Sunday, October 31, 2010


Peter Baker's article in today's New York Times Week in Review section is headlined "Elitism: The Charge Obama Can't Shake." Baker seems to accept the notion that Obama has brought this problem on himself, though he can't quite seem to explain how -- something about Obama's "cerebral confidence," or perhaps it happened because of one remark Obama made earlier this month about voters rejecting Democrats because they're not quite grasping the facts. (But, um, that was earlier this month. Why has the charge stuck for so long? Baker can't say.) Elsewhere, Maureen Dowd gets a little closer to reality -- she thinks Obama's been a poor salesman for his own ideas and deeds (which I think is true), though she also hits the elitism button (she says Obama seems "sniffy," which is a word I might have used to describe George W. Bush at times during his presidency, including times when he was very popular).

But the notion that Jes' Regular Folks are rebelling against a pinky-extending millionaire president is undermined somewhat by a Matt Bai article that focuses on a tea party leader in Utah:

Generally speaking, Tea Party enthusiasts don't think much of East Coast media types, and it was hard not to consider this fact as David Kirkham slammed his roadster into fifth gear, topping out at more than 100 miles per hour as we hurtled toward another curve....

As Mr. Kirkham expertly maneuvered this car he had designed and built in his factory, I began to understand that there was a point to his having invited me along for the ride, and it wasn't to give me a heart attack. The message he seemed to be sending was,
We are not who you think we are. We are serious people with serious abilities.

As recently as a year ago, these cars were Mr. Kirkham's sole passion. For about $100,000, Kirkham Motorsports, the company Mr. Kirkham started with his brother, Thomas, in 1995, will build you an exact replica of the 1960s-era Shelby Cobra, sculpted from 1,500 pounds of aluminum. A custom-made version like the one Mr. Kirkham designed and built for Larry Ellison, the chief executive of Oracle, will run you something closer to $1 million. Let's just say Mr. Kirkham does all right.

But now, at 43, Mr. Kirkham has another obsession: He is the founder, more or less, of the now 10,000-strong Utah Tea Party, the chapter that helped get this national movement rolling by leading a stunning revolt against a sitting senator, Robert Bennett....

I'm not much of a car guy, but you can see that million-dollar car Kirkham built for Larry Ellison here. The book documenting the process of building the damn car costs $4,500 a copy, fer crissake. Tell me again about the economic anxiety of the teabaggers?

Which gets us to Frank Rich. I think he's somewhat on target in today's column:

... The Tea Party's hopes for actually affecting change in Washington will start being dashed the morning after. The ordinary Americans in this movement lack the numbers and financial clout to muscle their way into the back rooms of Republican power no matter how well their candidates perform.

Trent Lott, the former Senate leader and current top-dog lobbyist, gave away the game in July. "We don't need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples," he said, referring to the South Carolina senator who is the Tea Party's Capitol Hill patron saint. "As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them." It's the players who wrote the checks for the G.O.P. surge, not those earnest folk in tri-corner hats, who plan to run the table in the next corporate takeover of Washington. Though Tom DeLay may now be on trial for corruption in Texas, the spirit of his K Street lives on in a Lott client list that includes Northrop Grumman and Goldman Sachs.

... Mitch McConnell ... will be certain to stop any Tea Party hillbillies from disrupting his chapter of the club (as he tried to stop Rand Paul in his own state's G.O.P. primary). McConnell's pets in his chamber's freshman G.O.P. class will instead be old-school conservatives like Dan Coats (of Indiana), Rob Portman (of Ohio) and, if he squeaks in, Pat Toomey (of Pennsylvania).... They can be counted on to execute an efficient distribution of corporate favors and pork after they make their latest swing through Capitol Hill's revolving door....

My only objection is: Will rank-and-file teabaggers even object? To some extent they want to return politics to the eighteenth century -- but I think what they really want are a few feel-good victories against the evil Kenyan socialist, or a few defeats that will spur the sense of grievance they so desperately crave. And they can be easily distracted by investigations (New Black Panthers! Climategate!). Do they even care about what they claim to care about, or do they just care about the fight?

More to the point, if quite a few of them are like David Kirham -- and quite a few more of them daydream about being David Kirham, if not Larry Ellison -- aren't they going to root for deregulation and tax cuts for the rich?

Matt Bai's article isn't about class and wealth. It's about how Kirkham reminds him of the Netrootsy liberals who helped bring the Democratic Party back into power in the last decade. He argues that this a new model for political activism, and that the Intetnet makes it go much faster than activist insurgencies in earlier eras. But he concludes that these insurgencies happen quickly and fade quickly, which means there'll probably be an even newer one (presumably Democratic) very soon.

Frank Rich, for his part, thinks teabaggers are going to be disillusioned soon, and turn to the most famous tea-style rabble-rouser, a woman currently being mocked by Karl Rove:

... those Americans, like all the others on the short end of the 2008 crash, have reason to be mad as hell. And their numbers will surely grow once the Republican establishment's panacea of tax cuts proves as ineffectual at creating jobs, saving homes and cutting deficits as the half-measures of the Obama White House and the Democratic Congress. The tempest, however, will not be contained within the tiny Tea Party but will instead overrun the Republican Party itself, where Palin, with Murdoch and Beck at her back, waits in the wings to "take back America" not just from Obama but from the G.O.P. country club elites now mocking her. By then -- after another two years of political gridlock and economic sclerosis -- the equally disillusioned right and left may have a showdown that makes this election year look as benign as Woodstock.

But I think Rich and Bai are both off base. Teabaggers won't really be disillusioned. There isn't a bright line separating ultracorporatist GOP hacks and party-like-it's-1773 teabaggers -- teabaggers love the rich.(They make an exception only for the fat cats whose suckling at the government teat is highlighted by Fox News as "socialism.") In addition, the ultracorporatists will just stoke the rank-and-file's rage. They'll keep the 'baggers in the fold at least through 2012. They're practiced at this. They kept the religious right in the fold for decades, right? It's not that hard for them.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I missed the Stewart/Colbert rally, but I can already see that the appearance of Yusuf Islam -- the former Cat Stevens -- is going to get a lot of negative attention from the right. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, he was part of what strikes me as a beautifully constructed bit of comedy:

When surprise guest Yusuf Islam, the British singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, arrived onstage and began singing his hit "Peace Train," Colbert loudly interrupted him and introduced Ozzy Osbourne, who sang his hit, "Crazy Train" before Stewart interrupted him in turn. The two singers then engaged in a musical duel, guided by the two comedians.

Then they all stood aside as the O-Jays sang the Philadelphia soul classic, "Love Train."

On the other hand, it's true that

That would be the same Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens who endorsed the Fatwah against Salman Rushdie. For instance, the New York Times reported (registration required) as follows in 1989:

The musician known as Cat Stevens said in a British television program to be broadcast next week that rather than go to a demonstration to burn an effigy of the author Salman Rushdie, "I would have hoped that it’d be the real thing."

The singer, who adopted the name Yusuf Islam when he converted to Islam, made the remark during a panel discussion of British reactions to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's call for Mr. Rushdie to be killed for allegedly blaspheming Islam in his best-selling novel "The Satanic Verses." He also said that if Mr. Rushdie turned up at his doorstep looking for help, "I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like."

"I'd try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is," said Mr. Islam, who watched a preview of the program today and said in an interview that he stood by his comments.

Since then, he's strongly condemned the 9/11 attacks and the 7/7 attacks in England; he sang "Peace Train" for the VH1 broadcast of the first responders' benefit concert that took place at Radio City in New York in October 2001, and dedicated half his proceeds from a Cat Stevens box set to 9/11 charities. But a 2007 comment on Rushdie was a bit disconcerting:

I never called for the death of Salman Rushdie; nor backed the Fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini -- and still don't. The book itself destroyed the harmony between peoples and created an unnecessary international crisis.

