Friday, December 30, 2011

Gingrich's Crying Moment Follow up

I decided to look around at different websites to get a feel for what people were saying about Newt's crying moment today.  My comments here.  This was about as insincere an event an anything any Republican could imagine.  First, the question was lobbed by Frank Luntz, a GOP pollster who coaches Republicans on what words to choose (since they can't choose their own) to craft their message to maximum effect.  Second, the question was lobbed to Gingrich as he sat before an audience of mothers.  And third, Gingrich, instead of allowing his emotional reaction to speak for itself, called attention to his tears by saying, "See? Now you've got me completely emotional."

Both TPM and CNN ran the story, and the comments following the story tell a lot.  Predictably, the comments were solidly in the "doubt it" category, calling the moment a fake Hillary moment, recalling when Mrs. Clinton got teary-eyed after a question about press coverage of her ahead of the NH primary.  The tears then were sincere and she went on to win the primary and give Obama a real challenge all the way to June when she finally stepped aside and endorsed him.  And now she's the Secretary of State.

My favorite TPM retort from commenter denholt66: "Time out: this is someone who fell so far behind on his child support and alimony obligations to his first wife that she had to petition the court for intervention. Fast forward to Wife No. 3, and he's taking out a $500K line of credit for her at Tiffany's. Yes, he's certainly "changed" over the years, hasn't he?"

Fox News's website also ran the story, and I expected to read a shitload of comments in support of Newt's humanity, sincerity, and other good qualities. But I didn't see much of that at all.  While there were supporters, as well as liberals trolling the comments section to pick fights with the wingnut regulars, the comments largely ignored the event altogether, and simply attacked liberals and predicted victory for the Republicans (not necessarily Gingrich) in 2012.  My favorite, from commenter ragingbull454:


The Fox News comments were a bit of a surprise to me at first, but then I realized who I was dealing with.  The viewers and readers of Fox News aren't interested in facts.  To them, facts do not matter.  All that matters is getting that black Muslim Kenyan out of there, whoever it is.   They'll support a wheel of cheddar cheese if it's sharp enough to win against Obama.

Newt Gingrich Cries In Iowa When Asked About His Mother

Please! If I'm being "Just Honest" for a second, please go back and read the piece. Gingrich received the question about his mother from FRANK LUNTZ. Don't know who he is? Google him. He's one of the most notoriousl­y insidious Republican political operatives working today, cut from the same vein as Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, and Dick Morris. Given the source of the question, I'm 100% certain that the whole crying episode was staged to make him appear more sympatheti­c to his audience. We all know that this serial adulterer is very unpopular with women, so Luntz floats this powder puff question when it's obvious that it'll make Newt teary, hence strengthen­ing his image among women voters. Not to take anything away from Newt's affection for his mother, of course; I actually like that he's capable of human emotion. But does that display of emotion do anything to make him more presidenti­al? No, but I'd let him host the Muscular Dystrophy Assocation Telethon next year and let him sing, "You'll Never Walk Alone."
About Newt Gingrich
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, December 19, 2011

Quote for the Day

In the wake of President Obama's disastrous decision to codify into law the Bush/Cheney position on indefinite detention, I thought it appropriate to pull down a wonderful passage written in 2006 by the recently late Christopher Hitchens.  Hat tip Andrew Sullivan, compiling all of Hitch's greatest quotes over the years. 
I believe the President when he says that this will be a very long war, and insofar as a mere civilian may say so, I consider myself enlisted in it. But this consideration in itself makes it imperative that we not take panic or emergency measures in the short term, and then permit them to become institutionalised. I need hardly add that wire-tapping is only one of the many areas in which this holds true.  The better the ostensible justification for an infringement upon domestic liberty, the more suspicious one ought to be of it. We are hardly likely to be told that the government would feel less encumbered if it could dispense with the Bill of Rights.

But a power or a right, once relinquished to one administration for one reason, will unfailingly be exploited by successor administrations, for quite other reasons. It is therefore of the first importance that we demarcate, clearly and immediately, the areas in which our government may or may not treat us as potential enemies.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Three Million Evangelicals"

Gingrich's political director in Iowa, Craig Bergman (who, by the way worked on Ron Paul's 2008 campaign), was fired recently for making this statement during a focus group, according to the Iowa Republican:
A lot of the evangelicals believe God would give us four more years of Obama just for the opportunity to expose the cult of Mormon.  There’s a thousand pastors ready to do that.

The Polk County (IA) GOP Chair, Dave Funk, believes Obama would lose to Romney in the general election, but that Romney, as the nominee, could not bring out "three million evangelicals to vote in every school board and local election."  In other words, it looks like evangelicals are more interested in continuing their dominance of the Republican Party than in the White House.  Pretty smart, actually.  They may not voice it out loud, but somewhere they realize that Obama has a very strong chance of being re-elected, even with the economic realities we face, because the field of GOP candidates is so pathetic and feeble.  Better to focus on down-ticket and local contests to create the grass-roots foundation that can steer a national movement.  In four years, when Obama's leadership will have, in their view, completely derailed the United States' role in the world (as if that never happened during the Bush/Cheney regime), an electable evangelical Republican who sat it out this time around can swoop in, capture the national spotlight, make mince meat out of the Democratic field (which at this point looks very weak indeed), and capture the White House.  Once again, they can try to enact the radical, fundamentalist, theocratic vision they carry to turn the US into a bible-thumping, Stepford nation of religious fanatics fixated not really on governance, but on ushering in their precious end-times.  And that is not nearly the same kind of brain-washing as that Kenyan anti-colonialist Muslim socialist Nazi wanted to do with his "re-education camps."

Monday, December 12, 2011


Poor Rick Santorum.  Guilt by association has reared its ugly head.  As the former senator and current sex-act by-product namesake used to represent the state that houses Penn State University, which employed Jerry Sandusky, currently under indictment for multiple counts of child sexual abuse and rape, it was going to happen sooner or later that someone tried to tie the two of them together.

At a "presidential candidate education forum" hosted by the University of Northern Iowa last Friday, an audience member questioned the candidate about Sandusky, whom the candidate awarded with the "Angels in Adoption Award."  Santorum explained that he hadn't known about the details of Sandusky's alleged activities at the time and noted that the award has since been withdrawn.  Well, fair enough, of course.  But, the audience member's follow up was, "So we shouldn't trust Obama with our kids, but we can trust you?"  The article offered no response from Santorum (if indeed there was one).

Santorum, who prides himself as a champion of "family values" and returning morality to the forefront of American society, might not be totally innocent in the process.  As we all know, the Sandusky scandal claimed the jobs of legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno and the university's president.  The whole scandal stinks of cover up.  It's not inconceivable that Santorum could actually have known what was up at the time (although there is absolutely NO proof, and I am not suggesting otherwise). 

The forum shone a spotlight on Santorum's idiotic ideas about public education.  Money quote:
It's now run by states and the federal government. The government has taken over and we have government-run education in this country.  Pretty soon, (the government will) be lifting (children) out of the nursery and putting them into school because the government needs to get in as soon as they can to influence the educational lives of your children.
He sounds positively Bachmann-esque, no?  These nutty conspiracy hypotheses have no place in a presidential election, whether they're just rhetorical flourishes or attempts at serious debate.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Huntsman's One-Time Shot?

Ross Douthat pokes a huge hole in the idea that Huntsman, arguably the sanest voice in the 2012 Republican candidate field, is setting himself up for 2016, when the Democratic field will be very thin indeed.  His money quote:
If Barack Obama is re-elected and the Republican nomination is up for grabs in 2016, there will be a long list of heavyweights ready and rested and ready to compete for the prize— Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Bob McDonnell, and probably other up-and-comers as well. (Not that all of these big names will run … but if one takes a pass another will be waiting in the wings.) Many of them will more than match Huntsman’s presumed ability to appeal to centrists and independents, while vastly exceeding his (seemingly-limited) capacity too win conservatives. All of them will be able out-raise, out-organize and out-buzz a guy who couldn’t rise to the top of the weakest presidential primary field in my lifetime.

