Thursday, February 28, 2013


Here's a tweet Josh Marshall wrote this morning:

A few hours ago, in my comments, Aimai wrote:
Woodward's "I saw Obama biting the heads off small children" moment was over in an absolute flash.... The outrage spin cycle seems to be moving faster and faster and rinsing out rather fully.
Even Politico, which turned the non-threat of Woodward into a phony story in the first place, now quotes a large number of journalists who say it was absurd to regard what Gene Sperling e-mailed to Woodward as a threat.

So the story's over ... right?

Not everywhere. Here's the front page of as I type:

Fox Nation is, similarly, still giving Woodward a banner headline. Fox News Insider just posted an item headlined "Mark Levin Blasts White House for Woodward Threats: 'We Have an Imperial President Who Doesn't Want to Debate Opposition.'" And if Sean Hannity has canceled his "exclusive interview" with Woodward on Fox tonight, I haven't heard about it.

People who are paying attention now realize that the threat story is an embarrassment -- but the lumpen audience for right-wing rage is presumed not to know any such thing, or to be inclined to skepticism about the debunking. Fox assumes the angry base still believes Obama is a press-threatening bully because Fox-style propaganda has persuaded the base that Obama is a vicious, jackbooted totalitarian (when he's not a pathetic, Teleprompter-dependent, mom-jeans-wearing stumblebum). So the story is still alive in Fox Land.

Aimai, in her comment, writes:
the outrages that they are manufacturing seem to be more and more disconnected even from the fantasy horrors of their base. This woodward thing is so transparently a mere fraud on the press itself--it has nothign to do even with the reflex "chicago politics" and "obama is a thug" masturbatory fantasies of the base.
Well, now that you mention it.... Let's go to the Web site of Joe the Plumber -- no, seriously -- and check out a post by Wurzelbacher collaborator Rodney Lee with the totally not-racist title "Barack Thugs-N-Harmony":
Why is everyone so surprised? No one who's been paying attention at all over the past 40 years in Illinois is even batting an eye that Bob Woodward, of all people, has been threatened by the White House. These are folks from Illinois, folks. You know, Daley, Rostenkowski, Blagojevich, Daley, George Ryan, and for you old-schoolers -- Dan Walker or Paul Powell -- take your pick...

People in Illinois who are able to string two sentences together knew who David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Rahm Emmanuel, and Alice Palmer were, and when Barack Obama was elected President [in 2008], there was a big "you ain't seen nothing yet" being muttered across the Land 'O Lincoln.

They knew what was coming to DC: Illinois-style villains, criminals, hucksters and hustlers. Nothing off-limits or off the table. Full-blown lies and corruption the likes of which the rest of the country apparently wasn't ready for. In Illinois, it's a political culture that's been in place for more than 100 years....

You think they need Bob Woodward on their side? He's more useful as an example to all other "journalists" who might think about veering off the program for a minute....
This is going to be like birtherism -- it's never going to go away. The crazies are going to tell us until they draw their last breaths that Obama threatened poor, innocent Bob Woodward, because thuggishness is central to Obama's nature and endemic to the political culture from which he emerged.

It's just one more item in the billion-count indictment of Obama they all keep in their heads, but Fox and certain other media outlets know that you can never stoke too much anger in these people, and there are very few stories that are too crazy for the rubes to believe. I call it ignorance arbritrage -- if you can't sell the notion of Obama-as-thug to people who are paying attention, there are plenty of low-info voters who'll be happy to buy it.

You may have seen this story:
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday described Zionism as a "crime against humanity" on par with anti-Semitism and fascism.

Speaking in Vienna at a United Nations event devoted to dialogue between the West and Islam, Erdogan decried rising racism in Europe and the fact that many Muslims "who live in countries other than their own" often face harsh discrimination.

"We should be striving to better understand the culture and beliefs of others, but instead we see that people act based on prejudice and exclude others and despise them," Erdogan said, according to a simultaneous translation provided by the UN. "And that is why it is necessary that we must consider -- just like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism -- Islamophobia as a crime against humanity." ...
Is attacking Zionism the moral equivalent of attacking Jews? You decide. In any case, needless to say, Erdogan's statement is being denounced as anti-Semitic.

Now, guess who's responsible for it, according to Jennifer Rubin.

Yup: according to Jennifer Rubin, the prime minister of Turkey made an anti-Zionist remark because the United States made Chuck Hagel defense secretary.

So I guess the 2010 Ha'aretz story titled "Israel Accuses Turkish PM of Inciting Anti-Semitism" is evidence that Hagel's reward from the White House for surviving the confirmation process was access to a super-secret Defense Department time machine.

And hmmm ... I find that Erdogan has been charged with making anti-Semitic remarks as far back as 1997, when he was mayor of Istanbul. And what about this YouTube clip, said to be an anti-Semitic remark in a 1993 Erdogan speech? Or, for that matter, what about the reportedly anti-Semitic play Erdogan wrote in 1974?

I guess that DoD time machine is really, really powerful. Right, Jennifer?


And if you're wondering, even the story Rubin links from the clownish Free Beacon doesn't hang this remark around Hagel's neck. That's all her idea.

For a long time now, Bob Woodward has seemed to be a doppelganger of his most famous subject. Like Nixon, Woodward is personally stiff, with halting and robotic speech patterns substituting for the disgraced president's twitches. Like Nixon, Woodward enjoys the surreptitious -- many of his books don't even have notes, so determined is he to conceal How He Got That Story -- and, like Nixon, he regards information as the source of his power over others (by astonishing coincidence, the people who don't cooperate with Woodward are always the worst people in Washington). Nixon looked out into the world and saw malign forces arrayed against him; Woodward became part of the Sally Quinn/Ben Bradlee Rat Pack, whose worldview was summed up in David Broder's notorious words about Bill Clinton: "He came in here and he trashed the place, and it's not his place."

Both Erick Erickson and Mediaite's Noah Rothman have seen a veiled reference to Nixon in something Woodward said on Morning Joe yesterday morning about President Obama's handling of the sequester:
"Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying 'Oh, by the way, I can't do this because of some budget document?' Or George W. Bush saying, 'You know, I'm not going to invade Iraq because I can't get the aircraft carriers I need' or even Bill Clinton saying, 'You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters,' as he did when Clinton was president because of some budget document? Under the Constitution, the president is commander-in-chief and employs the force. And so we now have the president going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement, I can't do what I need to do to protect the country. That's a kind of madness that I haven't seen in a long time.
But where they see Woodward hinting that Obama is a new mad Nixon, I see Woodward being Nixonian in scurrilously suggesting that the president has lost his bearings. It's like something Nixon would have slipped into the press about Ed Muskie during the '72 primaries.

(It's also rather Nixonian to suggest that the president should just become a dictator to satisfy Woodward's craving for action.)

Woodward's follow-up -- the Obamaites-threatened-me story -- also seems like a Nixonian attempt at character assassination, although, like Nixon releasing the tapes, Woodward seems to have undercut his position by revealing more:
Bob Woodward called a senior White House official last week to tell him that in a piece in that weekend's Washington Post, he was going to question President Barack Obama's account of how sequestration came about -- and got a major-league brushback. The Obama aide "yelled at me for about a half hour," Woodward told us in an hour-long interview yesterday around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington's powerful have spilled their secrets.