When asked about my opinion regarding blasphemy, I could not tell a lie and confirmed that -- like both the Torah and the Gospel -- the Qur'an considers it, without repentance, as a capital offense. The Bible is full of similar harsh laws if you're looking for them.[13] However, the application of such Biblical and Qur'anic injunctions is not to be outside of due process of law, in a place or land where such law is accepted and applied by the society as a whole.

The accusation that I supported the Fatwa, therefore, is wholly false and misleading. It was due to my naivety in trying to answer a loaded question posed by a journalist....

He's clearly become a fundamentalist, but a fundamentalist who wants to live (and work) in the larger world while keeping his fundamentalism intact. His attitude about blasphemy is like a lot of very mainstream right-wingers' attitudes about abortion: abortion is murder; murder deserves the death penalty; but if there's a death penalty, it should be carried out by the legal system, not by vigilantes.

I pay attention to all this because I worked at one of the companies that formed was consulted about forming a consortium to put out the original U.S. paperback of The Satanic Verses, as a gesture of publishing-industry solidarity after its original publisher (and publishers, translators, and booksellers worldwide) experienced threats (and some serious violence).

So I'm uncomfortable with Yusuf Islam's continued hard line on this. But I think it's preposterous to imagine that Stewart, Colbert, et al. know this. And I think it's obvious that they wouldn't endorse it.

Whatever your opinion, the political blogosphere's inevitable parsing of this is, I suppose, just the sort of thing this rally was mocking. So I'll stop here and wait for the Stewart/Colbert punch lines in response to our response.

No, I'm not at the Stewart/Colbert rally, and (for reasons too complicated to explain) I'm unable to watch it this afternoon (not even on the very computer I'm typing on -- don't ask). I'll just wait for a thousand wingnut bloviators to tell me how horribly treasonous it was; for now, I'll just express regret that only us snooty elitist overeducated lefty political junkies will probably react to this in the appropriate manner:

Media Matters has confirmed that noted propagandist Andrew Breitbart will provide analysis for ABC News during their election night coverage.

After Breitbart's website reported that Breitbart would "be bringing analysis live from Arizona" for ABC, Media Matters confirmed his participation in a town hall meeting anchored by ABC's David Muir...

Media figures and outlets from across the board rejected Breitbart's race-baiting lies after he smeared former USDA official Shirley Sherrod as a "racist," using as "proof" a heavily edited video of comments she made during a March NAACP event that he posted on his site

There's so little discontent in this country from anywhere but the right, except for a tiny sliver of the left, that I just can't imagine widespread outrage directed at Disney/ABC for this from the African-American community -- which is as beaten down as most of the rest of the non-wingnut heartland, and sees no likelihood of change and no avenue for action.

I'd love to be pleasantly surprised. I'd love to see large amounts of letter-writing and threats of boycotts. I'd love it if this came as a complete surprise to Disney/ABC, because it was protest coming from somewhere prtest no longer seems to originate.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, October 29, 2010


You probably know about this:

Two packages containing explosive devices originating in Yemen and bound for two places of Jewish worship in Chicago set off a global terror alert on Friday. One package was found at a FedEx facility in Dubai, and another was found early Friday morning at an airport in Britain, sparking a day of dramatic precautionary activity in the United States.

Speaking at the White House Friday afternoon, President Obama called the packages a "credible terrorist threat against our country," and confirmed that they "did apparently contain" explosives....

I've been poking around the right-wing message boards and I'm noticing a common thread in some responses to this story.

From cappopper at Fox Nation:

The Great Voter Intimidation Scam!!

From Nevadadad46 at

... I suspect we are experiencing another "boogyman" fright to make folks who would want to vote change the status quo jittery. Democrats are not above this kind of stunt....

From Hipponips at The Blaze (Glenn Beck's new site):

...All the packages in the US have been found to NOT be any threat. NONE ZIP ZERO
Don't let this prevent you from voting.

We had a couple of terror scares around elections during the Bush years, and if you were a lefty and had any suspicions about the timing, you probably thought the point was to inspire more votes for Bush's party. Maybe some of us were paranoid just like the folks I've quoted above, but we had a very different paranoid idea; I don't think it ever occurred to us to respond with fear of voting. And we never thought anyone on our side would respond that way, or even that the Bushies thought we would.

I think that's because our side doesn't wet its pants at these terror threats. But the fact that voter intimidation crosses minds on the other side means that people on that side clearly do.

The easy laugh in today's David Brooks column is here:

Over the next two years, Obama will have to show that he is a traditionalist on social matters and a center-left pragmatist on political ones. Culturally, he will have to demonstrate that even though he comes from an unusual background, he is a fervent believer in the old-fashioned bourgeois virtues: order, self-discipline, punctuality and personal responsibility.

The rest of the list is silly enough, but "punctuality"? That's what going to get OBAMA back in the voters' good graces? Hell, if that's the kind of thing he's overlooking, why not proper posture or good penmanship?

But the rest of the column is no less absurd. Brooks follows that up with this:

Politically, he will have to demonstrate that he is data-driven -- that even though he has more faith in government than most Americans, he will relentlessly oppose programs when the evidence shows they don't work.

This is crazy. Obama's party is about to get a drubbing at the polls from people who are defiantly not "data-driven." They have no idea they received a tax cut. They won't accept the notion that the stimulus prevented further suffering. It's understandable that they're upset about the state of the nation -- a lot of them are really hurting -- but that means precisely that they aren't looking at this coldly and rationally. (Few if any of them have any understanding that the medicine wasn't strong enough.) And their fact-aversion isn't limited to monetary issues. The angriest right-wing voters are furious about anti-gun policies on the part of the administration, even though they can't tell you what those policies are, because they don't exist.

Then there's this from Brooks:

The current sour mood is not just caused by high unemployment. It emerges from the fear that America's best days are behind it. The public's real anxiety is about values, not economics: the gnawing sense that Americans have become debt-addicted and self-indulgent; the sense that government undermines individual responsibility; the observation that people who work hard get shafted while people who play influence games get the gravy.

Notice something odd about this? "People ... work hard" but there's a fear that "Americans have become ... self-indulgent." Do the people who work hard not count as Americans?

What's happening is that Brooks is pulling two ready-2-use bits of chattering-class conventional wisdom down off the shelf and is jamming them together without thinking about how they contradict. Chatterers believe that the economic collapse happened because "we" got greedy and flabby, but they also believe that Joe Lunchpail has traditional values and virtues and really puts his back into his work. Brooks makes a combo platter of the two and never grasps that both of these things can't be true.

One more:

... if Obama is to rebound, he is going to have to suppress his natural competitive instincts. If he gets caught up in the Beltway fight club, the Republicans will emerge as the party of limited government and he’ll emerge as the spokesman for big government -- surely a losing proposition.

That's what he thinks we're experiencing: Fight Club. People choosing to fight other people, with all fights taking place on a mutually voluntary basis.

The implication of that is that if Obama just stopped fighting so darn hard -- let's try to restrain our snickering about that -- and just left Fight Club, then Fight Club would just stop. Or go on without him. Republicans really wouldn't just pound him into a bloody pulp.

Or maybe this is just a clever pop-culture variation on that favorite admonition of incompetent teachers: that "it takes two to start a fight." This is usually said to the bullied kid who knows how untrue that really is, as he nurses his bruises. And those are pretty much the circumstances under which it's being said here.

On October 12, as the trapped Chilean miners were about to be rescued, Michelle Malkin decided to politicize the story by declaring that a depraved liberal culture in America and the White House in particular were insufficiently grateful to the Americans who helped rescue the miners. We (and Team Obama) were subbing one man in particular:

In a different day and age, Jeff Hart would be the most famous American in our country right now. He would be honored at the White House. Schoolchildren would learn of his skill and heroism. But because Jeff Hart works in an industry under fire by the Obama administration, more people in Chile will celebrate this symbol of American greatness than in America itself.

