Sunday, July 31, 2011


Assuming this debt thing goes through, Democrats got their clocks cleaned -- and I just can't believe any Democrat or liberal is holding out hope for this: official argued that the ultimate trigger was the Bush tax cuts, set to expire at the end of 2012. Obama would block extension of the cuts, either as a final act in office after losing the November 2012 election or as a safely reelected two-term president.

First of all, if Obama loses -- and at this point I think it's much more likely than not -- he's going to work that "graciousness" angle to the very end: he won't veto the renewal of the tax cuts because (he'll tell us) the people will have spoken and it'll only be fair that a democratically elected Mitt Romney or Rick Perry gets to put his stamp on the economy going forward. Yup, he's going to drive us crazy like that to the very end.

But I don't think the threat to veto the renewal is going to last very far into next year. How long do you think it's going to be before Republicans define this as the very sort of tax increase on the middle class Obama vowed to avoid? Because let's face it, the tax cuts on the wealthy will never be decoupled from the tax cuts on everyone else -- not when the House is controlled by the GOP (and the House, constitutionally, gets to originate all tax-oriented bills). This is going to be a campaign issue: Obama threatens massive tax increase on the middle class -- even if he loses, he'll do it in a lame-duck session. It doesn't matter that all the rigmarole in the process outlined in the debt deal is going to screw the middle class, because that's all very complicated and this is simple: It's a tax increase. It's a big-spending liberal Democrat tax increase on the middle-class threatened by big-spending liberal Barack Obama.

He's going to back down. We're never going to get a penny of revenue from the wealthy because Republicans will go for the triggers in the debt deal every time rather than accept a cent in taxation, even on billionaires, if it's proposed by the bipartisan commission, and then, unless we get tax reform -- which, to the shock of all Serious People will somehow preserve a lot of loopholes for richies even as it screws the middle class again -- the Bush tax cuts will be renewed again. Bank on it.

While we're waiting to learn whether the economy will be wrongfully executed or receive a commutation to life imprisonment, let's check out George Will's latest column. I see he's raving about a new book by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch titled The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America:

The authors say that the most ossified, sclerotic sectors of American life -- politics and government -- are about to be blown up by new capabilities, especially the Internet, and the public's wholesome impatience that is encouraged by them.

"Think of any customer experience that has made you wince or kick the cat. What jumps to mind? Waiting in multiple lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Observing the bureaucratic sloth and lowest-common-denominator performance of public schools, especially in big cities. Getting ritually humiliated going through airport security. Trying desperately to understand your doctor bills. Navigating the permitting process at your local city hall. Wasting a day at home while the gas man fails to show up. Whatever you come up with, chances are good that the culprit is either a direct government monopoly (as in the providers of K-12 education) or a heavily regulated industry or utility where the government is the largest player (as in health care)."

Really? We're still defining the Department of Motor Vehicles as the lowest ebb of American customer service? Reading this, I feel as if I'm watching a comic from the Ed Sullivan era still working the same material about lousy women drivers decades after everyone realized it didn't match reality. At this point I can do a lot of motor vehicle stuff online or by mail, with little bureaucratic interference. When I think of crappy customer service, I think of horrible private-sector phone trees with unspeakably bad hold music and automated pep-talkers urging patience in voices so chirpy they arouse strangulation fantasies. I think of private service-sector workers whose pay is so awful and whose training is so misguided that it's clear their bosses will think you'll overlook the massive understaffing of the checkout desk so long as the cashier, when you're finally acknowledged, refers to you as a "guest," as in "Can I help the next guest?" And on and on. There's so much horrible customer service in the private sector right now -- and in allegedly deregulated industries, like telecoms and cable -- that the DMV has long been displaced from the top slot.

Wills continues:

A generation that has grown up with the Internet "“has essentially been raised libertarian," swimming in markets, which are choices among competing alternatives.

And the left weeps. Preaching what has been called nostalgianomics, liberals mourn the passing of the days when there was one phone company, three car companies, three television networks, and an airline cartel, and big labor and big business were cozy with big government.

Ignoring that last bit for a second -- yes, folks, George Will just told us in all seriousness that big business is no longer cozy with government -- what is he saying here? That we still want three channels and one phone company? Is this why liberals as well as conservatives spend endless hours on the gazillion-channel Internet, debating the relative merits of iPhones versus Android, or whether to drop iTunes for Spotify, or supplement Facebook with Google+? And three channels? What about those damn lesbians in The Kids Are Alright watching video porn and Locked Up Abroad? Does Will think they're in the tea party?

And there's this:

When the Census offered people the choice of checking the "multiracial" category, Maxine Waters, then chairing the Congressional Black Caucus, was indignant: "Letting individuals opt out of the current categories just blurs everything." This is the voice of reactionary liberalism: No blurring, no changes, no escape from old categories, spin the world back to the 1950s.

No, that's the voice of a well-meaning older person. The young live in a multiracial world and are more liberal than their elders. What does that tell you, George? It tells me that there's no connection between clinging to racial categories (at least if you don't actually fit properly in any of them) and leaning left.

I know, I know: haters gotta hate. Will has to accuse people he loathes of being guilty of everything he despises, bcause that's how right-wingers are. I should be used to it by now, shouldn't I?

I woke up today to discover that all the smart people are cautiously optimistic that a deal is taking shape, as reported by ABC's Jonathan Karl:

Democratic and Republican Congressional sources involved in the negotiations tell ABC News that a tentative agreement has been reached on the framework of a deal that would give the President a debt ceiling increase of up to $2.4 trillion and guarantee an equal amount of deficit reduction over the next 10 years....

Key elements include:

* The formation of a special Congressional committee to recommend further deficit reduction of up to $1.6 trillion (whatever it takes to add up to the total of the debt ceiling increase). This deficit reduction could take the form of spending cuts, tax increases or both.

Really? Is there even the slightest possibility that tax increases of any kind could get past the Tea-liban?

...* A vote, in both the House and Senate, on a balanced budget amendment.

Wait -- not a requirement that the balanced budget amendment must pass? We're back to something like the old McConnell plan? They just have to vote on it?

And this seems really hard to imagine:

...* If Congress does not approve those cuts by December 23, automatic across-the-board cuts go into effect, including cuts to Defense and Medicare....

Democrats won't like the fact that Medicare could be exposed to automatic cuts, but the size of the Medicare cuts is limited and they are designed to be taken from Medicare providers, not beneficiaries.

Two sources briefed on the framework say the automatic cuts would hit Defense spending harder than Medicare.

Karl goes on to add, regarding those defense cuts:

A Republican briefed on the framework says this will be unacceptable to many Republicans because it could force them to face a choice between accepting tax increases (if that is what the committee recommends) or automatic cuts that would gut the Pentagon's budget.

Exactly. I don't see how this gets through. Maybe Mitch McConnell will deign to allow it to pass the Senate by lifting the filibuster threat, but I still worry that it can't possibly get through the House. Reports of the tea party's isolationism are greatly exaggerated; forced to choose between tax increases and Pentagon cuts, teabaggers are going to say, "Neither of the above, thank you," with a gun to our heads.

And Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler emphasizes that key senators in both parties acknowledge the possibility of tax increases emerging from this process:

On CNN's State Of The Union, McConnell sought to reassure conservatives that the deal includes no tax increases -- though did not specifically address the scope of the Special Committee. "There are no tax increases in this bill," he said. "There will be no tax increases in this proposal." Emphasis added.

Also on CNN, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the final trigger must include incentives that don't simply allow Republicans to draw a line in the sand over revenues. "What is the sword over the Republican?" Schumer asked.
Well it has to be equal -- the one thing we are certain of, it has to be of equal sharpness and strength. The preference would be some kind of revenues, on wealthy people, on tax loopholes that would be in that. But another alternative, possible, being discussed, no agreement has been reached, would be defense cuts of equal sharpness and magnitude to domestic cuts.

