Friday, April 30, 2010


John Boehner is feeling quite confident these days.  Measuring the drapes in Nancy Pelosi's office is one thing.  Measuring the Democratic party for a political funeral is quite another.
Boehner said he believes there is no seat that the GOP cannot win during this election cycle, judging by Sen. Scott Brown's (R) improbable win in January's special election in Massachusetts.

Reflecting Republican optimism that they can win back control of the House this fall, Boehner said 2010 has the widest playing field for Republicans in a while.

"Let me remind you that Scott Brown won the Ted Kennedy Senate seat in Massachusetts," Boehner said during an appearance on National Public Radio. "If Scott Brown can win in America, there isn't a seat in America that Republicans can't win."

When pressed for a number, Boehner said he believed the GOP could win as many as 100 seats in this fall's elections."
At least 100 seats," Boehner said when asked how wide the playing field for districts is. "I do," the top House Republican answered when asked if he thinks there are 100 seats in the U.S. "that could change hands."
That's a hell of a high bar to put up.  The loss of a hundred seats would represent not just a GOP victory, but the effective and total collapse of the Democrats as a political force in the country.  It would make 1994 look like a cake walk.

It also makes Orange Julius there look like he's higher than a kite on Mount Everest.  A hundred seats in the House, John?  Really?  Even worst case scenario (the dreaded Rasmussen Reality) the Dems lose what they did in 1994, 50 and some change.  But one hundred?

Look, as much as the Dems may have screwed up, I just don't see how the GOP fundamentally changes the reality of space and time in order to gain 100 seats in the House after the drubbing they've gotten in 2006 and again in 2008.  I think the GOP taking back the House is a majorly outside shot, I'm sticking with maybe 30 in the House and 6 in the Senate.

Even if my worst fears about the Dems' goofy national ID card crap come true, that's still 50-ish seats they lose.  Remember, confident, cocky, sloppy, dead.  Orange Julius is biting off way more than he can chew here.  The fundamental problems of the GOP still remain.  The voters aren't that unhappy with the Dems, and they certainly don't trust the Republicans more than they do Obama on many of the issues.

As much as you can count on the Dems finding a way to screw things up, you can count even more on the GOP being an arrogant bunch of assclowns that start believing their own echo chamber delusions of grandeur.

Marking this one down to revisit in November...

I honestly don't know how the Democrats can be this friggin' stupid, but there you go.
A plan by Senate Democratic leaders to reform the nation’s immigration laws ran into strong opposition from civil liberties defenders before lawmakers even unveiled it Thursday.
Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.
Congrats, guys.  You actually managed to find a way to make Arizona's immigration nightmare look like a reasonable and controlled idea next to a NATIONAL IDENTIFICATION CARD PROGRAM.  Are you serious?  Fingerprint every American worker?  Really?

You know what?  You guys just lost the immigration battle and just fed the Teabagger outrage machine for years.  You blew it.  Completely.  And this time, the Teabaggers are right.  A national ID card is exactly the kind of stupidity that's going to cost the Dems dearly in 2010.  They're going to rage on this for months, if not years.  You managed to validate every paranoid fantasy the tinfoil hats have about the Democrats in one fell swoop.

Holy crap.  This is insane.  What were you guys thinking?  This is far, far worse than Arizona's law.  Ezra Klein thinks it's a game changer, but for the wrong reasons.

The oddity of this strategy, of course, is that anti-immigration sentiments run highest among the same communities that are most opposed to national ID cards. Now, it's also the case that if you're going to support citizenship searches for people with Hispanic-looking shoes, it's a bit odd to worry about an ID card to verify employment. But even so, without Republicans on the bill to give this strategy cover, it'll be interesting to see whether the anti-immigrant right embraces the ID card as a way of staunching the flow of illegal immigrants or assails Democrats for trying to create a biometric police state.
That thud you just head was my forehead hitting the desk.  Gee Ezra, you think the GOP might use the latter there?  Gosh, I sure as hell do.  It's a game changer alright.  Jesus.

Federal prosecutors have finally decided that with all this smoke everywhere, there's got to be some fire coming out of Goldman Sachs.
Federal prosecutors would face a higher bar in bringing a criminal case against Goldman, whose role in the mortgage market came under sharp scrutiny this week during a marathon hearing in the Senate. In contrast to civil cases, the burden of proof is higher in criminal ones, where prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The stakes are high for Goldman, but they are also high for the United States attorney’s office. Prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York lost a case last year filed against two hedge fund managers at Bear Stearns, whose collapse presaged the turmoil on Wall Street.
Prosecutors built much of that case around internal e-mail messages at Bear Stearns, much the way the S.E.C. and senators have pointed to e-mail at Goldman in which employees had disparaged investments that they were selling to their customers.
In the end, however, prosecutors were unable to prove to a jury any criminal wrongdoing by the Bear Stearns employees.
A spokesman for Goldman declined to say whether the bank knows about a criminal case, but he said “given the recent focus on the firm, we’re not surprised” to learn about a criminal inquiry. The spokesman said Goldman would cooperate with any investigators’ requests for information.
It's nice to finally see somebody decide that what happened to our economy might have actually been a criminal act perpetrated by people who stood to gain a metric crapton of money by betting on the entire housing bubble detonating like a M-80 inside a paint can.

The argument I keep hearing (and the NY Times article continues along that thread) is that "Well, what they did was immoral and horrible and pretty bad and it wrecked the economy, but it wasn't illegal."  No offense, but doesn't that mean we need to change the law so that what happened is made illegal, so that people don't do this in the future?  That's the whole point of laws and punishment, in order to discourage people from breaking laws and causing untold havoc in society.

I'd call the loss of eight million jobs "untold havoc in society".  I'm not saying it's all Goldman's fault, but given all the overwhelming evidence against them of profiting from a disaster and the repeated disdain they have shown time and time again for anybody who wasn't a Goldman Sachs executive, I'd say the law needs to be amended before it happens again.

Unless people think it's a good idea to have another financial crisis on our hands.  Any business plan that includes "and then the American economy collapses into a near depression and then we make a fortune" should be illegal.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


So, President Obama, about that whole offshore drilling expansion idea...
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Thursday in preparation for the arrival of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that was expected to reach land Friday.

The U.S. military may be called on to assist authorities scrambling to mitigate the potential environmental disaster posed by the spill that's expanding toward the Louisiana coastline, officials said Thursday.

At a White House briefing, federal authorities, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, pledged a robust response. Napolitano said she has designated the leak a "spill of national significance," meaning officials can draw down assets from other areas to combat it.

A command center already is open in Robert, Louisiana. A second will be opened in Mobile, Alabama, Napolitano said. She said she will travel Friday to the Gulf Coast, along with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson.

"Everything's on the table," as far as options under consideration, said David Hayes, deputy interior secretary.
I'm thinking that maybe you should have waited a few months to announce that  "Drill baby drill" policy.  No offense, but this is exactly what environmentalists (you know them as Dirty Effin Hippie Bloggers, the ones that Rahm is always complaining about) have been warning of.  Now you've got this huge national emergency sized oil spill that's more than likely going to cause massive damage to Louisiana's coast and may even be a larger disaster than Katrina, cutting through wildlife and coastal communities like a scythe.

