to clear the bar:
By choosing Fort Bragg for her first official trip outside the capital last Thursday, Michelle Obama signaled that she will use her position as First Lady to promote one of America’s most deserving causes: our military families. Plainly the families loved it. Just look at the smiles on those children as she read them “The Cat in the Hat.”
So it was just a little disconcerting the next morning to hear the First Lady explain how she came to this issue during last year’s campaign. “I think I was like most Americans,” she told ABC News. “Pretty oblivious to the life of military families. Sort of taking it for granted.”
Perhaps Mrs. Obama did take these families for granted. Surely, however, it’s extraordinary to suggest that “most Americans” did the same.
The game here is to whelp a meme that attacks the enemy’s strong point, as the McCain campaign did when it tried to turn candidate Obama’s crowd appeal into a thing odious to all Americans: celebrity.
Look at McGurn’s last paragraph above to see how the trick is done. Mrs. Obama had said that she was “oblivious to the life of military families.” And that most Americans were too.
This is true beyond argument. William McGurn is also oblivious to that life, and so am I. Perhaps less oblivious than McGurn, since I once comprised half of a military family. But that was long ago, and now I, too, am oblivious. So are Rupert Murdoch and George W. Bush and most of the members of the latter’s administration and for that matter most of America. Nixon had that very outcome foremost in his mind when he ended the draft in 1973.
Now look at what McGurn has done with Mrs. Obama’s unexceptionable words. The First Lady is no longer taking the “life of military families” for granted; all of a sudden she is taking the families themselves for granted.
“It,” as you and I and McGurn know perfectly well, is a singular pronoun referring back in this case to “life.” Big difference, but McGurn knows his readers won’t notice. So he segues into the “extraordinary” news that Michelle Antoinette has the colossal nerve to think that real Americans are as ungrateful for the sacrifices of America’s military families as she is herself — her with her fancy Chicago designer dresses and her big arms and her disgusting “popularity.”
It will be interesting to see if this swill makes it into the media mainstream. Don’t be surprised if it does. Remember how a draft-dodging dry drunk turned Kerry from a war hero into a cowardly malingerer with insufficiently large pieces of shrapnel in his body?
And remember back in 2000 how the same smear machine used the same truth-twisting methods as McGurn’s to turn a future Nobelist into a pathetic pathological liar? If your memory is hazy, take a look at this careful dissection of Washington’s media manipulation by Robert Parry.
These sleazy techniques worked to get George W. Bush into the White House and they are already being used to drive Barack Obama out of it.
Good rant from The Rant:
…The desperation of the Republicans at this stage is a truly funny thing to behold. Jindal is being discussed as a possible nominee to run against Obama in 2012. The reason for that is obvious as well. There is no way in hell they’ll be able to run a white guy in four years. It will either be Bobby Jindal - or a white woman. Take that to the bank. Better yet, stuff it under your mattress.
Keep your eyes on these jackasses in the next few weeks. They’re going to to everything humanly possible to ensure that the president’s stimulus package is a complete and utter failure. Count on them to make statements in the press so reckless that the market responds in a negative way. As has been stated on this site before, they know their history. After FDR was inaugurated in 1933, they would not control the executive branch of our government for a full twenty years. Their very survival depends on the destruction of this country’s infrastructure. To hell with the American people…
The title above is a quote from Ronald Reagan at the 1988 Republican National Convention. He was trying to access a John Adams quote, “Facts are stubborn things,” but something more appropriate to the man and the occasion popped out.
The essay below is from my neighbor Jim, more of whose stuff can be seen here.
Compare and contrast:
1980 may seem kind of arbitrary as the jump off for the end of empire, but the economics bear it out. Under Reagan, government disbursements and revenues, as a share of GDP, jumped a full six percentage points. More, if you include his unfunded moral hygiene mandates.
All the Republicans talked Rand, Friedman, inter alia, but they acted like straightforward right wing military Keynesians. Military Keynesianism is of course nothing new in the US. But prior to 1980 there was a dominant Bismarckian consensus (have I dropped enough names yet?) that it had to be matched by social spending, otherwise the exercise of hard power would eventually become financially unsustainable.
You cannot extract surplus value — i.e. have capitalism — in great heaping bushel baskets unless you have a government willing to exercise single payer monopsony power over basic human needs, basic scientific research and renewable sources of the energy needed to drive all this. Lo and behold, the exercise of hard power is now done on credit, with only the threat of mutually assured destruction holding our creditors at bay.
I suppose one could point to a cultural shift in the eighties, as there certainly was one, but I prefer a bit more systemic determinism.
The political economy of capitalism is easiest to manage through psychological terrorism. It’s a cheap and effective way of outsourcing the quotidian enforcement of corporate feudalism to vigilante moral panic artists. There’s no shortage of people willing to enforce for free. Hell, they’ll even pay for the dubious privilege.
People become inured to this, querulous and rebellious, and the terrorism has to be stepped up. Red scares have to be coupled with ethnic scares, drug scares, satanic child care scares and so forth. Going against that, as Carter did in an achingly minuscule way, is a positive step for capitalism and a negative step for capitalists. Their enforcement costs look to climb. People who aren’t constantly depressed and frightened get a little feisty.