In the past, when the trigger has had significant defense cuts, it's brought the parties to the table and they've come up with a balanced agreement that had both revenues and cuts.

Isn't this suggestion that tax increases could happen going to kill the deal in the House?

Or have fat cats really somehow put the fear of God into enough people to get this through? In other words, have the tea party suicide bombers really been put in their place? Forgive me if I'm skeptical.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


The main editorial page of The New York Times has been an oasis of mainstream-media sanity throughout the debt crisis. For instance, even before John Boehner added more poison tea to his bill to get it through the House, the editorial page called his bill "irredeemably awful," while criticizing Harry Reid's hostage-concession bill as not much better.

But while the Times editorial page knows we're going in precisely the wrong direction, today's lead editorial suggests a lack of understanding of just how bad the situation is right now. Here's the headline, accompanied by the subhead that appears in the print edition:

It's Up to the Senate
The House has made itself irrelevant on the debt limit, but the Senate can still avert a crisis

Excuse me, but that's just plain wrong -- at least it's wrong the way the body of the editorial puts it (emphasis added):

It was hard to imagine that the House bill to raise the debt limit, and slash and burn the economy, could get any worse. But on Friday it did.

The bill, which narrowly passed the House with 218 Republican votes and none from Democrats, would allow the government to keep borrowing only until November or December and then require both the Senate and the House to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution before the limit could be raised again.

That's right, in a bid to win over his recalcitrant caucus, Speaker John Boehner agreed to go through all of this again in just a few months -- and then hold the country hostage to passing an amendment that will never get the two-thirds of each chamber that it would need. The bill was, as it should have been, promptly dismissed by the Senate.

Now the only hope left for avoiding default on Tuesday is for the Senate to piece together a compromise that can pass with bipartisan majorities in both chambers. It will undoubtedly cut far too much, at a time when the economy can't afford it. It will contain no needed revenue increases and could still trigger a downgrade. But it would eliminate the imminent threat of financial chaos....

I'm sorry, but it's time that we recognizing how desperate the situation is. There is no compromise that "can pass with bipartisan majorities in both chambers." By rejecting Boehner's awful bill and accepting it only when he made it worse by adding mandatory passage of an entitlement-eviscerating balanced budget amendment, the House has shown us precisely how much compromising it's willing to go: next to none. A compromise? This is their idea of a compromise. As many teabag House members have said, just allowing a debt ceiling increase at all is a compromise to them. The process has so emboldened them that they wouldn't even collect their winnings and pass the Boehner bill on Wednesday or Thursday, which means that they think they don't have to concede any more than this.

I just want the remaining sane people in this process -- officeholders and members of the media -- to grasp that the House crazies really don't think they have to make any more concessions. I want them to understand that, far from making itself irrelevent, the House has probably just passed the shit sandwich we're going to have to eat as we go from 11:59 to midnight to 12:01 and beyond in this crisis.

I want this because I want them to have a plan for that eventuality. It's crazy for the Times to tell us that the amendment "will never get the two-thirds of each chamber that it would need," because, again, the House zealots will leave us no alternative. If Democrats have to vote to pass that balanced budget amendment at Christmastime or the economy gets it, are Democrats going to have a counternarrative to explain that the amendment will eviscerate Medicare and Social Security, but a yes vote by Democrats is being recorded with a gun to their heads? Do we have a plan to fight this amendment in the state legislatures? Can we overcome the inevitable Koch and Rove money, as well as the inevitable low-information-voter "Gee, a balanced budget amendment sounds nice" sentiment, to beat this in thirteen states?

In other words, can we please start thinking about this now -- not when it's upon us, the way we react to every other crisis, including the current debt-ceiling crisis?


You think I'm exaggerating about how little the House GOP is willing to compromise? Take a look at the list of GOP no votes on the revised, worsened Boehner bill that passed last night. Look at some of the names: Michelle Bachmann. Ron Paul. Joe "You Lie!" Wilson. Steve King. Joe Walsh. Justin Amash. Jason Chaffetz. Tim Scott. These are hardcore far-rightists. If you learned that there were 22 no votes and thought, "Oh, well, there are 22 Republicans to start with who are willing to reject this level of extremism," meaning a compromise is possible, I'm telling you that the no votes were a way of saying the revised Boehner bill is still too "liberal." There's no hope of compromise. It's the 14th Amendment or whatever they want.


And, yeah, I suppose a reasonable response is that I'm looking at the count all wrong -- the point of a Reid bill is to get all the House Dems and a few dozen House Republicans. Well, I just question whether there's a sufficient number of House Republicans who are (a) non-crazies and (b) willing to risk a suicide-bomber teabag primary. I'm not convinced that there are.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Still think the public will blame the Republicans if we have a debt apocalypse? Here's Gallup:

President Obama's job approval rating is at a new low, averaging 40% in July 26-28 Gallup Daily tracking. His prior low rating of 41% occurred several times, the last of which was in April. As recently as June 7, Obama had 50% job approval.

Obama's approval rating averaged 46% in June and was near that level for most of July; however, it has stumbled in the past few days, coinciding with intensification of the debt ceiling/budget battle in Washington....

Ezra Klein, citing academic research, thinks that's not going to remain true, because President Obama no longer seems to be taking the lead and the main action on the debt has shifted to Congress:

In a 2010 paper presented at the American Political Science Association's annual conference, Asger Lau Andersen, David Dreyer Lassen and Lasse Holboll Westh Nielsen tried to take a systematic look at how voters respond to fiscal gridlock.... this sort of budgetary dysfunction happens all the time on the state level. Between 1988 and 2007, 167 state budgets were late, which is a pretty good signal that the political system charged with producing them fell into gridlock....

"While governors are punished only when part of a unified government, legislatures are (almost) always punished."

This suggests that when one party controls the government, voters blame them for budgetary breakdowns. But when the two parties split control, the executive is able to float above the squabbling in the legislature, or at least heavily influence the way the public assigns fault. "Governors may be more adept at the blame game that sometimes follows failures to finish a budget on time," the authors speculate.

... it's ... evidence that Obama's strategy of trying to personally manage the negotiations hasn't improved his numbers. Which is why it's probably helping him that Boehner decided to move the negotiations over to Congress and assume more of the blame himself....

I'm having trouble downloading the paper, so I haven't read it, but the abstract says (emphasis added):

In general, electoral penalties are larger where clarity of responsibility, affected by divided government, supermajority requirements and seat share margins, is higher....

Do you think we're in a situation in which "clarity of responsibility" is high? I'd say it's just the opposite. Our news organizations are telling this story one way: It's everyone's fault; it's the system's fault. And the failure of Democrats (under duress, admittedly) to stick to basic principles -- principally, an approach with tax increases on the well-to-do -- makes that clarity even more difficult to attain.

So I'm not in any way convinced that this is going to be blamed on Republicans.


And I'm even less convinced when I see John Boehner going back and adding mandatory passage of a balanced budget amendment by Congress to his bill.

Yes, I know the Senate will reject that in the next couple of days. But I think I know how this crisis ends. We'll pass the deadline. We'll begin the process of default. Global markets will go into convulsions. Yet the president won't invoke the 14th Amendment. And so Democrats will do the only thing they can possible do to get the crisis resolved: they'll agree to the current Boehner plan, with the mandatory passage of a balanced budget amendment before the debt ceiling can be raised again. And the president will sigh and sign the bill. Which is an even more horrifying outcome than what we thought was going to happen all this week.

Then do you want to talk about "clarity of responsibility"?

I'm going to be in transit for most of this afternoon, so I'm going to miss all the fun, but it looks as if Harry Reid's going to go ahead with the slightly less awful resolution to this mess:

Sounds like Harry Reid is going to push forward with his debt bill today in the Senate regardless of what happens in the House. "The last train is leaving the station," Reid just said on the Senate floor.

