Wednesday, November 30, 2011

CORPORATE PRIMARY SEASONS STILL SUCK

Desperate to be saved from a Newt Gingrich nomination, Ross Douthat tries to make the case for Jon Huntsman as a true conservative who's electable, but he acknowledges that there doesn't seem to be any hope:

... his salesmanship has been staggeringly inept. Huntsman's campaign was always destined to be hobbled by the two years he spent as President Obama's ambassador to China. But he compounded the handicap by introducing himself to the Republican electorate with a series of symbolic jabs at the party's base.

He picked high-profile fights on two hot-button issues -- evolution and global warming -- that were completely irrelevant to his candidacy's rationale. He let his campaign manager define his candidacy as a fight to save the Republican Party from a "bunch of cranks." And he embraced his identity as the media's favorite Republican by letting the liberal journalist Jacob Weisberg write a fawning profile for Vogue.

This was political malpractice at its worst. Voters don't necessarily need to like a candidate to vote for him, but they need to think that he likes them.... The substance mattered less than the symbolism, which screamed: I want your vote, but I don't particularly care to be associated with your stupidities.


As I was watching this, Huntsman reminded me of the sullen alterna-kid in the back of the class in high school who decides to run for student council president on an I-hate-student-government platform, declaring not only that student government is stupid but that all the students in the school are stupid because it's obvious they're all going to vote for the popular kids, who are the other stupid candidates.

And then he's shocked when he doesn't win.
BRANCHING OUT

I'm going to be doing some posting, cross- and otherwise, over at the Booman Tribune. I'll still be here, however, doing pretty much what I always do (I'll leave it to you to decide whether that's a threat or a promise). This may be way more Steve M. than the Intertubes can endure, but we'll see.
ONE HALF-CHEER FOR RUTH MARCUS, EQUAL-OPPORTUNITY COUCH-FAINTER

Emma Sullivan, an eighteen-year-old high school student, wrote a rude tweet about Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas, then was on the verge of being forced to apologize, under pressure from the governor, until a popular groundswell of support for her freedom of speech compelled her school and the governor to back down. At this point, Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post wrote a column essentially arguing that Sullivan's parents had a societal obligation to wash her phone's mouth out with soap:

If you were my daughter, you'd be writing that letter apologizing to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback for the smart­alecky, potty-mouthed tweet you wrote after meeting with him on a school field trip.

Also, that smartphone? The one you posed with, proudly displaying the tweet in which you announced that Brownback "sucked" and added the lovely hashtag #heblowsalot? Turned off until you learn to use it responsibly....

It is until we parents insist such language is not acceptable, explain that it is possible to disagree civilly -- and insist on an apology when our children fall short.


In response to this, a Balloon Juice commenter expressed disgust at the fact that Marcus could write such a thing under the present circumstances:

After Willie Horton ads, Swiftboating, GOP convention-goers waving purple band-aids to mock a veteran's war wounds, birtherism, Ann Coulter saying the "only choice was whether to impeach or assassinate" President Clinton, Coulter claiming 9/11 widows were "enjoying their husband’s deaths," Rush Limbaugh mocking Michael J. Fox's Parkinson’s disease, ads falsely claiming Barack Obama favored "comprehensive sex education for Kindergartners," Rand Paul supporters trying to stomp the head of a protester, ads claiming Kay Hagen was "godless," Michelle Bachmann calling for an investigation of 'un-American views" among the Congress, "If ballots don't work, maybe bullets will" ...

And on and on. But to give Marcus her due, she actually has denounced some of this:

The campaign video is such a transparent ploy, the temptation is to ignore it. After all, tea party candidate Rick Barber is a long shot in his July runoff race for the Republican nomination for an Alabama congressional seat.

But then you hit replay, and see again the iconic images you think you must have imagined. Arbeit Macht Frei, spelled out in cold metal on the concentration camp gates. And the skeletal survivors, packed naked in bunks four tiers high.

And now these images appear in a campaign video in which Barber inveighs against taxation and has an imaginary conversation with Abe Lincoln.

“Hey Abe, if someone’s forced to work for months to pay taxes so a total stranger can get a free meal, medical procedure or a bailout, what’s that called? What’s it called when one man is forced to work for another?” Extreme close-up of Lincoln impersonator, who solemnly intones: “Slavery.”

Images flash: African slaves. North Korean prisoners. Concentration camps. “We shed a lot of blood to stop that in the past, didn’t we?” asks Barber, a Marine Corps veteran. “Now look at us. We are all becoming slaves to our government.”

Many words come to mind here, but one is: sacrilegious. To hijack the horrors of the Holocaust and slavery in the service of a political campaign demeans the candidate and, worse, dishonors the victims. Decency demands that some comparisons be off-limits.

... the reason it is worth paying attention to Barber, is: emblematic. Emblematic of the dangerous take-back-our-country rhetoric that is spread on the conservative airwaves and fueling the tea partyers. Barber may be on the outer edges of this movement but he is not alone there, and he is a predictable outgrowth of it.

... Sarah Palin accuses the media of overreacting to her "don't retreat -- reload" approach. But it is hardly surprising when Sharron Angle, the Nevada Republican nominee for Senate, then warns that "If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies." Or when Ohio Republican John Boehner, the House minority leader, warns, "There's a political rebellion brewing, and I don't think we’ve seen anything like it since 1776." ...


I know I'm supposed to despise Marcus, but I appreciate her denunciation of that right-wing rhetoric.

The problem is, she seems to be equally upset at Emma Sullivan's tweet. She denounces right-wing rhetoric in the latter column, but she treats the tweet, and the refusal of Sullivan's mother to punish and censor her, as equivalent threats to the Republic. Society will be in grave danger if all this radical tea party talk translates into action -- but it's also in grave danger if parents don't confiscate their kids' electronics if they're used to sass authority or transmit a bad word.

Emma Sullivan's tweet didn't threaten anyone. It didn't demonize anyone. It didn't declare anyone the moral equivalent of Hitler (and you know what we had the moral right to do to Hitler). And yet Marcus's dudgeon in the two cases is indistinguishable. That's what's appalling here, even if Marcus isn't a right-wing monster.
WHY ROMNEY SHOULD TRUMPIFY HIMSELF, AND WHY GINGRICH CAN LOBBY AND GRIFT ALL HE WANTS

This is why Mitt Romney should stop trying to position himself as a middle-class bargain-shopper and why Newt Gingrich can grift all he wants: the spiritual leader of their party has spoken, and has been seconded by the official state news agency of the wingnut government-in-exile:







From the transcript at Limbaugh's site:

CALLER: ... you know how the press decries the growing gap between rich and poor? The truth is that when that gap grows, so does the economy as a whole and opportunity for the poor; and when it shrinks, it does so because the rich are getting poorer and that helps nobody....

RUSH: ... You're exactly right when the wage gap grows, the economy's growing. When it shrinks, the economy is shrinking. You're exactly right. But to say that, "Why, that sounds insensitive! Sounds like you're in favor of the rich getting richer, and everybody knows that that's not fair." That's how it works.

... What do you think has fed more mouths, greed or charity? Really, you think that? What do you think, folks? What do you think? What has fed more mouths? I don't care if you talk this country or the world.

Whatever subset of people you want to talk about, what has fed more people, greed or charity? ... That's right: Greed! Greed has fed more mouths than charity ever could. If you don't like the word "greed," use "self-interest." (interruption) See, Dawn's in there saying, "You shouldn't say 'greed.' It's just gonna make people think you have no heart, and people are gonna think that you're all for suffering. Don't say 'greed.'" Okay, self-interest, then. (interruption) "There, that's better." Okay. Self-interest versus charity. Self-interest will feed more mouths every time it's tried. It's not even close.


Fox Nation readers, asked to choose from several possible categorizations of this, tell us how they feel:




Yup, they find this "inspiring." (And a very merry Christmas to you, too.)

Are you paying attention to the belief system of the voters you crave, Mitt?



IS "I'M NOT A LOBBYIST" THE NEW "WE DON'T TORTURE"?

The New York Times uncovers ample evidence of Newt Gingrich's lobbying activities even as he continues to insist he's not a lobbyist:

Newt Gingrich is adamant that he is not a lobbyist, but rather a visionary who traffics in ideas, not influence. But in the eight years since he started his health care consultancy, he has made millions of dollars while helping companies promote their services and gain access to state and federal officials.