Digging into one of his famous folders, Woodward said the tirade was followed by a page-long email from the aide, one of the four or five administration officials most closely involved in the fiscal negotiations with the Hill. "I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today," the official typed. "You're focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. ... I think you will regret staking out that claim."
That's your nothingburger of a "threat," Bob? "[P]erhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. ... I think you will regret staking out that claim"? Following an apology?

But Woodward wants vengeance. He revealed in his book that the White House originated the idea of the sequester, and Team Obama got away with fudging that fact (never mind that this was the only way out of a hostage crisis). Woodward is angry -- the bastards got away with it! Woodward will be avenged!

Somewhere in hell, Dick Nixon is nodding and saying, "Bob, I know just how you feel."


UPDATE: Notice the ellipsis in the "threatening" quote from the e-mail above? Some people saw that and smelled a rat:

In fact, as we now know, the full text of the "threatening" e-mail (from White House aide Gene Sperling) reveals the missing words:
But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim.
What Sperling is referring to is Woodward's claim, in a Washington Post article, that Obama initially accepted that the sequester should be replaced only with spending cuts. This assertion has been proven to be factually incorrect, based on the plain text of the law that put the sequester into effect.

Except for the fact that we found out what was missing, you could call this ellipsis Woodward's 18-minute gap.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Michael Kinsley is puzzled:
Whoever could have imagined that Republicans could be such wussies? After all, the GOP is the Party of Testosterone. Democrats are the ones who are supposed to be wimpy and weepy. But lately the Republicans have been a bunch of crybabies: Hey mama, President Obama is picking on us. He's so strong, so ruthless....

Rush Limbaugh recently spent two days of his radio show wallowing in political self-pity. "I have alerted you and anybody who will listen that what the objective is at the White House is the annihilation of the Republican Party, the elimination of all viable opposition -- and on a personal level. You know, not just to annihilate Republican Party/conservative ideas, but also people, the people who carry them, the people who believe in them."

What on Earth does he mean by "annihilation"? And not just of ideas, but of people? ...

But it's not just Limbaugh. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, reacting to the State of the Union address, said ominously that Obama might "steamroll his opposition in Congress, or in the 2014 midterms" to get his dangerous left-wing agenda enacted. My impression always had been that to get elected or pass legislation, you generally need a majority vote. What is this process called "steamrolling" that apparently will enable Obama to skip all that stuff? ...
The primary point of this is not to elicit sympathy. The primary point of this is to accuse Obama and the Democrats of doing something really, really appalling and beyond the pale -- which then serves as a justification for whatever Republicans want to do in return, from blocking every one of his initiatives to possibly shutting down the government to, potentially, impeachment, or to nullification of gun laws by red-state governments and law enforcement officials .

If you can claim that your enemy wants to destroy you, then you can also claim you're entitled to do pretty much anything you want in response. It's simple self-defense -- by definition. These people who seem to whining are, in effect, declaring that a political Stand Your Ground law is in effect -- if they perceive a mortal threat to their party, what they're permitted to do about it knows no bounds.

Basically, what Antonin Scalia is saying is that the pool of eligible voters can be divided into "makers" and "takers":
There were audible gasps in the Supreme Court's lawyers' lounge, where audio of the oral argument is pumped in for members of the Supreme Court bar, when Justice Antonin Scalia offered his assessment of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. He called it a "perpetuation of racial entitlement."
Right -- the rest of us deserve to be registered to vote, but these parasites and leeches get their voting rights handed to them by a government that's therefore depriving the rest of us of ... um, something. I'm not sure what. But we're definitely getting a raw deal. And they're getting special rights.

I'm reminded of something Atrios wrote in response to a Jon Stewart segment:
... I like the inclusion of Craig T. Nelson saying, "I've been on food stamps and welfare, did anybody help me out? No." Because I think that quote really gets to the true core of bullshit mountain. One can never be quite sure how much conservatives believe their own bullshit, but my longstanding theory is that they believe there's some secret super generous welfare system that only black people have access to. When they had hard times, got their government handouts, their government handouts sucked. But the blahs are out there buying their t-bones and driving their cadillacs, so they must be getting the really good welfare. Nobody helped poor Craig out, because the food stamps and and welfare sucked....
Scalia's little quip is just a non-economic corollary to that belief system.


ALSO: The quote above comes from Think Progress, which elaborates on Scalia's "racial entitlement" remark:
The comment came as part of a larger riff on a comment Scalia made the last time the landmark voting law was before the justices. Noting the fact that the Voting Rights Act reauthorization passed 98-0 when it was before the Senate in 2006, Scalia claimed four years ago that this unopposed vote actually undermines the law: "The Israeli supreme court, the Sanhedrin, used to have a rule that if the death penalty was pronounced unanimously, it was invalid, because there must be something wrong there."
Really, Tony? If something passes unanimously, that means it's more controversial than if there was dissent?

You know what else the Senate approved unanimously, Tony? Approved 98-0, in fact? Your nomination to the Supreme Court. By your logic, shouldn't that have meant your nomination was rejected?


Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes were crestfallen last year when Chris Christie declined to run for president, as The New York Times noted in July:
Along with Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News, Mr. Murdoch urged Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to run. Both men admire Mr. Christie's gusto and toughness -- a sharp edge they have themselves. "He really wanted Christie," said one of Mr. Murdoch's friends.
Now Chris Christie hasn't been invited to speak at CPAC -- and you'd think Fox would want to keep its wingnuttier-than-thou edge by endorsing the snub. But mancrushes die hard, so Charles Krauthammer went on Bill O'Reilly's show to be (I assume) Ailes and Murdoch's mouthpierce:
Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer says it was a "vast overreaction" and "mistake" that CPAC officials didn't invite GOP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to its upcoming conference.

... "Look, I wasn't very happy with what he did in [Hurricane] Sandy, I thought he deserves three months in quarantine. But three months is up. I'd let him out. We should have him at CPAC. We should have a wide tent and if that's what it takes to win elections in the Northeast and nationwide, let's go for it."

...He added: "I think it's a mistake. I think they're trying to define legitimate ideology fairly narrowly and they want to rule people out. Here we are with four years to go until the next election, we ought to keep the tent wide and open and let the people, Republicans decide," Krauthammer said on Fox.
Also deployed: Eric Bolling, host of the Fox afternoon show The Five:
... Host Eric Bolling said that the party can only remain viable so long as it remains a big tent.... On a day when New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced he will embrace the Medicaid expansion funding in the Affordable Care Act, Bolling advised his fellow Republicans that they must embrace Christie as the future leader of their party....

"I hate all this," Bolling said of infighting within the GOP about the future direction of the party. "They need to get together and form one party that has a big tent for everyone; whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, male, female."

... "You need someone who's charismatic. He's got to be a leader. And, this one: the way [Bill] O'Reilly puts it, 'fight back the media jackals.' That's Christie."
You know who could really take advantage of this, if he were so inclined? Glenn Beck. He's out there trying to get his TV channel on cable and satellite systems -- but he and his empire keeps going through identity crises. (What is he this week? A utopian? A libertarian? A Christian rightist?) Plus, I don't think he truly has the fire of hate in his belly, at least with regard to his ex-employer.

