Saturday, December 31, 2011


Saw this on the front page of today's New York Daily News:

Tough-talking New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie swaggered into the heartland Friday and made an Iowa crowd an offer it couldn't refuse - support Mitt Romney, or else.

The larger-than-life governor channeled fellow Garden State tough guy Tony Soprano by threatening the hundreds of people who braved a cold, wet morning to back Romney in the state’s caucuses caucuses.

"I want to tell you something really clearly, I'm in a good mood this morning, I’m feeling happy and upbeat," quipped Christie before turning slowly and peering down at the unsuspecting crowd.

"But let me tell you, if you people disappoint me on Tuesday, if you don't do what you're supposed to do on Tuesday for Mitt Romney, I will be back - Jersey style."

To underscore his message, Christie vowed: "People, I will be back."

... That Christie hails from leafy Livingston, N.J., and now resides in millionaire-populated Mendham was lost on the West Des Moines crowd who know Jersey through the lens of the iconic HBO mobster series starring James Gandolfini as Tony Sopranio....

As a fellow Italian-American from the Northeast, I've got to say I love seeing my people reduced to a cultural stereotype. (Yes, that's sarcasm.) No, let me rephrase that: I love seeing my people volunteering to reduce themselves to a cultural stereotype, on behalf of some gazillionaire from Utah.

But this is what they want in Iowa, I guess. Do you realize that if Romney wins Iowa, he'll be the second winner in a row to finish first without seeming tough at all, but with the aid of a surrogate who was a tough guy on his behalf? (Recall how Huckabee made Chuck Norris his surrogate four years ago.) Really, Iowa? Is that what you want? Someone who can personally radiate Midwestern Nice, but who can also fly in an apparent rent-a-thug, so you can get a frisson of danger?

The party as a whole seems to prefer overgrown man-children -- George W. Bush, John McCain -- who don't radiate toughness so much as Bart Simpson childishness and irresponsibility well into middle and old age. What any of this has to do with running the country I don't know -- but more and more I'm thinking that Christie's going to be Romney's running mate, and his thug as VP if he wins. And I guess no Republican voter will care that Romney has to acquire (apparent) toughness rather than embody it (which he obviously isn't capable of doing) -- all those voters want is the sense of menace, and I guess they'll take it any way they can get it.

Josh Marshall writes:

A number of times over recent months I've noted the importance of the 'Murdoch Primary', the battle for the support of the far-flung News Corp/Murdoch media-political empire.'s an overpowering voice in intra-Republican questions. So who gets the Murdoch, Ailes and company nod, is a big big deal in a GOP primary race. Thus, the Murdoch primary.

So who won? It sort of slipped by in all the Newt craziness. But looking back over the last month we can see pretty clearly what happened. In late November the Fox at folks pretty clearly said WTF in response to the Newt surge, called it for Romney and got to work big time.

I'm struggling to come up with the appropriate metaphor for the actions of the Murdoch press and the Murdoch audience -- i.e., the GOP base. At times, the base has seemed like a gaggle of adolescents with ADHD, unable to settle on one object of affection and genuinely seeming to believe that Bieber will come along someday to propose marriage.

But I'm not sure that's the right analogy.

I think the Republican electorate is more like the son of a wealthy man -- I'm picturing a cigar-chomping tycoon of a century ago. That tycoon is Murdoch, or Murdoch and Ailes. The tycoon wants the son to find a proper wife, but the tycoon also travels with the son to the vice district on a regular basis. There, the father not only encourages the son to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh, he also takes part; on many an evening father and son have jointly delighted in the company of Miss Donald or Lady Herman or La Newt.

Night after night in these rooms of ill-repute -- and father wonders why his son doesn't want to settle down? Could it be father's own bad example?

Well, now father is urging -- and practicing -- self-control. There's evidence that the son intends to do as he's told and settle down with Lady Romney.

But is the son suddenly expressing a great deal of interest in the prim young Salvation Army lady from Pennsylvania? Or in the older Texan with the strange ideas about central banking and gold?

Well, this is what happens when you indulge the young -- they get strange ideas....

Friday, December 30, 2011


Peggy Noonan is clueless, of course, about Jon Huntsman's lack of appeal to the GOP base, but one sentence in her paragraph about him in today's column gives me pause (emphasis added):

The continuing mystery of phase one? The failure of Jon Huntsman to gain traction. It's not precisely a mystery—he didn't run as a successful conservative two-term governor but as a striped pants diplomat—but it is a frustration. Democrats like him, a lot. New Hampshire has an open primary. Democrats can vote for him there. Maybe they will. But will that make him a contender or an oddity?

Do you know any Democrats who like him? I don't. Democrats can caucus as Republicans in Iowa, but the ones who are planning to do so will do so for Ron Paul, not Huntsman. So what's she saying?

Here's what she's saying: that Democrats she knows personally like him a lot. Beltway insider Democrats like him.

Which means that if he's, say, at the top of the Americans Elect ticket, there are going to be a lot of big-name "Democrats for Huntsman" out there. There'll be a feedback loop between Georgetown cocktail-party attendees who've held office and those who write columns and appear on political TV. Huntsman's going to start being sold as the other Democratic candidate (a message Fox News will make a great affort to retransmit). And since the average Democrat in this country has internalize the "liberalism is icky" message, this could spread to the Democratic voter base.

I'm not saying it'll happen. I still think Huntsman's relationship to the GOP is like that of a spurned suitor who can't accept the fact that his entreaties are never going to get a positive response. But if I'm wrong about that, he just might be Mitt Romney's ticket to the presidency.

While I was traveling earlier this week, I was disheartened to pick up Monday's print New York Times and find three front-page stories hinting at the zeitgeistiness of libertarianism. I'm counting the story about self-appointed crime-fighters in superhero costumes as libertarian, because that sort of Vigilantism Lite presupposes that government is hopelessly inadequate; I'm also counting the story about Asperger's kids in love because the young man featured in the story is an avowed libertarian. (The third of the front-page stories was about Ron Paul.)

Capitalism ran amok in the last decade, and we're still trying to bounce back from the mayhem -- and yet, for all the attention lavished on the Occupy movement in recent months, the hip ideology of our era is clearly the one that wants to take capitalism and remove as many restraints from it as possible, thus giving it far greater opportunities for rapaciousness. Frankly, this terrifies me. It terrifies me that the repulsiveness of Ron Paul's newsletters of the '80s and '90s is now widely known and yet the Paul Youth in Iowa clearly don't care. What if this really is to our time what '60s leftism was to that era? What if this is the spirit of the age?

Well, maybe Democrats and liberals have ourselves to blame. I saw that Charlie Pierce was attacking David Brooks a couple of days ago for writing this:

But, in the 1930s, people genuinely looked to government to ease their fears and restore their confidence. Today, Americans are more likely to fear government than be reassured by it.

Pierce's response was this:

Yes, because we have had 30 years of reckless vandalism by the political movement in which you cut your teeth. We have had three decades of anti-government rhetoric from people who then set out to prove themselves correct by cutting taxes, spending money on useless weaponry, conducting wars off the books, and hiring boobs and bunglers to staff the federal agencies. We have had Michael Brown. We have had James Watt. We have had Anne Gorsuch and Silent Sam Pierce. People don't trust government? You know what? I don't trust my car if I hire a blind drunk to drive it.

But you can't just blame Republican presidents and Republican appointees. Democrats come into office and simply fail to demonstrate to the public that government can work -- Barack Obama's administration didn't modify enough mortgages, didn't inject enough stimulus into the economy to get a significant number of people back to work, didn't throw any of the Wall Street bastards in jail. There wasn't even a single perp walk! If people don't see government working to help solve a new crisis, I guess it shouldn't surprise us when they think government doesn't do anything right, ever. But elected Democrats no longer think this matters -- they no longer think government has to work or the foundations of this society will crumble as we move inexorably to a Third World level of inequality.