A brief excerpt of Reid's floor speech, as prepared for delivery:
That is why, by the end of the day today, I must take action on the Senate's compromise legislation.

The legislation in point would cut $2.5 trillion from the deficit over the next decade and avert a default on our national debt. It would protect Social Security and Medicare without raising a penny of revenue.

The question us - will today's Republicans break away from the shrill voice of the Tea Party and return to the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan....

In a world that was even 1% sane, Reid would pull out a bill with actual tax increases on the well-heeled as well as spending cuts, get all Democrats behind it, and tell the small bloc of Apocalypse-averse non-teabag Republicans that that was "the last train leaving the station," and enough of them would vote for it.

Or, of course, the last train would be a clean debt-ceiling increase. But that's too sane to imagine.

This is likely our last chance to save this nation from default.

Paul Krugman is talking about the cult of centrism again today:

...pundits fantasize about some kind of "centrist" uprising, as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides....

So what's with the buzz about a centrist uprising? As I see it, it's coming from people who recognize the dysfunctional nature of modern American politics, but refuse, for whatever reason, to acknowledge the one-sided role of Republican extremists in making our system dysfunctional. And it's not hard to guess at their motivation. After all, pointing out the obvious truth gets you labeled as a shrill partisan, not just from the right, but from the ranks of self-proclaimed centrists.

But making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out -- a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you're not willing to say that, you're helping make that problem worse.

I agree with that. I agree with his disdain for the notion that a third-party presidential candidate will save us. And yet if there is such a candidate -- oh, let's give this theoretical construct the fictional name "Mike Bloomberg" -- I can see two reasons why it might be worth voting for him, if polls show that he can win.

Reason #1 is that he presumably won't be a registered Democrat. This means that the ref-worked "liberal media" might cut him a break for a bit longer than it would if he were a member of the Icky Dirty Hippie Patchouli Party. Our hypothetical "Mike Bloomberg" might have exactly the same policies as Barack Obama, give or take a few, but (apart from differences in negotiating skills -- and it's hard to imagine theoretical "Mike" being worse than Obama) just having an eentsy bit more leeway to act, simply because he'll never be envisioned in sandals and love beads, might give him more room to maneuver. We might get his centrism rather than a massive far-right pushback, as we so often get with Obama (and, before him, with Clinton).

Reason #2 is that our low-information electorate isn't going to blame all incumbents for the horrible state of the nation in November 2012, nor is it going to blame the actual guilty parties, the my-way-or-the-highway GOP. It's going to blame the party of the guy in the White House, because it thinks he's in charge. It's going to say, "We have to vote for the other guys" -- which means big Republican gains and, if the nominee isn't too crazy, a Republican president. The one thing that might save us from the latter fate is a way for these low-information voters to vote for another "other guy." So, yeah, Bloomberg might save us President Perry, and I'd take that.

Waiting for the economic Apocalypse, I turn to Peggy Noonan, who uses today's column to essentially turn Barack Obama into Hillary Clinton, or at least Hillary as Noonan has always seen her:

I want to talk about something that started to become apparent to me during the debt negotiations. It's something I've never seen in national politics.

It is that nobody loves Obama. This is amazing because every president has people who love him, who feel deep personal affection or connection, who have a stubborn, even beautiful refusal to let what they know are just criticisms affect their feelings of regard.... But people aren't that way about Mr. Obama....

The secret of Mr. Obama is that he isn't really very good at politics, and he isn't good at politics because he doesn't really get people.

I really like the bit about Noonan never having seen anything like this in national politics, because she's certainly declared Hillary to be a non-human in the past:

No one in America thinks she’s a woman. They think she's a tough little termagant in a pantsuit. They think she's something between an android and a female impersonator. She is not perceived as a big warm mommy trying to resist her constant impulse to sneak you candy. They think she has to resist her constant impulse to hit you with a bat. She lacks a deep (as opposed to quick) warmth, a genuine and almost phenomenological sense of rightness in her own skin. She seems like someone who might calculatedly go to war, or not, based on how she wanted to be perceived and look and do. She does not seem like someone who would anguish and weep over sending men into harm's way.

... Hillary is like someone who would know she should be moved but wouldn't be because she couldn't be because ... well, why? That is the question. Maybe a lifetime in politics has bled some of the human element out of her. Maybe there wasn't that much to begin with. Maybe she thinks that if she wept, the wires that hold her together would short.

Which leads me to a passage in the current column that shows how little you actually have to know about contemporary politics to be an extremely well-paid gray-eminence pundit. I gave you a sentence from the passage above, but let me give you the rest:

The secret of Mr. Obama is that he isn't really very good at politics, and he isn't good at politics because he doesn't really get people. The other day a Republican political veteran forwarded me a hiring notice from the Obama 2012 campaign. It read like politics as done by Martians. The "Analytics Department" is looking for "predictive Modeling/Data Mining" specialists to join the campaign's "multi-disciplinary team of statisticians," which will use "predictive modeling" to anticipate the behavior of the electorate. "We will analyze millions of interactions a day, learning from terabytes of historical data, running thousands of experiments, to inform campaign strategy and critical decisions."

This wasn't the passionate, take-no-prisoners Clinton War Room of '92, it was high-tech and bloodless. Is that what politics is now? Or does the Obama re-election effort reflect the candidate and his flaws?

Bloody hell -- does Noonan even read the news? Does she not understand that this has been going on for years? Here's a news story from 2007:

In late 2002, Alex Gage sold his share of a well-established polling firm and set about convincing Karl Rove that he had the answer to ensuring President Bush's reelection.

His pitch was simple: Take corporate America's love affair with learning everything it can about its customers, and its obsession with carving up the country into smaller and smaller clusters of like-minded consumers, and turn those trends into a political strategy....

Gage's models predicted voters' tendencies with 90 percent accuracy, ... and Gage was hired to microtarget the 16 or so battleground states in the 2004 election.

It wasn't long before this new, more sophisticated form of data mining became part of the mythology surrounding Rove and his role as "the architect" of Bush's reelection....

Now Gage is working for another Republican presidential candidate entranced by the possibilities of microtargeting -- Mitt Romney....

Christ, Peggy, this is standard procedure now! And you loved Bush for a while -- and even though you're mostly lukewarm to Romney ("well, he continues to seem like someone who's stepped from the shower and been handed a dress shirt by his manservant George"), you'll decide he's jes' folks, a la Poppy Bush, if he gets to run against Obama. But what am I saying? It doesn't matter. Do you not realize that every high-stakes campaign does this? Do you not realize that Rick Perry can lay on the dumb-as-rocks cornpone for a year and a half and he'll still hire brainiacs to do this, too? Do you not even read a paper?

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Apparently, according to the two state religions of red America, it's not clear whether we should default or not default:

Several sources say the South Carolina delegation -- which includes five Republicans -- could be key in getting the vote across the finish line....

Adding even more drama to an already chaotic evening in the Capitol, several members of the South Carolina delegation retreated to an ornate chapel to pray on the issue.

Asked whether divine inspiration might hit during prayer, Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a freshman from Charleston, replied: "Divine inspiration already happened. I was a lean no, and now I'm a no."

... Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), a bulky former Notre Dame football player, gave a rousing football-themed speech and said he would vote for the bill. He told colleagues they needed to do three things: Put on your helmet, put in your mouthpiece and tighten your chin strap. He gave out signs with the Notre Dame football saying, "Play like a champion today."

"Let's kick the s-- out of them," Kelly said in the meeting, according to several sources.

I'm not certain who "them" is. Nevertheless, this infantilism seems like a baby step up from the infantilism where they watch movie clip about psychopath felons preparing to break legs before voting.

Echo says it's working on the problem.

UPDATE: Comments seem intermittently functional now.

...Or maybe not.

...Working now.

ABC reports:

A district court in Houston ruled in favor of Gov. Rick Perry today in a lawsuit trying to keep the Texas governor from participating in the Day of Prayer and Fasting event Aug. 6.

