Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Jane Hamsher is crowing because Democrats are struggling at the polls and at least one analyst, Jay Cost of Real Clear Politics, thinks the health care bill started the Democrats' slide:

... Democrats ignored the political problem of health care in the fall and winter – arguing that Martha Coakley and Creigh Deeds were bad candidates, that voters had been turned off by the health care bill because of the process, and that they would come around once the many benefits kicked in. Now, they're pointing to the economy as the only significant reason why the party is in trouble.

It would be difficult for any strong partisan to admit that such an accomplishment was so deeply unpopular. Yet the polling is pretty unequivocal on the relationship between the Democrats' fortunes and the health care bill. It was during the health care debate that the essential building block of the Democratic majority – Independent voters – began to crumble....

Hamsher boasts that she saw doom as far back as the early part of this year. Well, I've been worried about the political consequences of the bill for a while, too -- since at least as far back as June '09, when the timetable for passage first began to break down.

Hamsher focuses on the individual mandate -- a feature of the bill that's annoying to progressives and also infuriating to teabag types. But I think she's missing the real point -- that Republicans won this politically, attacking things that were in the bill and things that weren't, describing the bill and the process of writing and passing it accurately or wildly inaccurately, as it suited them, and, overall, unleashing thermonuclear war on a White House and party that didn't even recognize, until it was much too late, that any dangerous weapons at all were in use.

What I'm trying to say is that Republicans would have succeeded in souring the public on any bill the Democrats put forward -- mandate, no mandate, public option, no public option, even (perhaps especially) a single-payer bill. Democrats were just staggeringly overmatched.

I essentially agree with Hamsher when she says this:

Rather than focus on jobs creation in a country with climbing unemployment rates, Obama spent the better part of a year focused on passing a health care bill that looks like it will play no small part in the Democratic Party's upcoming electoral woes

But I don't think it's the specifics of the bill that are hurting the Democrats. They didn't have the firepower to defend any bill, and didn't realize they needed firepower.

And I also think it's the failure on jobs that's really killing Democrats. If jobs were coming back, Democrats would hold the House and Senate this fall, health care bill or not.

I spotted this while lurking at Free Republic:

Sharia-compliant banking products a 'huge flop' in Britain

... New banks that were set up to appeal to the UK's nearly two million Muslims and Sharia-compliant products created by the existing high street lenders have failed to make much of an impact, critics say.

Junaid Bhatti, part of the team that set up Islamic Bank of Britain, the first Sharia-compliant bank approved by the Financial Services Authority, says that the sector has been a big disappointment.

"As we now approach the sixth anniversary of IBB's launch, I'm sad to finally have to admit that Islamic finance in the UK has been a huge flop," he said. "IBB may still be limping on as probably the last bastion of the cause, but it's difficult to imagine it holding out for much longer."

Competitors have fared even worse and many had closed or scaled back their operations significantly, Mr Bhatti said.

Established banks that launched Islamic banking products are also believed to have fared poorly. HSBC and Lloyds were seen as having made the biggest efforts to make inroads, but without much success, Mr Bhatti said....

But wait! I don't understand! I thought all these people had to do was get naive, gullible Westerners to go along with their nefarious schemes ... and then they would just RAM SHARIA DOWN OUR THROATS AS PART OF THEIR RELENTLESS DRIVE FOR GLOBAL DOMINATION!!!!

Or, as Pam Geller put it, with her usual restraint, in response to a story about a Saudi bank challenging a provision of the Patriot Act in court:

Sharia finance will destroy whole sectors of the American economy. Why would you finance the ideology that wants to slit your throat -- not to mention their plan for your daughters?

What happened? Are you telling me that the Evil Super Jihad Demons can be stopped by something as simple as market forces? Are you telling me that Muslims are actually human? And divergent in their compliance with sharia? They're not a monolithic unstoppable Jihad/Sharia Mega-Force?

I'm so confused....

Apparently, just about the only people in America who are doing well are financial fat cats here in New York -- and they seem to be furious that they're not doing even better.

By most standard measures of economic health, New York City's recovery from the financial crisis and the recession it started is well under way....

Wall Street -- still the engine that powers the city -- roared back faster than expected, eliminated far fewer jobs than had been forecast, resumed paying out big bonuses and has begun to hire again.

... in the city, ... there has been job growth for the last six months.

Still, experts on the city's economy said the effects of the recession were spread unevenly across the local landscape, leaving many people in dire financial condition....

The quick bounce back for the city's best-paid workers has helped fuel a pickup in business at exclusive boites and expensive hotels, consultants and business operators said. On Friday, Tiffany & Company said sales at its flagship jewelry store on Fifth Avenue rose 16 percent in the first half of the year.

... Proposals to lay off more employees of city and state agencies like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could continue to temper a local recovery, economists said. A reluctance to hire full-time employees in some struggling industries like publishing is another drag on the city’s economy, they said....

In New York, those who aren't in finance (or businesses that cater to financiers) are like the rest of America, waiting for there to be a recovery that includes the general public. For the elite, however, everything's coming up roses.

So are the elite grateful to an administration that's made them whole again? As Paul Krugman notes, not even remotely:

Andrew Ross Sorkin's column today makes Wall Street honchos sound like spoiled kids; they went for Obama because he seemed like their kind of guy, then turned on him with a vengeance because they think he’s looking at them funny.

Based on what I know, that's about right.

I talked to some financial-industry backers of Obama back during primary season; they really didn't know or care much about policy issues, but were in love with Obama over his style -- and also over the prospect of being in his inner circle, something they knew wouldn't happen with Hillary. Now they're mad because they don't feel that they’re getting enough stroking.

And you have to bear in mind that this comes after Obama has made immense efforts to placate the financial industry. There were no bank nationalizations; there were hardly any strings attached to bailouts; the financial reform bill was by no means draconian given the scale of the disaster. But Wall Street is furious that Obama might even hint that they caused the crisis -- which he does, now and then, because, well, they did....

How whiny are these folks? Let's look at that Sorkin column:

Daniel S. Loeb, the hedge fund manager, was one of Barack Obama's biggest backers in the 2008 presidential campaign....

So it came as quite a surprise on Friday, when Mr. Loeb sent a letter to his investors that sounded as if he were preparing to join Glenn Beck in Washington over the weekend.

"As every student of American history knows, this country's core founding principles included nonpunitive taxation, constitutionally guaranteed protections against persecution of the minority and an inexorable right of self-determination," he wrote. "Washington has taken actions over the past months, like the Goldman suit that seem designed to fracture the populace by pulling capital and power from the hands of some and putting it in the hands of others."

Over the weekend, the letter, with quotations from Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan and President Obama, was forwarded around the circles of the moneyed elite, from the Hamptons to Silicon Valley. Mr. Loeb's jeremiad illustrates how some of the president’s former friends on Wall Street and in business now feel about Washington....

In his letter to investors, he took issue with a number of Washington initiatives....

"So long as our leaders tell us that we must trust them to regulate and redistribute our way back to prosperity, we will not break out of this economic quagmire," Mr. Loeb wrote....

Well, I have no problem with ceasing to redistrubute money to you and your pals, schmuck.

If you're done with that recovery soon, may the rest of us borrow it, please?

Chris Cillizza assesses that Gallup poll that shows Republicans with a 10-point generic-ballot lead and writes a sentence about Democratic insiders that just makes me want to cry:

There is a growing sense -- expressed privately -- that the hoped-for economic recovery will not materialize in any meaningful way before Nov. 2.

A growing sense? You mean, as in a slowly dawning awareness? Now? They're still not sure?