Under Reagan, the “clever” work-around was burgeoning unfunded mandates to make the states take on domestic psychological terrorism, and yanking the social safety net away, while the central government threw surplus value to the cretinous capitalists, hand over fist. It’s been down hill ever since.
I can’t see why anyone would want to be president after Bush. It’s not a sane thing to do. I thought, and still think, that the Democrats would have been better off throwing the election. McCain would probably not have lasted four years and right wing military Keynesianism would have been discredited for a good long time. Getting stuck with cradling the appalling, ghoulish offspring that are roving mindlessly over a dying empire would have ruined him, and the most cretinous of the cretinous capitalists.
The Democrats could have trotted out old social democratic wine in new bottles and enjoyed thirty or forty years of crowing from the top of the DC shit hill. So it goes, I guess. And my goodness, doesn’t Carter look like a saint in comparison to every asshole that’s come since.
For Jim Kunstler it’s all about the oil — and who am I to argue? I remember Jimmy Carter putting the solar panels on the White House roof and Ronald Reagan tearing them down as one of his first acts in office. I remember the Republicans laughing at “moral equivalent of war,” and pointing out — oh, clever, clever Republicans — that its acronym was MEOW. But why go on. You remember too.
…Then, in 1979, the Ayatollah tossed out the Shah of Iran, we got another dose of oil problems, and a year later, President Jimmy Carter’s clear-eyed view of the oil situation as “the moral equivalent of war” got overturned in favor of Ronald Reagan’s dreadful Hollywood nostalgia projector. As usual in times of severe social stress, the public got delusional. Mr. Reagan was very lucky. During his tenure, two of the last great non-OPEC oil discoveries came into full production — Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and the North Sea — and took the leverage away from the Islamic oil nations who had been making us miserable with their threats, embargos, price-jackings, and hostage-takings.
Americans drew the false conclusion that Ronald Reagan was an economic genius (a similar thing happened in Great Britain with Margaret Thatcherism). The price of oil went down steeply while they were in office. Britain could kick back and enjoy it’s last remaining industry, banking, on a majestic cushion of energy resources. The USA resumed its major post-war industry: suburban sprawl building. Reaganism got elevated to the status of a religion, though it was little more than a twisted version of Eisenhower-on-steroids. Under Reagan, WalMart embarked on its campaign to destroy every main street economy in the nation. The Baby Boomers came back from the land, clipped their pony tails, discovered venture capital, real estate investment trusts, securitization of “consumer” debt, and the Hamptons. Greed was good. (No, really....)
Opposite Land, from the New York Times:
Most Senate Republicans remained opposed to the measure, criticizing it as a case study in excessive spending that would do little to lift the economy. Some conservatives indicated Friday night that they would push for time to study the new legislation before any final vote.
“We want to stimulate the economy, not mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren by the kind of fiscally profligate spending embodied in this legislation,” said Senator John McCain of Arizona, the defeated Republican presidential nominee, who has emerged as a chief opponent of the proposal.
Real World, from Media Matters:
Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, explains: “Spending that is not stimulus is like cash that is not money. Spending is stimulus, spending is stimulus. Any spending will generate jobs. It is that simple. ... Any reporter who does not understand this fact has no business reporting on the economy.”
Unfortunately, many of the reporters who have shaped the stimulus debate don’t seem to understand that.
ABC’s Charles Gibson portrayed spending and stimulus as opposing concepts in a question to President Obama: “And as you know, there’s a lot of people in the public, a lot of members of Congress who think this is pork-stuffed and that it really doesn’t stimulate. A lot of people have said it’s a spending bill and not a stimulus…”
If there’s one fact that should be made clear in every news report about the stimulus package working its way through Congress, it is this: Government spending is stimulative.
That’s a basic principle of economics, and understanding it is essential to assessing any stimulus package. So it should be an underlying premise of the media’s coverage of the stimulus debate. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Indeed, reporters routinely suggest that spending is not stimulative.
Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, explains: “Spending that is not stimulus is like cash that is not money. Spending is stimulus, spending is stimulus. Any spending will generate jobs. It is that simple... Any reporter who does not understand this fact has no business reporting on the economy.”
Unfortunately, many of the reporters who have shaped the stimulus debate don’t seem to understand that.
ABC’s Charles Gibson portrayed spending and stimulus as opposing concepts in a question to President Obama: “And as you know, there’s a lot of people in the public, a lot of members of Congress who think this is pork-stuffed and that it really doesn’t stimulate. A lot of people have said it’s a spending bill and not a stimulus.”
That formulation — “it’s a spending bill and not a stimulus” — is complete nonsense; it’s like saying, “This is a hot fudge sundae, not a dessert.” But nonsensical as it is, it has also been quite common in recent news reports.
There’s another problem with Gibson’s formulation, though — in describing the stimulus as a “spending bill,” he ignores the fact that the bill contains tax cuts, too. Lots and lots of tax cuts. And those tax cuts, by the way, provide less stimulus than government spending on things like food stamps and extending unemployment benefits. It probably goes without saying that Gibson didn’t ask if the bill would be more effective if the tax cuts were replaced by additional spending.
MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, among others, has repeatedly suggested “welfare” provisions in the bill wouldn’t stimulate the economy. This is the exact opposite of true; those provisions are among the most stimulative things the government can possibly do. There are some fairly obvious reasons why that is true, beginning with the fact that if you give a poor person $100 in food stamps, you can be pretty sure they’re going to spend all $100 of it; but if you give a rich person $100 in tax cuts, they probably won’t spend much of it at all.
But we needn’t rely on logic and common sense to know that welfare spending is stimulative; economists study these things. One such economist is Mark Zandi of Moody’s Economy.com, who served as an adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign. Zandi has produced a handy chart showing how much a variety of spending increases and tax cuts would stimulate the economy. According to Zandi, a dollar spent on increasing unemployment benefits yields $1.64 in increased gross domestic product, and a dollar spent on food stamps yields $1.73 in GDP.
As for tax cuts, Zandi says the most effective form is a payroll tax holiday. A one dollar reduction in federal revenues as a result of such a tax holiday would produce a $1.29 increase in GDP — far less than the benefit realized from extending unemployment benefits, increasing food stamps, providing general aid to state governments, or spending on infrastructure.
Yet if you turn on MSNBC any given morning, you’re likely to find Mika Brzezinski saying something like, “I want to look at the plan and how much of it is sort of welfare programs and how much are things that we know, either from history or because economic experts somehow know this, actually stimulates the economy.” Or like this: “Does this plan add up to the definition of stimulus? I don’t think it does. And I don’t question the value of food stamps and helping low-income people pay for college. It just shouldn’t be in this bill.” Or this: “If you’re gonna have welfare programs in this bill, call them welfare programs and pass them, but don’t call them facets of the bill meant to stimulate the economy. I do feel like there’s some old politics at play here.”
There’s old politics at play, all right — the old politics of demonizing “welfare spending” without any regard for the simple truth that such spending not only helps those Americans who are struggling the most feed their families, it also does more to stimulate the economy than anything else you can think of.
What you probably won’t see is Mika Brzezinski or Charles Gibson or any other TV reporter suggesting that the tax cuts in the bill are not stimulative and should be stripped — even though they are less effective as stimulus than unemployment benefits and food stamps.
At this point, it becomes impossible to ignore the elephant in the room: Television anchors like Charles Gibson are not going to qualify for food stamps anytime soon. But they would certainly benefit greatly from some tax cut provisions that wouldn’t do nearly as much to stimulate the economy.
(This is not the first time Gibson has shown himself to be badly out of touch on basic economic issues. During a Democratic presidential primary debate, Gibson challenged the candidates on their support for repealing President Bush’s tax cuts for people making more than $200,000 a year by saying that a family in which both parents are schoolteachers would be hit by the repeal. Gibson’s cluelessness was so apparent, the audience actually burst out laughing at him.)
So far, the news media’s coverage of the stimulus debate has consisted largely of repeating false Republican spin and pontificating about which side has been making their arguments more successfully (all the while ignoring the media’s own role in aiding the GOP.)
The bright side is that if reporters care about informing the public, it’s pretty easy to do — they just have to start basing their reports on the true premise that government spending is effective stimulus, rather than on the false premise that it isn’t. Everything else flows easily from there; for example, asking Republicans why they want to lard up the bill with less-stimulative tax cuts rather than unemployment benefits.
(Jamison Foser is Executive Vice President at Media Matters for America.)
Another Bush League bait-and-switch operation, brought to you courtesy of the xenophobic /racist wing (is there any other?) of the GOP?
The raids on homes around the country were billed as carefully planned hunts for dangerous immigrant fugitives, and given catchy names like Operation Return to Sender.
And they garnered bigger increases in money and staff from Congress than any other program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, even as complaints grew that teams of armed agents were entering homes indiscriminately.
But in fact, beginning in 2006, the program was no longer what was being advertised. Federal immigration officials had repeatedly told Congress that among more than half a million immigrants with outstanding deportation orders, they would concentrate on rounding up the most threatening — criminals and terrorism suspects.
Instead, newly available documents show, the agency changed the rules, and the program increasingly went after easier targets. A vast majority of those arrested had no criminal record, and many had no deportation orders against them, either.
Here, as promised some time back, is a second installment from the oral history of Bush’s administration in the current Vanity Fair. The speaker is Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff at the State Department:
John [Bellinger] and I had to work on the 9/11-commission testimony of Condi. Condi was not gonna do it, not gonna do it, not gonna do it, and then all of a sudden she realized she better do it. That was an appalling enterprise. We would cherry-pick things to make it look like the president had been actually concerned about al-Qaeda. We cherry-picked things to make it look as if the vice president and others, Secretary Rumsfeld and all, had been.
They didn’t give a shit about al-Qaeda. They had priorities. The priorities were lower taxes, ballistic missiles, and the defense thereof.