Judge Gray Miller dismissed the case after finding the plaintiffs had no standing and cited a 7th circuit ruling in favor of President Obama promoting a "national day of prayer."

... The lawsuit against Perry was filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation....

I'm happy because the Gallup poll says Perry's beating everyone except Romney, and is really breathing down Mitt's neck. He's also doing really well in the new Pew poll, especially among the GOP voters who are paying the most attention to the race.

I want Perry to do well. The Cain moment seems to be long gone and the Bachmann moment, to judge from these polls, seems to be passing, so (unless Palin really does waltz into the contest) Perry is the probably the only person who can take the nomination away from Romney. And we want him associated with the apocalyptics, Catholic-bashers, gay-bashers, and other low-lifes linked to the rally, because (as I've said before) fundamentalism is practically the only thing hung around the GOP's neck in the past thirty years that really turns off swing voters.

There's one problem, however:

... It is still unclear if Perry will speak at the event. A spokesman for The Response said it has not been decided whether the Texas governor will speak.

Actually, forget everything I said above. Let me just say this, Governor Perry, and please remember that I'm a secular humanist atheist: HOW DARE YOU SPEAK AT THIS EVENT! IT'S BAD ENOUGH THAT YOU'RE ENDORSING IT, BUT IT'S APPALLING IF YOU ACTUALLY SPEAK AT IT!

(I just wish we could get him so angry at attempts to keep him away from the event that he just has to show up, merely to piss us off. I want him linked permanently, or at least through November 2012, to the guy who called the Catholic Church "the Great Whore" and the guy who says the Statue of Liberty is a demon idol and all the others.)


Oh, but first I want there to be a really long primary fight, preferably including Bachmann, because the longer these people are in a race with one another, the further to the right they'll push one another. See, e.g., Perry's abandonment of states' rights on marriage:

Rick Perry tells The Family Research Council's Tony Perkins that he supports the federal marriage amendment because he doesn't trust activist judges to uphold the 10th.

"To not pass the federal marriage amendment would impinge on Texas and other states not to have marriage forced upon them."

So in other words, you uphold a states' right to self-determination by taking it away. Doesn't make a ton of sense.

He courted controversy last week by saying he was "fine" with New York's new gay marriage law because states had a right to make those decisions....

The more they one-up one another, on all sorts of issues, the greater the (not particularly great) chance that the public will come to regard them all as extreme. And any one of them really would be extreme economically as president, even Romney. (Ready for an Oval Office signing ceremony for Cut, Cap & Balance?) So I continue to root for self-marginalization.

As John Boehner passed through the halls of Congress today, Politico noted the following:

On his way to meetings with fellow Republicans on the debt limit vote, Speaker of the House John Boehner said to reporters outside the caucus room, "it's a zippity doo dah day."

Is Boehner channeling the second line of this treacly #1 country hit from 1972 (which also nearly made the pop Top Ten)?

Various lyrics sites tell me that the actual line in the song is even ickier -- "it's a skippidy doo dah day." But even though I haven't heard the damn song in nearly 40 years, its presence on Top 40 radio back then lodged it in my brain like shrapnel near a nerve, and, to my regret, I've never forgotten it, and I always thought the lyric was "zippity." In any case, if that's what Boehner had in mind, it's an odd thing for his brain to cough up. (And boy, heartlanders sure were playing cultural see-no-evil back in those not-exactly-placid days, weren't they?)

MSNBC's First Read says the revised Boehner plan appears likely to pass now, and adds that Democrats don't seem likely to be able to modify it much, so if it becomes law it'll be a massive defeat for Dems -- no tax increases, no debt increase till 2013, nothing Dems want.


Democrats ... argue that they could end up winning the longer-term war. They point to polls showing them winning the actual tax debate (that the public wants balance and is willing to pay higher taxes); they say they could still get their revenues through the commission the eventual legislation sets up, or with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts (if Obama wins in 2012); and they contend that the president likely comes out this messy debate looking better than anyone in Congress. In large part, Republicans have gained the upper hand in this game of chicken, because they've proved that their Tea Party is tying their hands to the steering wheel (and Republicans have proven adept at using the "we can't control these guys" negotiating strategy). But Democrats could wield this argument in 2012: No matter how much ground they gave up, they protected the country from the guys who were willing to crash both cars.

This is a complete misunderstanding of how low-information voters (i.e., most Americans) think.

If this thing goes through and there's never a debt default, those voters won't remember the specifics (if they ever knew them) -- they'll just remember that all those indistinguishable pols fought like bratty kids in a sandbox, and then the mass tantrum ended. What they'll pay attention to going forward is the condition of the economy. And we know what that's going to be like under Boehnernomics:

Remember that [the] spending cuts aren't alone. Unless future legislation changes this, they’re alongside the expiration of the $160 billion payroll tax cut and the $60 billion in expanded unemployment insurance that the administration negotiated in the 2010 tax deal. So that means the economy -- which is very weak right now -- is losing something in the neighborhood of $250 billion in federal support.

Earlier today, Suzy Khimm quoted the International Monetary Fund saying "a fiscal consolidation equal to 1 percent of GDP typically reduces GDP by about 0.5 percent within two years and raises the unemployment rate by about 0.3 percentage point." There's reason to believe that in a weak global economy, the effect will actually be worse than that. But let's say it isn't. Projected GDP in 2012 is about $15.8 trillion. So a $250 billion cut is about 1.5 percent of 2012's projected GDP. So ... we're looking at a drag on growth of more than 0.5 percent of GDP and a drag on employment of more than 0.3 percent.

This is not good for the recovery.

And that's all voters will think about in 2012.

Yeah, I suppose we'll have another food fight a few months down the road, when the debt ceiling has to be raised again. Yeah, we'll have more teabag hostage-taking. But if it's all over and done with late in 2011 (even if it's around Christmas), voters will forget that, too, by November 2012, except as a vague memory of generalized D.C. immaturity and incompetence.

And the next food fight is going to hamstring the recovery even more. And then low-information voters are going to exact their revenge at the polls at the incumbent they see on the TV most in the ensuing months, and on his party -- not on Mitt Romney or Rick Perry, who won't be associated at all with all the childishness they saw, or with Washington.

And if I'm wrong -- if, somehow, Obama ekes out a win in November 2012 -- don't even think about tax increases, or an expiration of any of the Bush tax cuts, in 2013. Republicans will just threaten to drive the car off the cliff again to prevent that.

Fox Nation and some righty bloggers are deeply amused by this report, from the Media Research Center's, about Jerrold Nadler -- my congressman -- who has the audacity to talk Keynes out loud:

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) argued at a news conference with the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus that the United States does not currently have a budget crisis.

"That's the real crisis -- the unemployment, not the deficit. We don't have a deficit problem right now. In the long term, we have a deficit problem -- we've got to get it under control but not right now," said Nadler at the Capitol on Wednesday.

"Right now we've got to get unemployment under control. If we got unemployment down to 7 percent, down to 5 percent, which is what it was in 2005, and 2007 rather before the recession hit, if we got it down to 5 percent, half the deficit would be eliminated just by that -- half the deficit without cutting a nickel from the budget. So, we have to address the real problem. The real problem is we are not taxing properly."

Nadler goes on to call for (gasp!) stimulus and higher corporate taxes. Bravo.

But one of the many things that's disheartening to me, apart from the obvious fact that what used to be regarded as mainstream economic thinking about severe recessions is now deemed to be fossilized detritus from a bygone age, is the fact that the members of Congress assembled behind Nadler -- unlike so many congressional teabaggers -- are old. Of the members of the Out of Poverty Caucus listed in this press release, Barbara Lee, Joe Baca, and G.K. Butterfield are in their mid-sixties, Mike Honda is 70, and John Conyers is 82. Nadler himself is 64, and never the healthiest guy -- he had gastric surgery for obesity in 2002.