Give people a reason to believe in government -- or wake up twenty years from now to find that America has only two widely held ideologies left, mainstream Republicanism and libertarianism, and the banana-republican economy to go with that arrangement.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

Thank you, Kathy, Yellow Dog, and Tom, for soldiering on in my absence. Then I come back to the likes of this and I don't know why I don't just quit this and take up stamp collecting:

Americans See Views of GOP Candidates Closer to Their Own

Americans perceive Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul as closest to themselves ideologically, and Michele Bachmann and Barack Obama as furthest away.

USA Today/Gallup poll asked Americans to rate their own ideology -- and the ideology of the eight major presidential candidates -- on a 5-point scale with 1 being very liberal and 5 being very conservative. Americans' mean score on this scale is 3.3, meaning the average American is slightly to the right of center ideologically.... Of the better known candidates, Romney's and Paul's 3.5 scores are closest to the average American's ideology....

Yeah, Obama's a big extremist while Ron Paul, who thinks Medicare and Medicaid are unconstitutional, to take one of a nearly limitless number of examples, is right in the mainstream.

And I don't know what to say about this:

Ten percent of Americans think Michele Bachmann is liberal. Michele Bachmann! I know these are approximately the percentages for belief in a flat earth, but still, it's troubling. When was the last time a national election was decided by a margin smaller than 10%?

Americans: we're not ready for democracy.

Don't Let Deference to Freakazoids Trump the Law

UPDATE: In the best political news of the year in Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear has rejected the merger. No, I don't believe it, either.

Kentucky is about to turn its largest public hospital over to a bunch of women-hating, poor-people-exploiting, child-rapist-protecting, anti-Democratic, un-American clerics who will let people die rather than obey the law.

(Kentucky Governor Steve) Beshear said he wants to make a decision “by the end of the year.”

“I think the merger partners have requested that I do that because they’ve got some … legal issues with bonds and different things that if they get to move ahead they need to do so by Dec. 31,” Beshear said. “So I think I owe it to them. I think we’ve spent the time we need to spend, and gathered the information we need to gather, and I’ve got to sit down once I get the attorney general’s report — either this afternoon or tomorrow — and make a decision.”

The merger would unite University Hospital with Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare and Saint Joseph Health System in Lexington, which is owned by Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives.

CHI follows Catholic health directives, and University Hospital has agreed not to perform certain procedures, such as sterilizations — prompting concern by many area residents and leaders.

"Concerns" is a gross understatement. Terror and fury are the appropriate responses.

As I wrote in September and November, this merger will simply kill the public hospital, eliminate all services not approved by His Popey-Rapeyness, and leave Louisville's 99 Percenters at the mercy of the Big Pharma profiteers who run the private hospitals.

Religion and health care don't mix. Never have. Never will.

Kevin Drum:

Ed Kilgore recommends Peter Laarman's top ten list of ignored stories in the world of religion. I can't say I really understand why I should care that Southern Baptists are apparently becoming more Calvinist (#3 on the list), but even so, this is more interesting than, say, the top ten celeb fashions of 2011 or the top ten Republican hostage taking incidents. And this one certainly deserves a bigger spotlight:

6. Upside-Down Ideas About Religious Liberty

The dramatic new push for religious liberty exemptions for faith-connected providers of taxpayer-supported health services underscores the radical way in which understandings of religious liberty have changed in recent years. It's not that the push for exemptions hasn't made the news; it's that no one is writing (at least in the MSM) about the radical nature of the shift. In the past, the social service arms of religious bodies understood that if they wanted public money they would need to honor public law regarding the disposition of the money: i.e., provide the full range of mandated services on a universal basis. We used to say to objectors, “If you don’t like the mandate, don’t take the money.”

Apparently such a commonsensical response is now insufficiently deferential to religion. More and more people seem willing to say that if a Catholic health care provider doesn’t “believe” in providing reproductive health care to women, that private belief can trump public law. This is a particularly thorny problem because of the many regional health care system mergers involving Catholic partners: there are now many places in the country where, if a dominant provider that toes the bishops’ line won’t provide the service, area women will be out of luck and deprived of benefits they are entitled to receive by law. Does anyone defer to them? Afraid not.

I'm not sure I'd say this has been entirely ignored in the mainstream media, but it certainly gets less attention than it has at some times in the past, despite the fact that it's a problem that's continued to grow and continued to expand. A decade ago it was mostly restricted to abortion services, but since then its tentacles have spread to just about anything that religious conservative simply don't like very much. It's also one of those things that can be strongly influenced by executive orders, which means it depends a lot on who happens to be president. Just another reason to care about what happens next November.

The only gleam of hope in this looming catastrophe is that the University of Kentucky's hospital in Lexington will get a good, up-close look at what happens when you sell out the public commonweal, and shred any nascent merger plans of its own.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's the Budget Cuts, Stupid

One overlooked factor in the case of the Tennessee fire department that watched houses burn when owners failed to pay protection subscriptions is the effect of government budget cuts.

In a Kentucky county perhaps not coincidentally on the Tennessee border, that connection is clear-cut.

From the Middlesboro Daily News:

Bell Countians will be asked to consider adding a fire department subscribers fee to their budgets in the new year.

In a notice issued to media on Monday by Assistant Fire Chief David Miracle, the fire department states, in part:

“The Bell County Volunteer Fire Department would like to inform the citizens of Bell County that effective January 1, 2012, the BCVFD will be collecting an annual subscribers fee for the fire department. This is a voluntary fee and is in no way mandatory. The BCVFD will not deny our services to anyone.


Miracle stated that the fire department would like to be funded entirely through a mandatory subscribers fee and claimed that BCVFD representatives had proposed that in Bell County Fiscal Court (BCFC) in the past.

The BCVFD and the BCFC have been in and out of court for five years due to changes in county ordinances that now requires the BCVFD to submit receipts for reimbursement, rather than receiving an allotted amount each year with little accountability.

The BCVFD collectively says that they are not owned by the county and have no indebtedness to tax payers.

“We own it,” Miracle said, “We are a 5013c non-profit corporation.” He also likened the BCVFD to a paving company that would be used contractually by the county.

Bell County Judge Executive Albey Brock disagrees, as he has many times in this long-running argument. “Since the fire department’s inception, the taxpayer has given them over $6 million,” Brock said. “They are a non-profit group established to provide service.”

Since the BCVFD has closed two of the nine stations (Colmar and Arjay stations were closed mid-December) in the county, Brock says funding will be halted. “At this point, we can’t fund them, if they’re closing stations.”

So it's a political fight. But it's a political fight that wouldn't happen if Bell County weren't strapped by state budget cuts, caused by federal budget cuts, caused by deficit hysteria and an economic meltdown caused by banksters on Wall Street.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More About Paul, Greenwald, and "Civil Liberties"

I posted on this last night; since then, Matt Osborne has posted an excellent piece on the dishonesty of Greenwald's Obama-bashing and Ron Paul praise (including a more in-depth look at the narrowness of Greenwald's notion of "civil liberties"). The whole thing is worth reading, but here's a key excerpt:
Remember, Greenwald says Citizens United is good for civil liberties. But what he means by those two words is very different from what most of us have in mind when we say them. The president has been consistently supportive of voting rights, for example, but that is elided from the Greenwald definition of “civil liberties;” he also elides the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Fair Sentencing Act, the overturn of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the president’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the US Commission on Civil Rights, etcetera.

Contrast that to Greenwald’s treatment of Ron Paul’s record. In his op-ed, Greenwald makes no mention of the congressman’s racist newsletters, his public stance on the Civil Rights Act, his attempt to strip Iranian students of federal financial aid, his evident homophobia, his numerous assaults on abortion rights, his desire to repeal the “Moter Voter” Act, his attacks on the 14th Amendment, etcetera. I regard his stance on the gold standard as a repeal of economic rights — one that William Jennings Bryan would abhor as a cross of gold.