Jeff Hart is a driller based in my home state of Colorado. The father of two has been drilling water wells in Afghanistan at U.S. Army bases. When the San Jose Mine in Chile collapsed in August, he flew to lend his renowned expertise to the rescue effort. As part of an amazing three-way race to the trapped miners, Hart drilled for 33 days straight and was first to reach the caved-in workers....

Of course, as I noted at the time, Hart hadn't gone to the White House because he was, y'know, in Chile until just before the time of Malkin's post, trying to rescue the miners.

Well, guess what happened yesterday.

But surely Hart was an exception, right? Surely the Obama administration hates mining so much that no one else from that hated industry was invited. Right?

President Barack Obama on Thursday congratulated officials from NASA and several U.S. companies for their role in this month's rescue of 33 miners trapped underground in Chile....

Jim Stefanic, operations manager for Geotec Boyles Bros., S.A., a drilling company, said they had a "very good chat" with the president.

"He congratulated everybody on this great rescue mission down there," Stefanic told reporters outside the White House after the meeting. Stefanic said Obama also told them he was "very proud that we were down there doing this job and rescued all 33 miners alive."

Geotec Boyles Bros., S.A., is a U.S.-Chilean company based in Santiago, Chile.

Other drilling companies represented at the meeting were Schramm Inc., of West Chester, Pa.; Center Rock Inc. of Berlin, Pa.; and Layne Christensen Co. of Kansas City, Kan. Also attending were representatives of Philadelphia-based Aramark, a professional services company.

That's from an AP story that went up just before 5:00 yesterday afternoon. Since then, Malkin has put up five posts on a variety of subjects.

But, funny, not a word acknowledging the meeting at the White House. Certainly not a word admitting she was wrong about the president.

Well, Michelle? We're waiting.

I woke up to find out that Gawker has published a creepy, repulsive story by a guy claiming to have gone out to a bar with Christine O'Donnell and some friends, after which he brought her back to his apartment and ultimately went to bed with her, though they didn't have sex. It reads like the worst letter to Penthouse ever; I want to mock it, but it comes off as an act of hostility that has nothing to do with politics or even culture-war hypocrisy, and it's understandably infuriating NOW and making other feminists and liberals feel sympathy for O'Donnell. It's nasty for reasons that transcend my political views or yours or anyone else's.

Nevertheless ... for a moment I did loathe the anonymous writer -- since outed as one Dustin Dominiak -- for short-term political reasons. Does what this guy wrote and Gawker published make it possible that Republicans will take over the Senate as well as the House, with a delegation that includes O'Donnell as well as Sharron Angle and Ken Buck and Rand Paul and possibly Joe Miller?

Nahhh. I don't see this changing votes in Delaware. I think voters there have made up their minds about O'Donnell; they're rejecting her for flightiness and goofy public pronouncements rather than ideological extremism, but I'll take it.

But this is going to be thrown in the faces of liberals and Democrats forever. Even though a lot of us have condemned it, this is going to be our fault. It's a little past three in the morning in Alaska right now, but the Palin Twitter/Facebook machine is going to be running on all cylinders in a matter of hours. It's going to be that much harder top condemn legitimately evil acts by Republicans in the future because this happened and, well, how dare those liberals complained when their "smear machine" does this?

I could easily see it having some effect even this year, far from Delaware, as, say Sharron Angle or some Angle surrogate (Palin?) makes the argument to wavering right-centrist female swing voters that they should vote for Angle because this just shows that Democrats hate women and conservatives are the real feminists. This just shows that liberals don't really believe in "choice" because they mock O'Donnell's choice to remain a virgin. (You know the drill.)

This won't have a huge effect. But it will show up in many indictments of the crimes of liberalism for years to come.

(And I should add that liberals aren't just going to be accused of misogyny. They're going to be accused, yet again, of hating Christianity.)


Jezebel's Jessica Coen argues that our interest in this story is inevitable and unsurprising, and strictly gender-based:

...If the politician in question were a man, this wouldn't be a story -- an anonymous woman probably wouldn't even think to contact a gossip site with her story about how she once played spin-the-bottle with Mr. Candidate....

Wait -- let me revise that a bit: perhaps a lady from Mr. Candidate's innocent past
would step forward with such a small faux-scandalous tale, and we'd briefly pay attention to it -- but only if Mr. Candidate were viewed as patently ridiculous as is O'Donnell.... And that brings us back to the Would Never Happen column, because even the most absurd male candidates aren't considered half as loony as their female equivalents are....

But a woman? Well, that's different. First of all, she's a Crazy Bitch, and nothing holds our attention more than a hilariously Crazy Bitch. Oh, she's not, like, a
bitch bitch -- more like we've transformed her into our silly bitch, our punchline bitch (and no, Jezebel is not innocent here). Crazy Bitch isn't necessarily crazy because she's a woman, mind you -- but the fact that she's a woman does make her craziness seem a lot more funny, doesn't it? ...

I'm not 100% persuaded by this. First of all, Christine O'Donnell isn't just a "crazy bitch," she's proudly celibate. I can easily imagine a socially conservative Republican man proudly declaring that he's a fervent Christian and therefore a virgin -- there's a fair amount of that out there in the heartland. (Remember the Jonas Brothers and their promise rings?) In a crazy, teabagger year like this one, couldn't a male virgin win a GOP primary? To me that's the question: Do righties really admire this kind of sexual purity across the board, or would they think, in a man, it was kind of ... unseemly?

I'm not sure. But if a proud-virgin male got through a GOP primary, I think opponents would be trying really, really hard to show him up as a hypocrite.

As for male craziness -- well, a lot of us on the left are connoisseurs of the weirdness of Alan Keyes. However, it's true that he's never become a household name in non-political America the way O'Donnell has. So maybe that means we treat women worse. But what if he'd never emerged until this year, and he burst onto the scene as a standard-bearer for the tea party? What then?

Maybe we still mock women more. But I think he'd be a big, fat target for derision.


OH, AND: It just gets worse.

The Delaware GOP Senate nominee has nearly halved the lead Democratic rival Chris Coons holds over her in the First State's widely-watched Senate race, a poll released Friday shows.

In a Monmouth University poll, Coons now leads O'Donnell 51-41 percent, whereas two weeks ago, the New Castle County executive led the conservative activist 57-38 percent....

And that's before Gawker-gate.

Well, you know what? If we get Senator O'Donnell, we deserve what we get. It means we're a once-great country that's now a joke and an embarrassment.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Here's AlterNet's Adele Stan with a good catch regarding Clarence Thomas's wife:

Ginni Thomas' Think Tank Allied With Group That Celebrates Spanish Inquisition

... Mrs. Thomas' Tea Party think tank, Liberty Central, promotes the causes of groups that take pride in intolerance, including one right-wing Catholic group, Tradition, Family and Property, whose founder declared the Spanish Inquisition "the most beautiful page in the history of the Church."

... Thomas has added to the "Friends of Liberty Central" page on her think tank's Web site a plug for Tradition, Family and Property, a virulently anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-democratic Catholic group founded in 1960 in opposition to Brazilian land reform.

TFP has long enjoyed ties to the far right in American politics, including the International Freedom Foundation, which existed primarily as an American front group for the apartheid regime in South Africa during the Reagan years, according to researcher Richard Bartholomew, and was once led by convicted felon and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff....

If TFP's activities on behalf of torturers and anti-democratic forces weren't enough to give one pause, there's its status as a cult. TFP is an all-male organization that finds its recruits among adolescent boys, whom it trains in the use of the combat regalia of the Middle Ages -- maces, crossbows, and the like...


