Monday, May 31, 2010

NOT SURE WHAT TO SAY ...

... about the Israeli flotilla raid. Ah, but I'm sure Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani will be along soon to share their vast expertise on the subject, and then we'll all know what to think.

****

UPDATE: Via Tbogg in comments, I see we have a Palin tweet. But oh, Rudy, why so silent?

Chuck Norris? Pat Boone? Ted Nugent? Share your wisdom with us!
AGNEW ON CRACK

Liz Cheney went on Fox News Sunday yesterday and said that the job discussion between Joe Sestak and Bill Clinton "just smells funny." To Digby, this is a sign that we're heading back to the future:

It's all there, even down to the "it just smells funny" routine. Earlier this week on the Mclaughlin Report, the increasingly agitated Monica Crowley accused the administration of a cover-up and they were all shrieking for an "independent counsel."

... what it signals is a return to the Clinton Rules and the scandal politics of the past. Regardless of whether or not any particular scandal takes hold, the way this works is by the cut of a thousand deaths.

...it's just a political assault from all angles designed to weaken the enemy over time until they can go in for the kill.


Digby isn't sure how far the right can go with this. Zandar is a lot more certain:

With the economy getting worse in 2011, no matter who's running the House, the Republicans will demand Obama be impeached. And yes, Liz Cheney will make her bones off the drive to send Obama to prison for the crime of not being a Republican.

They will go all in on Obama Derangement Syndrome. The bad part is there's a fair chance of it working.


Working? Yes, I could certainly imagine an impeachment vote succeeding if (as I suspect) the economy remains lousy through 2011 and if Republicans have won the House back -- though, again, without a supermajority in the Senate (and probably without a simple majority), it's extremely unlikely that Republicans could get the votes to convict on whatever trumped-up charges are in the articles of impeachment. It's also possible that House Republicans will think that a constant air of scandal is much more useful to them than an actual impeachment -- look how the last impeachment made the sheeple rally around that liberal pervert Clinton! Besides, not impeaching Obama, and suggesting that the deck is stacked against impeachment and conviction, will make it seem to the rabid GOP base as if there's still an unfair liberal bias in the system that's preventing Justice and Right and Truth from prevailing. (Making right-wing voters feel that the system is unfair is very useful for generating voter enthusiasm for the next election cycle.)

So I'm guessing that Republicans will probably keep the notion out there, on the front burner, but not act on it. Though you never know.

Digby's right about this:

I can't help but wonder whether or not the likes of Liz Cheney would so arrogantly shoot her mouth off if the Democrats hadn't decided that there was no need to look in the rearview mirror at the mayhem created by her father's bloodthirsty, corrupt regime. It might make these people think twice if they were held to the same standard they hold others.

And the irony is that Republicans absolutely aren't going to return the favor if they win back both houses of Congress and the White House in the next two election cycles. It's going to be open season on the Obama administration if he's gone and hasn't been punished. There isn't going to be a quid pro quo.

****

Digby adds:

You can see the ambition rolling off of Cheney in waves. She's going to run at some point, I have no doubt. And she makes Palin look like a frisky little kitten by comparison. She is the most dangerous woman in America.

I agree -- and I have a crazy hunch about what office she's going to seek.

I keep looking at the GOP field for 2012 and thinking, Who's going to be the person with foreign policy experience who balances the likely governor or ex-governor at the top of the ticket? Are they going to be stuck with Gingrich as #2 for Romney or Huckabee or Palin or Pawlenty (or a Bobby Jindal whose career is revived by the BP oil spill)?

And then it occurred to me: Liz Cheney.

Sure, why not? To us she's a dangerous rage addict. But to the casual swing voter, she'll be just a mom -- but a mom with State Department experience who seems able to talk seriously about issues. She'll be a verbally adroit attack dog of the kind that Democrats never have the sense to put on their tickets. She'll lend crackle to a ticket headed by a Huckabee or a Pawlenty or a Jindal. And while she wouldn't seem very different from Palin demographically, that would be the point -- two angry moms! Two pit bulls with lipstick! The press would go wild!

Could a ticket like that win? If we head into a double dip recession, Dan freaking Quayle could probably win in 2012.

As I say, it's a hunch, nothing more.

But I'm scaring myself with it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

THE OIL SPILL? IT'S OUR FAULT!

In the Week in Review section of today's New York Times we have this, from Elisabeth Rosenthal:

Our Fix-It Faith and the Oil Spill

...Americans have long had an unswerving belief that technology will save us -- it is the cavalry coming over the hill, just as we are about to lose the battle. And yet, as Americans watched scientists struggle to plug the undersea well over the past month, it became apparent that our great belief in technology was perhaps misplaced.

"Americans have a lot of faith that over the long run technology will solve everything, a sense that somehow we're going to find a way to fix it," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.


So, you see, we're to blame -- we have a naive faith in the ability of technocrats to every problem. (Rosenthal's evidence for this? Polls from Mr. Kohut's Pew Reasearch Center, which showed that we had unreasonable expectations for scientific progress on cancer and space exploration -- in 1999.)

But it doesn't matter whether there's any hard evidence that we in the general public really believe that scientists can fix everything that ails us. The idea is going to stay out there because it's useful. The idea is, by the way, related to what David Brooks was saying on Friday -- that we have a naive expectation that systems are comprehensible, when we just need to grow up and realize that they aren't:

Over the past decades, we've come to depend on an ever-expanding array of intricate high-tech systems. These hardware and software systems are the guts of financial markets, energy exploration, space exploration, air travel, defense programs and modern production plants.

These systems, which allow us to live as well as we do, are too complex for any single person to understand. Yet every day, individuals are asked to monitor the health of these networks, weigh the risks of a system failure and take appropriate measures to reduce those risks.

If there is one thing we've learned, it is that humans are not great at measuring and responding to risk when placed in situations too complicated to understand.


Except that that's not really true -- certainly not in this case. As we learn from the lead story in today's print Times, plenty of people understood BP's drilling technology -- or at least understood it well enough to know that BP was flirting with disaster:

Internal documents from BP ... show that in March, after several weeks of problems on the rig, BP was struggling with a loss of "well control." And as far back as 11 months ago, it was concerned about the well casing and the blowout preventer.

On June 22, for example, BP engineers expressed concerns that the metal casing the company wanted to use might collapse under high pressure.

"This would certainly be a worst-case scenario," Mark E. Hafle, a senior drilling engineer at BP, warned in an internal report. "However, I have seen it happen so know it can occur."

The company went ahead with the casing, but only after getting special permission from BP colleagues because it violated the company's safety policies and design standards....

In April of this year, BP engineers concluded that the casing was "unlikely to be a successful cement job," according to a document, referring to how the casing would be sealed to prevent gases from escaping up the well.

The document also says that the plan for casing the well is "unable to fulfill M.M.S. regulations," referring to the Minerals Management Service....


So, David Brooks, these systems were not too complex to be comprehensible. Plenty of people understood the problems. But that wasn't enough to prevent the drilling from going forward.

The problem wasn't a generalized national mood of optimism about the ability of technology to overcome any hurdle -- it was businessmen and their subordinates (from a U.K.-based company, please note) overruling scientists who had concerns based on knowledge and experience (and flouting regulations that could have prevented the disaster but weren't enforced).

But it's very useful to argue that Americans have unreasonable faith in technocrats, or that it's human nature to underestimate risk, because that lets the real culprits off the hook. Were just silly Americans or silly humans; we can't help being this way; as a result, shit happens.

And that leads to the argument that we want the damn oil, so we just have to grow up and accept the reality that shit happens.

Which is, in a way, the flip side of an argument Tom Friedman sees as a roadblock to progress on transitioning away from a petroleum-based energy policy (yeah, I know, it's Tom Friedman, but he's right about this):

... the "petro-determinists" ... never tire of telling us that we'll be dependent on oil for a "long, long time." That is true. The problem is, these same people have been telling us that ever since the first oil crisis in 1973, and their real objective in doing so is not to help us understand that breaking our oil addiction is difficult, but to make us think that it is impossible -- so don't bother.

