Saturday, July 31, 2010


The Republicans have been working to make America ungovernable since Barack Obama's inauguration, and now we have a scenario for how -- with the help of some Democratic enablers -- they might get closer to finishing the job of seizing control of the government, even without the consent of the voters.

This is from The Hill:

... Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the GOP's chief deputy whip and director of recruiting new candidates, suggested Republicans could win the speakership or, at the very least, enjoy de facto control of the House, even if they don't win the 39 seats needed to gain an outright majority.

"We need 39 seats. Take it, for instance, say we win 34," McCarthy said in an interview on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program, which is scheduled to air this weekend but was posted online Friday.

He suggested that if that happens some Democrats might not support Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to be speaker, and might instead opt to vote with Republicans to pursue their priorities.

... "Why do you think that if we don't win 39, we still couldn't be able to get speaker?"

His musings suggest the GOP is looking at options to make now-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) the speaker of the House by pursuing a coalition with Democrats....

And then there's this from Joe Klein:

Nelson Switching Parties?

Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson has been slipping away from the Democratic Party on crucial votes over the past year--and now has decided to vote against Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court.... I suspect that, if the Republicans make substantial gains in the midterm elections, Nelson could be up for grabs next fall--it certainly would be easier for him to get reelected in Nebraska as a Republican and, if the Democrats' Senate advantage is cut to one or two seats, he could be offered the moon by the Republicans to switch. He could also be offered Cornhusker Kickbacks in perpetuity by the Democrats to stay.

Another possibility: if Charlie Crist wins running as an Independent in Florida, then a three-member Independent caucus--Nelson, Crist and Joe Lieberman--could have the clout to determine which party organizes the Senate....

Needless to say, the president and the remaining real Democrats should howl like banishees and then fight like junkyard dogs, using every lowdown dirty trick and maneuver available to them, if anything like this takes place.

And needless to say, we know that won't happen. We know that Obama and the remaining Dems will approach their new overlords in a posture of submission.

The second-best course of action? If the president won't fight like hell, he should just resign -- and take Biden with him. Hey, John Boehner, you wanted to seize power? Fine -- here's all the power. Too bad we still have unemployment at nearly 10% and a global economic Lost Decade taking place; too bad we're fighting one war we can't completely wind down and another one that's a quagmire; too bad you guys don't have an agenda besides cutting more taxes and having a New Black Panther Party show trial for two years. I don't care! I'm going to the Vineyard for some R&R! Have a nice administration!

I don't know what would be President Boehner's first official act -- nuke Tehran? nuke the Upper West Side? -- but I think a sudden, unexpected GOP presidency is the only thing that might save us from a GOP sweep in 2012. Without an Obama/Biden resignation, Republicans will continue to be the government's backseat drivers, unable to muster the votes to override presidential vetoes (or the votes in the Senate to turn an impeachment into a conviction) and thus able to say that America still hasn't tried doing things their way, so we really ought to hand over the entire government to them next time around. I want them held accountable now for what they do and what they advocate. The only way we may ever kick this disease is to let it run its course, and maybe we just ought to get that process over with.

Yesterday, in response to Paul Krugman's column about President Obama's maddening tendency to stroke enemies and rebuff friends, there was this post at Prairie Weather:

Dealing with the brat in the White House

... Bill Clinton, said to be dealing with the psychological damage of growing up in an alcoholic family, spent his presidency testing the limits of others' tolerance. Barack Obama, without the same excuse, seems inclined to tease, test, and often blow off those who believe in and support him....

Just to be clear, progressives would be foolish to sit out this election: Mr. Obama may not be the politician of their dreams, but his enemies are definitely the stuff of their nightmares. But Mr. Obama has a responsibility, too. He can't expect strong support from people his administration keeps ignoring and insulting.

As Paul Krugman says, the Obama administration seems determined to alienate us, but we'd be stupid to stay home in November.

I'd rather we take the brat in the White House in hand and makes sure he works with us, not against us.

I understand (and share) the frustration, but does it really make sense to call Obama a "brat"? It seems to me that, if anything, he's the exact opposite of a brat -- he's being excessively deferential to the powers that be. However, if you see the progressive voters who supported him and the progressive campaign volunteers who helped get him elected as his parents, I suppose you can call him a brat.

But I'd say that's not quite right.

Think of Barack Obama as someone who, for a while, never had a secure home. He bounced around and eventually was taken in by foster parents who were poor but honest. They worked and struggled -- and he thrived. Eventually he was able to go to a posh prep school, and then a posh university.

Those foster parents would be traditional Democrats. And now Obama has made it to the Senate and the White House. He's at the center of power. And what happens?

Back from his posh university, he acts as if he's embarrassed by his foster parents. They don't know how to dress, how to talk, what fork to use. Now he has posh friends -- and they seem to know precisely what to do at all times. In fact, because they're posh, whatever they do is, by definition, regarded as the right thing to do.

So he emulates them, and he feels uncomfortable in the presence of his poor but honest parents. It's not because he's being a brat, exactly. It's because he's developed too much faith in the notion that his posh friends are always right, because his posh friends are certain that they themselves are always right, and the bigger world tends to agree with them.

If he were FDR, if he'd grown up among these swells, he'd know when they were full of it. But he didn't, so he doesn't.


See also Frank Rich reviewing Jonathan Alter's Obama book The Promise in The New York Review of Books:

[Obama] is simply too infatuated with the virtues of the American meritocracy that helped facilitate his own rise. "Obama's faith lay in cream rising to the top," Alter writes. "Because he himself was a product of the great American postwar meritocracy, he could never fully escape seeing the world from the status ladder he had ascended." This led Obama to hire "broad-gauged, integrative thinkers who could both absorb huge loads of complex material and apply it practically and lucidly without resorting to off-putting jargon" -- and well, why not? Alter adds:

Almost all had advanced degrees from Ivy League schools, proof that they had aced standardized tests and knew the shortcuts to success exploited by American elites. A few were bombastic, but most had learned to cover their faith in their own powers of analysis with a thin veneer of humility; it made their arguments more effective. But their faith in the power of analysis remained unshaken.

... he suffers from a cultural class myopia. He's a patsy for "glittering institutions that signified great achievement for a certain class of ambitious Americans."


Friday, July 30, 2010


You may know about today's Phyllis Schlafly story (if not, I'll discuss it below), but it's nothing we haven't seen before. Time magazine, June 1, 1992:

IF FOR NOTHING ELSE, DAN QUAYLE DESERVES POINTS for audacity.... the Vice President dared to argue last week in a San Francisco speech that the Los Angeles riots were caused in part by a "poverty of values" that included the acceptance of unwed motherhood, as celebrated in popular culture by the CBS comedy series Murphy Brown. The title character, a divorced news anchorwoman, got pregnant and chose to have the baby.... "It doesn't help matters," Quayle complained, when Brown, "a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid professional woman" is portrayed as "mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another 'life-style choice.' "

... A New York Daily News headline set the tone: QUAYLE TO MURPHY BROWN: YOU TRAMP! Switchboards at the White House and on TV and radio talk shows lit up with callers, pro and con.

... critics suspected that the Vice President's remarks fit into a calculated strategy to suggest that L.A.'s rioters, who were mostly black and Hispanic, have in common with feminists and other Democrats a shoddier moral standard than nice people (who therefore should vote Republican)....

Yup, and now, from a fund-raiser over the weekend on behalf of Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski, a GOP House challenger in Michigan, we have Schlafly saying this:

...Do you know what was the second-biggest Democratic group that voted for Obama? Obvious, the blacks were the biggest Democratic group. Do y'all know what was the second-biggest? Unmarried women. Seventy percent of unmarried women voted for Obama. And this is because, when you kick your husband out, you got to have Big Brother government to be your provider. And they know that, and they've admitted it. And they had all kinds of bills to continue to subsidize illegitimacy....

Back in '92, was Quayle trying to tap into white racial resentment while using a white TV character as a smokescreen? Was he being an ur-Glenn Beck, linking evil rootless-cosmopolitan Hollywood liberals and non-whites in a conspiracy to ruin the heartland's purity of essence? Whatever he was doing, it didn't work -- Quayle and Poppy Bush were trounced at the polls a few months later, and nearly 70% of unmarried women rejected the sitting president in favor of Bill Clinton or Ross Perot.