In other words, if Huntsman can't find his way to at least a very respectable finish (top-three, perhaps?) in this primary season, don't count on his running in 2016.  Douthat conveniently forgets (like so many of his conservative fellows) that the American public has a horrible memory.  Look at how much attention they're now paying to a disgraced former House speaker and a former governor who has lost more elections than he's won?

Really, honestly, and truly, the GOP is going to fumble this election so badly.  They cannot bring themselves to take a serious candidate seriously.  Even Erick Erickson at RedState is willing to try, but even his influential voice is going to be drowned out by the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity.  Even the blond bimbo with the large Adam's apple has warned her fellows thusly:
Gingrich has spent his years since then having an affair, divorcing his second wife and making money by being the consummate Washington insider — trading on access, taking $1.6 million from Freddie Mac and palling around with Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and Al Sharpton. 

Even Chuck Schumer wouldn’t be seen doing a joint event with Al Sharpton! But Newt seeks approval from strange places.  

Newt Gingrich is the “anti-Establishment” candidate only if “the Establishment” is defined as “anyone who remembers what happened the day before yesterday.” 

So please, Ross, before you dismiss Huntsman entirely, develop a proper amount of disdain for the failings of your party.  Only then can you be taken seriously by the readers of The New York Times.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The GOP Religious Litmus Test

For any American serious about presidential elections, the very idea that one of the two major political parties has a large faction for whom religion is a major factor in determing the party's nominee should be frightening.  But it's more than an idea.  Fully one in seven likely voters in the Iowa caucuses believe that Mitt Romney's religion is a major reason to oppose him.  Now, we can go on and on about how there should be no religious litmus test for president, in any party.  But there is.  In the GOP, Mormons, Muslims, and Jews need not apply (I know, Jews have not expressly been excluded the way Mormons and Muslims appear to have been, but name me one prominent Republican Jew who has run for president in modern history.  Right...there are none.  Nope, not even that guy.). 

Let's not exclude the Democrats either.  More than one Democrat has had to take to the airwaves to discuss his religion while running a presidential campaign.  But let's be clear: neither Kennedy nor Obama had to do that as a prerequisite by progressive members of their party.  Kennedy's West Virginia speech about his Catholicism was done to win over the very conservative Democratic voters in that state (voters whose descendants are now, by and large, Republicans).  Obama's speech about his religion was to dispel the notion promulgated by Christianist Republicans that he was not a Muslim.  To this day, people still believe he was lying. 

The most dangerous thing we can do, as Americans, is to use religion as a criterion to pick a president.  When we do that, we trash our Constitution and we trash the vision of our founders to erect a wall of separation between church and state.

Next time you meet a politician -- at any level, local or national -- tell him/her flat out that you don't care at all what his/her religion is, and that you will see that he/she is held accountable anytime he/she invokes religion as a way to attract votes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cain Goes Splat! on Fox

Fox in box
Cain in box on Fox
Cain dips wick in fox, calls "bollocks" in box on Fox
Cain taking stock, may put lock on hearing vox populi
Fox knocks Cain, Cain hawks books
A pox on Cain, a pox on Fox!
Now, let's have a little talk about Tweedle Beetles...

TPM has a great recap of a devastating interview Cain gave to Fox's Neil Cavuto earlier today.  Best is the end exchange (my italics):
Neil: Finally, a week from now, do you think in your gut you will still be a candidate?

Cain: A week from now, I will have made a final decision.

Neil: In or out? 

Cain: A week from now, I will have made a decision. 

Neil: At least you didn't say 9-9-9. All right, always a pleasure. Thank you very much.

Another Reason Christie Will Never Be President

For taking decidedly un-Republican positions like this.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Out table is set for tonight's feast.  Later this afternoon, 17 members of our family will join the four of us to celebrate the finest American holiday of the year.  A day when we can sit down, reflect, and find the words or thoughts to express the thanks we feel for how wonderful life is.

Today, I am thankful for the timeless love and respect of my beautiful wife, Lisa, and the love, admiration, respect, commitment, and lust I feel for her; the love, humor, and daily craziness of my two gorgeous children, Max and Elijah; the closeness and constant support I get from all of my family; my job, which challenges me every day to step up my game and be more patient, humble, and committed; my friends, who inspire me, challenge me, and support me to be the man I always wanted to be; this blog, which for nearly four years has given me the outlet to express myself; my country, which is a never-ending source of inspiration; and God, the limitless source of everything.

To those who read this blog, whether consistently or only occasionally, may this Thanksgiving be the happiest, most fulfilling day of your year!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quote of the Day

"I still can’t see a President Gingrich.   'People want substance!'  No, Newt.  They don’t know if they want Romney.  Currently, you’re the alternate."  Carl Prine, live-blogging tonight's Republican Primary Debate.

And Waterboarding is Just Like Floating on Your Back

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly (who is apparently now a chemical expert) said Monday night on O'Reilly that the pepper spray used against demonstrators at the University of California at Davis last week was "a food product, essentially."  I'm sure it tastes delicious.

Actually, Professor/Dr. Megyn ('cuz in TV-land, we call all doctors by their first names, right?), this Scientific American blog piece is pretty clear: U.S. Pepper Spray is not a food product.  It is about 1,000 times hotter than a jalapeño pepper, and about 10-20 times hotter than the hottest of cooking peppers, the habanero.

Health hazards of pepper spray are highlighted in the piece like this:
Depending on brand, [pepper] spray may contain water, alcohols, or organic solvents as liquid carriers; and nitrogen, carbon dioxide, or halogenated hydrocarbons (such as Freon, tetrachloroethylene, and methylene chloride) as propellants to discharge the canister contents.(3) Inhalation of high doses of some of these chemicals can produce adverse cardiac, respiratory, and neurologic effects, including arrhythmias and sudden death.

But whooooooeeeeeeeeeey! It sure tastes good on my nachos!

This is a military grade weapon, NOT a food topping.  Whoops, gotta link to the classic SNL classic sketch about Shimmer Floor Wax:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Conservatism is a mental illness." -- Blogger Bob Cesca, commenting on the latest in the Obama birther saga in New Hampshire.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Newt Not an Official Lobbyist

Sullivan profiles Newt's financial past by highlighting a couple of stories.  The take-away:
It's true to say that Gingrich never "lobbied" for the [Medicare Part D] bill. Lobbying is a distinctive career; you have to register to conduct it. Gingrich merely used his status as a conservative icon, with close ties to many House members and a well of respect with others, to advocate for policies. He was, at the same time, collecting money from the GSEs and the health care industry.
This is like Clinton claiming not to have inhaled.  He was a paid lobbyist even though he never registered.  He skirted the law.  "Oh," says Newt, "surely there are more important things to criticize than my 100% legal means to earn a living."  Ethics, dear Mr. Gin-Grinch.

Quote of the Day

Daniel Larison from The American Conservative:
It is natural for activists and high-information voters to believe that their preferred policies will help their party win elections, and it is understandable that they interpret electoral defeats as punishments for following the wrong policies. ... It is part of a mentality that says that we can have it all, which is the same mentality responsible for overwhelming public support for entitlement programs combined with strong hostility to paying for them.

One thing I do agree on, even as a liberal: the government can't pay for absolutely everything unless the citizens agree to pay for it through taxes.  I will argue with anyone who thinks that we don't need a strong defense, or that we don't need social safety nets like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  We need them.  These are the pillars of our strength as a nation.  And the revenues we generate do not cover these pillars, so we have to borrow more and more every year to keep them going.  Eliminating the libertarian big three -- Education, Energy, and Transportation (see, Rick, even I can remember the third one) -- won't make a dent.  Slashing foreign aid down to zero won't do it either.  Eliminating all earmarks won't do it.  And even combined, they won't do it.  Only a fair, progressive form of taxation, combined with fiscal discipline and the balls to stick to it, will do it.  The reasons why tax revenues are so low compared to spending are numerous, but a major reason is that the middle class, who hold less than 20% of the nation's wealth, shoulder the greatest responsibility for providing revenue to the country.  They pay a greater share of their incomes in taxes than do the richest 1%, whose high-paid accountants and tax attorneys figure out ways for them to shield their incomes from the government.  If GE can get away with zero federal income tax, there's something wrong with the system.  And it's made worse by a lobbying effort by corporations to get their representatives to fight against any attempt to raise their taxes, or to create special loopholes for them to avoid paying taxes.

