Saturday, October 31, 2009


You've probably heard the news that Dede Scozzafava, the official Republican candidate in New York's 23rd congressional district, has dropped out of the race, after nearly the entire GOP establishment began rallying around Doug Hoffman, the litmus-test wingnut who's running on the Conservative Party line.

NY-23 has long been a Republican-leaning district, albeit a moderate one that backed Barack Obama in 2008. What's striking to me is that, according to Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling, Hoffman the wingnut was blowing Scozzafava (and Democrat Bill Owens) away even before the Republican dropped out:

So this morning around 10 AM I started up our NY-23 poll and after a few hundred interviews it appeared that Doug Hoffman was now running away with it -- unweighted numbers showed him at 45% to 26% for Bill Owens and 17% for Dede Scozzafava.

Then came the news that Scozzafava was suspending her campaign....

I expect Hoffman will win easily now, but if our early numbers were any indication what Scozzafava did doesn't make much difference- he was going to win easily with or without her in the race....

So teabaggers have taken over the party? I'd put it another way: the Club for Growth and Michelle Malkin (who repeatedly calls the centrist Scozzafava a "radical leftist" and Dick Armey (wingnut Hoffman's chaperone at a recent interview with a newspaper in the district) and Fox News and talk radio have now taken over the party ... and the docile sheep who form the rank and file now do whatever they're told. Hoffman wasn't even close to the front of the pack a short time ago -- but high-profile endorsements (e.g., by Sarah Palin) have given the zombie GOP nation its marching orders, and Republicans are doing as they're told.

Yeah, we tried to force Joe Lieberman out of the Connectict Senate race three years ago -- albeit democratically, via a primary -- but if we'd been like 2009-style Republicans, Ned Lamont would have won the primary in a landslide and Lieberman would have been running a distant third in the polls at the time of his inevitable withdrawal from the race. I'm not saying the actual outcome was a good thing -- hell, no -- but Republicans have gone to the opposite extreme.

Arlen Specter defected before he could be purged. Scozzafava has been purged. Charlie Crist may be next. I won't be at all surprised if it turns out that Snowe and Collins in Maine are much more vulnerable than they now seem.

I wonder if, at some point, the same leaders who are leading the base by the nose in this direction are going to subtly steer them a hair to the left, declaring more-electable Republicans the genuine article and tamping down the pitchfork talk. They're not stupid. And I wonder if the sheep will even notice the difference.

Friday, October 30, 2009


The Catholic Church makes a pronouncement -- but surely won't have the courage to take it to its logical conclusion:

The Vatican has condemned Hallowe'en as anti-Christian, saying it is based on a sinister and dangerous "undercurrent of occultism".

The Holy See has warned that parents should not allow their children to dress up as ghosts and ghouls on Saturday, calling Hallowe'en a pagan celebration of "terror, fear and death".

... The Vatican issued the warning through its official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, in an article headlined "Hallowe'en's Dangerous Messages".

The paper quoted a liturgical expert, Joan Maria Canals, who said: "Hallowe'en has an undercurrent of occultism and is absolutely anti-Christian." ...

Last year a newspaper controlled by the Italian bishops, Avvenire, called for a boycott of Hallowe'en, calling it a "dangerous celebration of horror and the macabre" which could encourage "pitiless [Satanic] sects without scruples"....

I spent five years in a Catholic grammar school, and Halloween was celebrated -- with big cardboard ghosts and goblins -- every year I was there. You want to be morally consistent, guys? Have the guts to order your schools in America not to celebrate this holiday in this "anti-Christian" way. But you aren't doing that, as a quick check via Google makes clear.

Why am I bringing this up? Because it reminds me of the way the church postures on abortion. If you're a Catholic politician who's pro-choice and you're running for high office, bishops will line up to attack you, threatening excommunication or the withholding of communion. But the church doesn't dare threaten rank-and-file Catholics the same way. It opposes birth control and in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research, but it doesn't have the guts to say to ordinary Catholics, "If you defy us on these matters, you're not welcome at the communion rail." In individual parishes, this could be a major battle. Some Catholics would dare the church to take them on. Others would feel the need to take sides. It would get ugly.

The church doesn't want that. The church wants to get on its moral high horse, but the church doesn't want to drive away members in the one rich country where membership is still high. If this were a matter of principle, it would take on cafeteria Catholics. It isn't really, so the church doesn't.

You probably know that, in addition to saying he'll filibuster a health-care bill with a public option, Joe Lieberman -- clearly begging for attention -- has now told an ABC reporter that he may not try to get Connecticut's Democratic Senate nomination in 2012, and will probably support some Republicans for Congress in 2010.

Here's what he said:

"There's a hard core of partisan, passionate, hardcore Republicans," Lieberman said. "There's a hard core of partisan Democrats on the other side. And in between is the larger group, which is people who really want to see the right thing done, or want something good done for this country and them -- and that means, sometimes, the better choice is somebody who's not a Democrat."

Really, Joe? Is that how you feel? Too many people are just too gosh-darn partisan, including folks in your favorite party, the GOP?

Well, man up and do something about it. Why don't you endorse Dede Scozzafava in NY-23? If this is all about principle, about centrism, about defying political polarization, why don't you endorse a Republican who doesn't vote in lockstep with her party, and is being punished for it by angry hardcore partisans?

Oh, yeah, I forgot: backing Scozzafava wouldn't hurt Democrats, would it?

The better she does, the worse the wingnut-approved Doug Hoffman does, and the more likely it is that the Democrat would win in that district. And backing Scozzafava wouldn't sit well with all your pals in Fox Nation, would it? (And, increasingly, within the GOP establishment.) So you'd never stick up for her and for centrism in her district, would you, Mr. Last Honest, Principled Man?

On the other hand, I imagine you'll travel to Florida to try to persuade all those lifelong-Democrat retirees from the New York metro area to vote for Charlie Crist for Senate -- though you probably won't back him until after the primary against wingnut-approved Marco Rubio (again, wouldn't want to offend the folks in Foxworld!).

Yeah, I bet it'll be all about principle for you -- the principle of twisting the knife after stabbing Democrats in the back.

Peggy Noonan has written more offensive columns, and more ridiculous columns, but I don't think she's ever written a dumber column than this one:

The new economic statistics put growth at a healthy 3.5% for the third quarter. We should be dancing in the streets. No one is, because no one has any faith in these numbers. Waves of money are sloshing through the system, creating a false rising tide that lifts all boats for the moment.

So wait -- all of our boats are being lifted? Or they aren't? So we're not dancing in the streets because they are rising, in a false way, or because the rise is not a rise?

Really, Peggy, it's much simpler: some boats are being lifted. A lot of us understand that. A lot of us know that GDP goes up but conditions don't getter better right away, especially in the area of employment. It's called "Economics 101."

... The biggest threat to America right now is not government spending, huge deficits, foreign ownership of our debt, world terrorism, two wars, potential epidemics or nuts with nukes. The biggest long-term threat is that people are becoming and have become disheartened, that this condition is reaching critical mass, and that it afflicts most broadly and deeply those members of the American leadership class who are not in Washington, most especially those in business.

Um, no. Even this lefty doesn't believe that capitalism grinds to a halt, permanently, because the people who run businesses become disheartened.

They don't. Or if some do, others with dollar signs in their eyes rush in and take their place. If conditions get better and there are opportunities to be seized, seizing will happen.

It is a story in two parts. The first: "They do not think they can make it better."

I talked this week with a guy from Big Pharma, which we used to call "the drug companies" until we decided that didn't sound menacing enough.

I assume this is one of "those members of the American leadership class who are not in Washington." I accept Noonan's word that he's "not in Washington." He's just represented by some really, really well-positioned people in Gucci loafers who are in Washington.

He is middle-aged, works in a significant position, and our conversation turned to the last great recession, in the late mid- to late 1970s and early '80s. We talked about how, in terms of numbers, that recession was in some ways worse than the one we're experiencing now. Interest rates were over 20%, and inflation and unemployment hit double digits. America was in what might be called a functional depression, yet there was still a prevalent feeling of hope. Here's why. Everyone thought they could figure a way through. We knew we could find a path through the mess. In 1982 there were people saying, "If only we get rid of this guy Reagan, we can make it better!" Others said, "If we follow Reagan, he'll squeeze out inflation and lower taxes and we'll be America again, we'll be acting like Americans again." Everyone had a path through.

