Saturday, November 30, 2013


So yesterday we got Dana Milbank's lazy column recommending a renewal of the draft, a day after we got an op-ed, also in The Washington Post, calling for an end to presidential term limits. No surprise, really -- it's a holiday week, there's not much news being made, so pundits are dredging up policy proposals that will never be enacted and therefore can always be relied on to fill up a column.

Milbank generates a fairly energetic level of self-righteousness, but he doesn't seem to be making much of an effort otherwise.
... As I make my rounds each day in the capital, chronicling our leaders' plentiful foibles, failings, screw-ups, inanities, outrages and overall dysfunction, I’m often asked if there’s anything that could clean up the mess.

My usual answer is a shrug and an admission that there's no silver bullet. There are many possibilities -- campaign spending limits, term limits, nonpartisan primaries, nonpartisan redistricting, a third party -- but most aren't politically or legally feasible, might not make much of a difference or, as with Harry Reid's rewriting of Senate rules, have the potential to make things even worse.
(If you want to be taken seriously when you're phoning it in this way, I suppose it helps, before you get to your main point, to throw a punch at a hippie, or at least at someone who qualifies as a hippie by Beltway standards.)
But one change, over time, could reverse the problems that have built up over the past few decades: We should mandate military service for all Americans, men and women alike, when they turn 18. The idea is radical, unlikely and impractical -- but it just might work.

There is no better explanation for what has gone wrong in Washington in recent years than the tabulation done every two years by the American Legion of how many members of Congress served in the military.

A Congressional Quarterly count of the current Congress finds that just 86 of the 435 members of the House are veterans, as are only 17 of 100 senators, which puts the overall rate at 19 percent. This is the lowest percentage of veterans in Congress since World War II, down from a high of 77 percent in 1977-78, according to the American Legion. For the past 21 years, the presidency has been occupied by men who didn't serve or, in the case of George W. Bush, served in a capacity designed to avoid combat.
Was Milbank nodding off in Philosophy 101 when his professor explained what a post hoc fallacy is? The number of people using rotary telephones is also at the lowest point in living memory -- and the condition of Congress is about as likely to be influenced by that societal change as it is to be influenced by the decline in military service among members of Congress.

Does military service really make a person more inclined to comity and cooperation and avoidance of partisan grandstanding? Forgive me if I have my doubts after looking at a list of House members who are veterans: why, there's Darrell Issa, along with Louie Gohmert, and Joe "You lie!" Wilson, and Paul Broun (y'know, the guy who said, "evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell"). In the Senate, well, you've got Lindsey Graham and John McCain. Need I go further?

If the best Congresses are those with the most veterans, then shouldn't 1977-78 have been the recent high-water mark of American self-government? Does anyone who lived through the 1970s seriously want to argue that that was the case? And, um, wasn't that just a few years after a clinical sociopath had to resign the presidency? Wasn't he a veteran?
It's no coincidence that this same period has seen the gradual collapse of our ability to govern ourselves: a loss of control over the nation's debt....
Our deficit is shrinking dramatically, Dana.
... legislative stalemate and a disabling partisanship. It's no coincidence, either, that Americans' approval of Congress has dropped to just 9 percent, the lowest since Gallup began asking the question 39 years ago....
See post hoc fallacy, above.
Because so few serving in politics have worn their country's uniform, they have collectively forgotten how to put country before party and self-interest. They have forgotten a "cause greater than self," and they have lost the knowledge of how to make compromises for the good of the country. Without a history of sacrifice and service, they've turned politics into war.
My problems with this theory are that I don't believe military service confers an aversion to selfishness that's lifelong (see McCain, John) and I don't believe that it confers a sense of exalted purpose in peacetime the way it does in war. In order to get the benefit Milbank expects, we not only have to draft all our young, we have to send large numbers of them to fight horrible, bloody, destructive wars.

And while we're trying to cook up a war that will infuse America with the right amount of national character, we're allegedly going to be drafting everyone from homeless kids to the children of our secular royalty. Anyone seriously believe that the youths of the Koch and Romney and Walton and Trump families will sacrifice the way the children of the ghettoes and hollers do? Anyone seriously believe there won't be escape clauses that allow the former not to serve at all?

And meanwhile, the right-wing media will continue fighting the class war in the usual right-wing way, by arguing that all the cushy spots are going to the children of Alec Baldwin and Rosie O'Donnell, or maybe to Malia and Sasha, while upstanding home-schooled Bible Belt Christians fare the worst. Sorry, the culture war won't simply disappear.

Oh, and, as Milbank notes:
The costs would be huge.
You think, Dana? And, um, how do you imagine we'd pay for this? Not with new taxes -- the wealthy and the GOP simply wouldn't hear of it.And so we'd pay for it with drastic cuts to programs needed by the poor and middle class. In that way, your brilliant scheme would be less leveling, not more.

Which gets to what I think is the real reason we have a terrible government: the fact that heartland whites from outer-ring suburbia and exurbia have been encouraged for decades not to believe that other Americans are really their fellow citizens. They vote for politicians who encourage the belief that we have two nations, ours being at war with theirs, both of us engaged in a zero-sum conflict. These politicians are financed by right-wing billionaires who really don't have any fellow feeling for the Other America.

Deal with that and maybe we'll have a better government.

Friday, November 29, 2013


I don't know how seriously to take this Washington Times story -- it's a story built on pure speculation and published on a very slow news day -- but I'm also seeing it at Fox Nation, so it suggests that there might be a serious demonization campaign coming:
The GOP's secret campaign weapon: NYC's uber-liberal new mayor Bill de Blasio

Bill de Blasio's win in New York City's mayoral race has put the Democrat in charge of the nation's largest city and smack in the middle of the nation's largest media market -- giving him an unmatched platform both to pursue liberal policies and to cause all sorts of headaches for his party's leaders in Washington.

... Republican strategists already anticipate being able to use the mayor's stances as a wedge against Democrats running for national office, and analysts said some Democrats may indeed have to spend time defending their left flank.

... Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said Mr. de Blasio's victory ... could cause headaches for some Democrats in competitive races.

"Republicans will time and again be able to ask vulnerable Democrats in red states if they agree with the New York mayor about his left-wing policies," Mr. Bonjean said....
Making Democrats in other states own the actions of Bill de Blasio? It's hard to imagine Republicans pulling this off -- unless they make de Blasio's New York into the new Rahm Emanuel's Chicago, flooding the zone with every story of every crime or act of corruption, until your exurban uncle who watches Fox News all day eventually knows more about NYC crime than those of us who live there. That could be the plan. And I suppose it could work, at least with regard to crime -- even at our current record-low murder rate, we have more than one homicide a day. (It's a low rate because we have a population larger than all but eleven U.S. states.) The crime rate could stay low and there'd still be enough gore to keep the Drudge headlines blood red day in and day out.

The rest of the allegedly radical agenda is, I hate to say it, not likely to be particularly radical. But I'm sure we'll hear about every whiny millionaire allegedly fleeing town because of the "confiscatory" taxes (although we hear that already and he's not even mayor).

And the visual component of this narrative would be -- well, see how Fox Nation illustrates the story:

Do I have to explain the message of this?