If we want to keep very popular programs fully funded, we need to stop saying, "Let someone else pay for them."  We all need to pay for them, but we need to reform the system that allows too many of the richest among us not to pay for them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chinks in the GOP Armor, Cont.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), leader of the Senate Republican Conference, said today:
This is about more than money, it's about whether the president and the Congress can competently govern ... We now have Republicans who have put revenues on the table [and] Democrats on the supercommittee who have put entitlements on the table. Both need to put more on the table and get a result, and we're here to support them.
Republicans are beginning to realize that they cannot possibly win an election in this economy with this many people really hurting by obstructing literally everything the president proposes.  If you're a Republican member of the most unpopular Congress in history, and a deal cannot be reached, and the eurozone blows up, and the economy slips into another global recession, wouldn't you want to say to your constituents that you did literally everything you could, including raising revenues, to protect the US economy from going down the drain again?  I mean, really, at what point does rhetoric about "not one dollar in revenues" become self-defeating?   At what point does "no compromise" jeopardize not only your re-election chances, but the country itself?  Do we really believe Republicans lack the sense of decency to step up when help is most needed?

Please don't think I'm suddenly a cheerleader for the GOP.  Their agreeing to revenue increases at this time is very likely a purely political move.  They are reading the tea leaves, and "Taxed Enough Already" doesn't begin to solve the problem.  What we are witnessing, little by little, is the obsolescence of the Tea Party movement as a serious engine for political and economic change in this country.

Chinks in the GOP Armor

TPM reports on a bi-partisan press conference today.  It seems some Republican lawmakers are actually OK with increasing revenues as part of an overall deficit reduction package.  Republican orthodoxy, of course, doesn't play that way, but it's refreshing to hear a Republican like ND Sen. Mike Crapo say this:
So the fact that you may have members standing here who have different ideas about how far they would personally like to go on taxes or how far they would personally like to go on entitlement reform does not mean that they are not ready to stand here and make the kinds of decisions that will help us as a nation to solve our fiscal crisis.

Break the Model, GOP

Bernstein is right about this:

There is no example of a major party in modern times coming even vaguely close to nominating someone without conventional credentials such as Bachmann or Prince Herman, or even a thrice-married, scandal-tarred former Speaker who has been out of office for over a decade and has ever-multiplying skeletons in his various closets. 

I'm sure Democrats would LOVE to see the GOP prove Bernstein wrong and nominate Bachmann, the Herminator, that third candidate I can't remember, or Newt.  Please, GOP, do it.  Just do it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Photo Card

So Happy Holidays Holiday
View the entire collection of cards.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cartoon of the Day

The schizophrenia of the right-wing media

RINO Alert

Seems that Grover Norquist's Pledge is finding some resistance among Republicans.  Some lawmakers actually want out of their pledge not to vote for tax increases or decreases in deductions.

The Americans for Tax Reform website shows that a total of 1,555 federal and state legislators and executives have signed the pledge, including Democrats Robert Andrew (NJ) and Senator Ben Nelson (NE).  Andrews signed the pledge in 1992, and complained to The Hill that "I'm married to Camille Andrews, not Grover Norquist. I promised her to be faithful until death do us part, and I mean it. I did not promise him to oppose tax increases until death do us part."

Norquist told The Hill that there are no time limits to the pledge, and that the pledges were to the constituents of the legislators, not to him or to his organization. 

Uh, Yeah Right. 

Let's see what happens when one of the pledge signers does not oppose the expiration of the Bush tax cuts next year.  It will be akin to publishing the pictures of deadbeat dads in local newpapers.

I think the results of the vote in Ohio were very scary to Republicans.  Between that vote, the OWS movement, and the efforts of progressives in Wisconsin to recall their governor and state legislators for stripping public employees' unions of collective bargaining rights, the GOP's no-compromise rigidity may have reached the breaking point.  We are going to see GOP lawmakers break ranks in the next year to vote for tax increases for the wealthiest 1% of Americans to help balance the budget and ease the debt.  It is the populist thing to do, and the GOP is nothing if not populist.

We'll see how ideological purity plays in the next year.  Like an out-of-tune violin, if you ask me.

Obama Beats 'Em All

The latest PPP polling results in Ohio:
Obama led Mitt Romney 50-41 on our poll. He was up 11 points on Herman Cain at 50-39, 13 on Newt Gingrich at 51-38, 14 on Ron Paul at 50-36, 14 on Michele Bachmann at 51-37 and a whooping 17 points on Rick Perry at 53-36. It used to be Sarah Palin's numbers that we compared to Barry Goldwater, but Perry's deficit would represent the largest Republican defeat in Ohio since 1964.

Notice who's surged just a bit?  Newt!  Missing from this poll as they are (at this time) completely inconsequential (but don't rule them out as the GOP searches for a Great White Hope): Santorum, Huntsman, and the rest.  Sad for Huntsman, as Andrew notes:
We've seen the polls showing a shift in Americans' views of inequality and their support of higher taxes for the wealthiest as part of a debt-reduction package. We've seen the accelerating moderation on marriage equality and marijuana. We've noticed the Tea Party's further alienation of minority voters, and now, with the Cain circus, possible intensification of the gender gap. We've noticed that increasing numbers of voters, including independents, regard the GOP as potentially sabotaging the economy purely in order to defeat Obama. Now we are seeing the effect of all this in actual elections. And the GOP primary campaign has also underlined just how marginal, ideological and inexperienced many of the presidential candidates are. A party that gives a motivational speaker ten times the support of a two-term governor of Utah, re-elected with 84 percent of the vote, with strong bipartisan credentials and an even stronger tax reform plan ... well, it's a party in free-fall that also doesn't understand that it is.

My emphasis.

As I've predicted numerous times on UYR, the Republican Party is headed for a schism that is being heralded by this free-fall.  The party will split in two, with one side appealing to (mostly) white ideological purists, theocons, and raving lunatic libertarians, while the other draws in the moderates who actually understand how the game is played and that there are quite a few Americans, who don't subscribe to their views, with whom they actually need to work.  Once that schism occurs, you'll see huge messes all over the country as the right wing fights for legitimacy.  It's actually a fight I can't wait to see.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It Will Be Obama vs. Romney

Pivoting off this Matt Steinglass piece in The Economist, it's hard to deny the electoral non-appeal of non-politicians as candidates for president.  The only successful non-politician in the past 100 years was Eisenhower, and he was elected to end a war, not rescue an economy.  In fact, his warnings on the connections between government and industry are proving spot-on. 

This basically means that Herman Cain, the current GOP frontrunner, is more and more looking like toast as time goes on.  If today's allegations of sexual misconduct stick for any length of time -- and it's becoming more and more difficult for Cain to brush them off like so many dandruff flakes -- it'll be the politician, Romney (and NOT Rick Perry) who rises to the top of the very low GOP heap.  And while Romney currently looks good head to head against Obama, time will show (as will the very clever and resourceful Obama campaign team) that everything Romney is proposing has already been proven not to work.

What's the definition of insanity again? 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Our Republican-led House, Hard at Work

This is the substance of what Boehner's House is working on: a debate over commemorating a coin for baseball.  Legislation reaffirming that "In God We Trust" is our motto.  As President Obama says, "That's not putting people back to work.