Where are the young politicians who talk like this? I keep wondering about that. I read the left blogosphere and I realize that quite a few Americans understand the precise nature of the right-wing insanity we've slipped into, and I keep thinking eventually there ought to be young wannabe officeholders talking this talk, but I'm not seeing it. We comfort ourselves by noting that the Democratic Party is the party of younger voters, and browner voters in an increasingly non-white country, but in electoral politics the true progressives are old, while the right-wing zealots are young. If that doesn't change, in a generation there won't be anyone in Congress to the left of where Barack Obama is now.


Yeah, I know -- we had Grayson and Weiner. But they shouted too much, almost as if they were trying to make up for the fact that there was no one backing them up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I don't know what I was expecting. Some leaked report that the Chamber of Commerce was threatening to fund primary challengers to teabaggers who failed to support a debt-limit increase? A dressing-down of House freshmen in an empty boardroom like the one the chairman of UBS's parent company gives to Howard Beale near the end of Network? But I guess this is how the big-money boys are compelling teabaggers to come to Jesus and support the Boehner plan: via their principal money-launderer.

The big-spending conservative group Crossroads GPS said Wednesday that it supports House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) plan regarding the debt limit, and said it would support those lawmakers who vote for the plan....

Steven Law, president and CEO of Crossroads GPS, said that even though more spending cuts were necessary, the Boehner plan was the best plan available to cut spending, avoid tax increases and allow for an increase in the debt ceiling....

Crossroads GPS has the ability to spend and receive virtually unlimited amounts in contributions. In turn, it's able to spend millions of unrestricted dollars on helping to elect Republicans. Its sister group, American Crossroads, is a more formal political action committee. Karl Rove, the GOP political guru, helped found the groups and serves as their unpaid consultant....

So when Josh Marshall wrote last night that "Wall Street and just a lot sane people in general who haven't come off the sidelines yet or haven't really been paying attention" would soon "just say: Dude, you don't have a full deck, this is over," I suppose this is how that got done.

National Journal reminds us that this crisis isn't being caused by just a few crazies in tricorn hats and their rookie champions in the House:

With the United States moving closer to a historic debt default, both parties are bringing out the big guns.

... one of the louder voices belongs to David Addington, the architect of the George W. Bush administration's harsh interrogation policies and a former chief of staff for then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

Addington has taken on a new role as enforcer of tea party dogma during the intensifying partisan bickering over the debt ceiling. From his perch as the Heritage Foundation’s vice president for domestic and economic policy, Addington is throwing verbal thunderbolts at House Speaker John Boehner’s current debt-ceiling proposal, which he argues will pave the way to tax increases.

... Addington ... wielded enormous power behind the scenes, helping Cheney craft the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping program and most of its detention initiatives.

... The Washington Post referred to him as "Cheney's Cheney" and "the man most responsible for building President Bush's notion of an imperial presidency."

Today, Addington is enjoying an unexpected second life....

The Heritage Foundation maintains close ties to the tea party movement and frequently tries to channel tea party sentiment in its policy recommendations and op-eds....

People like David Brooks and Tom Friedman are slowly coming around to the notion that a faction of the GOP is crazy, but they clearly can't comprehend -- or won't allow themselves to comprehend -- how deep the rot goes.

No, really: that's essentially Tom Friedman's brilliant idea for how we could have avoided our current debt/debt-ceiling crisis:

Stop for a minute and ask: What would it look like if we were approaching this problem properly?

For starters, two years ago Congress and the Obama administration would have collaborated on a series of hearings under the heading: "What world are we living in?" They would have included a broad range of business, education and technology leaders testifying about what are the major trends and opportunities that are expected to shape the job market for the next decade. Surely, the hyperconnecting of the world, the intensification of globalization and outsourcing, the challenges of energy and climate and the growing automation of the work space that is rapidly increasing productivity with fewer workers all would have figured prominently.

Then we would have put together "The National Commission for 21st Century America," with this assignment: Given these big trends, what will America need to thrive in this world and how should we adapt our unique formula for success?

And what, according to Friedman, would have emerged from this coming together of the best minds of our generation?

Yes, we have developed such a formula over the course of American history, and it is built on five basic pillars: educating the work force up to and beyond whatever technology demands; building the world's best infrastructure of ports, roads and telecommunications; attracting the world's most dynamic and high-I.Q. immigrants to enrich our universities and start new businesses; putting together the best regulations to incentivize risk-taking while curbing recklessness (not always perfectly); and funding research to push out the boundaries of science and then let American innovators and venture capitalists pluck off the most promising new ideas for new business.

According to Friedman, after this fabulous meeting of the minds we would conclude that, yes, we have to make spending cuts and adjustments to entitlement programs, but we also have to raise some taxes and spend lots of money on infrastructure, all while focusing the government on improving education (also a costly process requiring tax revenues). Oh, and we have to have financial regulation with teeth.

Um, really, Tom? You actually believe that hearings convened by the government we had in 2009 -- in the Congress in which, I remind you, the filibuster record was shattered -- would have produced actionable proposals to increase education and infrastructure spending and pass real financial regulatory reform?

Are you nuts? The Republicans would have larded the hearings with anti-tax extremists, anti-regulatory extremists, freelance Randians, and people who think what's really holding us back as a nation is insufficient fealty to Jesus. And that's in addition to the Democratic invitees, including pals of the president, hewing to the corporatist, tax-averse, regulation-averse Goldman Sachs-o-crat line.

Friedman thinks there's a small impediment to his paradise:

Anyone who says that either entitlement reform or tax increases are off the table does not have a plan for sustaining American greatness and passing on the American dream to the next generation.

Alas, that is the Tea Party. It is so lacking in any aspiration for American greatness, so dominated by the narrowest visions for our country and so ignorant of the fact that it was not tax cuts that made America great but our unique public-private partnerships across the generations. If sane Republicans do not stand up to this Hezbollah faction in their midst, the Tea Party will take the G.O.P. on a suicide mission.

Friedman thinks the tea party is just a small, easily removable tumor on the body politic. He doesn't understand that teabaggery is a parasite that's essentially taken over the body of the host -- Republicans and, to a great extent, Democrats -- nor does he understand that it long predates the actual tea party movement. This sort of extremism couple with intransigence dates back to Reagan, Limbaugh, and the Murdoch takeover of cable news.

The utopia Tom Friedman's wishes for isn't mine, but it would actually be a hell of a lot better than, say, Grover Norquist's. But Friedman has no idea what it would really get there. And so his many readers have no idea who's making it impossible to get to centrism, never mind liberalism.

Paul Krugman blogs about the debt crisis:

... it's increasingly obvious that what we're looking at is the destructive influence of a cult that has really poisoned our political system.

And no, I don't mean the fanaticism of the right. Well, OK, that too. But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.

No, the cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.

... what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent -- because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship....

What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism....

I agree that these people bear a great deal of the responsibility for our plight, but I don't really think they're a cult of centrism per se. If Barack Obama had taken office and pursued a genuine left agenda -- large tax hikes on the wealthy, nationalization of failing banks, a return to Glass-Steagall, single-payer health care -- I can guarantee you that any continued economic weakness wouldn't be blamed on "everyone." It would be blamed on liberalism. And the same would go for a debt crisis.

The cult only says that "everyone's at fault" when Republican extremism is at fault. That's because the cult's real problem isn't a lust for centrism -- it's an aversion to acknowledging that Daddy GOP beats us. It's the kind of denial that takes place in households where there's domestic abuse.

The anti-'60s backlash (which has now gone on about four times as long as the period to which it's a reaction), combined with GOP ref-working of the "liberal media," has left us with a political culture that really can't bear the thought that Republicans are consciously acting in ways that are detrimental to the country. If this culture isn't "wired for the GOP" (as Josh Marshall says), it's certainly wired to be in denial of what's wrong with the GOP.