You can decide whether you think Schlafly is playing on racist stereotypes -- I'd say it's kind of a giveaway when she brings up this poll and (as Steve Benen notes) talks about "the blacks" in the same breath. And, well, what do you know -- first out of the gate to defend her in the right blogosphere is the racist and neo-Confederate Robert Stacy McCain, who says of Schlafly's pronouncement:

This is what we in the journalism business call a "fact."

Really, Robert? What's a fact? Schlafly's implication that all unmarried women are single mothers? Her suggestion that every single mother got that way because she "kick[ed her] husband out"? (Yeah, right -- men in America are so dependable and meek that not one of them has ever abandoned his kids' mother of his own volition.) The notion that every government program encourages indolence? (The point of subsidized job training and day care is to encourage work, no?)

My memory of the Quayle speech was that a lot of women -- white, non-white, married, single -- were deeply offended by it. (The coding, apparently, was too effective; he chastized a white female TV character, and white women were among those offended.) Perhaps it's time for a rerun. If I were the Democrats, I'd run ads with Schlafly's comments all over the country -- and maybe not just in the districts where her Eagle Forum has endorsed candidates. Headline the clip "GOP fund-raiser." Really, why not? Do you think this mindset is limited to Schlafly, or those she's endorsed? Five bucks says if you played a tape of this to Sharron Angle, she'd say, "Hell, yeah."

(Via Memeorandum.)


(Just for the record, Schlafly's poll appears to be real -- it was from Greenberg Quinlan Rogers. It's cited by horrified righties here and here.)

Well, this, from former Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer at the Daily Beast, is just silly:

Former President George W. Bush and his corral of Texas-based surrogates are preparing to flood the airwaves in anticipation of his new memoir, another step in a carefully crafted rehabilitation strategy. The publication date of Bush's Decision Points is set for early November, one week after the congressional elections. But, as with any likely bestseller, the details of the book are certain to leak out earlier -- meaning the Bush years could be re-litigated and re-explored during the final, pivotal weeks of the campaign.

It is not clear just how much the Bush book will affect the debate -- it was Bill Clinton, after all, who said all elections are about the future. And some Republicans, particularly those most closely tied to the Bush regime, actually argue the book could help the party by reminding some voters of what they liked about Bush. Still, that has not stopped some Republicans, traumatized over the last two election cycles, from fearing the worst. "Monumentally bad timing" was the reaction of one former Bush aide who learned of the book release date. Another prominent conservative compared the Bushies' public-relations savvy to LeBron James. "Selfish and stupid" was another noted right-wing columnist's reaction. Democrats, meanwhile, are gleeful.

Look, we've had memoirs from Karl Rove and Laura Bush on the shelves from months. A while back we had months of near-constant public appearances by Dick Cheney and his demagogue daughter. The Republican resurgence never seemed to be slowed down by any of this.

I believe (and I said this last month) that a George W. Bush book tour could have had an impact if it took place before the election -- imagine all those giddy Republican diehards, some of them in Sarah Palin shirts, delighting in W's presence, all on TV news on a regular basis. That might have reminded voters of the future the current crop of Republicans want us to go back to.

But that's not going to happen. A few leaks -- of utterly predictable self-justification, of bits of backstairs trivia (a foreign leader was drunk at a state dinner! Rummy once said a really mean thing to Condi!) -- won't have the same impact if it comes in brief news articles. The general public will just absorb it and move on.

I wish the Bush book would have an impact before publication -- but I worry that it's just going to be part of a painful November for Democrats starting on Election Day, thanks to the media. Here's the sequence:

* On November 2, Republicans gain seats in Congress -- and the media will probably accept GOP spin and declare the results a resounding triumph for Republicans no matter how many seats Republicans pick up.

* Then, a week later, Bush begins his Vindication Memoir Tour. He's mobbed by Republicans pumped up as a result of the previous week's returns, and those results are the subject of many questions posed to him in interviews. (He's smug and self-satisfied about the results because, yes, he does think they partly exonerate him.)

* Two weeks later, Sarah Palin's new book is published -- and that one is preceded by leaks that really are newsmaking, because, well, it's Sarah Palin, and we think everything she does is news. Her book tour is, of course, like the Second Coming of Christ for her fans.

Result? The Beltway's perception that there's been a tsunami-size Republican resurgence will be nearly universal. And that will be true even if Republicans have only barely won back one house of Congress (or maybe even if they haven't accomplished that) and if the Bush and Palin crowds are the same damn people who always supported those two.

I can't bear it. Palin/Jeb '12?

Thursday, July 29, 2010


The mainstream media, and even not-completely-deranged right-wingers such as Peggy Noonan, think they know the consensus opinion of Shirley Sherrod now: she lived through brutality in the Jim Crow South, it hardened her feelings toward whites somewhat, but time and circumstance opened her heart. She's admirable, and America understands that now -- right? Noonan, even though she has some quibbles with Sherrod's NAACP speech, thinks it should be watched by every American high schooler.

But does Noonan know how much a lot of her fellow right-wingers hate Shirley Sherrod? Does the rest of the mainstream media? The people who, a few years back, wrote all those columns about "the angry left" -- do they know it? Do they understand that there's a Sherrod Derangement Syndrome out there?

We know it, of course. We know what goes on in the right's fever swamp. But the rest of America doesn't understand.

Today Sherrod told the National Association of Black Journalists convention that she's going to sue Andrew Breitbart. How much contempt, how much disgust, did this engender in the right blogosphere? Read on.

Dan Riehl at Riehl World View:

Good luck with that. But she does have a history of preferring a lawsuit to going to work....


The suit against Breitbart is going to bring up a ton of really fun stuff about her and her husband and about that lawsuit they settled. Congratulations Mrs. Sherrod every speech you gave, every statement you've made and your husband too is now fair game and will be out in the open for all the country to see....


Bob Owens at Confederate Yankee:

Oh Pretty Please... Shirley Sherrod Announces She Will Sue Andrew Breitbart

...[The] speech, viewed in its entirety, seems to suggest that Shirley Sherrod does in fact continue to struggle with racism....

She and her husband have profited immensely from race-baiting, and they both have racist and or race-baiting comments caught on video that they cannot deny. Discovery and a cross-examination by a good attorney are not something I think either Sherrod would want to address.

I think she's bluffing, but I kinda hope she isn't.

Dana Loesch at The Dana Show:

... Yes, Shirley Sherrod, go on with your suit. PLEASE. I LOVE hearing you talk on television. I know that the media didn't want to have you on any of the Sunday talk shows (racists!) because when they heard you talk a warning sounded in their a heads, a warning that went "no, no, no, No, No, NO, NO" but I love it. I can't wait to hear more about your Pigford settlement with this suit, I can't wait to see the phone records of when you were told to pull off the side of the road and give up your job, a move the White House thought would make folks walk away – but they didn't account for your mastery of the liberalized squeaky-wheel strategy, the very strategy they promote but hate used against them as you so artfully did. They didn't bank on you doubling-down on the race card and implicating the White House; now they’re stuck with you and they have to basically jog after you mumbling incoherently about how there is still racial tension and something about that 24-7 media cycle they love to use but hate pointed at them.

File away. It will be a smorgasbord of delight.

John Hawkins of Right Wing News:

Minute 16 Of Her 15 Minutes Of Fame: Shirley Sherrod To File Nuisance Lawsuit Against Andrew Breitbart

Shirley Sherrod, who seems to spend most of her time accusing everyone who doesn't agree with her of being racist, is going to try to sue Andrew Breitbart....

What is Shirley Sherrod going to sue Breitbart for? Showing a clip of her speech where she admitted to engaging in a racist act?

... this lawsuit, like Shirley Sherrod, is a waste of time.

These people don't just disagree with Sherrod's politics. They don't just think her tactics are inappropriate or her assignment of blame is off base. They hate her. Their awareness of her life experiences doesn't temper that hate. They think this lawsuit will end in her total humiliation, and that notion delights them.

This is the brave new right. The politicians these people champion may win the House and even the Senate this year, the White House two years from now. Does anyone in the mainstream press understand that that's the problem?