But if Beck really wanted to, he could position his channel as the only true conservative channel!!!, while picking out moments like these Fox defenses of Christie as signs that Fox is just a nest of stinking RINOs. (Hell, Eric Bolling is talking RINO talk about Christie in Beck's old time slot!) Beck's channel actually wouldn't need to be all that far to the right of Fox -- really, how could it be? -- but he could pick up Sarah Palin and Dick Morris, and maybe load the channel up with NRA programming and paranoid conspiratorialism (oh, wait, it's already got that), and then declare Fox to be too soft. And I bet a lot of the rubes would fall for it. Which might push Fox even further to the right, etc., etc., etc., until maybe even the mainstream press couldn't ignore the insanity of it all.

I don't think this is Beck's style, but if he really went after Fox this way, I'd cook up a whole mess of popcorn.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Fox Nation has found a new champion of freedom:

This great freedom fighter is Carole Lokan Moore, an innkeeper, former substitute teacher, and longtime NRA member from Edgewater Park, New Jersey. A video of her testimony at a gun control hearing of the New Jersey State Assembly's Law and Safety Committee is making the wingnut rounds:
Moore started by reminding committee members that murderous dictators like Stalin and Hitler made a point of disarming their people in the early stages of their rule, so they couldn't interfere with their bids for absolute power and international conquest.

"The Hitlers of this world only go after the sheep cowering in the corner," Moore said.

Moore than raised the subject of the Newtown shooting, and how she believes the tragic situation might have turned out differently.

"If I had been in that school in Connecticut, I would have been the first one out of the door, I would have been the first one charging," Moore said. "The principal should have had a firearm. The associate principal should have had a firearm. They should have been prepared.

"I can protect my grandchildren when they're at my home, but when I send them to your school system, who's protecting my kids?

"You've' been educated. I'm a school teacher, I'm also a firearms instructor and lifetime member of the NRA (National Rifle Association) that's been teaching firearm safety for the past 150 years. I'm damned proud to be here, and I'm so glad you listened."
Um, I didn't lose any family members in the Holocaust, but if I did, I think that bit about how "the Hitlers of this world only go after the sheep cowering in the corner" might not sit too well with me. Or maybe that's just me.

I see that Moore, who ran unsuccessfully for a state senate seat a couple of years ago, had this sign outside her B&B and cafe last year:

When a lesbian mother posted the photo of the sign to her Facebook page, with a disapproving message, Moore responded -- memorably -- on her Facebook page:
Isn't it wonderful Joanne Fraschilla, that you and your son can enjoy the animals here because I have a traditional marriage with a husband who works with me 90 hours a week to take care of these animals, and the summer camp....we're 66-68 years old....there were no gays or queers in our time.....if two old ladies chose to live be it, let them deal with God when they get there...but to have the "face sucking" thrown in my face of two gay lesbians who are totally destroying the "normal balance in a child's life" as you claim your son...where is the role model that your son needs to know how to act like a man? or will he only see the "one sided selfishness" of a "single parent"...and end up an out cast in society by being "gay" himself because he didn't have a father as a role model. I'll pray for you....remember what the bible says: "Lay down with dogs, get up with fleas".....guess that's why God invented aids.... THIS LOCAL BUSINESS WILL BE ONE MAN ONE WOMAN ONE GOD MAKES MARRIAGE....AND PROUD TO DO SO....YOU SHOULD BE SO LUCKY TO OWN YOUR OWN BUSINESS
(Did I mention that she's also a Daughter of the Confederacy?)

She also writes nasty (and subliterate) e-mails to local reporters on
less controversial subjects:
Deapie,r Edgewater Park Reporter, I think you might have come in to our Organic Green Café the other day. You are "frumpy", "over weight", "slide your feet, instead of lifting them", "dress back in the 60's when we use to cover an over weight body with faded denim skirts that only come to above the knee. The reason I think it is you, is because when I tried to be "friendy" and ask if you were said...."I came in to read my book not to be interogated"....

So dear, Edgewater Park Reporter, if you were that "frumpy" old 60's person who came in, I'm sorry I disturbed your reading, but we in Edgewater Park are noted for friendly conversation. Come again, in a 1980's outfit and I won't recognize you.
Ladies and gentlemen, Fox Nation's newest heroine.

Chuck Hagel will be approved as defense secretary after all, it seems:
Senators voted to end debate Tuesday on President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the secretary of Defense. He now faces a formal vote on confirmation.

The vote was 71-27 to end debate and send the nomination to the Senate for a full vote, which is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.

Hagel's confirmation seems virtually assured....
The Washington Post's Aaron Blake asks whether the GOP's battle was worth the effort to the party, and answers his own question this way:
Why it was worth it

Despite the unprecedented nature of the filibuster and the Democratic criticism of their effort against a decorated war hero, Republicans likely will pay no major political price for their tactics. This is for two reasons:

1) The American people quite simply weren't all that interested. Even though the Hagel drama was big news in Washington, it was met by the American people with a collective yawn. Even as of last week, a Pew poll showedthat half of Americans said they didn't know enough about Hagel to rate him favorably or unfavorably. Despite the dicey electoral gambit to delay Hagel's nomination, there has been little backlash against Republicans for doing it -- at least as far as we can tell right now.

And 2) Nobody is going to mourn much for Chuck Hagel. The fact is that this is a guy without a political home. He is a former Republican senator who alienated his own party with his vehement criticism of the Iraq war and also seen as a political interloper who hasn't built up a whole lot of good will with Democrats. His past criticisms of the "Jewish lobby" and a gay ambassador nominee, while not enough to derail his nomination, were enough to ensure that even his supporters weren't all that enamored of him. And Republicans were able to bring his numbers down a little, with Pew showing his unfavorable rating rising from 18 percent in January to 28 percent last week (his favorable rating also rose slightly, from 18 percent to 22 percent, over that span).

In the end, the Hagel nomination will amount to little more than an inside baseball political game. Republicans effectively registered their concerns and have, for the second time this year, either thwarted one of President Obama's likely Cabinet picks (Susan Rice) or served notice that they won't be steamrolled into supporting divisive nominees (Hagel).
So, to sum up:

1) It was worth fighting this losing battle because, what the hell, why not? Republicans didn't hurt themselves.

2) It was worth fighting this battle because nobody likes the guy they went after.

3) It was worth fighting this battle because it made him even less popular.

What this reminds me of is high school-- no, junior high. I wasn't seriously bullied back in those years, but I went through some low-level harassment, and I saw some directed at others.

You know the guy who'd slump in his seat as you'd walk down the aisle, so you'd trip over his feet? Or the guy who'd shove you into a bank of lockers and then just keep walking? These weren't beatdowns. They didn't cause real pain or leave marks. It was all just meant to throw you off stride, and to make sure you knew where you (and the perpetrator) stood in the pecking order.

The people who did those things in my school years obviously derived satisfaction from them. Their political counterparts are modern-day Republicans.