In a variety of instances, documents and interviews show, Mr. Gingrich arranged meetings between executives and officials, and salted his presentations to lawmakers with pitches for his clients, who pay as much as $200,000 a year to belong to his Center for Health Transformation....


Read the article for the details -- though on the question of whether Newt's activities qualify as lobbying, I'm sure you won't need much convincing. And yet Newt and his people deny that the term applies:

Mr. Gingrich and his aides have repeatedly emphasized that he is not a registered lobbyist, an important distinction in their effort to position him as an outsider who will transform the ways of Washington. They say that he has never taken a position for money and that corporations have signed on with him because of the strength of his ideas.

"You have somebody who knows what he believes in, he can effectively communicate it, and he's successful in doing it," said his spokesman, R. C. Hammond. "God bless America."


Most observers probably think that as the details of this lobbying activity come to light, Gingrich will lose favor with the GOP voter base. Of course, most observers thought he'd start losing favor when his ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became widely known. That didn't happen, did it?

I say this all the time, but I'll say it again: Fox/talk radio/tea party right-wingers don't hate lobbying. They don't hate lobbyists. They don't hate the way money has corrupted politics. As I noted at the time of the decision, teabaggers absolutely loved the Citizens United decision -- it had them dancing in the aisles. When wingnuts see government consorting with business, they don't see two corrupt parties, they see one: government. Government is the House of the Rising Sun. It's been the ruin of many a poor, innocent corporation.

The evil goes one way. Lobbyists aren't bad -- government is bad because it gets lobbied. And yet wingnuts are sensitive to a widespread disgust with lobbying in the broader public.

So Gingrich is treating lobbying the way the Bush administration treated torture -- he's not making any real effort to conceal the fact that he's done it, he's just denying that the word applies.

And that should be enough for right-wing voters, because, Randians that they are, they love big business and support the right to lobby, just as they supported torture under Bush. Just don't call either of these things by its proper name.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

MADNESS, MADNESS, I CALL IT MADNESS

Kevin Drum thinks sanity might prevail in the GOP (though he's starting to have doubts):

So let's suppose that Herman Cain pulls out of the presidential race....

The evidence suggests that Cain's supporters will break to Gingrich by about a 2:1 margin, which would put Gingrich ahead of Romney by roughly 34% to 26%. Is that game over for Romney?

Maybe, but not so fast. At that point, the race finally fulfills its manifest destiny: it becomes the crazies vs. the non-crazies. And then the question is who the 15% of undecided voters are going to break for. My guess: about 2:1 for Romney, which puts them in roughly a dead heat again.

What happens then? My belief all along has been that the non-crazies still outnumber the crazies among the Republican rank and file. Not by a lot, maybe, but by enough. And the non-crazies will carry the day for Romney. However, Intrade suggests this is rapidly becoming a bad bet....


I think he's off base here, in several ways. First of all, I don't think non-crazies really do outnumber the crazies in the GOP rank and file -- not anymore. And a large percentage of the non-crazy remnant is already on Romney's side.

Beyond that, there's the fact that a lot of Republicans don't think Gingrich is crazy. I'm not just talking about the ones who watch Fox all the time, and believe a lot of things that you and I know are crazy -- Obama's a socialist, Bill Ayers and ACORN run the country, and so on. I'm talking about the ones who sometimes switch to NBC and ABC and CBS and CNN -- where they've seen Gingrich being taken very, very seriously for years and years.

Now, a lot of things can undermine Gingrich -- his foot-in-mouth tendencies, a few not-quite-far-right positions he's held in the past, his joke of a campaign organization, the desire of the GOP establishment and pragmatic zillionaires to get this over with (via fair or foul means) and hold the damn Romney coronation already. But if Kevin's waiting for sane Republican voters to break late for Romney, he may be waiting in vain.

****

Meanwhile, I think Paul Waldman has hit on an important difference between Romney and Gingrich -- or, at least, between their styles of flip-flopping:

Mitt Romney flip-flops carefully, after a period of calculation in which he determines the most appropriate strategic positioning required to achieve his short- and long-term goals. Newt Gingrich flip-flops impulsively, taking positions that sound good at a particular moment without any apparent regard for the past or the future....

Whenever Romney is asked to explain a flip-flop, he always has an answer, and it's the same one he'll give if he gets asked about it tomorrow or next month. It may not be entirely convincing, but you can tell he thought about it, worked through it with his advisors, and is offering the best explanation they could come up with. The explanations are crafted so that they account for whatever he has said in the past and what he intends to say in the future.

Gingrich, on the other hand, has flip-flops that swing wildly from one extreme to another. His natural rhetorical style is one of extremity, in which good things are "profound," "transformative," and "fundamental," while bad things are not just bad but horrific, the worst things that have ever happened. That means that when he embraces a position, it's the greatest thing ever, and when he rejects a position, it's the worst thing ever, even if what today is the worst thing ever was the greatest thing ever yesterday.... When questioned about a flip-flop, he's clever enough to find a vaguely reasonable-sounding answer -- made more convincing by the fact that he says everything with the same emphatic certainty -- but he'll probably give a completely different answer if you ask him tomorrow.


I think it's that emphatic-certainty thing that explains Gingrich's surge. The core narrative that unites the modern right is this: true right-wingers are always right about everything, and are agents of God as a result, while everyone else is evil and satanic, and everything in politics is a battle between pure good and the Apocalypse. Gingrich embodies that worldview. That worldview isn't based on actual principles -- Ronald Reagan could be a non-churchgoing, divorced, tax-raising, Iran-coddling Russki-befriender, but he proclaimed fealty to conservatism at the top of his lungs, so he was the conservative's conservative. Newt is like that, too. And Romney isn't -- he's pretty good at angrily proclaiming that it's evil to believe something he himself used to believe, but he's not as good as Newt. Newt actually seems to believe his own principles haven't changed. He's convincing. With Romney, you see the calculation, the flop sweat. So no wonder he can't close the sale.
HERMAN CAIN IS NOW MITT ROMNEY'S BEST FRIEND

Word is that Herman Cain is "reassessing" his presidential campaign -- although he insists that means he's just rethinking campaign strategy, not planning to drop out, after his latest sex scandal. (And really, why should this scandal lose him any voters? Who would have stuck with him through all the allegations of sex harassment and assault, only to say, "Oh, he had a consnsual extramarital affair -- now I'm through with him"?)

But the greatest minds in politics all want to know: who benefits from Cain's drop in support? (Or, as ABC's Note cheekily puts it, "Who Goes Up as Cain Goes Down?") But there's no need to speculate, because Public Policy Polling has the answer, and there isn't even a hint of ambiguity:

If Herman Cain really ends up dropping out of the race Gingrich's surge should continue in the next few weeks, unless/until something starts happening to erode his popularity. Why? Because Cain's supporters absolutely love Gingrich. And they absolutely hate Mitt Romney.

Our last national survey found that Gingrich's favorability with Cain voters was 73/21. Meanwhile Romney's was 33/55. That's the same basic trend we've seen in every Republican primary poll we've done in the month of November. On average in 7 polls we've done this month Gingrich's favorability with Cain voters is 69/22. Romney's average is 31/57. In other words Gingrich's net favorability is 73 points better with Cain supporters than Romney's.


So when you look at polls showing a Gingrich surge -- like the new one in South Carolina that has Newt 23 points ahead of Romney, at 38% to Romney's 15% -- you have to assume that Newt would be running away with this thing if not for Herman Cain. So Cain is Romney's best friend right now.

Yeah, yeah, I know -- until Gingrich gets in trouble with GOP voters. Here's the conventional wisdom on that:

If Cain does end up dropping out over reports that he had an affair, it could lead to a greater focus on Gingrich's messy personal life, three marriages and extra-marital affair. Though Romney is unlikely to directly attack Gingrich on this, expect to hear a lot more about Romney's 42-year marraige to emphasize that this isn't an issue Republicans would have to worry about should he be the nominee.