Andrew on Inequality

The Daily Beast offers an almost-daily video feature called "Ask Andrew Anything."  Today's installment asks Andrew, "What are your thoughts on inequality?"  His money quote:
I think there comes a point at which a certain level of inequality is inherently destabilizing to a political system, and I think we may even have passed that point.  And, therefore, I do not regard doubling down on indifference to inequality as appropriate at this moment. In fact, I think that some pragmatic balancing back, towards the middle of the last century [for example], is a perfectly appropriate position to take as a conservative.

When the last 30 years has produced the greatest distance between the richest one percent and the middle class, when the average CEO makes more than 300 times than the average worker he employs, when our own Congress and Senate, as a percentage of the wealth distribution in this country, can only provide 36 out of 535 seats (6.72%) to the bottom 80% of people in this country, then it's no wonder that Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are popping up all over the nation (with outcomes that are both peaceful and violent).  And while there are opinions on both sides (all sides, really) as to why this inequality has happened, it's impractical for anyone in any socio-economic stratum simply to shrug his shoulders and remain indifferent.  It is true that we are approaching (or may even have reached) the state of oligarchy in this country.  It is even more certain that we have reached a state of plutocracy.  And yet, I see otherwise middle class people, friends of mine on Facebook, extol the evils of a teacher's union that wants to preserve its standard of living while the Republican legislators, on white horses, just want to preserve as much state money for everyone as it can.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Get On Board the Crazy Train

In defending Jon Huntsman against criticism as to why he's not doing better in the polls, Andrew Sullivan sums the GOP up in two devastating paragraphs:
The GOP is a religious and cultural force dominated by evangelicals, and fixated on total rejection of establishment or liberal ideas. Huntsman has acknowledged climate change, alone among the candidates. He has backed civil unions for gays, alone among the candidates. These two positions, in my view, all but dismissed him from the race from the get-go. His radical tax reform ideas are therefore ignored in favor of Herman Cain's. His energy policy is trumped by Perry's desire to turn the entire US into Texas (because Texas is about the only place he barely understands). And he worked for Barack Obama in China and speaks fluent Mandarin (not that I can tell whether he's fluent but he gives a good impression of it on TV). These are all culturally anathema to what the GOP now is.

When you realize this intelligent and capable two-term governor from the rock-ribbed Republican state of Utah, with deep domestic and foreign policy experience, has one tenth of the support of a pizza guy who emerged from motivational speaking and talk radio, and who admits he knows nothing about foreign policy and has never held elective office in his life ... well, you have the core reality of today's Ailes-led, resentment-fueled GOP.

This, dear readers, THIS is why the Republicans will lose in 2012.  Once they embrace reality -- and at some point, they will at the risk of losing relevance -- a guy like Huntsman, who is intelligent, conservative, and sensible in the way Obama is intelligent, progressive, and sensible, can find a home in the GOP.  I fear, however, that it will take a schism in the GOP church over gays and abortion (witness Amendment 26 in Mississippi, which seeks to confer "personhood" status on a fertilized embryo) to create a real political party that can offer reality-based alternatives to the Democratic agenda.

Glenn Greenwald Has a New Book

It's called With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful and can be found on Amazon.  In it, he apparently takes a lot of time to deconstruct the worst foreign policy failure in American history, that being the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  It turns out the CIA had some very major information on one of the 9/11 team that, had it been passed onto other intelligence agencies in the federal government, could have prevented the attacks.  Sullivan highlights an excerpt from an interview between Harper's Scott Horton and Ali Soufan, who is a former government top interrogator for al Qaeda:
Q: The major still-unanswered question from 9/11 may be this: Why did the CIA keep information about Khalid Al-Mihdhar — the 9/11 team member who was identified before the attacks as having a U.S. visa and tracked into the United States — secret from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies? Clearly this information could have been used to stop the 9/11 plot, yet CIA officials lied about it repeatedly, and have never been held to account either for their failure to inform or their lies. Do you have an answer?

A: Sadly no.

To date we’ve never been told why the information wasn’t passed to the team investigating the USS Cole attack, the State Department, or the Immigration and Naturalization Service, nor why he wasn’t put on a no-fly list, all of which were required under U.S. law. The 9/11 Commission Report noted that “Mihdhar had been the weak link in al Qaeda’s operational planning, a mistake KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] realized could endanger the entire plan,” and listed the failure to place Mihdhar on a watchlist and notify the FBI that he had a U.S. visa as one of the mistakes that could have prevented 9/11. The CIA’s inspector general came to the same conclusion, and recommended that an “accountability board review the performance of the CTC chiefs.” But this never happened, and most of the inspector general’s report is classified.

On September 12, 2001, in Sanaa, Yemen, I was handed a file by the CIA that contained information our team investigating the USS Cole bombing had explicitly requested — on three occasions in writing from the director of the FBI to the CIA: in November 2000, April 2001, and June 2001 — concerning Al Qaeda operatives and meetings, which the CIA had said it didn’t have. It turned out the agency had had information on the 9/11 planning summit in Malaysia, and on Al Qaeda operatives we were looking for in Yemen (who had actually been in the U.S. and among the hijackers), among other intelligence that they were legally obligated to share, but hadn’t.

Ten years after 9/11, we don’t have an answer to your question.

For any American to think, "This is water under the bridge," or "Why are we continuing to dwell on the past?" he is a willing accomplice to the crimes of the government.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Peek Inside the GOP Cocoon

From Andrew Sullivan comes the Quote For the Day, a snippet of a Washington Post blog by GOP operative Ed Rogers.  Rogers worked on White House staff for both the Reagan and Bush41 administrations.
Even though Cain won’t be the nominee, his candidacy tells us a lot about the psychology of GOP activists. Our team wants someone authentic, creative, fresh, bold and likeable. And we don’t have much tolerance for too many facts or too much information. In politics, a bumper sticker always beats an essay. Cain’s 9-9-9 is a bumper sticker; Romney’s economic plan is an essay. Perry’s rationale for giving the children of undocumented workers in-state college tuition rates is an essay. No hand-outs for illegal aliens is an effective bumper sticker.
Still, if I had to bet today, I would bet on Obama to win reelection. In American politics, what is supposed to happen tends to happen.

My emphasis.

Oh, what the hell does he know, right?

Talking Out of His Ass Again

Herman Cain gets it wrong on Planned Parenthood.  At some point, perhaps if he wins in Iowa or South Carolina, some reporter is actually going to hold his feet to the fire.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Deja Vu

Reading some of my old posts today.  Here's one that caught my eye.  The quote from Thomas Frank bears re-highlighting in view of this election:

If Barack Obama or anyone else really cares to know what I think, I will simplify it all down to this. The landmark political fact of our time is the replacement of our middle-class republic by a plutocracy. If some candidate has a scheme to reverse this trend, they've got my vote, whether they prefer Courvoisier or beer bongs spiked with cough syrup. I don't care whether they enjoy my books, or would rather have every scrap of paper bearing my writing loaded into a C-47 and dumped into Lake Michigan. If it will help restore the land of relative equality I was born in, I'll fly the plane myself.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Today's Jon Stewart Moment

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan, two Romney quotes within five months of each other:
"I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know that there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past but I believe we contribute to that. And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing," -- June 3, 2011

"My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us." -- October 27, 2011
Cue Stewart's deadpan look into the camera, followed by an excited: "I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't be seen believing in climate change!"

Tea Party Group to Bachmann: "Time to Go"

American Majority, a Tea Party group, on Wednesday urged the Minnesota Congresswoman to give up her bid for president.  Basically, the group's president doesn't want Bachmann, who is the leader of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, to damage the brand of the movement.  He also said that her campaign is more about staying relevant and selling books than about reforming government; "a harsh commentary, but true."

Bachmann's campaign is, of course, dismissing the call, saying that Bachmann "enjoys strong support from Americans across party lines."  Really?  I want to hear from one Democrat, just one, who has legitimate reasons why Bachmann should be the next US president.  I want to hear from just one Libertarian who really thinks Bachmann's candidacy really speaks about freedom for all Americans.  No, I'd venture to guess that her entire support comes from the Tea Party (well, less one group, for sure).