Um, really? Let me introduce you to some fellows who were discussing the state of America in 1982. They didn't have "a prevalent feeling of hope." They would have said they "knew we could find a path through the mess." A lot of people felt exactly the way they did, which is why this song was a huge hit:

Now they don't. The most sophisticated Americans, experienced in how the country works on the ground, can't figure a way out. Have you heard, "If only we follow Obama and the Democrats, it will all get better"? Or, "If only we follow the Republicans, they'll make it all work again"? I bet you haven't, or not much.

Actually, I hear things like that all the time. Mostly, I hear them from people on your side, Peggy -- teabaggers who say, "We have to take our country back from the Kenyan Muslim socialist usurper! Then we just have to lower taxes, and also seal the borders and deport all the immigrants and kill and torture all the terrorists and solve all our health-care problems with tort reform! And do something about that Soros guy!"

Occasionally I hear it from our side -- "Just primary all the Conservadems!" But, yeah, I hear stuff like that a lot.

... Part of the reason is that the problems -- debt, spending, war -- seem too big. But a larger part is that our federal government, from the White House through Congress, and so many state and local governments, seems to be demonstrating every day that they cannot make things better. They are not offering a new path.

Trying to achieve near-universal health care: not a new path. Cap-and-trade to encourage development and use of alternative fuels: not a new path. Same old, same old.

... And so the disheartenedness of the leadership class, of those in business, of those who have something.

Ah, now we come to the crux of the matter: this isn't about us, it's about them. It's those guys who are grumpy.

This week the New York Post carried a report that 1.5 million people had left high-tax New York state between 2000 and 2008, more than a million of them from even higher-tax New York City. They took their tax dollars with them -- in 2006 alone more than $4 billion.

Oh, bloody hell. This is a crock, Peggy. See my post.

...I talked with an executive this week with what we still call "the insurance companies" and will no doubt soon be calling Big Insura. (Take it away, Democratic National Committee.) ... The executive said of Washington: "They don't understand that people can just stop, get out. I have friends and colleagues who've said to me 'I'm done.'" He spoke of his own increasing tax burden and said, "They don't understand that if they start to tax me so that I'm paying 60%, 55%, I'll stop."

Ah, there it is. Going Galt! Hey, we really could do it, you know! So don't mess with us!

I said it above and I'll say it again: This can't happen. If there's opportunity in an economy and some idiots walk away from it in a fit of pique over, God forbid, being taxed, or regulated, no biggie -- someone else will seize the opportunities. That's the way capitalism works -- money-making opportunities simply don't go unseized. The bizarre thing is that Ayn Rand, the alleged High Priestess of Capitalism, didn't understand that. She was just so jealous of communists and socialists and union workers who seemed able to organize collectively. But they were doing it to empower themselves. Collective action to disempower yourselves -- if it could ever happen -- would never leave the power you abandoned just lying around. Someone would take it.

He felt government doesn't understand that business in America is run by people, by human beings. Mr. Frank must believe America is populated by high-achieving robots who will obey whatever command he and his friends issue. But of course they're human, and they can become disheartened.

Wait -- they're not going Galt for political reasons. They're pouty! They're mildly depressed!

Won't someone give our poor, disheartened executives a hug? Or an Abilify?

...And here is the second part of the story....

When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax -- health care, cap and trade, etc. -- I think: Why aren't they worried about the impact of what they're doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?

I think I know part of the answer. It is that they've never seen things go dark....

They don't feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about....

We are governed at all levels by America's luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they're not optimists -- they're unimaginative. They don't have faith, they've just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are callous, and they don't mind it when people become disheartened. They don't even notice.

Right. Barack Obama: born to a teenage mother and a father who abandoned him and then died. Mother remarried and moved him to Indonesia. Later, mother went off to do fieldwork and sent him back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents. Pretty much everywhere he went, he was one of the only black people he saw.

Lived in New York as a student during a period of severe economic downturn. Moved to Chicago to work with poor people. Married a woman who grew up on the South Side of Chicago.

Yeah, that guy's just had it so freaking easy, hasn't he?

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Here's David Brooks, from an online conversation with Bob Herbert on the New York Times site:

The Obama administration has sent the country off to the right. The president is creating a counter-realignment.

Voters don't identify with the G.O.P. but the number of people who call themselves conservative is now near an all-time high.

Er, Bobo? Reports of that uptick are based on this Gallup survey, and while the percentage of conservatives is (disturbingly) high, it's barely higher than it's been at any time in the past 17 years:

Percentages calling themselves conservative, as recorded twice a year since 1992: 36, 39, 38, 36, 38, 37, 37, 38, 38 38, 38, 40 40, 38, 37, 37, 37 ... and now 40.

Um, that's not a huge, paradigm-shifting leap. To say the least.

Brooks goes on to say:

Meanwhile, Bill Galston, who served in the Clinton administration and is one of the smartest political observers I know, sums up the public mood nicely in an article in The New Republic:

Far more independents (35 percent) consider themselves conservative than was the case a year ago (only 29 percent)....

Galston says (and Brooks agrees) that this is because the public is moving rightward on a number of issues. That's true to some extent, as revealed elsewhere in the Gallup poll linked above.

But look at the chart -- the overall percentage of conservatives has barely budged. So what's going on?

Well, duh -- remember all those surveys showing incredibly low Republican party affiliation? What's happening is that right-wingers who used to think of themselves as Republican now call themselves "independent" -- because they don't think the GOP is wingnutty enough.

So it's not that independents of long standing are become more right-wing. It's that it's now cool on the (far, far) right to call yourself an independent. If Brooks knew what he was talking about, he'd know that.

(Via Balloon Juice.)

I'm somewhat surprised by the right-wing media's relative restraint in response to news that President Obama greeted returning war dead at Dover Air Force Base -- the story's being ignored or downplayed by the shrillest of the president's critics, and there's even some right-wing praise: Peter Hegseth at National Review Online calls it "a classy move," while Rick Moran (brother of ABC's Terry Moran) said, "the emotion that animated his face during this solemn, heart rending ceremony showed that he understands his responsibilities."

But that's not giving the rank amd file what they want. Here are the Freepers:

How dare he desecrate it with his unworthy presence.

This is just a photo-op to show him "struggling mightily' with his "grave decisions" about sending our troops "into harm's way".


Why do I not believe he will feel any emotions for the fallen heroes, only for himself and what it will mean for him?


... His narcissism is his guide.

I can't help thinking that the main reason Murdoch and Malkin and the rest are refraining from talk like this right now is that they don't want to be accused of insulting the troops themselves. A few right-wing bloggers aren't holding back though -- Abdul at Hyscience calls the visit a "carefully choreographed, cynical, ploy using our fallen troops as a campaign-like photo-op to make look like he actually gives a damned about our troops," and a couple of commenters quoted favorably by Gateway Pundit made similar remarks ("It is also thoroughly abhorrent to me that the current commander-in-chief of the armed forces of The United States of America is attempting to project an understanding of the honor and gravity involved in what is taking place before him").

When and how will this go mainstream? Oh, give it a few days. The message may come first from the more clownish righties (Coulter, Beck, Limbaugh, Dennis Miller), the ones who don't even pretend to have gravitas. Or maybe it'll get assigned to the likes of Ralph Peters or Ollie North (or one of the Cheneys). It's also possible -- since even some of the right-wing praise is being coupled with messages to the effect of now that you see the gravity of the situation, Mr. President, you'd better not screw up your new Afghanistan plan -- that the righties are waiting for that plan to be announced, at which point they'll promptly declare Obama a cowardly America-hater and his Dover visit a hypoocritical farce (because, of course, no one can sincerely mourn war dead who doesn't want to send as many troops as humanly possible anywhere John McCain and Joe Lieberman want them sent).

For now, though, the relative quiet is gratifying.


UPDATE: Not a word about Dover on Limbaugh's show today? Yeah, the word has definitely gone out that they should hold their fire for now.


UPDATE, FRIDAY: I said a Cheney might be the one to take up this line of attack (or be the hit person designated by Wingnut Central -- I'm never quite sure how these things actually work), and, well, that's what happened: it's Liz. Steve Benen has the details.
My President. Up Past Bush's Bedtime.