What freaking planet are these people on?

Look, I can accept the fact that some of them may have underestimated the seriousness of the problem early in 2009 (even though all sorts of people -- hello, Paul Krugman -- assessed the enormity of the problem, and the size of the needed stimulus, much more quickly). But how can you possibly still have "a growing sense" that the economy won't bounce back before November in any way an ordinary votercan discern? How can the completeness of the stall-out not have been obvious to you for months?

Want to know why you're losing, Democrats? This is why. There shouldn't have been any Democrats in Washington who didn't grasp a long time ago that ordinary Americans' economy has flatlined.


As President Barack Obama marks the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq with a major address to the nation Tuesday evening, what should be a triumphant, "Yes, I did" moment for him will be overshadowed by continued violence in Baghdad, the bad economy, the war in Afghanistan and the president's fading popularity.

I don't think his problem is the bad economy or Afghanistan or his own poll numbers. I don't think his problem is (left-wing conventional wisdom) that there are still so many troops there, or (right-wing and right-centrist conventional wisdom) that Iraq is still dangerous and unstable.

His problem is that (as Frank Rich has noted for a long time) people tuned out Iraq years ago -- they tuned it out well before the economic crash, and well before the situation in Afghanistan got worse.

Most of the country had tuned out by 2005 and 2006, which meant that even the GOP noise machine aided by the Michael O'Hanlon/Kenneth Pollack crowd couldn't get America excited about Saint Petraeus and the surge in 2007 and 2008.

I do wonder what the reaction would have been if there'd been a complete withdrawal and it had come earlier in Obama's term (or in the early days of the Reid-Pelosi Congress). But, logistically, I don't see how a withdrawal could have taken place fast enough to be emotionally satisfying. And while I think the public may have approved -- not necessarily because they've gone progressive on this issue, but because many of them would be thinking, Rot in hell in your desert shithole, goat-fuckers! We're outta here! -- I also think the right and right-centrist response to a total withdrawal might have occasioned a new round of hippie-bashing. In the Obama administration, the last troops would have left by the time his poll numbers had started to drop, and any violence in Iraq would be added to the list of Democratic crimes.

But ultimately it was just such a miserable experience -- looting, the insurgency, no WMDs, the overall Groundhog Day nature of the conflict, more deaths in the service ranks than there were deaths on 9/11 -- that it's just too painful to engender any positive feelings in most of America. Obama probably shouldn't have scheduled a prime time speech at all. He probably should have just treated the Iraq War as the embarrassment it is and portrayed this transition as an acceptance of responsibility to deal with a mess, and no more than that.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Current headlines:

Joe Miller Dodges Questions On Whether Social Security And Medicare Are Constitutional

Angle in 2005: I would have voted “no” on Katrina relief funds

Ron Paul questions whether there's gold at Fort Knox, NY Fed

We keep waiting for moments like this to blow up in the Crazy Caucus's faces, but it's not going to happen -- in all likelihood, Miller, Angle, Paul and Paul's son are all going to win.

To me, it seems like a heartland version of Being There -- instead of sophisticates who regard every utterance of an illiterate gardener as inscrutably brilliant wisdom, we have Middle Americans assuming that every nutball utterance by a wingnut/teabag politician is perfectly compatible with both the pure intent of the Framers and the best interests of Mr. & Mrs. America themselves. The heartlanders can even hear plain words that contradict their own self-interest from these pols and, like the smarties who listened to Chauncey Gardiner, believe that what they're hearing is what they want to hear. The heartlanders are besotted; they think any criticism of the winger/bagger class of Pied Pipers is proof that the Pipers themselves are brilliant, and they simply won't be dissuaded before Election Day, no matter how crazy the rhetoric gets. The only hope the country has is that they'll be horrified by what these folks actually do when they're in office -- and it's even odds whether that will happen.

CNN.com posts a gushing (if dreadfully written) commentary about Beckstock titled "My Take: Beck's Rally Was About Restoring Virtue and God's Place." The author's background was given as follows:

Jim Garlow, Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, California, is a radio commentator and author of Heaven and the Afterlife: What Happens When You Die?

Gee, what's being left out there? Oh, just the fact that he's also the chairman of Newt Gingrich's Renewing American Leadership organization. And the fact that he was a leader in the fight to pass Prop 8, the anti-gay-marriage referendum, in California (during which time he characterized gay marriage as "worse than radical Islam"). And the fact that, as Right Wing Watch notes, "he's a full-bore advocate of the 7 Mountains Mandate, which is a Dominionist theology that seeks get Christians in control of the levers of power and influence the world over so as to create God's kingdom on Earth and bring about the return of Jesus Christ."

Garlow is a tad secretive about at least one ID in his piece as well. He writes:

So remedial was [the] message [of Beck's gathering] that a Jewish rabbi -- who received multiple ovations from the overwhelmingly evangelical Friday night crowd -- called for a return to "manners."

"A Jewish rabbi"? Any rabbi in particular. Oh yes -- it just so happens to have been Rabbi Daniel Lapin, who was a close friend of Jack Abramoff (and was used by Abramoff in his heyday to conceal client money). Yeah, if I were praising Beck I'd downplay that guy's presence, too.


UPDATE: More from Joe Conason:

If Glenn Beck's Washington extravaganza seemed strangely empty of political content, filled with vacuous pieties and fetishes rather than protest, then perhaps it should be seen as the opening act in a renewed campaign to assert the power of the religious right. A series of four mass prayer events, featuring many of the most prominent figures in the Republican Party's theocratic wing, will occur between Labor Day and Election Day, starting with an arena rally in Sacramento, Calif., and ending with perfect symmetry on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Behind these events, under the rubric "Pray and A.C.T.," is Newt Gingrich's organization, Renewing American Leadership, although the frontmen for this particular initiative are former Watergate conspirator Charles Colson and evangelist Jim Garlow, who now works for Gingrich....

Clearly, this was a table-setter for those rallies. (Alveda King and David Barton, who were prominent participants in Beckapalooza on Saturday, are endorsers of Pray and A.C.T.) Pity CNN couldn't have mentioned any of this about Garlow and his group.

Glenn Beck attacks Barack Obama as a liberation theologist (translation: hippie and black radical at the same time!), and a Washington Post reporter tells us that some Republicans are concerned about that? Really?

Beck's attacks represent a continuing attempt to characterize Obama as a radical, an approach that has prompted anxiety among some Republicans, who worry that Beck's rhetoric could backfire.

Backfire? When has anything a right-winger said recently ever backfired? If you're not literally wearing a sheet, you can be right-wing and say anything you want and there are no negative consequences, ever.

I like this, too:

The White House has all but ignored his accusations, but some Democrats have pointed to the Fox News host to portray Republicans as extreme and out of touch.

Hubdreds of hours of rants over the past eighteen months accusing Obama and every appointee of being the hellspawn of Stalin and Eldridge Cleaver and Democrats actually think the use of the phrase "liberation theology," which 98% of America had never heard before Beck uttered it, is going to turn the tide? Thanks for trying, Dems, but the time to start framing Beck was more than a year ago.


UPDATE: And speaking of Republicans who are worried about nothing, why is NewsBusters so exercised about a Huffington Post piece (which the HuffPo quickly took down) that offered $100,000 for a Glenn Beck sex tape? Didn't the author of the HuffPo piece, Bruce Friedlander, see Saturday's other bit of political news? The Senate's most famous john, David Vitter, won 88% of the vote in his primary, and polls show that he's beating his Democratic challenger by double digits. Scandalous sex? It's OK if you're a Republican. I have no doubt that Beck would just need to turn on the waterworks to emerge unscathed from any sex scandal that didn't involve a child or a dead body.