On the other hand, the New York Post is reporting that not even Rudy Giuliani is criticizing de Blasio's short list for the job of police commissioner. So maybe de Blasio isn't going to give these vultures much to work with.

Charles Krauthammer on the end of the filibuster:
This was a disgraceful violation of more than two centuries of precedent. If a bare majority can change the fundamental rules that govern an institution, then there are no rules. Senate rules today are whatever the majority decides they are that morning.

What distinguishes an institution from a flash mob is that its rules endure.
A right-winger who uses the phrase "flash mob" is not thinking of a group of people suddenly gathered to perform Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" or reenact the restaurant scene from When Harry Met Sally. Right-wingers who talk about "flash mobs" are talking about scary dark-skinned urban youths with no conscience engaged in violence against decent, upright Americans. When Krauthammer looks at Harry Reid, that's what he sees.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that, back in 2005, Krauthammer called the judicial filibuster "the bastard child of Democratic bitterness over recent lost elections" and said that a GOP vote to break it would have been "a profile in courage." And I'm sure I also don't have to tell you that Krauthammer's current fretting over "the rule of law" did not extend to the Bush administration's use of torture and cover-up of same -- back in '07, when we learned that torture tapes were destroyed in violation of the law, he thought that was fine: "I think it was a good faith in destroying the tapes -- yes, because it is not a pretty thing, and you don't want it on You Tube." Well, all right, then.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


How stupid is Jennifer Rubin? Stupid enough not only to have written this in September, but to be proud enough of it to quote it again triumphantly this week:
Obama is the only true man of the left to make it to the White House. Unlike his predecessors (both Democrat and Republican) he seeks to downsize America's footprint in the world, not expand it. He looks upon the United States as responsible for many of the world's ills, and therefore at its best when America is doing the least. He sees the economy as a fixed sum game in which, as he famously put it, you have to share the wealth. (Take from one group and give it to another.) We have never had a president as aggressively anti-business as this one.

That makes the stakes very high for the left-wing base of the Democratic Party. What if Obama can't succeed from either a policy or a political standpoint? In other words, what if the closest we've had to undistilled liberalism in the White House is a failure?
Not only does she write the Great Society, the New Deal, and the Progressive Era out of history, she actually believes we liberals have done the same thing, and share her belief that Obama is the Leftiest President Evar, and thus the living embodiment of all of our commie hopes and dreams.

And not content with that, Rubin quotes another of her past idiocies:
A month later I wrote, "Given a choice between casting off their false idol and giving up the cult of liberalism, there is no competition. Liberals will have no compunction about dumping Obama."
All this is a lead-up to her contention that when people like Franklin Foer say that the problems with Obamacare threaten liberals' ability to persuade Americans that we have the right ideas, we're just throwing the president under the bus in an act of thoughtless desperation, not because some liberals always had reservations about the way Obamacare was structured and now believe that those fears are being realized. We don't actually have ideas! All we have is an ignorant knee-jerk belief in destroying capitalism that temporarily turned into a mindless personality cult!

Here's what we're too ignorant and blinkered to understand, according to Rubin:
Actually, the problem is the left's failure to grasp an essential truth: A vision that requires perfection in execution from a mammoth federal bureaucracy, like all utopian fantasies, demands ever-elevated levels of coercion to achieve its aims and is destined to fail. Human beings, those intractable and self-possessed rascals, stubbornly refuse to be pushed and prodded in ways contrary to their own self-interest, as they have the nerve to envision.
As we can tell from the utter failure of Medicare, or Social Security, or single-payer health care in every other First World country on the planet.

Rubin continues:
[Foer] makes a clever argument that the problem is too much moderation, a Clintonian preference for complication and insistence on invoking scraps of free-market economics. If only he hadn't been so darn moderate! The pose that it is the Obama execution, not the leftist undertaking that is responsible for the bellyflop.
Yes, it's a "pose." We're just buying time by pretending that the damn thing can be made to work; we secretly know that our destructively complex coercive torture machines can't accomplish their stated goals.

Here in the real world, we lefties always had varying opinions about whether this complicated plan could work well; most of us are still certain that it can work a hell of a lot better than it has so far.

And no, there's no one at the liberal Politburo carefully removing Barack Obama from the old pictures of the lefty Party Congresses. We just want the damn website to work.


(OK, now I'm going to go celebrate Thanksgiving like a real American.)

It's Thanksgiving, and hope and optimism ought to be contagious, even for an old curmudgeon like me, but I'm not feeling it. Yesterday Josh Marshall wrote "A Realist's Take on Obamacare," which is a series of reasons why it's rational to expect Obamacare to be preserved and, ultimately, to be a success. One reason Josh doesn't think repeal will ever be possible is this:
By early next year you will have millions of new people enrolled in Medicaid, large numbers of people who have health care covered who couldn't get it at any reasonable price before who now have coverage and you will have large numbers of people who have care that is better or cheaper and often both than it was before. Yes, you will also have people who had barebones policies who will have to buy into more expensive policies with fuller coverage. On balance, those people will tend to be more politically connected and visible, person for person, than the people on Medicaid for instance. But all evidence shows the first three groups will vastly outnumber the last group. I do not think anyone will be able to claw that back. It's one thing to have millions of uninsured or people boxed out because of pre-existing conditions. But once they have affordable coverage, I don't think you're going to be able to take it back.
But he says this at the same time the right is altering the concept of citizenship in a number of different ways. We see this in the voter-suppression efforts in the red states, we see it in Citizens United, we see it, really, in the broad-based acceptance among conservatives of the notion that elections simply don't have consequences if they're won by Democrats. And while we don't know how the Supreme Court will rule on the contraceptive mandate, the right-wing position did get me thinking about Mitt Romney a couple of days ago:

I think the right really does believe that Hobby Lobby is a citizen and people just now learning that they qualify for Medicaid aren't citizens -- or at least the right believes that second-class citizenship should apply to those who are happy that they qualify for Medicaid or subsidized health insurance. I think the right's efforts to dehumanize the less well off would make it a lot easier than we think just to strike millions of people from the health care rolls. I think the right-wing worldview is headed more and more in Mitt Romney's direction -- it just won't have Richie Rich as its figurehead in the future.

I suppose eventually the GOP-voting white heartlanders who also benefit from Obamacare will understand their self-interest -- or at least it seems logical that they will. But I've been waiting for self-interest to change heartland voting patterns for a long time now. When does the future begin?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I'm not convinced that the Obama administration is going to lose, or lose completely, when the Supreme Court deals with the Obamacare contraceptive mandate.

A decision is expected in June 2014, a few months before the midterms. I continue to think that John Roberts is as much a Republican operative as he is a jurist. If he's the swing vote, as he was on the main Obamacare ruling before the 2012 election, will he anticipate that a pro-right-wing 5-4 ruling will drive Democratic turnout at the polls? He'll probably be mindful of how important the votes of women and unmarried voters were to Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor's race; he'll also be thinking about Albuquerque's rejection of a 20-week abortion ban. So he may not want a ruling that gives corporations, or at least publicly held ones, religious rights heretofore reserved to individuals. This may change if he gets buy-in from one of the Democratic appointees, but I'm guessing he won't.

I think he'd rather have his own side's voters angry at the Court and ready to express their wrath at the polls. He tried that in 2012; it didn't work, but midterm elections are much more likely to be won by the side tht turns out its base. I'm predicting he won't give his side the big win, because he's fighting a long war.