In Greenwald’s story, not one of the issues in those previous two ‘graffs — not even the fight over voter ID bills that would disenfranchise millions of African Americans — count as civil liberties issues, but the supposed right of an American citizen to be free from harm while directing harm to other Americans does.
One point about the Fair Sentencing Act in particular illustrates Greenwald's dishonesty: he frequently cites the "racist Drug War" as a reason to oppose Obama...but doesn't mention that Obama pushed for, and signed, a bill to make the Drug War less racist than it had been before (by reducing the crack cocaine sentencing disparity).
Casinos to be on Kentucky Ballot in November

Looks like casino gambling is going to be on the ballot in Kentucky this November, driving turnout up and turning the local and state legislative campaigns even more stupid than usual.

From the Herald:

Kentuckians overwhelmingly support putting a casino-gambling constitutional amendment on the November ballot, where it probably would pass, according to a new survey conducted for racetracks and horse-racing interests.

According to numbers released Tuesday, 87 percent of Kentuckians want to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling. Only 10 percent of those surveyed said they opposed a vote.

Also, according to the poll released Tuesday, 64 percent would vote in favor of the amendment.

"Once again, a new poll shows Kentuckians demand an opportunity to vote on expanded gaming," Gov. Steve Beshear said. "The call for a direct vote by the people of this state has only gotten stronger over the last few years, and we should not make our citizens wait a moment longer to have their voices heard."

The Family Foundation, a conservative advocacy group that opposes expanded gambling, questioned the poll.

"This survey was bankrolled by the gambling industry," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation. "It showed what they wanted it to show."

Beshear said one of his top priorities for the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 3, "will be a constitutional amendment to take the gaming question directly to our people. It's time for Kentuckians to decide the state's future on expanded gaming."

Beshear has said that any expansion must include racetracks and the horse industry.

As I noted earlier this month, not only is casino gambling not an economic panacea, it's likely to be even less so in Kentucky as casinos in surrounding states have already sucked up the available business.

I'm tempted to vote for it anyway, if only to drive the freakazoids crazy. But of course the majority of those voting in favor of gambling - and of those who will be taking food out of their children's mouths to lose in the new casinos - will be freakazoid hypocrites. Oops, sorry for the redundancy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ron Paul: Not a Civil Libertarian

Last week Glenn Greenwald won the Dumbest Tweet of the Week award with this beauty, about Ron Paul:

Of course, this is laughable to anyone familiar with Paul's positions on, say, abortion, or the Civil Rights Act (Dave Neiwert has a great piece on this). It's also ridiculous in the light of the vicious racism in Ron Paul's newsletters. Greenwald's response on the former was to point to his terribly-clever1 use of the weasel word "many"; the latter, he dismissed with an airy "they all have serious flaws".

Greenwald has since doubled down on his tweet, describing Paul as "the only candidate in either party now touting" the "foreign policy and civil liberties values Democrats spent the Bush years claiming to defend". All of which says much more about Greenwald's extremly narrow (Libertarian-friendly) conception of "civil liberties" than about either the President or Ron Paul.

But even on its own terms--even excluding niggling little concerns like women's autonomy or enforcing the equal protection clause or separation of church and state--Greenwald's comment is fatally wrongheaded. Paul's positions on issues like military intervention, surveillance, and the drug war may converge with the positions of civil libertarians, but they aren't really based on civil liberties as we liberals understand the term.

A lot of prog love for Ron Paul is based on his national defense policies: "Avoid long and expensive land wars that bankrupt our country....eliminat[e] waste in a trillion-dollar military budget." An anti-war stance, naturally enough, sounds pretty good to anti-war liberals. Paul opposed the Iraq War from the beginning (as, of course, did Obama); that buys him a lot of goodwill.

But the nature of his anti-war stance is fundamentally different from that of liberal opposition to any given war. The tipoff is in his opposition to foreign aid, and his anti-United Nations position: he's anti-war because the rest of the world just isn't worth it. His is not the pacifism of the anti-war movement but the nativist isolationism of the America-Firsters; Paul is "to the left of Obama" the way Lindbergh was to the left of Roosevelt. (That may be true in a fairly literal sense, although I wouldn't trust anything from Big Government without further corroboration.)

Similarly, Paul's positions on civil liberties issues aren't actually about civil liberties as we understand them; they're about his opposition to Federal authority. (An opposition that is somewhat conditional, it should be noted.) For example, in talking about the death penalty, he makes clear that he opposes it only at the Federal level. His opposition to the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, and domestic surveillance come from the same root as his opposition to the Civil Rights Act. He has no real objection to states violating the rights of their citizens; it's only a problem if the Feds do it.

The assumption underlying this is that people are freer when states (as opposed to the Federal government) have more power. Now, it may seem obvious to some of us that the distinction between one arbitrary administrative unit and another isn't exactly a human rights issue, but let's just consider for a moment: does state or local control actually translate to more liberty?

Good question. Let's ask the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission; I bet they have the answer somewhere in their files.

As Corey Robin pointed out (in his response to Naomi Wolf's idiotic conspiracy theory), repression often occurs at the local level:
From the battles over abolition to the labor wars at the turn of the last century to the Red Squads of the twentieth-century police departments to the struggles over Jim Crow, state repression in America has often been decentralized, displaying that very same can-do spirit of local initiative that has been celebrated by everyone from Alexis de Tocqueville to Robert Putnam....What history demonstrates is that police officers often use their powers, with or without federal prompting, as instruments of larger political purpose....During the McCarthy era, for example, southern politicians and law-enforcement officers used the language of anti-communism to outlaw the NAACP and to arrest and indict civil-rights leaders for sedition....[I]f all politics is local in the United States, as Tip O’Neill reminded us, it stands to reason that a good deal of the political repression is as well.
In other words, as any veteran of the Civil Rights era2 could tell us, championing states' "rights" over Federal authority is emphatically not a pro-civil liberties position.

But (you might say) if the result is the same--if, whatever the twisted origins of his position, Ron Paul takes is on the side of the angels on certain narrowly framed issues--does it really matter how he gets there?

Short answer: yes. Slightly less short answer: hell yes. Longer answer: of course, because his opposition to (Federal) government overreach is inseparable from his opposition to Roe v. Wade and equal protection enforcement and environmental regulation and...well, every single goddamn thing that matters to liberals except the tiny set of narrow issues on which, in stopped-clock fashion, Paul has arrived at the right position through the wrong process.

1By which I mean "not particularly clever".

2Full disclosure: my parents worked in the civil rights movement in Mississippi from 1965-67.

Monday, December 26, 2011

How Budget Cuts Cause Abuse and Neglect of Horses

Driving through Central Kentucky's horse country, it's easy to believe horses live the life of Riley. Five or six sleek beauties grazing peacefully in the middle of a spacious, rich pasture, gleaming barns in the distance, five-plank fences sporting fresh paint.

But those are the one-percenters of the thoroughbred economy. The flip side of that perfect picture is horses making do on crowded, weedy pastures neglected by owners constantly on the verge of bankruptcy.

And that's in good economic times. People buy a little land, feel flush, think they gotta have a horse. After a few years of feed bills and vet bills and fence maintenance, it's too much. One local amateur skipped town leaving his horses stranded in a fenced pasture with no access to water. If someone hadn't found them, they would have died of dehydration.

From the Courier:

"A lot of people ... just don't get it," said Ponke, 45, of Cottrellville Township in St. Clair County (Michigan). "They just don't understand what it takes to take care of an animal properly, and it's sad."