Oh, please. Republican voters like marital fidelity except when they don't. Please recall that in four of the last eight presidential elections, the GOP ran a divorced guy for president (Reagan, Reagan, Dole, and McCain). That's every race that didn't have a Bush at the top of the ticket. And the elder Bush was rumored to be an adulterer, while the younger Bush was an ex-drunk. The base didn't care about any of that. To the base, Bill Clinton was immoral; Republicans aren't immoral. (Or, at least, not very immoral -- that's why Herman Cain is still beating Santorum, Bachmann, Perry, and Huntsman.)

Gingrich's flip-flopping on abortion over the years is more likely to hurt him -- but he does have a real talent for saying, in effect, when confronted with the plain facts of his record, "Who you gonna believe -- me, or your lying eyes?" He should be losing support to Santorum, Bachmann, or Perry on issues significant to Bible-thumpers -- but nobody in the base likes any of those people anymore. So I think he's the favorite to take this thing right now.

OBAMA FRUSTRATES THE VERY PEOPLE HE SEEMS TO WANT TO PLEASE THE MOST

President Obama's approval rating seems to have settled at 43% in -- it's been there, unchanged, all month, according to Gallup -- but it's gone down over the course of this year, and Gallup explains who's particularly disappointed now (and who isn't):

Obama's approval rating has decreased among all six partisan/ideology groups Gallup tracks on a regular basis since January, but it has dropped the most -- 10 percentage points, from 40% to 30% -- among pure independents. These are the roughly 14% of national adults who neither identify with one of the two major parties nor indicate a leaning. Obama's approval rating has declined by nearly as much -- eight points -- among moderate/liberal Republicans, from 29% to 21%.

Obama's approval rating has changed the least in 2011 among the two groups on the far left and right of the U.S. political spectrum. Most liberal Democrats and very few conservative Republicans approved of him in January and this remains the case today. Additionally, conservative Democrats' views also showed little change -- likely because their approval was already at a dampened 70% at the start of the year.





So the premise of Jonathan Chait's recent feature article in New York magazine -- that liberals are angry at Obama because they get angry at all Democratic presidents -- seems to be truer only for the subset of liberals who are professional pundits or bloggers. Ordinary liberals are still Obama fans.

But more interesting to me is the fact that the president has courted the center so hard for three years -- and yet it's centrists who've gotten off the bus. Pundits from the center and right will say it's because he's "playing the class warfare card" lately; I'd argue that it's because pure centrists (and the dying breed of moderate and liberal Republicans) actually want results, and they know they aren't getting those results. Congress gets blamed, yes, but so does the president. The GOP economic-stonewall strategy works with regard to Obama's status among swing voters.

Meanwhile, if Obama really is becoming more of a rhetorical lefty, liberals don't seem to notice. And if he was less of a lefty at the beginning of the year, the right didn't notice that.

But my takeaway is that Obama still has people crushing on him, but not the object of his own deepest crush.
MASTERS OF THEIR UNIVERSE, WHICH IS THE ONLY ONE THAT MATTERS

Digby quotes Joseph Stiglitz:

The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn't seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.

Digby adds:

In reality these Galtian heroes live in a world with a whole lot of other people. If they are too thick to realize that a stable society with a thriving middle class is more necessary to their survival than a quick buck to add to their already depraved level of wealth, then they aren't really masters of the universe after all.

I don't agree with either of these statements. Maybe they're true in the very, very long run, but I can't live on a planet in which North Korea's regime has endured for decades, thriving as its population starves, and believe that the overdogs in our society can't keep bleeding us relatively slowly for as long as we're willing to put up with it. They don't need for us to thrive -- they'll sell to a Chinese or Indian or Brazilian middle class if ours isn't thriving. Or they'll sell to one another. They don't need for us to thrive any more than they've ever needed a thriving middle class in any of the third world countries where they've long put their factories.

Over the weekend, Floyd Norris of The New York Times noted that corporations have more than ever before, and the rest of us have less:

IN the eight decades before the recent recession, there was never a period when as much as 9 percent of American gross domestic product went to companies in the form of after-tax profits. Now the figure is over 10 percent.

During the same period, there never was a quarter when wage and salary income amounted to less than 45 percent of the economy. Now the figure is below 44 percent.

For companies, these are boom times. For workers, the opposite is true....


Go read Norris's numbers and look at the charts. For the people who run America, this economy is working.

Would it work better if the middle class had a good job market and a sense of economic security? Maybe. Wall Street isn't exactly seeing its best year. Bonuses this year are expected to be down a significant amount.

But that just means they have a bit less. They're not suffering:

But there's no need to make an extra request with Santa on behalf of Wall Street employees, especially traders. Even with the drop in bonuses and overall pay, such positions are still expected to bring in what would be a great present for any other worker. A bond trader who is also a managing director is likely to make about $1.8 million in annual compensation....

Compare that to the average earnings for U.S. employees overall, which was about $795 weekly, or $41,340 a year, according to wage data for October released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


They're not suffering enough. They're getting an eight-layer cake instead of a nine-layer cake, and they figure if they can keep us from getting more than a few crumbs, they're winning, even if a careful measurement shows that they're getting less cake.

They just figure they'll never push us so far that we'll go into the streets and burn everything to the ground. They're probably right -- hey, Black Friday was much bigger than all the Occupy encampments put together, right? We're not really going to revolt with this much inequality. Heck, we can probably stand a bit more.

I think they think they can wait this out until they reach the all-Republican, all-Rand, all-Norquist Promised Land, at which point they'll be handed all the cake. And if a revolt against that goes widespread? Well, they're betting it won't, which, in America, is probably a safe bet -- and they're betting that if it does, it will be repressed quite efficiently. That's probably also a safe bet.

Monday, November 28, 2011

There's a lot going on, but I got nothin'. Forget me -- go help Rumproast's StrangeAppar8tus, who's in dire need.
UNION LEADER PUBLISHER INADVERTENTLY HELPS THE CANDIDATE HE REFUSED TO ENDORSE?

Think Progress reports:

In a sign of the growing impact the 99 Percent Movement is having, New Hampshire Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid explained today on Fox News that his paper endorsed Newt Gingrich rather than Mitt Romney for the GOP Presidential nomination because the latter represents the one percent and is politically damaged because of it. "I think -- and this is crazy, but so are we -- that Gingrich is going to have a better time in the general election than Mitt Romney," said McQuaid. "I think it's going to be Obama's 99% versus the 1%, and Romney sort of represents the 1%."

I guess McQuaid really thinks economic inequality is going to be the big issue in the 2012 general election -- rather than (as I'm predicting) whatever phony issue Republicans can trump up between now and then, plus the ongoing issue of holding President Obama accountable for all the things Republicans would never let him do.

But that's the general election. For the GOP primaries, I think the staff should be high-fiving at Romney headquarters, because Gingrich may be getting the Union Leader's official endorsement, but Mitt is getting the real praise. Or, rather, Mitt is getting what the average wingnut voter thinks of as real praise. Wingnuts, like their secular saint Ayn Rand, love the 1%. They root for the 1%. Their resentment of the 1% is limited to anger that the 1% soil themselves by taking aid and comfort from the (ick!) government. (The wingnuts have no idea that stuff they really love, such as fat-cat tax breaks and the corporate-personhood aspect of the Citizens United decision, are precisely the kind of unholy uncoupling of government and business they claim to hate.)

In any case, Gingrich is going to have to deny that he's going to represent the 99% in any way. He certainly can't come off as, God help us, a class warrior -- except on the side of the 1%. Romney already sort of seems like such a class warrior for the rich, but he foolishly keeps trying to pretend he's middle class. He shouldn't. To win the GOP nomination, he should wallow in his wealth. He should flaunt it. McQuaid just did that for him. He did Romney a favor.

****

And if you think what I'm saying is far-fetched, remember who led the GOP race last spring: Donald Trump. Remember that the last GOP nominee owned even more houses than Mitt Romney does. Remember how much good being a "Wal-Mart Republican" did Tim Pawlenty.
DOES GINGRICH BELIEVE IN CANING DRUG USERS AND EXECUTING MIDLEVEL TRAFFICKERS?

Chris Moody of Yahoo News asks Newt Gingrich about drugs and is told that Gingrich admires how the law deals with drugs in Singapore:

In 1996, you introduced a bill that would have given the death penalty to drug smugglers. Do you still stand by that?

