Monday, February 28, 2011


I don't know how often I've said this, but I feel I can't say it often enough: ordinary people don't look at the economy the way wonks and economists look at it. They look at it as, well, ordinary people. And Republicans have been much, much better at translating their economic talking points into Normal People Language, whereas Democrats and liberals don't seem to understand that they even need to do this (except, regrettably, when they're describing the economy in ways that actually repeat right-wing talking points almost verbatim).

To us lefties, this is crazy:

A Republican plan to sharply cut federal spending this year would destroy 700,000 jobs through 2012, according to an independent economic analysis set for release Monday.

The report, by Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, offers fresh ammunition to Democrats seeking block the Republican plan, which would terminate dozens of programs and slash federal appropriations by $61 billion over the next seven months.

Zandi, an architect of the 2009 stimulus package who has advised both political parties, predicts that the GOP package would reduce economic growth by 0.5 percentage points this year, and by 0.2 percentage points in 2012, resulting in 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of next year....

But ordinary people think a government job is a job they pay for, while a non-government job is a job they don't pay for. so they think it must be a good thing for government -- for themselves -- to pay for fewer jobs (fewer government jobs, that is).

People think this way because politicians encourage them to. Republicans (when it suits them, i.e., when Democrats are in power) say that government spending and personal spending should be handled pretty much the same way ... and then Democratic politicians frequently say they agree. This has disastrous consequences. A great effort needs to be made to explain that governments aren't like families, that government spending, done thoughtfully in a downturn, can reduce the pain of that downturn -- but Democratic politicians don't even try to do this.

(Or if Democrats can't shake off the government = your family frame, they need to say that sometimes impoverished individuals spend money to make money -- for instance, paying for schooling to qualify for a new job after losing an old one. But the key point has to be made: Yes, this is counterintuitive. But it works. And Democrats don't say that.)

And no, this is not a case of ordinary citizens glomming onto the economic notion that public investment sometimes crowds out private investment. That's way too wonky for ordinary citizens. They just think government jobs come out of their pockets and other jobs don't.

The upshot of this is that, no, ordinary Americans really don't fully grasp that a government job is a job -- not in the (seemingly) cost-free way that a private sector job is a job. They actually need for someone to tell them, "Look, if we lay these government workers off, they will spend less at privately run business establishments. They'll buy fewer clothes and groceries and cars. And that hurts the overall economy. All jobs are jobs, and yes, we have to have the right balance of public and private jobs. But a lost public sector job is a lost job."

Ordinary people are encouraged not to think this way. So we can harrumph when Indiana governor Mitch Daniels goes on the radio and says this to an interviewer:

INSKEEP: I want to ask something that a lot of people are confronting right now, as they deal with the federal deficit as well as state and local deficits that need to be closed. Are budget cuts -- government budget cuts -- worth it, even if they end up seriously costing a lot of jobs right now?

DANIELS: The answer is yes.

But here's his full answer:

DANIELS: The answer is yes. And in fact, I think, if we're gonna have more jobs in this country, now and in the future, we gotta get very serious about further significant reductions in the size of government. I very much think that -- and I'm hardly alone in this -- that substantial reductions in the size and cost of government at all levels is a part of a recovery plan. Let's not forget that government ballooned enormously in recent years, including the first couple years of the recession. While private -- while we were losing millions of private sector jobs, government employment was growing.

He's saying it's a zero-sum game -- public employment leeches money from the "real" economy. Like it or not, ordinary people believe this. And until Democrats and liberals start communicating our message in terms ordinary people grasp, starting by explaining how economic reality differs from what ordinary people think, we will continue to fail at selling that message.

What are we to make of this?

THE HILL POLL: On shutdown, more voters would blame Dems

Twenty-nine percent of likely voters would blame Democrats for a government shutdown, compared to 23 percent who would hold Republicans responsible, according to a new poll conducted for The Hill....

The Hill's survey, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, comes as lawmakers are heading into high-stakes spending negotiations that will seek to avert a shutdown.

Republicans have a substantial edge among independents: Thirty-four percent would blame Democrats, while only 19 percent would blame the GOP....

So, um, what do we know about Pulse Opinion Research?

Oh, this:

Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC.

And this:

Fox News has rolled out another series of polls on key gubernatorial and Senate races around the nation conducted for it by Pulse Opinion Research, a new survey venture begun by Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen Reports....

Do you need to know any more? Still feel you need to take these numbers seriously? I don't.

Considering how much they value toughness and giving no quarter, it's remarkable how much wingnuts also value whining and whimpering (at least by members of their own tribe). Since at least the days of Nixon, playing the victim card has been a successful strategy for winning admiration on the right.

Via Glenn Beck's cesspool, here's a Fox reporter in Wisconsin sniveling his way to success. The self-pity starts at about 1:35.

MIKE TOBIN, FOX REPORTER IN MADISON: ... And you can still hear the passion in the crowd. The heckling is starting up again. The hate that you get from these demonstrators -- you can see it in their faces. You can see the passion, that they all come back to the same thing every time. I was getting the business from a teacher yesterday -- there he goes; he wants to shut down the communication -- a teacher was giving me the business yesterday, and the teacher told me she hates me because it makes her feel good. That's the situation out here, Gregg.

GREGG JARRETT, FOX ANCHOR: You know, Mike, I hate to put you into this situation, because you're being surrounded there, and, yeah, you're being heckled, and there is profanity -- go ahead.

TOBIN: Now, that guy just hit me.

Is this true? Oh-so-conveniently, the camera on Tobin has cut away, so we haven't seen anything. Tobin is right about the profanity (the crowd is chanting "Fuck you, Fox!"), though the protester attempting to "shut down the communication" has actually merely put his hand over the camera lens. Now, I'm not an expert on the fine technical aspects of live television broadcasting, but I believe "communication" continues on a live feed even if there's temporarily a mitten on the camera. Or (see the rest of Tobin's whingeing report) if someone places a placard over the lens, or whatever else the protesters may be doing to make Tobin work for a living. Meanwhile, at least one protester urges the crowd to "stay peaceful," a plea that, as far as I can tell, is heeded, because if Tobin received so much as a mild shove, I'm sure he'd have done a subsequent report from a hospital bed right now, and it would be all over the right-o-sphere.


TOBIN: Now, that guy just hit me.

JARRETT: Go ahead.

TOBIN: Now, that guy just hit me, so, to just let you know.

JARRETT: All right, but -- but -- y'know -- why do they express such vitriol toward the media?

TOBIN: You know, I don't know what they intend to accomplish by it, but they definitely, as you can see, by covering up the cameras, they want to shut down the communication. They have an idea that there's going to be a diverse viewpoint -- they don't want to get it, they don't want to hear it, and they don't really take into consideration my reporting, or what I've done to this point.

Oh, boo freaking hoo.

And remember all the haters who said Lara Logan never should have let herself "become the story"? Apparently that admonition doesn't apply when you're a Fox reporter and people are mean to you in an utterly non-violent way. Tobin returned to the air to whine some more to Geraldo Rivera:

"One thing I think should make clear -- the people coming after us from every live shot here, these people hate," Tobin said. "These are people who don't respect diverse viewpoints. In fact, they're so afraid I'll present a diverse viewpoint, that's why they try to heckle me and shut down every live shot. They've made it clear, that what they want to make it harder for me to do my job. They are proud of that when they disrupt a live shot, when they really trample over the First Amendment rights or the First Amendment's obligations of a reporter...."