Ballistic missiles. Interesting that this seems to have been one of “their” two top priorities. Probably we can trace this back to Reagan and his Star Wars dreams. Reagan, like so many conservative Republicans, was a magical thinker. Their magic is Science. Ice cap melting? No problem, Science will take care of it. Peak oil? Relax and keep drilling, Science will turn sewage into electricity pretty soon. You’ll see.
So don’ worry, be happy.
Steve Benen says:
Once in a while, a politician drops the pretense and lets his true colors come through. In this brief interview, Dick Armey, perhaps best known for calling his then-colleague Barney Frank "Barney Fag," showed just what he's made of, before a national television audience.
Here’s the silver-tongued former House Majority Leader on Hardball, debating Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon.com:
In that spirit of frank and open-hearted goodwill toward even the most pathetic GOP hacks which lies at the very heart of Bad Attitudes, I offer this moving video:
From today’s New York Times:
[South Carolina Governor Mark] Sanford, a wealthy real estate investor, is often mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, in part because he is seen as an exemplary adherent of the party’s low-government, antispending philosophy. He recently wrote an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal saying he was opposed to a “bailout” for states…
Mr. Sanford once carried two piglets onto the floor of the House chamber to symbolize his opposition to what he considered wasteful spending. One of the piglets promptly defecated; lawmakers were not amused. Indeed, though Republicans dominate both chambers, they have overriden hundreds of his vetoes on spending over the years, including, in one recent session, money to expand children’s health insurance, indigent defense, and to provide cost-of-living adjustments for retired state employees.
…here’s Down with Tyranny, reminding us of who funneled all that dough to the three monkeys from the auto industry so they could afford to fly their own cool corporate jets to Washington and rattle their tin cups at Congress for more:
Midway through Bush’s first term, the attempts to encourage U.S. car manufacturers to invest in fuel efficient vehicles were beaten back by Tom Delay and the Republican Party through manipulation of the tax code.
The GOP made it far more attractive to buy a big gas guzzling SUV than a small car by offering enormous tax loopholes for Escalades, Hummers, Lincoln Navigators, Suburbans and other mammoth monstrosities. They defiantly pushed Detroit into making more clunkers.
Except for a small handful of reactionary Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party — like Jane Harman, Steve Israel, Bud Cramer, Lipinski — this kind of human refuse — all the Democrats in the House voted no and all the Republicans but one moderate (Connie Morella from Maryland) voted yes.
So today we hear Republicans like Jon Kyl braying about how we should let the car companies go bankrupt because they were so stupid and incompetent for making the wrong product choices. What about Republican congressmen who mandated those decisions with their votes—
Then representatives/now senators like Jim DeMint (R-SC), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), David “Diapers” Vitter (R-LA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and John Sununu (R-NH); and then backbenchers/now GOP leaders like John Boehner (R-0H), Eric Cantor (R-VA), David Dreier (R-CA), Adam Putnam (R-FL), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Mike Pence (R-IN)?
Today they’re not braying about their past votes, only working diligently to further cripple the American labor movement and continue the economic enslavement of the working and middle class.
Abraham Lincoln: Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Theodore Roosevelt: When all is said and done, the rule of brotherhood remains as the indispensable prerequisite to success in the kind of national life for which we strive…
Our aim is to recognize what Lincoln pointed out: The fact that there are some respects in which men are obviously not equal; but also to insist that there should be … an equality before the law, and at least an approximate equality in the conditions under which each man obtains the chance to show the stuff that is in him when compared to his fellows.
Warren Harding: We drew to a pair of deuces, and filled.
Ronald Reagan: Facts are stupid things.
George W. Bush: You’re working hard to put food on your family…
Let’s take a stroll down history lane with Irving Kristol’s little boy Billy, okay?
In other words, this was a good Democratic year, but it is still a center-right country. Conservatives and the Republican Party will have a real chance for a comeback — unless the skills of the new president turn what was primarily an anti-Bush vote into the basis for a new liberal governing era.
Those were my thoughts when, a few minutes into his victory speech, just after midnight, Obama told his daughters, “And you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the new White House.”
Not out of my deep affection for dogs, fond of them though I am. But because while we’ve all known that Obama is a very skillful politician, he hasn’t until now been a particularly empathetic one. Competence plus warmth is a pretty potent combination. Suddenly visions of the two great modern realigning presidents — Franklin Roosevelt (with his Scottish terrier Fala) and Ronald Reagan (with his Cavalier King Charles spaniel Rex) — flashed before my eyes. Maybe a realignment could be coming.
And let’s not forget the great political realignments sparked by George W. Bush’s Scottish Terrier Barney, Clinton’s Chocolate Lab, Buddy; Poppy Bush’s Springer Spaniel, Millie; Amy Carter’s Grits; Gerald Ford’s Golden Retriever, Liberty; Nixon’s Irish Setter, King Timahoe; Johnson’s Beagle and Little Beagle; Caroline Kennedy’s Welsh terrier, Charlie; Eisenhower’s Weimaraner, Heidi; Truman’s Irish Setter, Mike; and Hoover’s police dog, King Tut.