I think if you are, for example, the leader of a cartel, sure. Look at the level of violence and the level of violence that they've done to society. You can either be in the Ron Paul tradition and say there's nothing wrong with heroin and cocaine or you can be in the tradition that says, These kind of addictive drugs are terrible, they deprive you of full citizenship and they lead you to a dependency which is antithetical to being an American. If you're serious about the latter view, then we need to think through a strategy that makes it radically less likely that we're going to have drugs in this country.

Places like Singapore have been the most successful at doing that. They've been very draconian. And they have communicated with great intention that they intend to stop drugs from coming into their country.


Moody clearly did his homework, because, in 2009, Gingrich responded favorably to an invocation of Singapore on Bill O'Reilly's show:

O'Reilly: I don't know whether you know this, but I did one of my papers at Harvard on this -- on how to reduce demand for drugs. But the United States has never figured it out. You can't lock up drug users, I mean, that doesn't work. And you can't force them into rehab, you have to want rehab, and even if you want it, it's very hard to get off hard drugs and alcohol. Very hard.

What you can do, though, is sanction people along the way. And this is what they do in Singapore. If you're caught possessing drugs -- and that means drugs in your bloodstream, they have a little hair thing, and they put it in there -- then you have to go to mandatory rehab. And they have centers where you go.

Now, they have no drug problem in Singapore at all, number one, because they hang drug dealers -- they execute them. And number two, the market is very thin, because when they catch you using, you go away with a mandatory rehab. You go to some rehab center, which they have, which the government has built.

The United States does not have the stomach for that. We don't have the stomach for that, Mr. Speaker.

Gingrich: Well, I think it's time we get the stomach for that, Bill. And I think we need a program -- I would dramatically expand testing. I think we have -- and I agree with you. I would try to use rehabilitation, I'd make it mandatory.


I should point out that Singapore doesn't just apply capital punishment to cartel leaders -- it applies the penalty to midlevel couriers:

A Malaysian couple who were due to get married drove into Singapore two years ago with 21.48g of heroin bundles in their car.

The pair were caught, charged and put on trial.

On Friday, the High Court acquitted Mas Swan Adnan, 27, but sent his fiancee Roshamima Roslan, 24, to the gallows for trafficking in 15g or more of the drug....

When Roshamima was put on the stand, she ... gave all kinds of explanations when confronted with objective evidence such as text messages; four times, she changed her story of whom she and Mas Swan were supposed to meet the day they were caught.

Her fiance, on the other hand, had consistently stated in his police statements and in court that he believed the bundles contained Ecstasy pills that he was delivering for a Singaporean man known only as Mickey....


And users? Well, if they're caught, they're imprisoned and given treatment -- but if they reoffend, they're caned:

Tony Tan is one of very few former drug users in Singapore to successfully escape from the cycle of addiction and incarceration and, after serving two prison sentences for drug offences, now works as a counsellor helping to rehabilitate Singaporean drug users....

“Singapore is a bit different. The first time you are caught for drug consumption is one year, the second time is three years and the third time is five minimum with three strokes of the cane....”


I hardly think being pro-caning for habitual drug users would hurt Gingrich in the Republican primaries. It might just put him over the top. Still, it would be an interesting position to take into the general election. And I wonder: does Gingrich think any of these punishments should have been meted out to, oh, say, the last Republican president of the United States, or Gingrich's fellow Republican president Gary Johnson, an admitted former user of a number of recreational drugs?


NEWT: STILL NOT MEAN ENOUGH?

I was sure that Newt Gingrich doomed his longshot bid to be the GOP presidential nominee when he announced a less-than-flint-hearted stance on immigration. But I see (via Steve Benen) that Gingrich's apparent compassion is, um, nuanced:

"I am not for amnesty for anyone. I am not for a path to citizenship for anybody who got here illegally," Gingrich told the crowd of roughly 750 people, many of whom were forced to stand in the hallway. "But I am for a path to legality for those people whose ties are so deeply into America that it would truly be tragic to try and rip their family apart." [...]

Gingrich wants to model his immigration plan for illegals already in the country on the WWII model of the Selective Service System program, which allowed local communities to decide who would be drafted for war. He noted that the program "really tried to take general policy and give it a human face."

"I think the vast majority [of illegal immigrants] will go home and should go home and then should reapply. I do not think anybody should be eligible for citizenship," the former speaker said to loud applause in Southwest Florida with his wife, Callista, sitting in the front row of the audience. "I am suggesting a certification of legality with no right to vote and no right to become an American citizen unless they go home and apply through the regular procedures back home and get in line behind everybody else who has obeyed the law and stayed back there."


That hits a lot of right-wing pleasure centers. No citizenship, ever, unless you leave the country (even though you may have lived here for decades and your kids may know no other home) and then come crawling back, at the back of the line. A stern, tough-love paternalism toward those who beg for mercy. Even the invocation of World War II draft boards will set off nostalgia for a bygone Golden Age (never mind the fact that even the rapidly aging GOP base mostly came along too late to avoid being called up by those draft boards). This will play well in upcoming stump speeches, and in debates, when Gingrich is challenged on this issue.

But I think the "tragic"/"rip their family apart" aspect of Gingrich's position is still going to come off as too compassionate for the voter base he's trying to reach. He's an old-school, late-twentieth-century Republican, and I think he's still stuck in a 1980s/1990s mindset. Consider his original debate statement on this subject:

"The party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century?" he said.

He wants religious right votes, so he's harking back to religious right language -- but it's obsolete religious right language. Back in the '80s and '90s, the leaders of the religious right tried to proclaim themselves the champions of families -- all families, by implication. I don't hear much of that kind of talk anymore. There are families (those headed by unwed or gay parents, for instance, or those headed by Muslims) that the religious right doesn't want to defend. Now, when religious right leaders talk, they talk about a war on Christians -- or, at times, the Judeo-Christian tradition. Either way, the message has changed. It's no longer "All good people are under attack," it's "We are under attack" -- the we being Christians and (sometimes) Jews.

So Gingrich should drop the "family" talk if he knows what's good for him. In fact, he'd be better off just describing this policy the way it would actually work out if implemented: undocumented immigrants would come before local authorities, and local authorities would let them stay if local business interests needed them -- end of story, no compassion involved. I think base voters might actually prefer that narrative to the compassion fairy tale Newt's telling.


NEWS YOU CAN'T USE

This is why they pay Mark Halperin the big bucks:




See? Without Mark, you never would have had that vitally important bit of knowledge, in your quest to be a well-informed citizen of the Republic. Mark knows that's a front-page story. Mark knows you want to read the entire Roemer press release ("Governor Roemer's Campaign Manager, Carlos Sierra, clarified that Roemer's statement is not meant to imply any decision on Senator Lieberman’s part as to whether he would run for Vice President, only that Governor Roemer thinks highly of the Senator and believes he would be the best person for the job"). That's why Mark's on TV and you're not.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

THE UNION LEADER TRIES TO MAKE MISCHIEF, AS USUAL

Hi, I'm back -- thanks, Kathy, Libby, Crank, and Yellow Dog, for keeping the discussion flowing while I was gone.

On Tuesday I saw that, during the Republican debate, Newt Gingrich expressed a less-than-extreme position on immigration. I assumed that would be the end of his presidential run (and it still may be preciselythat), which saddened me because the Mitt Romney coronation all the smart insiders are counting on will just postpone the day when we fully comprehend, to our horror, that we sat by and did nothing as one of our major political parties went stark staring mad, and threatened to destroy the country with its madness.

But now I see that the Union Leader in New Hampshire has endorsed Newt Gingrich for president. I'm not sure how seriously to take this, given the fact that the Union Leader's endorsee often loses the GOP nomination:

The conservative Union Leader editorial page has a history of passing over the front-runner in its selections. The paper endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1976 and 1980, Deleware Gov. Pete DuPont in 1988, Reagan aide Pat Buchanan in 1992 and 1996, businessman Steve Forbes in 2000, and Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008.

The paper didn't even endorse incumbent Richard Nixon in 1972, preferring Senator John Ashbrook of Ohio, a movement conservative. (In '68 the paper endorsed both Nixon and Reagan, in no particular order, for the GOP ticket.)