Remember Amy Chozick? The Wall Street Journal reporter who told us in the summer of 2008 that Barack Obama's presidential campaign risked ending in failure because he was in unappealingly good physical shape, supporting her too-skinny-to-be-president thesis with unattributed McCain campaign talking points, as well as a smattering of online comments she solicited from people who curiously seemed to exist online just long enough to provide Chozick with those quotes?

Chozick has failed upward, or at least laterally -- she's now at The New York Times, and today she's sensing doom for another Democrat's presidential hopes, because, well ... allow her to explain it:
This month at a symposium at Georgetown University on Afghan women, Secretary of State John Kerry praised his predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he referred to as "Madam Secretary-Senator-First-Lady-Everything."

He called her one of the country's "remarkable secretaries of state," and said that "nobody has done more to advance the cause of women" than she had.

Mr. Kerry's remarks drew applause from the crowd, but they also pointed to a dilemma for Mrs. Clinton in the effort to define her tenure as secretary of state. She did devote much of her time at the State Department to advancing women's and girls' issues and believes those efforts have deeper implications in democratization and diplomacy.

But some people close to Mrs. Clinton worry that, because of the high profile given to her work for women's rights, and the headlines now being generated by the hyperkinetic Mr. Kerry, her efforts on trickier diplomatic situations have been eclipsed....
So Kerry praised her for her work as a senator, first lady, and secretary of state -- but Chozick and her (unnamed) fretful sources think Americans stick their fingers in their ears and say "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU" when anyting on Clinton's resume is mentioned other than her work for women's rights, with the result being that we're now thinking, "Hey, we can't vote for her for president! All she's ever done in her life is fight for women's rights!"
What about her 13 trips to Libya in 2011 to build the coalition that led to the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, they ask. Why is no one talking about how she brokered a cease-fire in Gaza? Anyone remember that she furthered economic sanctions on North Korea?

... Her biggest chance to shape how she is viewed may be through her memoir, which is due out next summer.
The memoir will be published more than a year and a half before the 2016 primaries begin. But the time to fret is now! Because what if one of the most famous and admired people in America writes a memoir and nobody reads it or writes about it or interviews her when she's promoting it? (I think that's the point being made by Chozick and her anonymous hand-wringers.)

Yes, it's true: John Kerry got a deal with the Iranians, and Hillary Clinton didn't. Admittedly, Kerry's deal is under relentless attack in Washington -- but it still makes Hillary look bad not to have negotiated the second Munich, according to Chozick.

Chozick's article ends with this:
[A former State Department official] pointed to her apology to Pakistan last summer after American airstrikes in 2011 killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers. Critics jumped on the move, calling it part of Mr. Obama's "apology tour" to the Muslim world.

This person said of the apology, "That's not exactly the politically expedient thing to do in the Iowa caucus."
I think Chozick's anonymous source is saying that this proves Hillary did more as secretary of state than hold hands with fellow feminists and sing "I Am Woman." I think Chozick is quoting this to make that point, and also to make the point that Clinton really could suffer for a decision like that in 2016 in Iowa, because, y'know, Obama is always apologizing to brown people who aren't Christian, isn't he? And Hillary was helping.

All of which is ludicrous. First of all, the U.S. reused to apologize until seven months after the airstrike. And the airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers -- these guys are supposed to be our allies, remember? And the apology, when it finally came, ended a stalemate and resulted in the reopening of supply routes used by NATO forces in Afghanistan. So this wasn't Clinton and Obama donning love beads and saying "I'm sorry" to Muslims 'cuz they hate Jesus.

And why would this be a problem in Iowa anyway? Hillary Clinton apologized to the Pakistanis five years before the Iowa caucuses, so Iowa Democrats with very long memories are going to vote for, um ... Elizabeth Warren? Seriously?

Enough. My head hurts.

(Via EricBoehlert.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


While we're on the subject of Catholicism, I think I've spotted the next phony Obama scandal:

The link goes to this Washington Times story:
The Obama administration, in what's been called an egregious slap in the face to the Vatican, has moved to shut down the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See -- a free-standing facility -- and relocate offices onto the grounds of the larger American Embassy in Italy.

The new offices will be in a separate building on the property, Breitbart reported.

It's a "massive downgrade of U.S.-Vatican ties," said former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson in the National Catholic Reporter. "It's turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy. The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the United States, and ... [it's] an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican." ...
You know what other country moved its Vatican embassy in the same way, in 2011? Ireland. Anyone want to tell me that happened because the Irish are anti-Catholic bigots? (I will note that Ireland and the Vatican did have friction on the subject of priest sex abuse.)

The British did the same thing in 2005. Please note that the British prime minister at the time was Tony Blair -- whose wife is Catholic and who later converted to Catholicism himself.

Maintaining separate Italian and Vatican embassies is bizarre -- it would be as if Congress declared itself a sovereign nation and it became necessary for other countries to maintain separate entities in Washington and "Congressistan" that were maybe a ten-minute walk from each other.

But I'm sure this will be trumped up by the wingnut media as a sign that President Obama hates Catholics, because no stick that can be used to beat Obama is ever left unswung.


.... and, right on schedule, this is the lead story at Fox Nation.


Pope Francis has folks swooning again, this time because he criticized capitalism and greed:
Pope Francis has attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny", urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy....

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticising the global economic system, attacking the "idolatry of money" and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and healthcare".

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills," Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.

"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?" ...
To many observers, this must seem like a radical new stance for the Church. However, it really isn't. Look back to what Francis's immediate predecessor said on New Year's Day of this year:
Pope Benedict XVI said in his New Year's peace message today that the world was under threat from unbridled capitalism.

The pope said "hotbeds of tension and confrontation caused by the growing inequality between rich and poor and the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mentality also expressed by unregulated financial capitalism."

... A longer version of the Pope's annual message was sent to heads of state, government and non-governmental organizations on December 14th.

Reuters reports that in that message "the Pope called for a new economic model and ethical regulations for markets, saying the global financial crisis was proof that capitalism does not protect the weakest members of society."

The pope said economic models that seek maximum profit and consumption and encourage competition at all costs had failed to look after the basic needs of many and could sow social unrest.

"It is alarming to see hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism." ...
And that phrase "idolatry of money"? John Paul II, the famous anti-communist, used it years before Francis did. Here's John Paul in a 1998 encyclical letter:
"Among the actions and attitudes opposed to the will of God, (and) the good of neighbor ... (are) the all-consuming desire for profit and ... the thirst for power (which) ... in today's world are indissolubly united.... We would see that hidden behind certain decisions, apparently inspired only by economics or politics, are real forms of idolatry: of money, ideology, class, technology."
And last year, Pope Benedict said in Mexico that an "idolatry of money" fueled the drug trade.

Popes have been warning against the excesses of capitalism for years. (Go here to read about John Paul doing it in 1991.) It would have been nice if it had changed some hearts and minds, but I can't say I've noticed anything of the sort. I sincerely hope I'm wrong about this, but what Francis is saying just seems like more of the same, and I don't expect it to make a damn bit of difference.