You know what, Mike? This has nothing to do with the First Amendment. The First Amendment says the government can't shut you down. That's it. In trying to set up a live shot in a crowd of demonstrators, you're on your own. You think you've been physically abused? Call a freaking cop. Otherwise, shut the hell up, whiner.


I will say, however, that this gets back to something I was saying on Friday. Is it harder, as Doug at Balloon Juice argued, to turn striking union teachers into the new "welfare queens" because the union workers are somewhat less likely to be non-white? Well, here's how you solve that problem, if it is a problem: you push these folks until they protest -- and then you declare their protest tactics subhuman. You force them to get loud and angry in order to be heard, then condemn the anger and the noise as animalistic. Simple.


UPDATE: More right-wing sniveling here.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


John Cole, responding to Andrew Sullivan:

...Sullivan looks at poll data and finds the public supports the union concessions, but not ending collective bargaining, and wonders:

"Why doesn't Walker concede on collective bargaining, declare victory and move on?"

Because union busting is the plan, has been from the get go, and we are dealing with crazy people. There are no reasonable conservatives....

Well, yes, union-busting is the plan -- but (and I think I've said this before) we're also dealing with a right-wing movement in which compromise (defined as settling for even 99% of what you originally demanded) is a mark of utter shame and disgrace. Right-wingers aren't allowed to compromise; the only possible outcomes are total victory and betrayal by the forces of pure evil.

Remember All's Fair, the joint memoir Mary Matalin and James Carville wrote back in the '90s? Matalin's epigraph to the book, you may recall, was:

Follow me if I advance
Kill me if I retreat
Avenge me if I die

That motto -- she calls it a "Vietnamese battle cry," and it was used by Diem, but it was previously used by Mussolini and 18th-century royalist counterrevolutionaries in France -- is essentially the motto of the modern right, and "Kill me if I retreat" is only a slight exaggeration (you won't literally be killed, but you'll be damned as a RINO and declared beyond redemption).

And yes, Carville's epigraph in that book was "When your opponent is drowning, throw the son of a bitch an anvil" -- but the attitude of the modern right is "Wherever your opponent is, grab the son of a bitch, throw him in the trunk of a car, drive him to the ocean, toss him in the water, hold his head down underwater, then hang an anvil around his neck." And once the plan is put in place, woe betide you if you claim to be a right-winger but you want to dial it down. You may as well declare that you're going to attend a Barbra Streisand concert as George Soros's guest.

How distinct is teabaggers' reality from objective reality? Well, consider what Tim Pawlenty said yesterday at the Tea Party Patriots confab in Arizona:

"I'm here today to say, 'Thank you.' Thank you for standing up to the ruling class. Thank you for standing up to the liberal power brokers, guardians of the status quo and the royal triangle of greed: big government, big unions and big bailed-out businesses."

Yes, he said "ruling class." But the Koch brothers and BP and Rupert Murdoch aren't in this "ruling class." Teachers in Wisconsin are.

I assume few people still cling to one belief that was commonplace during the rise of the tea party movement -- that progressives and teabaggers might be able to work together, because both groups hate the fat cats who destroyed the economy and got rewards instead of punishment -- but this should clear it up: only bailed-out businesses are bad. Implicitly, they're bad only because they were bailed out by government. They have the infection. The Wall Street banks, in particular, weren't bad before they were lavished with government largesse, back when they were destroying the global economy. That was fine. Their only sin is being bailed out. They're running with the government, which is a bad crowd.

(Routine government aid to corporations isn't relevant to this discussion, by the way, because it's invisible to the tea crowd.)

I've assumed for a while that T-Paw's presidential dreams were a delusion -- but I think he's really mastered the teabag mindset better than, say, Mitt Romney. This, on a possible federal government shutdown, seems fairly convincing as well:

We've got to get back to certain principles and responsibilities and starting with getting the budget balanced and if it takes a dramatic moment or a dramatic week or a dramatic month, those kinds of line-in-the-sand moments are what we need to get politicians back up against the wall and have them make the tough decisions. They all talk about making the tough decisions and never do.

Actively rooting for a shutdown is probably going to become a litmus test for GOP candidates, and Pawlenty not only is right there, he's savoring the confrontation aspect of it, which is the real point for the voters he wants. Most of all, they want a fight. He gets it. He's beginning to strike me as a skilled student of teabag thinking and teabag talk. I'm starting to believe that -- especially if A-listers like Palin and Huckabee don't run -- he may have a chance.


UPDATE: Thers, in comments, traces the "ruling class" meme to this American Spectator article. Thers says the riff has been flogged by Limbaugh -- and what do you know, here's a post I wrote shortly after the Spec piece was published in which Limbaugh was calling Lisa Murkowski a "ruling-class RINO" for not falling on her sword in deference to Joe Miller and the teabaggers.

But there you go: Pawlenty is going deep into the wingnut back catalog and covering the equivalent of a fairly obscure non-LP B-side. T-Paw's fanboy status may a cynical stunt, but if he's faking, he's faking with real commitment.

You really should take a look at the New York Times story about the toxic results of natural gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing (aka hydrofracking or fracking); if this is coming to your region, say goodbye to clean drinking water and local fish that are reasonably safe to eat. But I want to point out a quote in the story from one fracking victim (emphasis mine):

In Texas, which now has about 93,000 natural-gas wells, up from around 58,000 a dozen years ago, a hospital system in six counties with some of the heaviest drilling said in 2010 that it found a 25 percent asthma rate for young children, more than three times the state rate of about 7 percent.

"It's ruining us," said Kelly Gant, whose 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son have experienced severe asthma attacks, dizzy spells and headaches since a compressor station and a gas well were set up about two years ago near her house in Bartonville, Tex. The industry and state regulators have said it is not clear what role the gas industry has played in causing such problems, since the area has had high air pollution for a while.

"I'm not an activist, an alarmist, a Democrat, environmentalist or anything like that," Ms. Gant said. "I'm just a person who isn't able to manage the health of my family because of all this drilling."

Pronouncements like that are why I take no comfort in the fact that America is becoming increasingly non-white, which leads wonks to believe that a coalition of blacks, Hispanics, and liberal-leaning whites will lead the nation out of the wingnut wilderness.

In Texas, whites are already a minority, and they apparently have been since at least 2005. How's that working out for our side so far? Do the powers-that-be even care? All they have to do is continue working the propaganda until virtually all the white people -- in Texas, in Arizona, and ultimately in as many states as possible in America -- feel exactly the way Kelly Gant feels about any group whatsoever that might stick up for her interests (even, God help us, the Democrats, those dangerous radicals). Then just keep non-white voter turnout and political participation low (through excessive incarceration, immigration-mania intimidation, voter caging, discouragement of registration, etc.) and the powers-that-be can win for the foreseeable future.