I know it's absurd to take a Ross Douthat column seriously, but I want to talk about the opening paragraphs of his latest effort anyway:

Entering this weekend, I was convinced that Glenn Beck's star was about to go into eclipse.

Just as Michael Moore, amid Democratic disarray, became the unlikely face of liberal opposition to George W. Bush, the mercurial, weepy, demagogic Beck has spent the last 18 months filling the void left by the institutional collapse of the Republican Party. And just as Moore's influence diminished as the Democrats came roaring back, it seemed plausible that Beck would matter less and less as the midterms and then the 2012 election re-empowered actual Republican politicians....

Douthat attended Cirque du Beck this weekend and decided Beck is clever enough to avoid slipping into obscurity, but I don't understand why he ever thought that Beck's star would fade, or that Beck was anything like Moore.

Moore faded because "Democrats came roaring back"? Yeah -- remember how Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid got us completely out of Iraq in the first half of 2007? And then went on to impeach and convict George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzalez, and half a dozen other administration officials? And hasn't it been great the way Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress have closed Guantanamo, withdrawn from Afghanistan (after catching bin Laden), and thrown all those bankers and mortgage fraudsters in jail? And now everyone in America has really affordable first-rate health care, at great cost to the insurance industry and Big Pharma? Roar, Dems, roar!

Moore stopped being a superstar because he was never meant to be a superstar in the first place -- he's a documentary filmmaker, fer crissake. He happened to catch a national moment: large numbers of people from the left to the center-right had really, really soured on the war, but conventional wisdom-mongers hadn't grasped that fact yet. Even talking about health care or fat cats, he hasn't made a movie that captured the zeitgeist that way since.

Beck, on the other hand, is a right-wing radio and TV talker -- it doesn't get more commercially viable than that. Is he likely to fade in the next few years after "the midterms and then the 2012 election re-empowered actual Republican politicians"? Ask yourself -- did Limbaugh go away in the Bush years?

Even if President Palin, with the help of Attorney General Cuccinelli, Homeland Security Secretary Dobbs, and Fed chairman Ron Paul, nukes Iran, privatizes Social Security and Medicare, abolishes the income tax, and puts all U.S. Muslims and illegal immigrants in internment camps, Beck will almost certainly have an audience. Why? Because even under those circumstances, right-wingers will still feel persecuted -- hey, there's an online photo of two gay people kissing in West Hollywood! Hey, somebody just recorded a song with dirty words in it! Hey, it's still legal in America to be an atheist!

So don't fret, Ross -- Beck isn't going anywhere. He doesn't have to be clever. He just has to keep sustaining right-wingers' unquenchable sense of persecution.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


#1: Right-wingers are cool with the Park51 project, they just don't like the location. #2: New-era right-wingers don't really care all that much about religion.


Federal officials are investigating a fire that started overnight at the site of a new Islamic center in a Nashville suburb.

Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson....

"They are not a religion. They are a political, militaristic group," Bob Shelton, a 76-year-old retiree who lives in the area, told The Associated Press.

Shelton was among several hundred demonstrators who recently wore "Vote for Jesus" T-shirts and carried signs that said "No Sharia law for USA!," referring to the Islamic code of law....

Earlier this summer opponents criticized the planned mosque at hearings held by the Rutherford County Commission, as supporters held prayer vigils.

At one such prayer vigil, WTVF reported opponents speaking out against construction.

"No mosque in Murfreesboro. I don't want it. I don't want them here," Evy Summers said to WTVF. "Go start their own country overseas somewhere. This is a Christian country. It was based on Christianity."

The only people who ever believed those fallacies, of course, are idiots, naifs, and mainstream journalists. (But I repeat myself.)

And I wonder how many "Vote for Jesus" shirts were worn at Lincoln Memorial: The Beckening this weekend.



Is it going to take actual mosque burnings and possible deaths before America realizes this is wrong?

I think it would take more than that. Not even a mosque burning or two would shock America's conscience (they'd be called isolated incidents). Not even a murder or two. There'd have to be a murder of children, a la Birmingham, or a grotesque lynching, a la James Byrd or Matthew Shepard, before America woke up. And let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Anna Holmes and Rebecca Traister have an op-ed in today's New York Times arguing that Democrats have failed to champion a feminism-invoking woman as wholeheartedly as right-wingers have lately -- their new heroine being, of course, Sarah Palin. I take Holmes and Traister's point -- but it reminds me of so much that was written around the time of the 2008 primaries, when many observers declared that all opposition to Hillary Clinton derived from sexism, and when we were told that Clinton's near-victory in the primaries, as the first woman ever with a serious chance at a major party's presidential nomination, was in fact a defeat for women. I still say it's more complicated than that:

Holmes and Traister write:

... Since the 2008 election, progressive leaders have done little to address the obvious national appetite for female leadership.

I'd say that's in large part because no one has been advanced as a Democratic leader for the future, male or female.

There are several reasons for this. The obvious one is that Democrats, unlike Republicans, presumably don't feel they're in "rebuilding years" -- they have leaders who've recently taken charge of Congress (2007) and the White House (2009).

Another reason is that Democrats are generally lousy at grooming and putting forth future stars, of either gender. They rarely recognize their need to have a stable of surrogates who go on cable news programs and Sunday talk shows defending party policy, becoming familiar faces in the process.

More from Holmes and Traister:

... the sad truth is that Democrats often prefer their women fulfilling similarly diminutive models for behavior. Consider how Hillary Clinton has been treated, at times, by those in her own party: Democratic leaders never really celebrated Mrs. Clinton’s nation-altering place in history as the first female candidate to get so close to a major party's presidential nomination. Indeed, she is most appreciated when she plays well with others in the Senate or the State Department; when she behaves like a fierce competitor, she is compared to Glenn Close’s bunny-boiling virago from "Fatal Attraction."

It's hard to go over this ground, but please remember that Clinton nearly won the nomination, and would have been celebrated if she had won it. She lost for a lot of reasons -- yes, sexism, but also a sense that her opposition to the Iraq War was less pure than Obama's, as well as a sense (and we can argue about this all day) that her campaign against Obama more frequently took the low road than Obama's did. her campaign also just didn't master the minutiae of the primary process as well as Obama's did.

And I'll throw in another one here: I think a lot of us feared that she'd struggle in a general election because of Republican attacks that embraced sexism. Some Democrats did pile on, but the sexist attacks were Republican memes (and Beltway-insider memes). Who compared Clinton to Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction? I find one Democratic elected official -- Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee. I find a D.C. lifer with Democratic ties -- Brent Budowsky, blogging at the Huffington Post. I find Ken Rudin of NPR. But beyond that, I find right-wingers -- Alex Castellanos and Peggy Noonan and Monica Crowley and Lars Larson. It's not our line.

... Imagine a Democrat willing to brag about breaking the glass ceiling at the explosive beginning, not the safe end, of her campaign. A liberal politician taking to Twitter to argue that big broods and a "culture of life" are completely compatible with reproductive freedom. A female candidate on the left who speaks as angrily and forcefully about her rivals' shortcomings as Sarah Barracuda does about the Pelosis and Obamas of the world. A smart, unrelenting female, who, unlike Ms. Palin, wants to tear down, not reinforce, traditional ways of looking at women. But that will require a party that is eager to discover, groom, promote and then cheer on such a progressive Palin.