Decades ago, the paper was right-wing and often contrarian -- a favorite word for journalists outside the state to use was "flinty" -- under William and Nackey Loeb, the husband and wife who ran the paper until the current publisher, Joseph McQuaid, took over. (McQuaid became editor in chief in 1982 and publisher in 1999; he wrote the editorial endorsing Gingrich.) McQuaid, as portrayed in a 1999 Washington Post article, is rather full of himself:

Joseph McQuaid, the curmudgeonly publisher of the Manchester Union Leader, doesn't think much of the current crop of GOP presidential candidates, as he made clear in his office Wednesday afternoon.

George W. Bush? "Empty suit," he barks. John McCain? "The most liberal guy on the Republican side." Gary Bauer? "He'd make a nice secretary of education if he'd abolish the place."

And Steve Forbes? "About as inspiring as my little Groucho here," McQuaid says, slapping the Groucho Marx figurine on his desk and launching a dead-on imitation of the cigar-chomping one.

Twenty-four hours later, though, McQuaid decided the time had come for the famously conservative Union Leader to make its endorsement in the Republican primary. Soon after meeting with Forbes, he wrote an editorial for today's paper backing the millionaire publisher, even while allowing that Forbes is something of a "geek."

Asked for an explanation, McQuaid says simply: "He's the best of the lot."

But the paper has a history of being full of itself:

The Loebs were famous for excoriating their enemies in front-page editorials, assailing Nelson Rockefeller as a "wife swapper," calling Gerald Ford "Jerry the Jerk" and deriding future president George Bush as a "wimp."

This endorsement would seem to help Gingrich only about as much as a Union Leader endorsement helped Pat Buchanan or Steve Forbes (or, for that matter, John Ashbrook) in the past. But please note that the paper did endorse Goldwater in '64 and Reagan in '80. When the party's voters aren't in the mood to go Establishment -- when, in other words, they're in the mood to go radical -- the Union Leader's choice can be the voters' choice as well. Maybe that's the scenario we're looking at this year.

(And let me add that I'm jealous of hardcore Republicans for this -- every so often they really do get to go to the polls and vote for someone who really believes what they believe on the hot-button issues. Who's fallen into that category for Democrats in the past 60 years -- McGovern? One guy? At most? Republicans get this all the time. That's my main criticism of Jonathan Chait's much-discussed New York magazine article about Democratic voters and our complaints concerning Democratic presidents. Republican presidents -- even the ones who don't seem right-wing enough for the Union Leader when they're running -- give Republican voters just what they want: Tax cuts. Deregulation. Crusading wars against demonized evildoers. Bible-thumping. Loosened gun laws. Stricter abortion laws. Nasty partisan attacks on Democrats, liberals, the media, and the academy. What do Democratic voters want? Less economic inequality. Fewer wars. Real health care reform. A curtailment of the nastiest excesses of capitalism. Good jobs at good wages. How often do we get any of that from our modern presidents? So, why are we wrong to complain?)
When For-Profit Schools Get Public Money

The public gets screwed. Every. Time. The latest in an infinite line of examples is the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

John Cheves at the Herald:

Kentucky has paid $97 million since 1999 through its state scholarships to privately owned, for-profit colleges, including several under investigation for alleged consumer fraud or other possible wrongdoing, according to a Lexington Herald-Leader review of public records.

Some states, such as Ohio, have moved to reduce for-profit colleges' access to state educational aid, citing a need to put students at state colleges first in a time of repeated budget cuts.

Kentucky has not. The state gives nearly 8 percent of need-based student aid to for-profit colleges, which is twice the national average, according to a survey by the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs. Only four states give a bigger portion of need-based aid to the industry, the association found.

Among Kentucky's for-profit schools to collect state aid was Decker College in Louisville, which went bankrupt in 2005 amid allegations of fraud and inadequate accreditation, leaving hundreds of students with loan debt and no chance to obtain degrees. Another, the Sullivan University System, saw a nearly 1,000 percent increase in its assets from 1998 to 2009, accumulating $76 million, according to court records.

A few Democratic lawmakers want to regulate this taxpayer subsidy in the upcoming session of the General Assembly. I don't know how much money the for-profit "college" industry invests in our lege, but my guess is that it's enough to at least kill any such bill, and might be enough to force a bill that actually increases the subsidy.

Some for-profit colleges in Kentucky charge $30,000 a year or more for two-year vocational degrees related to clerical jobs in offices or cooking in restaurants. Data suggest that many of the students struggle later. Nationally, students at for-profit schools represent 26 percent of federal student loan borrowers and 43 percent of subsequent loan defaults, according to federal data.

Funny how the most egregious examples of government "waste" always involve money given to private companies.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Geez, how thin-skinned can you get? I'd think Gov. Sam Brownback's staff would have better things to do than trolling Twitter looking for disparaging comments about their boss. Well, okay, actually I can understand them monitoring the word on the street, uh, tweet. But reporting a high school student to the principal because she said this? Really?

Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot

The principal is insisting that high school student Emma Sullivan, who authored the tweet, write letters of apology to pretty much everyone in the western world.

Here's the thing. Aside from that pesky First Amendment, which protects political speech, I find it extremely unlikely that this young woman actually said, "You suck," to Brownback's face. Had she done so, there would have been great uproar at the time. Twitter, with its 140-character limit, lends itself to shorthand. She didn't have space to elaborate on the political points she made in opposition to Brownback's policies, so she boiled them down to "told him he sucked".

Here's the other thing. Where were Brownback's staffers when Rush Limbaugh referred to our African-American First Lady as "uppity", a term fraught with racist and sexist history? Did they miss that one in their rush (ha) to find high school students saying rude things online about the governor?

See, I don't really think it's the responsibility of Brownback's staffers to call out Limbaugh (although the silence from Republican leaders is just embarrassing), but they don't have any business making a big deal out of a tweet sent by someone who doesn't have a nationally syndicated radio show either.

Yeah, the language was rude. But Republicans getting their panties in a bunch about it is pretty damn hypocritical when their national spokesperson spews racism, sexism and homophobia on a daily basis to an audience of millions.

****

Of course, if Republican leaders did dare to speak out about Limbaugh, they also would find themselves in the principal's office, forced to apologize for exercising their First Amendment rights.

via Think Progress

The Franistan Technique

When I was a kid, my very un-mechanical father used to pretend to diagnose car problems by saying with great authority: "It needs the franistan adjusted."

It was years before I realized that there really isn't any such thing as a franistan. In a car engine or anywhere else.

But I was reminded of how easy it can be to fool someone with totally made-up shit if you declare it authoritatively enough by this latest example from Faux:

Heather at Crooks and Liars:

Here's more from Media Matters on Fox's ridiculous attacks on Kagan -- Fox Cites Non-Existent Part Of The Constitution To Hype Argument For Kagan Recusal:

For the second day in a row, Fox's "straight news" division has hyped the claim that U.S Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan should recuse herself from the case involving the constitutionality of a provision of the Affordable Care Act. Fox pointed to an email Kagan sent to then-Justice Department adviser Laurence Tribe on the day the House of Representatives passed the Affordable Care Act in which Kagan said, "I hear they have the votes, Larry!! Simply amazing."

Legal ethicists have thrown cold water on the argument that Kagan needs to recuse herself over that email. But Fox seems to have an argument that the legal ethicists haven't thought of: Fox national correspondent Steve Centanni said Kagan's recusal may be required by "Article 28 of the Constitution." Fox's graphics department provided the relevant quote from the "U.S. Constitution, Article 28, Sec. 144":

Three glaring problems with this argument: The Constitution has no Article 28, has no Section 144, and does not contain the language quoted.

The Constitution actually contains seven articles, none of which have more than 10 sections. It also has 27 amendments, none of which contain anywhere near 144 sections.

The language Fox quoted from actually comes from a statute passed by Congress, Title 28 of the U.S. Code, Section 455. But that's the very statute legal ethicists have analyzed in finding that Kagan does not need to recuse herself because of the email.

My father took advantage of the fact that preschoolers don't know much about cars to create a family joke. He knew there was no such thing as a franistan.