This is brilliant.

Wingnuts are treating the three-way race in New York's 23rd congressional district as a battle of Good (Doug Hoffman, the litmus-test right-winger who's running on the Conservative Party line) vs. Evil (non-conservatively correct Republican Dede Scozzafava as well as Democrat Bill Owens). If you're a "true conservative," even a true Republican, there's no choice: either you shun Scozzafava as you would a pedophile al-Qaeda member with swine flu, or you're the enemy. So I'm amused that someone at Free Republic just dug up a month-old story from a local paper in the district, the Watertown Daily Times:

Hoffman was for Scozzafava before he was against her

Doug Hoffman pledged to help Dede Scozzafava in an e-mail sent two days after the Republican Party passed over the Lake Placid accountant for the nomination.

The e-mail, sent from Mr. Hoffman's business account on July 24 and provided by the Scozzafava campaign, states in full: "Hi Dede, Congratulations and the best of luck in your candidacy. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. Doug."

This is contrary to what Mr. Hoffman, who is now running against Ms. Scozzafava as a Conservative candidate, told me less than two weeks later.

"I never promised that I would support Dede Scozzafava," he said....

Omigod! In bed with the Antichrist! Ah, but Hoffman had an excuse -- his dog ate his due diligence!

I asked Mr. Hoffman today - through his spokesman - to explain why he told Ms. Scozzafava one thing and me another.

Here's the response I got from Rob Ryan, Mr. Hoffman's spokesman: "Like most Republicans, Doug Hoffman had no idea how liberal Dede Scozzafava is. The fact that Scozzafava has voted for higher taxes, increased spending and gay marriage proves she is way to liberal for the voters of upstate New York."

To me, it doesn't add up. Mr. Hoffman was at multiple meetings with Ms. Scozzafava before she was picked, where he had ample opportunity to hear the candidate speak on a variety of issues and talk to her himself. Now he's suggesting he didn't learn about her record during those meetings and figured it out AFTER he sent the e-mail. There was plenty of media who suggested Ms. Scozzafava held "liberal" positions before July 24, but apparently Mr. Hoffman wasn't paying attention to any of them.

"Gee, I didn't know anything about the candidate I was endorsing" -- that's certainly a confidence-inspiring message. And it dovetails nicely with the complete ignorance of local issues displayed by Hoffman (who doesn't actually live in the congressional district) when asked about them by the Daily Times:

Regarding the proposed rooftop highway across the top of the district linking Watertown to Plattsburgh, Mr. Hoffman said only that he was open to studying the idea that has been around for years and will require federal financial assistance to complete.

Mr. Hoffman had no opinion about winter navigation and widening the St. Lawrence Seaway with their potential environmental damage. He was not familiar with the repercussions of a proposed federal energy marketing agency for the Great Lakes, which could pay for Seaway expansion contrary to district interests.

A flustered and ill-at-ease Mr. Hoffman objected to the heated questioning, saying he should have been provided a list of questions he might be asked. He was, if he had taken the time to read the Thursday morning Times editorial raising the very same questions.

Oh, but he brought Dick Armey along -- y'know, Dick Armey from Texas? -- and the chaperone

dismissed regional concerns as "parochial" issues that would not determine the outcome of the election.

Screw you and your proposed rooftop highway, peasants! We have a movement to build!

Then again, given the conservative movement's list of recent heroes -- George W. Bush for many years, Sarah Palin, Carrie Prejean, Joe the Plumber -- I would imagine not having a clue would be regarded as a feature, not a bug.

Hoffman was last seen by the Daily Times avoiding a debate with the other two candidates last night.


UPDATE: Uh-oh -- Mitt Romney is refusing to issue an endorsement in the New York race. Buh-bye, Mitt. You just lost the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

That headline's meant to be provocative ... but I'm looking at the response to Democrats (and the one semi-Democrat) who are threatening to block a public option, and I'm thinking about our side's standard angry response (Primary them! Withhold support next time they run! Run a campaign revealing their betrayal of Democratic principles!) and I'm thinking that the emptiness of such threats was made perfectly clear on November 7, 2006, when all that had actually happened to Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont still couldn't beat him -- in a very blue state. If overthrowing the top dog is your goal, you damn well better succeed, because if you fail, you look weak. Progressives failed in Connecticut in 2006. What smart politician wouldn't get the message?

So when I'm at Politico and I'm reading that MoveOn is threatening to withhold support from senators like Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, I just roll my eyes. You think these people are afraid of MoveOn? In their states?

I keep pointing you to Gallup's survey of political ideology by state. The states in which these Democrats were elected break down this way, based on poll respondents' descriptions of themselves

Arkansas: 43% conservative, 16% liberal, 36% moderate
Nebraska: 39% conservative, 19% liberal, 39% moderate
Louisiana: 47% conservative, 14% liberal, 35% moderate

If that's the voter breakdown and these voters voted for a Democrat, then they didn't want that Democrat to be a liberal. Threats from liberal groups aren't going to help.

I know, I know: liberals and moderates favor the public option, and if you put together a coalition of liberals and moderates and give them what they want, surely you'll be reelected. But liberals and moderates aren't adequately politicized -- they don't stand up for what they want. They don't vote, or withhold votes, based on fealty to progressive (or even moderate) principles -- that's the message of Connecticut '06.

(And there are a hell of a lot more moderates than liberals in Connecticut -- 41% of Connecticut residents are moderates, and only 24% are liberals, according to Gallup. Conservatives are 31% of the electorate -- yup, there are more conservatives than liberals in Connecticut. There are more conservatives than liberals in all 50 states, because most non-red states are dominated by mushy moderates.)

I think wingnut Republicans are extremists who believe insane things -- but I envy thir level of political engagement. They know what they want and they vote accordingly. They've engineered a coup in upstate New York's 23rd congressional district, and they're making Charlie Crist sweat in Florida. Right-wingers know how to rally a base -- and, ultimately, politicians -- around an ideology. Our side has learned in recent years how to get whoever happens to be called a Democrat elected -- but no more than that.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need to make more liberals in this country. We need to politicize more ordinary Americans the way the right-wing crazies have. We need a politicized, demanding voting bloc politicians fear. Until we have that, Conservadems know they're free to tell us where we can stick MoveOn.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


... showed up twice in the first eight and a half minutes of ABC's news broadcast this evening -- once grumbling about the fact that failed presidential candidate Barack Obama still hasn't deployed additional troops to Afghanistan (anchorman Charlie Gibson to foreign-affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz: "When John McCain says something like that, you wonder if it reflects what military leaders are saying privately"; Raddatz said the answer is no), and once angrily demanding that failed presidential candidate Barack Obama make changes in the swine-flu vaccine program. Failed presidential candidate Barack Obama, understandably, didn't show up in the broadcast until about the ten-minute mark, when he was seen signing the hate-crimes bill.

Hail President McCain!
On the Lighter Side--Because We Can't Always Be Hating On Joe Lieberman

--h/t First Draft from Wonkette:

Meet Roland Corning! Roland Corning, a 65-year-old married man, likes two things: 1. being an assistant district attorney in South Carolina and 2. filling his Ford Explorer with sex medicine and sex toys and 18-year-old prostitutes (for sex) and taking all these things to the local cemetery on Monday afternoons (for sex). This is illegal, all of it, well all of the second part. Except when a South Carolina policeman stopped Corning outside of his ad hoc graveyard pleasure den, he did not charge him with any crime after Corning identified himself as the Roland Corning, assistant district attorney and celebrated tombside rake.

The State has all the details from the police report:...

The searrch revealed a sex enhancement drug and some sex toys. According to the report, Corning told Wines he had a prescription for the medication and the other items were always in the car “just in case.”

Athenae and I both love the thread comments that follow--especially this one:

Guess he had to use the cemetery because the Sex Police closed the Appalachian Trail.