At all times, the system accepts the notion that Republicans are good and decent and well-meaning, even in failure (see, e.g., George W. Bush). At all times, it accepts the notion that what Republicans are advocating is within the pale. If Republican extremism becomes so blatantly obvious that it must be acknowledged, extremism on the other side must be found (or invented, or blown up out of proportion), so Daddy GOP won't be charged with abuse -- the story we agree on is that "everyone" was fighting. And we just go on living that way.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Maybe "burying the lede" isn't quite the phrase I'm looking for, but it sure seems as if only some of what's significant in the poll is being talked about.

"Debt ceiling poll: Voters with Obama," Politico says. "Reuters/Ipsos poll: Give us a balanced debt deal," Kos's Joan McCarter says. Yes, that's true -- 56% want a mixed approach and only 19% want a cuts-only approach.

But here's what seems significant -- and really disheartening -- to me in the poll:

The Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 31 percent of respondents held Republican lawmakers responsible for the debt impasse, 21 percent blamed Obama and 9 percent blamed Democratic lawmakers.

So 31% blame Republicans ... and 30% blame Democrats. Oh, great.

Wait, it gets worse:

Along those lines, 29 percent said Republican lawmakers should give the most ground in the negotiations, a quarter said Obama should and a fifth said Democrats should.

So 45% want Democrats to compromise the most and only 29% say the same about Republicans?


People who identified themselves as political independents, who Obama needs to win re-election, tended to side with the Republicans. The poll found that 29 percent of independents said Obama should give the most ground in the negotiations, while 13 percent said Republicans should.

If this poll is accurate, it's awful. It confirms my worst fears -- Republicans defy the will of the people and engage in extreme recklessness, Democrats scramble to try to meet Republicans' demands ... and Democrats get most of the blame.

Tim F. at Balloon Juice:

The suicide primary runs the GOP now. Whatever candidate the GOP's establishment puts up, no matter how much cash the overlords throw at a primary, someone like Christine O'Donnell can show up out of nowhere, claim the right flank and win.

I think this is more or less true. However, I keep wondering how it's possible for the extremist cult to trump all that Establishment money and power in the case of the debt ceiling -- is it really possible that the Establishment guys don't have enough money to outspend, and thus scare the crap out of, default-craving extremist freshmen in the heartland?

The conclusion I keep coming to is that the overlords really don't mind what the crazies are doing right now.

I keep thinking of Stan Druckenmiller, the hedge-fund billionaire I mentioned last week, who likes Chris Christie and who doesn't really care if we go into a debt crisis because he'll just miss a T-note payment or two, but he'll get massive cuts in spending. I figure there are a lot of guys like that in the fat cat community who are thinking, "What's the worst that can happen to the likes of us?" It's exactly what they were thinking about liar loans and robo-signing and all the rest back in the '00s -- potential for a big payout, and if it all goes kerblooey, we'll be made whole. I just figure they no longer think anything can hurt them -- probably with good reason. Though I guess we'll see what the reaction of the hardcore 'baggers is to the next TARP. But in any case, the plutocrats just may not care anymore what goes wrong, because they figure they're bulletproof. Oh, and Eric Cantor and Erick Erickson don't call them "fat cats," so they're siding with that level of respect.

The big Glenn Beck story right now concerns Beck's decision, on his radio show, to compare the campers who were massacre victims in Norway to Hitler Youth (because, see, their camp had a political orientation -- never mind the fact that an organization in Florida formed as a part of Beck's own 912 movement organized a political camp of its own this summer).

Well, I've got another Beck story -- not as inflammatory, but indicative of where this country is headed. As I type this, the lead story at Beck's Blaze site is this:


Ronnie Bryant was vastly outnumbered.

Leaning against a wall during a recent Birmingham, Alabama, public hearing, Bryant listened to an overflow crowd pepper federal officials with concerns about businesses polluting the drinking water and causing cases of cancer.

After two hours, Bryant -- a coal mine owner from Jasper -- had heard enough and, in a moment being described as "right out of Atlas Shrugged," took his turn at the microphone:
"Nearly every day without stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can't pay their mortgage. They can't pay their car note. They can't feed their families. They don't have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I know...what's the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What's the use? I see these guys -- I see them with tears in their eyes -- looking for work. And if there's so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there's no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So...basically what I've decided is not to open the mine. I'm just quitting. Thank you."

The bizarre thing here is that Beck and the people who run his site aren't even bothering to conceal what the crowd at that meeting was protesting about. Go to the "public hearing" link above and you read this:

Top officials from the Justice Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the local U.S. Attorney's Office were in Birmingham today to hear from residents of communities affect by pollution....

An overflow crowd packed the East Ensley branch of the Birmingham Public Library. Many of those attending urged officials to take action on a number of fronts. Those included cleaning up chemical contamination in Collegeville; scrutinizing closely coal mining along the Warrior River; and strictly overseeing state environmental agencies.

Check out that "chemical contamination in Collegeville" link and you get this:

Toxic substances found in soil of almost-new Birmingham school

Sameria Muhammad sits on her father's front porch in Collegeville, watches plumes of smoke from a nearby factory and shakes her head in disgust.

"I have four kids, and all four of them have to have breathing treatments every day," the 23-year-old says. "Every time I go to the doctor, they tell me they have bronchial problems."

Six weeks ago, Muhammad learned that toxic substances had been found in the soil at the almost-new Hudson K-8 School, which her oldest daughter will begin attending in a year, and on dozens of surrounding properties. Now, she wonders why Birmingham school officials didn't do their homework before building the school in 2009.

"Why didn't they do some tests first?" she asks....

So let's review: This mother and people like her are the villains of Beck's piece. A coal mine operator who thinks environmental regulations are too strict already is the hero.

That mine operator, Ronnie Bryant, elaborates on his argument:

Bryant pointed to less stringent environmental regulations in countries such as China, saying that the U.S. is falling behind even though it has abundant resources. "But you can't get to them," he said, adding that while there are concerns over dwindling wildlife populations, "people are becoming the endangered species."

In 2010, the rate of deaths in Chinese coal mines was more than six per day. And let's not even talk about China's degraded environment. Is that Ronnie Bryant's idea of how America should operate? Is it Beck's?

This story is all over the right-o-sphere. Bryant is a new wingnut folk hero.

And, really, this is what the wingnuts want: they want us so desperate for work that mothers whose children's schools are contaminated by environmental toxins are deemed the enemy, and business owners can do whatever they want to us, as long as they deign to give us jobs.

Shorter David Brooks in today's New York Times:

"He came in here and he trashed the place, and it's not his place."

Verbatim David Brooks:

...Obama never should have gone in front of the cameras just minutes after the talks faltered Friday evening. His appearance was suffused with that "I'm the only mature person in Washington" condescension that drives everybody else crazy. Obama lectured the leaders of the House and Senate in the sort of patronizing tone that a junior high principal might use with immature delinquents. He talked about unreturned phone calls and being left at the altar, personalizing the issue like a spurned prom date.

Obama's Friday appearance had a gigantic unintended consequence. It brought members of Congress together. They decided to take control. The White House is now on the sidelines. Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders are negotiating directly with one another.

The atmosphere has changed. It now seems more likely that we will get a deal.

... John Boehner and Harry Reid will continue to verbally abuse each other. But there's a script to their taunts. Nobody’s feelings are hurt. The old pros are perfectly capable of exchanging cliched volleys in the morning and then going off and negotiating with each other in the afternoon.

... there has been an outbreak of sanity since Congress took control.

... This should be a humbling moment for the White House, and maybe a learning experience. There are other people who have been around Washington a long time. They know how to play this game.

...The Old Guard wins....