Maybe you young'uns will live to see the ultimate failure of this strategy, but I'm over 50, so I don't think I will.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Here's an apparently genuine e-mail I received from John Boehner:

Given the chance, what would you ask the Speaker of the House? Want to know what Congress is doing to help boost private-sector job creation and address out-of-control Washington spending? Curious to hear what the Speaker thinks of digital media's impact on government in the U.S. and around the world? Here's your chance to ask:

For the next five days you can submit a question for Speaker Boehner at or via Twitter by using the hashtag #askthespeaker. Click here for tips on submitting your questions.

Once you've submitted your question, take a moment to browse questions offered by others and vote on your favorite. Boehner will sit down to discuss the top questions with YouTube's Steve Grove on March 1st.

The deadline for all submissions is Sunday 2/27 at midnight ET. So grab a camera or log on to Twitter and post your question for Speaker Boehner today!

- Speaker Boehner's Press Office

Um, I don't think this is working out exactly as planned. Here are some of the recent questions:

Why is okay for congress to receive fed health care, but the rest of America isn't given the same opportunity? Why not start at the top and repeal the health care for House and Senate. Show the American People how its done and how it works.


Why do you think that unless someone supported President Bush in every decision he made they where labeled unpatriotic by his supporters and now those same people are willing to call someone unpatriotic if they this support this administration?


Why do the profits of health care companies outweigh The People of the USA's general health? Are the wealthy vampires of this country not sated yet?


Do you notice that this country is crumbling at this moment due to corporate greed? The People have been reduced to serf class and left to die.


Do you realize the amount of damage you are doing by cutting construction earmarks. For every construction dollar spent 10$ goes into the economy. It seem the GOP has focused on everything but jobs. When will you focus on jobs?


When will there be prosecutions of the bankers who crashed our economy and made personal fortunes off the backs of working people of the entire world? After the S&L meltdown, hundreds were jailed. But no bankers have even been charged.


Would you support a law requiring all meetings between elected officials & lobbyists to be video recorded & made available to the public through the internet


Why do we not cut spending to the military? There is so much waste that huge amounts of money can be cut and it would not effect the workings of the military whatsoever. Frankly I am ashamed of some of the programs the military partakes in.


Why did federal law makers vote themselves SIX times the salaries than that of our Troops?


How does putting millions of federal workers on furlough help the economy? I certainly won't be doing any spending on anything but basic needs.


When do you intend to do what you campaigned on? So far, all we've seen is an endless parade of social legislation and budget cuts that are meaningless in terms of the overall debt, but devastating for the economy. Mr. Speaker, WHERE ARE THE JOBS?


Why do we have two legal systems in this country: the one for the poor, and the one for the rich? Why is a starving man who steals food tasered by the cops, while bankers who stole millions from millions of Americans never even see handcuffs?

At least half the questions I'm seeing are like this.

And hey, folks, you've still got a day and a half. Go to the links and ask some questions of your own.

Glenn Beck's Conspiracy So Vast just gets bigger and bigger. We know he thinks the Muslim Brotherhood, the U.N., and American unions are all in cahoots. Well, now we see Beck (or at least Jonathon Seidl, a writer for one of Beck's sites, The Blaze) linking international leftist groups to "hippie" protesters in Wisconsin (quote marks Seidl's, not mine) whom no one actually saw smoking pot but whom Beck and Seidl are sure must have been smoking pot because ... they're singing and dancing and playing drums! And an unnamed observer smelled pot! And what's worse, the cops did nothing!

It's crazy to summarize this -- I'm just going to reproduce the post from Beck's site verbatim. The link to sinister internationalism is in the first video. The embarrassing echoes of every clueless anti-drug screed of the past century are throughout:


Posted on February 25, 2011 at 6:27pm by Jonathon M. Seidl Jonathon M. Seidl

They were images that were odd, and to some shocking. In the halls of the Wisconsin Capitol on Saturday, young people banged drums, danced around, and blew horns as socialists and Marxist signs looked on. It was a scene described to The Blaze by a disgusted observer as a drug and alcohol-infested rave that Capitol police ignored. And while the Capitol Police deny those charges, it seems one prominent protester noticed something interesting, too.

Originally we brought you video of the alleged "substance-fueled" rave on Monday. That video showed protesters dancing, banging drums, and playing loud music in the halls of the Capitol:

Now we've uncovered video suggesting Capitol police are supporting the protesters. Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who joined the protesters over the weekend, noticed the "hippie drum circles" in the Capitol, too. But he also noticed something else: the cops were very buddy-buddy with the protesters.

In an interview with GritTV, Morello admitted he was "broing down with the cops," meaning that instead of having to "sneak" around the police, he said, some of them were openly expressing support for the unions and stopping to take pictures with Morello:

That's interesting considering that we've obtained extended footage of the alleged "substance-fueled" rave (or the "hippie drum circle"). The new video shows police standing by, and watching, as the party rages on:

We called the Capitol Police to see if anyone noticed, or reported, on the alleged substance use in the Capitol. According to the police, no.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Carla Vigue told us no arrests had been made from Saturday on, and no one has reported any drug or alcohol use within the Capitol or on Capitol grounds.

"The protesters have been very peaceful and very cooperative," she said. Regarding the possibility of people using substances, with specific reference to the video of them looking on, she added, "That would never be able to happen."

She cited the "couple hundred" police patrolling the Capitol each day in making her statement. Because of security protocol, she said she could not detail exactly where police were stationed but said generally police were roaming "all over."

So what does this mean? In the end it's a he-said-she-said. Vigue denied police were joining in with protesters and, according to her, drug and alcohol use inside the Capitol could "never happen." The disgusted observer suggested otherwise, and Morello claims police were "down" with protesters and expressing their union support.

At minimum, then, couldn't you say such events are at least a possibility? We asked the Capitol police that question in a follow-up. We have yet to hear back.

Wow. There are no words.

I haven't smoked pot in more than twenty years, and I suddenly want to start up again just so I can read this thread while high. Just the quotation marks would be mind-bogglingly hilarious.

Friday, February 25, 2011


It's the least surprising thing in the world that David Brooks is rooting for Mitch Daniels to run for president (and is having a sad because Daniels probably won't run this time around): Daniels is a privatizer who poses as a wonky, competence-obsessed deficit hawk (he certainly isn't the latter), and he covers his conservatism with a fig leaf of phony compassion. All of this is almost perfectly calibrated to win the all-important David Brooks primary. What's bizarre is that Brooks can't even bring himself to acknoweledge why Daniels isn't likely to run. The only answer we get is:

Yet because Daniels is a normal person who doesn't have an insatiable desire for higher office, he's thinking about not running.

Um, no, David. That's not why Daniels isn't running. This is why Daniels isn't running:

That tweet from a typical modern-day Republican voter was presumably in response to Daniels's announcement that he wanted Indiana Republicans to drop a right-to-work bill and wouldn't send state cops out to round up fleeing Democratic legislators opposed to the bill -- but it could have just as easily come in response to his call for a "truce" on social issues, or his assertion that, for Republicans, "it is time to let Ronald Reagan go ... as our touchstone, as our icon, as our hallmark and our reference point," or his recommendation in his recent CPAC speech that "purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers" and that Republicans "will need people who never tune in to Rush or Glenn or Laura or Sean" in order to win. Brooks acknowledges the latter, as "a passage that rankled some in the audience and beyond," but shrugs off any disgruntlement, saying of Daniels, "He spoke as a practical Midwesterner, appealing to hard-core conservatives and the not so hard-core."