It would also probably require a plane crash that kills Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, Grover Norquist, and the Koch brothers. Can you imagine what would happen to a Democratic woman who put herself out there like that? There wouldn't be one Andrew Sullivan trying to turn a conspiracy theory into a major story, as the people he'd like to persuade rolled their eyes. There'd be a zone-flooding tsunami of grotesque half-truths and sleazy scuttlebutt, all eagerly advanced by virtually every GOP operative. Such a woman would become a living, breathing Park51 project. It's conceivable that a female Democrat could be tough enough to take this and appealing enough to keep fighting, but it sure as hell wouldn't be easy.

Yeah, I'd like to see it too. Alternately, since we're talking about progressive women, I'd like Elizabeth Warren become president of the United States, or at least treasury secretary or chair of the Federal Reserve. But I'm not holding my breath. And I think the reasons go well beyond sexism.

I've been doing other things this weekend and haven't had time to focus on Washington, D.C.: The Becking, but I'm looking at the New York Times story and realizing that Glenn Beck did us a huge favor yesterday, if we're smart enough to take advantage:

... But the program was distinctly different from most Tea Party rallies. While Tea Party groups have said they want to focus on fiscal conservatism and not risk alienating people by talking about religion or social issues, the rally on Saturday was overtly religious, filled with gospel music and speeches that were more like sermons.

Mr. Beck imbued his remarks on Saturday and at events the night before with references to God and a need for a religious revival....

Many in the crowd ... said they had been motivated to come by faith.

Becky Benson, 56, traveled from Orlando, Fla., because, she said, "we believe in Jesus Christ, and he is our savior." Jesus, she said, would not have agreed with what she called the redistribution of wealth in the form of the economic stimulus package, bank bailouts and welfare....

The purveyors of conventional wisdom have been telling us for the GOP and the right have put this stuff behind them, that this is not your father's conservative movement, that abortion and gay marriage and prayer in schools are irrelevant now. They've been telling us that those aspects of the culture war are over. They were telling us that just this week, when Ken Mehlman finally came out of the closet and wasn't damned to eternal hellfire by (most) right-wingers.

Yes, the organizers of this movement have mostly quieted that kind of talk for now. And yes, a lot of them aren't interested in that, and think it costs them votes.

But you can't have a movement with Beck and Palin and Angle and Joe Miller and the Pauls, who have a carve-out in their libertarianism for unswerving opposition to abortion, and expect this stuff to just go away. You can't have a Southern-based conservative political movement and expect God-bothering not to be a part of it.

It's coming back, sooner or later. It may start coming back ten minutes after the networks declare that the GOP has taken the House. It's certainly coming back with a vengence in the all-GOP federal government that will be sworn in in January 2013.

Beck is letting us know. Forewarned is forearmed. Let's be smart enough to listen.


Oh, and on a diffeent subject, I see that Sarah Palin was quintessentially Sarah Palin yesterday:

"Say what you want to say about me, but I raised a combat vet, and you can't take that away from me," said Ms. Palin, whose son Track served in Iraq.

Wow, she doesn't even pretend that it isn't all about her, does she?

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I understand the impulse of Kate Zernike of The New York Times to try to be scrupulous in talking about the teabaggers and Beckstock participants, but really now:

... It has become an article of faith among Tea Party groups that any racist signs at rallies -- "Go back to Kenya," directed at President Obama, is just one example -- are carried by Democratic plants sent in to make the Tea Party look bad....

Even if Tea Party members are right that any racist signs are those of mischief-makers, even if Glenn Beck had chosen any other Saturday to hold his rally, it would be hard to quiet the argument about the Tea Party and race.

(Emphasis added.)

Just off the top of my head, it's simply not in dispute that a tea party leader wrote an astonishingly racist mock-letter to Abraham Lincoln on his website (and continues to represent the angry right all over the media despite his dismissal from the position he held when the letter appeared). The authenticity of this noted racist teabagger sign is simply no longer in dispute. And the tsunami of racist remarks uttered by Beckstock's guiding spirit in just one week last summer is a matter of public record. None of this makes it into Zernike's story.


One more thought about this rally. I don't accept the notion that there's a battle for ownership of August 28. I don't think Dr. King and the organizers of the '63 March on Washington cared about ownership of the date, but, nevertheless, it's still theirs, for the simple reason that Beck has chosen to try to be an imitator. It's like asking whether the Woodstocks that took place in the 1990s would ever become more famous than the original Woodstock.

Needless to say, I don't buy Beck's line about not knowing the significance of the date and site when he chose them. He chose them consciously -- but that means he chose a message of resentment ("We want our piece of your moral high ground!") over being, even by his own lights, a leader forging a new path. He wants the question of imitation to linger. He prefers to piggyback on dates -- 8/28, 9/12 as a piggyback on 9/11 -- so he can be attacked as a parasite, and then can feel aggrieved and spread that sense of grievance to his flock. That's too important to him. So he'll never "own" this date or any other. He'd rather feel picked on.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Atrios noted today that GOP senator and former pitcher Jim Bunning was obnoxious as usual last month when he heard that the young Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg was hurt (Strasburg is now scheduled for serious surgery):

A reporter from Politico asked Bunning for his thoughts about Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg missing his start on Tuesday with shoulder soreness. Bunning grabbed his arm with a fake exclamation of pain and then decided to question Strasburg's manhood.

"Five-hundred twenty starts, I never refused the ball," Bunning said. "What a joke!"

Yup -- and in 1968, according to Frank Dolson's book Jim Bunning: Baseball and Beyond, his insistence on pitching when he was injured hurt his team and cost his manager, Larry Shepard, his job:

Bunning hasn't gotten any smarter over the years, has he? (He won 4 games that year and lost 14, by the way.)

Today's David Brooks column in The New York Times offers a mildly toxic mix of right-wing conventional wisdom and insipid pop social psychology, all based on a selective citation of facts. First, the right-wing CW:

During the first half of this year, German and American political leaders engaged in an epic debate. American leaders argued that the economic crisis was so bad, governments should borrow billions to stimulate growth. German leaders argued that a little short-term stimulus was sensible, but anything more was near-sighted....

This divergence created a natural experiment. Who was right?

The early returns suggest the Germans were....

The German economy ... is growing at a sizzling (and obviously unsustainable) 9 percent annual rate. Unemployment in Germany has come down to pre-crisis levels....

And now the insipid pop psych:

The economy can't be played like a piano -- press a fiscal key here and the right job creation notes come out over there. Instead, economic management is more like parenting. If you instill good values and create a secure climate then, through some mysterious process you will never understand, things will probably end well.

Germany didn't spend as great a percentage of its GDP on stimulus, but one reason for that was that it had systems in place to combat a severe recession already. As Brooks's own newspaper explained it a couple of weeks ago:

Government officials here are confident they found the right approach, including a better solution to unemployment. They extended the "Kurzarbeit" or "short work" program to encourage companies to furlough workers or give them fewer hours instead of firing them, making up lost wages out of a fund filled in good times through payroll deductions and company contributions.

Keeping money in workers' pockets keeps shopkeepers in business, because those workers can afford to spend. That keeps even more workers from being laid off. That means people can keep making house payments. They means you don't have the downward spiral we have.

Can you imagine if the White House proposed a plan whereby workers and companies paid money to the government so we could almost completely make up lost wages for workers that companies don't need in a downturn? Not unemployment insurance, but near-total replacement (the percentage is 80%) of workers' salaries? It would be derided as a massively socialist, confiscatory big-government program. Right-wingers would howl. David Brooks would quietly tut-tut.

Oh, and I'm not even mentioning the rest of German's social safety net -- y'know, national health care and all that.