Although I also love the simplicity of "Just in Case: for the win."
Politics as a Profession:

Steve Benen points us to this salient observation by Matt Yglesias:

Matt had a good piece a couple of weeks ago about the nature of political parties. "The Senate Republican caucus is organized, like the House caucuses of both parties, like a partisan political organization whose objective is to advance the shared policy objectives of the party. The Senate Democratic caucus, by contrast, is organized like a fun country club trying to recruit members. Join Team Democrat and Vote However You Want Without Consequence! But it's no way to get things done."
We've seen this line taken over and over again with the various outlier members of the Democratic Caucus--so long as they are outliers on the right, of course! No such comity for freaks on the left. But this is more than a problem for "getting things done." Its an insult--an insult to the voters who are asked to give time and money and votes to a candidate and to a party. No one voted for "good old Joe" or for "good old Chris Dodd" to be able to go play in the sandbox every day with their friends. We voted for them--if we did--to fucking get some shit done for the voters. I don't care if Lieberman hates his job every day. I don't care if he gets up and complains to Haddassah that the other Senators were mean to him. He was hired by the people of CT to do things for them. The Democrats and Obama were hired by the voters to get some things done. Every time Obama and Reid allow some Democrats to break ranks they are allowing all the Democrats to break faith with the voters on this central issue: we voted for the party because the party said it would do things *as a party.* They told us they needed the White House, the Congress, and the Senate to do those things. We did our part, now they have to do theirs.

The health care debate has been marred by the weirdest and most blinkered kinds of class entitlement since the get go. Very few of the Senators, even the ones promoting Health Care Reform, have bothered to inform themselves of the stakes, or the issues, or the costs, of the very bills they claim to be working on. Very few of them seem to grasp that the majority of Americans are one medical disaster away from bankruptcy. Or that the uninsured and the underinsured actually die for the lack of the safety net that is freely available in other industrialized countries. That's one kind of class based blindness. But the other, which seems to exist purely on the Democratic side, is this strange notion that the voters give a shit who is friends with who in the Senate. Not only do we not care who is friends with who, or who has drunk and danced and commiserated with who over a long and well paid career. We don't even believe it. Lieberman isn't "friends" with democrats like Kerry or Obama--he showed that during the previous campaigns. And he isn't friends with anyone, really--Dodd and Reid keep using friendship and comity as shields against enforcing party line loyalty. But you can't have it both ways on this one. Either the guy is a loyal Democrat by vote (which he's not) or he's a dangerous enemy who must be controlled. Either way this continued insistence that friendship and comity are the issue are just another form of class privilege: the privilege, shared by children and important people, of believing that the world revolves around you and your pleasures. The rest of the world gets up and goes to work regardless of whether it is with friends or enemies, regardless of whether it includes ego gratification.

TPM articulated the bitch slap theory of politics to analyze the Republican Strategy underlying the Swift Boat attacks on Kerry. Basically, he argued that the Republicans were using insults and aggressive smears to demonstrate to the public that Democrats were unable to protect themselves from attack. It scarcely mattered what the attack --in fact, the sillier the better--because the goal was to make the Democrats under react (in which case they looked weak) or overreact (in which case they looked hysterical). Lieberman (and Bayh and the rest of them) are bitch slapping the Democratic Caucus and the President. As usual the Democrats have chosen the Kerry strategy of trying to rise above it all. "Joe will be Joe!" "Joe's a good friend of mine!" Blah, blah, blah. This worked spectacularly well for Kerry when he failed to respond aggressively to the Swift Boaters and its going to work just as well with Lieberman.

I'm not arguing that Lieberman or Bayh's strategy is an electoral one--that is, aimed at the electorate-- I'd say its more pathological at this point. But it will have devastating electoral consequences if it isn't nipped in the bud. Even if, by some miracle, the White House and Reid manage to hold the caucus together long enough to get to cloture on the opt out Public Option allowing this kind of bitching and moaning from the right wing fringe of the party is already having devastating consequences for the strength of the eventual Public Option, Health Care Reform, and for the prestige of the President and the Democratic Party. That's going to hurt, down the line. And I submit that those things aren't Obama's and Reids to give away. When they allow themselves to be bitch slapped by Lieberman, Bayh, et al they are allowing all of us to be attacked. And when they don't respond? We are all of us hurt.


Hey, Rupert Murdoch: You own two newspapers here; one of them you've owned for about thirty years. You own two TV stations here. Your "news" channel is headquartered here.

You'd think your reporters would learn that taxes are the same in the entire city -- which includes four other boroughs besides Manhattan.

But no -- here's a right-wing propaganda piece your New York Post ran yesterday:

New Yorkers are fleeing the state and city in alarming numbers -- and costing a fortune in lost tax dollars, a new study shows.

More than 1.5 million state residents left for other parts of the United States from 2000 to 2008, according to the report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy. It was the biggest out-of-state migration in the country.

The vast majority of the migrants, 1.1 million, were former residents of New York City -- meaning one out of seven city taxpayers moved out....

Why all the moving vans?

The center, part of the conservative Manhattan Institute, blames the state's high cost of living and high taxes....

How do we know this is a crock? Oh, maybe from this:

...The study also revealed surprising details about how city residents moved from borough to borough.

Manhattan lost 64,480 taxpayers, and more than half -- 34,383 -- went to The Bronx.

Brooklyn lost 68,951 taxpayers -- including 43,688 who went to Staten Island....

Right -- even though taxes in those boroughs are identical. Housing costs aren't, however. Gee, you think maybe there could be some reason other than taxes for people to flee to the outer boroughs? And that maybe, just maybe, the same is true for people leaving the state altogether? You think maybe it's just easier, and cheaper, to live somewhere else for a lot of reasons, like being able to buy a house for possibly a fifth of the cost of a sublet of a storage closet here?

Or do you think maybe people are just leaving New York because that's what people always do, and have done since forever? Y'know -- young people come here to make it, get frustrated, go to grad school somewhere else. Or they fall in love, get hitched, have kids, move to Jersey. Or lifelong residents decamp to Florida after they retire. And gosh -- guess what two states have the highest number of ex-New Yorkers?

While New York City and the state were the losers, the Sunshine and Garden States were winners. more than 250,000 New Yorkers who lived in and around the city fled to Florida. Another 172,000 city taxpayers ended up in New Jersey.

Yup -- even though another Murdoch story on the same study, this one in today's Wall Street Journal, says that

highly taxed and economically lackluster states were most likely to end up in residents' rear view mirrors. According to the annual study by United Van Lines, states like New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Illinois have been big losers in recent years.

So people are fleeing high-tax New York for high-tax New Jersey -- because of the taxes! Yup, makes sense to me.

Oh, and the Post story says:

The peak loss of New Yorkers was in 2005, when nearly 250,000 residents left the state. But last year, only 126,000 left, the lowest figure over the eight-year period.

So, did taxes peak in 2005? No.

Did they plummet in 2008? No.

So where's the cause and effect?

What else? Oh, Choire Sicha of the Awl actually read the study and found that

In real fact, the population of New York state grew 2.7% from 2000 to 2008....

So high state taxes didn't drive people out of the state?

Rupert, your explanation?

Well, of course: the White House revealed yesterday that Malia and Sasha have been vaccinated for swine flu -- but the folks at think that's a lie:

I didn't see it. I don't believe it!


Prove it


I don't believe it for one minute. These shmoes are all about the PR and that's all this is. There is no way they are going to risk their girls' health with this problematic vaccine.


The 0bamas won't get swine flu. Professional courtesy.


This is either an outright lie or they got a "special" recipe that the masses won't get.


What would Mohammed say about one of his followers willing to take swine anything into his body?


... The H1N1 appearance has just had a too logical sequence of events for my taste. It's hyped early as dangerous, goes into a quick shortage situation, then a national emergency is declared by that skinny Kenyan with the African elephant ears. What are these steps leading to?


I don't believe it, either. There was a story a day or so ago saying they hadn't been immunized. Since O likes to film everything his family does, I'll assume there is film on this event - let's see it. And prove to us it's H1N1 that the masses are supposed to fall in line to take.


$5 says it was saline and not the real thing. No way James Brown is going to let her kids get the H1N1 shot.


These poor kids - being pimped by Barack "Hustle" and Michelle "Flo" Obama.


1) Don't care.
2) I wouldn't believe it if it were reported that the daughters became swine (nothing against the kids - just The Liar In Chief).
3) The whole Swine Flu thing is a pig in a poke.

Just another day in Wingnuttia.