It may take weeks or longer to cap this thing off, and meanwhile it's spreading 200,000 gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.  And our best idea right now is to set it on fire?  Look, any process that includes anywhere on the flowchart the words "Use Controlled Burn" and "Find Four Hundred Metric Tons Of Concrete To Plug Hole" is not a viable process.  Until we come up with a better and safer way to do this, expanding offshore drilling is ludicrous.

Oh wait, those safeguards exist, but BP just wasn't using them.
The oil well spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico didn't have a remote-control shut-off switch used in two other major oil-producing nations as last-resort protection against underwater spills.
And why aren't those remote cut-off switches used here?  Too expensive for the energy companies, of course...not like the cost of cleaning up after a catastrophe like this...because the real problem is that we're almost out of time.  This oil slick will be hitting land as early as tomorrow and when that happens, fire's just not an option anymore.

Oh, and this gets worse, guess who's involved in the operations of this particular oil rig?
The widow of a crew member killed in last week's oil platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico has filed a lawsuit accusing the companies that operated the rig with negligence, court documents showed Tuesday.

The suit was filed by Natalie Roshto against Transocean Ltd, British Petroleum and Halliburton after the blast that killed her husband Shane, a seaman on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig.
Why, it's our old Bush/Cheney friends at Halliburton!  Gee, suddenly how we got into this mess starts making a whole lot of sense, doesn't it?

The good news is that the Obama administration is now "reevaluating" the offshore policy.  I don't see how they exactly have a choice, and the time to implement strict new safety measures before any more drilling happens is now.  Until the energy companies can prove that another disaster like this won't happen again, expanding offshore drilling needs to be off the table.

And as far as I'm concerned, that means off the table for good.
Broder: Harry Reid to blame for odeus Arizona immigration bill

OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit.

But The Dean of DC Pundits, David Broder, weighs in on the AZ fracas in this morning's Post and seems to suggest Majority Leader Reid is to blame for (someone's) filibuster that killed the last attempt at immigration reform:

It was only three years ago that the action was stymied by a Senate filibuster and the impatience of Harry Reid to move on to other topics.

So, The Dean tells us a filibuster, and Harry Reid's impatience, are to blame for Arizona's horrid immmigration bill. But who was leading said filibuster? Who's to blame? Well, we don't know. Just that there was a filibuster led by someone, and Harry Reid is impatient. Let's read on:

The bill that died in Congress had been hammered out over many months by a bipartisan group of senators, including both the Hispanic members of the Senate and both the Republican senators from Arizona.

Bipartisan!!!!! The magic word. Broder says there was an awesome immigration reform bill all ready to go, and it was BIPARTISAN! And as we all know, if something is bipartisan, it is really teh awesome no matter what it does. But how really bipartisan was this immmigration bill?

But once the bill hit the floor, it was attacked from both flanks. The most conservative Republicans -- Jim DeMint of South Carolina, David Vitter of Louisiana and Jeff Sessions of Alabama -- led the assault. They were joined by some civil libertarians and allies of organized labor who were dissatisfied with the bill's protections for guest workers. Democrat Byron Dorgan of North Dakota repeatedly tried to gut the guest-worker program before finally succeeding by one vote on his third effort.

Ah, shit. There was this awesome bipartisan immigration reform bill but, wouldn't ya know, BOTH sides, both parties, went on the attack, equally one might presume. The Dean gives us three Republican names, one Democrat, and an illegal combination of (everybody cover their ears) civil libertarians and organized labor. While bipartisanship is great, nothings much fun around here if we can't punch some civil libertarian hippies and some labor union thugs. Check. And then Harry Reid comes along and muffs everything up:

With Reid showing increasing impatience over a debate that began on May 21, the Senate conducted three cloture votes on June 7 and each time came up short. Carrying out his threat, Reid pulled the bill off the floor, while Minority Leader Mitch McConnell protested. "I think we're giving up on this bill too soon," McConnell said. "There are a number of Republicans who are prepared to vote for cloture as soon as they believe their colleagues on this side of the aisle have had a reasonable opportunity to have offered and voted upon amendments they think would improve the bill."

So, let's see, three cloture votes were held in order to kill the filibuster and allow the bill to get voted on, but once again, we don't know who was doing the filibustering and thus trying to Kill The Bill but apparently Reid got fed up and wanted to move on to something else. Brave Mitch McConnell tried to, um, do something. Kind of makes ole Mitch sound like the good guy. I wonder what McConnell's role was in the filibustering, if any. Anyway, all the bipartisanship in the world apparently couldn't save this awesome bill because:

when it came to the floor, cloture again failed, this time by 46 to 53 -- 14 votes short of the 60 it needed. Democrats split 33 to 15 in favor of ending the debate while Republicans voted 37 to 12 to continue talking and amending, and the two independent members split.

I was a polisci major back in the day, and I even did a little grad work in the subject, but that was one confusing 'graph. What the heck does it mean? In layman's terms, it means that 33 of 48 Democrats voted to end the filibuster and vote on the bill, while 37 of 49 Republicans voted to continue to filibuster and prevent voting and passage of the bill. Two Independents split their votes. Not sure when this was because, if my math is correct, that would make a Senate chamber of 48 Dems, 49 Repubs, and two Independents.

Anyway, it's all equal. 33 Dems = 12 Repubs. Everybody, but especially Harry Reid, for filibustering the bill, or for failing to filibuster the bill, whatever, is to blame for Congress failing to pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill. Pox on both your houses.

(Zandar here, helping out Steve.  Enjoy.)

The usual suspects over in the wingerverse are having a good laugh at this piece showing that illegal immigrants in Arizona are planning to leave the state.
"Nobody wants to pick us up," Julio Loyola Diaz says in Spanish as he and dozens of other men wait under the shade of palo verde trees and lean against a low brick wall outside the east Phoenix home improvement store.

Many day laborers like Diaz say they will leave Arizona because of the law, which also makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally and directs police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal immigrants.

Supporters of the law hope it creates jobs for thousands of Americans.

"We want to drive day labor away," says Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, one of the law's sponsors.
Our shortsighted friends on the right figure "Mission accomplished, don't let the door hit you on the way out!"   It's not that simple, but then again it never was.
A study of immigrants in Arizona published in 2008 found that non-citizens, mostly in the country illegally, held an estimated 280,000 full-time jobs. The study by researcher Judith Gans at the University of Arizona examined 2004 data, finding that they contributed about 8 percent of the state's economic output, or $29 billion.

Losing hundreds of thousands of unskilled laborers wouldn't hurt the state's economy in the short term, but it could limit the economy's ability to grow once it recovers, says Marshall Vest, director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management.

Legal workers who are willing to take any available job now will become more choosy if the unemployment rate falls back to low levels seen before the recession hit.

"That's really the question, as to whether the existing population is willing to work those (low-level) jobs," Vest says. "I think economics provides the answer. If job openings have no applicants, then businesses need to address that by raising the offered wage."
And there's the crux of the argument.  When you have day laborers off the books you can pay in cash, and they have every incentive to keep their mouths shut, a readily available underclass that will do jobs for a fraction of the cost of hiring "REAL AMERICANS!!!" for the same work, you have a problem.  As an employer, you get to pocket the difference.  When 8 percent of the state's economy is powered by illegal immigrants, it's not the immigrants who are the problem, it's the economy that makes employing them under the table so desirable that is the issue.