Rush Limbaugh got some attention last Thursday for saying on his radio show, "for the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my country." On Friday, he followed up with a long monologue about how "the left has beaten us." (Video at the Mediaite link.)

So how has "the left" beaten Limbaugh and his allies? Although he never uses the number, his answer, essentially, is by appealing to (and making dependents of) the people Mitt Romney called the 47%. What -- you thought the right had learned its lesson about saying stuff like this? Hardly.

From the transcript at Limbaugh's site:
... Anyway, my point with all this is that for 25 years, folks, we've been dealing with the same premise: "Unless we spend another dime, the country is going to cease to exist." And for 25 years I have responded to each premise on what I call an intellectual, point-by-point basis refuting every claim. The purpose of this program has been to create as large a body of informed voting citizens as possible. While we've been largely and profoundly successful at that, the left has beaten us.

They have created far more low-information, unaware, uneducated people than we've been able to keep up with.

... the left has control of the education system -- control of the pop culture, movies, TVs, books, music. We've just been outnumbered.

The way they've done it is to create more and more dependency, and then every so often tell those people that they're about to lose it all because of the Republicans. That's what we're going through now with the sequester business....

In order for the left to be able to advance, they require ignorance, and as much ignorance as possible. I don't mean stupidity. Genuine, real ignorance.

And while all this is happening, while all these allegations of austerity, what we're actually doing is ruining the country. We're actually spending more than we ever have. We're actually creating more dependents. The whole thing is shamefully absurd. I don't know how else to say it.
Last night, Bill O'Reilly responded (video at the Fox link):
... I do not believe that liberal thought is now dominant in the USA. However, the country's changing quickly into an entitlement society. It's not so much that apathetic Americans are embracing the tenets of the left. It's just that they're selfish, and they want money for nothing, as Dire Straits once sang.

... If a charismatic conservative leader can emerge, and can fight off the media jackals, that person can turn the country to the right. Why? Because America is inherently a place of achievement. We've always been that. It's true that more Americans today want handouts than ever before. But that can be reversed....

There have always been selfish Americans. There have always been people who see themselves as victims and want to be paid for their perceived suffering. We've always had that. Now those people are in a comfort zone, because their victimization isn't being challenged. It's being encouraged by the Obama administration. But once the nanny-state victim mentality begins to get hammered, in an effective way, it will fall apart....
There you have it, folks. Are Republicans going to stop describing the voters they couldn't reach in 2008 as parasites and leeches? No -- they're going to keep calling them parasites and leeches if they listen to Rush Limbaugh, the top-rated right-wing pundit on radio, and Bill O'Reilly, the top-rated right-wing pundit on TV. They're going to believe O'Reilly when he says that they don't have to change their message at all -- all that's needed to achieve victory for their "disorganized" party (O'Reilly's word -- see the full clip) is the right messenger, whose charisma will lead them out of the wilderness, not by appealing to Democratic voters, but by rallying the same old GOP base that hates Democratic voters to turn out in larger numbers.

And who knows -- a Supreme Court decision here, another Supreme Court decision there, a little more rigging of the electoral system, and I suppose it might just work. But not as an expression of the popular will. I don't think they care, though. They want a win, but on their terms. And they'll take that kind of win any way they can get it.

Monday, February 25, 2013


You may have seen this story:
A prominent Brooklyn assemblyman defended himself on Monday after attracting attention for wearing blackface to a party he hosted this weekend to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim.

The assemblyman, Dov Hikind, a Democrat who has been a longtime power broker in the Orthodox Jewish community, wore an Afro wig, orange jersey, sunglasses and brown makeup or face paint as part of a costume that Mr. Hikind said represented a "black basketball player." ...

The headline of the Washington Free Beacon story on this incident -- and the likely spin throughout the right-o-sphere -- is:
Dem Dons Blackface
And, yes, it's true: Dov Hikind is a registered Democrat.

But he's a registered Democrat who campaigned for Mitt Romney in 2012. And endorsed John McCain in 2008. And George W. Bush in 2004. And Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush prior to that.

Hikind has also backed Rudy Giuliani. And Al D'Amato. And George Pataki (whose administration subsequently gave Hikind's brother a job). And Bob Turner, the Republican who took Anthony Weiner's House seat in a special election after Weiner resigned.

A few more Hikind fun facts:
The BBC reported that in 2005, Hikind called a press conference at which he "brandished mug-shots of the largely Middle Eastern men from the FBI's 'most wanted' list, saying that all recent terrorists 'look basically like this.'" The article adds: "Hikind denies that he is arguing for racial profiling, preferring the phrase 'terrorist profiling.'" Hikind continued to say these kinds of things when given the chance to tone it down....

In 2007, Hikind defended his opposition to gay marriage by sending a letter to the Observer that read, in part, "If we authorize gay marriage in the state of New York, those who want to live and love incestuously will be five steps closer to achieving their goals, as well." ...

Believing the United Nations to be a "'cesspool' of racism, anti-Semitism, and opposition to Israel," Hikind has consistently opposes renovations to the its building, the Sun reported....
Oh, and he's frequently attacked those who support the cause of the Palestinians. This, in and of itself, is not unusual among Democratic elected officials, especially locally. However, Hikind is the rare elected official in America who is a former member of the Jewish Defense League, which the FBi has called a terrorist group.

So, um, not a boilerplate Democrat.

Jennifer Rubin on Michelle Obama's appearance at last night's Oscars:
It is not enough that President Obama pops up at every sporting event in the nation. Now the first lady feels entitled, with military personnel as props, to intrude on other forms of entertaining (this time for the benefit of the Hollywood glitterati who so lavishly paid for her husband's election). I’m sure the left will holler that once again conservatives are being grouchy and have it in for the Obamas. Seriously, if they really had their president's interests at heart, they’d steer away from encouraging these celebrity appearances. It makes both the president and the first lady seem small and grasping. In this case, it was just downright weird.
Rubin isn't the wingnut most fixated on this (that honor goes to Matt Drudge), but if anyone wants to know where the Obamas learned to go pop culture, they might want to look at a few of these clips, all of which feature a sitting president of the United States:

The Bond tribute appeared on British television in 1983, as part of a special timed to coincide with the release of the Bond film Octopussy. The coin toss was in 1985 -- and if you go here, you can watch Reagan actually rehearsing the coin toss, so he can get just the right inflection on the words "It is heads" and "It is tails."

And I don't want to post this again, but, Matt and Jen, you leave me no choice:


UPDATE: I hate these people.


I think this, from the lead story in today's print New York Times, misses the point:
With Congress unlikely to stop deep automatic spending cuts that will strike hard at the military, the fiscal stalemate is highlighting a significant shift in the Republican Party: lawmakers most keenly dedicated to shrinking the size of government are now more dominant than the bloc committed foremost to a robust national defense, particularly in the House.
"Robust national defense"? Is that the right way to describe what the John McCains and the Lindsey Grahams and the Bill Kristols want? Or is being in favor of lavish military spending and every possible intervention just what these guys consider an effective posture against a party they've portrayed for forty years as sandal-wearing hippies putting flowers in gun barrels?