I guess we've all forgotten this little photo stunt from 2002 (click to enlarge):

(No, this is not Photoshopped. And yes, Time Warner was trying to revive Life back in 2002.)

Via Aimai in comments, I see that Nate Silver is struggling to figure out Joe Lieberman's motivations in the health-care fight. Nate thinks Lieberman is flirting with political suicide, and I agree -- but I suspect Lieberman's a sort of political-suicide bomber, a guy who's actually prepared for political death, and is happy to have it come if it does serious harm to the enemy (namely liberals and real Democrats).

Nate notes that, while this does help Lieberman with a Connecticut industry that bankrolls his campaigns, it infuriates state voters and -- although obviously this never seems to happen -- puts Lieberman's committee chairmanship at risk. Nate writes:

The reason this is a little scary for Democrats is because the usual things that serve to motivate a Congressman don't seem to motivate Joe Lieberman....

What Joe Lieberman wants, in all probability, is attention. He wants Harry Reid to have to stand up and say things like : "I don't have anyone that I've worked harder with, have more respect for, in the Senate than Joe Lieberman." He wants face time on
Meet the Press. He wants to make liberals feel some pain -- especially those who tried to get Ned Lamont elected in his place. He wants everyone to know how maverick-y he is.

And I'd go further. I think he might actually relish political martyrdom. He might crave it.

The conventional wisdom is that he was stung by the primary challenge in '06 and is still bitter about being rejected by voters and many big-name Democrats, but it's clear that he kinda dug it, too, right? And if he now loses his chairmanship? Or loses reelection in 2012? Well, he'll be politically dead -- but he'll be in paradise, the object of the attention of 72 virgins, with names like Coulter, Cheney, Hannity, O'Reilly....

A mediocrity like Lieberman? Getting that kind of adulation? Paradise indeed.

Seriously, what happens if this really is a death blow to his Senate career? He'll be an acclaimed "martyr" on the wingnut right, a man lauded over and over again for his "courage." He'll get a big book deal, probably from Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins or Mary Matalin's Threshold imprint at Simon & Schuster -- and this time he'll have endless opportunities to flog the book in the right-wing media, and it'll do a hell of a lot better than his previous books. He'll be a regular commentator on Fox and for The Wall Street Journal -- maybe he'll even get his own show. A little bit of this, some corporate-board activity here, maybe some lobbying (his or his wife's) over there ... he'll be set for life. His ego will be set for life. So where's the harm in committing political suicide, if he draws blood on our side?

Of course, he never actually does seem to die from these suicide missions, does he? Sure, by all means blame Reid, Obama, and others who've reached out to him in the past few years, but don't forget to blame Al Gore, who responded to Lieberman's sanctimony on the Monica situation by making Joe his running mate, and spare a little blame for Connecticut voters, who chose him in '06 knowing full well what he was.

There's a name for someone who keeps doing the wrong thing knowing that the consequences for bad behavior never really come: a brat. And maybe that's what Joe really is.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is Lieberman In, or Out?

Today in Politico:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Tuesday that he’d back a GOP filibuster of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s health care reform bill.

Lieberman, who caucuses with Democrats and is positioning himself as a fiscal hawk on the issue, said he opposes any health care bill that includes a government-run insurance program — even if it includes a provision allowing states to opt out of the program, as Reid’s has said the Senate bill will.

"We're trying to do too much at once," Lieberman said. “To put this government-created insurance company on top of everything else is just asking for trouble for the taxpayers, for the premium payers and for the national debt. I don’t think we need it now."

Digby is hearing that he won't filibuster and is hopeful that Blanche can be threatened with losing her Ag Chairmanship. But if the Dems were actually playing hardball with the Senate Caucus on anything we wouldn't be hearing this kind of outright hostility from Lieberman.

Its not over, not by a long shot.


Or maybe not, but the Weekly Standard writer, who was raised like a veal by Bill Kristol and other right-wing mentors, doesn't seem to understand the difference between TV characters and the people who play them. Here's an excerpt from his forthcoming book, The Persecution of Sarah Palin, via U.S. News:

"It was telling that [Tina] Fey should be the actress who impersonated Palin. The two women may look like each other, but they could not be more dissimilar. Each exemplifies a different category of feminism. Palin comes from the I-can-do-it-all school. She is professionally successful, has been married for more than 20 years, and has a large and (from all outward appearances) happy family. And while Fey is also pretty, married, and has a daughter, the characters she portrays in films like Mean Girls and Baby Mama, and in television shows like 30 Rock, are hard-pressed eggheads who give up personal fulfillment -- e.g., marriage and motherhood -- in the pursuit of professional l success," he writes. "On 30 Rock, Fey, who is also the show's chief writer and executive producer, plays Liz Lemon, a television comedy writer modeled on herself. Liz Lemon is smart, funny, and at the top of her field. But she fails elsewhere. None of her relationships with men works out. She wants desperately to raise a child but can find neither the time nor the means to marry or adopt. Lemon makes you laugh, for sure. But you also would be hard pressed to name a more unhappy person on American TV."

Let me summarize. Fey and Palin are extremely "dissimilar" because Fey built a career while she was married and a mother -- just like Palin. Palin "comes from the I-can-do-it-all school" -- which makes Fey "dissimilar" to her even though Fey has been a successful actress and writer in TV and movies (and, by the way, has her own multi-million-dollar book coming out). Fey, arguably, has "it all" -- and Palin, who clearly wants something out of life that's currently beyond her grasp, doesn't. But Fey's the one who's unfulfilled -- because the characters she plays are unfulfilled.

Oh, and did I mention that Fey didn't create the Sarah Palin character, but was asked to play it -- remember, she wasn't on Saturday Night Live anymore -- and was not the writer of the Palin sketches? So how is a characterization crafted for her by another writer a sign of her anger and bitterness?

Hey, I've got it -- maybe it's Liz Lemon who's jealous of Palin! Maybe fictional characters are real! Maybe poor, lovelorn Liz secretly resents Palin, and created her own creator, Tina Fey, in order to get back at Palin. (Yikes, this is starting to sound like a Borges story.)

Or maybe Matthew Continetti is just a fool.
For the Nation:

You know, nowhere is the dysfunction of our original compact more clear than in the discussion of the "opt out" Public Option. Lets go back to first principles: we have, until recently, had a system of largely private insurer based healthcare in which large and larger for profit private insurance companies offer group plans to large "groups"--generally employer based--and individual plans for individuals and families who don't get employer sponsored group membership. That has been "state based" because, as I understand it, when you allow for profit insurance companies to sell policies across state lines state AG's discovered that they were even more likely to rip off the consumer than when you simply let them gouge people within state lines.

Surrounding this basically for profit system, in which individuals and companies pay into the plans while they can/while they are employed and then attempt to handle their health care needs through insurance is a not for profit, government run, safety net for 1) the elderly and 2) the chronically sick and poor, and 3) people who need dialysis and kidney transplants. In other words, for a very long time, the government and the tax payer have acted as a kind of safety valve for the neediest--the elderly who have chronic "pre-existing" conditions like, say, life and the the very sick and very poor. This is precisely what hurt the Post Office, of course. We allowed the growth of for profit Federal Express and UPS to cream off high paying business mail services and left the Post Office to handle the more costly and difficult task of providing low cost delivery to everyone else. In effect the government has stepped in and saved Private Business from the actual cost of carrying through on their promise to insure workers/citizens and to guarantee health care coverage by saying "if you want to refuse coverage to an elderly person, or raise premiums beyond reason, we'll catch some number of the people you throw overboard."

But of course people don't need insurance, or health care coverage, only for the portion of their lives when they are employed. In fact, as it turns out, they really need it especially when they are unemployed and unable to pay the premiums. In states where very few people are covered during their working life times and their early youth to middle age (*cough* red states, union busting red states *cough* ) people routinely get to the age of medicare coverage much sicker than they do in blue states with good health benefits through employment. The cost of lifetime coverage simply gets shifted towards the latter end of life when the government steps in and picks up the tab.