If you think all 280,000 full time jobs in Arizona held by illegals are going to be replaced with American workers getting a fair wage overnight, you're nuts.
Second issue:  these folks aren't going back to Mexico.  They're going to other states.
Standing near potted trees and bushes for sale at a Home Depot in east Phoenix, Diaz, 35, says he may follow three families in his neighborhood who moved to New Mexico because of the law. He says a friend is finding plenty of work in Dallas.

Diaz says he has too much to lose by staying - he's supporting a wife and infant son back home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas.

"They depend on me to survive," he says. "I'm not going to wait for police to come and arrest me."

Jose Armenta, a 33-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico's western coast, is already planning to move to Utah within the next 20 days because of a combination of the economy and the new law.

"A lot of people drive by," he says as he watched nearby cars speeding past, "and they yell, 'Hey, go back to Mexico!'"
They're not.  If anything, this proves why we need a comprehensive national immigration reform policy ASAP. All Arizona's law is doing is shifting immigrants to other states.  Good idea short term, does nothing to alleviate the problem long-term.  It still doesn't solve the wage issue that made these jobs pay so low that only immigrants would take them.  It still doesn't solve the problem of migrants simply going to other states, either.  It's still a national problem and it needs a national solution.

If the wingers and the Republicans in Congress were serious, they'd stop laughing and cheering and realize we've got a much bigger problem overall.  But of course, they're never serious about solutions.  Solutions take hard work.  Much easier to stand there and shout NO NO NO at everything.

I'm going to be away for a few days. I think there'll be some non-Steve posts, however, so stop by. I'll check back in on Sunday night.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Bob McDonnell, the Pat Robertson-loving governor of Virginia who's referred to the governorship as a "ministry" and has already deprived gay state workers of anti-discrimination protection from state workers (when he wasn't ignoring slavery in the process of proclaiming Confederate History Month), is at it again:

After months of lobbying by conservative activists, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has quietly reversed a policy banning Virginia State Police troopers from referring to Jesus Christ in public prayers.

McDonnell this afternoon sent Col. W. Steven Flaherty, the State Police superintendent, to tell the nine troopers who serve as chaplains about the change in policy....

In September 2008, Flaherty told chaplains to offer nondenominational prayers at department-sanctioned public events in response to a recent federal appeals court ruling that a Fredericksburg City Council member may not pray "in Jesus's name" during council meetings because the opening invocation is government speech....

Well, I live in a city where even non-Jewish police officers refer to mentors on the force as "rabbis," and where the force has a 200-member-strong Muslim officers' association (including dozens of Arab speakers, many of whom now work in counterterrorism), so the notion of treating Christianity as univerrsal among cops is bizarre to me.

Maybe not so much in Virginia, but who knows? Hmmm ... I wonder what the best-known member of Virginia's congressional delegation -- Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives -- would have to say about this.

At Politico right now:

I think Washington Post/ABC pollsters have your answer:

Nearly three times as many Americans blame former president George W. Bush for the size of the [budget] shortfall as point the finger at Obama. Public perceptions on the state of the economy are roughly the same, with 59 percent blaming Bush for continued weakness and 25 percent finding Obama more culpable. Even about three in 10 Republicans blame Bush more than Obama for the deficit and the state of the economy.

As Chris Cillizza notes,

While those blaming Obama has risen from a July 2009 Post/ABC survey when 16 percent said the economy was his fault, the number of people blaming Bush is virtually unchanged -- 61 percent in July 2009 as compared to 59 percent now.

Combine this with the fact that Jeb Bush has defied conservative correctness by criticizing the Arizona immigration bill -- which profoundly offends the GOP base without making Dems like me any more favorably disposed to Jeb (or any other Bush) -- and I think it's safe to say that we as a nation are not feeling the Bush love. Oh, maybe there's some for Laura (her book is at #8 at Amazon, based on pre-orders), but I doubt she's running for anything (which may be why there's residual fondness for her in America). When it comes to the same tired old Bush guys, it's safe to say that very few people (except perhaps the dead-ender 22-percenters) want them back.

Ezra Klein asks:

Will the Kentucky Derby end the Republican filibuster of FinReg?

Word is that the Democrats might make the Republicans actually filibuster FinReg tonight. That is to say, stand on the floor and talk and talk and talk. And if the Democrats are serious about forcing the Republicans to really filibuster the bill, this is the right week for it: The Kentucky Derby starts Friday, and Kentucky's senior senator, Mitch McConnell, would surely prefer to attend....

Well, he has been known to attend the Derby -- but it seems more likely he'll just keep saying "No" and then whine about how the Democrats are forcing him to do it, even on Derby Day. After all, whining about how Democrats are forcing you to miss sporting events when the real reason is your own intransigence and obstructionism is kind of a tradition for Republican senators for Kentucky. Remember?

...Democrats made repeated attempts to pass the extension [of unemployment benefits] by unanimous consent, and [Senator Jim] Bunning blocked them all. He then complained that the Democrats' insistence on trying to ensure that unemployment benefits not expire had caused him to miss a college basketball game:

I want to assure the people that have, heh, watched this thing until quarter of twelve -- and I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9 o’clock, and it’s the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina, since they’re the only team that has beat Kentucky this year.... If we'd have taken the longer version of the job bill...we wouldn't have spent three hours plus telling everybody in the United States of America that Senator Bunning doesn't give a damn about the people that are on unemployment.

Everything is our fault, needless to say. Even GOP muleheadedness is our fault.

I'm pretty sure I know why Matt Drudge's lead story earlier today was this "flash":

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate hearing Tuesday that unmanned aerial drones will soon fly through Texas skies!

"Big Sis" declared that over the past 15 months, federal law enforcement initiatives have made the border more secure than in any other time in history, the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS reports in Wednesday editions....

Drudge ran with this because Napolitano (whom he always calls "Big Sis") is seen as a jackbooted Antichrist on the right. Drones on the U.S. border, sent by Napolitano? The regime is seizing dictatorial power!

... Er, except that, this time around, that's not the reaction on the right. Brown people are involved, so righties are saying she's not jackbooted enough.

Infidel Bloggers Alliance:

What is the use of this GOOD tactic if the strategy by the federal govt is to do very little .. at most capture via the same failed techniques, and then release back into Mexico? ...

This, at best, needs to be backed by highly mobile interdiction. And the govt of Mexico needs to be at the begin of a quiet process of being informed that if they are trying to govern a region so chaotic they cannot secure it, we will have to take certain measures to defend it....

Drones are a good idea.

Snooper's Take Our Country Back:

Don't count on anything happening. The idiot Nappyheaded Napoleanitano is in charge and what business of this is hers?

... Nappyhead. Moron. Obamabot. Jerk whistle.

Pesky Emotional Republican:

Call me suspicious, but I am wondering whether this is happening now in order to convince the populace that the federal government is indeed doing something to protect our borders, thus eliminating the need for those Draconian Arizona illegal alien laws.

Also, I'd like to know what happens after a drone spots illegals crossing the border. Will the drone send an email to Janet Napolitano? Well it advise the illegal that he has to go to ICE and turn himself in?


These "drone" only have the ability to tell you something is happening on the ground. You still need boots on the ground to stop the illegal activity.


Yes, by all means let us use the most expensive method we can dream up and after we have thrown away several more billion we will throw up our hands again and say well we spent all this money on enforcement and it just didn’t work.


here's a thought, protect the border by having boots on the ground and then seeing as it is illegal to be in those country illegally then go after them

what the hell is a couple of drones going to do....


So are they going to just watch with them or load them?


They can use the drones to keep track of them and register them to vote.