As I see it, the intraparty dispute is between a crop of old-school posturers who think it's effective to demand lots of military spending all the time, in order to draw a contrast with evil peacenik Democrats ... and a new crop, who are focusing on cutting government spending (including military spending) right now, but who are also likely to attack Democrats as anti-military later, if and when these cuts take effect.

You just wait: Rand Paul and a tiny handful of other Paulite Republicans may sincerely want to cut the defense budget and reduce U.S. military commitments, but the rest of these guys want the cuts to take effect on a Democratic president's watch because they want to blame a Democrat for them. The only real difference between these guys and the old-school hawks is that the old-school hawks think you attack Democrats as peaceniks by demanding maximal militarism at all times, while the new crowd is sacrificing a pawn, on the assumption that anything Republicans force into the budget while a Democrat is in the Oval Office will be blamed on the Democrat. It's a difference of tactics.

Do you seriously think the GOP isn't going to run against Hillary Clinton (or whomever) in 2016 by accusing Democrats of making America weak? Do you think the Republican candidate isn't going to do precisely what Mitt Romney did in 2012, which was to simultaneously demand austerity and a huge increase in defense spending? I know Conor Friedersdorf and Glenn Greenwald will be along any minute to tell us that this could be a real sea change in the GOP -- but it's not. The party's Benghazi obsession tells us it's not. Yes, there are two wings of the party, but their big difference is on the question of whether to say "Democrats weaken America!" now or later.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Ross Douthat has concluded, based on God knows what evidence, that people who are underemployed and have no hope of getting an actual good-paying job have a pretty soft life:
IMAGINE, as 19th-century utopians often did, a society rich enough that fewer and fewer people need to work -- a society where leisure becomes universally accessible, where part-time jobs replace the regimented workweek, and where living standards keep rising even though more people have left the work force altogether.

... the decline of work isn't actually some wild Marxist scenario. It's a basic reality of 21st-century American life... This decline isn't unemployment in the usual sense, where people look for work and can't find it. It's a kind of post-employment, in which people drop out of the work force and find ways to live, more or less permanently, without a steady job. So instead of spreading from the top down, leisure time -- wanted or unwanted -- is expanding from the bottom up. Long hours are increasingly the province of the rich.
Oh, the terrible burdens of the rich! Tell me more, Ross, about why they should envy the not-fully-employed:
Many of the Americans dropping out of the work force are not destitute: they're receiving disability payments and food stamps, living with relatives, cobbling together work here and there, and often doing as well as they might with a low-wage job.
Wow! Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, hunh?

Seriously, what inspired Douthat to write this paean to the joys of scraping by with no health care, no vacation days, no job security of even the two-weeks'-notice-if-terminated variety, and no double-digit hourly remuneration, ever? A few too many viewings of Portlandia? Or maybe that faux-rap song about thrift-shopping all The Kidz are grooving to?

Nahh -- Douthat's inspiration probably included the Heritage Foundation's notorious report concluding that poor people in America aren't really poor because they have (gasp!) refrigerators and microwave ovens. (Never mind the fact that this is because consumer electronics have become cheaper and cheaper; the problem is, if you were to sell your used refrigerator or microwave, it would pay for only a few days' worth of food or utilities, and let's not even talk about health insurance.) Right-wingers argue that, because electronics are getting cheaper, the fact that income inequality is increasing doesn't matter -- yes, poors, you earn less, but that Blu-Ray player is really cheap at Walmart this weekend, so who cares if you can't afford medicine for your kids? (OK, they don't say that last part, but it's implied.)

Douthat does see some downside to poor people's life of luxury:
... the decline of work carries social costs as well as an economic price tag. Even a grinding job tends to be an important source of social capital, providing everyday structure for people who live alone, a place to meet friends and kindle romances for people who lack other forms of community, a path away from crime and prison for young men, an example to children and a source of self-respect for parents.

Here the decline in work-force participation is of a piece with the broader turn away from community in America -- from family breakdown and declining churchgoing to the retreat into the virtual forms of sport and sex and friendship. Like many of these trends, it poses a much greater threat to social mobility than to absolute prosperity. (A nonworking working class may not be immiserated; neither will its members ever find a way to rise above their station.) And its costs will be felt in people's private lives and inner worlds even when they don't show up in the nation's G.D.P.
So according to Douthat -- and I bet you're just shocked to learn this -- underemployment is bad mostly because it's bad for underemployed people's souls. They'll never be able to meet proper mates with whom they can have exclusively procreative sex, as the pope demands! (OK, I made that part up, too, but this is Douthat, so that's clearly implied.) They'll turn their kids into juvenile delinquents!

Douthat does at least note that they'll never get out of their economic rut. But he seems much more concerned about their "private lives and inner worlds." Stop worrying about whether they have benefits! What you should be worrying about is that they're skipping church and bowling alone!

I'll close with a late D.C.-based pundit who understood this issue a hell of a lot better than Douthat:

Saturday, February 23, 2013


I didn't join in the David Brooks pile-on yesterday, after Brooks published a column arguing, among other things, that President Obama doesn't have a plan to avoid the sequester. I didn't join even after Jonathan Chait and others directed Brooks's attention to the plan, the existence of which is easily verifiable, or even after Ezra Klein spoke with Brooks about the fact that the plan exists. I didn't even join when Brooks told Klein,
In my ideal world, the Obama administration would do something Clintonesque: They’d govern from the center; they’d have a budget policy that looked a lot more like what Robert Rubin would describe....
and Klein pointed out that, in fact, Robert Rubin's own proposal would be even less palatable to Republicans, because it seeks more new tax revenue than Obama's plan.

I didn't join the pile-on because Brooks wasn't engaging in journalism. He wasn't even engaged in fact-based punditry. What Brooks was writing was theology.

Brooks was writing a commentary rooted in the Beltway's political religion. In a religious faith, stories are told that are frameworks for belief, even if they're not believed literally. Thus, when I was a Catholic, I was told that the Bible is the revealed word of God -- and yet my faith also accepted the theory of evolution, which tells an origin story for life on Earth that contradicts the one in the Bible. The Church was saying, in effect, that the Genesis narrative of creation is theologically true, even if it's not literally true.

You could say the same thing about the Brooks narrative. It doesn't matter whether President Obama has acted in good faith, despite Republican intransigence, to deal with issues of taxes, spending, debts, and deficits in a responsible way -- there are two strains of the Beltway faith, one of which tells us that, on economic issues, Democrats are always wrong and Republicans are always right, the other of which (the one of which Brooks claims to be an adherent) tells us that both parties are to blame, but it's the responsibility of Democrats to move the discussion to a point midway between where the two parties are, which is, by definition, the responsible center. Republicans, according to this faith tradition, will inevitably meet Democrats halfway -- though if they don't, that's also the Democrats' fault.

So I cut Brooks a break. His column would have been irresponsible if he'd been trying to disseminate news, but he wasn't. He was preaching.

And the same goes for Bob Woodward's latest article. Woodward tells us, that, according to his reporting, the Obama White House first proposed the sequester back in 2011 -- therefore (he implies), whatever terrible consequences come to pass as a result of the sequester are Obama's fault. Woodward glosses over the fact that the sequester was a way to save the economy from disaster after Republicans took it hostage, threatening to destroy America's full faith and credit by refusing to raise the debt ceiling; moreover, Woodward claims that "the final [sequester] deal ... included an agreement that there would be no tax increases," and thus Obama now "is moving the goal posts" by asking for tax increases, which is not true according to the wording of the legislation.