And, most notably of all, Coolidge’s Terrier Peter Pan, Airedale Paul Pry, white collie Rob Roy, Shetland sheepdog Calamity Jane, his two Chows, Tiny Tim and Blackberry, the brown collie Ruby Rough, the bulldog Boston Beans, King Kole, a police dog, Bessie, a yellow collie, and the family bird dog, Palo Alto.
This menagerie led directly to the political realignment, tectonic in its scope, which occurred when Hoover succeeded Coolidge. The latter, historians agree, was the only president Vermont has ever produced. He was known as “Silent Cal.” Cal (along with Calif) was then a common abbreviation for California, but in this case it was short for the president’s given name, which was “Calvin.”
No other president has borne the name Calvin, although there have been five Jameses, four Williams, four Johns, three Georges, and one Ulysses. The significance of this is unclear.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer:
Democrat Barack Obama is the unofficial winner in North Carolina, but the victory over Sen. John McCain won’t be sealed until provisional ballots are counted and certified next month.
Unofficial returns show Obama ahead by 13,746 votes.
Trends over the last 14 years point to Obama having a wider lead after the provisionals are counted, said Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections.
“I’m going to hold my breath until I die and then you’ll all be sorry” department: from The Kansas City Star—
As of late Wednesday, just more than 121 million votes had been counted in the race for president. In 2004, there were 122.3 million voters.
This year’s number may grow as returns from California and Oregon are added. Still, experts’ predictions that this year’s turnout would far surpass that of 2004 may have been too optimistic.
The main culprit: While Obama’s total vote exceeded that of George Bush’s four years ago by more than a million ballots, McCain’s total votes ended up far short of John Kerry’s losing effort in 2004.
In other words, Republican turnout dipped substantially.
“I always said there was going to be a downturn in the Republican turnout,” said Curtis Gans, a nationally known voting expert.
“There was discouragement about an election it didn’t look like they could win … and right-wing Republicans didn’t see McCain as one of their own.”
This clip, courtesy of Outta the Cornfield, was made at a GOP rally in Denver.
More good news for Obama, from Sarah Palin and her team of mavericks:
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Gov. Sarah Palin’s signature accomplishment — a contract to build a 1,715-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from Alaska to the Lower 48 — emerged from a flawed bidding process that narrowed the field to a company with ties to her administration, an Associated Press investigation shows…
Despite Palin’s boast of a smart and fair bidding process, the AP found that her team crafted terms that favored only a few independent pipeline companies and ultimately benefited the winner, TransCanada Corp.
The leader of Palin’s pipeline team had been a partner at a lobbying firm where she worked on behalf of a TransCanada subsidiary. Also, that woman’s former business partner at the lobbying firm was TransCanada’s lead private lobbyist on the pipeline deal, interacting with legislators in the weeks before the vote to grant TransCanada the contract. Plus, a former TransCanada executive served as an outside consultant to Palin’s pipeline team.
Under a different set of rules four years earlier, TransCanada had offered to build the pipeline without a state subsidy; under Palin, the company could receive a maximum $500 million…
This comes from a left-minded friend of mine who finds herself working indirectly for McCain-Palin — her marketing firm has a contract with the campaign. To save her soul, she passes on these pocket-picking tips:
If you have time to waste, and want to help the home team at no expense to you, here's a fun game to play:
1. Surf the Internet (political sites are good), looking for McCain-Palin banner ads.
2. Click on them to open up the McCain-Palin website.
3. Close that site (Firefox works great since you can just open and close a new tab).
4. Repeat (even on the exact same site) until your fingers fall off.
McCain and Palin are buying those ads in either the CPM (cost per thousand) or CPA (cost per action) marketplace. If the URL that you see when the McCain Palin-site opens up contains the keyword Google, then it is likely CPA. That means the Repubs are literally paying the site owner (via Google’s marketplace) for your actual click. I’m guessing they’re spending at least a quarter per click.
If it is CPM, the cost to the bad guys is more indirect. In that case, your click will tell their automated buying systems that their ad is effective, and they’ll automatically buy more of them, even though the ads themselves weren’t actually as effective as the click counts suggest.
The goldmine is a McCain-Palin banner ad on a site you approve of — or even better, the site of a friend. Then you can actually engineer a payment almost directly from the GOP to someone you like.
The only risk is that a huge number of clicks would cause them to remove the site from their ad-buy rotation, but I seriously doubt they could catch that. Click fraud is extremely hard to prove. The algorithms are tune to catch robot/auto-scripted clicks, not private individuals.
Joe the Plumber was constantly mentioned by John McCain at the debates last night. But I’ve been wondering. Is Joe really going to be taxed higher under the Obama Plan? Notice how Joe doesn’t state what the after tax earnings of his business are going to be. He states “I’m going to buy a company that makes $250-$275 Thousand Dollars a Year”. Now let’s examine that statement. Notice that Joe didn’t mention after tax earnings. He only said it “makes” $250-$275,000.00 per year. Is that gross income or gross receipts or the bottom line on his 1040? The cost of running the business would be deducted from the gross receipts and Joe is likely to earn after paying his workers and the cost to run the trucks perhaps at most $75,000.00 to $100,000.00 per year if he just stated his gross receipts. Because Joe wasn’t clear about the earnings of the company, but only stated what it makes, we are left in a confused state about what Joe is really going to make in real income from this company.