Arm them and you might get somewhere.

Oh, Matt, you're being so 2009. These are non-white people we're talking about. No amount of big government is enough when you're dealing with non-white people who are doing things white people don't like.

(Oh, by the way, we've been flying drones over other border states since the Bush years; Texas hasn't had them because of crowded airspace.)

You may have seen the story about the Republican congressional candidate in Iowa who wants to microchip illegal immigrants:

"I think we should catch 'em, we should document 'em, make sure we know where they are and where they are going," said Pat Bertroche, an Urbandale physician. "I actually support micro-chipping them. I can micro-chip my dog so I can find it. Why can't I micro-chip an illegal?..."

I'm sure it won't surprise you that when it comes to the rest of us, he's a lot more concerned about privacy -- and well, "concerned" may not be the correct word so much as "paranoid." On the issues page of his campaign Web site, under "Health Care," is a subsection called "Invading Your Privacy," in which he argues that electronic medical records (EMR) are bad because they could be like U.S. missile secrets:

If a physician with EMR has a problem with the computers, he or she will have a terrible time trying to see you. He won't have the record available, and he won't be able to make sure the treatments are correct, and won't be able to write scripts for you. When I was talking to a regional vendor, he told me to keep paper records as well as backing up my system. Well, Hell, if I have to keep paper records anyway, why get EMR?

Also, if the White House, Dept. of Defense, and Los Alamos Labs can't keep their computers and information secure, what makes anyone think the HHS can keep your sensitive and private health records secure? Heck, the North Koreans have been launching cyber attacks against us for 6 weeks now, and we can't stop them. The Chinese stole plans for the F-22 Raptor from Los Alamos Labs last year through a cyber attack. Holy cow! And they want you to trust them to keep your records safe?

So, um, is he arguing that the Pentagon and Los Alamos should get rid of all their computers and work exclusively with pencils and legal pads?

And what happens if the North Koreans get hold of the data from our illegal-immigrant microchips?

To give him his due, Dr. Bertroche doesn't spend a whole lot of time in the "Invading Your Privacy" section of his site talking about privacy. He uses the section to rail against health care reform in general, and what he writes is more, um, free-form:

... just today, (8-6-09) Rep. Pelosi called the health care reform bill protesters "Nazi's". OH. MY. GOD. Just like the Commucrat she is, she is utilizing Pres. Chavez's method of getting rid of dissenters. Pretty soon I think she'll be calling for jail terms for the protestors....

If you don't think your doctor doesn't listen to you now, wait till he's behind a computer and doesn't even look up at you. Sheesh. There is a physician group in town that has obtained EMR. I have picked up a lot of patients from them, all with the complaint of "all they do is tap their screens". I'm not kidding. Imagine that scenario nationwide....

Pres. Obama has already appointed a board of people to determine "best practices". It's a nice euphemism for rationing. They are going to determine who gets what care. If you look at the construction of this board, it is going to consist of "czars" governing each specialty. (As an aside, is anyone else concerned with all the "czars" we have? To me, it's just another step to Communism)....

What if you child has autism? In the US they get treated. In the UK they don't. What if my mom or dad needed a pacemaker or a stent for a heart blockage? They're critical to me. But not a bean counter. In the US, my parents would get what they needed. In the UK, they just die....

I just want to point out that this isn't a transcript of off-the-cuff remarks by Bertroche, posted without his consent. This is the position paper he himself has posted on his own site. As the man himself would say, Sheesh.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


This lasted a whopping three weeks:

The trial balloon came crashing down in an instant today, when this happened:

No! We are wingnuts! We enforce rigid ideological discipline! Our out-of-nowhere Barack Obama-wannabe ingenue cannot deviate from correct thinking on any issue!

But not to worry -- almost instantaneously, another trial balloon went up:

Phew! We're saved!

It probably won't surprise you that a Utah Republican is sponsoring a version of the Arizona immigration law in his own state:

As protests in Arizona over an anti-immigration law heat up, one conservative Utah lawmaker wants to bring the law to this state....

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, is drafting a bill that would require immigrants to carry proof of status and require law enforcement officers to question anyone they believe is in the country without documentation....

But please note that the same guy sponsored legislation in Utah defying the national Real ID Act:

The Utah House voted Thursday for the state to opt out of the national REAL ID Act in yet another move to oppose what many legislators consider an overbearing federal government.

"It's time we say, 'Federal government, stay away from this, let us handle it ourselves,'" said Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, the bill's sponsor....

More from a 2009 news story, when the bill defying the Real ID Act was still under consideration:

The mandate of the U.S. Congress, crafted by the Department of Homeland Security, calls for states to come into an initial level of compliance, including specialized photography to aid facial recognition software and the establishment of an accessible database, by 2010, with further requisites to follow.

Under provisions of HB64, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, the Utah Driver's License Division would be prohibited from implementing the requirements of REAL ID....

Sandstrom's Real ID nullification bill was signed into law last month.

So let's review:

Mandatory ID papers for brown people? Vital to the security of the state!

Somewhat more secure ID cards for everyone? Jackbooted fascism!


And because irony apparently can't die too often, I see that Rick Santorum says Democrats's decision to bring up immigration in D.C. is a "cynical attempt to try to further turn Hispanics away from Republicans." And the effort to turn white people in Arizona (and elsewhere) toward Republicans by means of an immigrant-bashing law ... that wouldn't be cynical at all, would it, Rick?

The right doesn't think the Arizona immigration law is jackbooted big government run amok. You know what the right does think is jackbooted big government run amok?


...Convinced that Happy Meals and other food promotions aimed at children could make kids fat as well as happy, county officials in Silicon Valley are poised to outlaw the little toys that often come with high-calorie offerings.

... the proposal would forbid the inclusion of a toy in any restaurant meal that has more than 485 calories, more than 600 mg of salt or high amounts of sugar or fat. In the case of McDonald's, the limits would include all of the chain's Happy Meals....

... The California Restaurant Assn. has taken out full-page newspaper advertisements against the proposed ordinance in local newspapers. One shows a little girl with her hands cuffed behind her back as she holds a stuffed animal.

Another opponent wrote in a YouTube posting, "I want to know when the pitchforks and torches and rope is going to come out.... We need to run these Frankenstein politician monsters the hell out of town!" ...

(Emphasis added.)

Or as the posters at Fox Nation put it (in a thread titled "California Nanny-Staters Crack Down on Happy Meal Toys"):

In a socialist society, nobody is allowed to be happy. We all must suffer in misery together. That is what a progressive calls Fairness.


PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!!! If parents want to feed their kids DIRT that's their choice.


Bye Bye Freedom! Toys, fat, salt, sugar...........


Our rights are God given.
Rights the government controls can all be taken away.
I trust God.


It's California, they would rather have them playing with their mommies and other mommies double headed d.i.l.d.o than a happy meal toy!

Hey, on that last one? Thanks for sharing.

Now, one can argue about the merits of this proposal. Still, all it does is deprive kids of a free piece of cheaply made plastic crap.

"But," you say, "our forebears died at Valley Forge for the right to obtain free cheaply made plastic crap!" Well, nobody's stopping you from buying cheaply made plastic crap. Governments regulate restaurants, through food-safety laws, zoning laws, and so on. There's no reason government can't do this.

However, I realize I'm forgetting that McDonald's is a massive multinational corporation rather than, y'know, a brown person, so any infringement on its preferences is by definition Hitlerian.