Well, that's basically what is going to happen, geographically speaking rather than temporally, with the opt out provision for states. This was an integral part of discussions, as I remember them, about Welfare back in the day. We always heard about how people from low welfare states would move to get welfare in high welfare states. We hear about women going across state lines to get abortions. We hear about citizens travelling to Canada to get treatment and drugs. We hear about "high tax" citizens going across state lines to get the cost benefit of "low sales tax" states. But suddenly we hear nothing about the individuals whose state's opt out of the public option? I'd suggest we hear nothing about it because a) fears of mass population movement for welfare purposes were wildly overstated by anti welfare people b) people just don't have the option of moving and c) its not sociall and politically convenient to talk about widening the gap between modern, humane, welfare states and the old former slave states and territories.

Another reason we hear nothing about individuals and families voting with their feet to get into states with a good standard of living and a good safety net because individuals and their health care needs have been largely ignored in this debate. Who has brought up the needs of the uninsured and the underinsured? The DFH's, the fringe, MoveOn, and the rest of the leftist weirdos. The stories that these groups have collected reveal the odd fact that people need health care coverage regardless of their income level, regardless of their employment situation, and regardless of the profit margins of their insurers. In fact, generally speaking, people need more health care as they get progressively less profitable for insurance company coverage. They need more health care as they take on "risks" like getting raped, or assaulted in domestic violence, or while living sexually, or having children, or getting older. Sometimes, as we now know, they need more health care when they take on the "risk" of being "fat" as a breast fed four month old. Individuals and families in low coverage states will continue to get low coverage and continue to need high coverage regardless of the compromises that Harry Reid and the Democrats are willing to make on their behalf. This is going to be a regional "compromise" that echoes the compromise over slavery that poisoned the first half of our life as a country.

The semi independence of our States has been the bane of this country since its inception. But never more so on questions of civil rights, women's rights, and health care as a right. What gives Republican Senators, or Centrist Democrats, the right to declare that individual citizens in their states can't choose a low cost, permanent, form of health care? Do they have the right to opt their states out of Social Security, or Medicare, or the tax system generally? Why is this a decision that gets made at the state level? Its not as if states are guaranteeing coverage to their citizens, as they do with a public school system. Its as though states were refusing to set up a free public school system and insisting that the only educational options were private, high cost, religious schools.

Its time for the Democrats to grasp that national initiatives must be national in scope. Health care choice is the perfect place for that argument to be made. Individuals require health care coverage regardless of their age, station, or location. They need progressively more health care coverage as they age, or the sicker they get. Allowing some states to "opt out" of the struggle to cover all citizens is identical to allowing private, for profit, insurance companies to cherry pick high paying/low cost, healthy people and while shoving the sickest off onto Medicare and Medicaid. Just as we are trying to prevent a situation in which the neediest have to go to expensive emergency rooms we should be actively working to prevent the situation in which the neediest drive across state lines to establish residency to get more generous benefits than their own states will cover. Not because we don't want to see everyone covered but because we don't want red states to free ride on the rest of us. This is so obvious a point that you can expect no one at the top level, the White House say, to make it.

Which Way Will the Snowe Fall?

Apparently I was half right--Snowe was "Homer" in my example below. She waited just that fraction of a second too long to turn a profit on the sale of her bipartisanship. But now the question for us cognoscenti is--which way will she go when she actually has to pick a side, first for cloture and then for the historic vote on HRC in the Senate? Steve Benen (one of the hardest working Steves in blog commentary) and Brian Beutler try to figure it out:

Not surprisingly, Maine's senior senator was not pleased. Snowe's statement yesterday afternoon read:

"I am deeply disappointed with the Majority Leader's decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation. I still believe that a fallback, safety net plan, to be triggered and available immediately in states where insurance companies fail to offer plans that meet the standards of affordability, could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate."

Brian Beutler sees glimmers of hope in this: "How explicit a statement is that, though? I could be over-parsing here, but it sounds to me as if she's leaving a door pretty wide open to supporting this bill down the line. Note, she doesn't say she's withdrawing her support."

Perhaps, but I suspect Snowe's "deep disappointment" is her way of distancing herself from the bill. Indeed, just four days before Reid's announcement, Snowe said, "I'm against a public option." Asked if she'd join a GOP filibuster on this, Snowe said, "Yes, it would be difficult" to support letting the bill come to the floor for a vote.

In other words, I suspect the key question is no longer, "How do we keep Olympia Snowe happy?" Rather, it's, "How do we convince Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Mary Landrieu to let the Senate vote on health care reform?"

I think they are both right--Beutler's right that Snowe is still in play and still trying to be a player. Benen's right that the Dems have, for the moment, moved on and are not trying to negotiate with her to get her vote. But I think they will get her vote anyway. Waaay back in the mesozoic age, two weeks ago or so, Snowe voted for the passage of the horrible Senate Finance Bill with the absurdly self important and rhetorically ugly statement "When history calls..." as though history imposed itself on us like an urgent need to pee. That's the real Snowe--someone who wants to be on the right side of history, however foolishly and narrowly she conceives that to be. She won't vote with the rest of the Republican pack dogs against Cloture and against the final bill. I can't figure out which Snowe will come to the ascendant at which point in the process--much seems to depend on how much attention, credit, or blame she will get, in her own mind, for each vote separately. I can see her voting against cloture if she thought she had enough "centrist" Dems to give her cover. I can see her voting for cloture if she sees the partisan breakdown as irremediable and she decides that "history is calling" her once again to pretend to be a swing vote. But I actually think, one way or another, she will end up voting for the bill on the floor, whatever it is, once its clear that passage is inevitable. There are ideologues, and true believers, and partisans, and obstreperous people who don't mind being hated and love the limelight whether it shines on them warmly or with hellish heat. Snowe isn't one of those. She's a woman of ego and self interest who loves the spotlight as long as its comfortable. Like Baucus, when the bill seems inevitable, she'll rush to put her signature on it and pretend it was all her idea all along.

A sentence I never thought I'd write: I think William Kristol is on to something here.

[The] Republican presidential nominee in 2012 ... seems unlikely to be a current officeholder. Right now, the four leading candidates for the GOP nomination are private citizens. In a recent Rasmussen poll, the only candidates with double-digit support among Republicans were Mike Huckabee (at 29 percent), Mitt Romney (24 percent), Sarah Palin (18 percent) and Newt Gingrich (14 percent). These four are running way ahead of various senatorial and gubernatorial possibilities. So a party that has over the past two decades nominated a vice president (George H.W. Bush), a senator (Bob Dole), a governor (George W. Bush) and another senator (John McCain), now has as its front-runners four public figures who are, to one degree or another, outsiders.

Well, it makes sense -- because what the ever-more-right-wing, ever-crazier GOP base wants is everything on the wingnut wish list plus the proverbial pony: an end to the economic downturn without government intervention or regulation but accompanied by (in fact, magically brought about by) tax cuts, an aggressive and bellicose foreign policy that quickly and decisively smites all enemies (maintained by a strong military that's fully financed despite even more tax cuts), and, oh, while you're at it, get government out of health care ... but don't you dare lay a finger on Medicare and Social Security. And more tax cuts, please. And, also, crush socialist fascism and force that usurper to go back to Kenya where he came from. And then -- after lunch -- do something about ACORN and that damn mainstream media! And drill, baby, drill! And seal the borders and ship all the illegals back where they came from -- immediately! And more tax cuts!

Who could possibly be a current officeholder and point to a record even remotely resembling this pipe dream?

Current officeholders, even Republicans, have to act with some reference to objective reality. That's not a problem if you left elected politics behind months or years ago -- you can just say anything. So of course the Republican electorate in 2012 is likely to go for someone who isn't currently part of the lawmaking process.

How do you make wingnuts happy? Talk like Chris Christie, who was a U.S. attorney but has never been an elected official, and is now the GOP candidate for governor in New Jersey. Here's Matt Bai of The New York Times writing about Christie's economic plan at a time of budget shortfalls and declining tax revenues in the Garden State:

He says he would repeal all the sales taxes, toll hikes and surcharges imposed by Corzine and cut income taxes as well, while at the same time somehow offering more property-tax rebates -- a feat that would seem to defy the laws of economics, if not physics....