I'd say it serves the interests of the "petro-determinsts" to argue that we just need to learn to tolerate more risk -- more emissions, more oil spills -- as the Age of Petroleum drags on and on indefinitely. We can't break our addiction to oil without destroying our economy! We can't get green technology to work, or work in an economically efficient way! And, yes, there are problems with drilling, but you're just naive if you think we can sidestep calamity! So shut up and eat your tarballs!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

THE TALKING-POINT COUP

But the conversation with a two-term congressman from Pennsylvania has now grown into a dispute over whether business as usual is good enough for a president promising reform.

That's Peter Baker in today's New York Times, on the subject of discussions Bill Clinton had with Joe Sestak about a possible job with the Obama administration. My response is: Dispute? We're having a dispute in America about whether this -- this -- is a betrayal of Barack Obama's 2008 campaign pledges?

The hell we are. Ordinary Americans certainly aren't. Yes, a lot of ordinary Americans feel disappointed, even betrayed, by things the administration has done or failed to do. But this? This is nothing.

It isn't corruption by any reasonable person's standards. Corruption is the relationship between government and BP, or government and Massey Energy, or government and Goldman Sachs. This isn't corruption.

The notion that the Sestak job offer violates Obama's promises of "change" and transparency is a Republican talking point painstakingly crafted to appeal to centrist and liberal Beltway journalists who gave favorable coverage to the Obama campaign. And, of course, crafting talking points in order to destroy the careers of Democrats and liberals is simply what Republicans do. The Republican Party is no longer a political party, really, as we've previously understood the term. The Republican Party is an opposition-research operation that also runs candidates for office. Political parties care about governing. Political parties care about legislating. The Republican Party cares only about driving Democrats from office and winning power for the sake of winning power.

This is an attempt at a coup by talking points. The goal is to get everyone across the political spectrum talking about how this is a really big deal. For the red-meat-craving right-wing base, there's talk of impeachment and the invoking of Watergate, with the suggestion that there must be much more to this than meets the eye because, well, there just must be. For mainstream journos, there's the talk of Obama's betrayal of his promises of change. And now the effort is self-sustaining: When reporters as far left as Eric Alterman are arguing that this is a self-inflected wound because the White House and Sestak could have released all the facts right away (as if that would have stopped the GOP scandal-generation machine), it's meant as friendly advice, but it plays into the Watergate-evoking "cover-up is worse than the crime" meme that's the subtext of other coverage of the story.

I suppose it's futile to hope for this, but the left response to the Sestak story should be: Republicans, how dare you. Amid job losses, oil spills, terrorist attacks, and all the other problems we have, you want to bring down a government now, over this? Talk about the criminalization of politics.

But then, Republicans simply don't care about what happens to America. They'd burn America to the ground if it meant they'd rule over the ashes.

Friday, May 28, 2010

THIS MAY BE OBAMA'S KATRINA, BUT IT'S NOT LIKE BUSH'S KATRINA

Peggy Noonan writes today,

I don't see how the president's position and popularity can survive the oil spill.

She writes this because she thinks the oil spill is his Katrina -- a crisis that's seen by the public as a presidential misstep (true in both cases) and that sums up what the public doesn't like about the president (so far, not true in Obama's case).

Noonan doesn't she the differences, because her blinkered view of Bush won't allow her to:

This is what happened with Katrina, and Katrina did at least two big things politically. The first was draw together everything people didn't like about the Bush administration, everything it didn't like about two wars and high spending and illegal immigration, and brought those strands into a heavy knot that just sat there, soggily, and came to symbolize Bushism. The second was illustrate that even though the federal government in our time has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on, the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs. Conservatives got this point -- they know it without being told -- but liberals and progressives did not. They thought Katrina was the result only of George W. Bush's incompetence and conservatives' failure to "believe in government." But Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent.

There's a grain of truth in this, but it's wrong in so many other ways that I seriously wonder if Noonan's short-term memory is neurologically impaired. More likely she's choosing not to remember, and imposing Fox News talking points on her memories. We were worried about immigration and spending in 2005? No, we weren't -- immigration wasn't on the radar of anyone other than the usual seal-the-borders crowd (i.e., Noonan's crowd) until Bush put it on the agenda sometime later, and we weren't allowed to care about spending, because Republicans ran the entire government and therefore deficits didn't matter.

The issues we'd been concerned about in the second term were the wars (primarily Iraq), as well as Social Security privatization and Terri Schiavo. Noonan's Catholic conservatism won't allow her to recall the public's take on the Schiavo case, and her handwringing about deficits that barely troubled her in the Bush years is just a recitation of the hottest right-wing talking point. She doesn't even remember the war situation properly -- we didn't think of it as a problem of big government, for crissakes, we thought of it as a massive cock-up by cowboy incompetents.

That's how Katrina crystallized our sense of Bush -- we called him a cowboy, by which we meant he combined cultural conservatism with a what-me-worry? demeanor and an inability to knuckle down to tasks that required sitting at a desk and actually absorbing information. Katrina on our TVs looked a hell of a lot like Iraq: people dying and Bush grinning -- grinning with no apparent clue about how to stop people from dying.

Whatever Barack Obama may have done wrong, or may seem to have done wrong, in the present circumstance, his shortcomings don't really match most people's impression of him. His biggest haters describe a fascist juggernaut -- all our freedoms are being relentlessly and efficiently mowed down. So where's the merciless efficience of the Thug Machine now?

Even centrists see Obama as a guy doing big things -- the health care bill (whether they like it or not), financial reform, stimulus, bailouts. They may think he messes up, but they don't see him as helpless. So this would have to change their impression of him.

Obama's at risk if the economy never turns around, if health care reform doesn't improve people's lives, if there's a serious act of domestic terrorism (Republicans won't rally around him as Democrats rallied around Bush). Then this spill might seem like a metaphor for his presidency. But not now. He's not helpless. It's right-wingers more than anyone else who keep telling us he's anything but helpless.
RAND PAUL FINDS THE WINGNUT SWEET SPOT

Wow, that was fast -- Rand Paul's staff shakeup was announced Wednesday and the same day he appeared in a video clip that hit wingnut pleasure centers four different ways:

... Paul recently suggested to a Russian TV station that the U.S. should abandon its policy of granting citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants -- even if they're born on U.S. soil.

Paul also said he's discussed instituting an "underground electrical fence" on the border to keep out unwanted elements, though he emphasized that he's "not opposed to letting people come in and work and labor in our country."

The real problem, Paul said, is that the U.S. "shouldn't provide an easy route to citizenship" because of "demographics."

According to Paul, the proportion of Mexican immigrants that register as Democrats is 3-to-1, so of course "the Democrat Party is for easy citizenship." ...


Let's see:

(1) He embraced the right wing's pet theory that the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" in the 14th Amendment means that not all babies born in the U.S. are American citizens.
(2) He conjured an image of dealing out pain to illegal immigrants.
(3) He said "Democrat Party."
(4) He said Democrats want immigration reform in order to gain a lot of new voters, another pet theory of the far right.

Excellent work, new Paul team! You guys are slick!

These guys decided they had to do something like this while keeping Paul off American TV -- so they put him an English-language news show from Russia, which has interviewed him in the past. And when the interview yielded such luscious fruit, the campaign ran with it.

I've never believed for a second that the recent unpleasantness would actually hurt Paul -- even after all that he's still leading in the race, according to the latest Daily Kos poll, and his numbers have actually gone up among Republicans. And while his lead over Democrat Jack Conway is only 3% in the DKos poll, it was only 3% before the primary (i.e., before all the supposedly harmful interviews).

So this race is over. Rand Paul's going to win.
THAT'S WHO HE IS

I defended the president in the last post, mostly because at that moment I felt like taking a shot at the press (which I still believe was a healthy instinct) -- but it's odd because I'd been considering a very different post, in response to this:

Tackling an environmental crisis quickly becoming one of the most serious political threats to his presidency, President Barack Obama insisted Thursday that critics of the federal government’s response to the oil spill in the gulf "don't know the facts."

"Those who think that we were either slow in our responses or lacked urgency don't know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred," Obama said during a rare news conference in the White House East Room. "We understood from day one the potential enormity of this crisis and acted accordingly." ...