Via Steve Benen, I see that Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times is boycotting Arizona and calling it "a police state," while invoking its most revered 20th-century conservative in reference to the state's new immigration law:

What would Arizona's revered libertarian icon, Barry Goldwater, say about a law that requires the police to demand proof of legal residency from any person with whom they have made "any lawful contact" and about whom they have "reasonable suspicion" that "the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States?"

I wouldn't look for too much comfort there. We actually know some of Goldwater's thoughts on immigration, from a 1978 statement that appeared decades later in a book entitled Pure Goldwater. A 2008 newspaper article sums up Goldwater's thinking:

Don't offer amnesty to those already here illegally. Sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants are unfair; it is the government's responsibility to determine who is here legally.

Start a guest worker program to "channel the flow" of illegal immigrants through a legal mechanism.

And establish a clear immigration policy that is actually enforced.

If Goldwater were on the floor of the U.S. Senate today, he'd feel right at home with the immigration debate -- but conservatives would brand him a "traitor" for supporting a guest worker program....


Goldwater then offered a litany of suggestions: better inspection, detection, surveillance and manpower capabilities for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border Patrol and Customs Service. "Our personnel do an admirable job under often trying circumstances, but they need more funds, improved equipment and more manpower," the senator wrote. "We need a clearer U.S. immigration policy that is actually enforced. We need increased cooperation with the countries that are sending illegal aliens."

(You can go here for the full text of Goldwater's statement.)

So I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that Goldwater would regard this as a matter of "freedom" and "small government."


Our side still doesn't understand how these issues appear to angry rightists, or to the centrists the righties find persuadable. Greenhouse, for instance, goes on to write:

Indeed, federal pre-emption would appear to be the most promising route for attacking the Arizona law. Supreme Court precedents make clear that immigration is a federal matter and that the Constitution does not authorize the states to conduct their own foreign policies.

Yeah -- but that's also the most promising route for firing up the angry white base. What angry whites think, rightly or wrongly, when it's argued that the federal courts should nullify this law is: (a) activist judges are defying the will of the people and (b) that the feds are demanding preeminence when it's the federal government that's failing to deal with the immigration issue in the first place.

Let me be clear: I'M NOT DEFENDING THESE ARGUMENTS. I'm just pointing out that they're arguments that really resonate with just the kinds of voters the Republican Party hopes to turn out in November, as well as with a lot of swing voters. And I don't see that our counterarguments resonate at all. I agree with Nate Silver:

It wouldn't shock me if the law indeed proved to be popular, especially in Arizona.... (Liberals, who uniformly seem to think that the law will be unpopular with certain key demographic groups, are a bit too sanguine about this).


And speaking of wedge issues, I see (again via Steve Benen) that Tim James, a longshot candidate for Alabama's GOP gubernatorial nomination, is running an ad complaining about the state's multilingual driver's license test:

In this advertisement, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James speaks on the apparently incredible waste of government resources it takes to give driver's license examinations in twelve languages.

"This is Alabama," he says. "We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it. ... Maybe it's the business man in me, but we'll save money. And it make sense." THREE SECOND PAUSE. "Does it to you?"

And here, apparently, is our side's best counterargument:

... there's a reason why Alabama has its exams in many different languages ... if the governor changes the rules, the state could lose billions of dollars in federal transportation funding.

The feds insist? That's the best we've got?

If we can't do better than that, on this and other wedge issues, and if we can't show real benefits from non-right-wing governance (when exactly are all those wonderful benefits from the health care bill actually going to kick in?), and if we aren't going to respond to the economic downturn with some full-throated scapegoating (please Mr. President, stop asking Wall Street to "join us"), then the right is going to scapegoat in its time-tested fashion, and is going to be able to argue that pointy-headed liberals are out of touch with simple common sense. And far too many middle-of-the-roaders are going to agree with the righties.

She's obviously not worried about appealing to the center, to judge from this ad, seen at Ace of Spades:

Click-through goes to a donation form with this header:

I keep hearing that Limbaugh and his ilk are harmful to the GOP because they alienate voters in the center. I'd love to see that thesis tested -- after Lowden wins her primary, I suppose Harry Reid should use this photo the way Barack Obama used the McCain-Bush hug photo. But I suspect it wouldn't have any effect, because far too many voters in the center just shrug off the extremism of Limbaugh and his soul mates on the right, or assume what they say and do is just harmless, or are persuaded by their wingnut neighbors at backyard barbecues that a lot of what these guys say really makes sense. And so true pariah status outside the base is a long, long way off for Limbaugh et al., and Lowden is free to run this ad without having to worry that it will come back to haunt her.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I tend to believe that Sarah Palin will run for president in 2012 -- but I have to say I'm not as certain as Andrew Sullivan. Nor do I think that she represents a momentous and unique evolutionary (or de-evolutionary) step in the Republican Party's development, as Sullivan does:

...The political parties are weaker than they once were. The elites cannot control grass-roots Internet-driven phenomena. Look at Obama. He seems a natural president now, but Washington dismissed his chances -- as they are now dismissing Palin's -- right up to the Iowa caucuses....

... what we have seen this past year is the collapse of the RNC as it once was and the emergence of a highly lucrative media-ideological-industrial complex. This complex has no interest in traditional journalistic vetting, skepticism, scrutiny of those in power, or asking the tough questions. It has no interest in governing a country. It has an interest in promoting personalities and ideologies and false images of a past America that both flatter and engage its audience....

Add Palin to the mix and you have a whole new machine in American politics -- one with the capacity, as much as Obama's, to upend the established order....

Sullivan thinks she's certain to run ("with that power and that potential funding, how can someone who said she wanted to be president as long ago as 1996 resist?"); I expect her to take a shot, but I think it's also possible she'll decide to be a perpetual possible candidate, a hot-mama Newt Gingrich whose speeches draw crowds (bigger than his) and whose words draw headlines, but who never ultimately runs. I just don't know. It could go either way.

I also don't buy the notion that there's Sarah Palin, rogue Net-based megastar, and then there's the rest of the GOP. The way I see it, Palin is just what every other top-level Republican is these days, only more so.

You say she talks exclusively in know-nothing talk radio soundbites? Well, isn't that more or less what every GOP presidential aspirant has begun to do, even if it means jettisoning positions held for years (hello, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty)?

You say she doesn't do media except for Fox News? Well, go read this Ross Douthat blog post. As he notes, the Republican right actually accomplished more in the Reagan years, before the rise of talk radio and Fox, than it has since then, when the right-wing media elevated Gingrich and then Bush -- both of whom utterly failed at governance. It's as if the wingers aren't even bothering to engage the rest of the country apart for the right-wing base (remember Bush's base-only 2004 campaign?), to their ultimate detriment -- and that's just like Palin, except that her exclusivity is more absolute.

The party has ceased to be (as John Podhoretz, quoted by Douthat, puts it) "bilingual" -- Republicans don't even try to talk in the language of the center and left. So when 2012 rolls around, there won't be one Palin running for president -- there'll probably be a dozen. They'll all talk like her. They'll all snark off at liberals and Democrats like her. They'll all call Obama a totalitarian socialist, just like her. In the primary season, they may even all try to blow off the non-right-wing media, just like her -- they'll certainly all express contempt for it.

And that's a big reason why the nomination isn't hers to lose -- she's going to be joined at the fringe by her primary opponents. Because that's the message of the entire modern GOP, not just its Wasilla branch.