All I can add is that when they're not doing all this, these folks (or at least the participants in TFP's America Needs Fatima campaign) keep themselves busy:

America Needs Fatima rallies against Satanism in Oklahoma

While we prayed outside the Civic Center in Oklahoma City, OK, on October 21, , a group called the Church of the IV Crowned Princes performed a Satanic ritual inside the Civic Center, a type of exorcism, with the expressed intent to poke fun at the Catholic Church.

So far as we know, America Needs Fatima is the only Catholic group that protested and prayed against the Satanic ritual.

... As Catholics, we loath Satan and Satanism, because we know that Satan always does as much harm to human beings as he can at every moment.

... we must have a sincere and elevated devotion to the Queen of the Angels, Terror of the Demons....

Here's one of the scary, damned demon-worshipers who showed up for the Satanic service. LOOK UPON THE FACE OF EVIL ... IF YOU DARE!

So what happened that led at least one member of this group to travel all the way to OKC from Topeka, Kansas?

... About 45 people attended the Church of the IV Crown Princes' "satanic exorcism."

... A heavy-metal band performed for about 45 minutes in the Civic Center's CitySpace area where the event was held. When the band finished, Hale and a handful of other people went to the center of the stage area and surrounded a large table.

...Hale told the audience that they would witness a ritual "blasphemy" taken from the Roman Catholic rite of exorcism.

... The lights were lowered, and a spotlight shone on the table.

The scent of incense filled the room and a soundtrack featuring cymbals and heavy-metal music played softly as people in the audience looked on intently.

A woman laid on the table, and Hale and six other Church of the IV Crown Princes members, some garbed in black robes, gathered around her and invoked the name of Satan and demons to exorcise Christianity and religion out of her.

"Depart forth in fear from this soul who seeks enlightenment from Hell's power," Hale said.

As one member of the group chanted "Come out Yahweh! Come out Jesus Christ! ... Come out, oh foul holy spook!," other members said "Satan compels you!"

At the end of the ritual, a gong on the table was sounded, and the woman lying on the table sat up, smiled and shouted "Hail Satan!"

I've had scarier subway rides.

This was followed by that most demonic of rituals: a question-and-answer-session. No, really.

Well, if protesting silly events like this keeps these TFP people from starting another Inquisition, I suppose it's all for the best.

(Oh, they also think Lady Gaga is an instrument of Satan.) (UPDATE: Link fixed.)

The National Park Service has the schedule for the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally on Saturday, and (unless this a prank I'm not grasping) The Christian Science Monitor has posted the details. My first reaction: um, is this going to be sharp-edged, biting satirical comedy, or is this going to be the sort of relaxed-fit-denim lite-variety entertainment you get during public-broadcasting pledge drives and in the downtime at Democratic conventions?

...Noon: The pre-show starts with a performance from The Roots.
12:40: A comedian (to be determined) warms up the audience.
12:57: A video countdown with a show introduction.
1:00: The show kicks off with the national anthem by a musical guest (to be announced).
1:05: Mr. Stewart welcomes the crowd...
1:20: Mr. Colbert enters, and two actors -- Don Novello and Sam Waterston -- perform readings.
1:40: Jeff Tweedy and Mavis Staple perform for 10 minutes, followed by Stewart and Colbert until 2 p.m.
2:15: Sheryl Crow performs for five minutes, followed by speakers and guests (to be determined).
2:30: Musical guests (also still being lined up) come....
2:40: The show turns to a pre-taped sequence -- The Sanity and Fear Awards....
To round out the three-hour production, Stewart and Colbert will make their final statements....

Sheryl Crow? Alt-hip-hoppers who are pushing forty? A veteran R&B singer whose work is currently being mediated for us melanin-deficient types by a white guy? Oh, and an aging actor and '70s comic? (Though I can't help wondering how soon Fox Nation will respond to the presence of the guy who plays Father Guido Sarducci by asking, "Stewart Rally to Insult Catholic Church?")

I've been thinking for a while that we've been misreading this event -- we think it's about the election, and to some extent it is, but it's also about the fact that Stewart and Colbert will soon be facing competition from Conan O'Brien -- his new show starts November 8 at 11 P.M. Conan just made the cover of Rolling Stone. He targets more or less the same demographic as Comedy Central's late-night guys. And Stewart and Colbert seem to be responding to this threat with ... a live, supersized late-night variety special, possibly for a slightly older (and more financially secure) crowd. Maybe this is mostly about television.

Mort Dinauer of Tapped had this to say yesterday about a preposterous but not particularly surprising bit of news from Politico's Ben Smith:

Ben Smith passes along the news that for Rudy Giuliani, "the door's not closed" for a presidential run, something Smith considers "worth keeping in the 2012 file." The only reason I bring this up is to note how for certain ex-politicians, the big presidential comeback assumes perpetual status for political journalists, no matter how far-fetched such ambitions actually are. Fred Thompson tweeted something? He's laying the groundwork. Rick Santorum is visiting Iowa again? The wheels are in motion. Newt Gingrich opened his mouth? 2012 is his to lose. Rudy Giuliani won how many delegates in 2008? He's leaving the door open.

I quote this because it's relevant to a discussion we all have about Sarah Palin.

Many people think she won't run for president in 2012 because she might lose, and that would "diminish her brand." But, as Dinauer notes, it's almost impossible to have your brand diminished in the eyes of D.C. conventional wisdom-mongers (at least if you're a Republican).

Sure, Giuliani and Thompson and Santorum seem like yesterday's news to most rational observers. But, as Dinauer says, they're still seen as hotshots in their world. Their status is diminished far less than it should be in that world. And Gingrich's, absurdly, is barely diminished at all.

And Sarah Palin is, well, Sarah Palin. To the idiots in the media, she's like Gingrich -- but Gingrich with Lindsey Lohan sex/gossip appeal. She could flame out in 2012 as badly as Rudy or Fred did in 2008 and they'll still hang on every tweet.

So, really, how much does she have to lose if she runs?

(Dinauer link via Dave Weigel.)

If you watched Jon Stewart's interview of Barack Obama last night, you know that the president received a lot of loud ovations. Stewart tried -- gently -- to press Obama on a few issues, but Obama rolled right over him. He spent the half hour explaining why, in his view, he did a hell of a job under the circumstances. The crowd ate it up.

But that crowd represents what I'm starting to feel is one of three parties in America -- and the smallest of the three. As Michael Tomasky writes, in a column about Stewart's upcoming Rally to Restore Sanity,

...[the] sober and earnest middle is not really Stewart's audience. Stewart's core audience is news-junkie liberals.... It's young urbanites and students. It's the out-of-place blue fish swimming the waters of the vast, red, middle-American sea. The moderate married couple with a child or two who are too busy for politics -- his ideal marcher -- are for the most part probably also too busy for Stewart.

That's the group that volunteered for the Obama campaign, but that's not who provided the votes he needed to win. The votes that put Obama over the top came from what I'll call the Rove party, for reasons I'll explain below. Today's New York Times tells us (as if we didn't already know) that they're not happy:

Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Roman Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents. All of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for Congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls....

The poll provides a pre-Election Day glimpse of a nation so politically disquieted and disappointed in its current trajectory that 57 percent of the registered voters surveyed said they were more willing to take a chance this year on a candidate with little previous political experience. More than a quarter of them said they were even willing to back a candidate who holds some views that "seem extreme." ...

Stewart is holding a Rally to Restore Sanity. Karl Rove -- and Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes and Dick Armey and the Koch brothers -- are working to redefine sanity. Yes, they want to rally the crazy Republican base -- the people I'm thinking of as the Palin party -- but they also want to add people in the middle to that base. The CBS/Times poll says they're succeeding.