Well, he's the president. He's the guy with the bully pulpit. If we don't know the facts, um, doesn't he bear a great deal of the blame for that?

But that's him -- he taught law at an elite university, but we'd be better off if he had taught second-graders, because maybe he'd have learned the necessity of explaining things on a regular basis in extremely simple language, a skill that would come in handy when dealing with the American public. (Those morning chats with Malia clearly aren't sufficient.) I ragged on the press for seeming to wish we had a president who whips himself into a frenzy that doesn't accomplish anything, a John McCain if you will; I think the press actually wants that more than the public does. But while the public doesn't want hysteria, it does want really, really basic information explained at a very simple level, and it wants this repeatedly because it's not always paying attention. (The Republican Party is much, much better at grasping this.) Obama thinks we're all 99th-percentile students, and we'd better keep up.

Well, that's him. That's his nature. It's also his nature to really believe that men in very expensive suits are likely to be acting in good faith. He's not Bush -- he doesn't believe that government exists primarily to aggrandize the overdogs. He believes in regulation and oversight and accountability. His problem is that he thinks fat cats believe in those things, too. He can't get it through his head that they're trying to get away with everything they can all the time and need to be watched like parolees, by definition, because that's the nature of people who do what they do.

So of course he didn't come into office assuming it was a priority to beef up regulatory agencies. That's also not how he sees his job. I keep thinking about a much-quoted anecdote from Jonathan Alter's new Obama book: Rahm Emanuel reportedly asked Obama to scale back the health care plan as it met resistance in Congress, and Obama, according to Alter, rebuffed Emanuel:

"This is about whether we're going to get big things done," Obama said. "I wasn't sent here to do school uniforms."

I think Obama thinks having dogged regulators in place is "school uniforms." It's small ball. It's not transformative. It's not a big part of what matters to him.

Well, he's the only president we've got....

Thursday, May 27, 2010

SOME SUGGESTED ALTERNATE OBAMA REACTIONS TO THE GULF CRISIS

Steve Benen:

The New York Times's Jeff Zeleny live-blogged President Obama's press conference this afternoon, and wrapped things up asking whether the president demonstrated to the country that he's "in control of the crisis on the Gulf."

... it remains an open question whether the measured tone that has become the soundtrack of Mr. Obama's presidency -- a detached, calm, observational pitch -- served to drive the point home that he is sufficiently enraged by the fury in the Gulf Coast.

At least he resisted the urge to compare Obama to Spock.

... Kevin Drum watched the CNN coverage, and saw the various on-air personalities "solemnly advising us one after one that Obama really needed to be more emotional because that's what the American people want." ...


Hey, the press has a point -- there are a lot of other things Obama could do besides calmly demonstrating a grasp of the situation. He could:

* loudly and melodramatically suspend the entire federal government, demanding a combined legislative/executive branch summit to deal with the problem, at which he'll prove to be thoroughly unprepared.

* put up a bunch of Facebook posts with lots of capital letters and exclamation points.

*break down and cry.

Any one of those approaches would make the oil dissipate faster -- right?
GEE, MOST PEOPLE SHILLING A BOOK JUST PUT UP A FACEBOOK PAGE

Our old pal Pamela Geller from Atlas Shrugs has an Obama-bashing book coming out in a couple of months, and it appears that she's getting an early start on upping her name recognition, according to CNN:

Ads on NYC buses target those wanting to leave Islam

"Fatwa on your head?" a new series of provocative ads on New York City buses asks. "Is your community or family threatening you? Leaving Islam?"

The ads, sponsored by an organization called Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), direct viewers to refugefromislam.com, a website designed "for people who are thinking of leaving Islam or are leaving Islam and need resources" to protect them from harm.

Practicing Muslims who find the ads offensive should "ignore it," SIOA leader Pamela Geller told CNN. "It's not directed to them."

Speaking on conservative Sean Hannity's radio show recently, Geller said, "it's time for Americans to stand up against the evil of Islamic jihadi terrorism and Islamic supremacism." The SIOA, which is funded by its online readership, is currently lobbying to block a mosque proposed near the World Trade Center site....


And gosh, what do you know, the book is being shilled on the Refuge from Islam site (scroll down). Nice work -- publishers are strapped for cash these days (I'm sure yours, Pam, is no exception), so they really appreciate an author who's a self-promoter.

Curiously, even though CNN tells us that the MTA has had no complaints about the ads (New Yorkers tend to ignore crazies and cranks, or just grumble and get on with their lives), this is suddenly a story on CNN as well as on at least one local news broadcast. So I guess your publicists are really working overtime, Pam. They're doing quality work. When this (plus the inevitable wall-to-wall publicity on Fox) forces the book onto the bestseller lists, you might want to spring for the large gift basket.
EVERYBODY SKATE COUNTERCLOCKWISE!

Success?

Engineers have stopped the flow of oil and gas into the Gulf of Mexico from a gushing BP well, the federal government's top oil-spill commander, U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said Thursday morning....

So if this is really the beginning of the end, I'd say it's going to take about an hour and a half for the right-wing talking points to change from While the Gulf is being destroyed, hapless Obama is ceding power to BP!!! to See? The government did nothing and private industry got the spill under control! Just goes to show -- you can't trust big government to do anything right!!!
CLOSE ENOUGH FOR BRODER

It's no surprise that David Broder devotes most of his latest column to criticism of the White House for its real or imagined deal-making with Joe Sestak, with the usual straight-outta-GOP-framing references to Richard Daley the Elder and old-style Chicago politics. But then Broder decides the existing facts and rumors aren't sufficient and just starts making stuff up:

It's not the only time that this White House has been caught ham-handedly trying to play party boss. The governor of New York and his appointee to the U.S. Senate have both been targets of such manipulation -- with Gov. David Paterson being shoved out the door and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand protected from challenge.

Paterson was "shoved out the door" by the White House? Really? Um, David, do you read your own paper's reporting?

Embattled New York Gov. David Paterson (D) will not seek election this fall....

Paterson's decision will be greeted with a sigh of relief from state and national Democrats who openly fretted that his unpopularity could drag down the entire ticket in the state. The White House -- in the form of political director Patrick Gaspard -- tried to talk Paterson out of the contest last fall without success.


Yup, "without success": as you'll see if you check the links, the White House tried to nudge Paterson out of the race in September -- and Paterson simply refused. He didn't announce his withdrawal until February. (So let's see: We have Paterson just telling the White House to bugger off and we have Sestak allegedly telling the White House to bugger off. Man, these Obamaites must be some really thuggish party bosses.)

Oh, but it must have been the Oval Office Goon Squad that forced Paterson out, right? If not, what other explanation could there possibly be?

But, Paterson's political fortunes continued to decline in the months that followed and a New York Times story that ran earlier this week alleging that the governor had intervened in an assault case involving a top aide appeared to be the final blow.

Oh, right -- that. Silencing the victim in a domestic assault cause. Yeah, that made the governor look kinda bad.

Oh, and:

In a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month, [Andrew] Cuomo led Paterson 55 percent to 23 percent in a Democratic primary matchup....

Oh, right, that too.

The White House does seem to have intervened on Gillibrand's behalf to prevent primary challenges -- but the big wheeler-dealer in this case seems to be Gillibrand's mentor, Chuck Schumer. And the best-known potential challenger to Gillibrand, Harold Ford, is out of the race largely because he ran the worst pre-campaign campaign ever, with flip-flops on gay rights and abortion accompanied by embarrassing comments about the soft life he leads.

Oh, and, um, when Karl Rove was picking candidates and running campaigns from the West Wing, how loud did Broder complain?
FISCHER: NOT MUCH WORSE THAN ESTEEMED SCHOLAR JONAH GOLDBERG

This is getting some attention right now:

A top official with a leading social conservative group recently laid out the view that Adolf Hitler deliberately recruited gays to be his "enforcers," because they had "no limits" to "the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict."

During a radio broadcast, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association explained:

So Hitler himself was an active homosexual. And some people wonder, didn't the Germans, didn't the Nazis, persecute homosexuals? And it is true they did; they persecuted effeminate homosexuals. But Hitler recruited around him homosexuals to make up his Stormtroopers, they were his enforcers, they were his thugs. And Hitler discovered that he could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough to carry out his orders, but that homosexual solders basically had no limits and the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whomever Hitler sent them after. So he surrounded himself, virtually all of the Stormtroopers, the Brownshirts, were male homosexuals.