The hell he did -- you don't appeal to hardcore conservatives unless you are hardcore. But Brooks can't acknowledge that -- he can't admit that his party has been completely taken over by insane purist zealots who impose half a dozen litmus tests before breakfast every day. Mitch Daniels would be one of the most right-wing presidents of modern times, but he's not crazy enough for his party, so he can't run. It has nothing to do with what he wants -- except to the extent that he doesn't want to be drummed out of the party altogether. And Brooks either doesn't notice the obvious or can't bring himself to acknowledge it.

I haven't read Matt Bai's New York Times Magazine profile of Chris Christie yet, but I see that Doug at Balloon Juice is flagging this passage about Christie's choice of Antichrist:

Ronald Reagan had his "welfare queens," Rudy Giuliani had his criminals and "squeegee men," and now Chris Christie has his sprawling and powerful public-sector unions -- teachers, cops and firefighters who Christie says are driving up local taxes beyond what the citizenry can afford, while also demanding the kind of lifetime security that most private-sector workers have already lost.

Doug says:

The trick won't work as well this time because unlike mythical "welfare queens" and "squeegee men", mythical teat-sucking public union members are often white. So, no, public union members are not the ideal adversary here. It will take years of propaganda to make bitching about public sector unions as effective as bitching about teh black and teh brown.

Republicans jumped the gun this time.

I'm not sure I agree. In the wingnut media, bloviators try as often as possible to follow the word "union" with the word "thugs"; if no race distinction can be highlighted, it's quite useful to try to make the point that union workers are crude, boorish, foul-smelling brutes who don't operate under the same societal restraints as the rest of us. It may not work when the strikers are teachers, but as long as some burly bruisers in hard hats show up, if you're demagoguing this, you're golden (especially if your target audience consists of people who have, or had, desk jobs).

Oh, and let's not forget that one of the original Antichrists of Governor Reagan -- the hippie -- was generally white. Reagan, of course, rhetorically turned hippies into unsocialized effeminate subhumans:

Next night in Milwaukee, 2,823 Republicans jammed into the Municipal Arena for another $100-a-plate affair, while several thousand more paid $5 apiece to listen from the balcony. Reagan, who may have been raiding Bob Hope's gag file, started off with a string of japes: "We have some hippies in California. For those of you who don't know what a hippie is, he's a fellow who has hair like Tarzan, who walks like Jane, and who smells like Cheetah."

You have to work harder when your bogeyman is melanin-deprived, but demonization is very doable.


UPDATE: The shouters of "Shame!" after the lower house of the Wisconsin legislature voted to approve the Walker budget bill are pointedly being portrayed by right-wing sites as unhinged; this is the kind of dehumanization I'm talking about (see Fox Nation, Glenn Beck's Blaze, Gateway Pundit). The Fox Nation headline is "Wisconsin Minority Democrats Explode With Ugly Roars After Bill Clears Assembly" -- anyone else think the use of "Minority" there is an attempt to suggest something other than the party's status in the legislature relative to Republicans? Obviously this is staggeringly hypocritical faux-outrage in response to a relatively mild outcry, but the point is that these guys never stop trying to suggest that our side is dangerously unsocialized, and if you say it ofdten enough, sooner or later it's going to stick.

Josh Marshall on Scott Walker's Wisconsin union battle:

... Early on, from a position of relative strength, he could have compromised and really had his cake and eaten it too.

At the original point of breakdown, after the Dems hit the road and the unions agreed to all the financial concessions, he had his chance. He could have said, fine. You gave important concessions. I still think the changes in bargaining are right. But these are tough times. And we have to move forward together. Blah, blah, blah....

No doubt he would have caught some grief from the national right -- as Scott in Florida and Daniels in Indiana have. But those aren't the folks he needs to be successful in Wisconsin. And over time, I think it would have worked well for him across the board....

But as things escalated, that lack of any available course of action made him look weak. Even vaguely ridiculous. If he gives in now, the stakes are so high, it'll just seem obvious that he got totally rolled....

That's the weak link of the modern right -- and it may be the modern right's only weak link.

Today's right-wingers so fetishize toughness and refusal to compromise that every position a righty politician takes simply has to be defended to the death. You just can't compromise. You have to dig in, even if you're trying the patience of the general public -- you have to shut down the government, a la Gingrich; you have to stay the course in Iraq, a la Bush; you have to double down on every ill-conceived, rage-fueled thing you say, a la Palin.

The problem is, right-wingers don't overreach all that often. They tend to have a very fine-tuned sense of what the public will tolerate, even if it seems outrageous to a lot of us. The tea party movement? Not overreach, judging from the 2010 election results. The health care repeal movement? The Arizona immigration law? Chris Christie's somewhat-less-than-Walkeresque fatwa against public sector unions? Not overreach, according to public opinion polls.

If Walker really is losing, then we got lucky. It won't be the last time, because the right-wing toughness fetish means some future ideological soul mate of his will go too far and not dare to engage in a climbdown. But we can't wait for these overreaches to happen. We still need a strategy to win when the right doesn't overreach. We don't have one.


I'll add, though, that the toughness fetish is almost certainly what's going to save Barack Obama at the polls in 2012, no matter what the economy is like. Between now and the end of the primaries, GOP candidates are going to out-wingnut one another, and the news from off the campaign trail is going to create far-right litmus test after litmus test. It's all going to push the winner of the nomination so far to the right that he or she won't be able to pivot to the center without alienating the base, and possibly emboldening a third-party challenger who can peel off votes.

That may be part of the reason that Democrats have won the popular vote in four of the last five presidential elections, but haven't really controlled American politics since Reagan. In any case, it's why Obama will probably win again.
(updated: Newt Gingrich, plagiarist)

The right-o-sphere is all a-flutter about a recent Limbaugh monologue that's being presented (at The Right Scoop, Fox Nation, et cetera) as the ultimate summation of the horrors of the Obama administration. Do you want to know why right-wingers are upset? This is what they're upset -- it's the double standard, dammit! It's all so unfair! No Republican could ever get away with all this!

From the transcript at Limbaugh's site:

...Imagine, for the fun of it, Sarah Palin is elected president. I pick Palin only 'cause they hate her the most (and I'm not running). Imagine that Sarah Palin appoints scores of czars who are not confirmed by the Senate. These czars run the government out of the White House; they bypass the cabinet structure. Imagine that President Palin appoints as attorney general a politically partisan conservative. Imagine that attorney general takes orders from Palin on active cases, and she orders that attorney general to stop defending lawsuits against aspects of Roe v. Wade, to stop defending lawsuits against Obamacare, to stop defending lawsuits against the EPA's greenhouse gas regulations.

Imagine if President Palin directs her attorney general to sue California to enforce border security and to stop granting taxpayer benefits to illegal aliens, in violation of the supremacy clause. Imagine if President Palin did all this. Imagine President Palin ordering the Republican National Committee to work with businesses, managers and executives that contributed tens of millions of dollars to her campaign to defeat her political opponents (especially Big Labor) in places like New York, New Jersey, Michigan, California; intervening in the affairs of states. Obama's doing this. Imagine if President Palin did it. She gets hold of the guy that runs the RNC, says, "I want you to have meetings with businesspeople that contribute a lot of money to my campaign."