They're succeeding because they've persuaded the swing-voter groups listed by the Times that Obama's centrism is extreme, and that endorsing, say, Sharron Angle's extremism is a response to Obama's extremism that's sane.

They haven't succeeded in making that case for a handful of extremists -- say, Christine O'Donnell -- and that's where Rove comes in. We know he criticized O'Donnall. Now I see from yesterday's Telegraph in England that Karl Rove haquestioned Sarah Palin's suitability for the presidency:

Expressing the strongest public reservations about the conservative star made by any senior Republican figure, Mr Rove said it was unlikely that voters would regard someone starring in a reality show as presidential material....

"With all due candour, appearing on your own reality show on the Discovery Channel, I am not certain how that fits in the American calculus of 'that helps me see you in the Oval Office'," Mr Rove told The Daily Telegraph in an interview....

The reality show is just an excuse -- Rove doesn't really care about that. He cares about two things: (1) nominating a Republican who can win in 2012 and (2) nominating a Republican who'll play ball with the fat cats who give to his organizations. He may have doubts about Palin on the latter score; he definitely has reservations on the former (as he did about O'Donnell).

Rove doesn't have a problem with extremism like Palin's as long as it's salable. Early in the general election campaign, Karl Rove gave his backing to Sharron Angle, because he thought she could be sold to swing voters in Nevada; early on, he attacked O'Donnell, because he sensed she couldn't be sold to the voters in her state. In both cases, he appears to have been right.

If the economy doesn't pick up, that could be the one key battle for 2012: the battle between Rove and the right-wing money/propaganda machine, on the one hand, and Palin on the other. It's quite possible that the former group will find someone who's salable and willing to play ball and sufficiently Palinesque. And that's who'll take on Obama. (Maybe they'll put a horse's head in the bed of the reluctant Chris Christie and drag him into the race.)


By the way, these aren't exact parallels, but we actually have two Senate races in which three candidates are running -- and in each case (Alaska and Florida), the Democrat is running third. That's not good news for the Stewart party.


Oh, and here's the most dispiriting number from the full results of the Times/CBS poll (click to enlarge):

Yup -- half the public thinks the crazies are sane.

Jon Stewart knows sanity has to be restored; much of the public thinks sanity is already here. Are they in for a surprise.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

*(Oops -- sorry, I mean "RedState Insider")

(UPDATE: Yes, Donald Douglas, you're right -- Erickson isn't the bylined author on this one. So what I atrribute to him below should be attributed to "RedState Insider." Erickson, however, is the site's editor, and I await his decision to take responsibility as editor for the incorrect content of the post.)

Yes, another post about Erick Erickson. This time, he's telling us about shocking! new video that purports to debunk anti-Rand Paul protestor Lauren Valle's version of the recent curb-stomping incident. Erickson quotes the account of the incident Valle gave to Keith Olbermann on Countdown:

...And as Rand’s car pulls up they step in front of me and start to block me so I stepped off the curb to try and get around them and at that point they pursued me around the car, chased me around the car, and what you see in the video is when I’m in the front of the car and that’s when I’m pulled down and then my head is stomped on.

Then Erickson posts some new video of what happened just before the curb-stomping incident and writes:

This video was sent to RedState by an anonymous witness at the event. It shows what Valle was doing when the Paul supporters grabbed her. No one chased her around the car. She was never in front of the car.

Really, Erick? Want to put money on that?

Here's your video:

Why, what is it that I see from :53 to :56? It's a woman with blond hair and red clothing holding a sign and running in front of the car. Here's a still:

And what do we see in the now-famous video of the stomping?

Why, it's Lauren Valle wearing red and having her blond wig pulled off.

Thanks for playing, Erick.

Erick, of course, will continue to insist that Valle was a menace -- yes, as the new video shows, she did try to thrust her mock-award into Paul's car.

I guess the Paulbots thought it might be a gun with really, really flat bullets in it.


AND: Donald Douglas might want to make an appointment with an optician as well.


BUT: Barbara at the Mahablog can see just fine.

I saw this being cited (by Michelle Malkin, by Fox Nation) as evidence of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy to Steal the Midterms, and I was confused: um, how exactly is this supposed to tip an election?

An Illinois county election official says that thousands, and potentially hundreds of thousands, of voters who are expecting a ballot sent to them by mail may be disenfranchised.

Chicagoan Rosia Carter is one of 404,000 registered Illinois voters who recently received vote-by-mail requests that were sent by the Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign.

"By the time I filled it out and sent it in, my vote would not get counted," Carter said.

She and others called the I-Team when they noticed the return address is not their local election official but instead a PO box for the organization....

The Lake County clerk received a shipment of 500 ballot requests from the IDCC Tuesday. By law, her office has two days to process the ballot requests. The problem is, Thursday is the deadline for election officials to get the ballots out....

Wait a minute -- wouldn't the people responding to an absentee-ballot mailing from the Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign mostly be, um, Democrats? Especially if the mailing address for the application is an Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign post office box? How exactly is it beneficial for Democrats to prevent Democrats from voting?

Don't strain your brain trying to figure that out. Over at RedState, Erick Erickson explains it all for you:

This is How the Democrats Will Try to Steal the Election

... we know precisely how this will work out. The Democrats, who screwed it up to begin with, will run to a Democrat on the federal bench and beg to have these ballots cast.

“We can’t disenfranchise anyone (except the military),” the Democrats will cry. So the judge will ignore the law and ignore that it was the Democrats’ own fault. And the judge will allow the 400,000 additional votes to come in.

Once the barrier for ballot acceptance is lowered for these people, the barrier for ballot acceptance for other reasons will also be lowered.

And once the Republicans object, the story will not be about ballot integrity. The story will be about Republicans denying people the right to vote.


So, to sum up, here's the evil, wicked, deceitful Capone-esque/anti-colonialist/Alinskyite/Marxist/Hitlerian scheme:

Democrats deprive their own voters of ballots. Then they run to the federal courts, where they assume (a) that they'll get a Democratic judge and that that Democrat will not only (b) rule in their favor but (c) extend the ruling far beyond the bounds of the original case. (To whom? Non-citizens? Dead people? Household pets?) This result is such a certainty, in their opinion, that it's worth the risk to initially disenfranchise thousands of their own voters. And they think all this can happen without howls of outrage from the right and the center and good-government groups.

If Democrats have that kind of in with federal judges, why even bother with the damn absentee ballots? Why not just sue and say, "Yo, Judge, throw us a few thousand dead-people votes -- we're dying here"?

Someday I want to belong to a Democratic Party that's even a tenth as powerful and ruthless as right-wingers think it is.

It would be crazy to assert that there's little or no racism on the right these days -- but I still say that lefties sometimes overemphasize the importance of racial animosity in the conservative movement. I say this not because I think racism is unimportant to the right, but because I think it's merely one element of a belief system in which Evil Scary Negroes are part of a rogues' gallery of cartoon villains, all of whom are hated with considerable passion by the righty rank-and-file. The right-wing media knows it can tap into any one of those evildoer-hates -- Hollywood limousine liberals! furtive socialist academics! -- at any time, with satisfying results.

So we have this story about evil Democratic thug operatives and evil union goons:

...Since early voting started, there have been credible reports that voting machines in Clark County, Nevada are automatically checking Harry Reid's name on the ballot:

Voter Joyce Ferrara said when they went to vote for Republican Sharron Angle, her Democratic opponent, Sen. Harry Reid's name was already checked.

Ferrara said she wasn't alone in her voting experience. She said her husband and several others voting at the same time all had the same thing happen.

"Something's not right," Ferrara said. "One person that's a fluke. Two, that's strange. But several within a five minute period of time -- that's wrong."

Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said there is no voter fraud, although the issues do come up because the touch-screens are sensitive. For that reason, a person may not want to have their fingers linger too long on the screen after they make a selection at any time.
Now there's absolutely no independently verified evidence of chicanery with the voting machines (yet), but it is worth noting that the voting machine technicians in Clark County are members of the Service Employees International Union....

The linked story is from -- surprise! -- the Fox affiliate in Las Vegas. The story cites one (1) specific voter who's complained (though she insists the problem happened to her husband and other people as well as to herself). And even the local Fox reporter, as you'll see if you watch the video report at the link, seems to downplay the problem; she seems to be treating the story as a service piece, remind voters that they can correct any errors before registering the vote.

Too late, though -- complaints of MASSIVE VOTER FRAUD!!!!!1!!1! are all over the Intertubes.

(And I imagine they'll spread a lot faster than similar complaints of Democrat-to-Republican vote-flipping in past elections.)

Now, maybe the righties who believe all this uncritically have an image in their head of "union goons" and "Democratic operatives" as African-American -- but I doubt it. The standard stereotype in America for a "union goon" is a thick-necked white guy (righties exempt themselves from the requirement to respect Americans who aren't chi-chi elitists, while continuing to demand that lefties adhere to this requirement). And "Democratic operatives" are (Chicago gangster Barack Obama excepted) mostly white.

So this is how it works. These guys don't just hate "New Black Panthers." They hate a lot of people. A wide range of hatreds fire them up -- as their media puppetmasters fully grasp.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


In case massive tax cuts for the wealthy don't do the job, I gather that Republicans have other oh-so-fiscally-prudent ideas:

Republicans have vowed increased oversight if they win control of either, or both, chambers of Congress next Tuesday -- and with the war in Afghanistan, there's little doubt they would seek more clarity from the administration on an endgame.

For starters, Republicans would almost surely press President Barack Obama to loosen the July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, as well as seek assurances that he would be willing to send in more troops if Gen. David Petraeus, his commander there, asks for them.

"Caps and deadlines are going to be very tough to defend with a beefed-up Republican majority in the House," said Republican strategist John Ullyot, a former staffer for the Senate Armed Services Committee. "There is no question there will be a lot more pressure on the administration to give commanders as much time as they need; the summer deadline is going to be huge." ...

But ... but ... weren't we just reading in The New York Times that the incoming teabaggers in Congress have a wide range of views on foreign policy? Well, actually that article said that Rand Paul and a couple of others are kinda-sorta skeptical about intervention, but most teabaggers utter the usual pieties about security and strength (and a few say that, um, gosh, they really plan to bone up on foreign policy one of these days). I think it's safe to say that Rand and his dad might be interventionism skepticism, but most of the rest of them will be pure Palinite neocons. Besides, there's a presidential election coming up, so it'll be time to run against Democrats as soft on evil and weak-willed, right?

Though, if we're to believe what Leslie Gelb writes at the Daily Beast, Obama may not even be waiting to capitulate to GOP demands for more war, because that's already in the cards:

The secret date for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan has been hiding in plain sight for months. It's certainly not the much ballyhooed July 2011 date, which will only begin withdrawals. It's not even July 2012 to smooth President Obama's reelection campaign. It's the end of 2014. The plan, NATO diplomats say, is for NATO leaders to formally announce this date at their Lisbon summit on November 19-20. Their thinking is to do this soon to reassure worried, friendly Afghans, to signal resolution to the Taliban, and to use their allied unity for political cushioning at home. NATO emissaries are still bargaining over exactly how many troops will remain after departure day and for what purposes. Details aside, the devastating truth is that U.S. forces will be fighting in Afghanistan for at least four more years....

Can I get a "U.S. out of Afghanistan"? Really, if either of these stories is correct, this is the moment for an antiwar movement -- and it will be popular. It'll be us and most of the public versus the "small government" teabaggers-turned-neocons and their base. We'll have the numbers in this case. But will we do anything?

Remember, if Obama is a one-term president, we'll be mired in Afghanistan throughout the administration of President Palin/Pence/Christie if we're there on Inauguration Day 2013. There's no way a Republican is going to withdraw troops; they have to come out before any change of administration or they're staying in.

Oh, and one more bit of Afghanistan news:

Russia's military could be drawn back into the Afghanistan theatre for the first time since the Red Army was forcibly expelled by US-backed mujahideen fighters in 1989 under plans being discussed by Nato officials. The proposals precede a landmark alliance summit next month, to be attended by the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev.

The officials said several joint Nato-Russian initiatives on Afghanistan were on the table. They include the contribution of Russian helicopters and crews to train Afghan pilots, possible Russian assistance in training Afghan national security forces, increased co-operation on counter-narcotics and border security, and improved transit and supply routes for Nato forces....

As Digby says:

Does this seem like a good idea to anyone at all? Is it really smart to partner with the other superpower that occupied the country and helped create the backlash that inspired Al Qaeda and the Taliban? Really?

Well, Russian troops aren't actually going to enter the country, we're told. But still, good grief.

I suppose it's no surprise that some right-wingers would look at last night's mob violence by Rand Paul supporters and stoop to the sewer-level tactic of blaming the victim -- here's Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit with a post titled "UNHINGED LEFTIST Who Lunged at Rand Paul Is Paid Far Left Activist" -- but the righties aren't going to have to do that much longer. A blogger and contributor to one of David Horowitz's Web sites now tells us this:

A female Kentucky Tea Party activist who wishes to remain anonymous has identified the man who wrestled a female activist to the ground after the debate last night. In an email to me and copied to another Tea Party activist, she says that his name is Mike Pezzano....

Here's the reason this will change the discussion:

UPDATE: Mike Pezzano is a member of the Lexington Ron/Rand Paul Campaign for Liberty Meetup Group....

Here's the stuff Mike Pezzano says he's interested in....a screen snip from the page linked above. Click for larger image. Like many Ron/Rand Paul supporters, he doesn't appear to be very Reaganish to me.

Now, when I read this list, I see a lot of conservatism and right-leaning libertarianism. (For instance, the Free State Project is an attempt to turn New Hampshire into a libertarian utopia.) But here's how the list is going to read to righties:

MEDICAL MARIJUANA, 420, MARIJUANA ADVOCATES, DEMOCRATIC UNDERGROUND, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, AGAINST BUSH, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, ANTI-POLICE MISCONDUCT, blah blah blah, STOP THE PATRIOT ACT, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, BACKPACKERS, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, ANTI-GLOBALIZATION, blah blah blah

All the righty and libertarian stuff is going to be ignored, and we're going to be told that this guy was a liberal. Or a "liberal fascist." Or whatever.

Now, I'll admit that his libertarianism has clearly taken him off the usual wingnut path a few times (although not very far out of the usual Paulbot anti-national-security-state comfort zone). But, on balance, he's a winger. Nevertheless (assuming he really is the culprit, and overlooking the fact that he wasn't alone), his name is going to show up on right-wing lists purporting to show the violent, thuggish nature of liberalism probably forever.


UPDATE: Just to clarify, this is one of the stomper's accomplices, not the stomper. I'm not sure how his bio is going to be spun.

A member of MoveOn tried to give Rand Paul a mock pro-corporate award and was wrestled to the curb and stomped. The Atlantic's Joshua Green says she was "brutally attacked," but fortunately (and bear with me as I say this) the attack wasn't even more brutal, because it easily could have been:

Something -- a pang of conscience? fear of a felony rap? -- restrains the stomper just a tiny bit. He seems to stomp on her shoulder, not her head. He doesn't quite put all his weight into it. He doesn't linger -- after one stomp, he walks away, apparently after a hand gesture urging restraint from another member of the mob.

Small comfort, I know. (She was coherent after the attack, as the video shows, but MoveOn says she suffered a concussion.)

Maybe he and the gesturer realized the mob had gone too far. Or maybe they were content just to, y'know, teach her a lesson. Show her who's boss.