And Faux knows there is no article 28 in the Constitution. They're eager to take advantage of the fact that their reality-starved viewers don't know much about the Constitution. They don't know much that is factual, that is - just the lies Faux spins for them.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Farhenheit 99.9

Dr. Krugman gets his rant on today, reminding us it's the super-elite 0.1 percent who suck up the big gains at the rigged casino that now passes for honest captialism. But they do little to deserve it.
For who are the 0.1 percent? Very few of them are Steve Jobs-type innovators; most of them are corporate bigwigs and financial wheeler-dealers. One recent analysis found that 43 percent of the super-elite are executives at nonfinancial companies, 18 percent are in finance and another 12 percent are lawyers or in real estate. And these are not, to put it mildly, professions in which there is a clear relationship between someone’s income and his economic contribution. [...]

Meanwhile, the economic crisis showed that much of the apparent value created by modern finance was a mirage. As the Bank of England’s director for financial stability recently put it, seemingly high returns before the crisis simply reflected increased risk-taking — risk that was mostly borne not by the wheeler-dealers themselves but either by na├»ve investors or by taxpayers, who ended up holding the bag when it all went wrong. And as he waspishly noted, “If risk-making were a value-adding activity, Russian roulette players would contribute disproportionately to global welfare.”
These super-elite wealth holders largely don't create value for the US economy or for civil society. They're skimmers. Middle men who would be downsized in a heartbeat for ineffective administration, if their compensation would only be determined by their performance.

They are playing Russian roulette with the international finance system. Except in their case, they're pointing the guns at our heads, not their own.
When they threaten to kill you, you know you're winning

Brad Friedman

Several opponents of WI's Gov. Scott Walker have been receiving middle-of-the-night death threats, as they've been circulating petitions to gather signatures in an effort to recall the state's controversial anti-union Republican Governor.

According to WISC-TV/Channel 3000 in Madison...

The threats involved phone calls from an area code in Minnesota. The calls came overnight after Walker's opponents began the recall, said Madison resident Tom Peer, who said he received a call at 2 a.m. on Thursday.

"They said, 'If you don't stop circulating recall petitions, we will kill you,'" said Peer.

A similar call came to Heather DuBois Bourenane, of Sun Prairie. The United Wisconsin recall worker jumped out of bed when her phone rang around 4 a.m. on Thursday.

"He said I had attracted the attention of some very bad people, and my life and the lives of my family were in danger," Bourenane said.

She called Sun Prairie police, who confirmed investigators were working on the case.

But you have to wonder: why the overreaction? Are these lone crazies taking out their inability to function in the reality-based world on a few convenient targets? Is Walker so bugfuck insane he's actually encouraging his minions to do this? Have the Koch Brothers finally made the move from just killing the middle class economically to killing them literally?
A Republican Charlie Brown Thanksgiving - Updated

Thank you for your entries, but Kimmel's Charlie Brown Thanksgiving mash-up wins the internets today.



[Hat tip Dependable Renegade]

Update: Late entry forces the judges to reconsider. We now declare a tie. Legos Occupy News Bins. [Hat tip SoBeale.]

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Because it's a tradition


There's a little known tradition among old time bloggers. When you go away for Thanksgiving, you hand the keys over to a random stranger on the internets. OK. I made that up. Steve and I go way back and maybe some of you know me too.

My personal Thanksgiving tradition is to focus on what I'm thankful for. So I don't blog about politics today. Can't remember the last time I was thankful for what passes as political discourse. But one thing I am thankful for is this segment never gets old for me. I watch it every year. I know the dialogue by heart, yet I still laugh at the punch line every time.


Thanks to Atrios for finding the uncut version.
The Wampanoag Side of the Stoy

This year, tell a better story.

From Indian Country Today:

Turner said what most people do not know about the first Thanksgiving is that the Wampanoag and Pilgrims did not sit down for a big turkey dinner and it was not an event that the Wampanoag knew about or were invited to in advance. In September/October 1621, the Pilgrims had just harvested their first crops, and they had a good yield. They “sent four men on fowling,” which comes from the one paragraph account by Pilgrim Edward Winslow, one of only two historical sources of this famous harvest feast. Winslow also stated, “we exercised our arms.” “Most historians believe what happened was Massasoit got word that there was a tremendous amount of gun fire coming from the Pilgrim village,” Turner said. “So he thought they were being attacked and he was going to bear aid.”

When the Wampanoag showed up, they were invited to join the Pilgrims in their feast, but there was not enough food to feed the chief and his 90 warriors. “He [Massasoit] sends his men out, and they bring back five deer, which they present to the chief of the English town [William Bradford]. So, there is this whole ceremonial gift-giving, as well. When you give it as a gift, it is more than just food,” said Kathleen Wall, a Colonial Foodways Culinarian at Plimoth Plantation.

The harvest feast lasted for three days. What did they eat? Venison, of course, and Wall said, “Not just a lovely roasted joint of venison, but all the parts of the deer were on the table in who knows how many sorts of ways.” Was there turkey? “Fowl” is mentioned in Winslow’s account, which puts turkey on Wall’s list of possibilities. She also said there probably would have been a variety of seafood and water fowl along with maize bread, pumpkin and other squashes. “It was nothing at all like a modern Thanksgiving,” she said.

While today Thanksgiving is one of our nation’s favorite holidays, it has a far different meaning for many Wampanoag, who now number between 4,000 and 5,000. Turner said, “For the most part, Thanksgiving itself is a day of mourning for Native people, not just Wampanoag people.”

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Give Thanks to the Ones Who Have Earned It

I am sick and fucking tired of people publicly "thanking" a non-existent invisible sky wizard for positive events brought about by the hard work and intelligence of actual, living, adult human beings.

This Thanksgiving, let's try to direct our thanks to those who are actually responsible.

Thankful for the food in front of you? Thank the farmers who grew and raised it, the taxpayers who subsidize those farmers, the illegal immigrants who slave - literally - to harvest it, the truck drivers who transport it, the grocers who sell it, and the people at the table who bought it, prepared it, cooked it and served it.

Thankful for your health and that of your family and friends? Thank the doctors, nurses and technicians who keep you healthy. Thank modern medical science, which is brought to us by poorly-paid researchers at public universities supported by tax dollars paid primarily by the 99 percent, and hardly at all by millionaires and billionaires.

Thankful for your job? Thank the taxpayers who fund the economic stimulus of government spending that supports our economy and is the only thing that actually does, in reality, create jobs.

Thankful for the technology that makes your life easier and all the cool toys it provides, from smartphones to the cloud to live streaming? Thank government agency DARPA, which really did invent the Internet (with support from congressman Al Gore).

Thankful for your home? Thank the skilled and probably unionized workers who built it, and the thousands of public employees - also probably unionized - who provide water and electricity to your home, maintain the roads around your home, and protect your home from fire, floods and criminals.

Thankful for your children? Thank the teachers and principals and janitors who toil thanklessly in the public school system to produce worthy citizens.

Thankful for your elderly parents? Thank Social Security and Medicare, and the many public employees providing services to the aged, from Meals on Wheels to nursing home inspections.

Thankful for the end of the Iraq war and the return of our troops? Thank President Barack Obama.

Thankful to live in the Greatest Nation in the History of the World? Thank the protesters, the rebels, the nonconformists, the communists, the pacifists, the socialists, the Black Panthers, the feminists, the gays, the atheists and every other despised activist who fought to fix what was wrong with this country, and who still fight every day.

There is no invisible sky wizard dropping presents on your head like so much birdshit. Everything you have, everything you've done, is the result of action by actual human beings, including yourself.

MICHELLE BACHMANN KVETCHES THAT “WE’RE NOW IN FOUR WARS!” OH REALLY, MICHELLE?

If you have the stamina to sit through an over-twelve-minutes-long CNN clip of an interview with Michele Bachmann, it becomes clear that

A) Michelle Bachmann thinks we’re in the midst of four wars

B) Ms. Bachmann’s definition of a war is a thousand feet over the top of loosey-goosey, and that

C) She implicitly places the blame for all four “wars” on President Obama.

So let’s clear up a few matters.

First of all, the both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were begun under the administration of a Republican named George W. Bush, gently, umm, prodded by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

Iraq is our biggest, longest, most expensive war ever, and we invaded on a pretext having to do with non-existent “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” That war has sapped the United States of lives and treasure that instead might have gone into our economy, produced jobs, and gone a long way toward keeping us out of the financial mess we’re in now. (Skipping the Bush tax cuts might have helped, too.)