After slaughterhouses were shuttered in the U.S. in 2007, experts say that -- coupled with the poor economic climate -- caused neglect and abandonment cases involving the country's 9 million horses to rise dramatically.

Michigan State University equine professor John Shelle estimates that the number of unwanted horses in Michigan has grown by the thousands. No concrete statistics are available, but he points to the number of rescue organizations near or over capacity.

It's a national problem that officials hope will end with new legislation.

On Nov. 18, President Barack Obama signed a bill permitting federal funding for inspection of horses intended for human consumption, allowing slaughter facilities to reopen across the country.

Supporters of the legislation hope providing slaughterhouses as another option for horse owners will reduce neglect and abandonment, while critics argue they're inhumane and the real problem is over-breeding.

Government agencies and animal welfare organizations have reported a rise in investigations for horse neglect and abandonment since 2007, according to a 2011 study by the Government Accountability Office, an independent federal agency based in Washington, D.C.

The study points to the end of domestic slaughter and an ailing economy as key factors in the increase.

Slaughterhouses across the country closed in 2007, following the government's decision in 2006 to yank federal funding for inspecting horses at slaughter.


The Government Accountability Office's report found horse exports to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico then skyrocketed -- increasing by 148 percent and 660 percent, respectively -- from 32,789 horses exported for slaughter in 2006 to 137,984 in 2010.

A study conducted in 2009 by the Unwanted Horse Coalition, a national group aimed at improving the welfare of unwanted horses, found that 87 percent of horse rescue facilities that were interviewed think the number of unwanted horses is becoming a problem, compared with 28 percent in 2006.

The rise in neglect and abandonment cases is taking a toll on animal control officers and horse rescue groups.


MacKillop is angered by people who put horses on Craigslist for free in an attempt to get them off their payroll. A quick search of metro Detroit and northern Michigan lists a handful of "free" horses ready for adoption on the popular online classifieds site.

The result: new horse owners who don't realize what it takes to care of such a large animal.

"I hate to see animals suffer ... it's a really bad situation out there," MacKillop said. "It irritates me, these free horses, anyone will go take them."

Horses are not overgrown dogs - they can't survive in developed areas without human help. Horses demand hard work, constant attention, significant money and long-term dedication. Don't indulge an urge to get one until you know what you're doing.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Occupy the Safety Net

According to the jesus myth, the character xians refer to as "lord" and "king of kings" in the most aristocrat-worshipping, un-American style, was born, lived and died poor.

So on his supposed birthday, take a minute to consider how our obscenely-wealthy-worshipping society is treating the poor today.

Last week's Nation issue is devoted to America's disappearing social safety net. Each article is more outrageous and inspiring than the last.

Imagine that: a president signing a law that asked for, even paid for, grassroots participation to shape policies and decide priorities. It sounds utopian now—even under a president who once worked as a community organizer—but as OWS has reminded us, sometimes the size of the demand is the measure of a movement.

Read them all.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Posturing Left, Working for the Right

Last week 60 Minutes released the full video from their interview with the President, and it included this unaired quote:
I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history.
What happened next was predictable: right-wing bloggers immediately spun this as Obama calling himself the "4th best president" (some actually put quotation marks around it, falsely suggesting that he had used that exact phrase). In a matter of hours, the meme was firmly established in the political discourse (Politico, ever helpful, nudging it along with a story about the right-wing reaction).

Obviously, there is an enormous difference between what the President actually said and what the wingnuts say he said (Jonathan Capehart is good on this point, providing additional context for the quote). It may have been more candid than wise to say it, but taken on its own terms (legislative and foreign policy achievement), it's hard to argue with: the 111th Congress is generally acknowledged to be the most productive in decades, and the President's foreign-policy sucesses are impressive by any standard. But never mind all that: for anyone on the right, the established narrative is crazy narcissistic delusional egomaniac Barack Hussein Obama calling himself the fourth greatest president. That's the reality the right has constructed for itself.

Well, fine; that's what they do. At least the left doesn't do anything like that.

Oh, wait...

Wednesday, self-appointed Obama scourge Dylan Ratigan jumped on the bandwagon, saying the President had claimed to be the "fourth best president ever". Same false meme, exact same wording.

On Twitter, Matt Stoller saw their "fourth best" and raised it:

Yup, that's right: a guy who thinks of himself as "progressive" is tweeting the same meme with the same wording as an ad funded by American Crossroads.

This isn't about substantive criticism of the President. This is peevish, petty sniping...done in a way that advances the narrative of the other side

Here's the deal, guys: if you're echoing false right-wing memes, you're not a liberal; you're not a progressive; you aren't anywhere on the left. You are, at best, a useful idiot for the right.
Oh, Darn!

Apparently Newt Gingrich won't be shifting the entire planet in Virginia. MSNBC reports this morning that neither he nor Rick Perry gathered enough signatures to qualify for the Republican primary ballot.
A Quinnipiac poll of Virginia Republicans released earlier in the week suggested that Gingrich had a slight lead over Romney.
Sorry, Newt. Looks like procrastination has trumped (oh, sorry) your delusions of grandeur this time.

UPDATE: Newt and co. are blaming a "failed system" rather than their own lack of organization. They're also planning an "aggressive" write-in campaign, which will be a little dicey as write-in votes are illegal in Virginia primaries.

(Kathy here - thanks to Steve for the invitation!)
Long-Overdue Justice for Dying Miners

Black Lung. It sounds medieval, a scourge like Plague and Childbed Fever that should be relegated to history books.

But it is still killing coal miners throughout Appalachia, smothering them slowly and painfully until they cannot work, cannot walk, cannot breathe.

Many times, they have to watch their families suffer financially at the same time, because Kentucky makes dying miners jump through fiery hoops to get the benefits federal law requires.

No more.

Coal miners sickened by years of inhaling black dust on the job have been subjected to an unconstitutional system of medical screenings to quality for worker's compensation, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday.A sharply divided high court decided that Kentucky has violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law by requiring miners suffering from coal workers' pneumoconiosis, better known as black lung, to undergo a litany of tests that workers in other occupations aren't subjected to when they apply for worker's comp benefits.In a 34-page decision written by Justice Will T. Scott, the high court found no "rational basis and justifiable reason for the disparate treatment of coal workers."


Coal miners Jesse Gardner, Joe Martinez and others brought the case, saying Kentucky's law subjected them to a more stringent burden of proof than workers who suffer from pneumoconiosis from sources other than coal dust."Pneumoconiosis caused by exposure to coal dust is the same disease as pneumoconiosis caused by exposure to dust particles in other industries, yet coal workers face different, higher standard-of-proof requirements than those other workers," Scott wrote. "This is an arbitrary distinction between similarly situated individuals and thus it violates the equal protection guarantees of the federal and state constitutions."


Prestonsburg lawyer Thomas Moak said Thursday the state's system for awarding worker's compensation to black lung victims is so stringent that most miners don't bother to try for it. Those who do apply and are confirmed by a panel of physicians typically don't qualify for enough money to cover basic living expenses."The current system provides benefits in less than 5 percent of claims," Moak said. "It's amazingly traumatic."

Coal-country legislators will try during the General Assembly session that begins in January to revise the 15-year-old state requirements. But that session already faces demands for yet more budget cuts, and loosening Black Lung requirements - thus increasing state costs by millions - is going to be a hard sell.

Look for more idiotic calls for privatization (which always costs more than paying state employees) and lethal program cuts for those without high-priced lobbyists (women, children and the disabled.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

That's it for me for a few days -- I'll be back by (I think) December 30, but you'll have to get through Christmas and the next few days without me. (Try to contain your disappointment.) Some of your old pals will be here in my stead, however, so stop by. Happy holidays....