Perry is Nearly Done

Rich Lowry at National Review is tired of Perry's "mindless idiocy" who has done "irreparable" damage to his candidacy with his flirtation with birtherism.

The Fundamental Unseriousness of the GOP

John Podhoretz excoriates the 2012 GOP presidential candidates.  Money quote (hat tip Andrew):
Memo to the Republican field: You’re running for president. Of the United States. Of America. Start acting like it.  Stop proposing nonsense tax plans that won’t work. Stop making ridiculous attention-getting ads that might be minimally acceptable if you were running for county supervisor in Oklahoma. Stop saying you’re going to build a US-Mexico border fence you know perfectly well you’re not going to build.  Give the GOP electorate and the American people some credit. This country is in terrible shape. They know it. You know it. They want solutions. You’re providing comedy.
Comedy that will turn tragic unless the American voters wake up and realize that the only righteous, reality-based, serious choice they have for president is Barack Obama.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"What Do You Mean By Christian?"

Some Sullivan readers take on the issue of the Mormon faith.  Some very interesting insights.  Particularly this one from a Mormon:
Every time I have been asked if I am Christian or am told that I am not Christian, my first question back to the person is what they mean by "Christian"?

The problem I have is the preoccupation with purity.  I was born a Jew, attended a Yeshivah and belong to an Orthodox shul through second grade, moved to a Reform temple in the third grade where I became a Bar Mitzvah and stayed through ninth grade, then moved to a Conservative synagogue in high school where I received my Jewish Confirmation, then left the faith altogether after my divorce, only to return again to a Reform temple after remarrying.  We are raising our sons in that faith.  We attend services occasionally, and the boys attend religious school and even Jewish summer camp through the temple.  We occasionally have Shabbat dinners at our house, and observe many of the religious holidays.  Yet, I eat shellfish and pork, mix milk and meat on the same plate, don't wear a yarmulke unless I'm in the temple, and drive, work, use money and don't rest on the Sabbath.  I support and defend Israel's right to exist, but don't view the government as infallibly carrying the Zionist banner, and resent deeply the political co-opting of Zionism and ass-kissing of Israel by Evangelical Christianity to further their own selfish need to prepare the world for their precious "end times." 

By no measure am I a pure Jew.  But if anyone asked if I considered myself a Jew even though I don't keep kosher or completely honor Shabbat, I'd have one answer: I. Am. A. Jew.  No matter what prism through which you view me, that's what I am.  So why should it be any different for Christians?  Perhaps it's because each sect of the faith carries with it a particular dogma that, if not adhered to "religiously," would otherwise render the faith nonexistent.  But this obsession with purity and fundamentalism has accomplished nothing but to sow international discord.  So fuck that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

D'oh! Those Republicans

Cesca spotlights the doofus Republican moment of the week (so far; it's only Monday).

This would be par for the course, however. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Just Setting the Record Straight...

I hadn't read a thing from Glenn Greenwald in quite a long time.  I found his constant likening of Obama to Bush not only insulting, but tiresome.  But today, I decided to give him another look.

Not much different.   Today, Glenn takes on Obama's announcement today that all U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by year's end, in keeping with the agreement GW Bush entered into in 2008 with the Iraqi government.  Because we know that spinmeisters on both sides will try to take advantage of this announcement to further their respective agendas, Glenn wants to set the record straight.  The piece is a good read, and he has plenty to fault Obama over, but he at least gives him props for adhering to an idea that he influenced during his 2008 campaign.

One thing, however, did stick with me:
The Obama administration — as it’s telling you itself — was willing to keep troops in Iraq after the 2011 deadline (indeed, they weren’t just willing, but eager). The only reason they aren’t  is because the Iraqi Government refused to agree that U.S. soldiers would be immunized if they commit serious crimes, such as gunning down Iraqis without cause . As we know, the U.S. is not and must never be subject to the rule of law when operating on foreign soil (and its government and owners must never be subject to the rule of law in any context).
Good point, especially about the government demanding immunity for its own actions.  To this date, not one Bush administration official who had a material role in prosecuting not only the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but the systemic torture program that provided no actionable intelligence whatsoever, has been identified as a war criminal, indicted, or prosecuted.  And none ever will.  This little point needs constant repeating just to keep it real.


Michele Bachmann's paid campaign staff in New Hampshire quits en masse, as reported by WMUR.  Money quote:
"If we go much longer without seeing her, she's going to turn up on milk cartons," Pat Griffin, a senior fellow at Saint Anselm College's New Hampshire Institute for Politics, said at the time, citing Bachmann's three month absence from the state.
Shelly, meanwhile, is as rosy as ever:
"I've got the complete skill set to do this job," she said last month during a stop in Iowa. The GOP hopeful has also predicted she'll emerge "the comeback kid" in the primary contest.


Oblivious Quote of the Day

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC):
We can go over there and help them build their infrastructure up.  One of the problems I have from leading from behind is when a day like this comes we don’t have the infrastructure in place that we could have.

Is he talking about some remote corner of America with unsafe roads, crumbling bridges, and outdated schools?  No, he's talking going over to LIBYA.  Why?

Let’s get in on the ground. There is a lot of money to be made in the future in Libya. A lot of oil to be produced. Let’s get on the ground and help the Libyan people establish a democracy and a functioning economy based on free market principles. ... We need to get teams on the ground now that can assist this government to make sure that this stuff doesn’t fall into wrong hands.

That would be non-American hands, by the way.

Foot in Mouth, Head Up A**

A candidate for State Senate in New Jersey (one guess his party affiliation) is now apologizing for a September 2 tweet in which he said, "Women, you increase your odds of keeping your men by being faithful, a lady in the living room and a whore in the bedroom."

Just on Thursday, he refused to apologize for that comment, referring to his tweet as "relationship advice" and a "timeword adage."  Uh, yeah right.

And the day before, he told the Philadelphia Inquirer that what he was actually trying to say was that men who can't respect their women and stay faithful are better off going to hookers.

With his apology, he added, "How the voter interprets my response to [the tweets], I don’t care. I don’t care if I get elected or not.  People came after me to run. It would be a tragedy to be denied … over stupid tweets that are misinterpreted"

Oh, I get it.  He didn't really want to do this, and now that he's blown in this badly, he no longer care if he wins or not.  As Herman Cain recently tweeted, "End of story."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nailed It!

Andrew sums up what's happening in the run-up to the real election season.  Money quote:
I also believe that the GOP debates have only underlined how unserious the GOP currently is. Only Romney looks even close to being a credible presidential contender - and yet it is also clear that he does not represent the real soul of the party. But those who do - Perry, Cain, Bachmann - have come across as extremists or blatherers or entertainers. All you hear are stern demands for an end to Obamacare - which hasn't even been put in place yet - and vague promises to cut taxes and spending. Not too specific on jobs, are they?


And, if you haven't noticed, Obama knows how to campaign.

Meep meep, indeed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Soy Independiente"

The Texas state director of Somos Republicans, a Latino activist group whose mission is to bring more Latino voters into the GOP fold, has left the party over recent comments by Herman Cain about installing an electric border fence to kill illegal immigrants, TPM reports.  Lauro Garza now identifies as an Independent.

Cain tried to backtrack on his comment, calling it a joke, but the audience at his speech wasn't laughing; they were cheering.

Garza was an original Reagan revolutionary, voting in his first presidential election (like me) in 1980.  So he's a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. 

His defection may not amount to much in the grand scheme of things, but it is indicative of the GOP's insensitivity to minority issues, and why the GOP will actually suffer a huge defeat in 2012.