(Apologies for strong imagery in this post.)

The cover of the new issue of Time -- with its photograph of a young woman whose nose and ears were cut off by the Taliban, accompanied by headline "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan" -- is disgraceful on several levels. (The image is here, and no, it's not pretty; the cover story is here.)

Atrios (here and here) and Greg Mitchell (here) have made the obvious point: um, this happened while we were in Afghanistan. So the proof of how necessary it is for us to protect young women from brutal attacks of this kind is the fact that we couldn't protect this young woman?

And does anyone at Time know the story of Zahida Parveen? She suffered a similar attack, yet even more brutal: her husband, believing she was having an affair, not only cut off her nose and earlobes but blinded her and beat her while hanging her upside down. Oh, but that took place in Pakistan in 1998. Following Time's logic, I suppose the U.S. should have invaded and occupied Pakistan to prevent this from happening. (Parveen, if it's any comfort, was later fitted with a prosthetic face made by a former CIA disguise-maker named Robert Barron. This makes it easier for her to be in the presence of her children, who are no longer horrified by her appearance.)


But why is Time ratcheting up the war propaganda in the most shameless avenge-the-atrocities way, even going so far as to aestheticize the cover victim so she looks remarkably like a disfigured version of National Geographic's famous "Afghan girl" from the 1980s? Or, more to the point, why does Time seem to be far ahead of even the usual media jingoists in its effort to increase U.S. support for the war?

Regular readers of this blog know how much time I spend lurking at Fox Nation, which is where I think you see a shrewdly assembled mosaic of the propaganda that very smart, very evil people think best serves the Republican/right-wing cause. Given Fox's consistent bellicosity, you might have expected there to be a link to Time's story and cover at Fox Nation, but there's nothing. You might have expected some interest in the WikiLeaks documents -- but I haven't seen a single story headlined on the FN homepage about those documents, even one deployed as a stick to beat Obama. Nope -- it's all Obama snubbing the Boy Scouts to go on The View and illegal aliens running amok and JournoList and the New Black Panthers and Shirley Sherrod and Sarah Palin encountering a bear. The rest of the online rightosphere seems the same -- it's as if righty bloggers and news/propaganda outlets don't want to talk about Afghanistan. Why? Isn't it odd that Time in the forefront on this, and not the GOP noise machine?

First, I don't think the folks at GOP Noise Machine Central want to complicate the message. Right now, it's all about the domestic threat: big government, allegedly inevitable higher taxes, the fear of gun confiscation and black and brown people running amok. It's working, according to the polls -- why complicate a winning formula?

Yeah, but wouldn't talk of foreign evildoers complement this message of Democratic domestic perfidy, as it usually does? Well, i'm not sure the keepers of the noise machine trust how this would play out. The right-wing base and a lot of centrists relish a nice smiting of a foreign foe -- but a war with no story arc and no satisfying resolution is a different story. A well-deserved ass-kicking? Always appreciated. Being "the world's policeman"? Not so much.

I think Fox and other right-wing propagandists remember that they couldn't seem to wimp-bait Obama successfully in 2008 for his opposition to the Iraq war. Righties don't seem to have a foreign policy Plan B when wimp-baiting doesn't work; regarding Afghanistan, they can read polls, and they're probably afraid that centrists and even a few Paulite righties will react even to Taliban atrocity photos by saying, "Screw 'em -- if that's how they act, why should we waste any more blood and money on them?"

Righty propagandists could attack Obama from the left, of course -- talk of LBJ, sneering references to "Democrat wars," etc. -- but they don't seem to have a well-developed script for that. So I think they're just hoping that Obama will make good on his promise to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, and maybe then they can attack him as a traitor in the time-honored wingnut way. For now, though, they're hanging back, or trying to change the subject to Iran. Unlike Time, they're not trying to sell what they don't think the public is buying.

Right-wing rule #1: Never, ever, ever, ever acknowledge error or admit defeat. Fight every fight to eternity.

You thought, with regard to Shirley Sherrod, that they were going to lick their wounds and move on? Hah. Adam Tragone, writing for Human Events:

... Then, she stepped to the podium and confirmed to America what Breitbart's video conveyed: Shirley Sherrod is a rambling race-hustler. Speaking with Anderson Cooper, she said that Andrew Breitbart would like to "get us stuck back in the times of slavery. That's where I think he'd like to see all black people end up again." Uh. What? How can she even come out and imply that this is how Andrew Breitbart feels when she doesn't even know him and all she does know about him is of a videotape that he released of her own words?

Then, Shirley took her anger out on -- who else? -- Fox News. Speaking with the Washington Post, Sherrod said she wouldn't go on Fox because she felt that they considered her a "pawn" and that the network wanted to go "back to where black people were looking down, not looking white folks in the face, not being able to compete for a job out there and not be a whole person."

Now, you would like to think that she would have to explain these outrageously outrageous statements, right?

... Shirley Sherrod went on a racially tinged rant, this time in the safe confines of the leftist media, and was never heard from since. They've given her a pass. Sherrod is now harder to find than Waldo. I don't blame her. She's demonstrated that her world view is deeply shaped by race and gender. Stay hiding, Shirley. We don't need any more of your disjointed racial musings.

Jim Treacher at Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, reading off the same list of alleged crimes:

... The joke was on everyone as the Sherrod chainsaw howled to life. She announced that Fox News was just using her as a "pawn" to "take us back to where we were many years ago. Back to where black people were looking down, not looking white folks in the face, not being able to compete for a job out there and not be a whole person." She dragged out the wheezy old canard that all opposition to the policies of our glorious Leader Of Color are due to racism. And the true motivation of Andrew Breitbart? Why, nothing less than the reinstitution of slavery. Once Shirley Sherrod is out of the way, there will be nothing to stop Breitbart from using his giant mechanical spider to kidnap the President and reboot the Confederacy.

... Nobody on the Right should be terribly surprised to learn the full extent of Sherrod's racial obsessions. It takes some rigid ideology to pry open the door to the comfortable government office she used to occupy. There are an awful lot of theories floating through the mind of the permanent entitlement bureaucracy, and none of them have
anything to do with individual responsibility, sovereign liberty, or the moral independence of free men and women....

What Sherrod says during the remaining fourteen minutes of her celebrity is doing a lot more damage than anything she said on that videotape....

Larry Elder at TownHall:

Who knows what lies ahead for Shirley Sherrod -- a book, the lecture circuit, a wrongful discharge lawsuit that could bring millions? But if she keeps talking, the woman "wrongfully portrayed" as a racist may out herself as exactly that.

... Sherrod is now heralded as a symbol of a black woman unfairly victimized by the wretched, vicious, racist tactics of Breitbart in particular and the "right wing" in general....

But what about the rest of Shirley Sherrod's NAACP speech?

She made this observation about those who opposed ObamaCare: "I haven't seen such mean-spirited people as I've seen lately over this issue of health care. Some of the racism we thought was buried. Didn't it surface? (Audience responds approvingly.) Now, we endured eight years of the Bushes, and we didn't do the stuff these Republicans are doing because you have a black president."

So the self-proclaimed colorblind woman attributes legitimate opposition to the government takeover of health care ... to racism.

And what motivated Breitbart to post the out-of-context excerpt? Was Breitbart erroneously, but in good faith, using it to hold the NAACP to the same standard the organization asks of the Tea Party? Not according to Sherrod. She told CNN: "I know I've gotten past black vs. white. He's probably the person who's never gotten past it and never attempted to get past it. ... I think he would like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery. That's where I think he'd like to see all black people end up again. ... I think that's why he's so vicious against a black president, you know. He would go after me. I don't think it was even the NAACP he was totally after. I think he was after a black president."

This from someone who's "gotten past black vs. white"? ...