I appreciate the effort David Frum and his Frum Forum colleagues are making to de-lunify conservatism, but this well-intentioned Fred Bauer post doesn't exactly jibe with the facts:

Real Reaganites Don't Demonize Their Opponents

Ronald Reagan's speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention provides a welcome jolt amidst the atmosphere of the current Republican nominating contest. Instead of hypocritical invective and mindless tribalism, Reagan offers a fundamentally optimistic and cooperative narrative of America.

Though this speech has moments of anger, it is not, at heart, an angry speech. Consider some of these lines near the opening:
I know we have had a quarrel or two, but only as to the method of attaining a goal. There was no argument about the goal. As president, I will establish a liaison with the 50 governors to encourage them to eliminate, where it exists, discrimination against women. I will monitor federal laws to insure their implementation and to add statutes if they are needed.

More than anything else, I want my candidacy to unify our country; to renew the American spirit and sense of purpose. I want to carry our message to every American, regardless of party affiliation, who is a member of this community of shared values.
Not a single word about destroying those rotten, freedom-hating "progressives" or "liberals." Not even an invocation of "union thugs"! ...

Though Reagan criticizes Carter throughout this speech, his criticism seems to emphasize Carter's incompetence and unfitness for the task of government. He does not claim that Carter hates freedom or despises capitalism or has bad intentions for the country....

Um, no, Fred -- he just says that Jimmy Carter and the Democrats have brought America to the verge of destruction. To me it's a distinction without a difference.

Here are some excerpts Bauer doesn't quote:

... Never before in our history have Americans been called upon to face three grave threats to our very existence, any one of which could destroy us. We face a disintegrating economy, a weakened defense and an energy policy based on the sharing of scarcity.

The major issue of this campaign is the direct political, personal and moral responsibility of Democratic Party leadership --in the White House and in Congress -- for this unprecedented calamity which has befallen us....

I will not stand by and watch this great country destroy itself under mediocre leadership that drifts from one crisis to the next, eroding our national will and purpose....

As your nominee, I pledge to restore to the federal government the capacity to do the people's work without dominating their lives....

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years."

If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement....

... Four times in my lifetime America has gone to war, bleeding the lives of its young men into the sands of beachheads, the fields of Europe and the jungles and rice paddies of Asia. We know only too well that war comes not when the forces of freedom are strong, but when they are weak. It is then that tyrants are tempted.

We simply cannot learn these lessons the hard way again without risking our destruction....

"Destroy, "destroy," "destruction" -- that word in one form or another comes up eight times in the speech.

"Real Reaganites" wouldn't talk like this? Reagan talked precisely like this. His successors have refined his technique and upped the potency, turning his partisan cocaine into instant-high rhetorical crack rocks, but don't kid yourself, Fred: they're modeling themselves on the Master.

The contents of Ron Paul's newsletters of the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s are truly offensive ("Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began"), but let's not forget how compatible they were with that cultural moment. The newsletters coincide with the rise of "politically incorrect" as a badge of honor -- that was the time of sexist rants by Sam Kinison and Andrew Dice Clay, and of the rise of shock jockery of the Howard Stern variety (Stern, in his 1993 book, Private Parts, said Rodney King "should be beaten every time he reaches for his car keys"). That was also when Rush Limbaugh first hit radio, and when Guns 'N Roses released "One in a Million." I'd also throw in everything from gangsta-rap bitch-baiting to the feminism-bashing of Camille Paglia and Katie Roiphe. Oh, and Giuliani got elected then, too. So Paul's periodicals were extreme, but they were very much of their time.

Um, I thought it was evil freedom-hating liberals who wanted to sabotage business:

... In what could be a new high water mark of anti-Washington sentiment, the city of Troy, Mich., is rejecting a long-planned transportation center whose construction would have been fully financed with federal stimulus money.

The terminal, which would help Troy become a transportation node on an upgraded Detroit-to-Chicago Amtrak line, was hailed by supporters as a way to create jobs and to spur economic development. But federal money is federal money, so with the urging of the new mayor, who helped found the local Tea Party chapter, the City Council cast a 4-to-3 vote this week against granting a crucial contract, sending the project into limbo.

"There's nothing free about government money," Mayor Janice Daniels said in an interview. "It's never free, and it's crippling our way of life."

... The Troy transit center's construction ... required no local contribution, and its predicted annual maintenance cost of $31,000 was, in the context of the city's $50 million budget, "de minimis," said Mark Miller, the assistant city manager....

Look who's upset:

Taking Tea Party reasoning to the local level has outraged supporters of the transit center, which has been in the works for a decade. Michele Hodges, the president of the Troy Chamber of Commerce, which supports the transit project, said that her organization "will be a pit bull for what's best for this community."

Hey, way to go, Chamber of Commerce geniuses. At the national level, you got on board the tea party crazy train in 2010, and look what happened: when your proteges aren't putting the full faith and credit of the U.S. at risk in D.C. or endeavoring to reduce the take-home pay of 160 million Americans in a recession, at the local level they're doing the likes of this. You get what you pay for.

"I am drafting a memo to all Magna group presidents and our Magna corporate executives strongly recommending that Magna International no longer consider the City of Troy for future site considerations, expansions or new job creation," wrote Frank W. Ervin III, the company's manager of government affairs. "I have also recommended that where ever and when ever possible we reduce our footprint and employment level in Troy" in favor of communities that act in the best interests of residents and business and that do "not simply use their public position to advance their own private agenda."

Yes, but the dirty hippie Democrats are the ones who hate business.

And yes, the mayor has made the national news before:

The transit fight is not Mayor Daniels's first brush with controversy. Earlier this month, it was revealed that she posted a message to her Facebook page last June, after New York State approved same-sex marriage, stating, "I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there."

Look, I have seriously mixed feelings about the old-school chumminess between business and government. But I'm just asking the good burghers of the business establishment to recognize what they were doing to themselves when they threw in with the Ayn Rand Fan Club. Maybe they should ask themselves who's helping them more, the president who insults them occasionally but hasn't thrown a single one of them in jail, or people like Janice Daniels who love capitalism the way a stalker loves a celebrity.

Peggy Noonan gives a rave review to the Margaret Thatcher movie today, then asks this:

The left in America has largely thrown in the towel on Ronald Reagan, but in Britain Thatcher-hatred remains fresh. Why?

While you're debating the truth of that, I'll tell you that she ascribes it to sexism:

Because she was a woman. Because women in politics are always by definition seen as presumptuous: They presume to lead men. When they are as bright as the men they're disliked by the men, and when they're brighter and more serious they're hated. Mrs Thatcher's very presence was an insult to the left because it undermined the left's insistence that only leftism and its protection of the weak and disadvantaged would allow women to rise. She rose without them while opposing what they stood for. On the other hand, some of the Tory men around her had been smacked on the head by her purse often enough to wish for revenge. What better revenge than to fail to fully stand up for her to posterity?

The lefty part of that is conservatism's "liberals are the real sexists" boilerplate, the nonsense that was the right's excuse for pretending to warm to Hillary Clinton in early 2008. (We allegedly hated Hillary, but she got 18 million votes from all us sexists. Hey, how's that Michele Bachmann campaign working out for you righties?)

The implication here is that we on the left would be much angrier at Ronald Reagan if he'd been a woman.

Nahhh. If our anger has faded, it's for one simple reason: the bastards who've followed him have been so much worse. The Gingrich Congress? The teabag House? And, in between, Bush and Cheney? In retrospect, Reagan seems like a beta version of these lunatics. His presidency seems like an out-of-town tryout of the full-blown craziness to come.

Really, Peg, it's simple. Don't overthink it.

(By the way, here's Steve M.'s Rule: Who's the worst president in American history? Answer: the next Republican president.)