President Obama has taken major steps to get us the hell out of there, but to quote former secretary of state Colin Powell, who may have been quoting others, the pottery barn rule applies: “You break it, you buy it.” Or to unforgivably scramble metaphors here (Sorry, but I can’t resist), Bush stepped in it and Obama is in the process of scraping it off the bottom of America’s shoe.

So please, Michele Bachmann, stop ragging on Obama for Iraq.

Afghanistan is no slouch when it comes to loss of treasure and lives either. Here, too, it was Bush who first stepped in it, although in this case I would agree he had justification stemming from 9/11. Nevertheless, we’ve been there for ten years and President Obama has been in the White House for not even a full four years. So Michelle, do the math. Oh nevermind, I'll do it for you: ten minus four equals George Bush.

Libya? First of all Michele, read the newspapers. Mummar Gaddaffi is dead. The war is over. Gadaffi’s son, Saif al-Islam, is is captured and facing the death penalty. During the insurrection we never had a single American boot on the ground nor did we lose a single American life.

Neverthess, in a matter of weeks, the dictator who brought down PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, got brought down himself. I’d count our support of the Libyan revolution, – support which is to war as distance learning by computer is to attending classes at Harvard University – a feather in President Obama’s cap. A Gadaffi Duck feather, but a feather all the same.

Now we’ve sent four – count ‘em on your fingers, four! – military people over to assist in the rebuilding of the U.S. embassy in Libya. I give you this information straight from the Obama-hating bowels of Fox News:

Two of the military personnel are explosive-ordnance experts who will be used to disable any explosives traps left in the embassy. The other two are "general security," according to Kirby.

Uganda? Yes, we have troops in Uganda. A whole humongous one hundred special forces on a joint mission to capture the brutal dictator and “prophet” who was head of “The Lord’s Resistance Army,” which has been brutally killing and maiming civilians for a quarter of a century.

One hundred troops is hardly a war. It’s fewer armed soldiers than you’ll find similarly-armed cops standing on a street corner at any Occupy Wall Street rally in New York. I mean by your own standards, Michele, you ought to be roundly condemning all the police departments from Davis, California to New York City who are harassing the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators by engaging in "war' with them.

And come to think of it, why is Ms. Bachmann is so infuriated by the Special Forces in Uganda when they’re hunting down a man who is stealing thunder from her own brand? I mean, is he or is he not crowding Michele's turf when he declares that he is a close personal pal of God?

Performance of Supercommittee Dems Nothing to Celebrate

We're not going to be able to pressure Congressional Democrats to stand firm on budget cuts as long as supposed liberal voices ignore the fact that supercommittee Democrats came within a hair of giving away the entire store.

George Zornick at The Nation:

This whole super-committee charade was never about deficit reduction for Republicans, but protecting low taxes, particularly for the very wealthy—that became abundantly clear when their final offer involved a permanent extension of the budget-busting Bush tax cuts.

To their credit, Democrats would not assent to any such extension. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Senator John Kerry, a member of the super-committee, explained that the “most significant block to our doing something right now, tomorrow, is their insistence, insistence, insistence on the Grover Norquist pledge and extending the Bush tax cuts.” The Democrats offered up some awful deals during the course of super-committee negotiations, but they deserve some credit for not budging on taxes.

The Bush tax cuts, you may recall, will expire at the end of 2012. So the central battle that divided the super-committee has yet to be resolved. While Democrats showed gumption in not using the super-committee to extend the Bush cuts, nor lock in a new tax policy that’s just as bad, they’re going to need to stand just as firm next year.

That’s because the Democrats can’t just stand pat, and let the tax cuts expire automatically—that would be easy. But under that scenario, all the Bush tax cuts would expire, including those on the middle class, and during a recession—not to mention on the brink of a presidential election—Democrats will simply not allow that to happen.

Some kind of bill addressing the Bush tax cuts will have to be passed by the end of next year, and Republicans will definitely try to force the issue before the November elections. It wasn’t done last December, when the Bush rates were first set to expire, and it didn’t happen with the super-committee, but sooner or later, Congress will have to either kill the Bush rates or make them permanent—and thus choose between two radically different versions of a federal government. The super-committee has now become nothing but a footnote in that ongoing battle.

No. The Dems were perfectly willing - just as they were last year - to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, no matter that those cuts would explode the deficit to the point that it might actually matter.

They were also not just willing but eager to gut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, the ACA, public health, public housing, public education, and everything else not dedicated to killing innocent brown people.

All the dems wanted in return for eliminating the New Deal, the Great Society and the last vestiges of civilization in this country - not to mention committing political suicide as a party - was a bone. A teeny, tiny tax bone. Like reducing the tax write-off for personal helicopters from 100 percent to 90 percent.

The repug refusal to countenance even a deal that would create the lords-and-serfs economy they pine for, make the plutocracy permanent and keep them in power for eternity is what saved us - not any alleged courage on the part of Kerry and company.

Yes, now it's a street fight, and the dirtiest fighters will win. Everybody who thinks that's the Democrats, stand on your head.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where Repug Stupidity Meets Repug Arrogance and Corruption in Kentucky

Oh, the entertainment we denied ourselves by rejecting Ritchie Farmer as our new Lieutenant Governor.

From the Courier:

State Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer hired his girlfriend as a “special assistant” in his department during the waning days of the 2011 gubernatorial campaign, in which he was a candidate for lieutenant governor.

According to the state Personnel Cabinet, Stephanie L. Sandmann was hired as a non-merit employee in the Department of Agriculture, to start work on Oct. 31, and is earning $5,000 a month, equal to $60,000 a year.

Department spokesman Bill Clary said that Farmer, 42, who is going through a divorce, declined to be interviewed on the matter.

Sandmann didn’t return a phone call Thursday afternoon to Farmer’s administrative offices.

But Senate President David Williams, Farmer’s running mate, confirmed Thursday that Sandmann is Farmer’s girlfriend and said he had no idea Farmer had put her on the state’s payroll eight days before the Nov. 8 election. He said he met her while on the campaign trail with Farmer.

“She told me she worked for a gynecologist,” said Williams, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor.

According to her state personnel file, the 38-year-old Sandmann didn’t apply for a specific job but said she was willing to work only in Frankfort.

Non-merit employees aren’t required to pass civil-service tests and can be hired or fired at the discretion of elected officials and their top aides.

The non-merit ranks are long-standing favorite places for elected officials to stash friends, idiot nephews and campaign contributors, although most such appointments are made years, rather than days, before the end of one's term.

Ritchie Farmer is known to be dimwitted, but surely even he knew he was leaving office. Which suggests that there may be something to the rumor that the new repug Ag Commish is going to hire Ritchie as a special assistant himself.

State Rep. Jamie Comer of Tompkinsville was elected agriculture commissioner last week and will take over in January for Farmer, who couldn’t seek a third term because of constitutional limits. Asked if Sandmann would be retained in his administration, Comer said only that his office will handle hiring differently.

“Obviously, I’m not commissioner yet and won’t be until January,” he said. “But I can assure you that changes will be made, and hiring of qualified personnel will be my No. 1 priority.”

Clary said he didn’t know what Sandmann’s duties are in the department and had never met her.

“I don’t even know who you are talking about,” he said when first contacted. “We have 260-something employees. I don’t know them all.”

In a second conversation, however, he confirmed that Sandmann was on the payroll, reiterated that he didn’t know what her duties are and added, “The department doesn’t have anything to say about this.”

When asked if he had seen her at work, Clary said, “I don’t work in the same building. … You have exhausted my knowledge of this subject.”

Farmer’s estranged wife, Rebecca Ann, filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court on April 5 to dissolve the couple’s 13-year marriage. The case is scheduled for trial Tuesday.

That case, which promises to be nasty if not explosive, was postponed from its original pre-election date to two days before Thanksgiving, and has now been postponed again until two days before New Year's.

Sandman is also seeking a divorce.

According to records in Jefferson Circuit Court, she filed for divorce against her husband, Stephen Sandmann, in August. An order finalizing that divorce was entered Oct. 19 but is being challenged.

In the last days of the campaign, Farmer and Sandmann were often seen on the campaign trail together, including election night at the Republican Party celebration at the Marriott Griffin Gate Hotel in Lexington.

When asked if Sandmann was on the clock while attending campaign events around the state, Clary said: “I don’t have anything to say on this subject.”