The Dangerously Unserious GOP

Jonathan Bernstein sounds the warning to the GOP:
Republicans have some serious questions they could be fighting over, beginning with whether they want to return to George W. Bush's first term foreign policy, and what they actually believe should be done about the economy in the short and long term. If they don't deal with those things now, they're going to wind up (should they win) with someone in the White House who won't really be constrained by actual party preferences on the issues, beyond, you know, not reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. 

It's not Rick Perry and Mitt Romney who aren't serious; it's the party they're trying to lead.

Bernstein writes a blog that a few political pundits like to read.  I wish he'd get read more, because he's so unpretentiously direct.  He can be maddeningly unaffected by what would incense many.  For example, here he asserts that money "just doesn't matter all that much in presidential general elections, given the amount of information available outside of campaign ads."  And here he posts about there not being "any particular reason going in to be alarmed about Perry."  In the comments to that post, I accuse Bernstein of being naive to Perry's shape-shifting, as he adjusts his policy positions "solely based on the direction of the political winds," to which Jonathan replies:
I fully agree that Perry and Romney certainly appear to adopt positions to advance their positions. I just disagree about whether that's a good thing or not; I mostly think it's fine. Noble, no, and I'm not sure about admirable, but generally functional.

See what I mean?  Maddeningly unaffected.  "Generally functional?"  I don't see anything functional about populist opportunism -- generally I see it as dysfunctional, and currently a hallmark of today's GOP.  In fact, Bernstein implicitly contradicts himself, because Perry and Romney actually ARE the party today and will continue to be the party until next November (that is, unless someone else dominates the field).

Monday, October 17, 2011

One Man's Perspective on Love of Country

Ta-Nehisi Coates blogs for The Atlantic.  He's one of Andrew's favorite writers.  With this post, I join Andrew and will now feature his blog site on my website.  So frequently, he soberly and solemnly reflects on his race and its relation to his country.  I wish his voice could be duplicated across the ideological spectrum.

As we have dual, competing movements in the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, both of whom proclaim their love for America and a sincere desire to preserve what's great about it, Coates brings a refreshing perspective as a black man who has transcended his nationalistic and radical beginnings and, finding himself as socially mobile as any white man with his job, tries to put into words what being a patriot actually means:
I think of my parents born into a socially engineered poverty, and I think of their children enjoying the fruits (social mobility) garnered by the nonviolent, democratic assault on that social engineering. And then I consider that for centuries, over the entire world, if your parents were peasants, you were a peasant, as were your children.

I think it is proper to be proud of that change. I would not argue for a pride that insists America has worked out all of its problems, and evidences that work by exporting its institutions via tank and bomber. I would argue for a studied pride, a gratitude, that understands all that was sacrificed, that we could have easily tilted the other way, that the experiment is still, even now, fragile, and remains in constant need of the lost 19th century concept of improvement.

Contrast this humility, mixing pride with gratitude, with the "America, Fuck Yeah!" crowd that boasts that there's nowhere on earth where a person can start from nothing and become a huge success, and that any flaws in our national character wither away in the shadow of so great an accomplishment as "Democracy," or "Capitalism."  Clearly, in light of these two movements, these two words have vastly different meanings.  On one side, we have a true grass-roots movement, unfunded, young, raw, and with a truly wide-open sense of acceptance that America's best days lie ahead.  On the other side, we have a movement of largely older folks with money, whiter, more religious, who believe that America's gone down the toilet with its values and that we have to "take back" our country and return it to its whiter, more Christian roots (or, in fact, introduce a new era where the strict wall of separation between church and state blurs or even develops wide gaps).
If this country is ever going to transcend the grip of polarization, we all need to wake up to the fact that polarization is what the elite want.  To distract us from democracy and capitalism while they enrich themselves. 

People Are Just Pissed Off

I missed this Sullivan post from early this morning, but having seen it now, I'm not sure what Sullivan is calling out.  The two pictures show OWS protesters engaging in their protests while conspicuously consuming corporate products, while Tea Party protesters engage in protest while standing/sitting on a street corner that was completely paid for with taxpayer money.

Cesca rants about the false equivalencies present.  To me, it's hard to take any of it seriously.  We can protest against over-taxation and meddlesome social programs while occupying public property and receiving public funds for health care.  We can protest the over-reach of corporations and the obscene wealth inequality that has all but choked the middle class while wearing Izod shirts, using iPhones, and meeting to organize over lattes at Starbucks.  It's not the existence of any social programs that has the Tea Party up in arms, although their calls to end or seriously cut entitlement programs are perfectly in line with their tendency to subvert their own personal interests.  It's not the existence of corporations that has the OWS movement showing up in growing numbers worldwide. 

As a cousin related to me over the weekend on Facebook, her favorite placard at the OWS gathering on Wall Street was one that read, "We're Here, We're Unclear: Get Used to It."  The lack of coherency in either Tea Party or OWS messages is not the point.  President Obama can rail on and on about the excesses of Wall Street in an eloquent and forceful manner (and he has), but he benefited greatly from corporate and financial sector donations during the 2008 election campaign.  Hypocrisy can be rooted out everywhere, easily (see Swaggart, Jimmy or Vitter, David or Haggard, Ted). 

Instead, let's focus on the fact that people everywhere, from all walks of life, are just pissed off.  I'll spend all day ranting about the Tea Party's racism, or the fact that they are willing pawns of the moneyed class trying to sow seeds of discord loud enough to distract from their efforts to enrich themselves.  I'll also get on the case of the OWS crowd for being painfully unclear and lacking in resources when their opponents are painfully articulate and resourceful.  But their rights to protest are not unclear.

Another Facebook friend posted an epic rant by MSNBC anchor Dylan Ratigan from last week, which hit the nail on the head.  The real enemy is not the Tea Party over there, and it's not the anti-capitalist mobs over here.  It's the unholy alliance between the moneyed class and our politicians at every level of government.  Eisenhower warned us about the military/industrial complex, but he had it only half-right.  It doesn't matter if it's the medical/government complex, or the union/Democratic complex.  The focus is on the money, the money, the money.  As Ratigan shouted, "We have a bought Congress!"  We need to get private money out of politics once and for all, because it is largely the people with the most money who contribute the most to the most influential and powerful politicians.  Do we want action on taxation, healthcare, financial reforms, and the like?  Hell yes.  Well, so long as the law allows for rich corporations to give to political candidates with full anonymity and with the equal protection afforded to human beings, we're not going to end this problem.  Ideally, what we need is one candidate to stand up and proclaim that he/she will from this point forward not take another red cent from private sources but will finance his/her campaign from public funds.  He/she may not win, but if enough attention can be given to that candidate, the message might spread.  It has to be organic, and it has to be honest, and it has to be resonant with Americans who are pissed off. 

Private money has wrested power in this country away from all the people and given it back to the rich white landowners originally vested with electoral rights per the Constitution.  Time to reassert our rights.

"A Spiritual Call To War" for Perry

The Daily Beast on Sunday reported on a series of emails it obtained between a Christian talk radio executive named Dick Bott and David Lane, a Christian "power broker," that suggests the Perry campaign is quietly but persistently using Mitt Romney's Mormon faith against him in the primaries.

Perry has publicly distanced himself from the idea that Romney's Mormon faith is a "cult" that disqualifies him from the presidency.  Despite that, emails from Lane to Bott cite the comments of evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress, who caused a stir at the Values Voters Summit earlier this month by saying that Romney was not a Christian.  Lane wrote: "Getting out Dr. Jeffress [sic] message, juxtaposing traditional Christianity to the false god of Mormonism, is very important in the larger scheme of things.”

Other emails cite a conversation Lane had with a "key Perry aide" where he argued that "the creation of a clarion call to Evangelical pastors and pews is critical and from my perspective is the key to the Primary."

While the official spokesman for the Perry campaign has gone on the record to say that the email exchange "appears to be a private conversation that has nothing to do with our campaign," the implications are very loud and clear: that Rick Perry's campaign has relied heavily on Lane to rally evangelicals to his campaign by pointing out that he is the only one who truly represents their values who can also be nominated and who can beat Barack Obama. 