They're not going to drop this. I guarantee you that it's a priority in some corner of the fetid right-wing swamp to comb through archives looking for some new piece of evidence proving that Shirley Sherrod, or her husband, or some relative or neighbor or Facebook friend is a Big Bad White Person Hater. I guarantee you that one or more well-remunerated young right-wingers get up every morning and do nothing but seek such evidence. Like the most radical wing of an insurgent movement, these guys will not honor any armistice. They will prevent any peace from tasking hold. The only thing they know how to do is fight, and they don't intend to stop until every one of their enemies is destroyed -- unless we destroy them first.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I'm no fan of Arizona's papers-please immigration law, so I'm pleased that the most noxious parts of the law have been blocked by a federal judge, but from the beginning I've been skeptical about the White House's political calculations for November regarding the law -- I don't buy the notion that this will drive Hispanics to the polls in numbers sufficient to offset some of the GOP's tea party and swing-voter gains. Well, now I guess we'll see who's right.

Hotline says of the judge's ruling:

For Democrats, it looks like a blessing in California (Boxer), Florida, Illinois (Kirk), Nevada (Reid) putting Republican candidates on the defensive in states with crucial Hispanic voting blocs....

But Democrats in more culturally-conservative states also face a tough dilemma. Brad Ellsworth (IN), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Robin Carnahan (MO), Jack Conway (KY) and Charlie Melancon (LA) are facing conservative electorates in states with small Hispanic populations, where public opinion has been supportive of the Arizona law.

I'm not convinced that this is a win for Harry Reid -- in fact, I think it may be a life preserver for Sharron Angle's campaign, which recently has been taking on water. All of a sudden the race isn't going to be about her and her extremism -- it's going to be about whether "activist judges" can be free to overturn a popular law (very popular among whites) in a neighboring state. Angle wanted the race to be about Reid, and Reid has been succeeding in making it about Angle, but now it's going to be about neither -- it's going to be about Obama. (Yeah, the judge in the case was a Clinton appointee, but, hey, what's the difference?)

I'm not convinced that Hispanics in Nevada are going to turn out in droves to vote for Reid because an Obama strategy blocked implementation of this law. On the other hand, the right's narrative, which is often persuasive to swing voters, is that Democratic presidents and Democratic members of Congress and judges appointed by Democrats are all one big hydra-headed beast, and the only way you tame the beast is to vote Republican.

I think this decision is going to have an electoral impact in a lot of races across the country, most of them to the Democrats' detriment. As I see it, it's health care all over again -- the course of action the White House favors is broadly unpopular with white voters, but the White House simply hasn't tried very hard to turn that opinion around, either because it can't figure out how or because it can't quite believe white voters really feel the way they do.

Or maybe I'm all wrong about this. We'll see.

Democrats want to allow the Bush tax cuts for the rich to lapse, while renewing the cuts for other taxpayers. Republicans, of course, want to keep the whole tax cut package -- including the cuts for the rich, which the general public doesn't like. A couple of days ago, Jonathan Chait argued that this gives Democrats a tactical advantage:

So we're down to a game of chicken. Here's why the Democrats hold the whip hand. They can pass an extension of the middle-class Bush tax cuts through the House. If Republicans let the bill pass, then they've lost their leverage to extend the unpopular Bush upper-income tax cuts. If they filibuster it, then Democrats can blame them for raising taxes on middle-class Americans. It would let Democrats out of their pledge. (Hey, they tried to keep the middle-class tax cuts.) Then nothing would pass, and we'd instantly revert to Clinton-era rates across the board.

Well, you know what that means: time for the GOP noise machine to bamboozle the public!

And I think we know what the specific bamboozlement message will be. THis is on the Heritage Foundation's blog right now:

New Calculator Shows How Much More Taxes Will You Pay Next Year

We are on the precipice of the largest tax increase in United States history. On January 1, 2011, the 2001/2003 tax relief will expire. All Americans who earn income will see their taxes go up as a result (even those who work but don’t pay any federal income taxes) unless Congress acts soon to prevent this massive tax hike.

The constant refrain from those who oppose the tax relief is that they benefited only the rich. If the tax cuts expire as scheduled, this myth will be proven untrue once and for all. But taxpayers don't have to wait until next year to see how much bigger a bite Uncle Sam will take. The Tax Foundation recently created a tax calculator that will show them how much more they will pay in taxes next year....

You see what the right-wingers' plan is? They want to make the public believe that it's impossible to separate the cuts for the rich and the cuts for everyone else. They want us to believe that there's one entity: the entire Bush tax cut package -- and, if it expires, we'll all get socked.

Watch: in the near future, that line of argument will catch on. It will show up in attack ads targeting vulnerable Democrats. The public will lose sight of the notion that it's even possible to allow part of the tax cut package to lapse.

And when it comes time to vote in Congress, I think Republicans absolutely will vote against an extension of the Bush cuts that's limited to the non-rich. What?! Republicans not vote to cut taxes? Well, sure. They'll say it's a tax increase -- yes, on the rich only, but they won't say that -- and that they're honor-bound not to vote for any tax increase. They'll say Democrats support this big, bad tax increase -- and never say that it falls on the well-to-do only. And their noise really might drown out the truth.

But Chait says Republicans are in political trouble if they block a middle-class-only extension of tax cuts:

Democrats can blame them for raising taxes on middle-class Americans. It would let Democrats out of their pledge. (Hey, they tried to keep the middle-class tax cuts.) Then nothing would pass, and we'd instantly revert to Clinton-era rates across the board.

Does Chait really think that would "let Democrats out of their pledge" not to raise middle-class taxes? Give me a break. If Democrats then refuse to sign on to the notion of renewing the entire tax cut package, Republicans will be able to say, "DEMOCRATS RAISED YOUR TAXES!!!!"

They're going to describe the package as indivisible. And then they're going to try to make it so.

Or, to be accurate, I should say that he's partly right about cause and effect here:

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell predicted on Tuesday that if the president escalates America's military involvement in Afghanistan he could very well face a primary challenger in 2012.

In an overlooked "Morning Joe" segment on Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Democrat offered his distinct brand of eccentric, conversation-driving political foresight....

PAT BUCHANAN: [Anti-Vietnam sentiment] drew an anti-war candidate, Eugene McCarthy, first into the New Hampshire primary, and after he did fairly well with 42%, it drew Robert Kennedy in against their own president, tore the Democratic Party apart, and led, of course, to a Republican era. If the president is still hanging in to Afghanistan in 2011, 2012, do you see an anti-war candidate coming out of the Democratic Party?

ED RENDELL: It's possible, Pat. It really depends on how far it deteriorates [emphasis mine].... But if we start to begin to reduce our presence, I think that's probably enough to keep an anti-war candidate out of the race."

I think there'll definitely be at least a loud clamor for a challenger to Obama from the left -- I expect Firedoglake and Glenn Greenwald to lead the charge online -- but it's certainly not going to be exclusively, or even primarily, because of Afghanistan. It's going to happen because lefties think Obama sold out to bankers, failed to do a real 180 on the Bush administration's human rights record, possibly continued to sell out gay people, and dug us in deeper in Afghanistan.

I understand the disgruntlement. I just wonder if there's any chance whatsoever that a primary challenge will either get a more progressive person elected or push Obama leftward and then get him elected. I really can't imagine either of those things happening.

But there will be a clamor. And my guess (as I said a while back) is that Russ Feingold, integrity narcissist, is the guy who'll be urged to run. I could see him going for it (even though, yeah, I know, he may not even win his own race this year).

Whoever it is -- if not him, maybe the primary fans will rally around Howard Dean, or Dennis Kucinich -- I think Obama will win the nomination, possibly quite bloodied. And then I think Ralph Nader -- who you just know is going to run yet again -- is going to start looking surprisingly good to a lot of disgruntled lefties. But, hell, I think we could a Constitution Party candidate (especially if Romney gets the GOP nomination) and a Bayh/Bloomberg ticket and Lord knows what else, so this really could be a free-for-all.

I'd be more sympathetic to this course of action if I felt that a strong and durable sense of progressivism had started to spread in the heartland. But that hasn't happened -- every liberal can be demonized as a liberal, and even heartlanders who've been favorably disposed to that person will inevitably begin to flee when the anti-liberal propaganda gets cranked up. That's because, at best, we get heartlanders to vote Democratic, but we don't get them to understand and embrace liberalism (even though many of them have skepticism about the power structure that we could tap into). Even Obama has suffered because of the public's unwillingness to rally around liberal ideas. That's what we have to reverse.