(And yes, I realize I should have used the phrase "epistemic closure" in here somewhere.)

Found when I did a Google search for Rush Limbaugh:

Yikes. And, indeed, when I went to the link, clicked on HEARD ABOUT US ON RADIO OR TV? and entered RUSH at the prompt, I got this:

Hard to think of my mother and Rush Limbaugh at the same time. Hard to think of anything whatsoever to do with human feelings and Rush Limbaugh at the same time.


Meanwhile, I'm told here and here that Rush Limbaugh criticized National Security Advisor James Jones for his recent borderline-anti-Semitic (clip and transcript here) -- which is interesting coming from a guy who said this a couple of months ago:

"There are a lot of people, when you say banker, people think Jewish. People who have prejudice, people who have -- what's the best way to say -- a little prejudice about them. To some people, bankers -- code word for Jewish -- and guess who Obama's assaulting? He's assaulting bankers. He's assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there's starting to be some buyer's remorse there."

Compare and contrast:


UPDATE: here's the Limbaugh transcript.

Over at Ballon Juice, mistermix says it's hard for the president and the Congressional Democrats to find a way around the inevitable filibuster threats, and thus the need to try to placate whichever Republican has hinted at cooperation but is now throwing a hissyfit.

In response to this, Atrios writes:

One way to get Republicans on board is to enable them to be divas, flatter them, let them bask in the media spotlight as they play Hamlet for 6 months, and keep offering compromise after compromise while getting nothing in return, on the off chance that maybe, just maybe, Lindsey or President Snowe or whoever will get on board. Another way to do things is to propose popular pieces of legislation and then make the Republicans eat shit every day they fail to pass it, go send out your charismatic leader to give speeches and hold rallies in their states, mobilize your massive community of supporters to take various actions in support of the legislation, etc.

Generally speaking, that's correct -- but it doesn't take into account the nature of this presidency.

Barack Obama came into office wanting to take on big issues -- health care, climate change, the post-petroleum energy future, and so on. He decided he wanted to stick with his agenda even when the economy cratered. And, compounding matters further, he wants to take on transformational issues, but he wants to do most of this stuff in a way that is way too far to the left to please wingnuts but is too corporatist to please liberals and lefties -- and is too complex to be graspable by most swing voters.

So his plan was to use his awe-inspiring popularity and his big congressional majorities to tackle big issues in a left-centrist (or, if you prefer, right-centrist) way. Even he knew, I think, that that wouldn't be tremendously crowd-pleasing. But it would put him in the history books.

Right now, for once, he's pursuing a big item -- financial reform -- that happens to be crowd-pleasing ... and it's almost as if he had to be dragged to the issue kicking and screaming. He let a year go by without prioritizing it; the press kept telling us the "momentum" for reform had ebbed. He couldn't have guessed this would be popular? He couldn't have guessed that it would increase his credibility as he pursued other goals? Apparently not -- or apparently he wasn't even thinking that way. He wanted to pursue what he wanted to pursue (or what he felt he had to pursue, i.e., the stimulus and bailouts), and he didn't think he had to concern himself with staying in the public's good graces.

For a guy who plays so much basketball, he's not very good at reading the defense -- that is, assessing what obstacles he's actually facing and adjusting his game plan to reality. And as soon as financial reform is over, he's going back to stuff that's not very popular: immigration and energy. He should "propose popular pieces of legislation" and "mobilize [his] massive community of supporters," but he just doesn't want to.

Yesterday [Lindsey Graham] called the Democrats' renewed calls to advance immigration reform "a cynical political ploy."

--Frank Sharry at the Huffington Post

Sharry argues that it's Graham who's engaged in the cynical political ploy -- that he'd intended to "slow walk" the very immigration bill he has called for, and was working on, in order to spare his pal John McCain a tough vote before the August 24 GOP primary in his state's Senate race ... but now Harry Reid has screwed up that plan. Um, I dunno -- that seems too narrow an explanation. (John "If You Don't Like These Principles, I Have Others" McCain simply has to go wingnut on immigration to protect his right flank, and that's what he's doing. If he survives the primary, I'm sure he's a shoo-in, Hispanic vote or no.)

I see a lot of cynicism here, not all of it smart cynicism. Yeah, the Democrats are reacting to the immigration bill that was just signed into law in Arizona -- but the president has been talking immigration for a while now. To me it's seemed likely for some time that the Democrats would at least launch a big push on this issue this year, regardless of the likelihood of success, because they think inevitable long-term demographic forces favor the party regarded as pro-Hispanic.

Problem is, inevitable long-term demographic forces don't vote in most midterm elections -- angry old white people do. Which is why I find myself wondering if the decision to move immigration to the head of the queue is good for Harry Reid's chances in the short run, and possibly good for the party in the long run, but godawful for the party overall this year.

As Politico notes:

After facing tough votes on cap and trade and the health care bill, centrist House Democrats are wary of yet another one that could prove unpopular at home.

"It's not a tough vote for me at all. I'm not going to vote for amnesty," said Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire, whose Pittsburgh-area district supported McCain over Obama in 2008. "I'm not going to vote for a path to citizenship or whatever you want to call it."

Altmire bucked leadership on cap and trade and on health care reform, and he's got a message for Pelosi on immigration: "She can bring it up, but I’m not going to support it. In my district, that’s not an issue that’s going to get any support at all. When they brought it up in 2007, it took weeks before I heard anything good about the bill."

But as Cokie Roberts pointed out on NPR this morning, Nancy Pelosi doesn't intend to join the push for an immigration bill unless the Senate actually passes something; she know that a lot of sitting Democrats are going to be hurt by this push:

... Speaker Pelosi has said on immigration, basically, look, if the Senate wants to take up an immigration bill, have thmselves a ball. She's not going to do it unless the Senate acts, because she knows that this is something that is very unlikely to get through both houses of Congress.

Hate to say it, but I think that's a smart move. Sure, you can look the nation's overall demographics and talk about the increase in the Hispanic population, but where are those Hispanics? Far too many of them are probably gerrymandered into majority non-Anglo districts. Looking at the national percentages probably leads one to overestimate the number of seats in which seeming pro-Hispanic is shrewd politics, and underestimate the number of seats for which it's a problem.

And, hell, I wouldn't want to be, say, Patty Murray in Washington State running for reelection in a tough fight this year with an immigration bill around my neck. Yeah, the coastal part of her state may be multiculti -- but there are militias further east.


One more thought about cynicism -- why did Lindsey Graham pick this exact moment for his fit? I think one reason is that the GOP wants to change the subject away from financial reform. We know the polls show that voters want a bill. We know the GOP has (at least partly) backed off the Party of No filibuster-to-the-death strategy.

I head over to Fox Nation on a regular basis because I think it gives a really good read on how shrewd Republicans are trying to play to the base (it's run by de facto GOP operatives playing to all-yahoo audience) -- and right now there isn't a single story at the top of the Fox Nation page about financial reform. Republicans don't see a winning strategy here. The GOP, to judge from its top propagandist, really, really wants to change the subject to anything else.

And Graham, cynically, just did that.


UPDATE: Did I say that the GOP wants to change the subject? I guess it's obvious why:

About two-thirds of Americans support stricter regulations on the way banks and other financial institutions conduct their business, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll....

In the poll, ... most Republicans oppose [the three major elements of the reform legislation], echoing the congressional showdown expected this week....