I was eager to press Christie for details as to how he was going to accomplish all this when I caught up with him earlier this month. But Christie was ready for me, and rather than allow himself to be pinned down with lots of facts and numbers, he pulled a bit of political jujitsu instead. "New Jersey has had a string of politicians, Jon Corzine the latest, who made all types of specific promises that they knew they couldn't keep," Christie told me. "New Jerseyans want to know what direction are you going to take the state in, what philosophy are you going to pursue. They're not looking for specific promises that can't be kept." Hai-yah! Christie was turning the traditional notion of political accountability on its head: not only was it not unprincipled to make a bunch of vague campaign promises that had almost no chance of becoming reality, but in fact it was also the only truly principled thing to do, because politicians never followed through on the details of their proposals, anyway. When he gets to Trenton, Christie assured me, "We'll get in there and make it work."

"We'll get in there and make it work." That's basically Step 3 in the Underpants Gnomes' business plan. And the structure of the Underpants Gnomes' business plan is basically the structure of wingnut pipe dreams, all the way up to the wannabe-presidential level.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I've spent a fair amount of time in Taos, New Mexico, in recent years, so I have to draw your attention to this idiot:

Hotel owner tells Hispanic workers to change names

TAOS, N.M. (AP) - Larry Whitten marched into this northern New Mexico town in late July on a mission: resurrect a failing hotel.

The tough-talking former Marine immediately laid down some new rules. Among them, he forbade the Hispanic workers at the run-down, Southwestern adobe-style hotel from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him), and ordered some to Anglicize their names.

No more Martin (Mahr-TEEN). It was plain-old Martin. No more Marcos. Now it would be Mark.

... The 63-year-old Texan, however, wasn't prepared for what followed.

His rules and his firing of several Hispanic employees angered his employees and many in this liberal enclave....

Former workers, their relatives and some town residents picketed across the street from the hotel....

The hotel sits along narrow, two-lane Paseo del Pueblo....

Where to begin? Well, I'm in New York, where if you think everyone speaking in a foreign language must be talking about you, you belong in Bellevue. You're paranoid if you think that, Larry. Everything isn't about you.

And the names? People's names are very important to them. Yes, I realize that entertainers have traditionally de-ethnicized their names. I realize that some call-center employees in India take on American-sounding names and accents. But those are choices -- trade-offs made to get a gig. Whitten's employees were people just going along, working as they always had, in a state that was Hispanic before it was American (and is still 44% Hispanic), on a street called Paseo del Pueblo, fer crissake -- and Whitten came along and decided to change their names by fiat. Sorry, not acceptable.

But this guy has a chip on his shoulder -- he saunters into a liberal, multi-culti town from Abilene, Texas, and the minute he meets some resistance he not only fires Hispanic workers but insults other locals:

The messages and comments he made in interviews with local media, including referring to townsfolk as "mountain people" and "potheads who escaped society," further enflamed tensions.

About what you'd expect from this guy, really. He also claimed a few months ago that he had an employee problem in one of his establishments back in Texas -- and, when the resolution of the problem wasn't working out the way he wanted, he grumbled about it in a letter to the Abilene Reprter News:

We had an employee that was having things missing out of the rooms that she would clean, so we set her up. We set her up by putting cash in the Bible. The employee cleaned the room, and the money was missing. No one else entered the room. She denied taking the money. We terminated her for the missing money. The Texas Employment Commission sided with the employee and said this was not job-related. Your government at work.

Larry Whitten

In response to this letter, readers reasonably posted the objection that an employee finding money in a hotel-room Bible might assume it was a tip from a previous guest, and also questioned whether he'd actually proved theft in the absence of videotape. This didn't sit well with Larry, so when the Texas Employee Commission reversed itself, he took the liberty to write a follow-up letter:

On appeal to the Texas Employment Commission concerning the thief. The Employment Commission reversed its decision and we won. Thank you to everyone for their support. And it was nice to hear from the Socialist Communist Party members.

Larry Whitten

Charming, Larry. And if your Texas 'tude got you in trouble in Taos, well, my heart bleeds.


An upstate Republican who's eying a run for governor has compared Shelly Silver, the Orthodox Jewish speaker of the state Assembly, with Adolf Hitler and the anti-Christ.

And now Erie County Executive Chris Collins says he's really, really sorry.

The slur came during a speech Saturday night to fellow Republicans in Buffalo, while slamming Albany's notorious "three men in a room" budget process - in which the governor and legislative leaders make deals in private.

Collins referenced famed French seer Nostradamus' prediction that there would be three anti-Christs before the Apocalypse.

He said it's generally accepted the first was Napoleon and the second Hitler.

He said he was "pretty sure" the third is Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, two attendees at the Erie County GOP's annual fall fund-raiser at the Adam's Mark Hotel said.

"No one clapped. No one cheered. No one laughed," said a Western New York Republican who was at the event. "I know I didn't. I thought it was a little harsh to be calling someone an anti-Christ." ...

Er, yeah.

It's not that criticizing Shelly (short for Sheldon) Silver is taboo in this state -- far from it. For a long time, lots of people have criticized the state government here, in which Silver (head of the lower house of the legislature), the Senate president, and the governor settle a lot of matters themselves, with no input from anyone else (hence "three men in a room"). Even one Jewish leader asked for a comment thinks that kind of criticism is valid:

"I can understand criticizing what goes on in Albany, three men in a room bothers many people. But certainly this is the wrong way to do it," said Dan Kantor, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation. "Calling him the Anti-Christ, which is to me, is maybe even worse," he said.

But, er, the Antichrist? And Hitler? Yikes.

(Collins has apologized, however, and it does seem to be a real apology, not a "sorry if my remarks were misinterpreted" apology. Though it may be a "please please please God don't let my career die" apology.)

Here's Jon Meacham being utterly naive in Newsweek, as he criticizes President Obama for taking on Fox:

The White House–vs.–Fox News mini-saga belongs to an era that effectively ended last fall, when President Bush radically enlarged the role of the federal government in the economy and Obama won the presidency. It was clear then, and is even clearer now, that the issues which long defined the right-left divide (hawkishness abroad, a limited role for government at home) are in spectacular disarray.

Is he kidding?

These issues aren't in spectacular disarray on the Beck/Limbaugh/tea party right, where -- freed of the obligation to walk the walk and required only to talk the talk -- wingnuts reject their ex-hero Bush, denounce big government and deficit spending, and angrily insist that we have to wave as big a stick as possible in Afghanistan, a country Bush started to ignore five minutes after U.S. troops overthrew its government. And this is the group that defines what being anti-Obama means. This is the group that's taken up the anti-Obama banner and waved it most vigorously -- this is the opposition. This group is going to fight Fox's war even if there's no GOP government to fight it alongside Fox. Think of the teabaggers as the insurgency. To use an Iraq analogy, Meacham thinks it's time to hang a "Mission Accomplished" banner -- but the irregulars and bomb-detonators (and Fox) haven't stopped fighting. Far from it.

Oh, and as Gallup notes, even more people are calling themselves "conservative" now, despite the fact that conservatives are far outnumbered by moderates plus liberals:

Maybe Meacham is right and a truce has been declared, but being "conservative"/a teabagger/a Fox fan is now like not signing on to the peace accord.

Maybe there are good reasons for Obama not to take on Fox. Maybe (as Meacham says elsewhere in this essay) Obama's taking on Fox only to make us lefties feel better as he fails to pursue progressive goals with the vigor we'd prefer. But, damn, Jon, the war isn't over. Fox fans are still planting IEDs in the path of Obama and the Democrats -- and Republicans who stand in their way.
El Gato Negro! says "Pretty Please"

I don't have the chops to embed the video but its a damned good Health Care TV Spot.

Ponies Revealed:

A commenter over at Balloon Juice explains it all. In re Fred Hiatt's new line of attack on the Public Option.

El Cruzado

The magic pony fallacy is a favorite of concern trolls and gasbag pundits everywhere. It does come in two variants:

– The “Secret Pony” variant states that we shouldn’t do Something, but rather follow my Secret Ponies for everyone plan that won’t be detailed in even the vaguest terms.
– The “Timmy Gets No Pony” variant states that we shouldn’t do Something, because Something fails to give a pony to absolutely everyone, including Timmy. Rather we should stick with the Pony Shit for Most status quo.

No points for whoever guesses which one is the one deployed here.

Note: this "two ponies" theory clearly advances our understanding of concern trolling generally. See also "Why won't Feminism get me a date?" and the ever popular "black people can be racists too!"