Now, why does Rendell think the war is the reason Obama could be primaried? Well, he's suffering from the same sequelitis that the press suffers from: he sees a moment in the Afghan war and automatically expects it to be an exact analogy to Vietnam. A lot of people, especially those of Boomer age and older, just can't get past the notion that this history will repeat itself exactly. Hate to break it to you, but that ain't going to happen with regard to Afghanistan. The public is numbed by this war, not infuriated. We just think it's never going away. The right supports the war even if that means backing Obama, and the anti-war movement is invisible, so there's no mainstream sense of opposition. That's why the Wikileaks documents aren't the Pentagon Papers, and Russ Feingold won't be Eugene McCarthy.


Now, I don't mind the fact that Rendell said this. I'm angrier at him for this Morning Joe moment, which played into GOP frames:

President Obama is taking some flak from a fellow Democrat over his plans to appear on daytime gabfest The View later this week....

"I think the president should be accessible, should answer questions that aren't pre-screened, but I think there should be a little bit of dignity to the presidency," Rendell said.

Rendell ... also likened The View to the Jerry Springer Show....

It's as if the last 45 years -- Nixon on Laugh-In, Nancy Reagan on Mr. T's lap, Bill Clinton in shades on Arsenio -- never happened, as far as Rendell is aware. Monty Burns much, Ed?

This dovetailed with a minor right-wing two-minutes' hate -- CNSNews, and then Fox News, attacked Obama for going on The View rather than attending the Boy Scouts' 100th-anniversary Jamboree. Never mind the fact that attending these things has rarely been a presidential priority -- as the CNS story itself points out, "Presidents Nixon, Reagan, Carter and Ford did not speak at a Jamboree." Eisenhower didn't attend the 50th-anniversary Jamboree and Ronnie sent Nancy to the 75th. But the noise machine surely ginned up a bit of anger about this, at least among wingers and maybe a few swing voters -- and Rendell inadvertently helped.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


A lot of people right now would say that there's something pathological about The American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord, who insisted yesterday that Shirley Sherrod was a liar when she called the beating death of a handcuffed Bobby Hall in 1945 a "lynching," and today insists that he was right all along because three people don't constitute a lynch mob (never mind the fact that a 1922 bill proposed in the U.S. Congress defined a lynching as precisely the act of three or more people). Surely only an unusually depraved individual would continue to pursue this line of argument after being widely ridiculed for it -- right?

Well, no, not really. What Lord is doing is simply routine among right-wingers these days -- he's refusing to acknowledge the right of his political opponents ever to prevail. This is wingnut boilerplate right now: the belief that every issue is resolved only when Republicans and the right win, and is otherwise the subject of endless partisan combat until any liberal or Democratic victory can be reversed.

This way of looking at politics is utterly incompatible with democracy -- with the belief that elections are supposed to have consequences and bills should eventually be voted on and in some cases become the law of the land -- but it's what we get these days from virtually all Republicans. Reversal of the Obama presidency (and, after that, of the twentieth century) is practically the entire agenda of the contemporary GOP. It all must be reversed, just as, in Lord's view, the current conventional view of Sherrod must be reversed. Republicans won't stop fighting until they've obliterated every trace of what they hate; Lord's just a version of them in microcosm.

You remember Newt Gingrich, pop-culture critic, don't you?

During the 1992 Democratic National Convention, Gingrich said, "Woody Allen having nonincest with a nondaughter to whom he was a nonfather because they were a nonfamily fits the Democratic platform perfectly."

Maybe that didn't come to mind for you last month during this John Boehner moment:

Looks like Rep. John Boehner just won't let it be: The House Minority Leader (R-Ohio) is demanding an apology from musical legend Paul McCartney, who poked fun at former President George W. Bush earlier this week. During a tribute concert at the White House, McCartney joked that the American people finally have a President "who knows what a library is." Boehner "was surprised and disappointed by the lack of grace and respect he displayed at the White House," and said in a statement, "I hope he'll apologize to the American people for his conduct which demeaned him, the White House and President Obama."

But perhaps it should have, because Boehner's on the culture warpath again:

The top House Republican John Boehner (Ohio) on Tuesday called comments about Jewish control of the media made by movie director Oliver Stone "hateful, uninformed and deeply offensive."

In an interview Sunday, Stone said that Jews' grip on the media has prevented a free debate about the Holocaust and argued that dictators Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin have been misrepresented by the U.S. press....

"The United States and Israel share common values and fight common enemies in the form of violent Islamic extremism. Minimizing the horrors of the Holocaust is unacceptable," Boehner responded. "His comments lend support to our enemies, such as Iran and terrorist organizations, who seek to expand their power in the region at the expense of democracy, human rights and freedom. The United States has no better friend and ally than Israel, and we remain committed to our long-standing bilateral partnership."

You don't have to agree with Stone to ask what the hell his comments have to do with Boehner's job. Right? Why is Boehner doing this?

Oh, yeah, I forgot: All prominent pop-culture figures are, by definition, honorary members of the leadership of the Democratic Party unless proven otherwise. Never mind the fact that Stone once planned to film Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead, collaborating on the screenplay with Maggie Betts, a close friend of the Bush twins. Never mind the fact that Stone recently defended his Hugo Chavez documentary by describing Richard Nixon and George W. Bush as "underdog[s]" who have been unfairly "demonized":

"People who are often demonized, like Nixon and Bush and Chavez and Castro, fascinate me," Mr. Stone said in an interview this week during a tour to promote the film... "It's a recurring thing," he added, that may suggest "a psychological attachment to the underdog" on his part.

Earlier today, I was reading the exchange between Mark Schmitt and Ezra Klein on the question of what Republicans will do if they take over the House. Well, this is a big part of what they'll do: try to distract the public from their absolute unwillingness to work toward real solutions for America's problems by finding a thousand variations on "Michael Moore is fat."

Schmitt seems to think Republicans will seek to cobble together some semblance of an agenda. I don't think so -- not in any real sense. They're not going to try to have a real plan for reducing budget deficits or fixing health care or bringing back jobs -- instead of a coherent agenda, they're just to generate Fox/Breitbart-style hatefests, and hope the distraction is enough to keep the public from blaming America's ongoing malaise on them. What I mean is that they won't make a serious attempt to cut spending -- they'll just launch showy efforts to defund lefty and nonwhite groups that Fox et al. can demonize. They won't fully restructure health care -- they'll go for health-insurance sales across state lines, and beyond that they'll try to repeal real or imagined policies permitting "death panels" and abortion funding. Every one of these big, showy efforts will be coordinated with right-wing media.

And so will Boehner's entertainment critiques.

Ah, remember the innocent days of, say, early 2010, when Jane Hamsher could write this (emphasis added)?

... Granted, the tea party messaging can be pretty schizophrenic and has often served as a grab bag of anti-Obama sentiment. But their primary message has always been economic, and they have their roots in the libertarian-leaning, anti-interventionist conservatism of Ron Paul.

Well, now it appears that somebody forgot to tell the members of Congress who've taken up the tea party banner that they're supposed to be anti-interventionist:

Tea Party Caucus members endorse Israeli attack on Iran

... Almost two dozen Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers cosponsored a new resolution late last week that expresses their support for Israel "to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force."

The lead sponsor of the resolution was Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, one of four congressmen to announce the formation of the 44-member Tea Party caucus at a press conference on July 21. The other three Tea Party Caucus leaders, Michele Bachmann, R-MN, Steve King, R-IA, and John Culberson, R-TX, are also sponsors of the resolution. In total, 21 Tea Party Caucus members have signed on....

Last week, a Tea Party-affiliated grassroots organization launched a nationwide campaign to build popular opposition to the administration's nuclear reductions treaty with Russia, called New START. The group is led by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's wife Ginny and it dovetails with similar efforts by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney....

The sound you don't hear in the distance is grassroots teabaggers protesting this. You don't hear it because they're not protesting -- at all.

Ironically, Hamsher was writing back in February in response to Sarah Palin's speech at the Nashville tea party convention, in which she said, among other things, that President Obama could ensure his reelection by declaring war on Iran. Hamsher fretted that, by rattling sabers, Palin "drove a wedge" between supposedly anti-interventionist teabaggers and mainstream Bushite Republicans. Funny thing: actual teabaggers were far less upset with Palin's words -- were not upset at all, in fact -- and have continued to rally around her, and around Bachmann and her merry band.