We'll see if the Old Guard really wins -- reports right now say mostly that Our Teabag Overlords in the House are rejecting the new Boehner plan. But even if Boehner and Reid turn out to be no better at being Zealot Whisperers than Obama, I think Brooks has a story and he's sticking to it: after flirting briefly with the notion that this crisis is all the fault of the people who actually seem (to most rational observers) to be causing it, Brooks now believes that even their continued intransigence is all Obama's fault, because he has the gall to try to act as if he's better than others just because he's y'know, the president. And now Brooks will say that any failure by the Old Guard in Congress to put the Suicide Bomber Zealot Caucus in their place won't be the Old Guard's fault -- it'll be the president's fault, too, because he's a Democrat and a parvenu, and how dare he assert himself!


UPDATE: Kevin Drum:

Just yesterday I was telling a friend who likes Brooks that I'm not a Brooks hater. I'm still not. But honest to God, I've never seen a columnist who's so schizophrenic. One day we've failed because Republicans are just shy of insane, the next we've failed because Obama screwed up the negotiating process. It's like some part of him rebels whenever he finally admits to himself what the modern conservative movement has become. I wonder what it will take for him to finally figure it out for good?

Death camps. I think nothing short of death camps set up by the wingnut zealots for their political enemies will penetrate Brooks's thick skull. And even then he might very well find something that inspires him to qualify his criticism.

I'm not being hyperbolic. I'm not sure he'd even blink at mass disenfranchisements, or mere internment camps. I think there'd have to be actual genocide involved before it became irreversibly clear to him that this wasn't just a manageable level of partisan high-spiritedness.

Am I just seeing things in this Media Research Center ad (spotted at Hot Air, and a link to this) -- or is Jon Stewart's news a bit more ... er, ethnic in the photo below than it is in real life?

Here's the real thing -- not exactly a button nose, but, on the bridge, a bit less ... oh, what's the word I'm looking for? Humped?

Was there a bit of Photoshop involved in that MRC ad? Or is it just me?

Monday, July 25, 2011


I can never predict how political speeches are going to be received by the public, but -- apart for the fact that I don't accept the premise that America is just like a family that's been too profligate with the credit card and has to cut spending right now -- I thought that the president's speech explained the situation fairly well and made a sane person's case for not doing things the Republicans' way. It's a speech I would have liked him to make weeks ago.

Boehner's speech, on the other hand, was much snarlier than I expected. I was assuming we'd get at least a little gravitas -- but there's just something about Republicans, or maybe just Republican Speakers of the House who win midterm elections while a Democrat is in the White House, that makes them feel utterly entitled to say, "Hey, you may be the president, but you're the Republicans' bitch now:"

... President Obama came to Congress in January and requested business as usual -- yet another routine increase in the national debt limit -- we in the House said 'not so fast.' Here was the president, asking for the largest debt increase in American history, on the heels of the largest spending binge in American history.

Here's what we got for that spending binge: a massive health care bill that most Americans never asked for. A 'stimulus' bill that was more effective in producing material for late-night comedians than it was in producing jobs. And a national debt that has gotten so out of hand it has sparked a crisis without precedent in my lifetime or yours....

What we told the president in January was this: the American people will not accept an increase in the debt limit without significant spending cuts and reforms.

And over the last six months, we've done our best to convince the president to partner with us....

The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today. That is just not going to happen....

Remember Gingrich essentially declaring himself the de facto president in 1994? That's what this sounded like. And, yeah, both Clinton and Obama came off as guys who could be rolled, but to the public, in this case, it may just seem really disrespectful. Or, at the very least, like just the kind of partisan sniping they say they hate. Certainly the tone was harsh.

But the spin (I didn't watch much post-speech analysis) is probably that Obama was a nasty, partisan bomb-thrower, too, so it's a wash. (I did see Bob Schieffer on CBS briefly arguing that.) So probably these speeches will cancel each other out and won't move any needles, because our political culture probably can't bear a plain assertion that blame falls unequally.

Bill Clinton is right, and New York Times op-ed writers Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule are right -- the president should cut the crap and raise the debt limit on his own. We're now in a situation where he may literally be damned if he does and damned if he doesn't -- there are threats to impeach him if he does anything other than accede to 100% of Republicans' demands (because, let's face it, that's the only way we're going to get a deal through the usual channels).

Congressman Steve King of Iowa now threatens impeachment if the debt ceiling isn't raised:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Monday that President Barack Obama "would be impeached" if the nation falls into default.

"STOP talking about default," he wrote on Twitter. "The 1st dime of each $1 of revenue services debt. Obama would be impeached if he blocked debt payments. C C & B!"

King is among the House Republicans who voted for the so-called "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan that would introduce a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. The Senate last week dismissed the House bill....

A couple of weeks ago, a first-year teabagger congressman named Tim Scott threatened impeachment if Obama does raise the debt ceiling in a unilateral fashion:

While some have asserted that the debt limit might be unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, and therefore President Obama does not need congressional approval to raise it, Republicans have been quick to express skepticism over the idea. On Tuesday, a Republican congressman went a step further, saying that if Obama were to use that argument to bypass Congress on the issue, it would be an impeachable offense.

"This president is looking to usurp congressional oversight to find a way to get it done without us. My position is that is an impeachable act from my perspective," said Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) at a meeting sponsored by the Tea Party group LowCountry 9.12 Project on Tuesday, first reported by Lindsay Street on Summerville Patch.

His comments were met with enthusiastic applause....

I said it when Scott spoke and I'll say it again: impeachment would be a good thing. It would bring into relief precisely what we're dealing with: not a system that's broken down because "everybody's to blame," but a system that's being destroyed by a specific cabal of sociopaths known as the Republican Party, who want system failure, or at least the risk of it, because it serves their ends, namely tax cuts for the wealthy and, in the long term, the conversion of the United States into a cheap-labor, no-social-safety-net banana republic that has "a good business climate" reminiscent of those in third world nations.

We're going to keep heading inexorably in that direction until it's generally understood by our political culture, and by the voting public, that America as we know it cannot continue to exist if the GOP as it currently exists continues to wield any power. A few people in the middle are vaguely starting to grasp that fact. Impeachment might just make it clear that we live in a state of Republican total war against anything that's not Republican.

Or, well, the mainstream press might just explain impeachment away with choruses of "Too bad we no longer live in a world where Ronnie Reagan and Tip O'Neill have a drink at the end of the day and talk Irish blarney." But at least there's some chance that impeachment without any semblance of an impeachable offense would smack some sense into America.


(Steve King link via Memeorandum.)

The economic suicide bombers of the far right are on the verge of destroying the economy if they can't completely control it, and what's the response? Well, via Dave Weigel and The Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog, I see that what all the kewl kidz are doing is ... just going on Twitter (because heaven knows we don't want to do anything that requires more than the minimal effort it takes to whip out a phone and fire off a message), and railing against the system in general (because, obviously, the guilty parties here are "everybody"). From the Herald:

It is the mantra of the political moment. A barbaric yawp too hot for twitter to trend. Perhaps best of all: #fuckyouwashington is bipartisan.

Judging by the tweet-a-moment pace, the crude viral anger infects Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. Staffers and pols on the Hill and the White House probably feel the same way. Many in D.C. certainly do(the heat alone is enough to set tempers ablaze).

"To America: 4 million of us who live/work in and around DC (not in politics) won't take #fuckyouwashington personally. We feel u. #p2 #tcot," someone named @DeepVision tweeted Sunday, long after CUNY prof Jeff Jarvis first started the shoutout.

"So I was angry. Watching TV news over dinner - turning my attention from scandals in the UK to those here and frankly welcoming the distraction from the tragedies in Norway - I listened to the latest from Washington about negotiations over the debt ceiling. It pissed me off. I’d had enough. After dinner, I tweeted: 'Hey, Washington assholes, it's our country, our economy, our money. Stop fucking with it.' It was the pinot talking (sounding more like a zinfandel," he wrote Sunday in his BuzzMachine blog to explain, well, all the buzz reported in Slate and on Storify....

Wow -- everyone blames everyone! Trendily! That's sure to make the guilty parties tremble!