Well, it worked in Germany, because Germany isn't a bad "parent" to its ordinary citizens. Unlike America.

The Miller/Murkowski post is here.

The story:

A civil rights activist and former congressman equated the Tea Party with the Ku Klux Klan today as he blasted a conservative rally planned in Washington, D.C., this weekend....

"We are going to take on the barbarism of war, the decadence of racism, and the scourge of poverty, that the Ku Klux -- I meant to say the Tea Party," [the Reverend Walter] Fauntroy told a news conference today at the National Press Club. "You all forgive me, but I -- you have to use them interchangeably." ...

Donald Douglas at American Power, in response:

You just cannot make unhinged allegations like this and think that rational, well-meaning Americans are going to take you seriously.

Ads in American Power's sidebar right now:

Patrick at Political Byline, in response:

Race-Hustler Walter Fauntroy compares Tea Party to Klu Klux Klan

Patrick at Political Byline, 9/1/09:

I do not agree with the politics of Glenn Greenwald, no more than I would agree with the politics of say Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin.

Weasel Zippers, in response:

Weasel Zippers, 7/9/10:

Always nice to be lectured on the precise use of language by people who themselves are so exquisitely sensitive to precision and nuance.

As far as wingnuts are concerned, none of their enemies act in good faith and all of them are pure evil. Those enemies are almost always Democrats and liberals -- but now the treatment is being extended to Lisa Murkowski, for daring to persist in her attempt to defeat the new saint of Wingnuttia, Joe Miller. Am I exaggerating when I say they're treating her the way they treat Democrats? Well, you judge -- they're now accusing her of planning electoral fraud (and the Nation Republican Senatorial Committee as well):

Joe Miller, currently the leader in Alaska's surprisingly competitive Republican Senate primary, accused the National Republican Senatorial Committee of "meddling" in the contest while charging that his opponent was trying to "pull an Al Franken."

Speaking with Fox Business Network, Miller referred to reports that Murkowski had sought legal counsel from the national committee as the state prepares to count thousands of absentee ballots that could decide the race.

"Frankly we're looking right now to make sure ... that the votes are accounted for fairly without any type of game play," he said. "[It] concerns us any time that somebody lawyers up and, you know, tries to pull an Al Franken if you will." ...

Wow, them's fightin' words. All of Wingnuttia thinks Franken stole his election.

Miller echoes what Erick Erickson wrote yesterday:

Sources close to Miller, Palin, and external media sources all seem to think Murkowski can't make up the difference.

But there is a problem.

The absentee ballots will not be counted for a week or so. Already there are rumors of "found" ballots.

And today we have this from Erickson:

... I've just received a copy of a letter (PDF) from Miller's attorneys demanding the disqualification of Lisa Murkowski campaign observer Bonnie Jack.

The Alaska Division of Elections staff and Joe Miller's staff observed Ms. Jack using confidential voter information and then calling a voter based on that information. The Miller team wants Ms. Jack disqualified....

So: How soon before they start asking to see Murkowski's birth certificate?

Or generate allegations that Murkowski benefited from fraud and intimidation at the polls by unsavory dark-skinned people? (There have to be six or seven blacks and Hispanics in Alaska, right?)

And hey, look over there -- is that Saudi money in Murkowski's campaign coffers?


Oh, and I almost missed this: Here's Limbaugh calling Murkowski a "ruling-class Republican."

Yeah, yeah, I know -- you thought Limbaugh liked the ruling class. That's where you're wrong. He likes what you and I think of as the ruling class. The stinking-rich people who own everything in this country aren't in Limbaugh's ruling class -- like Mr. and Mrs. Teabagger, they're just humble, innocent victims of evil politicians.

Here's Limbaugh:

The ruling class in the Murkowski vote, they're going to find some missing ballots. I don't care whether it's Republicans or Democrats, they're going to find 'em. There are already rumors of found ballots. This is before they get to the absentees.... Found ballots, election fraud, what else is she gonna do? You can't build a bridge to nowhere if you're not in the Senate. Not that she had anything to do with it. I'm just speaking euphemistically....

Limbaugh's sainted Sarah Palin used to like the Bridge to Nowhere too, but never mind.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Last fall I wrote a post titled "L. Ron Beck," in which I said about Glenn Beck:

He's basically a televangelist. A huckster. A late-night pitchman selling seminars and book/DVD/audio combo packages that will allegedly help you get rich through flipping real estate. A human-potential-movement cult leader who promises life breakthroughs in exchange for participation in costly "religious" or "therapy" programs.

That idea crossed my mind again when I saw the promotional video for the rally he's holding on Saturday. Oh, sure, I can't disagree with what Ben Dimiero of Media Matters says about Beck's grandiosity and the gall it takes for Beck to compare himself to great figures of human history:

In a new promo posted on a "Producers' Blog" at his website, Beck humbly places the rally in the context of the moon landing, the Montgomery bus boycott, Iwo Jima, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and other landmark historical events. It also not-so-subtly suggests that Beck is following in the tradition of Martin Luther King (which is a farce), Abraham Lincoln, most of the Founding Fathers, Martha Washington, the Wright Brothers, and other notable historical figures.

To give you some sense of the egomania on display here, it starts with the line, "Every great achievement in human history has started with one person. One crazy idea." Watch....

Well, if you haven't done so yet, you should watch -- Beck's video is the first one below. But then, please watch two more videos. One is the promotional video for The Power, the brand-new sequel to the hugely successful self-help book The Secret. The other is a video of motivational words by one of the self-help world's big kahunas, Tony Robbins.

You see the common thread? Motivated people can do great things. The only difference between ordinary people and great people is that great people understand what it takes to change thought into action.

All of them send the same message, expressly or implicitly: the person who breaks from the pack and becomes one of the great people in human history could be you.

Beck's just politicized it. He's given it a tea party spin. But it's the same message. (Hell, about a 1:15 in, the Power video even has a series of images of the same kinds of historic figures Beck invokes.)

It seems half-crazy when Beck says it. It seems as if he has delusions of grandeur. And, sure, I guess he does.

But there's a whole self-help industry that sells delusions of grandeur, and makes a lot of money doing it.

Beck wants a piece of that action.

I'm not sure why so many people are taking Reid Wilson's new Hotline column, titled "Why Democrats Will Keep The House," so seriously. The American Spectator's Quin Hillyer says, somewhat despairingly,

What it boils down to is that all three major party committees on the Republican side have substantially underperformed. They haven't raised enough money. They have spent way too much money. They have wasted money picking fights in primaries rather than saving it for the general election. And of course they have paid for the care, feeding, preening and pampering of Michael Steele.

But so what? I'd love it if Wilson and Hillyer were right and the GOP weren't about to take over the House and possibly the Senate. I'd love it if the failures of the three major GOP party committees were about to be the deciding factor.

But they aren't, are they? As Zandar and Raw Story have noted, Steele et al. may be largely irrelevant, supplanted by

the so-called "shadow RNC" formed by former Bush political adviser Karl Rove and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, which has effectively undermined Steele's position, rendering him nothing more than a figurehead.

Rove disclosed during a July broadcast by Fox News, his part-time employer, that his American Crossroads groups would effectively benefit via financing loopholes opened by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision....

Rove and Gillespie said the American Crossroads groups aim to raise and spend over $50 million to influence the 2010 elections. IRS forms obtained by the media showed the "shadow RNC" groups had raised $4.7 million by the end of July, with just four individual billionaires cited as donating over 97 percent of the total.

Tim Dickenson, writing for
Rolling Stone, called the plot nothing less than a "coup of the Republican party".