Which, oddly, makes me think of this story from the Daily Caller yesterday:

Scalia takes Kagan to gun range, sources say

According to two witnesses, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took fellow Justice Elena Kagan out for a lesson in skeet shooting at his shooting club in Virginia last week....

Scalia was bending down in order to teach Kagan how to hold the shotgun, the witnesses say, and the pair were shooting skeet.

Kagan, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama in May and confirmed by the Senate in August, is generally believed to hold negative opinions toward the Second Amendment....

My reaction when I read that was that it was patronizing at best and a subtle attempt at intimidation at worst. The message seems to be: Little lady, you may think you're tough, and your liberal friends are tough, but this is how we roll our side. We like guns. We like guns a lot. And we know how to use them. Still want to mess with us, little girl?

The Rand Paul stomper and his comrade seemed content to send a similar message: You picked the wrong people to mess with -- but we won't hurt you as badly as we could. This just gives you a taste of what we could do to you if we wanted to.

Here's Hugh Hewitt on the upcoming Jon Stewart rally:

Stewart's gathering, like Stephen Colbert's "testimony" to Congress last month, is another exercise in mocking middle America --the middle of the country geographically, the middle when it comes to income, the middle when it comes to politics.

So that's all Stewart is about? Mockery of the middle? Did anyone catch Stewart's lead sketch last night -- the very first sketch of his week in Washington, where Hewitt thinks he's set up shop expressly to sneer at the heartland?

It was this:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
NPR Staffing Decision 2010
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Yup -- a slam on NPR for firing Juan Williams and a mockery of everything NPR-related, followed by a discussion that mocked all the criticism of the Juan Williams remarks about Muslims.

Contempt for Middle America? Hardly.

Of course, Stewart's just operating in the liberal comic tradition. A few years ago, The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik reviewed Seriously Funny, a book about the "rebel comedians" of the 1950s and 1960s, and made this smart observation:

For what is really striking about all the "rebel" comedians of the time, hard and soft, is that their main target was almost never the excesses of the right wing in power. From ... Shelley Berman's nervous flier to Woody Allen's mockery of CUNY ethics and Nichols and May's sublime catalogue of the sounds of tolerance ("Well, Al Schweitzer is just a great guy. Al is a lot of laughs. I personally have never dated him"), their subject was liberalism and its pieties.... the bulk of Mort Sahl's material, beyond a couple of anti-McCarthy jokes long after McCarthy was out of power, wasn't political -- and, to the degree that it was, it mostly mocked liberal saints like the Kennedys.... Lenny Bruce may have been victimized by the police and the judiciary, but he seldom made fun of them -- partly because he had a twisted, junkie's respect for anyone who had contempt for him, but mostly because there wasn't enough life in what they did to be very funny.... Nichols and May are funny because they have perfect pitch for the holy words of progressive culture ("I can never believe that Bartok died on Central Park West"). Well past the high-water mark of McCarthyism, the comedians were mocking liberalism....

Although they certainly do mock "the excesses of the right wing in power," this is what Stewart and Colbert often do -- and I think the phrase "respect for anyone who had contempt for him" absolutely applies to how Stewart, in particular, feels (on behalf of his own liberal team) about Fox News. Check out the clip above if you don't believe that.

Hewitt was responding to an Anne Applebaum column in The Washington Post, which argues that moderation exists these days only as a Stewart/Colbert joke, because right-wingers contemptuously call conservative moderates "liberals" and angry left-wingers call Blue Dogs "conservatives." On the right, there's hardly anything but that kind of purism -- I think the phrase "Stalinist purge" is apropos here, and is just a slight exaggeration -- but on the left, there's at least as much Stewart/Colbert/"rebel comedian" self-mockery as there is Firebaggerism, and probably a lot more.

We make fun of our side. We laugh at comics who make fun of our side. We want what we want politically, and we think right-wingers are more absurd than we are ourselves, but we have plenty of disrespect for our own kind. Do righties? Do righties ever mock their own?

Stewart and Colbert are trying to be the kinds of partisans Applebaum wants -- partisans who are willing to concede some points to the other side -- but the thanks they get are responses like Hewitt's.

And that's why moderation is dead right now.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I guess John Heilemann has been reading my blog, because in the current issue of New York magazine he tells us that Sarah Palin could become president if Mike Bloomberg runs a third-party presidential campaign -- a nightmare scenario I've also explored. One difference between Heilemann and me: he thinks Bloomberg has to win some states to wreak this kind of havoc. I don't.

Heilemann writes:

One scenario, most likely if the economy suffers a double-dip recession, is that the nation would be so desperate for capable economic management that Bloomberg would be able to overcome his vulnerabilities -- his short-Jewish-unmarried-plutocratness -- and find himself deposited in the Oval Office.

Another scenario, the likeliest, is that Bloomberg's entry would secure the reelection of Obama. "There's enough solid Republicans that even Palin gets between 26 and 30 percent of the vote," forecasts [GOP strategist Matthew] Dowd. "And there's enough solid Democrats that, depending on the economy, Obama gets 40 to 42 percent. That leaves Bloomberg with between 28 and 34 percent, which just isn’t enough."

But there is a third scenario, one that involves a more granular kind of analysis-cum-speculation. By the accounts of strategists in both parties, Bloomberg -- especially with the help of his billions -- would stand a reasonable chance of carrying New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and California. Combine that with a strong-enough showing in a few other places in the industrial Northeast to deny Obama those states, and with Palin holding the fire-engine-red states of the South, and the president might find himself short of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win.

Assuming you still remember the basics from American Government 101, you know what would happen next: The election would be thrown to the House of Representatives -- which, after November 2, is likely to be controlled by the Republicans. The result: Hello, President Palin!

OK, let's dismiss Scenario #1 right away. Mike Bloomberg cannot possibly be elected president in 2012, or probably in any other year. It's not just that he's short and Jewish and from New York and unmarried. It's all that plus the fact that he's a passionate believer in gun control and the most fervent defender of the downtown Manhattan Islamic cultural center. Oh, and he's what right-wingers call a nanny-stater. He won't get many heartland votes.

This means that every vote he gets he'll get from a few liberals and a somewhat greater number of moderates who would otherwise vote Democratic. And that's the problem. Scenario #2 is crazy because Obama doesn't have a guaranteed 40-42% of the vote. Look at Kendrick Meek in Florida -- there's a third-party guy in the race who has centrist cred, and the result is that that third-party guy, Charlie Crist, pushes Meek into third place. Lisa Murkowski's done the same thing to Scott McAdams in Alaska. Think it can't happen to Obama? See if we have two more years of more than 9% unemployment, then get back to me.

Now, I don't see Bloomberg as a Murkowski, or even as a Crist. I don't see him winning any states, even New York. (Half the state's population lives far away from the city.) But it might not matter.

However, if Bloomberg gets between 5% and 15% of the vote in blue and purple states, he could win zero electoral votes and still elect the Republican. That's because virtually every vote he gets will come out of Obama's hide.

That's what I think will happen if he runs and the economy is still awful. So, yes, he needs to be taken seriously, and the Obama people aren't crazy for worrying about him as much as Heilemann says they do.

Maybe you saw this:

Barney Frank's Republican House challenger Sean Bielat argued this weekend that gay people should be as accepting of the fact that they can't serve in the military -- since people under 5'2" tall are also prohibited.

"There's no absolute right to serve. Men under the height of 5 feet, 2 inches can't serve -- I don't see anybody protesting," Bielat said, according to the
Boston Herald. "Where are the people standing in front of the White House, the short guys standing in front of the White House? You don't see it."

"We understand that there's no absolute right to serve in all these other areas," he went on....