Politico has published a long memo by former Clinton strategist Doug Sosnik that sees the American people growing increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo and the powers that be:
An emerging movement in our country is calling for change to the status quo and to the leadership class. Across the political spectrum, there is an growing populist push for a retrenchment from global affairs, with a renewed focus on the problems here at home. Americans are worried about the struggles of the battered middle class, whose real incomes have not improved in more than two decades, the elimination of special deals for the wealthy and big business and the protection of the public's privacy from what they see as predatory companies and an intrusive federal government. These are the issues that will dominate our politics going forward, and we will see populists from the left and the right increasingly come together to force change.
I wish it were true that these issues will "dominate our politics going forward," but, sorry, I just don't see it. As for "populists from the left and the right" joining forces to devise solutions -- well, Sosnik thinks collaboration is imminent becausr we've already had a meeting of the minds:
Senators like Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul share the same point of view on many of the issues that have surfaced. It wouldn't be surprising to see them working together on issues in the future.
Really? On what issues do Paul and Warren share a point of view? I'd like a list, Doug. I'll wait.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post has published a follow-up story on a September survey that reveals a high level of national economic anxiety:
More than six in 10 workers in a recent Washington Post-Miller Center poll worry that they will lose their jobs to the economy, surpassing concerns in more than a dozen surveys dating to the 1970s. Nearly one in three, 32 percent, say they worry "a lot" about losing their jobs, also a record high, according to the joint survey, which explores Americans' changing definition of success and their confidence in the country's future....

Americans' economic perceptions often divide along political lines; supporters of the incumbent president are usually more optimistic about the job market and the health of the economy. But that's not the case with this new anxiety. Once you control for economic and demographic factors, there is no partisan divide. There's no racial divide, either, and no gender gap. It also doesn't matter where you live....
So is Doug Sosnik right? Are we likely to see a rise of broad-based populism across party lines, particularly among the poor and lower middle class, whose economic anxiety has skyrocketed?

I doubt it, because Americans still can't decide whose fault all this is, or even if it's anyone's fault but their own. Go to the numbers and you'll see that, yes, when asked about economic changes in the past few years, 66% of respondents say it's harder to get ahead financially, 64% say it's harder to afford health care, 77% say it's harder to pay for college, 74% say it's harder to find good jobs, 7% say it's harder to save for retirement.... But then there's this question:
Q: Which of these statements do you agree with more: (most people who want to get ahead can make it if they're willing to work hard) OR (hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people)?

So regardless of their other answers, they still can't bring themselves to embrace the notion that -- as Elizabeth Warren puts it -- the system is rigged.

And they have no consistent set of ideas about what would help them: 58% think that "government investment in roads, water systems, the energy grid and other services" is "very important" or the "most important" thing to help America be economically competitive globally, but 70% say the same about reducing the federal budget deficit; when asked what makes it hard to find good-paying jobs, 76% blame the pay gap between executives and ordinary employees, and 66% blame Wall Street financial institutions -- but 58% blame "American workers not working hard enough to get ahead."

Even if both parties develop strong populist wings, we know that those wings will be pulling in precisely opposite directions. And if, as Sosnik believes, a populist third party is coming, it's hard to see how it's going to concoct a combination of deficit slashing and inequality reduction, reining in of government and reining in of the rich, which seems to be what the public wants. The goals require contradictory solutions. And it's hard to say that voters are clamoring for populism at all, because they haven't completely abandoned the belief that they're responsible for their own struggles.

However, given the fact that right-wing faux-populism contains a lot of solutions that enrich and empower the already rich and powerful, my money's on that as the version of populism likely to dominate, if anything of the sort takes root. It would be lovely to think that the Paulites and tea party types would rally against corporate welfare and demand a breakup of the big banks, but they've had half a decade to speak up on these matters and join forces with progressives. We're still waiting.

Monday, November 25, 2013


At the American Music Awards last night, Macklemore brought up Trayvon Martin in a way that got up the nose of failed congressman, Fox News rabble rouser, and possible future joke presidential candidate Allen West:
... rapper Macklemore, in my estimation, gets the recognition for the stupid.

Macklemore made this statement via his video acceptance speech, "Due to the fact that we are in Florida tonight accepting this award I want to acknowledge Trayvon Martin and the hundreds and hundreds of kids each year that are dying due to racial profiling and the violence that follows it. This is really happening. These are our friends, our neighbors, our peers and our fans, and it's time that we look out for the youth and fight against racism and the laws that protect it."

This is a walking example of the low information voter. Is he unaware of the "knockout game?" Maybe he doesn't know, as Kevin Jackson points out, that black people kill more black people every six months than the KKK did in 86 years....

If Mr. Macklemore is so concerned about his "fans" perhaps he should sing more about ending violence, being responsible citizens, getting a better education, and stronger families in the black community. I might recommend he take a civics class and learn there are no laws protecting or institutionalizing racism in America....

West is offering the usual right-wing argument about racism, which is that unless you have personally protested every crime committed in America by a non-white person since the founding of the Republic, or at least since the election of Barack Obama, you are disqualified from talking about any racial injustice committed against a black person (even the ones -- or perhaps especially the ones -- in which the perpetrators walk free).

I bring this up because I want to remind you once again that Allen West initially responded in a very different way to Trayvon Martin's death. Here's what he wrote on Facebook:
I have sat back and allowed myself time to assess the current episode revealing itself in Sanford, Florida involving the shooting of 17-year-old Treyvon Martin. First of all, if all that has been reported is accurate, the Sanford Police Chief should be relieved of his duties due to what appears to be a mishandling of this shooting in its early stages.... The shooter, Mr Zimmerman, should have been held in custody and certainly should not be walking free, still having a concealed weapons carry permit. From my reading, it seems this young man was pursued and there was no probable cause to engage him, certainly not pursue and shoot him against the direction of the 911 responder.... I have signed a letter supporting a DOJ investigation....
You an still read that statement at National Review Online. You can't read West's original Facebook post, however -- he took it down. (And see also this pro-Martin statement made to Talking Points Memo a month after the shooting.)

West figured out shortly after making that statement that he couldn't keep his right-wing cred if he spoke out against Martin's death. So a few months ago he declared that well-brought-up black youths simply aren't racially profiled. And now this.

West briefly had the courage to defy conservative correctness on this. Then he fell in line.

(Via Happy Nice Time People.)

I think Paul Waldman is right to express doubt about this widely held notion about the Affordable Care Act:
... a belief that the ACA's failure would make single-payer more likely fundamentally misreads our political history.

... Would it then be possible to assemble the kind of political momentum necessary to pass single-payer? That seems all but impossible. Keep in mind that meaningful health insurance reform had behind it an almost unanimous Democratic party for decades before it was finally achieved. What it finally took was a worsening of key trends like premium costs and rates of uninsurance, combined with the momentary possession of big enough congressional majorities to overcome Republican obstruction, combined with the co-opting of the powerful interests that traditionally opposed reform....
And how did we arrive at one of those necessary preconditions -- "the momentary possession of big enough congressional majorities to overcome Republican obstruction"? We got there because the presidency of George W. Bush was a miserable failure on so many levels, and because Bush did next to nothing to try to right his own ship, with the result that his failings empowered Democrats in 2006 and 2008. Don't hold your breath waiting for that kind of cluelessness to come along again.