The big reveal, of course, will come just after the November elections, when we learn that the teabag legislators are also exactly the same as old-fashioned GOP far-rightists on "family values" issues. On that one they're holding back, because they know that some tea-friendly and tea-curious voters don't agree with them on abortion and gay rights and similar issues.

But on warmongering, they have no such fear. They know that the teabag rank-and-file gets revved up by war and the notion that Democrats are "weak." And yes, I think that's true even of many Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan fans -- they like everything else those guys say about how awful Obama and government and liberals are, so they choose to ignore the odd paleocon expressions of war skepticism.

Monday, July 26, 2010


You probably know that Jeffrey Lord of The American Spectator is being justifiably attacked for a vile article in which he claimed that Shirley Sherrod lied when she said, in her now-famous NAACP speech, that a relative named Bobby Hall was "lynched" by a white Georgia sheriff named Claude Screws. Lord said this was a lie because, well, Hall wasn't hanged, he was merely beaten to death outside a courthouse by the sheriff and his men while he was wearing handcuffs.

That, to Lord and the Spectator, is not "lynching."

So I was wondering what the Spectator actually does consider "lynching." I looked it up, and here's some of what I found:

The Ox-Bow Incident is a strangely appropriate book for our time, just as it was when totalitarianism writ large ruled much of the world. Today, it speaks to a rampant McCarthyism of the Left that routinely practices character assassination on its political adversaries. As I read the story I couldn't help but reflect on the lynch mob mentality present in our contemporary public life, especially in the mainstream media. Its recent Sarah Palin smear campaign tells us who they are.

--Bill Croke, "Hang 'Em High," American Spectator, July 21, 2009

Just last month Senate Democrats prided themselves on signing an anti-lynching resolution. John Kerry even said it was a crying shame the statement didn't have 100 co-sponsors. Liberal coverage of the resolution was universally supportive. So what happened? First opportunity these pure at heart forces had they set off to lynch Karl Rove, all because he supposedly had directed his gaze at one of their women, a hot Vanity Fair-certified blonde bombshell [Valerie Plame].

--Wlady Pleszczynski, "Operation Overrove," American Spectator, July 18, 2005

The media is staging a coup against Mr. Bush. They cannot impeach him because he hasn't done anything illegal. But they can endlessly tell us what a loser he is and how out of touch he is (and I mean ENDLESSLY) and how he's just a vestigial organ on the body politic right now.

... no one elected the media to anything. If we let them lynch the man we elected as President we are throwing out the Constitution with the war in Iraq. In the studios and newsrooms, there is a lynch mob at work.

--Ben Stein, "The Lynching of the President," American Spectator, January 25, 2007

What's behind the shameless demagoguery and character assassination being heaped on climate change "deniers"? ... Why has the green rhetoric escalated to lynch-mob proportions?

--Patrick J. Michaels, "Losing It," American Spectator, December 11, 2006

In 1991, when President George H. W. Bush was preparing to run for reelection, ... Gary Sick ... alleged that during the 1980 campaign, candidate Ronald Reagan had dispatched his running mate George Bush to negotiate a deal with the Iranians to delay release of the American embassy hostages they were holding until after the election....

The watchword among the liberal lynch mob was that even though there was no evidence to support it, the very seriousness of the charge required a complete investigation. So both the House and the Senate each did such a complete investigation, finding nothing.

--Peter Ferrara, "Obama Can't Be Trusted on National Defense," American Spectator, September 17, 2008

For the leaker who hid while the political lynch mob hoisted his president and Scooter Libby, there has to be a special reward. There's only one name for it: the Armitage Award.

--Jed Babbin, "A Special Place in Hell," American Spectator, September 18, 2006

Note: for the record, no rope (or any other weapon causing bodily harm) has been used by the "lynch mob" assailants of Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, climate-change denialists, or Scooter Libby.

All of them survived their attacks -- unlike Bobby Hall.

E.J. Dionne has a good, strong column today about how the mainstream press and the Obama White House are being played for chumps by the agenda-driven right-wing noise machine, as in the case of Shirley Sherrod:

The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its propaganda to be accepted as news by convincing traditional journalists that "fairness" requires treating extremist rants as "one side of the story." And there can be no more shilly-shallying about the fact that racial backlash politics is becoming an important component of the campaign against President Obama and against progressives in this year's election.

Absolutely right. The maximum amount of skepticism should be applied to whatever rancid product emerges from the right's propaganda factories, and it should never be assumed that these people are making a good-faith effort to get at the truth -- just the opposite, in fact. It needs to be recognized that they're not playing by the same rules as everyone else in the media.

However, I don't agree with this:

The traditional media are so petrified of being called "liberal" that they are prepared to allow the Breitbarts of the world to become their assignment editors. Mainstream journalists regularly criticize themselves for not jumping fast enough or high enough when the Fox crowd demands coverage of one of their attack lines.

Thus did Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander ask this month why the paper had been slow to report on "the Justice Department's decision to scale down a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party." Never mind that this is a story about a tiny group of crackpots who stopped no one from voting. It was aimed at doing what the doctored video Breitbart posted set out to do: convince Americans that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites.

But it's never enough to recognize a trumped-up non-scandal for what it is and just ignore it, because the GOP propaganda machine will generate enough noise on its own to make the story a big part of the public discussion no matter what the rest of the press does. In the Shirley Sherrod case, the mainstream press (and the White House) rose to the bait. In the New Black Panther Party case, the MSM mostly hasn't responded, nor has the administration. Guess what? Both stories have harmed Democrats -- because the GOP noise machine goes to eleven (and then some).

The only way to counter the right's generation of disinformation is to debunk the disinformation -- and that means, alas, that the rest of the media must respond to these phony, trumped-up scandals.

But it must respond to them with precisely the skepticism Dionne recommends. It must recognize that the people responsible for the scandals routinely act in bad faith and act with the sole aim of harming liberals, non-whites, and Democrats.

That means, yes, letting people like Andrew Breitbart (and Roger Ailes) become the press's assignment editors. But that's not how this should be regarded. Andrew Breitbart should be seen as the MSM's anti-assignment editor: when he makes a big enough noise, the press should assume that he's full of it, that there's a story in proving that he's full of it, and that not telling that story allows a lie to live and thrive.

A couple of days ago, Martin Wolf wrote an extremely gloomy post about Republican fiscal irresponsibility that was cited approvingly (and with a shared sense of dread) by Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, and others.

Wolf argues that Republicans' favorite supply-side argument -- that tax cuts pay for themselves -- has had a tremendous political benefit for the party because it's meant that Republicans don't even have to try to make painful but fiscally responsible proposals, ever:

How did supply-side economics bring these benefits? First, it allowed conservatives to ignore deficits. They could argue that, whatever the impact of the tax cuts in the short run, they would bring the budget back into balance, in the longer run. Second, the theory gave an economic justification - the argument from incentives - for lowering taxes on politically important supporters. Finally, if deficits did not, in fact, disappear, conservatives could fall back on the "starve the beast" theory: deficits would create a fiscal crisis that would force the government to cut spending and even destroy the hated welfare state.

Even though it's obvious now that tax cuts don't pay for themselves (and even though Republicans don't make real budget cuts when they take power in Washington), the GOP still pursues this line of argument. And so the red ink just flows and flows. And electing Democrats doesn't help:

...since the Republicans have no interest in doing anything sensible, the Democrats will gain nothing from trying to do much either. That is the lesson Democrats have to draw from the Clinton era's successful frugality, which merely gave George W. Bush the opportunity to make massive (irresponsible and unsustainable) tax cuts. In practice, then, nothing will be done.

Wolf is right about what happens the next time Republicans are in power: no serious effort to cut deficits, more tax cuts.

But he's forgetting one thing: we're going to have more wars.

The other article of faith on the right -- the foreign policy equivalent of "tax cuts are always good" -- is "Democrats always fail to defend America because they're disloyal and weak." Never mind Obama's escalation in Afghanistan -- the next Republican president will tell us we've been fighting there "with one hand tied behind our back," or will tell us that we have to go to war with Iran, or maybe with Yemen.

Or maybe all of the above.