Sandmann’s application for the Agriculture Department position said her last job was as a receptionist at a Louisville doctor’s office that provides gynecologic and obstetric care.

Before that, she worked as a title clerk for a title insurance company, as a real estate agent, a mortgage processor and a cellular phone saleswoman, according to the application.

Farmer, a former University of Kentucky basketball star and a high school legend in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, burst onto Kentucky’s political scene in 2003 with his first campaign for agriculture commissioner. He was re-elected in 2007 and was the Republicans’ leading vote getter that year.

But don't worry about us getting bored. Among the seven state elected officials is always at least one determined to embarass the Commonwealth. Taking bets now on which one it will be and how soon the idiocy will hit the papers.

Monday, November 21, 2011

SEE YOU SUNDAY

That's all I've got for now. Family's coming in -- got to get ready for that. Other people will be here, however, so drop by. Happy hols....
EARLY DETECTION IS THE KEY TO FIGHTING CANCER

I haven't even had a chance to make my way through David Frum's New York magazine essay "When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?," and I absolutely don't want to discourage Frum when he's one of the few insiders anywhere on the political spectrum -- right, center, or left -- who's able to grasp the Republican Party's descent into madness, but I just want to point out a fact glitch in one of his key paragraphs. I've highlighted the misleading passage.

It was not so long ago that Texas governor Bush denounced attempts to cut the earned-income tax credit as "balancing the budget on the backs of the poor." By 2011, Republican commentators were noisily complaining that the poorer half of society are "lucky duckies" because the EITC offsets their federal tax obligations -- or because the recession had left them with such meager incomes that they had no tax to pay in the first place. In 2000, candidate Bush routinely invoked "churches, synagogues, and mosques." By 2010, prominent Republicans were denouncing the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan as an outrageous insult. In 2003, President Bush and a Republican majority in Congress enacted a new ­prescription-drug program in Medicare. By 2011, all but four Republicans in the House and five in the Senate were voting to withdraw the Medicare guarantee from everybody under age 55. Today, the Fed's pushing down interest rates in hopes of igniting economic growth is close to treason, according to Governor Rick Perry, coyly seconded by TheWall Street Journal. In 2000, the same policy qualified Alan Greenspan as the "greatest central banker in the history of the world," according to Perry's mentor, Senator Phil Gramm. Today, health reform that combines regulation of private insurance, individual mandates, and subsidies for those who need them is considered unconstitutional and an open invitation to "death panels." A dozen years ago, a very similar reform was the Senate Republican alternative to Hillarycare. Today, stimulative fiscal policy that includes tax cuts for almost every American is "socialism." In 2001, stimulative fiscal policy that included tax cuts for rather fewer Americans was an economic -recovery program.

I know that Frum is saying that the GOP was a lot less crazy a decade or so ago. But actually, the phrase "lucky duckies" comes from a Wall Street Journal editorial published in 2002.

This brain tumor may have metastasized quite a bit lately, but it's not new. It might not have caused so much irrational behavior if it had been detected and treated early.
GUESS WHO'S STILL THE #1 CANDIDATE AMONG YOUNGER REPUBLICANS: HERMAN CAIN

The headline on this new Gallup poll of the GOP race is that Gingrich is now neck-and-neck with Romney -- but what I find fascinating is the fact if voting were limited to Republicans and Republican-leaners under 50, Herman Cain would be leading the race. Still!


Cain's tied for first among 18-29-year-olds (with Ron Paul, naturally; Mitt is in third place and Newt is in single digits in that age group). Among 30-49-year-olds, Cain's in the lead outright. It's only when you get to older groups that Cain's support declines, and then, among 65-and-overs, it drops off a cliff.

I don't know what's bothering the oldsters. The failure to grasp basic facts? The quest for non-marital sex? The quest for non-consensual sex? For interracial sex? I wondered whether oldsters in general were less inclined to support Cain all along, which might suggest they're struggling with his blackness, but they seemed fairly supportive back in October, according to this October 14 Gallup poll.

What's amazing to me is the persistence of support among under-50s. They really are the Fox/talk-radio Kool-Aid drinkers; if Charles Manson were being attacked by liberals and defended by Limbaugh and Hannity, they'd be shaving their heads in solidarity.
I'LL PUT GLASS IN YOUR DINNER AND SPIKES ON YOUR SEAT

Look, I'm not going to rise to the bait by responding seriously to the new Wall Street Journal op-ed by Fox-News-Democrat pollsters Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen, in which they assert that President Obama should step aside and let Hillary Clinton run in his place. They don't mean a word they say; she's not going to run, they know it, and they're fully aware of the fact that they and their friends would eviscerate her if she did. The point of the op-ed isn't to express an opinion -- it's to trip Obama and the Democrats up. It's carefully timed to rule the morning political chatter so it can do that. It's not a contribution to the national dialogue; it's a leg extended in the aisle as the bullied kid gets up to walk to the front of the classroom.

There are kids in every school who take pleasure in occasionally harassing the less favored, but even those kids don't necessarily make harassment their life's work. Modern Republicans (and their nominally non-Republican fellow-travelers) are full-time bullies -- it's all they do. The modern Republican Party is a 24/7 opposition research/dirty tricks/character assassination operation that then takes advantage of its success at these endeavors to elect candidates -- who then pretend they're interested in governing, while they continue the OR, the tricks, and the character smears.

I'm not even sure these days that Republicans are interested in governing on their own terms -- that is, I'm not sure they really believe, in a heartfelt way, that their budget cuts and tax cuts and climate skepticism and gay bashing and pro-gun absolutism and the rest are the best course on which to sheer the ship of state. They just know it frustrates us, and that's all that matters. They pass this stuff or fail to pass it -- I'm not sure they care, except that getting it passed makes us more miserable. And I know that pleasing their rich donors is vitally important to them, but they've gravitated toward financial backers -- the Kochs, the people Karl Rove's operation gathers together -- who also just want to crush the enemy, and who apparently can longer tell anymore where their self-interest ends and bullying begins.

Part of the reason the GOP can't resign itself to Romney, I think, is is that even the big-money boys pump their fists when they watch Fox, and so they can't quite bring themselves to crush the candidates to his right. (If they really want Cain to go away, for instance, or Gingrich, why aren't they putting pressure on Fox and talk radio to stop rallying around them?) The bullying has become an end in itself, even for them.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

DR. PANGLOSS READS GOVERNMENT STATISTICS

In the opinion section of the Sunday New York Times, Edward Glaeser, a Harvard economics professor, tells us that Americans in the future probably won't retire from the work force, well, ever -- but heck, that's a good thing! One reason? All that plucky geriatic entrepreneurialism:

America desperately needs more entrepreneurship, and by at least one measure, the elderly are often the most entrepreneurial Americans. Self-employment rises significantly with age. West Palm Beach, a retiree haven, has the highest self-employment rate of any metropolitan area in the nation; other areas around the country that attract older Americans boast similar self-employment patterns. Self-employment is particularly natural for older Americans, because it provides so much more control over working hours and conditions. While self-employment is surely an imperfect measure of entrepreneurship, it correlates with other indices of entrepreneurship. I'm not suggesting that West Palm Beach is likely to become the next Silicon Valley, but we shouldn't pooh-pooh the independent economic activity of the elderly, either.

You know what, Professor Glaeser? There's another possible explanation for high levels of self-employment in areas where there are a lot of old people: the self-employed are doctors! Doctors flock to areas where a lot of old people live -- and a lot of them are their own bosses. That doesn't make them entrepreneurs, for crissake. And if it is the elderly who are also swelling the self-employed ranks, who are they? The next Steve Jobs? Or people selling antique postcards on eBay or crafts on Etsy?

Plus, Professor Glaeser says, we like the idea of working till we drop -- it's in our nature!

The United States has always had a Calvinist backbone. We've long been comfortable with shorter vacations and longer workweeks. In this light, the mid-20th century retirement boom seems like something of an aberration. In a sense, the current rise in the working elderly is a reversion to form, and perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.

Yeah, we choose to work nights and weekends and to not use all the vacation we have -- because American workers have complete autonomy over these things! It's not as if our employers pressure or compel us to work the hours we do -- we just decide to do it on our own! It's just the kooky, plucky way we are!