Imagine President Palin decides that she will not comply with federal court rulings that she disagrees with, as in Florida and Louisiana. Imagine, if you will, President Palin meeting weekly with CEOs of the oil industry, of the insurance industry, and of the health care industry in order to help them profit and prosper. Imagine if President Palin meets with these groups to try to repair the damage done by the previous president, Barack Obama....

Wow ... it's just -- just inconceivable! A Republican president having czars! A Republican attorney general who's a naked partisan! A Republican Justice Department that ignores violations of the law related to abortion! Republicans in the executive branch secretly meeting with industry leaders! No matter how hard I try, I simply can't imagine any of that ever happening! Can you?


UPDATE: So now I'm seeing this at Newsmax:

Gingrich: If Palin Took Obama Actions, There Would Be Calls for Impeachment

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV Friday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said President Barack Obama's decision not to fully enforce the Defense of Marriage law eventually could lead to a constitutional crisis, as he has directly violated his constitutional duties by arbitrarily suspending a law.

Gingrich even suggested that, if a "President Sarah Palin" had taken a similar action, there would have been immediate calls for her impeachment. Asked directly whether President Obama could be subject to articles of impeachment, Gingrich said, "I think that's something you get to much later. But I think clearly it is a dereliction of duty. Clearly it's a violation of his constitutional oath. Clearly it is not something that can be allowed to stand." ...

The big story here is that Gingrich is hinting at a constitutional crisis and impeachment -- but please note that he's just plagiarizing the Limbaugh I quote above. (And if you go to the video at the Newsmax link, you see he makes exactly the same comparison Limbaugh makes to a President Palin refusing to enforce Roe.)

This is possibly the most outrageous thing he's said since he accused Obama of having a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" mindset -- a point he nicked from Dinesh D'Souza. (Though that time, at least, he gave credit.) Hey, isn't he supposed to be the GOP's big idea guy?

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Jack Cashill has just published the book Deconstructing Obama, in which he yet again advances his theory that Bill Ayers actually wrote Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father. Cashill has a big-name publisher (Simon & Schuster), but, according to Simon Maloy of Media Matters, he's bitter:

In painstaking detail, he explains how the pillars of the conservative media -- the Weekly Standard, the National Review, the Washington Times -- all declined to give his Ayers ghostwriting conspiracy even a cursory examination. He writes of gaining admission to Grover Norquist's weekly Wednesday meeting of conservative muckety-mucks and being booed while making his case.

Oh, my heart bleeds -- especially because, as Adam Serwer points out, he actually did get some love from National Review:

Andrew McCarthy, whose nuttery about a grand conspiracy between the Muslim Brotherhood and the American left seemingly escaped National Review Editor Rich Lowry's notice, called Cashill's Ayers theory " thorough, thoughtful, and alarming." Not all of his colleagues shared that view, much to his dismay.

And it wasn't just McCarthy. I don't know how you define "pillars of the conservative media," but does Rush Limbaugh count? Or Sean Hannity? How about Andrew Breitbart's site? What about Jonah Goldberg (also at NR)? Accuracy in Media? The David Horowitz empire? (Note the Cashill articles cited in the sidebar as "major introductory resources.") Fox's John Gibson? The American Spectator? Ron Radosh and Thomas Lipscomb at Pajamas Media?

All have seriously entertained Cashill's crackpot theory. But the poor dear -- he remains cranky because lunacy is still just short of all-pervasive on the right.


Did I mention another Cashill theory, this one about Obama's parentage?

Obama's poetry serves as the launching point for an outlandish theory about Obama's grandfather bribing Barack Obama Sr. to pose as the future president's father. (Cashill's candidates for Obama's "real" father include Malcolm X and Jimi Hendrix.)

Think any of the folks listed above will declare this nonsense a bridge too far?

There's some concern being expressed about this Kaiser Family Foundation poll:

In the wake of the health reform repeal vote in the U.S. House and the ongoing legal challenges over the individual mandate, nearly half the country either believes that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been repealed and is no longer law (22 percent) or doesn't know enough to say whether it is still law (26 percent). Roughly half of Americans (52 percent) accurately report that the ACA is still the law of the land.

Joan McCarter makes a couple of salient points:

It's ... possible, Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, says, "There may be some partisan wishful thinking going on. Thirty percent of Republicans think the law has been repealed while only 12 percent of Democrats do. But overall, it is obvious that the knowledge of basic civics is pretty low. Maybe it's because 'Schoolhouse Rock' is no longer airing on Saturday morning TV explaining how government works."

What they do see on TV? As Jed Lewison and Steve Benen both point out, they see stories about judges overturning the law, and far less coverage of either the decisions upholding it, or the new provisions of it being implemented.

True -- though I think there's another possible reason buried in the PDF of results:

In the February survey, Americans were asked whether they and their family "have personally benefited from the health reform law”, and whether they had "been negatively affected" by the same. Overall, 14 percent say they have benefited in some way thus far, with the most commonly offered experiences being improved access to care or coverage, the ability to keep grown children on the family insurance plan, and reduced costs. At the same time, 17 percent say they have been negatively affected. Increased costs were by far the most commonly cited issue, followed by reduced benefits or choices and an inability to get or keep insurance.

So there you go: less than a third of the country has detected any impact from the law. And only 14% have notice any benefit. The damn thing is easy to attack -- and caricature -- because the rollout is (perhaps inevitably) so damn slow.

And, in fact, many of the people who say they've been negatively affected by the law can't really even offer a concrete example of how. The Kaiser PDF lists eight statements from survey respondents who said the law had harmed them. Here are five of them:

"Financially the middle class will not be able to afford the insurance."

"It is going to cost the taxpayers more money. It was passed...and people didn’t get a chance to read it."

"Because of our income, we are being strangled with paying for everyone else. Middle America will not exist under these conditions."

"I don't like someone telling me I have to do this."

"Whenever the government controls anything, people get affected negatively. Government should stay out of it and not have control over it."

These aren't accounts of personal experiences -- they're regurgitations of memorized right-wing spin.

I think the law is just invisible to a lot of people who might eventually benefit from it -- except to right-wingers, for whom it's a highly visible monster under the bed.

For the love of God, make it stop:

Do you want to guess the mystery, or should I give it away? Oh, I bet you already guessed:

As pressure mounts on the White House to intervene to stop Moammar Gadhafi's bloody crackdown in Libya, many commentators have been wondering why Barack Obama has been cautious in his criticism of the dictator after the U.S. president so fervently supported the removal from office of U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

But Gadhafi has been tied to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's spiritual adviser for more than 23 years.

The Libyan dictator also has financed and strongly supported the Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan. Obama has ties to Farrakhan and his controversial group. Read more at

(Emphasis added.)

Yup, that's right. It's not about oil, or stability, or even the desire not to do diplomacy out loud in public. It has nothing to do with the fact that we have full diplomatic relations with Qaddafi, relations reestablished by the sainted George W. Bush.

...Gaddafi accomplished one of history's great diplomatic turnarounds when Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice announced that the U.S. was restoring full diplomatic relations with Libya and held up the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya as "a model" for others to follow. Rice attributed the ending of the U.S.'s long break in diplomatic relations to Gaddafi's historic decision in 2003 to dismantle weapons of mass destruction and renounce terrorism as well as Libya's "excellent cooperation in response to common global threats faced by the civilized world since September 11, 2001."