Weigel does note that some lefties did try to assess guilt:

Most of the tweets came from liberals angry at the debt impasse. A small sample:

@mcullen546: #FuckYouWashington for calling programs that we pay for entitlements

@mwynn: We see through your public pension theft conspiracy so #fuckyouwashington

@Mr_Pettapucci #fuckyouwashington or letting corporations steal our natural resources and sell them back to the people for profit....

[Jarvis] retweeted critics. TPM's Josh Marshall pointed out that the hashtag put blame on all parties, instead of Republicans. "To use threat of default to leverage policy changes that can't be one at the ballot box, an unprecedented tactic which amounts to threatening vast damage to country if policy demands r not met (sic)," he wrote. "Generalities instead of specifics serves no purpose." By making rage generic, Jarvis was muddying the story of the current crisis, making it one of Washington failing, not obstructionist Republicans holding spending and debt limit votes hostage until the last minute in order to extract demands.

Good for Josh and the others. But Jesus Christ, people -- this is all we do?

We know the president is failing. Yes, he's making a goal-line stand on revenue increases -- but only after voluntarily moving the ball deep into his own territory so Republicans don't have to struggle to score. Whether or not he could have played the long game better given the intransigence he's facing, nothing has prevented him from using the bully pulpit to go on prime time TV and lay out the stakes, explain who's made concessions and who hasn't, and urge the public to tell the extremists to back down.

But what are the rest of us doing? Politico tells us that the actual "professional left" is punting:

While the battle over raising the debt ceiling plays out in Washington, conservative groups are outspending liberal ones in the effort to frame the issue through a sharply edged media campaign that some Democrats worry could put them at a serious disadvantage headed into the 2012 elections.

"The thing that liberals never understand is that the person who defines the game, wins the game and these moves right now are the game-defining moves," said Erica Payne, president of a donor-advisory group called the Agenda Project.

While it's impossible to precisely measure ongoing ad buys, anecdotal information, combined with interviews of operatives, media buyers and trackers, suggest that avowedly conservative groups and candidates are spending between five and 10 times more than their liberal counterparts on TV and radio advertising related to the debate over debt ceiling negotiations....

[Payne said,] "What I have found in 20 years in politics is wealthy liberals just don't play in economic issues. As soon as you start working on economic issues, the percentage of money that you have to spend on paid media goes down substantially."

And what about ordinary Americans? Are we in the streets chanting "TAX THE RICH"? No -- although I guess a few of us are tweeting that phrase. Well, it's a start. But it's not much.

And, really, the hashtag should be #FuckYouRepublicans.

(Herald via skippy.)

I don't know if President Obama and his team pay much attention to the Internet, but I suspect that even if they are aware of Paul Krugman's much-discussed blog post "President Pushover," they're probably also looking at the Human Events post "Barack the Mad," weighing the two of them together, and concluding that, yes, the president is exactly where he should be on the debt crisis.

I'm sure it wouldn't matter that Krugman's an economics Nobelist quoting a sharp-witted reportorial veteran and the Human Events post is from a Cheeto-eater who suggests that Cut, Cap and Balance is the only acceptable alternative to default and that Obama and the Democrats in Congress should have balanced the budget in 2009 and 2010, during the lowest point (at least so far) of an extremely severe recession. One "extreme" cancels the other out, so Obama's doing the right thing -- he's precisely in the middle!

Don't you think?

Sunday, July 24, 2011


From Fox Nation (emphasis added):

ARC Entertainment, the distributor of "The Undefeated," the film about Gov. Sarah Palin's rise from obscurity to national prominence, announced today that beginning on September 1st the film will be available to 75 million homes via Video on Demand and Pay-Per-View access through national and regional cable and satellite operators. The DVD will launch on October 4th and will be available at traditional and online retailers nationwide. ARC is estimating its initial unit shipment to be approximately 250,000 units. A "Special Edition" DVD will contain additional new content and will only be sold in Walmart stores. ARC will continue to expand the limited engagement theatrical release nationwide throughout August and September as demand across the country remains high....

Um, really -- "demand ... remains high"? Sorry, but no. According to Box Office Mojo, this weekend the Palin movie made 63.2% less than last weekend -- a mere $24,000 -- even though it's playing on 4 more screens than it was last weekend. In other words, it made a little more than $1700 per theater, which means that maybe 200 people at most per theater saw it all weekend.

Don't write that nomination acceptance speech just yet, Sarah.

Tom Friedman is writing about a third-party presidential effort again -- yes, there's another such effort under way, cooked up yet again by a bunch of good burghers in expensive suits who think this time they've found a way to get this done that's so Democracy 2.0 it just has to succeed.

I'll quote you a bit of Friedman's gush below, but first, let me say this: unlike most lefty bloggers, I don't think the idea of a third-party presidential candidacy is utterly laughable -- I think a lot of people in America would go for a self-styled centrist in 2012 perhaps more than any other year, just because I'm sure they'd love an alternative to endless rounds of "These people suck -- let's vote for the other guys." But sorry, there's no electable self-styled centrist on the horizon, and even if there is, electing a self-styled centrist as the head of the government isn't going to work any better in D.C. than it did in California in the Schwarzenegger years, because the real problem isn't the lack of self-styled centrism, it's the Non-Negotiable Demand Crazy Party and its refusal to bend on anything, ever, which will be true in the case of a president whose name is followed by an (I) just as much as it would be if the (I) were a (D) instead.

In any case, here's the cockamamie plan:

Here is how it will work, explains Elliot Ackerman, an Iraq war veteran with a Silver Star, who serves as the chief operating officer of Americans Elect, and whose father, Peter, a successful investor, has been a prime engine behind the group. First, anyone interested in becoming a delegate goes to the Americans Elect Web site and registers. As part of that process, you will be asked to fill in a questionnaire about your political priorities: education, foreign policy, the economy, etc. This enables Americans Elect to put you in contact with others who share your views so you can discuss them and organize together. Then you will be invited to draft a candidate or support one who has already been drafted and to contribute to the list of questions that anyone running on the Americans Elect platform will have to answer on the site....

Any presidential nominee must conform to all the Constitutional requirements, as well as be considered someone of similar stature to our previous presidents. That means no Lady Gaga allowed. Every candidate will have to post in words or video his or her answers to the platform questions produced by the Americans Elect delegates. In April 2012, the candidate pool will be reduced to six through three rounds of voting. The six, assuming they all want to run, will then have to name their running mates. The only rule is that a Democrat must run with a Republican or independent, and a Republican with a Democrat or independent....

I figure one of two things will happen: either the Ron Paul people will be the only ones willing to take this process seriously, and they'll find an independent or nominal Democrat who's also libertarian to run with Paul, then stuff the ballot box ... or the whole thing will be taken over, like so many online efforts to take America's political pulse, by ... marijuana-legalization advocates. So I guess the candidates will be Gary Johnson and ... um, Willie Nelson? Does Willie have more "stature" than Lady Gaga? (Judging by the number of "My President Is Willie Nelson" bumper stickers I've seen over the years, I'm guessing a lot of people would say yes.)

Or, of course, the whole thing could just die of indifference, like every other effort to administer the third-party magic bullet. I'd say that's because there hasn't been a single effort of this kind at the national level that involved any prominent person breaking a sweat -- all that ever happens is that important (and self-important) people get together, form a group, put out a press release, pat themselves on the back at a launch party, and then wait for the public to come to them. You wanna be president? This is America -- run. Get out there and wear out some shoe leather. Don't wait around for us to beg you to be president. That doesn't make you the way out of our morass -- that makes you Sarah Palin.


Yes, in theory I suppose this is a possible opportunity for Jon Huntsman -- but by the time this online plebiscite rolls around, Huntsman will have failed to attain even 5% of the vote in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Florida before dropping out of the race for the GOP nomination, and he'll be so covered in flop sweat that it will be impossible to see him as a future president -- not just in 2012, but for the rest of his life.