In fact, Lane writes in one of the emails that he would rather not vote than vote either for Romney or Obama:
“Let me go on the record, I won’t vote for Mitt Romney as Republican nominee in 2012.” He followed the statement with a link to a news article describing Romney’s various ecclesiastical positions in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He also cited Romney’s past positions advocating for abortion and gay rights before adding, “The Soul of America is at stake, where is the Church? Will a Gideon or Rahab the Harlot please stand?” (The last question refers to Biblical characters whom God called to save the Israelites in the Old Testament—an apparent plea for a candidate who will bring America in line with conservative Christian values.)

My emphasis above, as well as below.

One email concluded: “If RP [Rick Perry] can sound the trumpet to Evangelicals, a spiritual call to war for the Soul of America, Christie is weak on our issues.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

Huntsman Campaign Nearly Broke

The field will narrow down shortly.  Huntsman's departure (I know, I'm calling it early -- sue me) will definitely remove a voice of (relative) sanity from the GOP presidential primary.  Although his poll numbers never looked good, he sure had some interesting things to say.  Can't even put him in the running for VP in a Romney or Perry ticket.  Obama should offer him his job back (too salt-in-the-wound harsh?).

The GOP race is looking uglier and uglier. 

Negative Ads Have No Effect?

Nate Silver is someone with whom I usually agree.  His research is impeccable.  He contends that negative campaign ads don't really work.  And I'll probably look like an uninformed fool for saying this, but there have been a number of negative ads in my memory that did actual harm to the targeted candidate.  First off, the infamous "Willie Horton" ads run by the George HW Bush campaign against Michael Dukakis in 1988.  That series of ads showed how Dukakis let a dangerous criminal out of jail, only to have the guy commit more heinous crime.  Second -- the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry in 2004, calling Kerry's version of events into question, making him out to be less patriotic because he criticized US involvement in the Vietnam War after he was discharged from the Navy.  Finally -- in 1990, Senator Jesse Helms ran for re-election against Harvey Gantt, an African American, beating him by only 5% (contrast that with his previous campaign in 1984, when he beat a white opponent by only 4% at the height of the Reagan revolution).  Towards the end of the 1990 campaign, Helms ran an ad that depicted the hands of a white man ripping up an employment rejection notice from a company that gave the job to a "less qualified minority."  Helms took a lot of heat for that ad, but I'm fairly sure that it generated more white votes for him.  Perhaps this is where Silver would say, "Yes, but did that ad turn an election loss into an election victory?"  I'm not sure; probably not.  Hard to beat an incumbent like Helms.  But I think where negative ads really work is in pushing the envelope of what's acceptable ground in an election campaign.  I'm certain that the Atwater ad for Bush41 and the Helms ad made it more acceptable to attack a decorated war hero like Kerry, or for Bush43 to attack McCain in 2000 as someone who was gay, who had illegitimate children, and a drug-addicted wife.

Now You Can See Why Occupy Wall Street is So Upset

Dear Henry Bloget,

Thank you for your post.  Your inspired series of charts, graphs and photos not only informed and entertained, but it perfectly summed up and brought into VERY sharp focus just why the Occupy Wall Street movement (and its anger) exists and needs to continue to exist.  Send this post to every politician, every news media outlet manager, and every teacher, firefighter, police officer, factory worker, union member, nurse, and bank employee in America. 

Here is my favorite one:

CEO pay has skyrocketed 300% since 1990. Corporate profits have doubled. Average "production worker" pay has increased 4%. The minimum wage has dropped. (All numbers adjusted for inflation).

If there could be one charismatic person who could channel what you've compiled and stand up before the American people (someone who is not a politician or a celebrity), the movement would grow exponentially, and the grievances of the few young protestors could spread to ordinary Americans.

As Blodget writes:
The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation's history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.

In other words, in the never-ending tug-of-war between "labor" and "capital," there has rarely—if ever—been a time when "capital" was so clearly winning.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Not a Comedic Headline

Senate Republicans Plan To Unveil A ‘Real’ American Jobs Bill

Here's what the plan will contain, Politico reports: lower tax rates for individuals (read: the rich) and businesses (read: large corporate donors), pursue free trade (so those rich donors can take jobs out of the US), and roll back environmental regulations while expanding domestic energy production (meaning "Drill Baby, Drill).  On top of that, they want to pass a balanced budget amendment. 
Bruce Bartlett had a lot to say about a balanced budget amendment way back in July.  Principally, his take is that it can't be enforced, unless you want to give unelected judges that much power over the economy.  Money quote:
Not only is it a really bad idea to give unelected judges such power, it is not really practical. For example, until the last day of a fiscal year, it would be impossible to say, as a matter of law, that the balanced budget requirement had been violated. At that point, spending would have already occurred, and it’s not really feasible to tell people to send back some of their Social Security checks because the budget was unbalanced. And who is to say what spending was the amount that went above revenues and what wasn’t?

Further, there's just no way that two thirds of both Houses would pass it, that the president would sign it, and that three-quarters of the states would ratify it.  In this day and age, it's politically impossible.  So what is it, then?  Yeah, you guessed it: a political sop to the Tea Party to show the base that the GOP is for sane fiscal conservatism.  Meanwhile, older Tea Party supporters would begin to see their Social Security checks and Medicare coverage shrink, and aid to local governments for vital programs like elder day care and transportation evaporate.  All because they were angry that a black man got elected president.

Shoe on the Other Foot?

Ross Douthat believes that, had McCain been elected instead of Obama, the Democratic Party would have been just as obstructionist against McCain's policy agenda than the Republicans have been against President Obama.
[I]n a McCain presidency Democrats would have faced the same political incentives Republicans face now — where it’s easier to blame a terrible economy on the president than to find ways to cooperate with him — with two added reasons to fight rather than to deal: First, they could have easily pinned the whole of the economic crisis on the G.O.P. (“the Bush-McCain Depression,” etc.), and second, they would have had a potentially unbeatable Hillary Clinton rather than a suspect Mitt Romney waiting in the wings for 2012.

Sorry, Ross, but this Sullivan reader has you nailed:
[The 2008 stimulus bill] passed with a majority of the Democrats supporting it, and a majority of Bush's own GOP *opposing* it! The same thing happened with the TARP bill in the fall of 2008; the Democrats were MORE supportive of Bush's emergency measures than the Republicans were.

When the foundational belief of the Republican Party is "government is the problem, not the solution," They are just not going to behave the way Democrats do.  I can point to many instances where government has made things worse, not better (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are two), but Democrats in the House and Senate tend generally to do what's right over what's politically better for their party more often than their GOP counterparts do.

Amnesty to Canada: Prosecute Bush

Amnesty International on Wednesday called for the Canadian government to arrest and either prosecute or extradite George W. Bush to the U.S. for authorizing torture during his presidency, when Bush arrives in Canada for a scheduled visit on October 20.  AI has stated that failure by Canada to do something about Bush's program of torture, including waterboarding terror suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times, constitutes a violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Human Rights Watch wants the same thing.

As Andrew says, "the Geneva Conventions are either the law or they are not."  By her actions, Canada will determine this.

I'm all for this myself.  Still, I hate to pop their balloons.  Bush's handlers have probably already dealt with this in advance of his visit.  I cannot imagine that the Canadian government would want to rock the world and signal to every current and former head of state that Canada is off-limits to their visits if they want to engage in violations of the Geneva Conventions exercised during wartime.  There are those pesky little issues of trade, and global economic policy, too.  I don't think Canada would want to risk becoming a country no foreign country would invest in over this issue. 