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011


It's been a good day. I should be happier. But if I can't crack a smile, it's because it still takes this freaking much effort to get out of the Republicans what common decency ought to get out of them automatically -- and yet their moral bankruptcy is still not evident to a majority or near-majority of the American public. So, yeah, I'm not doing the Snoopy dance. Give me about a hundred more wins like this and maybe I'll join you on the dance floor.

I thought Democrats would cave first on the payroll tax; I cited Dave Weigel, who thought the same thing. I'm eating crow now, as is Weigel -- but I don't see this as doing a whole lot of damage to the Republicans now, and neither does he:

...I was wrong when I said the GOP would win the long game....

But what's the long, long game? Two months ago, the assumption was that a payroll tax holiday would be extended for a year with few conditions. Republicans failed to extend it with maximal conditions -- unemployment insurance reform, etc. They instead will extend it for two months, with one condition, and demand more at the end of February in exchange for another extender. It was ugly, and they might have won more if they'd just spiked the ball a week ago. But they didn't have a chance this time to get all of their demands. They get one of their demands, and another chance. They'll have to eat some "Republicans in disarray" headlines for a few days, but reporters are heading home and offline, too. Democrats won the immediate fight. Republicans didn't lose too much in the war.

No, they didn't. Public Policy Polling has a new survey (conducted Friday through Monday) showing some slippage in public opinion of the GOP, but not nearly as much as you'd hope:

In the midst of the fight over the payroll tax cut extension, voters have turned a little more against the Republicans in Congress. Already at only a 26% approval rating, with 62% disapproving, last month, the Congressional GOP falls at 25-67 with voters nationally now....

Republicans' leader in the House, Speaker John Boehner, has also seen his ratings slip.... Only 27% of Americans approve of Boehner's job performance ... from an already bad 30[%]....

Only 34% of Americans think Republicans are doing a better job controlling the House than when Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats were in charge, down from 37% in November. 43% think they are doing a worse job, up from 41%....

... Democrats have inched ahead in the national generic congressional ballot, with a 46-44 lead over the GOP. It was a 45-all tie in November....

Jesus, what does it take for Dems to get a lead above the margin of error against these bastards? I mean, maybe this will do it, but I'm afraid it's just going to be forgotten until the next game of chicken.

Will Bunch:

Yeah, same here -- that's why I didn't believe the Democrats could possibly prevail. I was gloomy as usual, but it seems as if the teabagger tyros pushed things so far that even the Democrats felt safe playing hardball. You gotta be a really inept wingnut to allow that to happen.

I'm sure it won't surprise you that I agree with the gist of what Ezra Klein says here:

Mitt Romney is winning the payroll tax fight

The conventional wisdom in Washington is that Republicans are losing the payroll tax fight, and bad. And, for the moment, that's true.... But the fact of the matter is, not all Republicans are losing this one. Mitt Romney, in particular, owes Boehner -- and his more intransigent members -- a fruit basket.

Ezra assesses this strictly by the numbers:

... I'd still say it's likely we get a payroll tax extension by February. But the chances that we don't get one have certainly risen substantially. If you believe the economic forecasters, that could shave a half-percentage point off of growth next year. If we were going to grow at 2.3 percent with the payroll tax cut extension, now we're only growing at 1.8 percent. That means more Americans out of work, less money in voters' pockets, more pessimism among business owners. And all that is very, very bad for an incumbent president running for reelection -- in this case, Barack Obama.

I'd add this: Even if some deal is reached between soon to deliver these benefits uninterrupted, the mere creation of chaos will help Mitt Romney (or whoever the GOP nominee is) because, as Ezra says, when things are done in D.C. that voters don't like, the president gets blamed. In fact, House Republicans would do their party a lot of political good if they'd take the deal and re-fight this fight two months from now -- and then arrange to re-fight it two months after that, and two months after that, and so on. Every week would be even better.

Um, but aren't voters grasping that Republicans are at fault? And isn't Mitt Romney, y'know, a Republican? Yes, but I see very little evidence that voters associate Romney with his party. CNN has Obama polling well ahead of Romney, but Public Policy Polling has Romney taking a lead over Obama, and Gallup has Obama barely ahead of both Romney and Gingrich.

For decades, Democrats have made virtually no effort to tarnish the entire Republican brand, while Republicans and the right-wing media have made a concerted effort to tarnish the Democratic, liberal, and leftist brands, and to make them all one tarnished brand. Republican rhetoric links together everything to the left of the Republicans as one big axis of evil, so it's easy to tie anyone who's more or less on our side to everyone else who's more or less on our side -- ACORN = Harry Reid = Sean Penn = Elizabeth Warren. Democrats make no reciprocal effort at linkage. So the approval rating of congressional Republicans could sink to zero and Mitt Romney might still win.

Meanwhile, the way right-wingers disrupt the political process is starting to seem like one of the most successful "Occupy" protests ever: from the shutdown of town hall meetings in 2009 to the various moments of brinkmanship in Congress this year, these folks are just planting themselves in the middle of the political process and occupying the existence of government. And they're getting the gears well and truly sanded.

I see via Memeorandum that the knives are out for Ron Paul -- he's getting deserved scrutiny for racist newsletters published in his name in the 1990s and he's essentially being called a traitor to the U.S. by Murdoch hatchetwoman Dorothy Rabinowitz in The Wall Street Journal.

As I said in my last post, this is the third guy the GOP Establishment's thumb-breakers have gone after since Labor Day on Mitt Romney's behalf, after Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. Which brings me to another headline I see at Memeorandum: "Huntsman Is the Best Choice for GOP," the title of an editorial in the Concord (N.H.) Monitor.

I've been extremely skeptical about Huntsman's chances in this race and my opinion hasn't changed, but, y'know, the guy could do all right in the Granite State. And if Romney still looks vulnerable by then, I'm really looking forward to the inevitable unleashing of the Republican goon squad on him.

I'm looking forward to it in part because I find Huntsman insufferably sanctimonious -- but mostly because centrist insider journalists and pundits are inclined to like Huntsman, and I wonder how they're going to react when someone they like is getting this treatment. Cain? Gingrich? Paul? The Beltway media doesn't really feel the need to offer any of them backup, regarding all of them as rather clownish -- but Huntsman embodies the insider journos' Third Way savior fantasies. Will a back-alley beatdown of upset them? Will they rally to his defense? Or will they just decide that the strong horse -- i.e., weak Mitt Romney backed by the GOP enforcers -- is how we'll get to right-centrist paradise?

At Politico, John Harris and James Hohmann begin the process of constructing a new narrative: that Mitt Romney will be a noble battle-tested warrior if he beats Newt Gingrich.

I'm exaggerating, but only somewhat:

Here is one way to look at Mitt Romney's challenge from Newt Gingrich: As one more humiliation delivered by Republican activists who have made clear over and over that they would really, really prefer to fall in love with someone, anyone, whose name is not Mitt Romney.

But, according to many veterans of past presidential campaigns, there is another way of looking at the situation: As potentially the best thing that could happen to Romney....

This is the Nietzsche theory of presidential politics: That which does not kill you makes you stronger.

By these lights, no candidate could benefit so much from winning a bloody, chairs-flying brawl than Romney, who never has a hair out of place but also has rarely managed to inspire anything more ardent than I-guess-he'll-do support even from his own backers."

"All of us who want to go to heaven have to experience the long dark night of the soul. Everyone who goes to the White House has to live through a near-death experience," said Paul Begala, who helped engineer Bill Clinton's 1992 comeback in the face of questions about infidelity and draft dodging. "There's nothing else that tests you as completely as running for president: emotionally, temperamentally, ideologically and organizationally. Mitt's being tested. And you know what? Life's been pretty damn easy for Mitt Romney." ...

Harris and Hohmann's tone isn't exactly warm, but the hints are there: The insider press is going to respond to a Romney victory by saying that the struggle has built his character. The journos are going to say they must have misjudged his toughness, his mettle, his depths of character, his smarts, his savvy, because they doubted him and mocked him but he will have vanquished a mighty foe, which means that maybe he really does have the Right Stuff.