But it's OK that Woodward is toying with the facts, because, once again, this is not journalism -- it's catechism. Democrats must be wrong. Republicans can be wrong or they can be right, but Democrats must always be the real guilty parties. This is an inviolate tenet of the Beltway faith. It's a myth we must all live by -- otherwise we might have to address the question of whether it's even possible to run a country responsibly with the Republicans as one of our two major parties.

But asking that question could lead to a loss of faith. And so Brooks and Woodward preach.

Spotted this a while ago:
Justin Hamilton, who recently stepped down as Arne Duncan's press secretary, has accepted an executive position at Rupert Murdoch's Amplify. This division, headed by Joel Klein, sells technology to the schools.
If you're Murdoch, how do you get pull in this field? You hire a top aide to the U.S. secretary of education ... after hiring Joel Klein, who'll be the aides boss and spent eight and a half years as New York City schools chancellor under Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Klein's first job for Murdoch after leaving the NYC school job was as Rupe's top legal adviser on the phone-hacking scandal; after that, he became head of Amplify.

Oh, and Amplify also donates to Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education, which promotes Jeb's favorite education policies, such as, um, mandatory online education. So Rupe's got a lot of political bases covered.

Let's hope Murdoch does as poorly with this as he's done with a lot of his other forays into the digital world (MySpace, The Daily). I suppose we're screwed no matter which lucre-craving opportunist eventually dominates online learning, but I think it would be especially horrible if the opportunistic greedhead also happened to be someone who sleeps soundly every night after amorally peddling 24/7 paranoid right-wing propaganda.

(Via David Sirota.)

Really, that's the conservative message right now: The sequester's impact will be trivial, but you should blame the horrors that ensue from that trivial impact on the White House. Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS squeezes that message into a fifty-second ad:

In the blogosphere, right-wingers are flogging Bob Woodward's Washington Post story ascribing the sequester's paternity to the White House (while glossing over the economic hostage crisis that led to the proposal), but the wingers are also flogging ABC and Forbes pieces that say the sequester's negative impact will be insignificant at worst.

I'd call this incoherent and self-contradictory, but it probably works at the reptile-brain level, at least as far as the base is concerned. Recall that the day-to-day right-wing message is that Obama is both an incompetent affirmative-action hire who does nothing but golf all the time and can't talk without a Teleprompter ... and, simultaneously, an all-powerful totalitarian who, one day soon, will have everyone's guns confiscated, in a brutally efficient overnight coast-to-coast house-to-house sweep, after which he'll impose sharia law and ban Christianity and capitalism. I don't know why the brain processes messages like this as complementary rather than contradictory, but it seems to, or at least the right-wing brain does. Maybe our side felt the same way about Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, but I'm not sure we could feel it both ways in less than a minute.

Friday, February 22, 2013


For the love of God, make it stop:

There's a video of this, but it starts up automatically when I embed it, so I've deleted it. You can watch it here, however, at the Washington Free Beacon site, if you can stand it. A partial transcript:

MARGARET CARLSON: ... Rubio seems to do everything right, and he doesn't have a mean streak.... Rubio was flawless last week. He took a mistake -- what looked like a mistake, of the water bottle -- and turned it into a plus like few politicians have ever done. Maybe like Bill Clinton when he went on, I think, one of the late-night talk shows and made fun of himself giving that long-winded speech --

ANDREA MITCHELL: Johnny Carson --

CARLSON: Johnny Carson. Thank you, Andrea.

MITCHELL: Well, Rubio so far has just about done everything right....

Expect far more starburst moments like this, from male as well as female members of the Beltway press corps, over the next three and a half years.

And excuse me, but even I knew Rubio should go self-deprecating a la Clinton in the aftermath of the water bottle moment -- in 2009 I said precisely that about Bobby Jindal after his embarrassing State of the Union response (as did David Corn), and I said the morning after that Rubio's water moment that joking about it would be an excellent career move. Boyish self-effacement after a politically insignificant gaffe? It ain't rocket science.


Steve Benen highlights a result in a new Bloomberg poll: survey respondents are absolutely wrong about what's happening to the budget deficit in America.
... there was one question in the poll that struck me as especially important: "Let's turn to the federal budget deficit. This is the amount the government spends that is more than the amount it takes in from taxes and other revenue. Is it your sense that this year the deficit is getting bigger or getting smaller, or is it staying about the same as last year?"

... in the midst of a major national debate over America's finances, 90% of Americans are wrong about the one basic detail that probably matters most in the conversation, while only 6% -- 6%! -- are correct.

For the record, last year, over President Obama's first four years, the deficit shrunk by about $300 billion. This year, the deficit is projected to be about $600 billion smaller than when the president took office....
So deficits are shrinking, but people overwhelmingly believe deficits are growing.

Now, let's turn to the headline results of the poll:
Americans want Congress to delay steep spending cuts to give the economic recovery more time to take hold, according to a Bloomberg News poll....

Fifty-four percent of poll respondents favor postponing $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts during the next nine years beginning on March 1, compared with 40 percent who say Congress should act now before the deficit gets out of control, in the poll conducted Feb. 15-18....
Put these two results together and what do you learn? You learn that Americans reject austerity as a budget-shrinking measure even though they think the budget is much more out of control than it actually is. Even laboring under that misconception, they think it's a bad time for belt-tightening.

And the poll, like most polls, shows that the public hates deficits. The public thinks the government has a horrible spending problem. And yet ... the public prioritizes economic growth. Because, clearly, the economy still sucks for most Americans, and dealing with that problem is most Americans' top priority.

So back off, austerians.

Obviously, it's no surprise that Peggy Noonan blames President Obama for the sequester situation; she thinks -- actually, a lot of right-wingers think -- that the president just creates crises out of whole cloth, for sport or political advantage. (Noonan is, of course, having a convenient case of amnesia about that destroying-America's-full-faith-and-credit thing Republicans tried to pull back in 2011, which is the reason we have a sequester situation.)

But that's not why I'm talking about Noonan. I'm talking about her because, in addition to believing that nonsense, she also believes that people aren't spending money in America at discount superstores because their animal spirits have been depleted by the evil Obama. I'm used to hearing right-wingers (and centrists) advance the (nonsensical) idea that businesses aren't expanding because the confidence of CEOs has been undermined by "uncertainty" (there was Tom Freidman saying that again over the weekend, and here's David Brooks saying it again today) -- but now we're supposed to believe that poor and middle-class and lower-middle-class people aren't opening their wallets because of ... the national mood?

As opposed to not opening their wallets because, y'know, they're flat broke?