Oh, and all of this should be accompanied by tax cuts.

That's what Wolf overlooks: there's no telling how much red ink Republicans will generate just because, in the era of Bush presidencies and interregnums between Bush presidencies, being more bellicose than Democrats is as much a base-rallying tactic as being more willing to cut taxes. They aren't just going to do tax cuts and mostly let the spending go on as usual. They're going to do tax cuts and mostly let the domestic spending go on as usual while spending even more on the military. And they won't cut unnecessary weapons systems, because that what Democratic wussies would do.

So it's even worse than Martin Wolf thinks.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


First of all, thank you again, Zandar, for excellent posts while I was gone.

And now, well, we have the sort of story that's going to monopolize the left blogosphere for days, and I can't stand it, because the story isn't going to make any significant difference in how the U.S. government conducts business. Spencer Ackerman:

...WikiLeaks just published a trove of over 90,000 mostly-classified U.S. military documents that details a strengthening Afghan insurgency with deep ties to Pakistani intelligence.

... This massive storehouse ... has the potential to be strategically significant, raising questions about how and why America and her allies are conducting the war. Not only does it recount 144 incidents in which coalition forces killed civilians over six years. But it shows just how deeply elements within the U.S.' supposed ally, Pakistan, have nurtured the Afghan insurgency. In its granular, behind-the-scene details about the war, this has the potential to be Afghanistan's answer to the Pentagon Papers....

Now, obviously, it's not news that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligences has ties to the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami....

Stop right there, Spencer. Of course it's not news. As you go on to say, this is something that just what everyone who's ever paid any attention already knows, except that now we have more detail. The same goes for information on the killing of civilians. How the hell is this going to change anything?

As long as the Republican Party terrifies the Obama administration, and as long as the Republican Party continues to believe that macho posturing is good for the GOP, then we can expect Obama to act as if he has two choices: pursue this war as he's been doing or dig in even more. Maybe he'll be attacked on certain specifics by Republicans, but not in any way that's compatible with de-escalation. It's just an article of faith in our politics that right-wing voters, and centrists as well, will assume any politician who's skeptical about both wars is a dirty hippie who wants America to be destroyed. Hell, even Rand Paul doesn't have the guts to oppose the war openly, despite hints that he shares his fathers' views on foreign entanglements.

I don't care how many visions of 1970s glory the media is having right now -- that's not the moment we're living in. This document cache is not the new Pentagon Papers, for the simple reason that it emerged at a moment when old-school wingnuttery (with a few new bells and whistles) has come roaring back to dominate our politics. There needs to be a strong anti-war movement to make this document cache politically meaningful, and there isn't one; there needs to be even a modicum of anxiety on the part of Republicans about the political usefulness of old-fashioned right-wing bombast, and there isn't any such thing. So this matters only to historians.


AND: Glenn Greenwald says:

This leak is not unlike the Washington Post series from the last week: the broad strokes were already well-known, but the sheer magnitude of the disclosures may force more public attention on these matters than had occurred previously.

And what impact has that much-touted series had on public opinion, or the way things are done in Washington? Any? Not as far as I can tell.

As MoDo the Red flat out calls Obama out for not being black enough.  You know, like Bill Clinton was apparently.
The Obama White House is too white. 

It has Barack Obama, raised in the Hawaiian hood and Indonesia, and Valerie Jarrett, who spent her early years in Iran. 

But unlike Bill Clinton, who never needed help fathoming Southern black culture, Obama lacks advisers who are descended from the central African-American experience, ones who understand “the slave thing,” as a top black Democrat dryly puts it. 

The first black president should expand beyond his campaign security blanket, the smug cordon of overprotective white guys surrounding him — a long political tradition underscored by Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 when she complained about the “smart-ass white boys” from Walter Mondale’s campaign who tried to boss her around. 

Otherwise, this administration will keep tripping over race rather than inspiring on race. 
So we have Maureen Dowd declaring that Obama's blackness card just doesn't have enough points on it to have kept him from missing the whole Sherrod story.

I honestly don't know where to begin on this.

So, I'll go with this.  After the Village press jumped on every possible racial angle that the right wing dangled in front of them on Obama, up to and including the entirely manipulated Sherrod story over the course of the last, oh, 24 months, MoDo the Red here is shaming Barack Obama for being gunshy and playing far too cautious on the off-chance that somebody in the Village press might make a big giant deal out of nothing just because in has the words "Race" and "Obama" in it.

I can't imagine why a single person in the Obama administration would twitch like that given the totally responsible media we have in the US.  You know, a totally responsible media that runs with the Breitbart story without fact-checking either and then tries to dump all of it on Obama's head.  A totally responsible media that then continues to blame the issue of race in politics on Barack Obama.  A totally responsible media that makes Maureen Dowd the Arbiter of Blackness.  (Like Bill Clinton?  Really?  Eff you, lady.)

Yeah, the Obama administration blinked here.  I've given them noise for that.  But I never lost sight of the true bad guys here:  Breitbart, Fox News, and the Village Idiots that can't get their heads out of their asses long enough to see the years of complete journalistic failure they have perpetrated on the American public.

The real problem is our media.  Not Barack Obama.  No, I don't believe "what the White House is missing".  I do however believe what the media is missing, and that's integrity and honesty.

News reports are flying at this hour that BP CEO Tony Hayward has negotiated a mutual separation from the company scheduled for Monday...
BP Plc has decided Chief Executive Tony Hayward should step down over his handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and his departure could be announced in the coming days, sources close to the company said on Sunday.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that if BP's board approves Hayward's departure as expected, managing director Bob Dudley would be named to replace him as CEO.
But BP is strenuously denying that any such deal exists.
BP Sunday refused to confirm reports that its embattled chief executive Tony Hayward was on the verge of leaving the oil giant.

"Tony Hayward remains our chief executive and has the full support of the board and senior management," company spokesman Mark Salt told CNN.
Not sure who is telling the truth here.   The time to fire Hayward to save BP from embarrassing press releases about the guy was months ago.  Indeed with the Brits complaining BP was being unfairly targeted and the British Prime Minister visiting Obama in Washington to smooth things over, not even Hayward's absurdly bad testimony on Capitol Hill could seemingly sink his career.

The leak supposedly is capped.  BP in fact is basking in something of a major victory.  Why fire Hayward now?  No real profit in doing so now, plus they lose a scapegoat should things go all pear-shaped on the relief wells.

Of course, there is the little wrinkle that BP's 2nd quarter numbers are supposed to be out on Tuesday.  The fact that Hayward is running for the hills on Sunday/Monday juuuuuust might mean something about the state of those numbers.  Maybe Hayward really is getting his golden parachute just before this jet plane augers into Wall Street, and he's jumping just in time.  Maybe the numbers are going to be that bad.

But Hayward needs to land in a prison yard as far as I'm concerned...or a big toxic sticky blob of oil and Corexit.dispersant.

I don't think enough attention has been paid to Illinois Dem Jan Schakowsky and her simple and elegant plan to expose Austerity Hysteria for what it truly is:  gutting social programs for the poor and elderly while adding to the deficit through tax cuts for the wealthy.  You'd think then that Schakowsky's public option plan, which would in fact lower the deficit, would be widely embraced by those using the country's national debt as an excuse for wealth transfer.

Of course, you'd be wrong.
Unveiled last Thursday by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Schakowsky, and more than 120 co-sponsors, the measure would give consumers a choice between private and public health insurance plans in the new law's exchanges. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that it would cut the deficit by $68 billion between 2014 an 2020.

How would it save that much money? "It would compete with insurance companies, who frankly would have to lower their rates," Schakowsky said, promising that it would force private insurers to "be more efficient."

Progressives were disheartened with -- but still largely supported -- the resulting health care law enacted in March, which didn't offer public insurance programs to consumers ineligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Even a public option was viewed as a raw deal by liberals, who wanted a single payer system, as exists in Canada and Britain.

"This is kind of a compromise from that, saying, at least make [government-run insurance] one of the choices," explained the Democratic Congresswoman. "The American people, she added, "overwhelmingly" support it.