Apart from the sheer absurdity of the comparison, Bielat has his height data wrong -- the service branches have different standards, but the Army will actually let men in if they're 5'0" or taller (up to 6'8"), while women have to be between 4'10" and 6'8" (PDF). In the Marines -- Bielat's a Marine vet -- everyone, male or female, has to be between 4'10" and 6'8".

Maybe it's nitpicking to point out that Bielat's numbers are wrong. But can you imagine the right-wing snickering if a Democrat got something about the military wrong, however trivial, in a public statement?

The real point here is that, yes, there are height restrictions in the service -- but no short (or very tall) person is being kicked out because large percentages of the population think very short or very tall servicemembers are inherently immoral and are going to hell. No one thinks they destroy unit cohesion. No one compares them to drunks and child molesters and animal shaggers and Nazis.

Additionally, there are height waivers offered in some cases. And, as I found when I looked at this military Web board, on which a 4'8" woman was aking about a possible waiver to join the Air Force, there are practical reasons given for the restrictions:

If you have a guaranteed job in mind and can tie your waiver to it, you'll be in good shape. If your intended job is short, pardon the pun, on personnel worldwide, then they'll most likely grant the waiver. What your recruiter won't tell you is about your mobility commitments. Yes, the Air Force likes to "play Army" too. You do need to know that uniforms aren't your only concern. Chemical warfare clothing cannot be altered and if your proportions are very small, you could be at risk during a chemical attack. Carrying the M-16 using its shoulder harness will be very uncomfortable because the butt of the rifle will smack you in the back of the legs when you walk. Alice packs (backpacks) will not fit you properly and can't be adjusted down short enough for you. You'd be carrying the load instead of using your hips and back. Flack vests will not fit you if your torso is too short and that is one piece of equipment you want to fit perfectly. If it doesn't, you spend all day fighting it and it will hamper your ability to move quickly. You need that for donning chemical masks or unholstering your weapon.

And you know what? A large group of short people probably could make a case for changing the rules -- and if their case was good, a lot of us would support them, too.

(I say all this, by the way, as the son of a 5'3" World War II veteran. My father's brother, who I'm sure wasn't tall either, died in that war.)


On a related subject, you may have seen the vile Washington Times editorial "Queer Eye for the G.I.":

... The destructive force unleashed by the Pentagon's collaboration with the leftist agenda is apparent from the circus created when homosexual activists like Dan Choi sashayed over to the Times Square recruiting center to make a political point in the short period in which the Phillips order [blocking Don't Ask, Don't Tell] was effective. Leftists are only interested in political points and symbolism here. Providing defense to the nation in the most effective way possible is the furthest thing from their mind. Treating military recruitment primarily as a diversity issue opens up a closet full of absurdities. On what basis, then, would the military discriminate against the elderly? Why can't grandpa become a paratrooper? Should the military not reject someone merely because he is handicapped? Why not a wheelchair-bound infantryman? ...

The sewer nature of this -- "sashayed," "closet" -- speaks for itself. But beyond that: hasn't some of the selling of the Bush wars included heart-tugging stories about wounded troops very much including amputees -- who've returned to active duty in combat zones? (And that's in addition to the famous Bush-jogs-with-an-amputee-vet photo op.) And as for age, the oldest enlistee to die in Iraq was 60 years old; the call-up for the wars has included at least one 70-year-old reservist and 70-year-old surgeon. Those are exceptional cases (and, in the case of the call-ups, rather appalling) -- but does the Times ever editorialize about them? Not so I've ever noticed.

And if we're talking about who is and who isn't primarily interested in "providing defense to the nation in the most effective way possible," I'll just remind you that Dan Choi is an Arabic linguist, one of dozens of gay Arabic and Farsi linguists who've been dismissed from the service in recent years. Who thinks we've got a surplus of people with those skills that we can spare so many? Not us liberals, Washington Times.

(Via Steve Benen and Adam Serwer.)

Sanity somewhere? Really?

Despite the struggling economy, most California voters oppose suspending the state's landmark global warming law, which would place strict new environmental regulations on business, a new Los Angeles Times/ USC poll shows.

Proposition 23, which would put the new emissions standards on hold, is trailing 48% to 32% among likely voters, according to the survey.

But as voters look inclined to stay the course with the state's global warming policies, they appear ready to radically change state budget policy. The poll found that 58% of likely voters support Proposition 25, which would replace the constitutional requirement that the state budget be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature with a simple majority vote requirement....

The big headline here would seem to be the rejection of the emissions proposition, which is being backed by the kind of fat-cat corporate cash that's poisoning elections nationwide. But I'm intrigued by the apparent wish of California voters to reform the budget process -- the supermajority requirement to pass a budget takes liberal and moderate ideas off the table, because Republicans in the legislature vote in a bloc and resist tax increases on anyone.

Y'know -- kinda like the U.S. Senate. And kinda like the tea party idea that a two-thirds majority should be required in both houses of the U.S. Congress to raise taxes, ever, on anybody, which some 'baggers have included as part of a proposed balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

California has had the gridlock-generating supermajority requirement for a while. Given the fact that the nation often goes where California leads, does this mean we can look forward to a national return of sanity?

Well, maybe -- eventually. Note a few caveats about this proposition:

Proposition 25 is pitched by supporters as a means to end Sacramento's notorious budget gridlock. In their advertisements, supporters also have stressed that the measure would dock lawmakers' pay if a budget was not passed on time. The measure would leave in place a two-thirds vote requirement for broad tax hikes.

... While the two-thirds vote requirement would remain in place for broad-based tax hikes, the measure would still make it easier for Democrats to pass a budget loaded with billions of dollars in "fees" that can be approved by a simple majority.

So the supermajority rule would remain partly in place. And what seems to be changing the voters' minds is a punitive aspect of the bill. Oh, and this is happening in a state that's resisting the GOP wave this year.

So this may not be a harbinger of things to come because it's happening in a state that's still blue. Plus, it's partial reform, and it seems to be happening only because voters are fed up with gridlock, and with the legislators in general.

What that says to me is that, as a nation, we might have to go through the entire process California is going through -- first adopting cockamamie right-wing ideas (although it's harder to amend our Constitution than it is to pass a California initiative, thankfully), then suffering through years of stagnation and gridlock as the right-wing ideas fail, and then -- maybe -- we see reason. Maybe. If a wave of non-right-wing thinking takes hold, and can dovetail with the usual they're-all-bums disgust with politicians.

You know the conventional wisdom. The new angry right-wing voters are angry at both parties for the way they've conducted themselves in Washington! They find it laughable that President Obama keeps talking about Republicans threatening to take us back to the past, because Republicans aren't going to take us back to the past! They've changed! They've learned their lesson! And if they win the House and the Senate (maybe now, maybe two years from now), and then the presidency in 2012, and they do somehow slip back into their old ways, no one's going to hold their feet to the fire more than unswerving vanguard-army-of-the-revolution Web sites like RedState! Because Obama is wrong! The past is past! It's a new Republican day!

... Um, with some exceptions.

This is from James Richardson at, er, RedState:

The 'Miss me?' George Bush pumpkin

What's Halloween without a little politics? And with little more than a week until Election Day, you can't blame me that I incorporated it into my jack-o'-lantern last night, when I joined my family to carve pumpkins.

Inspired by a recent Gallup survey in which President Barack Obama and former President George Bush were virtually tied in a measure of approval, my get out the vote pumpkin for 2010:

Miss him yet? Then volunteer in the waning days of the election, when door-knocking and victory calls are most critical.

(And yes, I did actually spend upwards of two hours carving that pumpkin. It was cathartic.)

Two hours. This guy devoted two hours of his life to carving a George W. Bush pumpkin.

Yeah, right -- there's no chance whatsoever that the new GOP bosses are going to be the same as the old GOP bosses.

(Via Politico.)