Nope -- sorry. According to Peggy Noonan, the refusal of businesses and minimum-wage workers alike to spend because is an Obama-induced mood disorder, nothing more:
... government by freakout carries a price. It wears people down. It doesn't inject a sense of energy, purpose or confidence in those who do business in America, it does the opposite. The other day I was in a Wal-Mart in southern Florida. It was Sunday afternoon on a holiday weekend but even accounting for that the mood and look of the place was different from what it was two and five years ago. Then, things seemed dynamic -- what buys, what an array of products, what bustle in the aisles. This time it seemed tired, frayed, with fewer families and scarcer employees. It looked like a diorama of the Great Recession. What effect do all the successive fiscal cliffs, ceilings and sequesters, have on public confidence? On the public's spirit? They only add to the sense that Washington is dysfunctional and cannot possibly help us out of the mire.
Yeah, that must be it. It must be a spirit disorder.

It can't possibly be that, as Charlie Pierce says, people got not jobs and people got no money.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Evan Todd, who was threatened with death at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, but escaped with minor injuries, is the latest hero of the gun absolutists because he's published an open letter at Glenn Beck's Blaze denouncing any and all new restrictions on firearms (he's against universal background checks, magazine limits, and the assault weapons ban, and is very angry about the Fast & Furious program).
Mr. President, in theory, your initiatives and proposals sound warm and fuzzy -- but in reality they are far from what we need. Your initiatives seem to punish law-abiding American citizens and enable the murderers, thugs, and other lowlifes who wish to do harm to others.

Let me be clear: These ideas are the worst possible initiatives if you seriously care about saving lives and also upholding your oath of office. There is no dictate, law, or regulation that will stop bad things from happening -- and you know that. Yet you continue to push the rhetoric. Why?
But apparently Todd didn't always feel this way:

In 2001, he was part of a group that believed in "reasonable gun-control laws"? Don't tell his new fans.

But maybe he's had a change of heart because of the company he keeps. The guy who wrote up his open letter for Beck's site is Billy Hallowell -- a right-wing journalist who writes regularly for the Blaze and has written for the Breitbart sites and David Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine. Hallowell's speakers' bureau, Pathufind Media, has Todd as a client, and Hallowell and Todd do a joint faith-based speaking program called the ReGeneration Tour.

Hmmm ... do you think if your partner is a wingnut journalist who writes for a number of pro-NRA sites, maybe you could be persuaded to go all Wayne LaPierre on the president in public?

This may be a sort of second act for Todd (and, presumably, for Hallowell); up till now, Todd's lectures have largely focused on bullying:
Recently, Evan Todd, a Columbine school shooting survivor, gave a presentation in Fox Creek about bullying....

One strong message from Todd ... was that the children who are the victims of bullying need to know it's not their fault. They aren't being picked on because they are bad people. They don't suffer hallway taunts and physical pain because they did anything to deserve it.

Bullies are people who have their own issues to resolve. Instead of taking a deep look at the pain they feel, a bully lashes that pain out at others. Perhaps it makes them feel better to know they aren't the only ones suffering but in order to know that they have to inflict pain on others.
It's interesting that Todd now speaks out against bullying, because in the immediate aftermath of Columbine he said something rather memorable to a Time magazine reporter:
Evan Todd, the 255-lb. defensive lineman who was wounded in the library, describes the climate this way: "Columbine is a clean, good place except for those rejects," Todd says of Klebold, Harris and their friends. "Most kids didn't want them there. They were into witchcraft. They were into voodoo dolls. Sure, we teased them. But what do you expect with kids who come to school with weird hairdos and horns on their hats? It's not just jocks; the whole school's disgusted with them. They're a bunch of homos, grabbing each other's private parts. If you want to get rid of someone, usually you tease 'em. So the whole school would call them homos, and when they did something sick, we'd tell them, 'You're sick and that's wrong.'"
He was only fifteen when he said that about the "bunch of homos," and his message is different now that he's an adult, so I guess I'll cut him a break on that. On the gun stuff, not so much.

Oh, and for what it's worth, he's one of the people who's claimed that Cassie Bernall was shot because she professed her faith in Jesus. (It's not true.)

I know, I know: the polls are looking very good for President Obama, and very bad for congressional Republicans. Bloomberg:
President Barack Obama enters the latest budget showdown with Congress with his highest job- approval rating in three years and public support for his economic message, while his Republican opponents' popularity stands at a record low.

Fifty-five percent of Americans approve of Obama's performance in office, his strongest level of support since September 2009, according to a Bloomberg National poll conducted Feb. 15-18. Only 35 percent of the country has a favorable view of the Republican Party, the lowest rating in a survey that began in September 2009. The party’s brand slipped six percentage points in the last six months, the poll shows....
USA Today/Pew:
President Obama starts his second term with a clear upper hand over GOP leaders on issues from guns to immigration that are likely to dominate the year, a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll finds. On the legislation rated most urgent -- cutting the budget deficit -- even a majority of Republican voters endorse Obama's approach of seeking tax hikes as well as spending cuts.

... those surveyed say by narrow margins that Obama has a better approach than congressional Republicans for dealing with the deficit and guns. By double digits, they favor his plans on immigration and climate change, including limits on emissions from power plants.

The president's overall job approval rating is 51%, a bit higher than it typically has been for the past three years. The approval rating for Republican congressional leaders is a dismal 25%....

By almost 3-to-1, 71%-26%, those surveyed favor Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour from the current $7.25....
And yet just today, Representative Bob Goodlatte, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said an immigration plan with a path to citizenship is a nonstarter. Republicans have also made clear that a plan to head off the sequester that involves any tax increases whatsoever is a nonstarter. A minimum wage hike? Also a nonstarter. Meaningful gun legislation at the federal level? So unlikely that the president, in his State of the Union address, begged Congress just to vote on it. And on and on.

The entire country is now just like the U.S. Senate: The Republican minority imposes its will, and the majority, under the current rules, can't do a damn thing about it. Gerrymandering of House districts guarantees that there'll never be serious electoral consequences for Republicans when they defy the will of the majority; that plus the literal filibuster in the Senate means that there's no incentive whatsoever for Republicans to be responsive to the American people.

Conn Carroll of The Washington Examiner said it outright yesterday, in response to an article suggesting that Republicans were taking a risk by preventing a sequester deal:
Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake believe that Congress won’t win a sequester showdown with President Obama. They explain, in three bullet points:
1. Regular people have no idea what the sequester is right now and, even once it kicks in, aren’t likely to pay all that close of attention to it unless they are directly affected by it.
2. Obama is popular with the American public
3. Congress is not.
All three bullet items are true. Unfortunately for Cillizza, Blake, and Obama, items two and three are also irrelevant. Obama may be popular with the American public writ large ... , but he is not popular in red states or red congressional districts. Americans may hate Congress, but they love their congressmen.

And since there are fewer swing districts than ever, Republican House members fear a primary from the right far more than Obama's popularity.

... Republicans [are] very well positioned....
Yup, they are, until we find a way to make them pay at the ballot box for what they're doing with impunity right now.

I've always thought Pew polls were on the up-and-up, and I still think that's true. But I guess it's impossible for Pew to completely banish the biases of the Beltway from its polling. Check out this subhead in Pew's write-up of its latest survey:

Now check out the graph that's meant to illustrate this point:

Does that tell you that "most" Americans "want deficit efforts focused largely on spending cuts"?

What it tells me is that the overwhelming majority of Americans (76%) want a mixed approach -- an utter rejection of the GOP's spending-cuts-only approach, which gets just 19% support.