So Republicans can alienate their base or alienate the rest of America. Their choice? To say, "Look! Over there! Mexicans!"

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Via Matt Yglesias and Conor Friedersdorf, I see that Jonah Goldberg is whining that when he was a young right-wing lad in D.C. in the 1990s, he and like minded pals "had many gripe sessions conversations about how hard it was to break-in at places like NR, the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal etc." -- and that "today's 20-somethings" have a similar "frustration with 'the business,'" but get to vent it on the Internet. (He offers no examples of such rants from his juniors, and, in reference to himwself, makes no mention of the family connections that helped get him where he is today.) Matt Y. quotes a Julian Sanchez post from 2008 that makes just the opposite point about how tough life is for young right-leaning writers:

If you're willing to toe a straight party line, on the other hand, let's face it, you can be pretty damn mediocre and still carve out a nice little niche for yourself at any one of a welter of generously funded ideological publications and think tanks. Sure, it's a smaller pond, but you get to be a relatively big fish. You'll always have a book deal waiting at Regnery, a warm guest chair on Fox, editors at NR and the Weekly Standard eager to look at your pitches, handsome honoraria on your speaking tour of College Republican groups, and in your golden years, an undemanding sinecure as the Senior Olin Fellow at the Institute for Real 'Murriken Studies.

Apropos to this is a 2006 New York Observer story I've cited a few times on the subject of the well-oiled machinery for creating and nurturing right-wing writers and pundits. The story focuses on Matthew Continetti, then in his mid-twenties, with a first book about to be published:

... Mr. Continetti graduated in 2003 from Columbia University.... He was awarded a 2002 summer internship at the National Review through the Collegiate Network, a division of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute that was founded by Irving Kristol and William Simon Sr. in 1979, which directs money into American colleges to fight what it characterizes as liberal bias on campuses. The Collegiate Network has an operating budget of approximately $1 million and gives $3,000 grants to right-wing college newspapers across the country (around $200,000 in total.)...

The network also funds yearlong fellowships, of which Mr. Continetti was a recipient upon graduation. He spent his year at
The Weekly Standard as a fellow under Fred Barnes and received a stipend of approximately $28,000 from the network; when it was over, the magazine hired him full time.

And now there's the book deal. [Adam] Bellow [of Doubleday] said that he was taught a "whole generational theory of publishing" by his mentor at the Free Press, Erwin Glikes, who had hired him based on a recommendation from Irving Kristol (who was an acquaintance of his father, Saul Bellow). The theory consisted of finding the best of the younger generation and giving them book contracts....

Wow, sounds like a tough grind.

Bellow, incidentally, was Goldberg's editor for his #1 bestseller Liberal Fascism. Hey, can't a scion help a scion out?

It's really much easier to understand the modern GOP if you think about it not as a political party in a peaceful, civilized nation, but rather as an insurgent group determined to bring down the existing government by any means necessary. In other words, don't look to the bulk of U.S. history to understand the Republicans; look to the recent history of, say, Iraq and Afghanistan. One major difference, of course, is that it's possible to co-opt some members of the anti-government insurgencies in those countries. It apparently isn't possible to do the same with the Republicans.

Until recently, there was a widespread belief that Lindsey Graham was cooperating with the government and was willing to work toward a peaceful resolution of the impasse over climate legislation. Today, however, it's being reported that he's blown the entire process up:

In a move that may derail a comprehensive climate change and energy bill in the Senate, one of the measure's central architects, Senator Lindsey Graham, has issued an angry protest over what he says are Democratic plans to give priority to a debate over immigration policy.

Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said in a sharply worded letter on Saturday that he would no longer participate in negotiations on the energy bill, throwing its already cloudy prospects deeper into doubt. He had been working for months with Senators John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, on the a legislation, which they were scheduled to announce with considerable fanfare on Monday morning. That announcement has been indefinitely postponed....

This strikes me as the nonviolent equivalent of the story of Abu Mulal al-Balawi, who reportedly attended several meetings with Americans at Camp Chapman in Afghanistan, promising information on the whereabouts of top al-Qaeda officials, before returning last December -- now a trusted informant -- only to blow himself up there, killing a number of top-level CIA agents.

Graham says he had to blow up the climate legislation talks because immigration is being prioritized by Harry Reid. What the hell kind of lame excuse is that? It's transparently phony, and the only question is whether Graham intended all along to be Lucy pulling away the football or whether he got cold feet, fearing the wrath of GOP hard-liners.

I don't have the answer to that. I just know that you simply can't negotiate with these insurgents. Maybe it would be possible if there were a forceful application of sticks, which might be enough motivation to make the Republicans reach for the carrots. But that simply isn't the case.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Michael Tomasky yesterday, responding to the David Brooks column about Democrats' alleged overreliance on government since Obama's election:

... I think Brooks downplays the extremism of the right. A lot of our current division stems from the Republican tactical decision to oppose every major thing the administration tried to do....

Obama and the Democrats will take a licking at the polls this November. But assuming they hold on to the House, which I still think they will, you'll probably see a Democratic Party that moves more in Brooks' desired direction.

What you won't see, I'd wager, is a Republican Party that's interested in meeting them anywhere near halfway. They will oppose and obfuscate and outright lie, as Mitch McConnell just did on the financial reform issue. Their chief purpose is not to address what's ailing the country but to make Obama a one-term president.

That's a simple undeniable reality that needs to be acknowledged. The middle is vanishing because one of our two political parties has no interest in locating it and working to create it; only in pushing it further and further to the right.

I agree with this; I bring it up only to offer my opinion about what's going to happen after November.

I don't think Democrats are going to move toward the middle after November -- not all of them, anyway. I think a lot of them are going to try to move quite far to the right.

I think a lot of them are going be pants-wettingly terrified after November, even if they hold on to both houses of Congress. Just the loss of a few dozen seats in the House is going to motivate them to try to emulate the teabag-inspired GOP.

So I think you're going to see quite a few Democrats talking about repeal of the health care bill -- or at least partial repeal. I think you're going to see some Democrats talking about draconian, Arizona-like immigration laws. I think you're going to hear a number of Democrats calling for across-the-board tax cuts or a flat tax or the "Fair Tax."

I think some of this is going to come from very high-profile Democrats -- or perhaps the Dems who say it will just become high-profile. We may even get close to veto-proof numbers on some issues.

And you know what? It still won't work. If a few Democrats call for partial repeal of the health care bill, Republicans will say they can accept nothing less than full repeal. If some Democrats call for across-the-board tax cuts, Republicans will say the cuts are too small. And on and on.

Tomasky is right -- Republicans will never move to the center to find compromise. But it's worse than that -- they'll just keep moving their demands more and more to he right. They won't be appeased -- mainly because they don't really care all that much about the laws they say they want. What they really want is power.

(Tomasky link via Just Above Sunset, which I've added to the blogroll.)

Friday, April 23, 2010


The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder thinks Republicans have a problem:

... has the conservative base gone mad?

... Mainstream conservative voices are embracing theories that are, to use Julian Sanchez's phrase, "untethered" to the real world.

I want to find Republicans to take seriously, but it is hard.... the base itself seems to have developed a notion that bromides are equivalent to policy-thinking, and that therapy is a substitute for thinking.

It is absolutely a condition of the age of the triumph of conservative personality politics, where entertainers shouting slogans are taken seriously as political actors, and where the incentive structures exist to stomp on dissent and nuance....