It's all because a guy Obama ditched three years ago used to hang with Muammar.

Remember, this is Fox Nation, not a Glenn Beck site. Beck's name is nowhere to be found here. (Beck's Blaze, however, does also work this angle, tossing Louis Farrakhan into the mix, because, y'know, what the hell, why not?)

Oh well -- at least in this case, unlike in Egypt, our wingnut overlords have given us permission to root for the rebels against the dictator. Meanwhile, expect to hear a lot about this from Hannity, Beck, et al.

Some people must have a lot of time on their hands, because attention is actually being paid to this post from a right-wing blog:

Go Figure: Obama White House Can't Spell "Libya"

Well, I may now know why President Obama took so long to talk about the revolts in Libya: his advisors and press people simply cannot spell the country's name. I mean, it's five whole letters! No one can figure that out:

Wow -- an online communication by a president misspells "Libya"! I bet that's never happened before!

Oops -- sorry, I misspoke:

As Doug Mataconis notes, the misspelling was corrected (in a follow-up tweet) within a half hour. The misspelling in the now-archived transcript of the 2004 Bush speech hasn't been corrected in six-plus years.

But really, who cares? I want the Web lackeys for my president to be careful, but, much as I loathe the last president, even I'm not going to give him a hard time for one lousy misspelling on his White House site.

I've had a head for spelling since I was a kid (my fingers are another matter, as ought to be obvious to regular readers of this blog), but plenty of bright people are lousy spellers, and nearly all bright people make mistakes.

It doesn't matter. Give it a rest. Find something real to complain about.

This story was getting a lot of attention in certain blog circles a couple of days ago:

WOODBURY, Tenn. -- A local business is now apologizing, and making amends after suspending a woman for answering a phone call from her son serving in Afghanistan.

Teresa Danford says she knew about the no cell phone rule at the Crane Interiors factory in Woodbury; but because her son, Lance Corporal Mark Ryhne, only has access to a satellite phone once a month, she didn't think twice about taking the call last week when he called during business hours.

That decision resulted in Danford's three-day suspension without pay. If it happened again, managers threatened to fire her. Since a story about her situation aired on NewsChannel 5 Thursday, the factory has received threats and harassing phone calls.

Now the general manager is apologizing, and taking back Danford's suspension. Danford will be paid for the days she didn't work, and Crane Interiors has revised it's no cell phone policy....

When Teresa Danford was suspended for taking this call ("'You don't want to miss a word because truthfully that might be the last time you hear from them,' Danford said"), there was anger at blogs such as Blackfive and Support Your Local Gunfighter; an online petition got more than 3600 signatures in a matter of days. The company wisely changed its policy and made amends to Danford.

But, really, what prevents companies from having harsh, inflexible policies such as Crane's old one? And what would happen if, as a society, we decided that we really shouldn't allow employers to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in situations like this? What if we tried to protect military families with a law?

Don't you think teabaggers and folks like Rand Paul would conclude that this was a horrific big-government intrusion on the rights of free entrepreneurs to run their businesses as they see fit? Don't you think Megan McArdle would take to her blog at The Atlantic to denounce the measure -- McArdle, who recently proclaimed,

To start with, there is really no such thing as "paid" vacation; your employer is paying you for the work you've done, not for spending a week on the beach in Cabo. You're just spreading a slightly higher average hourly wage over a longer period, so it seems like you're taking a lower wage in exchange for more days off. Moreover, these days off often have an additional cost to employers--there are efficiency losses because you're not around to coordinate with other employees, and they may have to hire a substitute, who is unlikely to be as productive as the worker that they are temporarily replacing.

Similarly, work rules that reduce productivity mean that more employees must be hired at extra cost.

A law protecting military moms taking sat-phone calls from their children in war zones? Think of the efficiency losses!

Yeah, we have a law protecting servicemembers' civilian jobs -- but it was passed in 1994, when we had a Democratic president and Congress. Yeah, we have a law protecting saervicemembers from civil suits while they're deployed -- but that Bush-era law was a revision of a 1940 law that, in turn, updates laws dating back to World War I and the Civil War -- and the law hasn't always protected servicemembers from scummy banks seeking foreclosures. In any case, I don't think the laws on the books are much precedent. It's a new day! America demands small government! Don't tread on my employer!

Though if I were the Democrats in Congress, I'd put forward legislation to protect family members like Teresa Danford -- and dare the congressional Randians to vote no.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I think what I find most striking about Scott Walker's chat with the fake David Koch is that Walker's a believer. Even when he thinks he's being offered fancy R&R on the Kochs' dime, he's prattling on and on about "freedom" like a Fox News talking head trying to brainwash the rubes ... except he's the rube, and he's already been brainwashed. He's reinforcing his own brainwashing.

I think guys like Walker are more dangerous than grifters who are cynics. The latter think they're people who just bend the rules a little sometimes, and the rule-bending isn't them at their best. It's not what they want to be remembered for. Guys like Walker think their sleaze actually is them at their best. They've persuaded themselves that screwing the non-rich and lining the pockets of the rich is winning a battle in the epic struggle for Truth and Justice:

... Walker notes that 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan -- "whose hundredth birthday we just celebrated the day before -- had one of the most defining moments of his political career when he fired the air traffic controllers....That was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of communism because from that moment forward the Soviets and the Communists knew that Ronald Reagain wasn't a pushover."

"And I said, 'this may not have as broad world implications, but in Wisconsin's history, little did I know how big it would be nationally. This is our moment , this is our time to change the course of history.'"

... Murphy posing as Koch says: "I tell you what Scott. Once you crush these bastards, I'll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time."

"Allright, that would be outstanding," Walker replies. "Thanks for all the support and help ... moving the ball forward and we appreciate it. ... We're doing the just and right thing for the right reasons. Its all about getting our freedom back."

Murphy/Koch: "Absolutely, and you know, we have a little bit of vested interest as well" (he then laughs).

Walker: "That's just it. The bottom line is were going to get the world moving here because it’s the right thing to do...Thanks a million."

No risk of any guilt pangs when you think your grift makes you a freaking hero for the history books. This zealotry makes folks like Walker -- and, really, pretty much every wingnut under 50 -- even more dangerous than their elders.

Everybody in the blogosphere is talking about that prank call -- the one in which a writer for Buffalo's Beast posed as right-wing gazillionaire David Koch and had a lovely chat with Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

I'm willing to believe that the public doesn't want union rights utterly eviscerated, and therefore the GOP and the right are losing the public opinion war in this case. But I think when the history of this is written, the phone call will be a footnote.

That's just my gut sense -- and I'll confess that I'm saying this even though I'm the only political blogger in America who still hasn't listened to the full audio. But think about it: unless you're the kind of person who's surrounded by politics junkies or political pros, how many people do you know who even know who David Koch and his brother are? By comparison, thanks to saturation coverage by the right-wing media, George Soros is practically a household name -- hell, people who aren't portrayed as evil satanic billionaires, the likes of Bill Ayers and Frances Fox Piven and Van Jones and Cass Sunstein, are almost certainly far better known. There's been a fitful effort to turn the Kochs into the embodiment of what's wrong with the right, but the idea has caught on only with a small group of lefties.