Republicans and conservative Democrats derided the public option as just another government program, invoking widespread distrust for government as a reason for their opposition. Their other opposing arguments, given consistent CBO projections that it would save money, were mostly without empirical backing.
But of course the deficit and the national debt was never really the argument, wasn't it?  It's all about finishing the Bush era wealth transfer to the top.  Same as it ever was.

The plan itself has no chance whatsoever of course.  But exposing Congress and where its interests really lay is the key.

But our crack Village media has finally figured out that Bush's largest victory in his two terms was the appointments of Sam Alito and John Roberts to the Supreme Court.
In its first five years, the Roberts court issued conservative decisions 58 percent of the time. And in the term ending a year ago, the rate rose to 65 percent, the highest number in any year since at least 1953.

The courts led by Chief Justices Warren E. Burger, from 1969 to 1986, and William H. Rehnquist, from 1986 to 2005, issued conservative decisions at an almost indistinguishable rate — 55 percent of the time.

That was a sharp break from the court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, from 1953 to 1969, in what liberals consider the Supreme Court’s golden age and conservatives portray as the height of inappropriate judicial meddling. That court issued conservative decisions 34 percent of the time.

Four of the six most conservative justices of the 44 who have sat on the court since 1937 are serving now: Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Antonin Scalia and, most conservative of all, Clarence Thomas. (The other two were Chief Justices Burger and Rehnquist.) Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the swing justice on the current court, is in the top 10.

The Roberts court is finding laws unconstitutional and reversing precedent — two measures of activism — no more often than earlier courts. But the ideological direction of the court’s activism has undergone a marked change toward conservative results.

Until she retired in 2006, Justice O’Connor was very often the court’s swing vote, and in her later years she had drifted to the center-left. These days, Justice Kennedy has assumed that crucial role at the court’s center, moving the court to the right. 
Alito's replacement of O'Connor was the big flip, and Democrats played right along.  Now the Roberts Court is reversing some eighty years of precedent and conservatives know they can break the dam with but one more to add permanently to the Alito-Scalia-Roberts-Thomas bloc instead of Kennedy's terribly mysterious dilettantism act.

When Kennedy does play ball, we get stuff like Citizens United.  A more reliable conservative would pull the plug on a lot of things we take for granted right now.  As it is, there's a better than even chance that Kennedy will side with the right anyway.

Boy it's a good thing Alito and Roberts aren't activist judges, huh?  Great call on keeping your powder dry and only mustering 25 on that filibuster on Alito especially there Dems.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


The always excellent Bob Cesca takes a look at this Andrew Breitbart quote:
"If anybody reads the sainted, martyred Sherrod’s entire speech, this person has not gotten past black vs. white."
And asks the following:
And, somehow, Breitbart implies that he's enlightened and Sherrod isn't, without any consideration on his part as to why this might be. What race-based injustices have Breitbart's ancestors suffered at the hands of white Americans that come anywhere close to the injustices suffered by Sherrod's ancestors -- and Sherrod herself -- entirely due to her race?
Well, as I said last night, the answer if you're Pat Buchanan is "The Election Of One Barack Hussein Obama."
Opposition to affirmative action is racist. Supporting the tea party gives aid and comfort to racists. Opposing health care puts you in league with folks who used racial slurs on Rep. John Lewis. To raise the issue of the New Black Panther Party is to play the race card. 

One understand the bitterness of tea party folks who carry signs that read: "What difference does it make what this placard says. You'll call it racist anyway." 

As the National Journal's Ron Brownstein has been reporting, white America is increasingly alienated and distrustful of all our major economic and political power centers -- the banks, big corporations, the government. 

And, for the first time in our lifetimes, outside the South, white racial consciousness has visibly begun to rise. 
And yes, folks.  It really is quite that simple.  There's a President that for the first time doesn't look like the majority of Americans.  For Pat Buchanan and his ilk...that is an unpardonable crime that Barack is guilty of.

Believe me when I say they mean to prosecute that crime.

So how does Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal describe the notion that Conserva-Dem Sens. Kent Conrad, Evan Bayh, and Ben Nelson want to extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone?


"Liberal Tax Revolt" is the headline.
The revelation that tax increases could hurt the economy has recently been heard from Senators Evan Bayh of Indiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and, most surprising, even from Kent Conrad of North Dakota. On a scale of unlikely events, this is like the Pope coming out against celibacy. As Senate Budget Chairman, Mr. Conrad has rarely seen a tax increase he didn't like, but this week he averred that "As a general rule, you don't want to be cutting spending or raising taxes in the midst of a downturn."
Over in the House, Bobby Bright of Alabama even dared to defend the rich Americans who Democrats have been pounding for years. "I don't care if it's the wealthiest of the wealthy. You don't raise their taxes," he told The Hill newspaper. "In a recession you don't tax, burden and restrict." Better don the body armor on your next visit to the Speaker's office, Bobby.
That's so funny I nearly fell out of my blogging chair.   I don't know which is more hilarious, the notion that anyone would be actually be surprised that a group of a hundred folks where the median net worth is a million bucks...and the average is over six million would be averse to raising taxes on Americans who make over $250,000, or the notion that Conrad, Bayh, and Nelson are liberals.

Only in the universe that the ridiculously wealthy Rupert Murdoch can afford to populate, I suppose.

One of Daniel Larison's readers flags down how we've taken yet another step towards open war with Iran.
One of my commenters alerted me to House Res. 1553, which states:
Expressing support for the State of Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel.
Naturally, Rep. Jason Chaffetz is among the resolution’s 46 co-sponsors. The National Iranian American Council has called on Minority Leader Boehner to reject the measure, but why would he bother? Two of his leadership colleagues, Mike Pence and Thaddeus McCotter, co-sponsored the resolution, and it has the support of other high-profile Republican members, including Paul Ryan and Dan Burton. That tells me that this is not just a product of hard-liners such as Michelle Bachmann and Peter King, but that it expresses the views of a fairly broad-cross section of the Republican members in the House. I guess I can’t stop “nitpicking,” but this seems like an awfully strange resolution for an “antiwar” Republican to co-sponsor. It is also thoroughly depressing that Paul Ryan, one of the few credible figures in the conference when it comes to fiscal responsibility, is among the supporters of such a ludicrous measure. 
I respect Larison's logic, but I'm shaking my head that he's actually slightly surprised that an attack on Iran is something that a "fairly broad cross section" of Republicans want.  No offense Dan, but have you been paying attention to the GOP over the last 50 years?  They're not Eisenhower conservatives anymore.  Not to say that the Democrats have been much better on the subject of blowing things up, but the Republicans have certainly perfected the practice here in the last decade or so.

Yes, a large percentage of the United States Congress is willing to go to war for Israel.  There's something disturbingly, if not deadly wrong with that.

It's not just Congress, either.  But hey, the worse the economy gets, the more and more smacking around Iran looks like a better reflationary option, eh?

GOP Rep. Zach Wamp is running for Governor of Tennessee, and if you don't like his stance on Tenth Amendment rights trumping that there federal law, well, if elected there Zach might have to do something about it.
"I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government," said Wamp during an interview with Hotline OnCall.

He lauded Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), who first floated the idea of secession in April '09, for leading the push-back against health care reform, adding that he hopes the American people "will send people to Washington that will, in 2010 and 2012, strictly adhere" to the constitution's defined role for the federal government.

"Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level," said Wamp, who is competing with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam (R) and LG Ron Ramsey (R) for the GOP nod in the race to replace TN Gov. Phil Bredesen (D).
Really?  Separation from the government?  Didn't the last time that happened A) not work out real well for the country and B) specifically not work out for states like Tennessee?

Also, last time I checked the Volunteer State got $1.27 for every dollar in federal taxes paid.  Texas at least comes out slightly behind at 96 cents for a dollar.  Blue states like California and New York have been losing money on federal taxes for years, while red states like Tennessee have been coming out ahead.

You know what?  On second thought, maybe Wamp should take his parasite state with him when he separates from the government.  I'm sure New York and California would appreciate it.  Hell, I'm sure his fellow GOP governor Chris Christie of New Jersey would appreciate it...out of all 50 states, it's New Jersey that gets shafted the most on federal taxes.  They get a measly 61 cents back for every federal tax dollar they pay in.

I'm sure Christie would be thrilled to up that ratio some to give his state more revenue.