... Conor Friedersdorf thinks the problem lies with the conservative movement's major spokespeople -- its radio/net news nexus ... the constant failures of these men to live up to their billing is so offensive, destructive, and ruinous to conservatives. There are plenty of women, too, is all I'll say....

To which Republicans would respond with this Gallup chart:

Accompanied by this text:

The advantage in public support the Democratic Party built up during the latter part of the Bush administration and the early part of the Obama administration has all but disappeared. During the first quarter of 2010, 46% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, while 45% identified as or leaned Republican....

Marc? It's working. Republicans don't care what you think about the intellectual rigor (of even the honesty) of their fulminations. All they care about is winning. And they're about to win in November, big time.

What they're doing is absolutely poisonous to the country -- but, really, if our side could figure out a way to do a reasonable amount of it back to them, maybe it wouldn't be so successful, and maybe the dumbing down, paradoxically, might abate. If we could mud-wrestle them to a draw, instead of getting our butts kicked in the cable and radio ratings and at the town hall meetings, maybe they'd have to try competing in the field of ideas. But we've mostly conceded that they're going to out-mud-wrestle us, and we're crossing our fingers and hoping it won't be a successful electoral strategy. Gallup's poll, and others, suggest it will be. So we'd better get in the mud with them. And then maybe we can rise out of it as a country.

Fox News employs three potential GOP presidential candidates -- Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich -- in various capacities, but the 2012 trial balloon in the latest Fox News poll doesn't involve any of them. Here it is, from the PDF of the poll data (click to enlarge):

Oops! The public didn't bite. Respondents were supposed to say that Petraeus's manly bearing would make everything all better, but two thirds of voters said either that he'd be doing about the same as Obama or (the most popular answer) that they just didn't know.

Funny thing: Fox's write-up of the poll makes no mention of this trial-balloon flameout.

As others have noted, the GOP doesn't have a really good candidate pool for 2012 -- which may be what saves President Obama when he runs for reelection. Clearly, Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes have noticed. But if they want to solve this problem for the party they serve so loyally, I'm afraid they may have to go back to the drawing board.

David Brooks thinks recent developments in our country are just following forces of nature:

...In the first year of the Obama administration, the Democrats, either wittingly or unwittingly, decided to put the big government-versus-small government debate at the center of American life.

Just as America was leaving the culture war and the war war, the Democrats thrust it back into the government war, only this time nastier and with higher stakes.

This war is like a social script. Once it was activated, everybody fell into their preassigned roles.

As government grew, the antigovernment right mobilized....

As government grew, many moderates and independents (not always the same thing) recoiled in alarm. In 2008, the country was evenly split on whether there should be bigger government with more services or smaller government with fewer services. Now, according to a Pew Research Center poll, the smaller government side has a 10-point edge....

As government has seemed more threatening, moderates and independents have also fled from the Democratic Party....

But the backlash against the Democrats wasn't inevitable. It happened because Democrats did (and are still doing) a godawful job of rebutting the anti-government arguments and making a case for intervention by the public sector. They haven't made the case, passionately and convincingly, that what they want to do isn't "socialism!!!" or that it's very much in the tradition of government interventions -- like, oh, say, the New Deal and Medicare -- that Americans have happily embraced.

Democrats who wind up in power are always too damn educated for their own good. They don't understand that they actually have to explain to people, clearly, forcefully, repeatedly, and perpetually, that Medicare and Social Security are government programs; or that our tax rates were much higher in the middle of the twentieth century than they are now, and somehow capitalism not only survived but thrived; or that government fixes the roads and fights the crime and delivers the disaster relief and educates the vast majority of our kids -- and we want it to do all that.

So sure, I was amused when the president, in his New York speech yesterday, mentioned a news story citing dire warnings from Wall Streeters about government intervention -- and then explained that the article was from 1933 and the legislation in question was a bill creating the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

But I'm not convinced that that got through to heartland America. I fear that a lot of heartlanders don't even think about the FDIC, and may not even be aware that it exists -- or, if they know, they may not know what it does, or whether it's public or private, or why it's been so important for nearly seventy years.

We know right-wing protesters have been waving signs demanding that the government keep its hands off Medicare. I'm sure even more of them are equally ignorant of the FDIC.

That's because the believers in government never explain why government is necessary. They don't develop and cultivate a narrative. And meanwhile, by contrast, the right has been lovingly crafting and disseminating a tale that fits every tax cut and every act of deregulation or privatization into a star-spangled myth of American freedom!!!

It would also be nice if modern-day government interventions worked better, and weren't watered down and compromised in an effort to placate the wealthy and powerful. In Obama's term we needed more help for the unemployed and for struggling mortgagees; we needed a better health care bill, and the financial reform bill isn't all it's cracked up to be, either.

But Democrats don't even try to explain why we need government programs in the first place. That's what makes the anti-government backlash from centrists inevitable. It isn't inevitable otherwise.

Rush Limbaugh, in a Wall Street Journal editorial today:

Mr. Obama and his party believe that the election of November 2008 entitled them to make permanent, "transformational" changes to our society.

Gosh, I guess I missed the passage in the Constitution that says we automatically repeal all the laws passed during an administration's tenure as soon as the president leaves office. I guess now that means we have to abolish Social Security, Medicare, the minimum wage, and child labor laws. Not that I think any of that would particularly upset Mr. Limbaugh.

So I'm trying to make some sense of the Palin video below (a clip from her appearance on a Christian talk show in Canada); CNN reported on the interview, and the clip is being plugged by Palin's fan club and her employer, Fox News ("Should Palin Run in 2012? She Opens the Door..."). Palin does leave the 2012 door open -- but it's her declared motive for possibly deciding to run that I find amusing. Apparently it's so that she can comfort people. You didn't realize that that's the purpose of the presidency? Well, allow Palin to explain:

PALIN: ... What I find after this year and a half of, some would call it a tumultuous ride, others would call it -- I call it a very exciting and full ride that Todd and my family and I have really been on, I realize that everybody has challenges. Everybody has battles. Some are played out on the front page of the newspaper, perhaps -- some of our challenges have been. Other people maybe don't go through that, but they still have their challenges. And if I can help provide some encouragement, some inspiration, some hope for them to get through their battles and make good decisions and get through a challenge, because that's what we've been able to do, then I'm going to stay focused on that, and whether that's on a local level in my own little town of Wasilla, or --

CONNIE SMITH (interviewer): Or in the Oval Office.

PALIN -- or in the Oval Office, if it's right, then we will pursue that.


So, what do we take away from this?

(1) That, according to Palin, there really isn't a difference between the problems of Joe and Jane Sixpack sitting around the kitchen table doing the family budget and the problems of a self-promoting multi-media multi-millionairess -- hey, we're all God's children; and

(2) bringing comfort -- to the Sixpacks, to fellow multi-media millionaire superstars, or whatever -- is something you can do just hanging around Wasilla ... or as president of the United States! They're basically alike! Not having a real job apart from high-level self-promotion, being the leader of the free world -- what's the difference, really?

I know it's silly to parse this word salad, but it does reinforce my sense that Palin's decision to run or not to run isn't going to be based on anything resembling logic, or at least not logic as you or I understand the term. It's not going to be based on any rational person's understanding of what the job of the presidency is and how interested Palin thinks she'd be in doing that job. It's going to based on a bizarre process of stringing together self-serving catchphrases, which, for Palin, is what substitutes for coherent thought.