The other postwar Democratic president who was able to extend the social safety net significantly was Lyndon Johnson -- and why was that possible? It was possible because he'd finished the term of an assassinated president who'd become a demigod in death, and then he defeated a Republican regarded as so extreme that the center utterly abandoned the GOP. A series of events like that could empower Democrats to enact Medicare for All, but it's not one I'd wish on America.

In the past, this has worked for Republicans as well -- gas lines, double-digit inflation, and the Iranian hostage crisis (and failed rescue mission) in the Carter years empowered Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. But I think it would be a lot easier now for Republicans to make drastic changes -- they're more organized, their voters don't expect them to embody whatever the Establishment regards as centrism, and the radical changes they'd seek would be just fine with big business.

Democrats need a confluence of extraordinary circumstances in order to make big societal changes. They may not get them again for quite some time.

Yeah, yeah, I know -- the Iran deal has critics in both parties. But Democratic critics such as Chuck Schumer, while maddening, are at least relatively measured in their tone -- Schumer says he's "disappointed" with the deal, which, he says, "does not seem proportional." He and fellow Democrat Bob Menendez are part of a group of senators threatening further sanctions at the end of the current deal's six-month window, if certain conditions aren't met -- but it seems to me that Schumer and Menendez could be playing bad cop to their former Senate colleague John Kerry's good cop, waving the stick even as Kerry offers the carrot. It may all be part of the process of getting to a permanent deal. So they don't seem to have gone off the deep end.

By contrast, on the right we have this, from the Heritage Foundation's James Jay Carafano, at National Review Online:
Munich II

No, that's not a facile, partisan jab. What just went down in Geneva is, in fact, a replay of the greatest diplomatic tragedy of the 20th century.

The Munich deal rested on the ridiculous notion that Hitler could be satiated. The new pact builds on the equally ludicrous idea that Iran would give up the means to build a nuclear weapon that will serve as the tip of its foreign-policy spear....

The British think the deal with Iran makes sense. Then, again, it was a British government that believed Munich meant we could all get a good night's sleep now.

The Russians laud the deal. But it was a government in Moscow that believed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact solved all its problems.

Our White House likes this deal. But, our White House also thinks its policies in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and Syria have been just super....
And then there's this, from Power Line's Paul Mirengoff:
It doesn't take Sigmund Freud to develop a working hypothesis that explains this behavior. The presumption should be that Obama and Kerry like to grant concessions to regime that don't like America because they themselves don't like America all that much.

We know that Kerry didn't like America in the days when he compared our army to that of Genghis Khan. We know that Obama didn't like America in his student days, both high school and college, when his mentors were Communists.

Time presumably softened their dislike of America, converting it, perhaps, into ambivalence — the kind expressed by Michelle Obama in her more candid moments. But the byproduct of their dislike -- the desire to accommodate America's enemies -- remains manifest.

In my opinion, it provides the unifying theme of Obama's foreign policy and the main motivation for making such a bad deal with Iran.
It isn't just that Democratic critics of the Iran deal are more measured in their tone. Democrats are generally more measured in their critiques, especially of Republican opponents. Senate Democrats just curtailed the filibuster, but I don't recall any of them saying that the filibuster was a tool of jackbooted fascism. (It was Republicans who compared a Democratic filibuster-curtailer to Mussolini.)

To the right, every Democrat operating in the foreign policy sphere is Neville Chamberlain. Every Democratic policy that affects the economy came straight from The Communist Manifesto. Every liberal or moderate immigration is sovereignty-destroying amnesty.

Well, no surprise there. Right-wingers aren't grown-ups. They're overgrown children who are heroes of their own political fantasy stories. It's not enough for them to oppose a policy -- they have to persuade themselves that they're the only ones preventing the destruction of civilization as we know it. So every foreign foe is Hitler, every deviation from laissez-faire is the brutal crushing of economic freedom, every immigration proposal is the takeover of America by vicious globalists. Red Dawn isn't a movie -- it's what happens every time any non-conservative obtains any power whatsoever and dares to use it. The appropriate response to everything done by the center or right is "Wolverines!"

I don't know why the grade-school hero fantasies of conservatives are allowed to et the terms of all of our political debates. But that's how we do things.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Al Sharpton just spoke out against "knockout game" attacks:
Rev. Al Sharpton condemned "knockout" attacks Saturday but stopped short of calling for marches against the brutal hate crimes.

"This kind of behavior is deplorable and must be condemned by all us," he said at his weekly National Action Network meeting in Harlem. "We would not be silent if it was the other way around. We cannot be silent or in any way reluctant to confront it when it is coming from our own community." ...

"Kids are randomly knocking out people [from] another race -- some specifically going at Jewish people," he said. "This kind of insane thuggery -- there is nothing cute about that. There is no game play about knocking somebody out, and it is not a game. It is an assault and is bias, and it is wrong." ...
I don;t know why Sharpton bothers -- his haters are going to keep telling you that he's never spoken out against this, ignoring what he's saying the way they ignore, say, his condemnation of misogyny and the use of the n-word in rap music. It's much easier to assume that he ignores these issues than to check the facts.

Now, if you lurk at online-right sites the way I do, you know about the one man who, above all, sees this sort of violence as his ticket to fame. He's Colin Flaherty, a World Net Daily columnist and Delaware talk-show host, who's written a book called White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence and How the Media Ignore It. The website for the book is, to say the least, unsubtle:

Want to see Flaherty's "Top 100 Black Mob Violence Videos"? The link is here. As I said, unsubtle.

Fox News, so far, has given Flaherty a wide berth, but Fox star Sean Hannity gave Flaherty a very respectful hearing on the radio this past week:
Flaherty congratulated Hannity for being willing to talk about it, and Hannity in turn pressed Flaherty over and over for confirmation that what it sounds like -- black mobs identifying whites or Asians as victims, and "cold-cocking" them without warning -- was exactly what was going on.

"In the book, there’s just one thing after another," Flaherty told Hannity. "There's something very wrong going on that not enough people are talking about."

... Black-on-white violence, Flaherty said, is "exponentially out of proportion" to crime in general.
Well, a recent case in Borough Park, Brooklyn, led to the arrest of four Hispanics and a young man of Indian descent. And the only precondition for attacks would seem to be citizens who assume that they're safe and knucklehead kids with underdeveloped consciences, so I see no reason why we won't ultimately hear about such attacks by kids of all races, colors, and creeds.

Fox isn't featuring Flaherty -- at least not yet -- but racial resentment is being stirred on Fox:
"It's savagery. It's very difficult to watch those tapes," former CBS News correspondent Bernard Goldberg told Bill O'Reilly on "The O'Reilly Factor." ...

"Just let's imagine that what we're seeing here is white kids attacking black people," Goldberg continued." ...That would obviously be a national news story because it's orchestrated racial violence. But this isn't."
But Flaherty is leading the charge:

And he's got at least one famous fan besides Hannity:

Followed by Rove?

Why am I not surprised?


(I see I also wrote about Flaherty in August. Apologies if I'm repeating myself.)

An Iranian nuclear deal was reached last night -- and if I'm correctly understanding what its critics have said about it, some of them even before the deal was finalized, the entire point of the deal reached by the "P5+1" nations (the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany) was to give Obama something to talk about other than Obamacare, even if the end result is the destruction of Israel and the extermination of the Jews. Or something like that:

Um, I thought Britain, France, and Germany, in particular, were "our allies." Oh, but I forget: in this context, "our allies" means Israel (it's plural, kind of like the royal "we").