And I haven't even mentioned organizations like the Koch brothers-funded, lobbyist-headed FreedomWorks, which, as today's New York Times notes, is training volunteers for the fall campaign:

The goal is to turn local Tea Party groups into a standing get-out-the-vote operation in Congressional districts across the country. Sarah Palin made community organizing a term of derision during the 2008 presidential campaign; FreedomWorks has made Tea Party conservatives the surprise community organizing force of the 2010 midterm elections, showing on-the-ground strength in races like the Republican primary for the Senate in Alaska on Tuesday, where the upstart Joe Miller was leading Senator Lisa Murkowski in a race that may take weeks to call.

...Through its political action committee, FreedomWorks plans to spend $10 million on the midterm elections, on campaign paraphernalia -- signs for candidates like Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida are stacked around the offices here -- voter lists, and a phone system that allows volunteers to make calls for candidates around the country from their home computers. With "microfinancing" grants, it will steer money from FreedomWorks donors -- the tax code protects their anonymity -- to local Tea Parties.

Oh, and in case anyone thinks the tea party folks hate both parties:

Its candidates are libertarians and economic conservatives, but in the 2010 midterm elections, FreedomWorks is urging Tea Party groups to work for any Republican, on the theory that a compromised Republican is better than Democratic control of Congress.

This is the real GOP, and Michael Steele is irrelevant to it.

New York: Drunk shouts 'terrorists,' urinates on mosque rugs

California: Vandalism at Madera mosque called hate crime

Chicago: Permit Denied For Mosque In West Rogers Park

Kentucky: Mayfield rejects planned mosque

So much for the location of the Islamic center in downtown Manhattan being the one and only thing that's bothering anyone.

And by the way, judging from the Manhattan story and the last two links above, have we already effectively achieved Bryan Fischer's proposed ban on all mosque construction in America? It sure seems that way to me.

(Links via TBogg, Balloon Juice, Drudge, and Wonkette.)

Damien Cave has an article in The New York Times about Terry Jones, the Florida preacher who plans to burn Korans on September 11 (and by the way, whatever their thoughts on the "Ground Zero mosque," could one or two "responsible" Republicans possibly bestir themselves to condemn that?). Cave is pretty good about listing the many signs of increasing anti-Muslim rage in Florida, but he lets a rising star of the GOP (and, I think, quite possibly a Sarah Palin running mate in 2012) slide:

Some of the opposition predated the controversy about the proposed Islamic center near ground zero. In March, for example, Allen West, a retired Army officer running for Congress in Broward County, told a group of supporters that "Islam is not a religion" but rather "a vicious enemy" that was "infiltrating" the United States. (A campaign spokesman said last week that Mr. West meant to refer to radical Islam, not Islam generally.)

The hell he did.

What does Allen West think about Islam "generally"? Earlier this year, he appeared on a panel and was asked by a RedState blogger whether jihadists commit violence because they have a "warped" view of Islam. This is what he thinks about that, and about Islam in general:

Let me say this, and I don't care being popular whatever. The first thing you got to do is to study and to understand who you're up against. And you must realize that this is not a religion you are fighting against, you are fighting against a theo-political belief system and construct. You're fighting something that's been doing this thing since 622 AD, the 7th century,1388 years.

You want to dig up Charles Martel and ask him why he was fighting the Muslim army at the Battle of Tours in 732? You want to ask the Venetian fleet at La Ponto, why they were fighting a Muslim fleet in 1571? You want to ask the Germanic and Austrian knights why they were fighting at the Gate of Vienna in 1683? You want to ask people what happened at Constantinople and why today it's called Istanbul because they lost that fight in 1453?

You need to get into the Koran, you need to understand their precepts, you need to read the Sura, you need to read the hadiths, and then you can really understand that it's not a perversion, they are doing exactly what this book says.

(Emphasis added.)

He couldn't possibly have made himself any clearer than that.

Damien, do yourself and your readers a big favor and get informed.


And for crissakes, Damien, in the West speech you linked, he says:

Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals that stand up and say that.

Do you actually regard that as ambiguous, or subject to interpretation?

I'm shaking my head at this passage from Amy Gardner's Washington Post story about the rally Glenn Beck will lead in D.C. on Saturday:

The disconnect between tea party groups and GOP electoral efforts has been viewed as evidence that the movement would struggle to translate its power into political results. Yet that disconnect could help draw activists Saturday who are unhappy with both major parties and would be reluctant to participate in a GOP event.

You're kidding. We're still talking about the teabaggers being "unhappy with both major parties"? Really? With the implication that that dissatisfaction is evenly distributed?

Oh, sure -- teabaggers say they're disappointed in the GOP. But they utterly despise the Democrats. Give a teabagger a gun, two bullets, and a locked room containing bin Laden, KSM, and Nancy Pelosi, and the teabagger will almost certainly shoot Pelosi twice.

And is Gardner seriously arguing that if the Beck/Palin rally featured a number of Republican speakers, the fanboys and fangirls who worship the talker and the ex-governor would stay away? "Oh, I love Glenn and Sarah to pieces, but Jim DeMint's going to be there, and I just refuse to go." Really?

And are we still arguing about whether teabag energy is going to have a pro-Republican impact at the polls? Oh, sure -- the 'baggers have foisted some candidates on the GOP who are going to have a hard time with the broader electorate in November. But what about the intensity of tea party rage in general? Does Gardner think this is entirely separate from the sharp uptick in enthusiasm among voters who plan to vote GOP? Does she think the 'baggers are in one corner, solemly hating both major parties, while all those GOP-leaning enthusiasts are completely tuning out the 'bag message and rallying exclusively to the stirring pronouncements of John Boehner and Eric Cantor?

Oh, and this line from Gardner's story is silly, too:

Also unanswered is whether Beck can pull off the connection to King without creating offense....

No, that question isn't unanswered -- the rally's connection to the Martin Luther King rally that took place on the same day and at the same site 47 years ago has already created offense, and (Beck's protests notwithstanding) was always intended to create offense. If there's a question, it's whether the rally can sustain plausible deniability about its deliberate offensiveness. Beck's goal is to prod and provoke liberals and African-Americans just enough that he'll be able to argue (at least to the right and center in the heartland) that any offense is undeserved because he's just an innocent, well-meaning patriot. It helps him immensely, of course, that the right-wing noise machine will fixate on any reaction to the rally that turns violent or rhetorically offensive, even if it's fleeting or isolated, while Beck and his cohort will have to go very, very far over the top before whatever offensive thing they say or do gets traction outside our isolated little HuffPost/MSNBC/left blogosphere world.

My guess is that we're going to spend the rally's aftermath arguing over crowd estimates, discussing whether a handful of hecklers at the rally are "disrespecting the troops" (Beck says troops a major rally focus -- way to politicize the military, Glenn), and gossiping about whatever schoolgirl taunt Palin makes the cenrterpiece of her speech. And King's dream will die a little more.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Here's Slate's John Dickerson talking about the apparent big winner of yesterday's primaries:

Palin now has more support for a favorite story line of hers: The pundits and so-called experts said things were going to go one way but she had faith; she knew the real deal. This is part of her larger pitch: that she understands something fundamental about conservative voters. That, in turn, is what voters believe about her, which makes them think she has a special light to guide the country out of the muck.

Close -- but I think Dickerson misunderstands what Palin thinks. She doesn't think she understands something fundamental about conservative voters. She thinks she understands something fundamental about voters, period.

This gets to the question of what she's going to do in 2012. A lot of people think she's not going to run for president -- they think she knows she's not broadly popular and doesn't want to risk ruining her brand, so she's going to maintain her status by staying out of the race and continuing to try to crown winners in her party.