I'm glad this happened, for the few of us who get the joke, and maybe for the benefit of thick-headed mainstream journalists who think lefty talk about the Kochs is paranoid. But I really can't see how it's going to have a huge impact.

I gather from The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin that Mitch Daniels has signed his own political death warrant within his party:

Last night both Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had their opportunity in the national limelight to advance their position in their fights against public-employee unions and to advance their own careers. To the surprise of many, Walker shined and Daniels did not.

In short, Daniels caved, perhaps the surest sign yet that he's not running for president or doesn't understand what conservatives expect of a presidential candidate. He told his own party to stand down on right-to-work legislation....

As one very smart Republican insider put it, "I guess Mitch really isn't running." ... Katrina Trinko at the Corner comments:
Daniels may be making the wrong call in thinking that a push for right-to-work laws will risk the outcome of his education reform. Or he may not be. But it does appear that what he's doing is prioritizing one goal (education reform, with vouchers, charters schools, and teacher accountability) over another (right-to-work laws), not forgoing all conservative principles.
What is bizarre and disappointing to his admirers is his lack of understanding that he can and should fight for both....

Damn right. How dare he set priorities and try to pursue his far-right agenda gradually? Just ram it all through! Steamroller anyone who gets in the way! Anything less and he's a gutless RINO!

Yeah, I know that Rick Scott in Florida and Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania are backing away from support of Scott Walker's union-busting tactics in Wisconsin -- but they're not running for president. Nor is Chris Christie, who also isn't rejecting collective bargaining rights altogether. I see that Haley Barbour, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Bob McDonnell are all standing with Walker. Every one of those guys wants to be president or vice president ASAP.

So we need to add "no compromise on union-busting, even for tactical reasons" to the ever-growing list of Republican litmus tests.

We know John Thune had to pass on a presidential bid in large part because he supported TARP.

We know every general-election Senate candidate the Republicans fielded in 2010 was a climate-change denialist, so I assume all the presidential candidates next year will have to follow suit. And in case you were wondering, Richard Mourdock, the guy who's primarying Richard Lugar in Indiana, with a hell of a lot of party support, said this on the subject of climate in his announcement speech:

Mr. Lugar has offered a green energy program to address "climate change" that is simply "cap and trade-lite". As a businessman I know such programs will kill millions of American jobs and as a geologist, I know it would still not address the real source of climate change..... because even in all their vanity and selfrighteousness, Washington bureaucrats cannot regulate and control what happens on the surface of the sun.

The list will get longer in the next year and a half, and I don't think rejection of a GOP purist position will be acceptable even in the face of overwhelming disapproval on the part of the general public.

Nice to know that the unserious Democratic Party is no longer on the rise in America, and we can count instead on the Burkean thoughtfulness of calm, rational Republican adults like this one:

A measure filed by [Texas] State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) would allow any law enforcement agency that has custody of an illegal immigrant to take the illegal to 'the office of a U.S. Senator or Representative' and leave them there.

1200 WOAI news reports the measure also allows county sheriff's deputies or city police officers to 'request an agent or employee of the United States Senator or United States Representative to sign a document acknowledging the release or discharge of the illegal immigrant at the senator's or representative's office.

The measure covers individuals who are 'not a citizen or national of the United States' and who is 'unlawfully present in the United States.' ...

I'm surprised that the wording doesn't call for the dropoff to take place at "the office of a U.S. Senator or Representative who is a member of the liberal, open-borders Democrat Party (or an equally traitorous RINO)." In fact, I'm surprised there isn't a provision permitting a dropoff at the home of Barbra Streisand or Rosie O'Donnell, and mandating that no speech in opposition to the legislation can be made using a Teleprompter. Oh, and no member of Congress or Hollyweird-elitist celebrity who takes possession of an immigrant may dress said immigrant in winter clothes, because Al Gore (who is fat) said there was global warming -- even though it's snowing! Har har har!

I may not be thinking of all the provisions that seem to have inadvertently left out of this bill. I welcome any reminders of those I've overlooked.

I'm grateful to Dana Milbank for mocking the food-based attacks on Michelle Obama by Rush Limbaugh and others in the right-wing media -- up to the point where he makes aknee-jerk reach for "balance":

Moderation? It is a concept that causes dyspepsia in the first lady's critics.

Fox News mistook her moderation for hypocrisy when it posted a story titled "Michelle Obama OKs Americans to Eat Pie on Thanksgiving." On the other side, nutritionists mistook her moderation for weakness when they told the Boston Globe that they were "wondering why Obama didn't set a better example" than serving bratwurst, deep-dish pizza and Buffalo wings at the White House Super Bowl party.

In other words, the food criticism is an extension of politics. On the left are the purists who think a single tortilla chip is an unacceptable compromise. On the right are those who think any nutritional recommendation amounts to a food dictatorship.

Yeah, right, Dana -- we have roughly equivalent twin villains, don't we? On one side, as you point out, we have Fox News, Rush Limbaugh (lying about the calorie count of a recent dinner Michelle ate, as you note), along with (as you note) The American Spectator and a vile, racist cartoon published by Andrew Breitbart. (Though you didn't mention Matt Drudge, source of Limbaugh's calorie lie.)

On the other side we have, um ... the health blogger for The Boston Globe? With her on one side, we have an even array of lefty and righty extremists?

Oh, and "the purists who think a single tortilla chip is an unacceptable compromise"? Here's what those "purists" actually said in the Globe blog post (emphasis added):

"She's a trendsetter. People like to go for what she recommends," says Mitali Shah, a research dietitian at Boston Medical Center. "She could have balanced this off in a trendy way. Added a new kind of salad that people could have tried."

...Apparently, [Mrs. Obama] didn't see these three tasty and nutritious game day snacks that were developed by Boston University registered dietitian Joan Salge Blake. "I wish we'd sent them to her," she tells me.

But, Blake adds, "People need to remember that the Super Bowl comes once a year, so it's okay to indulge for that occasion." The health problems set in when we find a reason to splurge every day.

"If you eat well 90 percent of the time, it's okay to veer off 10 percent of the time," says Blake. Obama said she tells her daughters it's okay to have ice cream and pizza on the weekends as long as they're eating nutritiously and exercising the rest of the week....

Wow, what purist fascists these people are.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011



Yes we're used to Republicans advocating for policies which hurt the most vulnerable, but their active attempts to completely destroy their state economies are something new.

The link in Atrios's post goes to a Think Progress compilation of actions by Republican governors, and I'm sure you pretty much know them by heart: tax cuts for the rich and businesses despite budget shortfalls, draconian cuts to services for ordinary citizens, rejections of federal funds for high-speed rail, etc., etc.

These certainly do seem like "active attempts to completely destroy their state economies." But isn't that risky? You'd expect these governors to pursue far-right objectives, but why deliberately throw budgets out of balance with huge tax cuts?

I'm not sure the governors care. I think they believe they benefit as long as there's a sense of economic crisis -- assuming they can continue to blame someone else. As long as Democrats and liberals have any power anywhere, these governors may actually believe they benefit more from an economic crisis than they would from balanced budgets. They may think they can just keep cutting services (and cutting taxes for the privileged), and never be blamed for the suffering that ensues, because (they believe) Democrats and liberals can be blamed permanently for everything.