And let’s assume the business does net $275,000 a year after taxes. If Joe is purchasing this business outright at the start of a recession, we might assume he is getting the business cheap at a price to earnings ration, or as the term is commonly referred to, a PE of 6 to 8. That means he'll be paying six times earnings at a minimum. So Joe is perhaps coughing up One Million Six Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars to buy this business. I’d say that if Joe actually has that kind of cash or financing in this era of non financing for businesses, he is doing extremely well. Better than ninety percent or more of the American public. Why doesn’t someone ask Joe to submit his business plan so we can know what he’s talking about? Because his question seemed to me to be carefully crafted and parsed to not reveal what this business is really making. It is very likely that Joe is going to be paying substantially less under the Obama plan assuming my assumptions here are correct. Does anyone out there live in Joe’s town? Can you fill us in on the details of Joe’s finances and a picture of the modest house he says he lives in? Inquiring minds want to know.
I’m not sure that Obama presented his plan very well either, because he refers to the gross as if it were income, which is decidedly not the case in any business in the country, unless the business has no tax deductions. I’ve never heard of a business like that in my life, and I was an accounting major in college, and on top of that just an old dumb country lawyer.
[UPDATE FROM BLOOMBERG NEWS: Not Taxable Income
It’s far more likely that the $280,000 Wurzelbacher told Obama he’d earn would be in the form of gross receipts and not taxable income, said Steven Bankler, a certified public accountant in San Antonio, who counts plumbers and other trade professionals as his clients.
According to an analysis by Dun & Bradstreet on Wurzelbacher’s employer, A. W. Newell Corp., the plumbing and heating contractor has annual sales of $510,000.
If Wurzelbacher bought the company, by the time he took proper business deductions, Bankler said, he’d be left with between $150,000 and $200,000 in taxable income and wouldn’t be affected by Obama’s proposed increase in the top rates.
Wurzelbacher might eventually have to pay more employment taxes under Obama’s plan to impose a rate of between 2 percent and 4 percent on wages over $250,000, Bankler said, but Obama has said that change wouldn’t take effect for a decade.
Wurzelbacher doesn’t have a plumber’s license and isn’t registered as a plumber in Ohio, the Toledo Blade reported on its Web site today. His employer has a state plumbing license, the newspaper said.
So the whole question is moot. If the plumber were an honest man, Obama wouldn't need to have answered that question. Obama’s plan would have certainly saved “Crooked Joe” plenty on his taxes!
I guess an old accounting degree and a good teacher on parsing words, the guy who taught me that “words matter” helped me see through the scam the guy tried to pull on Obama. My hat is off to that guy. (And that teacher should know who he is, right Jerry?).
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman thinks that in order for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to beat her Democratic rival, Sen. Joe Biden, in tonight’s debate, she needs to keep it from turning into an “IQ test.”
“What she needs to do tonight is get this public consideration of her back to who she is and her strong points and, frankly, get it away from being a, kind of, IQ test — she's plenty smart — getting it away from being a, sort of, final college exam,” Lieberman said on MSNBC…
How much IQ does it take to avoid admitting in public that your vice-presidential candidate couldn’t pass an IQ test?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Lawyers for Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska urged a judge Thursday to dismiss the corruption case against him because they said prosecutors had withheld evidence helpful to their defense…
The information involved an interview by an FBI agent with Bill Allen, the prosecution’s star witness. In the interview, Allen said he believed Stevens and his wife would have paid for the renovations to their home in Alaska if Allen had sent them a bill…
Stevens normally sits expressionless during the trial, but during Thursday's session he nodded his head vigorously while the judge rebuked the prosecutors.
The judge ordered the prosecutors to turn over to the defense all FBI interviews with witnesses without any redactions.
The new evidence involved an interview that had been turned over to the defense, but the key part of what Allen said — that the couple would pay if they had been sent a bill — had been blacked out.
And this is helpful to the defense how? Stevens has had his hand out for 40 years and every sentient businessman in Alaska must know by now how the game is played. You don’t leave a paper trail. And if you do leave one, the bill is paid and nobody in the senator’s office returns your phone calls. Ever.
I’m sorry, but I just can’t help myself. I’m in love. Here’s another of Sara Benincasa’s small masterpieces. In this one she discovers Africans, Joe Lieberman, and other exotic fauna native to the lower 48.
COURIC: You’ve cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?
PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land — boundary that we have with — Canada. [...]
COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.
PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our — our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They’re in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia —
COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?
PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We — we do — it’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where — where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is — from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to — to our state.
Bet you’ve been wondering why Sarah Palin has been ducking the press. No, of course you haven’t. And you were right, because take a look. The potential president was just permitted to hold the world’s shortest Q & A with her traveling press corps — her first.