But I don't think she knows the difference between her party and America. I think she means it when she says she speaks for the "real America." I think she really doesn't believe the rest of us exist, or exist in any significant numbers. I think she believes the vast majority of Americans are Reagan/Limbaugh/Palin/Fox/tea party right-wingers, in the same way that some Iraqi Sunnis just can't believe that they're a minority in their country. I know that if she believes this she's incredibly naive and ill-informed, if not delusional, but I think she's precisely that.

She's savvy enough, or her advisers are savvy enough, to play up her skills at turning out Republican votes at this time. But I suspect she thinks she's hotter stuff than that. And the upcoming GOP wave election may feed her delusion -- this go-round, the broader electorate will vote for a lot of her candidates, and she may credit herself. And that will motivate her toward a presidential run.

We'll see if I'm right. And we may see if it's delusional in the fall of 2012.

You probably already know that Michael Enright, a 21-year-old from Brewster, New York, has been charged with stabbing a New York City cabdriver named Ahmed Sharif after asking him, "Are you Muslim?" It's a more complicated story than you might think -- go read Foster Kamer of The Village Voice, who has the most detailed report. (Short version: Enright apparently freelanced for an organization that has endorsed the Park51 project; he also spent some time recently in Afghanistan working on a film about U.S. forces there, which may explain why he's reported to have told the driver as he pulled out his knife, "Consider this a checkpoint!" He was also "very drunk" at the time of the early-evening attack, according to one law enforcement official.)

I think we're dealing with a troubled young man, possibly traumatized by experiences in a theater of war, and perhaps with a drinking problem -- which, of course, is precisely the kind of thing you're not allowed to say if a perpetrator of politically charged violence is Muslim. In such instances, only the politics is supposed to be relevant.

Also, in such instances, everyone who is perceived to be on the perpetrator's side -- all Muslims, all liberals and Democrats -- is expected to issue a swift and unambiguous condemnation. (Being non-Republicans, you see, we're partly responsible for all non-right-wing acts of political violence.)

So shouldn't the press be demanding statements of condemnation from Pam Geller? Sarah Palin? Newt Gingrich? Rick Lazio? Rupert Murdoch? Roger Ailes? Debra Burlingame? Rick Scott? Can't we say they're condoning vigilante violence if those statements aren't forthcoming by sunset?

Joe Miller appears to have beaten incumbent Lisa Murkowski for the GOP Senate nomination in Alaska, and most people, understandably, are crediting Sarah Palin. Surely she deserves much of the credit, but don't forget that Miller's campaign was a full-on right-wing media crusade:

Levin's book Liberty and Tyranny spent 12 weeks at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and is reported by its publisher (Mary Matalin's Simon & Schuster-affliated imprint, Threshold) to have sold a million copies. Laura Ingraham's last book also hit #1 on the Times list. And Huckabee is, well, Huckabee. These are big guns, too.

Robert Stacy McCain thinks Levin's interview of Miller in July had an impact, especially after it got YouTubed.

Makes sense to me. We want to make this all about Palin, but really, there's a hive mind involved, and multiple positive remarks about Miller from multiple wingnut superstars had to count for something.

There are other factors, though we probably shouldn't overestimate the impact of this pro-Miller parade of Hummers and automatic weapons:

Murkowski is kinda-sorta pro-choice, depending on what day of the week it is, but Miller is unswervingly anti-abortion (as well as the father, apparently, of a rather large quiverful of kids) -- and there was an abortion referendum on the ballot. Murkowski also cast votes in favor of the hated TARP and stimulus.

FYI, Miller seems to be Sharron Angle Lite. In a "Letter to Seniors" (PDF) in which he insists he won't vote to cut Social Security or Medicare benefits, even as he rails against spending, he lists a number of "relatively painless" cuts he does favor instead:

There are many examples of cuts that could be made and that would be relatively painless to the American public including: foreign aid, funding to the United Nations, funding to the International Monetary Fund, corporate welfare, elimination of more than 640 duplicative federal programs, elimination of programs rated ineffective by the Office of Management and Budget, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Dept. of Education. Additionally, the cost of illegal aliens in this country also runs into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Right -- because rounding up all illegal immigrants in this country and deporting them could be done at a cost of exactly zero dollars. The deficit fairy told me so. And that's in addition to eliminating the Department of Education and the NEA. (It's not clear whether he wants to pull the U.S. out of the U.N. or just stop funding it. Maybe someone will ask him.)

Bob Dylan, "Sweetheart Like You," 1983:

They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings
Steal a little and they throw you in jail...

Steal a lot and they make you king

Well, they didn't throw Hayworth in jail, but he got blown away, while Scott won. Maybe Hayworth didn't lose because he was too sleazy for GOP primary voters. Maybe he lost because he wasn't sleazy enough. He only stole a little. If he'd stolen more, if he'd been a corrupt big-time wheeler-dealer, they'd probably have admired him a lot more.

Politico makes the obvious points about Rick Scott's upset win in Florida's Republican gubernatorial primary -- that "[t]he $1.7 billion that Columbia/HCA hospital chain paid in fines over Medicare and Medicaid fraud under Scott's tenure as CEO offers Democrats significant fodder for the fall," but that Scott has buttloads of money and is a Republican in a Republican year, so he's still going to be hard to beat -- but there's also this:

In addition to the many TV ads his cash can buy, Scott can also afford to underwrite get-out-the-vote activities not just for himself but for other Republicans on the ballot.

When asked about the impact of running with Scott, an adviser to Senate candidate Marco Rubio's campaign simply replied: "Fully funded Victory program."

Uh, Democrats? Isn't that an anti-Rubio ad right there? Isn't that quote a really good tag line for an antiRubio ad? (Especially when at least one poll shows Rubio back in the lead?)

A gazillion dollars' worth of McCollum attack ads in the primary already established that Scott is a sleazebag. And there's a Rubio ad boasting about that tainted money. Why not use the line just as it is? (As the line is quoted, I'm picturing an animated Scott carrying big cartoon moneybags and handing Rubio a wad of bills as a cash register goes Ka-ching!) Why not?

Ah, but these are Democrats we're talking about. But Charlie Crist is running against Rubio as an independent. He's not a member of the politically incompetent party, so maybe he'll run the ad.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I agree with Dave Weigel that John Boehner's call for the firing of Tim Geithner and Larry Summers was meant to grab headlines more than shape governance, but this analogy of limited usefulness:

Look: Calling for members of an administration to be fired is a political tactic, not a plan. The four years that Democrats spent calling for John Ashcroft and Donald Rumsfeld to be fired were tactics, too. Their problems with the DOJ got worse after Ashcroft left. Their problems with the Iraq War got worse, too, in a way, when Rumsfeld was replaced by Robert Gates -- they didn't want a surge, they wanted a troop drawdown.

But here's the difference: When Rumsfeld and Ashcroft left after Republicans suffered big midterm losses in 2006, President Bush at least had a free hand in choosing replacements. Barack Obama may also decide he has to shake up the team after next November's losses -- but if Geithner and Summers go, the Republicans are literally not going to let him choose replacements. At the very least, they're not going to let him choose freely -- even if he tries to get their replacements confirmed in a lame-duck session with 59 Democratic senators, Republicans are going to filibuster anyone who's not right-wing enough, just on principle. And next year? Forget it.

As I've said about Obama and the Supreme Court, after the midterms, Republicans are going to tell Obama who is and isn't an acceptable appointee. And if he resists, positions simply aren't going to be filled -- even high court seats or the position of treasury secretary.