I see a much different narrative: here's a guy who's done this before, who has the organization, who has the money, and yet he still can't win the damn thing, even on the second try, without the help of entire GOP establishment, which has had to rescue him in turn from Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and now Ron Paul. Send lawyers, guns, and money!

Nahhh -- when Romney starts winning primaries, he'll be Tom Hanks as envisioned by Steven Spielberg. He'll be the quiet man with surprising, unplumbed depths of toughness. Just you wait.


(In case it's not clear, what I'm worried about is that Romney will be treated by the media like Poppy Bush in 1988 -- as the awkward but nobly reliable suburban dad whose social clumsiness is somehow a virtue. I admit, however, that the more common theory -- that Romney will be treated like Al Gore in 2000 -- is quite plausible.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Ashley Parker at the Caucus blog of The New York Times makes a tentative stab at turning Mitt Romney into 2000-vintage John McCain (or George W. Bush):

NEWPORT, N.H. -- ... on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Romney offered up his own moniker for the press bus: "This is the John Kerry bus," Mr. Romney quipped, when a group of finicky reporters didn't immediately jump for the submarine sandwiches he tried to pass out for lunch.

"Turkey, turkey, I've got a whole flock," Mr. Romney said good-naturedly, as he climbed onto the press bus after a drop-in at a pizza joint here. "Roast beef going once? Ham? Ham? What are you guys eating back here? What do you guys want?"

Turning to a group of reporters who had passed up several different types of sandwiches, he joked: "Filet mignon with some brie, is that it back here? Some Arugula? This is the John Kerry bus back there."

Mr. Romney has been making himself more available to the news media, sitting down for print and television interviews, and making an effort to joke around with the press corps who travels with him....

Yup, and apparently it's working if you're posting treacle like this, Ashley.

He just has to give this glad-handing stuff a reasonable effort and sooner or later the press is going to cover it as if he's a Kennedyesque wit. The press wants a new hero/pal and a new narrative -- how hard could it be for the scribes to fit Romney into that mold? Don't believe me? Here, let me try, just off the top of my head:

"After a decade of turbulence -- terrorism, war, financial calamity -- perhaps America is hungry for a little boring. Mitt Romney isn't the most exciting guy, but dull could be just what America craves now. Is it possible that Romney's style -- predictable, cautious, buttoned down -- is precisely what the nation is looking for after ten roller-coaster years? ..."

See? That was easy. A thousand dispatches and "think" pieces like that over the next year and Romney will be picking Cabinet members.


UPDATE: The same story, with added details, is at ABC, under the headline "Romney Orders Hawaiian Pizza, Feeds Reporters." This is what the campaign wants out there, and our press corps is only too happy to comply.

Steve Benen and Jonathan Chait are flagging an excerpt from Mitt Romney's new stump speech (Chait calls it "Glenn Beck-level insane"):

Just a couple of weeks ago in Kansas, President Obama lectured us about Teddy Roosevelt's philosophy of government. But he failed to mention the important difference between Teddy Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Roosevelt believed that government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities. President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes.

In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing -- the government....

Add this moderate-liberalism-equals-socialism crap to the Birtherism Lite of Romney foreign-policy attacks on Obama -- frankly, I don't care whether he said "keep America American" or "keep America America," he's still accusing Obama of not being loyal to his country -- and we've got ... well, what have we got?

In all likelihood, we've got 2000 all over again. Romney now, like Bush then, hasn't always spoken like a flaming wingnut throughout his political career (and didn't behave like one in the governor's office) -- which means that Romney now, like Bush then, is going to be called a "moderate" during the general election campaign no matter what he says in his speeches. Romney's Massachusetts past, like Bush's cooperation with Texas Democrats and prattle about "compassionate conservatism," is going to give him carte blanche to say anything without the mainstream press grasping the fact that if he's talking wingnut, it means he intends to govern as a wingnut.

Some beat reporter from 2000 -- I think it was Adam Clymer -- said after Bush took office that his right-wing leanings were obvious all through the campaign if you just bothered to read his policy proposals and listen to him on the stump. This stuff was hiding in plain sight. Everyone just ignored it. And they're probably going to ignore it again.


Kevin Drum asks:

But what about the general election? Independents aren't going to go for this stuff. They'll just shake their heads and wonder what the hell he's talking about. So is he going to ditch this stuff completely after he's won the nomination and pretend that he never said it? Or will he keep pressing, literally hoping that if you say anything often enough you can get people to believe it?

Oh, he can keep saying it. The political cost Republicans have paid for calling Obama a commie and an America-hater is precisely zero: "socialist" is simply this decade's synonym for "liberal" said with a sneer, and all that Kenyan/Muslim/anti-colonial/bows-to-world-leaders stuff is the new "hippie peacenik appeaser." Romney's "nice" version of it will be to preface it by calling Obama a "nice man." That confers blanket immunity.


(X-posted at Balloon Juice.).

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know: The Wall Street Journal, Scott Brown, and John McCain are all fretting that the payroll tax showdown is hurting the GOP politically. But tell me why I shouldn't believe Dave Weigel's theory that the GOP is going to win, as usual:

The cynic's bet is that the story of GOP dysfunction won't matter, so long as there's eventually some compromise. Eyes on the prize: If the other side blinks, and it always does, what can Republicans get out of them?

Key phrase there: and it always does. When was the last time the Democratic Party didn't blink?

...Yes, the Republicans are coming off as intransigent. But Democrats want to re-elect the president, so they'll ultimately give up a lot to extend a tax cut and unemployment benefits. In the meantime, Republicans can figure out what leverage they have to weaken the welfare state. Despite how it looks right now, it doesn't make sense to doubt them. After all, they've had a lot of practice at this.

I agree. Democrats don't dare apply a domestic version of Nixon's madman strategy -- that is, they don't dare say, "Well, we're perfectly content to blow the whole thing up" -- because they fear they'll be blamed. And given the media's relentlessly blame-everybody narrative -- echoed on numerous occasions by President Obama -- why should they have confidence that they'd avoid the blame?

So everyone will be called back between now and January and Republicans will start the hostage negotiations:

They want a few things. The House's version of the one-year extension included reforms that Republicans plan to stick to. On unemployment, the GOP wanted to cut the maximum duration from 99 weeks to 59 weeks and add in some new requirements. Beneficiaries who didn’t have GEDs would have to try to get them. States implementing unemployment insurance could require drug tests....

Also among the House GOP's demands: a hold on new EPA rules governing boilers, and an expedited decision of the Keystone XL pipeline....

Democrats aren't going to play chicken successfully because playing chicken isn't in their nature, because (unlike the snot-nosed teabag Republicans) they actually give a crap whether these benefits are extended, and because they've never spent any time building and communicating an Republicans-are-evil narrative that they can tap into right now. So, yeah, I think Weigel's absolutely right about this.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


At Fox, everybody hates Congress and look whose fault it is:

I guess they made her Speaker again! Whatever happened, she's to blame!

And then you go over to CBS and you get this from Bob Schieffer:

Forget who is at fault. They all are for letting it go this far. Both sides are so determined to undermine the other that they can't even figure out how to do something they both want: Extend the payroll tax cut.

Right now it's so obvious who's at fault that even ordinary Americans can figure it out. But they'll never hear that perception validated by anyone in the mass-audience media. It's always either "Democrats suck" (Fox, talk radio) or "everyone sucks" (everybody else). Only the tiny minority of Americans who read lefty blogs or watch MSNBC prime time or read Krugman will ever have an insider telling them that what they think they see is exactly what's going on. And so everyone else just starts assuming that the non-lefty experts must be right. And that's why I'm skeptical that any tilt away from the GOP on the part of the public can really be sustained.