Is Newt Gingrich really going to run for president in 2012? Well, compare the wording of his statement on C-SPAN yesterday...

"Callista and I are going to think about this in February 2011. And we are going to reach out to all of our friends around the country. And we'll decide, if there's a requirement as citizens that we run, I suspect we probably will. And if there's not a requirement, if other people have filled the vacuum, I suspect we won't."

...with the wording of a statement he made about 2008, as reported by The Washington Post in 2006:

In remarks that were critical of both parties' recent performance, Gingrich told a luncheon group of scholars and reporters at the Brookings Institution that he will make a decision in the fall of 2007 about running.

"If at that point there's still a vacuum ... then we'll probably do something," Gingrich said....

So it's always about the vacuum. He's always putting this in terms of a Newt-sized vacuum that desperately needs filling.

My guess, therefore, is that he's not going to run this time either. He's beginning to remind me of Ted Nugent, who's always on the verge of running for something, and never follows through.

I've been thinking it would be fun to have Gingrich in the race, because he's long been a very unpopular figure, except on the right, but strange things have happened: his approval rating in the general public has gone up -- check out his recent poll numbers at Polling Report, and compare them with the awful ones from, say, 2007 -- while he's become a bit of a pariah in the GOP base. He and Rush Limbaugh have been feuding for a while, for heretical statements like his declaration that he doesn't want President Obama to fail, and he's recently infuriated wingnuts by backing the Republican (rather than the wingnut-approved third-party candidate) in that special congressional election in New York's 23rd District.

So what does that mean? If he does decide to run, would he -- Newt Gingrich -- be the McCain of the race? The seeming moderate who's the right choice if you don't want to vote for an extremist? Heaven help us.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I still say it's not a bad idea in theory for the non-wingnut press to pursue, in a sane, truthful, smear-discrediting way, the stories wingnuts are fixated on -- but a soft-news sidebar in today's New York Times Magazine suggests yet again that the the knee-jerk reaction of the mainstream press to right-wing nonsense is mimicry rather than skepticism.

I'm referring to this week's "Question for..." mini-interview by Deborah Solomon. Solomon is sometimes snarky in a way that hints at liberal leanings, but this week she's responding to the widespread sniockering at Barack Obama's Nobel Prize by interviewing Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which selected Obama. Not only does she seem contemptuous of him for this choice (and for the literature pick, which is the work of an entirely separate committee), she goes on to ask a series of right-wing-friendly questions:

You and your four colleagues on the peace-prize committee were appointed by the Norwegian Parliament. Are there any political conservatives among you?
Yes, two of the members of the committee are from the right-wing parties, and I myself am in the center, a traditional Social Democrat.

You were a longtime leader of the Norwegian Labor Party and also of the Socialist International, which is what, exactly?
It is the gathering of all the Social Democratic parties in the world, and I was vice president when Willy Brandt was president.

Here in the United States, "socialism" is one of those words bandied about by Obama's critics. When people hear "socialist," they worry you're going to take away their cars and make them ride bicycles.
Look at the welfare state in Norway that the Labor Party Social Democrats built. Everyone has better cars than most of the Americans.

What do you drive?
I'm driving a Volvo.

Oh, give me a break -- I feel as if I'm listening to Poppy Bush in 1992 calling Al; Gore "Ozone Man." And Solomon is implicitly referencing a (so far failed) smear attempt by The Washington Times and other elements of the wingnut media, that Carol Browner, the director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, has "socialist ties" because she briefly worked with the Socialist International. (The Socialist International is made up of "more than 170 political parties and organizations around the world including ruling parties in Australia, Japan, Hungary, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom.")

Then we get this question, which is just ignorant:

What is it like to represent the country that is best known as the home of Edvard Munch's "Scream"?

Uh, Deborah? What's it like to work for what's supposedly the most prestigious newspaper in America, in America's cultural capital, and to ask an utterly philistine question about both Norway and Munch? Regarding Munch, have you ever even seen any of his other paintings -- many of which are quite remarkable? Really, this is best you can do? Would you say to Sarkozy, "How 'bout that Eiffel Tower"?

Horseshoes and Handgrenades:

We're "very close" to 60? You know what I'd like to see--I'd like to see Reid put the most robust public option available in the Senate Bill and dare the wavering one or two "moderate" Dems to publicly filibuster with the Republicans and Snowe. I'd like to see less brownian motion in the caucus and a straight up head count--in or out, now, with the President's stated preference, the House's stated preference and what's best for the American People--a robust public option capable of becoming single payer sooner rather than later. Yes, a fantasy--because although the President campaigned on the "public option" and says he's for it he has not put down any markers on it--has made no offers or trades (publicly) to get the Public Option into the Senate Bill. We've seen him and Rahm lean heavily on the Progressives to accept triggers, or co-ops, or anything but a real Public Option. But we've never heard him say boo to the wavering dems--among whom one has to count Baucus, Conrad, Landrieu, Lieberman (I-Votes With Us On Everything But the War--or Not), Reid himself, etc...etc...etc... What is he keeping his powder dry for? Is a "great miracle" really going to happen in the Conference when apparently none of the Democrats *other* than the despised progressives show the slightest sign of wanting a robust public option? Stay tuned, but don't get your hopes up. At this point the refusal of the President to step forward and pressure the wavering one or two democratic votes for cloture is a really bad sign. If he's not willing to fight hard to get the best Senate Bill into conference what makes everyone so sure he will finally show some spine during the Conference?


I admire Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times -- she's angry about financial abuses and she puts that anger into her work, like this very good Times business-section story about a judge who declared a mortgagee utterly free and clear of any debt when it turned out that the people who were dunning the borrower couldn't produce the basic documentation proving that they held the mortgage.

But over here, in the Week in Review section, she seems to be suggesting that we're not getting real financial reform because we schmucks in the general public are too dumb to understand real reform. She's writing about efforts to rein in executive pay by Kenneth Feinberg, the pay czar:

... The white-hot focus on pay, for example, looks like a way for the government to reassure an angry public that they are making genuine changes. But compensation is a trifling matter compared to, say, true reform of derivatives trading.

"The American public understands the immorality of paying people huge bonuses for failures that damaged the economy," said Michael Greenberger, a law professor at the University of Maryland and a former commodities regulator. "What they don't understand is that those payments are only a small fraction of the irregularities that took place and that, in essence, the compensation problems, as bad as they are, are a sideshow to the casino-like nature of the economy as it existed, pre-Lehman Brothers, and as it exists today."

It is difficult enough for seasoned regulators or market professionals to assess whether various reform proposals will close pernicious loopholes and make the financial system safer. But for a crisis-weary public, such an analysis is almost impossible. Much easier to grasp are the cuts to executive pay announced by Kenneth R. Feinberg, the Treasury official in charge of setting compensation at bailed-out companies.

Really? Try us.

Require these folks to forgo bonuses if their get-rich-quick schemes come crashing down a few years after a quick kill. Require institutions to have greater cash reserves, as a hedge against losses (rather than always using us as a hedge against losses). Require that the bizarre stuff be traded on public exchanges that permit oversight. Or just go for it: bring back Glass-Steagall.

The public may not understand any of this? Here's what the public would understand: the angushed howling of fat cats. Whatever they want? We're against it. We'd get that.

Or most of us would -- as it is, the Glenn Beck zombies don't even understand the notion of curbing excess bonuses at companies that took huge amounts of money from the government. Remember? Beck -- the great populist -- opposed the effort to go after AIG's bonuses last spring. And his minions have clearly absorbed the talking points: in that recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner focus group of wingnuts (PDF), one far-rightist described attempts to curb these people's excessive pay as a threat to ordinary citizens -- no, really:

I don't want the government to own banks. I don't want them to own the car companies. I don't want them to own Wall Street. I don't want them to tell you how much money you can make. If you work hard they'll take it, they'll take it.

That's what these idiots think: We are all AIG executives.

Look, the White Hoise and congressional Democrats should just do it -- they should just get serious about regulating the bastards. And if they don't have the guts to do that -- or don't really have any intention of doing it (which I think is the real problem) -- they and supposedly sympathetic observers shouldn't compound the insult by blaming their failings on us.