And, um, Senator Cornyn, how is this evil scheme supposed to work? Yes, all the earth's great powers are supposed to be helping Obama change the subject from Obamacare's failures -- but a deal just gives you guys the opportunity to flood the zone with talk of appeasement and Munich and dhimmitude and whatever. Nothing that could have been negotiated in Geneva would have gotten any other kind of response from you, or at least nothing short of a treaty delivered personally by Slim Pickens dangling off the end of a nuclear bomb aimed straight at Tehran. All Obama has done is given you another chance to take potshots at him. So why would he even think the dog could be wagged?

Saturday, November 23, 2013


I agree with The Atlantic's Andrew Cohen that the end of the filibuster for non-Supreme Court presidential appointees is a very good thing. But his main reason for believing this is astonishingly naive:
... Knowing they can no longer hold up nominees for no good reason on the Senate floor, Judiciary Committee Republicans instead will be forced to seek substantive ways to justify a decision to vote "no" on Obama nominees. They will ask tougher questions of the nominees and require those nominees to provide more candid and complete answers. They will complain if and when candidates fail to do so. Republicans, in other words, will seek to elicit information about these candidates during hearings that can be used against those candidates when their nominations come up for a vote. And when Democrats become the minority again in the Senate they, too, will employ these tactics.

This is not remotely a bad thing. Judicial nominees should be evaluated more in public on the merits of their work and the arcs of their careers....

So the next judicial appointees to come before the Judiciary Committee are far more likely to face far more hostile questions than their immediate predecessors did....

More candor aimed at the American people? More insight into life-tenured judges? Political battles over the merits of people's careers rather than over the size of our courts? If that's the end result here, there is reason to applaud today's historic change, no matter what side of the aisle you call home.
Seriously? Cohen actually believes that Republicans are now going to feel they need to ask substantive questions before expressing opposition to Obama appointees? Cohen thinks they'll be reluctant just to oppose Obama's appointees reflexively, giving no more of a reason than the fact that they're Obama picks, or portraying some inch-to-the-left-of-dead-center aspect of each appointee's C.V. as a sign of radical leftism run amok?

Republican officeholders never feel they need to justify their permanent campaign to deny Democratic presidents the right to govern. Opposition to Democratic presidents is simply categorical. The voters who elect these Republicans -- even the swing voters -- don't seem to have a problem with this, probably because every act of specifically GOP obstructionism is presented by the mainstream press as part of a general D.C. dysfunction that's the fault of both parties equally.

Nothing about this is going to change now. Congressional hearings are not going to become more high-minded. Republicans will continue to declare Democrats and Democratic nominees unacceptable, and will continue to suffer no consequences for this.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I've been having some Internet trouble, so posting could be light tomorrow. I hope to get it resolved soon.

New York City's NPR affiliate, WNYC, picks up stories from New Jersey Public Radio. Today 'NYC picked up this breathless bit of Chris Christie gush from NJPR reporter Matt Katz:

HOST: As if Governor Christie needed anything else to affirm his status as a national Republican powerhouse, New Jersey Public Radio's Matt Katz reports that he nonetheless unveiled a surprise yesterday in Scottsdale, Arizona.

MATT KATZ: Shortly after Christie became chairman of the Republican Governors Association at the group's conference, he and two dozen other governors went for lunch at a steakhouse. That's when Christie brought in a surprise guest: former president George W. Bush. Christie personally invited Bush, representing a show of strength for the New Jersey governor as he readies for a possible 2016 presidential run....
Hunh? Showing up with a disgraced president his is a show of strength?

(No, America doesn't "miss him yet." In a recent Gallup poll, a mere 21% of respondents rated George W. Bush as an "outstanding or "above average" president, while 43% rated him "below average" or "poor." And chew on this, right-wingers: Jimmy Carter outranked Bush.)

Look, I understand the electability message Christie is trying to send: The last time our party won the White House, it was with a governor who was seen as able to work with Democrats. (Yeah, but that's also true of the last time you guys lost.)

Getting Bush to tag along is a sign that Christie has massive power? Only in the bizarre Cloud-Cuckooland of insider politics. But gone-native reporters are desperate to gush over Christie, so if his people spin the Bush thing as a huge coup, many of the boys on the bus will nod in unison and say, "Wow, that was a huge coup."

This is why I fear Christie -- he's good at leading insiders by the nose, and they love being led by him that way.

A few days ago, in reference to JFK's assassination, Peggy Noonan basically printed the legend:
... We talk about JFK’s death because for the 18 years leading up to that point -- between the end of the war, as we used to say, and 1963 -- America knew placidity. Many problems were growing and quietly brewing, but on the surface America was placid, growing more affluent, and politically calm. And then this rupture, this shock, this violence, this new sense that anything can happen, history can be ripped from its rails, that security once won cannot necessarily be maintained. That our luck won’t necessarily hold.

... And what followed -- growing political unrest, cultural spasms, riots at political conventions, more assassinations and assassination attempts -- was so different from the years preceding that we couldn’t help look back at JFK's murder as the breakpoint, the rupture. After that, things turned difficult.
I'd argue with some of what Sam Tanenhaus writes in The New York Times today, and the prose style does get a tad overheated, but I give him credit for pointing out that what people seem to remember just wasn't so:
... In fact, America had already become a divided, dangerous place, with intimations of anarchic disorder. Beneath its gleaming surfaces, a spore had been growing, a mass of violent energies, coiled and waiting to spring....

And while many today mourn the loss of the consensus politics of the Cold War era, the center was already collapsing in 1963. Left-wing groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Students for a Democratic Society, both impatient with the slow pace of social change, were formed at the time of Kennedy’s presidency.

On the right, the John Birch Society was flourishing, and in 1962, 18,000 young conservatives attended a rally at Madison Square Garden at which Kennedy was jeered, and a new tribune, Barry M. Goldwater, took the stage. Soon he would vow to clean out "the swampland of collectivism."

... The best-selling nonfiction book when he was killed was Victor Lasky’s “J.F.K: The Man and the Myth,” a dubiously researched jumble of smears and innuendo, including the stale rumor that Kennedy, an observant Catholic, had suppressed a previous marriage to a Palm Beach socialite....

Kennedy hatred was deepest, perhaps, in the South, where civil rights battles had grown increasingly tense. "White violence was sort of considered the status quo," Diane McWhorter, who grew up in Birmingham, Ala., and is the author of "Carry Me Home," a Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the racial unrest of 1963, said recently.

"There had been so many bombings that people had accepted it," Ms. McWhorter said. But in May, the city’s blacks struck back, attacking the police and firefighters and setting several businesses on fire. In September, only two months before Dallas, white supremacists in Birmingham planted a bomb in a black church, killing four young girls....
I was four years old when JFK was shot, so this isn't my nostalgia; I have trouble looking back and understanding how people saw the era as placid.