This would seem astonishing, appalling, outrageously over the top ... except that it's not really much crazier that what the brilliant scholar Jonah Goldberg told us in his masterwork, Liberal Fascism:

While it is true that some homosexuals were sent to concentration camps, it is also the case that the early Nazi Party and the constellation of Pan-German organizations in its orbit were rife with homosexuals. It's well-known, for example, that Ernst Rohm, the head of the SA, and his coterie were homosexuals, and openly so.... Some try to suggest that Rohm was murdered on the Night of the Long Knives because he was gay. But the Rohm faction posted the greatest threat to Hitler's consolidation of power because they were, in important respects, the most ardent and "revolutionary" Nazis. Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams write in The Pink Swastika that "the National Socialist revolution and the Nazi party were animated and dominated by militaristic homosexuals, pederasts, pornographers, and sadomasochists." This is surely an overstatement. But it is nonetheless true that the artistic and literary movements provided the oxygen for Nazism before 1933 were chockablock with homosexual liberationist tracts, clubs and journals.

Ah yes -- Scott Lively, last seen promising a "nuclear bomb" for gays in Uganda in a speech delivered shortly before a bill providing the death penalty for homosexuality was introduced in that country. The Pink Swastika (now in its fourth edition) is thoroughly denounced by serious scholars, who note the tremendous persecution of gays by the Nazis -- and yet it's just a slightly hyperbolic source for Goldberg.

Pat Robinson also takes Lively's thesis seriously:

"When lawlessness is abroad in the land, the same thing will happen here that happened in Nazi Germany," Pat Robertson once warned viewers of his 700 Club. "Many of those people involved with Adolf Hitler were satanists. Many of them were homosexuals. The two seem to go together."

This cockamamie notion is not new, and it's not going away.

Oh, and Bryan Fischer? In addition to recently asserting that a whale should not have been allowed to kill a Sea World worker because the whale's handlers should have executed the whale according to biblical principles after an earlier incident, he's argued that all Muslims should be banned from the U.S. military, that homosexuality should be illegal, and that the 10th Amendment is U.S. citizens' only possibly remedy "other than bloodshed" for the horrors of the new health care law. This kind of talk apparently makews him many influential friends: Fischer has appeared on a Family Research Council anti-HCR webcast alongside GOP House members Michele Bachmann, Mike Pence, and Tom Price, and he'll be a featured speaker at the FRC's next Values Voter Summit alongside Bachmann, Pence, and possible future president of the United States Mike Huckabee.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

SNOT-NOSED TEENAGERS WITH UNLIMITED POWER

Jsmes Kwak on the Wall Streeters:

Wall Street CEOs like to think they are the adults, the big men in the room, the ones who know how the world works. Well, you know what? They screwed up their own banks, the financial system, and the economy like a bunch of two-year-olds.

Which inspires this from Digby:

This is exactly right. I think the frat house, riverboat gambling atmosphere has attracted a certain kind of person --- an emotionally stunted, irresponsible, immature sort of fellow who simply refuses to accept that there are any limits to his behavior and who insists on blaming everyone else for his failures. A spoiled, reckless, bully.And all the people supposedly in charge are worried that if we don't allow these adolescent monsters to have free rein they will destroy us all.

In other words they are simply, rich teenage gang members in pin stripes. And they are way more dangerous to the fate of this nation than the crips and the bloods.


Two-year-olds? Two-year-olds vacillate from tantrum behavior to remarkable curiosity about the world. They learn, they absorb, they grow. Wall Street Masters of the Universe don't do that.

Frat boys? Riverboat gamblers? Frat boys, for all their immaturity and for all the indulgence they expect of everyone around them, at least take some responsibility for sustaining a sort of social order. Riverboat gamblers generally risk only their own money.

Gang members? Bullies? They at least go face-to-face with their victims.

I wouldn't accord Wall Street CEOs as much respect as I do any of these groups, even gangbangers and bullies. I don't think they're even as admirable as the brattiest two-year-old.

They're none of these. They're spoiled, snot-nosed high school BMOCs who take responsibility for nothing, give nothing back, and just do whatever the hell they want with no thought to the effect any of it will have on anyone else. Even a gangbanger has a belief about the morality of killing a member of a rival gang. A Wall Street CEO can't even think about other people.

Wall Street CEOs are like spoiled teens who just leave their dirty clothes lying around and don't even notice the fact that Mom does their wash. Then, because they're BMOCs whose parents will get them out of any jam, they go out with their friends for a night of vandalism because what reason do they have not to? They're not doing it because they have anything against their victims -- they do it because it feels good, and because they can, and because they know they'll get away with it and be allowed to do it again and again.

If they hated us, if they wanted to subjugate us, that would at least show that they have a belief that life is a war and they want to win it. That might be a repulsive life code, but it would be some sort of belief system.

They don't even have that. They just want any pleasure any time they want it, and they assume there'll be no consequences no matter what happens to anyone as a result of what they do. They can't even think about other people. It's not a personality disorder. It's just an astonishingly indulged adolescence, extended until it's lifelong.
EVEN DEMOCRATS SHOULDN'T BE ABLE TO SCREW THIS UP

Chuck Todd and the gang at MSNBC's First Read are reporting on a new poll that says the GOP is rapidly losing Hispanic support, although the new Arizona immigration law appears to be a winner with the general public. From a purely pragmatic, cynical standpoint, I've expressed skepticism about the Obama administration's apparent strategy of very visibly opposing the new law -- the Hispanic percentage of the voting population is increasing, but not by all that much or all that fast (it's projected to reach 29% by 2050), and the short-term impact is likely to be white backlash -- but hey, maybe I'm looking at the numbers wrong and this is really going to be a winner for Democrats sooner than I think.

Whatever the truth is, Hispanics are definitely flocking to the Democrats now -- though Todd et al. issue this warning:

And what if Obama is unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform ...? Could the Latino vote swing back?

Excuse me: do you understand what's going to happen if Democrats push for an immigration bill this year? Were you awake during the health care fight?

If there's an attempt to pass immigration reform, we're going to have a thorough, high-decibel airing of the views of teabaggers, wingnut media blowhards, and Republican pols from all-white, deep-red districts -- and what we're going to be told is that illegal immigrants are a bigger threat to America than Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong-il, and the Iranian nuclear program combined. The newest protest signs from the tricornered-hat crowd aren't going to demonize Obama and Pelosi alone; instead, we're going to see Jose and Maria and Melquiades and Juana with Hitler mustaches. Every undocumented immigrant is going to be depicted as a machete-wielding rape-mad gangbanging drug kingpin.

It will be glaringly obvious which party all of this is coming from. Do you really think Hispanic citizens are going to have trouble grasping the difference between the two parties?

... Well, they will if Democrats try to head right to chase the Republicans. And given the likelihood that all this bombast will keep angry white suburbanite voters motivated for November, Dems might just do that.

But if they really want to stay in Hispanic Americans' good graces, all they'll have to do is wave a thumb at the Republicans and say, "We're not them."
NICE TRY AT PUSHBACK, BUT IT WON'T WORK

You might think this would give supporters of the Arizona immigration law pause, but trust me, you'd be mistaken:

Arizona's new crackdown on illegal immigration will increase crime in U.S. cities, not reduce it, by driving a wedge between police and immigrant communities, police chiefs from several of the state's and the nation's largest cities said Tuesday.

The new Arizona law will intimidate crime victims and witnesses who are illegal immigrants and divert police from investigating more serious crimes, chiefs from Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia said. They will join their counterparts from Montgomery County and a half-dozen other U.S. cities in meeting Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Wednesday morning to discuss the measure.

"This is not a law that increases public safety. This is a bill that makes it much harder for us to do our jobs," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. "Crime will go up if this becomes law in Arizona or in any other state." ...