Jesus, this so embarrassing:
CNN: On the topic of never letting this happen again, do you agree with the way the Bush administration has handled the war on terrorism, is there anything you would do differently?
A: I agree with the Bush administration that we take the fight to them. We never again let them come onto our soil and try to destroy not only our democracy, but communities like the community of New York. Never again. So yes, I do agree with taking the fight to the terrorists and stopping them over there.
POLITICO: Do you think our presence in Iraq and Afghan and our continued presence there is inflaming islamic extremists?
A: I think our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will lead to further security of our nation, again, because the mission is to take the fight over there. Do not let them come over here and attempt again what they accomplished here, and that was some destruction. Terrible destruction on that day. But since September 11, Americans uniting and rebuilding and committing to never letting that happen again.
Here’s Timothy P. Carney of the Evans-Novak Political Report. The noncrazy wing of the Republican Party seems to be in a state of deep despair.
- Congressional Republicans and conservatives, meanwhile, are almost completely at a loss. Republicans are still finding their footing after denying for months that the economy is endangered. Frantic behind closed doors, they seem unable to propose any solution that approaches the magnitude of the problem. Promising more drilling, capital-gains-tax cuts, and full business expensing comes across as laughable — the same things the GOP was pushing while saying the economy was strong.
- At the presidential level, it’s not only that McCain and Palin lack credentials and knowledge about economics, but McCain also lacks a real rudder. As the GOP nominee, he has taken up free-market talk, but does he really have any roots in a philosophy? Does Palin have the clout or the know-how to guide McCain? The answer to both questions is probably not.
- When Republicans highlight the Democratic big-government programs that contributed to the mess — Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act directing private capital in low-income housing — they lack conviction and credibility, having long been champions of policies such as IRAs and 401(k)’s driving money to Wall Street, or the home-mortgage interest deduction and the “ownership society.”
Gail Collins, God love her, in the Times today:
On Friday, McCain looked steamed when he gave a new policy speech in Wisconsin with Sarah Palin at his side. The Republicans have discovered that McCain can’t draw a crowd without Palin, and the dangers of letting her float off by herself are apparent. So the two are manacled together these days like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in that old escape-from-a-chain-gang movie.
Remember how the Republican smear squads scored with the lie that Al Gore claimed he invented the Internet? Well, it turns out John McCain gave us the Blackberry:
Asked what work John McCain did as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee that helped him understand the financial markets, the candidate’s top economic adviser wielded visual evidence: his BlackBerry.
“He did this,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin told reporters this morning, holding up his BlackBerry. “Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce committee so you’re looking at the miracle John McCain helped create and that’s what he did.”
…and so I won’t even try. These are excerpts from Women Against Sarah Palin, the wonderful website to which my sister Pat alerted me, and about which I blogged earlier this week.
Sarah Palin is the classic example of a woman being used by those in power to remove power from women.
I want to love a mother, governor and VP candidate, but Palin horrifies me, she seems to epitomize the American inability to be introspective, to polarize and see everything in terms of black and white, good or evil, right or wrong. This intolerance and inability to get out of a narrow perspective and see the divine spark in all is at the core of the danger America is creating for itself, and feeds the dissension in America. She has a sharp, but not a deep mind fast with the comebacks, but more interested in bullying an argument than in understanding the truth.
Even in this very red state of Alabama, we know the difference between a show horse, a hobby horse, and a work horse. You do not represent working class women, farm wives or single mothers — ALL of whom turned to Hillary Clinton with great hopes. You charged women for their own rape kits when you were mayor in Wasilla. You use housekeepers and nannies to care for your kids. You don’t want sex education in schools, but you let your daughter get pregnant! You do not now, nor will you ever speak for us!
I can hardly begin to express the depth of my anger at hearing Ms. Palin denigrate the many community organizers I worked with and proudly call my friends. Community Organizers make the world a better place, doing God’s work day in and day out, night after night. To hear that convention audience laugh in response to her snide remarks really pissed me off. I didn’t realize just how steamed I was until a dear friend (another longtime community activist) sent me an e-mail with this message: Jesus was a Community Organizer. Pontius Pilate was a Governor.
Sarah Palin represents the slap of the dinosaur’s tail — a deadly, horned swipe of a breed going extinct; quite likely, in her throes of excited thrashing, to kill off many individuals, many careers, many dearly held gains, won since 1963, for which many of us fought with our brains, our convictions, our blood, our time, our eloquence, and our money…
Are we ready to stand idly by while an old, ill man, watches Sarah’s shapely behind, while fingering his wedding ring? Are we ready to give up our time to choose, our right to decide and let this mockery of a modern woman, this poorly educated bigot tramples our civil rights? Are we ready to die if our life is endangered by an unhealthy pregnancy? Are we willing to let Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and the other megalomaniacs at the helm of the Republican party decide the course of our lives, our daughters’ and granddaughters’ lives?
Even the power she gained as the mayor of a town of a mere 5000, immediately corrupted her; her wide swipes through the administration she inherited were so disruptive to that small government entity that an immediate remedy was set in place — an administrator had to be hired to do the job of running the town while she was mayor. And still, the surplus she inherited turned into a deficit — IMAGINE the damage she could orchestrate on a national level.