It's been argued that Fidel Castro operates this way -- he wants to be at odds with the U.S., and he does something to offend the U.S. every time there's any hint of a thaw in the two countries' relations. That makes the U.S. tighten the screws again -- and Castro can blame any privation in Cuba on the Americans.

If I'm right about this, Republicans may be past the point of caring whether the national economic ship ever rights itself, or whether the states ever do. As long as the public shares the Republicans' enemies, then economic pain can be said to be Democrats' and liberals' fault -- forever. The solution is always more Republicanism, but the evil liberal saboteurs never let the good Republicans win.

Earlier today I expressed pessimism about the public's response to protests by government workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere -- but maybe I was being too pessimistic. Like Steve Benen, I was waiting to see an independent poll about Wisconsin, and the first one we're seeing is quite heartening:

The public strongly opposes laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions as a way to ease state financial troubles, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.

The poll found that 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to one being considered in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law.

...53% oppose reducing pay or benefits for government workers while 44% are in favor....

The polls I quoted suggested that the public is much more lukewarm toward unions, if not a bit hostile -- but those polls were conducted before the current battles in Wisconsin, Indiana, and elsewhere.

I wonder if the right to be in a union is like the right to have an abortion -- something about which a lot of people are ambivalent, or even disdainful ... until there seems to be a serious threat to take the right away.

I've quoted this 2000 L.A. Times article a few times, but I'll quote it again:

Typically when abortion rights are threatened, support for legal abortion rises, according to polling experts.

In the last decade, for example, previous polls show support for Roe peaking at 56% around 1991, when the decision was under attack across the country. Most states had pushed measures through their legislatures that either put strict limits on abortion or even banned it altogether.

In 1992, the Supreme Court issued a decision upholding Roe, with some modifications. The same year, Clinton, an abortion rights supporter, was elected president. Both events appeared to reassure people there would be no dramatic changes in abortion policy. Subsequently, support for Roe began to decline.

In a 1996 poll, 46% of respondents endorsed Roe vs. Wade. By 1999, support had slipped slightly to 43%, the same level as in the current poll.

And so we saw a drop in support for abortion rights shortly after Barack Obama took office:

But I guarantee that the numbers will change as soon as it seems that abortion really might be made illegal. And maybe union rights are the same -- in which case, the efforts by Republicans to strip workers of bargaining rights may be a massive overreach, and (for them) a disastrous misreading of the public's thinking.

Glenn Beck is actually boasting today that one of his theories has been echoed by the Putin regime:


If you’ve read the news lately, you might have heard Glenn Beck has been discussing Google.... [H]e's ... skeptical of the company's government connections and two of its executive's involvement in the Egyptian revolution. It seems Russia might agree.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, and reported by Reuters, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s deputy blamed Google for stirring up trouble in Egypt.

"Look what they have done in Egypt, those highly-placed managers of Google, what manipulations of the energy of the people took place there," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin reportedly told the Wall Street Journal....

We already know that some right-wingers love to contrast Putin's shirtless macho strutting with Barack Obama's distaste for grandiose alpha-dog displays. Now we have Beck seeing starbursts as Putin's surrogate accuses Google of being an enemy to world peace. The great bipolar freedom-fighter, along with a lot of his right-wing confreres, really won't be happy until he and they get to be part of the Ministry of Truth for an overt jackbooted fascist in America.

I'd like to dismiss out of hand the Rassmussen poll showing 48% support of Governor Scott Walker in the Wisconsin union fight, and only 38% support for the unions; I think Nate Silver's criticism of the methodology is valid, and the consistent right skew of Rasmussen's polls has been blatant over the years. lso, I'd love to be able to dismiss the front-page story in today's New York Times that quotes John Q. Public critics of the union as a lot of nonsense -- yeah, its lead author is the son of Pinch Sulzberger, and the quoted critics include one small businessman, the wife of another, and only one union worker.

But my gut sense tells me that while there's still far more support for public sector unions than the right wants you to believe, the usual pattern of modern American politics applies: the fury on the right is not matched by passion on the left, the middle is quite flippable, and right-wingers are better able to do the flipping because they've spent a lot longer crafting their arguments.

You go to Polling Report and see a poll conducted earlier this month by Pew that shows labor unions with a 45%-42% favorable-unfavorable split, and public sector unions with an even more favorable split -- 48%-40%. Respondents said that in a dispute between a union and government they're more likely to side with the union, 44%-38%. (If it's a union and business, business wins, 43%-405, which is depressing enough.)

However, you get down to cases and you get this from New Jersey poll respondents, via Quinnipiac:

* 56 - 38 percent support layoffs for state workers....
* 65 - 24 percent for furloughs for state workers, including 61 - 25 percent among Democrats and 61 - 28 percent in union households.
* 77 - 20 percent for wage freezes for state workers, including 72 - 23 percent among Democrats and 64 - 34 percent in union households.
* 66 - 29 percent for reducing pensions for new state workers, including 56 - 39 percent among Democrats and 57 - 42 percent in union households.

Ezra Klein was on Lawrence O'Donnell's show last night (video below) offering this explanation for where we are:

I think that it has been fascinating to watch a transference of anger in this country from Wall Street and investors and corporations in 2007 or so, which Barack Obama blocked, told the banks, "I'm the guy standing between you and the pitchforks," blocked the bill in the House trying to ratchet back those bonuses at AIG, had to help them, had to make sure that we kept confidence in the financial markets. Without a villain, without Barack Obama letting the people have the villain they sort of seemed to want, the Republican Party stepped in the void and said, "You know, what? It's government and it's public employee unions that are the cause of your problems." And now it's people like Walker who are being able to pick up on that. There is a void left in the national narrative of what has gone wrong in our country over the past couple of years. Barack Obama did not effectively fill it, for reasons both good and bad, and Walker and others have been able to step into there and use it to try to accomplish some very long-term GOP priorities here. Some of them may make some sense, some of them may not. But I do think there's a very large political story here, and it does have to do with the failure of the Democrats to articulate a narrative that made sense to people and made them feel like they actually had a plan for how to get us out of here.

I agree that Obama quite deliberately refused to turn the rich into villains. But I wonder if it would have worked. After thirty years of Reaganism, and forty years of backlash against the 1960s? (Yeah, I know that workers and lefties sometimes clashed back in the '60s and early '70s. Nevertheless, unions are now seen as linked to Democrats and liberalism.)

Go back to Polling Report and scroll down to a 2009 Gallup poll. You see that in response to the question "Overall, do you think labor unions mostly help or mostly hurt ... workers who are not members of unions?," 62% of respondents say non-union workers are "mostly hurt" by union workers -- and that's been the majority answer since 2003.

We don't even think about the rich in tough times. We don't think they can be made to share in the sacrifice -- or we fear what happens if they're asked to (they won't hire us!). They're the scientists, we're the rats in the cage. They feed us or shock us, as they choose. We can't escape, and we can't even devise a strategy to avoid the shocks. So we do what caged rats do when shocks are randomly administered and unavoidable: we fight with the other rats in our cage.

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