I'm old enough to remember the 1960s and 1970s, when one of the principal issues that determined where you were on the culture-war divide was whether you admired the police or thought of them as the "pigs." By the Reagan era it was clear that the right was winning the culture wars, so when crime rose in the 1980s and the early part of the 1990s, and police commissioners hired by tough-guy, law-and-order mayors like Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani said that reasonable gun laws would be extremely helpful to them in their fight against crime, I naively thought it might have a significant influence on public opinion. These weren't criminology professors in tweed with elbow patches, fer crissake. These were old-school flatfoots. These were the heroes of the Nixon-era backlash against the left. Surely attention would be paid.

It wasn't. It didn't matter. The gun lobby, and the right in general, were deemed to know more about fighting crime than, y'know, people who fight crime for a living. Gun control talk from big city police commissioners hasn't move the needle one bit; in fact, the needle has moved very far in the other direction.

The same thing is going to happen in this situation. Yes, angry whites want law enforcement to fight crime -- but they're not going to listen to the experts on the best way to do that, because an illegal immigrant crackdown is just too emotionally satisfying. Besides, talk-radio blatherers tell them every day that cracking down on illegals will reduce crime -- and those talkers know everything about everything, don't they?
REMEMBER THAT GREAT DAY WHEN OBAMA GOT MAD AT REPUBLICANS?

I suppose we ought to mark yesterday on a calendar, because we may find ourselves looking back on it fondly, as a frustratingly brief taste of what might have been. First, there was Barack Obama's contentious meeting with Republican senators, in which he apparently got up the noses of self-serving, whiny, petulant SOBs such as John McCain, Bob Corker, and Pat Roberts, the latter of whom responded with pot-meets-kettle sniveling. ("He needs to take a Valium before he comes in and talks to Republicans," Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.) told reporters. "He's pretty thin-skinned.")

That was followed by this at a San Francisco fund-raiser last night:

President Barack Obama ... deliver[ed] some of his harshest criticism yet of the Republican Party....

Noting that sometimes conservative activists portray him with a Hitler moustache, Obama seemed to put to rest any notion that there could be broad-based bipartisan cooperation....

"There are members of their base who think if somebody even smiles at me, they think, 'You're a traitor. You smiled at Obama,'" the president said at fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). "The day has passed when I expected this to be a full partnership."

...By the end of the night, Obama had thoroughly torn into Republicans on bipartisanship, even as he said he doesn't need more than 10 of them to pass his key priorities.

... Obama put the blame for a lack of bipartisanship in Washington squarely on Republicans....


Wouldn't it be nice if this were a permanent change in Obama's approach? Wouldn't it be terrific if he's learned his lesson?

But that's not the way it's going to go. I'd love to be proved wrong, but that's just not in Obama's nature -- even now he's responding to Jan Brewer's effort to shift the immigration middle ground rightward by shipping National Guard troops to the border and hoping it'll quiet demands for a teabaggish approach to the issue. (It won't.) Obama got angry yesterday, but if he continues in this vein he'll be told, first by faux-concerned prominent Republicans, then by centrist pundits, that this just won't do and he'd better make greater efforts to seek bipartisan consensus if he's knows what's good for him, and for the Repubhlic. And, unless he really has changed, that's just what he'll do. And we'll look back on yesterday as the day Obama, like William Shatner in that Saturday Night Live sketch, told his antagonist partners off, only to be informed that that just isn't done:



William Shatner: Of course, that speech was a "re-creation" of the "Evil Captain Kirk" from um... Episode, um... [ Emcee whispers ] THIRTY-SEVEN... uhh... called... [ another whisper ] "The Enemy Within."

[ Trekkies get happy, applaud ]

William Shatner: Yuh, Yuh, so thank you... and, and... Live Long and Prosper...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

AMORAL THUGOCRAT GANGSTER PRESIDENT SOMEHOW FAILS TO INSPIRE VIOLENT CRIME INCREASE

Well, this fails to conform to the right-wing narrative:

Violent crime fell significantly last year in cities across the U.S., according to preliminary federal statistics....

The incidence of violent crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault was down 5.5% from 2008, and 6.9% in big cities. It fell 2.4% in long-troubled Detroit and plunged 16.6% in Phoenix, despite a perception of rising crime that has fueled an immigration backlash....


Right-wingers like to blame every aspect of society they don't like on the political class -- or at least they do when Democrats are in charge. Recall, for instance, the widespread belief on the right that a reported rise in teenage oral sex a while back was all Bill Clinton's fault. And, of course, generally speaking, Democrats are the Dionysian morality-challenged hedonists -- right? Even if Republicans oddly seem to get caught in sex stings on a regular basis? (Surely those are all anomalous outliers.)

Well, not only is Barack Obama a Democrat, he's leading a "thugocracy" -- just as observers such as the esteemed Michael Barone warned us he would! Obama embodies "the Chicago way"! His friends and associates are modern-day Capones -- when, that is, they're not violent terrorists!

And yet somehow, inexplicably, we're remaining relatively peaceful. Somehow the unspeakable evil emanating from the Oval Office is not influencing our impressionable youth.

Or the goon squad cooked the books. Yeah, that must be the explanation.
EX-MODEL WHO WORE PINK LEATHER SHORTS ON HIS FIRST DATE WITH HIS WIFE WILL VOTE NO ON REPEAL OF DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL

New York Times Magazine, 2/28/10:

... Arianna told me that [Scott Brown] showed up for his first real date with her mother, Gail Huff, a TV newscaster to whom he has been married for more than 23 years, in pink leather shorts. It's family lore.

... He clarified that the shorts weren't something that he went out and purchased -- it wasn't like that at all. "I did the couture shows, and instead of paying in cash, they paid in clothes," he said. "And one of the things I had to wear were leather shorts. And these happened to be pink."


Boston Globe today:

Sen. Scott Brown will vote against repealing 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' when it comes up for a vote Thursday in the Senate Armed Services Committee, dealing a blow to gay rights advocates who were hoping the freshman Republican would support efforts to permit gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, The Globe's Political Intelligence blog has learned.

Hey, I'm not saying the guy is overcompensating or anything. I'm just sayin'.

****

But seriously, you can go here or here to see Senator Brown cheerily posing for a photo with Brian Camenker of the anti-gay group MassResistance. Camenker says he's known Brown for years, and spoke highly of Brown in the days before Brown's election. Here's an interview with Cameker at the site of the gay-conversion group NARTH.

UNACCEPTED-ALLEGED-JOB-BRIBE-GATE: LET'S MAKE IT A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS!

Please, right-wingers -- demonstrate how in sync you are with the priorities of the general public at this fraught moment in American history by prioritizing one burning issue: impeaching President Obama because someone in his office may have offered a job to a guy to keep him out of a Senate race, an offer the guy turned down. Yup, that's what America wants done right now. Not job creation. Not cleaning up the Gulf. Nothing like that. America wants another constitutional crisis!

Please, righties -- demand that your candidates pledge to make this the #1 issue Congress takes up in 2011. Insist you won't vote for or donate to any candidate who doesn't take the pledge. This is what America's clamoring for -- a party that will follow the lead of Dick Morris:



MORRIS: ... Joe Sestak is either lying or the White House committed a crime. You can't have it both ways. And going to ultimately have to tell us what job, when, and with who, and the person that offered will have to be asked, "Did anyone authorize that?" Obviously, obviously, the offer of a significant job at the White House could not be made unless it was by Rahm Emanuel or cleared by Rahm Emanuel. And equally obviously, Rahm Emanuel, for a Cabinet-level job, probably secretary of the Navy, would have had to clear that with the president. That is a high crime and misdemeanor.

HANNITY: That would be, in other words, an impeachable offense.

MORRIS: Absolutely....


Ignore the fact that even the Washington Post editorial board can't figure out if what's being alleged would be illegal. Disregard the fact that the most widely discussed allegation -- the Navy secretary job offer mentioned by Morris -- appears to be chronologically impossible. Just do it! Just make this the center of your fall campaign! Give the public a real sense of what they're in for if they vote for you!
WAR FOREVER

Dan Froomkin reported this yesterday:

Members of Congress with any inclination to balk at President Obama's massive emergency war-funding request have found their case strengthened by two recent reports that question many of the administration's key premises and assumptions.

The reports from the Congressional Research Service and Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction raise concerns ranging from the existential to the procedural.