The Alaskan legislature took to wearing buttons that said, “Where’s Sarah?” because she spent so little time in Juneau. Once again, the GOP is deceiving the American people in a most callous and calculating way — just because they put a skirt on this time doesn’t change a damned thing!
Women in particular should project hope and love and caring for others, and Ms. Palin does none of this, choosing instead to be mean-spirited and accusatory in every single speech and action. I can only hope that with time, people will recognize this and realize that we need someone quite different from her to take us down the road to respect and REAL morality.
But she is not the problem — our problem is the white old men that insist on running this country with their need to control, their archaic laws and ideas. Their lives are based on fear and ridiculous needs to dominate our pocketbook, our bodies and to shoot before thinking and talking. They also have a great need to distort the truth — in other words LYING. This young woman from Alaska is being fooled with — she is their decoy — but she might be elected and then she could be a heartbeat away from being in charge of our lives.
The American people have become distracted. Palin, participating in this election as a trojan horse, has come with phrases that involve animals and lipsticks, bridges to nowhere, and eBay, leading americans in to an abyss of distractions pulling away from the very sobering facts that who she represents and the policies she supports are a complete replica of the current Bush administration, on paper, and without personality mud-slings, the Palin/MCCain ticket represent four more years of the same policies the world has come to hate.
Here we have the ideal ticket for anyone who supports women’s rights — Obama and Biden — versus two people who think women are brainless fools. The fact that Palin wears a skirt doesn’t mean she has respect for women. On the contrary. It just means that she uses her sex to stop any questions about her competence by accusing the questioner of sex-discrimination. Frankly, I didn’t buy that argument when Hillary made it and I’m certainly not buying it from Palin.
This classic bait and switch move has the electorate once again focusing on the culture wars instead of the real ones, on pseudo-feminism instead of tolerance and equality.
Her extreme beliefs regarding abstinence-only education did not work even for her own daughter! and yet she wants to force it on our daughters! We will not have it. We can do better, there are stronger, more thoughtful and fair minded women in this country who are fit to run it.
Is Ms.Palin really the best the Republican party has to offer in terms of a female? I guess there are slim pickings for a woman who will support an antiquated and sexist Republican agenda.
The cruel irony of Senator Clinton blooding herself on that glass ceiling only to have a puppet escorted through on the arm of a warrior…
These people are two loose cannons on a rolling deck and I genuinely fear for the future of our great country. If John McCain is unable to see his term through, Sarah Palin is next in line as leader of the Free World.
“To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.” Really? Because the parents of children with disabilities in Alaska don’t have much of a friend or advocate right now. Even in years of great surplus, she actually cut state funding for special education services and Medicaid — the program that children and adults with disabilities rely on for health care.
Ms. Palin is also well documented as a local bully who tries to fire anyone who disagrees with her. After eight years of an unqualified President who has done everything in his power to position America as a global bully, this characteristic is the last quality we need in the White House for four more years.
Sarah Palin sees the hand of God in a $30 billion Alaskan national gas pipeline. “I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that,” she has stated.
Ms. Palin and I clearly worship very different gods. I see the hand of God not in the wallets of the oil companies, but in the pristine Alaska coastline, its majestic polar bears, whales, and glaciers — all of which Big Oil will despoil. Perhaps Ms. Palin has made the mistake that afflicts a frightening number of our citizens: confusing God with money.
One of the joys of reading The Atlantic blog of Jerry’s former compatriot Jim Fallows is seeing a bit of the Hunter Thompson spirit dancing behind the White House polish. Here he is on Mike Huckabee’s speech.
If you didn’t hear it: a long, folksy story whose payoff was important and completely true: every generation of Americans owes its liberties, its institutions, its prosperity, and many of its other bounties to previous generations who have fought for, built, and preserved the elements that make America free, rich, and strong.
(Story in a nutshell: on the first day of school, students are puzzled to see no desks in one classroom. The teacher won’t let them have desks until they explain how students "earn" a desk. Punchline, delivered as a row of decorated veterans bring the desks in: You don’t have to earn them! These people already earned them for you.)
Why the story is weird, apart from the fact that the teacher was putting the question in a deliberately obscure way: Every country has desks in the classrooms! This has absolutely zero to do with what make[s] America great and what Americans have died to protect and defend. Burma has no freedoms, but I have seen its students sitting there at desks. I have seen the same in Kenya and Vietnam. There are school desks in Cuba and North Korea. The old Soviet Union was full of ’em.
I grew up with the people stories like this are meant to enchant. Kentucky was one of the states, along with Maryland and West Virginia, divided by the Mason-Dixon line: in the Civil War, one brother would go north, the other south. (Pynchon fans are granted a moment here for a centering breath.) On the alternate axis we straddled the Appalachians, in whose cricks and hollers all sorts of non-conformists have hidden.
Sarah Palin will motivate these people to come to the polls in November. John McCain will be mashed, but Mitch McConnell’s seat is safe. Elizabeth Dole might survive. God help us, Lieberman might be undumpable.