Missing the Point

Andrew Sullivan characterizes this post from  D.R. Tucker at FrumForum as "pinpointing" the source of Romney's unpopularity with the Tea Party.  Tucker's too simplistic.  The real point here is that the Tea Party has no point.  The Tea Party is an unfocused collective of angry, (mostly) white, (mostly) southern (mostly) Christianists who simply cannot abide a president who does not toe an ideologically pure line, especially one who isn't white.  Their anger dominated the GOP after the 2008 election, and those who chose to ride that wave of anger found themselves with enough votes to force out impure incumbents who were willing to make deals with the president and his party.  In this election cycle, successive Republican candidates have seen their popularities rise and fall as the Tea Party witnesses that the reality of politics involves compromise in order to govern.  They seem just to want the angriest candidate who shows no willingness to make deals.  It is classic backlash politics.  The trouble is that they don't represent anything anymore except that anger, and anger doesn't have the legs to dominate the national polity for very long. 

When a CBS News poll in July revealed that nearly two-thirds of Tea Party supporters wanted the GOP to compromise with the Democrats on the debt-ceiling increase, and a solid 53% wanted the deal to be a combination of tax increases and spending cuts, you know that the idea of a monolithic Tea Party "message" of ideological purity is just pure bullshit.

However, Tucker is right that if Romney gets nominated, the Tea Party brand will be finished as a hallmark of the current GOP.  To stay relevant they'd have to split off and form a third party.  My hope is that they will do that, because that would mean Democratic dominance of national politics for a long time.  Not that I expect brilliance from the Dems -- God knows, I'd like to see a lot of those bums out too -- but it would mean more benefits for the greater good.

Monday, October 10, 2011

American Inferno

The town of Centralia, PA has been on fire for nearly 50 years.  Coal mines under the town caught fire in 1962 and have been burning ever since.  It might take another 250 years to consume the fuel under the ground.

The town grew so warm that some residents no longer needed to turn on their basement hot-water heaters. Toxic plumes erupted, tree roots turned to ash, vegetables roasted on their stalks. The earth became unstable, and yawning holes opened into underground pits without warning: in 1981, twelve-year-old Todd Domboski fell into a sulfurous 150-foot-deep maw that appeared suddenly in his grandmother’s backyard, narrowly escaping incineration by grabbing onto a tree root. Efforts to stop the flames—clay seals to cut off oxygen, slurry pumped into the honeycombed caverns—proved useless. In the eighties, the federal government began relocating the town’s remaining population, razing their homes and shutting down a segment of the highway that had erupted.

Feels Like 1968 is Returning

Headline spotted on CNBC's Squawk Box this morning showing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in NYC:
Another Day at Camp Occupy Wall Street
Bob Cesca has this from Fox News.  Seems Chris Wallace thinks OWS is getting too much attention from the mainstream media.

Personally, I'm looking for this to become a huge issue at the 2012 Conventions, like the SDS rallies in 1968.  It's going to get ugly at some point.  There's no sign of a slowdown anywhere.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What Values?

The Values Voter Summit straw poll conducted today has placed Congressman Ron Paul (D-TX) at the head of the GOP field for nomination.  Paul got 37 percent of the vote, while Cain took second and Rick Santorum took third.

We've now had Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain atop the polls.  It just re-affirms what I said earlier, which is that GOP voters are angry, and whoever they pick happens to be the angriest at the moment.  Look for Newt next.

Strains of a Recurring Theme

HuffPost reports on the goings-on at the Values Voters Summit in DC, where the familiar strains of indecision, frustration, and doubt dominate the discussion.  Who can real social conservatives embrace in the race against Obama next year?  Apparently some can take a deep breath and choose Romney, despite his inconsistency around social issues and his Mormon faith.  On the other hand, others want someone who won't compromise and really get into a dogfight against the Democrats -- like Herman Cain or Rick Santorum.  Michele Bachmann, whose "standing room only" crowd at the summit featured not a few empty seats, got the crowd on its feet when she said, "Conservatives, we can have it all this year because Barack Obama will be a one-term president.  Let's finally have one of us in the White House."  A not-so-subtle dig at former president GW Bush?

Those who are trying to get a read on the GOP nominating process right now are going to keep seeing this familiar scene: with no candidate willing to be the loser that Tim Pawlenty was, they will be throwing out their conservative bona fides with gusto to try to persuade the base to go their way.  In the end, though, I think it's going to be either Perry or Romney against Obama, and I relish either of those races.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A "Placeholder Candidate"

Political analyst and blogger Kyle Kondik at the Center for Politics and U.VA. wonders about the seriousness of the Cain campaign:
Cain’s polling numbers are skyrocketing, but then again, this Republican primary battle has been so crazy that another non-politician politician (Donald Trump — remember him?) once led national polls. In fact, as New York Times commentator Nate Silver pointed out recently, 10 different individuals have led at least one national Republican primary poll this year. Cain may very well be a placeholder candidate — a person gaining support in polls and straw polls not because he actually has a chance of winning, but because Republicans are just unsettled and don’t see anyone in the field they are ready to rally around just yet.

Time's Joe Klein thinks Perry is worth a second look:
I’d say that Rick Perry is probably stronger than he seems right now–those who’ve watched him work a crowd think he has excellent retail political skills, which are very important in a place like Iowa. I’d also guess that Herman Cain is an overvalued commodity at the moment–he’s a nice protest parking place for Tea Partisans disappointed by the Bachmann and Perry adventures.

I don't hold myself to be anywhere nearly as competent or insightful as either of these individuals, but here's what I think: I think they're missing a simple truth, one that no one wants to utter because it may be too simple and perhaps insulting to the Grand Old Party (but, since I don't give a shit about them, I'll go ahead and toss it out there).  The GOP, dominated by the Tea Party movement, an older, whiter, and more Christian(ist) body than the party in general, is an angry mob suckling on the backlash teat.  Anger is their raison d’être: anger at losing in 2008 and 2006; anger at being exposed as the fools they truly were in supporting the Bush/Cheney disaster which allowed spending and debt to skyrocket more indiscriminately than during any other presidential administration since WWII; anger that there is a personable, pragmatic, wholesome family man who belongs to a minority group that represents only about 10% of the American population leading the free world.  Enslaved to their anger, they will latch onto ANY candidate on their side who mirrors their anger.  At first it was Donald Trump, who dropped F-bombs with aplomb and blamed the Chinese for our poor economic condition (and who can forget his taking credit for settling the birther controversy?).  Then it was Michele Bachmann, she of the wild conspiracy theories beginning with re-education camps for Obama youth and ending with national vaccination programs that cause Christian whites to go insane (oh, wait, that seemed to work, didn't it?).  Then it was Rick Perry, who rode in on his (what else?) white horse, swinging his big secessionist dick and attacking Social Security as an unconstitutional Ponzi scheme.  And now it's Herman Cain, a man with two black parents who says everyone who isn't rich like him has only themselves to blame for not working hard enough.  He seems really, really angry.  In fact, every time I see a picture of him online or on TV, he looks like this:

Given his recent invective against the Occupy Wall Street protestors, this picture makes me recall the great words of another black man, Jimi Hendrix:
White collar conservative walking down the street
Pointing that plastic finger at me
Hoping that my kind will soon drop and die
But I'm gonna wave my freak flag high... HIGH!

So, in a way, Kondik is right that he is a placeholder candidate, but the truth is -- they have ALL been placeholder candidates.  Placeholder candidates for the anger of the loony Tea Party right wing.  As soon as someone angrier comes along (Gingrich, perhaps, or maybe Paul?) that person will surge in the polls.  The Tea Party was so hopeful of a Palin candidacy because she is the raw nerve ending of white, Christianist, IGNORANT backlash anger (funny how she was right to call Cain "flavor of the week," by the way).  It's one reason why Romney does so poorly with the Tea Party -- he's not angry enough.

The problem for the GOP is that anger eventually has to give way to reason when there are about a hundred million other Americans who are angry, for reasons that are slightly more rational.  And, absent any alternatives for the Obama express with regard to fixing the economy (other than "wait till we are in the White House and things will get way better, you'll see"), right now their anger looks eventually to morph into rage, more than likely of the racist kind.  And ain't no way they'll win the election that way.