Just for starters, there's the lack of an exit strategy, signs of a slipping timeframe for troop drawdowns and the mixed results thus far of the troop "surge." ...

In his December announcement, Obama declared that the troop surge would enable the U.S. to "seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan." He said troops would then start coming home in July 2011.

But ... the Congressional Research Service report raises serious doubts about Obama's promised timeframe....


There isn't going to be a drawdown anytime soon. I never believed there would be -- when the president announced his plan and the most reasonable-sounding analysts expressed severe doubts about accomplishing all of his goals in the timeframe, I assumed Obama knew he'd be able to take an incomplete if the efforts fell short and no one would try to stop him -- letting at least one of our wars drag on endlessly is the only thing he's doing as president that isn't being attacked by the right. And that's exactly where we seem to be headed.

Lefties could put millions of bodies in the streets demanding an end to this war and it would accomplish no more than it did in the Bush years with regard to Iraq. Our GOP/Fox News overlords would finally have a visible hippie enemy to punch. If Obama had any thought of withdrawal, the right's theatrical howls of outrage would drag him to the right. Nothing would change.

You know what it would take to finally end this war? America has to elect a Republican president -- and we have to engage in no anti-war protests whatsoever. Just play possum -- then it will be fine to pull out (our president is a Republican, after all, so pulling out won't be considered treason), and there won't seem to be anything to be gained by staying in (no hippies in the streets to punch, so no potential for domestic political gain). It's a bleak prospect, but it may be the only hope we have. (Or, of course, our entire economy could collapse, which might force the issue.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

IF I COULD FIND A NEGRO WITH THE WHITE SOUND AND THE WHITE FEEL...

Rock fans will recognize the title of this post -- it's a reversal of what Sam Phillips of Sun Records reportedly said before he discovered Elvis. Phillips was looking for a white singer who sang black. This year, the GOP and tea party movement are looking for black candidates who sound white and teabaggy -- there are 32 African-American candidates running for Congress this years as Republicans, many of them in tea mode.

Andrew Sullivan, appalled, posts an ad by one such candidate, Les Phillip of Alabama's Fifth District, who compares himself in the ad to Obama:



Transcript:

This is the story of two young men. One fell in with left wing radicals. The other immigrated to America. While one played with terrorists and allowed his America-hating pastor to baptize his children, the other joined the Navy to defend his country. I love America, but President Obama is ashamed of it. I'm going to Congress to help stop him from destroying our nation. And they’re not going to call me a racist. I'm Les Phillip and I took an oath to defend this country against enemies, foreign and domestic. And I approve this message.

I've been thinking that white Republicans want African-Americans to run only because they think it makes the party look better -- but I find myself wondering if it's more than that. I'm wondering if whites in the GOP are starting to look at electoral politics as some combination of sports, entertainment, and combat -- all areas in which whites have long been in the habit of watching blacks take the field.

We know that big-time sports (pro and especially college) frequently involves overwhelmingly white and well-heeled stadium crowds cheering on teams that include many blacks. We know whites of various ages like hip-hop and the blues and jazz and the vicarious feeling of bad-assitude they get from these styles of music. We know that well-off whites, however much they may wave the flag, expect inner-city non-whites (as well as poor rural whites) to actually fight our wars.

I start to wonder if the increased interest in having black candidates in the GOP is appealing to a similar mindset. Need somebody to be go head-to-head with an antagonist? Get a black guy -- that's what they're there for, right?

(Phillip, by the way, won a straw poll in his district recently, barely beating out a white challenger. A third candidate -- Parker Griffin, who switched from the Democratic Party late last year --finished a distant third.)
OK, NOW I BELIEVE THE GOP MIGHT EAT ITSELF

I'm starting to think I've been wildly off base for believing that the establishment and teabag elements of the GOP will just settle down after their primaries and dance hand in hand around the fireside, reciting Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment instead of singing "Kumbaya," united by their shared hatred of Barack Obama and Keith Olbermann and ACORN and whatnot. First there was the surprising non-wagon-circling in the case of Rand Paul. Now there's this:

South Carolina state Rep. Nikki Haley denied an allegation by a conservative blogger that the two had engaged in an affair several years ago, insisting that the charge was aimed at derailing her rapidly-rising campaign for governor....

Haley, a one-time protege of disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford, had been riding high of late -- benefiting from endorsements from South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin....

"Several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki," [Will] Folks wrote on his blog. "That's it." ...


Haley's denying it, and National Review's Jim Geraghty says he "didn't find any sense" that there's any truth to Folks's claim that he made this announcement because the affair was about to be revealed by The State, the top newspaper in South Carolina. Then there's this from Erick Erickson:

Last week I was tipped off to the panic in the South Carolina House and Senate Republican Caucuses. The leadership had a private meeting to see what could be done to take out Nikki Haley. She spent her years in the legislature fighting the good old boys, even within her own party.

She demanded transparency and won. They don't like her.

Well, with Rasmussen now having her significantly in the lead, we see what the good old boys are doing -- skipping all the oppo research and going straight to the sleaze....


I'm overlooking Erickson's theory that this can't be true because "hot women do not have affairs with ugly guys unless those guys are rich." I'm even taking with a few large dollops of salt the assertion that Haley had to be stopped because she's such an iconoclastic maverick.

If an affair happened, I would have expected the Republicans to avoid sandbagging one of their own. If there was no affair, I certainly didn't expect sleazy lying. That's what Republicans do to Democrats. They don't have circular firing squads.

Or maybe they do now. Maybe it's a kind of Hurt Locker thing: they've engaged in 24/7 total war with Democrats for so long that they've forgotten how not to fight to the death -- and now they're doing it even among themselves.

Maybe this is what saves the Republic: these guys can't turn it off anymore, even when they're fragging their own.

****

AND: yes, I realize there was fragging in that NY-23 race. But I thought Republicans were quick learners with political self-preservation at stake. Guess not.
BEING VILIFIED IS SO SATISFYING

This caught my eye, in an interview with Christopher Hitchens that was published in the U.K. over the weekend:

[Hitchens] blames his former comrades for failing to be persuaded by his case for invading Iraq: "Yes, absolutely. I was right and they were wrong, that's pretty much it in a nutshell." He laughs.

But another way of looking at it would be to blame himself for failing to convince them.

"What you're trying to say is, couldn't I be a bit more," his lip faintly curls, "
sales conscious."

Where's the point in engaging in a battle of ideas if you have no interest in being persuasive? "That seems like an invitation to soften the tone and be more agreeable." Doesn't he want to win the battle? "Sure." Why, then, did he tell an interviewer in 2001: "I don't really care whether people agree with me"? He looks momentarily surprised. "Oh, that's too bald. What I mean is that I'm not going to soften a case in order to make it more presentable. When I've flung down the pen, I want to be sure that I've made the strongest possible case I can make -- and also," he adds tellingly, "really had fun doing it."

Isn't the measure of its strength how many people he persuades? "No, it's interesting because I don't want to make that the test. It isn't what gets me out of bed -- how many people can I win over today? No, it isn't. It's the enjoyment of the combat -- in part for its own sake, sure -- but also to give a good representation, I hope, to the people whose principles are in common with mine."


I think Hitchens has never really wanted to persuade his former comrades. I think Hitchens is delighted that he hasn't persuaded them. I think, if he'd actually staked out a position that his former comrades found persuasive, this all would have been a lot less fun for him.

This is why Hitchens fits so well with the American right. The right doesn't want to persuade its opponents. The right wants to rally the base, gull or intimidate the center, and antagonize the opposition as much as humanly possible (which is the main technique it uses to rally the base). When righties have power, they do what they want, while simultaneously declaring themselves under attack, and they dare 50% plus one of the public to stop them.

That's how we got into Iraq, isn't it? Democrats and the vast majority of the public supported the idea of retribution against Al Qaeda and Afghanistan's Taliban government. But that would never suffice, would it? It clearly wasn't good enough for the Bush administration. Far better to have a war in Iraq -- it would infuriate the left (and paleocons on the right) and possibly trouble the left-center and center. The GOP didn't want a national consensus -- the GOP fled from a national consensus. The war in Iraq seemed like a good idea to the GOP in large part because the left was unpersuaded. (The GOP knew the right and center would fall in line. And it worked. Beating the Iraq war drum worked in the 2002 election cycle, the war worked for 2004, and it would have continued to work if the postwar plan hadn't been so incompetent and even if a few WMDs had been found, and if Katrina and Terri Schiavo hadn't mucked everything up.)