Then, when they're forced to choose a mix, Pew asks them to choose either "mostly spending cuts" or "mostly tax increases" -- even though no one is actually proposing a mix that's "mostly tax increases." Given that choice, there's a resounding rejection of a proposal no one is making.

A sequester-avoidance proposal by Senate Democrats has a 50-50 mix of tax increases and spending cuts. Yes, that proposal is dead on arrival because it's unacceptable to Republicans -- but instead of asking about a mix no one is proposing, why didn't Pew ask about this? I think a lot of Americans would approve of a 50-50 mix -- though I guess we'll never know, at least from Pew. Beltway austerianism so pervades our politics that Pew's questions and data summaries had to be skewed accordingly.

Tweet posted at 7:00 A.M. by the folks at Rupert Murdoch's morning show:

Um ... if you're on Twitter already, why would you need to wait fifteen minutes to "find out" what the "interesting twist" is from a bunch of Botoxed people on your TV? Why wouldn't you just use the Internet-enabled device on which you're currently reading Twitter messages to look up the "interesting twist," which you can do in about ten seconds?

(Spoiler alert: the "interesting twist" is that the investigating officer in charge of the Oscar Pistorius case is now being charged with attempted murder himself. Hell, you could even find that out by going to the Fox News site.)

To me, Fox always seems to have a creaky, outdated feel -- I'm amused every time I go to Fox Nation and see, in qamong all the spittle-flecked rage at socialist gun-grabbing religion-bashers, a sidebar "cheesecake" photo of some celebrity flashing lots of cleavage. I guess it's not much different from the Huffington Post's careful curation of sideboob shots, but it makes sense at HuffPo and pure entertainment sites because these sites are the supermarket checkout magazines of an online age. Fox is just offering Page 3 girls for old punters who don't know how to use their computers to find actual porn. It's bizarre.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


In light of this embarrassment ...
A couple of weeks ago, the conservative Web site reported that former Senator Chuck Hagel had received financing from a group called “Friends of Hamas."

"Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed that one of the reasons that President Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has not turned over requested documents on his sources of foreign funding is that one of the names listed is a group purportedly called 'Friends of Hamas,'" the Web site reported....

Yet, there has been no evidence that any such group exists. And on Wednesday, a reporter with the New York Daily News, Dan Friedman, said he believed he was the inadvertent source of the rumor, born of a joke he made while speaking with a Republican aide on Capitol Hill....

Ben Shapiro ... wrote the original Breitbart post....
... this decision, made last week, sure seems like a genius move for a party desperately seeking credibility:
Breitbart News editor-at-large Ben Shapiro will give a keynote address at the California Republican Party convention this March, taking the spot previously scheduled for Karl Rove.

According to the Sacramento Bee, ... the CA Republican Party "had been seeking to book a speaker who would appeal to conservatives in light of a rift caused by Rove's newly announced Conservative Victory Project." ...
Or, since it's just replacing one hostile fabulist with another, I guess you could see it as just the passing of the liar's baton.

In his speech, expect Shapiro to double down on his made-up McCarthyism, Cal GOPers -- I'm sure he'll torture the truth to say he was right about this all along (as he's already done at Breitbart). But you'll enjoy that, won't you?

Come with me on a journey to the National Tracing Center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms -- a journey that, thanks to the gun lobby, is also a journey to the past:
... Just last month, President Obama signed an executive order requiring federal law enforcement to trace every gun they seize, but how that's done is like taking a step back in time....

"It's slow and tedious," said Special Agent Charlie Houser, ATF National Tracing Center director.

Special Agent Houser runs the ATF's National Tracing Center. Last year, his team of about 400 traced more than 344,000 guns the old-fashioned way....

Federal law prohibits keeping a government database of gun owners. When law enforcement requests a trace, employees like Deena Jackson jump on the phone, calling the manufacturer and then the retailers until the owner is identified. Sometimes they're on the phone for five and a half hours out of an eight-hour day....

That’s a lot of phone calls, and it's harder if the gun dealer goes out of business. Those records are sent to the National Tracing Center. They receive more than one million records each month. Most are stored on micro-film or scanned, but they have to be searched by hand. There are 5,000 to 8,000 traces being worked on, on any given day

When wet records from Hurricane Katrina showed up years ago, employees laid them out individually and dried them in the parking lot....

Despite a process that seems more Wright Brothers than Google, they can turn an urgent trace in 24 hours. The rest take about five days, but with the Obama Administration pushing for police to trace all seized guns, the work load is poised to skyrocket while their budget has been flat since 2004....

Thirty years ago, Ed Meese said the ACLU was part of a "criminals' lobby." Tell me why I shouldn't regard the NRA as a criminals' lobby right now.

(Via Ryan J. Reilly.)

The key finding in this Quinnipiac poll isn't Chris Christie's 74% approval rating in New Jersey, or his commanding lead in this year's governor's race -- it's how well he'd do in supposedly solid-blue New Jersey as a presidential candidate:
In an early look at the 2016 presidential election, New Jersey voters go 49 percent for Hillary Clinton and 45 percent for Christie.....

The Garden State's native son tops New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo 54 - 36 percent. Christie ... wins 45 percent of women to Cuomo's 42 percent....
We think the Republican Party is in dire straits because its core voters are old and white and male and Southern, and because its overall approval ratings are low. But if you analyze any poll, you'll see that the GOP's low standing comes in part from Republicans, who nevertheless vote for the party on Election Day, which tells me that they're telling pollsters they disapprove of their own party because it's not crazy and right-wing enough, and then they vote for the party because they absolutely feel it's better than the Antichrist Democratic Party.

And as for non-Republican voters, they say they don't like the GOP, but that sense of disgust is a mile wide and an inch deep -- even in the bluest states, they're willing to suspend that sense of disgust for any Republican who seems to deviate in any way from Republican stereotypes (or, perhaps, just because they kinda-sorta feel it's time for a change after a few years with, say, a Democratic governor). Why else would there be states that are reliably blue in presidential elections -- Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan -- under all-GOP control at the state level?

No Democrat could possibly win the presidential race in Mississippi or Utah or Alabama or Oklahoma in 2016, but against a sufficiently uninspiring candidate -- Martin O'Malley? -- there's no telling how many states could be won by a Republican who's successfully concealed his fealty to his party's agenda, as the Koch lackey Christie has. That's because the Republican brand is still not box-office poison, or even close. Democrats and liberals still haven't tarnished the GOP's reputation enough. And nothing will change in this country until that changes.

(X-posted at Balloon Juice.)

The White House press corps is expressing frustration over its lack of access this weekend to President Obama, who was on a golfing vacation in Florida.

Ed Henry, the Fox News correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents Association, released a statement Sunday evening in which he said the press corps had been given no access to the president, who was joined on his outing by star golfer Tiger Woods, and that the WHCA would fight for greater transparency in the days ahead.

"Speaking on behalf of the White House Correspondents Association, I can say a broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the President of the United States this entire weekend," Henry said in a statement, relayed in a White House pool report....

Today, from Ed Henry's employer (linking, ultimately, to this):

No, there is nothing you can say or do that will make these people be reasonable. The goal is the maximum number of grievances.