The fissures that became obvious in the post-assassination era were evident in the very first presidential election after World War II, when Henry Wallace ran to the left and Strom Thurmond ran to the racist right. Beyond that, I could run through the whole "We Didn't Start the Fire" litany: McCarthyism, China going communist, Cuba going communist, integration of the military and baseball and Little Rock and Ole Miss (and the backlashes), the Montgomery bus boycott, the Freedom Rides, the fear of "juvenile delinquents" and comic books and rock and roll, the Pill, Bircherism.... I wasn't there, but did Joe and Jane America really feel that the era was placid?

Maybe compared with the Depression and the war it was. Maybe a fairly broad-based prosperity made it all go down easy -- maybe that's all it takes.

Jonathan Weisman in The New York Times today:
President Obama will get a short-term lift for his nominees, judicial and otherwise, but over the immediate horizon, the strong-arm move by Senate Democrats on Thursday to limit filibusters could usher in an era of rank partisan warfare beyond even what Americans have seen in the past five years.

Ultimately, a small group of centrists -- Republicans and Democrats -- could find the muscle to hold the Senate at bay until bipartisan solutions can be found. But for the foreseeable future, Republicans, wounded and eager to show they have not been stripped of all power, are far more likely to unify against the Democrats who humiliated them in such dramatic fashion.
(Emphasis added.)

Actually, that's not true. Republicans are not "eager to show they have not been stripped of all power." Republicans are never "eager to show they have not been stripped of all power." Republicans are almost always eager to convey the impression that they have no power, that power is something they've been viciously cheated out of, but that they are nonetheless plucky, determined underdogs who have God and the Constitution on their side, which helps them fight for freedom despite the tyranny of the Liberal Monolith. Even when Ronald Reagan could bend Democratic Blue Dogs to his will, or George W. Bush and a Republican Congress ran the country with impunity, the message was that they were under the bootheel of Sam Donaldson or Dan Rather, or persecuted by left-wing college professors, or by Michael Moore and the Dixie Chicks, who had all the real power.

This tweet is from World Net Daily, but I think it sums up the Republican worldview:

(The link goes to a story quoting Rand Paul's whiny "bully" reference to Harry Reid.)

Bullies claiming to be bullied -- does that remind you of anything? It reminds me of a wife beater who gets a restraining order against the wife he beats, and who otherwise claims that he's the real victim. Fight back against a guy like that, even strictly in self defense, and he'll show off every tiny bruise as proof that you're the monster, not him.

In situations like that, the cops often believe the men. The political equivalent of such cops is Dana Milbank:
The Democrats' naked power grab

... If Congress wasn't broken before, it certainly is now.

... Reid was right that Republican obstruction has been intolerable....

But Reid's remedy -- calling a simple-majority vote to undo more than two centuries of custom — has created a situation in which the minority leader, Mitch McConnell (Ky.), is expected to use the minority’s remaining powers to gum up the works, and to get revenge when Republicans regain the majority.

... If it was possible to make things even worse in Washington, Reid just did it.
Translation: If anything happens to her now, she asked for it.

I said yesterday that "The template for the modern GOP is what happened in Wisconsin after the 2010 elections: a blitzkrieg of punitive, revanchist legislation using every parliamentary tool at the new GOP majority's disposal." Victor noted in comments that what's been happening in North Carolina lately is another example. It will happen in Congress if the GOP gets total control -- but now everything the Republicans do under those circumstances will be the Democrats' fault, traceable to filibuster reform as the "original sin." In the future, it will be said that the partisan wars started on November 21, 2013.

Because if the victim fights back, then she was never a victim, right?


UPDATE: Did I say Republicans are determined to persuade you that they're the abused party?
A conservative blog in Louisiana on Thursday posted an image of Sen. Mary Landrieu’s face superimposed on the body of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini -- and an hour later, the campaign manager of Landrieu’s main opponent next year, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), tweeted out a link to the post.

The Hayride blog on Louisiana politics featured an entry -- under the headline, "Mary Voted To Kill The Filibuster Today..." -- about Landrieu's vote with fellow Democrats to invoke the so-called nuclear option, which changed Senate rules to prevent filibusters against most presidential nominations. The photo, which was uploaded to the site with the filename "MussoLandrieu," accompanied the story.

"Landrieu was with Harry Reid in this rather fascistic endeavor," the blog stated....

Mary Landrieu? Mary Landrieu?

And I assume it was Mussolini only because "Landolf Hitler" was, y'know, too obvious.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Via Raw Story and Right Wing Watch, I see that Jack Cashill -- the guy who for years has pushed the theory that Bill Ayers actually wrote Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father -- has now written a book claiming that George Zimmerman has post-traumatic stress disorder. In a World Net Daily article, Cashill compares Zimmerman to Jesus:
"We had to march to even get a trial," said Al Sharpton in one of his rare moments of truth.

Sharpton was speaking of the pressure he and his recklessly corrupt media allies brought to bear on the state of Florida to try George Zimmerman for the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin....

In the spirit of weak-kneed governors from Pontius Pilate to the present, Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott was prepared to sacrifice the transparently innocent Zimmerman to appease the mob....
The trauma of being on trial has turned Zimmerman into a soldier back from a war, Cashill says:
George Zimmerman is drowning in $2.5 million in debt and is said to be showing signs of a severe psychological condition following the beleaguered Neighborhood Watch volunteer's acquittal for the murder of Trayvon Martin last summer.

Journalist and author Jack Cashill, who covers the Zimmerman case in his new book, "If I Had a Son: Race, Guns, and the Railroading of George Zimmerman," believes that the Florida man's latest actions are uncharacteristic of the person Zimmerman was before the Trayvon shooting and may be a sign that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD....
But wait! Fox Nation is retransmitting a TMZ post that says Zimmerman's "latest actions" never took place! According to TMZ and Fox, bitch set him up!
George Zimmerman was duped and done in by a lying GF who faked a pregnancy to keep him around and then framed him when she realized he was leaving her ... sources connected with Zimmerman tell TMZ.

George is now facing felony domestic violence charges after Samantha Scheibe claimed he threatened her with a gun and forced her out of their house.

Our Zimmerman sources say ... here's how it really went down:

Early this month, George made it clear to Samantha he was leaving her and leaving Florida. Samantha then dropped a bombshell-- that she was 6 weeks pregnant. George now believes she was lying about it in order to keep him in her grip.
(Because he's such a catch, presumably.)
George then offered to make a child custody and support deal ... but Samantha wanted him.

On Monday ... things came to a head when George was packing his bags to leave and our sources say Samantha concocted the whole gun scenario as revenge....
Or maybe he's so traumatized by being sold out like Jesus that he was just going to shoot Samantha Scheibe with love. Maybe he threatened her with a love gun. (No, not that kind.) After all, he is very much like the Prince of Peace, except for the killing and abusing people part.

In any case, you liberals just need to back off and let him get on with his work.

You know the news, I'm sure:
The Senate voted on Thursday to eliminate the use of the filibuster against most presidential nominees, a move that will break the Republican blockade of President Obama's picks to cabinet posts and the federal judiciary....

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, denounced Democrats for trying to "break the rules to change the rules" ...

"You think this is in the best interest of the United States Senate and the American people?" Mr. McConnell asked, sounding incredulous. "I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you’ll regret this. And you may regret it a lot sooner than you think."
Yeah, yeah, yeah -- so we might have a Republican president and Senate in 2017 (I agree that that's possible), and if so, Democrats will have taken a big arrow out of their own quiver.