Oh, and what else was like this? Clinton's impeachment. It was a bridge too far for much of the country -- so the GOP did it anyway, even after losing seats in the '98 midterms. America never supported this -- yet the Republicans came out triumphant in the next election cycle. And Hitchypoo was right there with them in their Clinton-hate.

He can't quite bring himself to throw in his lot completely with them, but I'm not sure why. In their mutual desire to antagonize, they seem to make a perfect match.
WINGERS GET YOU COMING AND GOING

Well, to make the obvious point about this:

Right-wing darling Sarah Palin accused US President Barack Obama on Sunday of leading a lax response to the Gulf of Mexico spill because he is too close to the big oil companies....

"I don't know why the question isn't asked by the mainstream media and by others if there's any connection with the contributions made to president Obama and his administration and the support by the oil companies to the administration," she told Fox News Sunday....


... I'd appreciate hearing her explain how this jibes with the criticism leveled by her pal and endorsee Rand Paul, which was, of course, exactly the opposite:

What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, you know, "I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP." I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.

I would have appreciated it if Palin's interlocutor on Fox, Chris Wallace, had done what he's been known to do now and again, that is, skip the talking points and ask a pointed question along those lines, even if it deviated from the right-wing script. (No such luck, according to the transcript.)

I also would have also appreciated it if Robert Gibbs had thrown Paul back in Palin's face; Gibbs did an okay job of defending Obama ("I'm almost sure that the oil companies don't consider the Obama administration a huge ally. We proposed a windfall profits tax when they jacked their oil prices up to charge for gasoline"), but why not play the Paul card? (Something like "Gosh, I'm confused. Rand Paul, whom Palin has endorsed, says we're too tough on business. I wish Palin and Paul would get their stories straight.")

I'd also like to hear a thoughtful debate between Ms. Palin and her Fox colleague Andrea Tantaros. Palin thinks Obama is the poodle of Big Business. Tantaros begs to differ, in classic understated Fox style:

This past Sunday, in one of the most aggressive and offensive intimidation tactics to date, hundreds of members of the largest union -- the SEIU -- stormed the front yard of Bank of America deputy general counsel Greg Baer's home. The angry mob had bullhorns, signs and even broke the law by trespassing to bully Baer's teenage son, the only one home at the time, who locked himself in the bathroom out of fear....

If you think the unions are working alone, think again.

These protests, the ones storming Wall Street bank lobbies and now the private homes of bankers, are likely being carefully coordinated with the White House to increase their profile against the financial fat cats and help pass disgraced Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd's financial regulatory bill.

Remember, when the White House visitor records were finally made public, it was SEIU boss Andy Stern who was the most frequent guest.

There are also no coincidences in politics. The bill passed the Senate last night.

From the G.M. bondholders, to the Black Panthers at polling stations, to ACORN to these assaults on private citizens, Obama is running a Hugo Chavez-style thugocracy. Like Chavez, he gets non-official "allies" to act as his henchemen and do the intimidation work. Obama provides the narrative and tells the story of "greed" while the SEIU provides the muscle. This is about power, not prosperity....


Andrea, is this before or after Obama licked BP's boots? Ex-Governor Palin, your thoughts?

Oh, but I'm sure Glenn Beck will be along any second now to explain via diagram how Obama can be both Hugo Chavez and Dick Cheney.

Though I'll give Palin this much: taken in isolation, her shameless transformation from corporatist to full-throated critic of BP shows better political instincts than Obama seems to have right now. His administration has said nasty things about BP, but you don't feel his heart is in it. Palin's interest, needless to say, is exclusively in what advances her career, but she knows it's a moment when you want to bash business, while he doesn't seem sure. Which is not to say that she would actually have a clue what to do if she were actually in office and dealing with this. But Palin knows what's good for Palin. I wish Obama didn't sometimes seem to lose sight of what's good for Obama, because good politics in this case would be much better policy than what we have now.

****

(AND: because I didn't make it clear, I say all this even though Palin's grasp of facts leaves something to be desired.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

SARAH PALIN SCHOOLS RAND PAUL

Oh, Rand, Rand, Rand. You don't get it, do you? You're trying to win over voters who just want to be told that some people are always right (us! the real Americans!) and some people are always wrong (East Coast liberals! the lamestream media!) And now you're under fire? Rule #1: Never apologize or seem defensive. Rule #2: Everything is liberals' fault, even things you do of your own free will.

This is how it's done, Rand:

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin accused MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Sunday of conducting a "prejudiced" interview with Rand Paul, in which the Tea Party candidate infamously aired skepticism about the reach of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Speaking to "Fox News Sunday," the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee said that Paul was being subjected to the same biased media coverage that marked her run for office, before offering her Tea Party-backed candidate a bit of advice.

"One thing we can learn in this lesson that I have learned and Rand Paul is learning now is don't assume that you can engage in a hypothetical discussion about constitutional impacts with a reporter or a media personality who has an agenda, who may be prejudiced before they even get into the interview in regards to what your answer may be," Palin said. "You know, they are looking for the gotcha moment. And that evidently appears to be what they did with Rand Paul, and I'm thankful he clarified his answer about his support for the Civil Rights Act." ...


It's simple. If we say it or do it, it's evil. If you say it or do it, it makes the Founders shed tears of pride in Heaven. Your side has a monopoly on truth. We're Antichrists.

I can't believe you don't get that yet.

(Via Steve Benen.)
MURDOCH AND OBAMA: WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

Andrew Cuomo made it official yesterday -- he's a candidate for governor of New York -- and Rupert Murdoch's New York Post has responded with a surprisingly non-Democrat-phobic front page:



Now, this may be because Cuomo seems to be running as a William Weld-style Republican rather than a traditional Democrat:

He [said] he would freeze salaries of state workers. And he said he opposed raising taxes.

He proposed capping state spending and limiting local property tax increases to no more than 2 percent annually.

... Mr. Cuomo described his philosophy as "fiscally prudent and socially progressive" ...

[His] plans include a proposal to eliminate 20 percent of the state's more than 1,000 agencies, authorities, commissions and the like....


And it may be because Murdoch knows a winner when he sees one, and wants to play ball with him -- polls show that Cuomo has a lead of more than 2-to-1 over each of his potential GOP rivals.

But Barack Obama looked like a clear winner for most of 2008, and before that it seemed as if Hillary Clinton only needed the Democratic nomination to coast to victory. Murdoch did reach out to Hillary, hosting a fund-raiser for her, and in the spring of 2008 he was lavishing praise on Obama. And, of course, Murdoch backed Tony Blair and the Labour Party in 1997.

So what happened to Obama? Why didn't Murdoch choose to side with the winners of 2008? Why, instead of sucking up to the people in power, has he decided to try to destabilize the government?

Well, if we're to believe what Michael Wolff wrote in Vanity Fair in 2008, this is specific to Fox News, and the real problem is Roger Ailes. Murdoch wants to make nice! Really!

Rupert Murdoch helped broker a "tentative truce" between Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and key News Corporation lieutenant Roger Ailes, the boss of Fox News Channel....

Wolff reported in Vanity Fair that during the meeting Obama and Murdoch sat knee to knee, with the older man offering the prospective candidate advice....

But Wolff claimed things were different when Ailes took Murdoch's place....

"Ailes, unruffled, said it might not have been this way if Obama had more willingly come on the air instead of so often giving Fox the back of his hand.

. ... the "Fox stain", as Wolff calls it, does not appear to be one that Murdoch is so comfortable with any more.

Wolff wrote that the influence of Murdoch's wife Wendi and the courting of more liberal figures in the media has raised a conflict in the News Corp founder...

"Fox has been his alter ego. For a long time he was in love with the Fox chief, Roger Ailes, because he was even more Murdoch than Murdoch. And yet now the embarrassment can't be missed - he mumbles even more than usual when called on to justify it; he barely pretends to hide the way he feels about [Fox presenter] Bill O'Reilly...."