No, I'm not saying this out of a naive belief that Obama's would name neo-New Dealers to replace Geithner and Summers. I know he'd name two more corporatists. But he'd name Democratic-leaning corporatists. They'd be right-centrists. He wouldn't name hardcore supply-siders. And I really believe the GOP won't let him do that.

The next two years are going to be years of ritual humiliation for Obama, unless he finds a way to make the GOP's tactics a liability for Republicans. This is just going to be one example.

Joan McCarter at Daily Kos:

* Every Republican candidate for higher office in New Mexico is a climate change denier. That's just depressing.

* More depressing? It's catching. Every GOP Senate candidate running to replace Sen. Judd Gregg--all six of them--are also climate change deniers.

Yup -- and so are both GOP candidates running against Chuck Schumer in New York:

The two Republicans looking to unseat Senator Charles Schumer squared off Monday night in the first in a series of 2010 election debates on NY1.

Former CIA officer Gary Berntsen went head to head with businessman Jay Townsend at Union College in Schenectady....

The seemingly mutual agreements even extended to the issue of global warming.

"Those that have proposed global warming over the last few years have conducted an enormous charade," Berntsen said.

"I wish I could believe them. But I can't believe anything that they say anymore, and I'm convinced that much of what they were trying to do was a hoax," Townsend said....

They're also both in opposition to the Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, both in favor of the use of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") to drill for natural gas in New York State (even though proposals for fracking in the Catskills watershed threaten the drinkability of water in the Catskills and New York City), and both in favor of an Arizona-style immigration law (even though the vast majority of residents of New York City oppose such a law).

And, um, you might think these candidates would want to avoid going against the wishes and beliefs of New York City, which has 41% of the state's population, if only to try to build up their party's credibility in the state, even though the race against Schumer is a serious long shot.

But, for the most part, that's not how it works in the modern GOP. For the most part, you toe the party line.

That's why this article by Slate's John Dickerson was so absurd:

Why won't any Republicans condemn the "Obama is a Muslim' myth?

... Shouldn't there be someone taking the high road if for no other reason than it is unoccupied? Often in politics, doing the one thing no one else is doing usually gets you air time and exposure. But it's harder to tread the high road in an election year. For Republicans whose constituents dislike the president, there's no advantage in going out of your way to stick up for him....

No, that's not it. It's not about whether it's an election year. It's about the nature of the Republican Party right now. There are allegedly a few moderate Republicans in the Senate, and there are barely enough Republicans to mount a filibuster, and yet there have been vastly more filibusters in this Senate than in any previous Senate. That happens when everyone is acting in lockstep. That happens when dissent from the party line is essentially forbidden.

The fact that this sort of political correctness now extends to science is indeed depressing. But it's not surprising.

Right-wingers seem to have a limitless capacity for feeling victimized -- when they're not being forced to tolerate the existence of government, or of non-Judeo-Christian religions, or of any of a hundred other insults to their dignity, they're constantly casting about for new ways to feel a sense of victimization, directly or vicariously. Here's the latest story to feed that need, from Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes:

Football Coach Fired for Anti-Obama Song?

A Tennessee middle school football coach said he got fired after he wrote a song that criticized President Obama.

Bryan Glover, an assistant coach at Grassland Middle School near Nashville, co-wrote the country music song, "When You're Holding a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail."

It was co-written by a parent who has a child on the team. Glover, 26, said he emailed a copy of the song to friends, family members and player's parents through his personal email account.

And that's when all the trouble started for the self-described independent conservative....

OK, before I go any further, do you see what the guy did? He didn't just write a right-wing song. He wrote one and e-mailed it to players' parents. And apparently not just a select group of like-minded parents, according to this (non-Fox) local report:

It all stems from an email Glover sent through his personal Yahoo account.

"I sent it 99 percent of the people in my inbox-- all the way from my mom to people I haven't spoken to in years," said Glover.

But the email, with a link to his new song, went out to a hand full of parents of kids on the Grassland Football Team.

Within hours, parents called the school to complain of the politically charged lyrics and Glover said the principal at Grassland Middle School told the head football coach to release Glover from his position with the team....

The Superintendent of Williamson County Schools refused to say why Glover was fired, but he did speculate it could be an issue of how he obtained the parents email addresses.

"If someone is sending an email to parents using our system or knowledge you obtained through our system, you are limited in what kind of message you can send to parents, " said Dr. Mike Looney....

Fair enough -- sure, as a coach you might obtain a parent's e-mail address from the school you work for. And you might then send benign personal e-mails on your personal account using that knowledge. But it's another story when you use an e-mail address you obtained from the school to send political propaganda to people who aren't interested in such propaganda, and who might very realistically conclude that you're implying that a player on your team might be looked at more favorably by you if that propaganda is well received.

And this song is absolutely political propaganda. It's not racist, as some parents reportedly claimed (both stories mention that), but it does contain a statistically significant percentage of right-wing talking points from the past two years -- as well as an insinuation of violence at the very end (ah, but like Sarah Palin's "reload," I'm sure it's something we're going to be sternly warned not to take literally):

... He thinks big thoughts and he dreams big dreams / But it's another man’s sweat that pays for those schemes / He don't care how the little people feel / 'Cause saving the world is a big freaking deal / So he does his business behind closed doors / And pretends that the world is just begging for more / When the stuff hits the fan he says, "Don't look at me / If you got trouble, blame 43."

There'll be a party come this November / When we're gonna set things straight / All good people gonna gather 'round / Gonna show what made this country great / We'll run off the schemers and backroom dealers / So the Red, White and Blue will prevail / When we're holding the hammer / When we're holding the hammer / Everyone of them looks like a nail.

Right-wingers will surely want to whine and feel like victims about this. They'll want to feel that this teacher was singled out for persecution. That's nonsense -- he's no more singled out for persecution than the Oregon teacher who was forced to resign after posting a "Crash the Tea Party" site and other conservative-mocking messages, some of it on school time. He's no more singled out than the New York City teacher dismissed for taking high school students on a field trip to Cuba, or the Pennsylvania teacher dismissed for using her blog to criticize a conservative student's class presentation, or the Catholic school teacher who was fired for having in vitro fertilization. This door swings both ways.

And if you really want to hear the song, it's here.

(By the way, is there any right-winger in America now who hasn't written an anti-Obama, pro-tea party country song?)

John Boehner threw a lot of right-wing boilerplate into the speech he gave this morning, but it's clear that he wants the soundbite takeaway from the speech to be "Mr. President, fire Geithner and Summers" (and the rest of the economic team). It kills me to say this, but: well played, Tan Man. Who the hell likes these guys? Wouldn't you like to see the whole damn lot of them fired and replaced? (I'm ignoring the fact that the only replacements who could possibly win Senate confirmation, even now, would probably be Paul Ryan, Larry Kudlow, and that Dow 36,000 guy.) Taken in isolation, it's a hell of a talking point. It's a talking point that resonates well beyond the teabag and Muslimophobe/birther faithful. Jesus Christ, Democrats -- John Boehner now has better political instincts than anyone in your party?

The only silver lining here is that maybe -- maybe -- Fox and the rest of the GOP noise machine will slot in Geithner and Summers where the downtown imam and the New Black Panthers have been all summer, and at least those racist firestorms might get a little less media oxygen. (I repeat: maybe.) But even if so, the cost is: these are the guys we're being framed as defending if we defend Obama and the Democrats. Anyone happy about that? Can you honestly say that isn't a smart move on Boehner's part?