But especially with regard to judges, the pool from which Republican presidents draw appointees is so extreme already that Democratic filibusters have been only a minor impediment to the GOP's efforts to drag the courts to the right. Appointees regarded as well within the pale by the Establishment are pretty damn far to the right. So what do Democrats risk losing? What's the worst-case scenario? We get Judge Ann Coulter rather than Judge Janice Rogers Brown?

If I see any downside to this, it's that the mainstream press will declare that this establishment of majority rule as a Senate principle for appointees is equivalent to another attempted shutdown or moment of default brinkmanship next January and February -- the press will act as if the two \ are equally childish and lamentable. And the public may just stupidly nod and agree.

But mainstream journalists always find something Democrats are doing that allegedly cancels out any genuinely extreme thing Republicans are doing -- if it wasn't this, it would be some Democrat's offhand comment, or maybe Obama not arranging a golf date with John Boehner.

And as for Mitch McConnell's direst threat -- to end the filibuster on everything in response to this -- I'm not worried. It's been suggested that he'd do it if Republicans win the Senate in 2014. Really? With Obama still president, just so Republicans can vote to repeal Obamacare and pass a lot of other bills the president will simply veto? And would McConnell really change the rules this way with a 2016 election coming up that's likely to have heavy Democratic turnout and a good possibility of the Senate flipping back to the Democrats? Doubt it.

So thank you, Harry Reid and colleagues, for dropping this nuclear bomb.


AND: If we're talking about McConnell eliminating the filibuster altogether in 2017 as payback if he has a majority and a Republican president and House, why do we think he'd need the pretext of this partial elimination of the filibuster by Democrats? Isn't it likely that he would have eliminated the filibuster no matter what?

The template for the modern GOP is what happened in Wisconsin after the 2010 elections: a blitzkrieg of punitive, revanchist legislation using every parliamentary tool at the new GOP majority's disposal. In the U.S. Senate, that would have included the gutting of the filibuster. It's always been likely if they get total control. This doesn't make it any more likely.

Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times seem surprised:
The memo distributed to House Republicans this week was concise and blunt, listing talking points and marching orders: "Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance." "Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs." "The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk." "Continue Collecting Constituent Stories."

The document, the product of a series of closed-door strategy sessions that began in mid-October, is part of an increasingly organized Republican attack on the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature legislative initiative. Republican strategists say that over the next several months, they intend to keep Democrats on their heels through a multilayered, sequenced assault.

The idea is to gather stories of people affected by the health care law -- through social media, letters from constituents, or meetings during visits back home -- and use them to open a line of attack, keep it going until it enters the public discourse and forces a response, then quickly pivot to the next topic.

For a House more used to disarray than methodical game plans, the success so far has been something of a surprise, even to the campaign's organizers.
(Emphasis added.)

What's so surprising about this? What does the House GOP's utter failure at governing have to do with the party's ability to crank out a relentless propaganda spew?

There's disarray in the Republican-led House in large part because Republicans don't give a damn about governing. The act of governing (or governing-by-tearing-down) to which they've devoted most of their energy recently was an impossible effort to repeal Obamacare. They can't defeat it, they won't negotiate on altering or improving it, and they won't put aside futile attempts to repeal it in order to accomplish the real governing tasks for which they're paid. They don't care. They don't believe that governing is their job. They don't believe it should be anyone's job. They don't believe in government.

Propaganda? Now, there's something they do believe in. The decline of the Republican Party as an institution devoted to governing has not been accompanied by a decline in messaging and propaganda skills. Attacking liberals and Democrats, and the ideas and accomplishments of liberals and Democrats, is what Republicans see as their number-one priority, as they have for many years. It's what they care about most. So they keep their propaganda skills at a high level, and they devote as many resources as possible to propaganda efforts.

They do this because they want to win power -- power for its own sake. Oh, sure, there are a few things they want to do: make the rich richer, punish the have-nots. But even the latter is largely in the service of their permanent campaign to demonize Democrats (in this case, by directing voters' anger against the perceived beneficiaries of Democratic policies). They don't really seem to care about the policies they enact where they're in power on, say, abortion or union pensions or minority voting rights, except to the extent of hoping that what they do turns voters against Democrats and/or ensures that more Republican than Democratic voters will cast ballots. It's all about winning for the sake of winning.

So of course we have this:
A 17-page "House Republican Playbook" walks members through "messaging tools" like talking points, social media tactics and "digital fliers"; details lines of attack; offers up a sample opinion article for local newspapers; and provides an extensive timeline on the health care law and an exhaustive list of legislative responses that have gone nowhere.
And this:
A message of the week is presented to the Republican members at the beginning of each week, Ms. McMorris Rodgers said. A "Call to Action" email chain distributes relevant breaking news. A new website,, is collecting anecdotes from each member.
Of course the thing they're most excited about is the opportunity to disseminate more propaganda:
But Republicans are already looking ahead to next year, when they expect a raft of new issues as people start using their new health plans.

"We're trying to stay as agile as we can," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner. "We know what issues are coming. We know what the consequences will be. We can't say when they will pop exactly, but we're prepared to talk about them."
For D.C. Republicans, this is literally all that matters.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


This doesn't surprise me:
Poll: Americans Think Obamacare Will Help the Poor, Not the Country

More Americans continue to say that President Obama's health care law will help the poor and the uninsured rather than their own families or the country overall, the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll has found.

... these findings show that most adults, particularly whites, view it largely as a transfer program that will mostly benefit the poor rather than the nation broadly.

... solid majorities of Americans continue to say they believe it will "make things better" for people who do not have health insurance (63 percent) and the poor (59 percent).

... the poll also finds that most Americans, especially whites, are much more dubious that the law will benefit broader groups in the country, or their own families. That confounds the anticipation of Democratic strategists who have hoped for decades that health care reform could reverse the skepticism among many voters, particularly middle-class whites, that Washington can deliver tangible benefits in their own lives.

Relatively few voters, especially whites, are anticipating such benefits from the health care law, the poll found. Overall, just 33 percent said they expected the law will make things better for "people like you and your family," while 49 percent said they thought it would make things worse....
Some of this is because middle-class Americans tend to regard their current health insurance as good (which for many of them is reasonable). and also as secure (which is not so reasonable). Some of this is because the law does create some "losers" among the self-insured in the middle and upper middle classes.

But it's also because we don't think there's a national benefit to universal coverage. No one has successfully made the case that there are tangible benefits from having a covered country (a healthier populace, less health care done at the costly emergency-room level). The moral notion -- that a rich country damn well ought to be able to provide health care for all its citizens -- doesn't seem to mean much to the middle class.

And, well, the right has said for fifty years that benefits apart from Social Security and Medicare are a zero-sum game. That message clearly hasn't lost its potency.

Aimai has been arguing in comments that much of the middle class is slipping into economic insecurity -- as she says, they're "busy fighting to keep their own jobs and their own SNAP and UI benefits." But this poll suggests that this isn't leading them to regard their interests as aligned with those of the people below them on the ladder. They still have, in Barbara Ehrenreich's phrase, a "fear of falling." They haven't accepted the premise that Obamacare will help catch them. They have accepted the premise that Obamacare will push them.