But it seems to me that Obama just isn't threatening enough to Murdoch, while also seeming less deferential. Compare Blair: on the one hand, he assiduously courted Murdoch (who reportedly remarked on Blair's "puppy-dog, youthful, company-lawyer image"). On the other hand, Blair made a deal with the devil -- and maybe Obama just doesn't wield similar power over American media companies ... or maybe he simply won't wield what power he has:

Blair and [Alastair] Campbell took to heart the advice of the Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, on how to deal with Murdoch: "He's a big bad bastard, and the only way you can deal with him is to make sure he thinks you can be a big bad bastard too. You can do deals with him, without ever saying a deal is done. But the only thing he cares about is his business and the only language he respects is strength."

Blair and his team believed they had achieved exactly that. A deal had been done, although with nothing in writing. If Murdoch were left to pursue his business interests in peace he would give Labour a fair wind.


I suspect Murdoch wants to be courted -- and needs to be threatened. I'm not sure Obama has done either.

Or maybe it's no more complicated than this, per Michael Wolff:

"Just before the New York Democratic primary, when I found myself undecided between Clinton and Obama, I said to Murdoch (a little flirtation, like a little gossip, softens him), 'Rupert, I don't know who to vote for - so I'm going to give you my vote. You choose'," he wrote.

"He paused, considered, nodded his head slowly: 'Obama - he'll sell more papers.'"


And attacking Obama still sells more papers -- or, rather, draws more eyeballs to Fox. So what if it helps destroy the country?
HAWAII REPUBLICAN CAN'T EVEN TOP BUSH'S 2004 TOTAL IN HIS DISTRICT

Righty bloggers are beside themselves with glee because Republican Charles Djou just won a special election in Hawaii's First Congressional District -- but please note that this isn't exactly a suddenly lurch in a red direction for the state, or the district. Djou got just 39.7% of the vote (in a crowded field with several challengers, including two Democrats who totaled approximately 59%). That means Djou's vote percentage was about 5 points less than George W. Bush's 45% in the state in 2004 (and, according to Wikipedia, Bush's total in the district was, even better, 47%). And, of course, the state has had a Republican governor, Linda Lingle, for years -- she was first elected in 2002, and in 2006 -- which was otherwise a wave year for the Democrats in congressional races -- Lingle won reelection with 62% of the vote.

So Hawaii isn't an extraordinarily blue state these days, and it didn't suddenly get redder after the Hawaii native became president, no matter what the GOP spinners tell you.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

WHAT?! BAD THINGS THAT ENDED CAN START UP AGAIN?

I'm not going to address every point made by David Weigel in his defense of Rand Paul, but this one seems particularly wrongheaded:

It's essential to put Paul's belief in the context of 2010 instead of the context of 1964. He sees less of a need now for the government to intervene against discrimination in private business because there is less discrimination now. And go and try to prove him wrong on that.

So, um, we should simply strike laws from the books when it appears they're no longer needed?

Back in the 1990s, Boston made a concerted effort to reduce crime, particularly crime aimed at juveniles. The effort was so successful that there were no teenagers murdered in the city over a 29-month period. Should Boston have simply struck its laws against murdering a teenager from the books? (Crime, including the murder of juveniles, eventually returned in Boston.)

Should we eliminate laws against child labor in U.S. factories? After all, Americans now find the practice abhorrent (at least stateside), and we don't really have all that many factories in this country anymore anyway. Surely the practice of employing children as laborers couldn't possibly come back here, could it?

Hell, you could say the same thing for slavery -- we're repulsed by it. Why bother to keep it illegal?

And as for the matter at hand -- discrimination against certain customers in restaurants -- gosh, I can't imagine any ethnic group being treated that way on a widespread basis anywhere in America today; what group of people would engender that sort of contempt?




There's a lot of claptrap in this libertarian argument, but this might be the worst of it.
BLOWING OFF MTP? SMART. DOING IT DEFENSIVELY? NOT SMART.

I've been thinking that Rand Paul's recent dealings with the media are likely to be a lot less problematic for him in Kentucky than they seem to us non-Kentuckians, because he can just defiantly say that he's being set upon by the same evildoers the right-wing rank and file has been trained to hate for years. And so I thought even his decision to cancel his Meet the Press appearance might redound to his advantage back home.

But the way he did it is all wrong:

... the campaign of Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul tells me it has canceled the candidate's upcoming appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" -- something the show's host and producer are currently sounding the alarm about on Twitter.

"Rand did Good Morning America today, set the record straight, and now we are done talking about it," said campaign spokesman Jesse Benton. "No more national interviews on the topic."


No, no, no -- that's not what you say. You don't bristle and try to drop the subject.

You brag about your decision to cancel your appearance on national TV. You say, "I admit I was a bit naive. I thought I could get fair treatment from the liberal media. I'm a political outsider -- I didn't know the ways of the press in New York City and Washington, D.C. But now I see how these people operate, and I'm through with them. They don't care about this country. They don't care about the truth. They don't care about you and me and the things that matter to us. All they care about is...."

Do I really have to finish this? You could write a speech like this yourself, off the top of your head. I'm amazed Rand Paul can't.

Come on, Rand, it's easy. Your pal Sarah Palin could thumb out a tweet like this with one hand while stirring a pot of moose chili with the other (or getting a manicure on the other). You can't pull this off? You can't know this basic recipe for taking lemons and making lemonade? I guess you really aren't ready for the big leagues.

Friday, May 21, 2010

LIBERTARIANISM: THE BELIEF THAT EVERYTHING IS EITHER PERFECT OR PURE EVIL

Here's a comment from a Paulbot troll named Acadian, found over at Zandar Versus the Stupid:

...Has the Civil Rights Act made racism in this country better or worse since it was passed? Can anyone honestly say that the Civil Rights Act succeeded on that front? if it was such a good bill, how come it had to be changed over and over again?

... Or ar you going to compound your ignorance more and say the Civil Rights Act has actually eliminated racism? It hasn't after 45 years, after all. People understand this....


This, I realize, echoes remarks made by Ron Paul, Rand's daddy, on the floor of the House in 2004:

...contrary to the claims of the supporters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the sponsors of H.Res. 676, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.

... The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society....

Of course, America has made great strides in race relations over the past forty years. However, this progress is due to changes in public attitudes and private efforts. Relations between the races have improved despite, not because of, the 1964 Civil Rights Act....


It took me a while to grasp the thinking here, but now I get it. To libertarians, there are only two choices: either the Civil Rights Act eliminated all racism whatsoever or it accomplished absolutely nothing. There's no possible middle ground, no chance that it could be part of a process of reversing appalling legal and cultural wrongs, something that's done a great deal of good, even if it hasn't wiped out all racism in America forever.

To libertarians, the thinking on this law must be absolute because libertarian thinking on government and private property is absolute. Government is always purely evil. The marketplace, by contrast, is absolutely perfect -- it heals all wounds and corrects all flaws, even flaws it creates, even flaws as brutal as the forceful repression of one race by another. Left to its own devices, the libertarians say, the marketplace absolutely could have eliminated racism -- all racism, or certainly all racism in the private sphere.

But keep in mind that this kind of absolutism isn't limited to a small group of cranks, one of whom happens to have made his way into the political big time in an unusual election cycle. This thinking is now mainstream Republican -- it's teabag rhetoric.

When teabaggers say that a few government interventions in the marketplace that leave the vast majority of capitalism alone are "socialism," full stop, when they invoke Mao and Stalin to discuss this mix (which is a far less interventionist mix than we were accustomed to under, say, that great commie Dwight Eisenhower), they're engaging in the same sort of all-or-nothing thinking. Capitalism can't withstand any government modification; if it isn't kept pure, it's so delicate it must cease to exist. It's either pure or it's destroyed, they tell us. (This is absurd, of course, as long as we have Medicare and the interstate highway system and corporate tax subsidies and the like, but never mind.)

This rhetoric is nuts when longtime believers make the arguments and it's nuts when a guy in a tricorn hat holding an Obama-as-Joker sign makes them. Nevertheless, this thinking is powerful enough to be driving our politics right now.