Rachel Maddow's blog explains who was recently polling New Hampshire voters about Jeb Bush as a presidential candidate:

Thanks to the sleuthing of James Carter, we can now tell you the answer: Purple Strategies, a political communications firm. Director Doug Usher tells us that yes, it's his firm. Purple Strategies looks at the 12 swing states that it believes holds the key to the 2012 election. In this month's PurplePoll (pdf), they threw in Jeb Bush.

... Mr. Usher ... says his firm does do polling for hire, but this one they just do for themselves, for fun and for the public service of it. No one commissioned this poll, he says....

Hmmm ... I go to the "People" page at the Purple Strategies site and who's the first person listed? Founding partner Alex Castellanos -- a Romney adviser in 2008 (and an advisor to Bush/Cheney in '04 and the McCain campaign in the '08 general election), who praises Romney here as "this wonderful, genuine guy."

Yeah, Castellanos's partners include a couple of Democrats, but I'm suspicious.

Maybe this poll wasn't meant to gin up interest in Bush as a replacement for Romney, someone who might combine Romney's delegates with his own at a brokered convention -- maybe it's just the opposite, the idea being that Jeb might pick up some delegates and toss them to Romney to put Romney over the top at a brokered convention.

A small sampling of one week's headlines at Fox Nation:

(Source: 1, 2, 3, 4.)

This is really what it's all about on the right. Policy differences? They're just the principal means to right-wingers' real end, which is kicking the asses of hated people, or imagining that surrogates in politics or the media have done so, and invited you and everyone else to watch.


(And yes, "Christie Deep-Fries Obama" seems a bit odd, given the New Jersey governor's girth, as Eric Boehlert has noted -- but remember that right-wingers consider concerns about nutrition to be disgusting liberal nanny-state-ism -- Fox Nation says we should keep feeding the kids Happy Meals -- so "deep-fries" is, I think, meant to be a positive verb.)


I see that our side is (gratifyingly) flooding the zone in response to PolitiFact's preposterous proclamation that "Republicans voted to end Medicare" is not only a lie but the lie of the year. My anger is tempered, however, by a recognition of what happened after PolitiFact made its last two end-of-year declarations:

2010: PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: 'A government takeover of health care'

2009: PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: 'Death panels'

These were Republican lies, but neither of the PolitiFact pronouncements harmed the Republican Party in any way -- in fact, they coincided with the rise of the GOP to complete domination of our political life. And neither pronouncement affected the debate on the issue of health care: it's true that death panels weren't death panels, but they're still effectively dead, and among most people who have a strong opinion (i.e., hardcore Republicans), calling them "death panels" still seems accurate. And the "government takeover of health care" lie remains a millstone around Democrats' necks.

PolitiFact got it very wrong this year. Let's just hope that PolitiFact has as much impact now as it did in 2009 and 2010.

Well, this is perfect:

Instead Of Extending Tax Cut For 160 Million Americans, House Commissioned Bust Of Winston Churchill

While House Republicans couldn't get their act together to approve an extension of the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits last night, they were able to do something far more frivolousness -- commission a bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to be placed in the Capitol. The House "adjourned moments after" passing the bill...

The resolution was seen as a rebuke to the White House, which returned a bust of Churchill to the British Embassy in 2009....

Of course, this isn't just a "rebuke" -- it's an indirect way of telling swing voters that Obama opposes foreign policy muscularity and is anti-Western in general; it's also a way of delighting the right-wing base with a bit of Birtherism Lite, because, as we recall, right-wing bloviators -- Mike Huckabee, Glenn Beck, Stuart Varney -- have said that Obama returned the bust (replacing it with -- horrors! -- a bust of Lincoln) because he's Kenyan:

HUCKABEE: The bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.

... [Glenn] Beck even went so far as to suggest that the anti-British anger Obama apparently carries in his genes is cause to question whether he can effectively serve as president: "I'm trying to understand what he is doing. Has he dealt with that with his grandfather? How has he dealt with that? Someone in the press needs to ask him these questions. Can he be an honest broker at the table with the nations who are our traditional biggest allies?"

...VARNEY: ... I've not read the formal statement, but an explanation was requested and that was the explanation was that President Obama's father, being a native Kenyan, disliked the British colonial rule in Kenya that ended in 1963.

If (as I expect, current GOP chaos notwithstanding) we have a President Romney and GOP majorities in both houses of Congress in 2013, this is how everything is going to go, in between major efforts to repeal the twentieth century. Romney and congressional leaders will work on repealing the health care law, passing a deficit-exploding series of tax cuts that includes massive tax breaks for the rich, locking in a supermajority requirement in both houses to ever raise taxes again, busting federal public-sector unions, and passing a national right-to-work law, a national voter ID law, and national concealed-carry reciprocity -- but apart from that, the GOP government will devote itself almost exclusively to wedge-issue votes: on Planned Parenthood, on public broadcasting, on prayer in public places, on the remnants of ACORN, on mosque construction, on whatever the right-media can gin up. If the Scott Walker-esque legislative blitzkrieg can happen quickly enough, we could have one year of dismantling the twentieth century and three years of wedge, wedge, wedge. We can only hope that that's when the public will say "Enough."

Last night, Rachel Maddow pondered the sudden reemergence of Jeb Bush -- focusing on, among other things, the fact that a pollster was asking about Jeb's chances in New Hampshire when the deadline for getting on the New Hampshire primary ballot has passed. Why ask, then? And why all the other recent Jeb stirrings?

Her conclusion: this makes no sense if the point is to run Jeb as a Republican, but it makes perfect sense if the point is to get Jeb onto the top of the Americans Elect ticket.

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She takes Americans Elect seriously. So do I -- the AE folks have money, they're rapidly getting ballot access across the country, and our idiot punditocracy sees starbursts every time someone talks about challenging our two-party system from what seems to be the center. (Yeah, I know -- how the hell would a ticket with Jeb Bush at the top be from the center? But his running mate would probably be Lieberman or Bayh or Ben Nelson or Zell Miller -- AE insists on a bipartisan ticket -- and the pundit morons would still swoon.)

I'm just pleased to see that Maddow and I have been thinking along the same lines -- last week I speculated that if Newt Gingrich was on the verge of winning the GOP nomination, the Republican Party and fat-cat GOP donors and super PACs would make plans to withdraw support from him and to get a more compatible candidate to top the AE ticket. Maddow also thinks that's plausible. I wasn't thinking of Jeb at the time, but why not?

One quibble with what Maddow said: I'm not sure it really matters whether the New Hampshire filing deadline has passed because New Hampshire does allow write-ins (Henry Cabot Lodge even won the 1964 Republican primary as a write-in). Yes, that's an uphill climb, but hey, we actually have a sitting U.S. senator right now, Lisa Murkowski, who won her last election as a write-in. It's a crazy country these days. If Mitt Romney were to finish a distant fourth in Iowa and were sliding in the New Hampshire polls, can't you imagine the entire GOP noise machine promoting Jeb with one voice, even Jeb as a write-in in New Hampshire and other early states? And given the way GOP voters have been responding to their recent marching orders on abandoning Gingrich, can't you imagine such a campaign working?

But, of course, the success of the noise machine in garrotting Gingrich is why this won't be necessary.

So now, I suppose, it's up to various crazies and saboteurs to try to promote Hillary Clinton as an AE candidate, or Condi Rice. Too bad for them that neither Hillary nor Condi wants to run.

But please understand that if the Republicans get the nominee they want, as now seems likely, they will try to game the AE process so the ticket-topper will be someone who pulls votes from Obama, and they will work tirelessly to portray whoever gets the AE nod -- even if it's Huntsman or Bloomberg -- as a huge liberal, so no right-winger will cross over to AE.