Friday, September 30, 2011


If every other president has also done this.

If every terrorism expert on the planet swears this is essential.

If every constitutional scholar in the country claims Jaime Madison his very own self would approve.

It is still wrong.

All of that is just all the more reason to fight to make it stop.

Robert Dreyfuss at The Nation:

The point is, no judicial case has been made against Awlaki, he hasn’t been formally accused in those events or others, the charges against him have never been proved in court. He was deemed guilty by the CIA and the US national security apparatus, and the sentence of death was carried out.


If that portrait is correct (and I obviously have no idea if it is) we are dealing with a hard core security state president. As hard core as Dick Cheney in most respects and right up there with Reagan and Nixon. Assassinating suspected terrorists who happen to be US citizens would hardly be seen as beyond the pale. Indeed, I'm guessing that if this is true there's a whole lot of black ops stuff that we don't know about.

Aside from finding of this deeply and inherently undemocratic, on a purely practical level, I have to wonder if the president has developed better judgment in finding the right advisors in this realm than he has in the economic sector. Since most of it is clandestine, I suppose we'll never know. At least not until the inevitable blow back sometime down the road.

As always, when the corporate/military owners of this country shit all over us again, there is only one place to find the appropriate passionate outrage: The Rude Pundit.

In Brief: The Murder of Anwar al-Awlaki Stinks:

Sometimes there's cases where the liberal rubber hits reality road and you gotta decide whether your beliefs are beliefs or just conveniences based on circumstances and filled with holes. See, if you believe in due process, if you believe in innocent until proven guilty, if you believe in trials, if you believe in the Constitution, then you have to believe that all of us have those rights. And that includes presumptive terrorists, like Anwar al-Awlaki, whose death by U.S. drone attack is being danced over by the supposed upholders of the very laws his murder violates. This time, no matter what, it doesn't pass the smell test. It doesn't pass the basic "What if Bush did it" test. It's bullshit.

Let's just put this in plain language: An American citizen was killed by the United States because of his speech. And, no, it wasn't Glenn Beck (although by the standards used here, it could have been).

1. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American because he was born in the United States. He was raised in the United States. He was educated in the United States. And MSNBC is one of the few places willing to call him an "American" and not just "U.S. born." He had dual citizenship in the U.S. and Yemen. He was as American as Rick Perry.

2. As far as "justifying" his murder by drone attack, he has never been charged with killing anyone or in plotting to kill anyone. His crime was "inspiring" people to criminal actions, or, you know, speaking. He was just a mouthpiece with a good internet connection, and even if you think that's awful and deserves punishment, he was one of us and deserves the same protections as you do (yeah, he does).

4. "Viewed as a spiritual mentor, Awlaki is neither a senior Islamic cleric nor the leader of AQAP, which is headed by Nasser al-Wuhayshi. Eloquent in English and Arabic, Awlaki encouraged attacks on the US and was seen as a leader who could draw in more al-Qaeda recruits from Western countries."

5. Even by that standard, Yemen sentenced him, in abstentia, to ten years in prison for the crime of "inciting" a murder. If someone strangles Michael Moore, would we blow the shit out of Glenn Beck's house?

6. Unless the world is a battlefield, he was not killed in any goddamn war. He was killed by a missile targeting him specifically in a place where no battle was occurring.

7. And if you believe that the president, any president, should have that power over Americans, then you have no right to call the president a "tyrant" on anything else.

8. And if you believe that the president, any president, should have that power over Americans, then you have no right to call yourself "liberal."

Republicans are back to wanting to slash funding for Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act, and heating assistance to the poor in the 2012 budget, and Democrats are responding with "no, you will not." Looks like the next shutdown fight is on over the first of the 2012 budget measures.

House Republicans are attaching controversial cuts and policy measures to legislation required to run the biggest domestic department in the federal government, and if they don't back off there will likely be, you guessed it, another government shutdown fight.

Already, Democrats in both chambers are saying a draft of the House's Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill is dead on arrival, because it contains deep cuts to heating assistance for the poor, requires the repeal of a major provision of the health care law that will help provide assistance for disabled people, halts implementation of the entire law until the Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of its individual insurance mandate, and slashes Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting. Just for starters.

Republicans have already reneged on the deal worked out during the debt ceiling battle, so nobody should be surprised by this stupidity. Republicans don't very concerned that the public will blame them for the multiple shutdown fights, either. All they have to do is drain the Democrats strength and keep them from being to accomplish anything in Congress and they win.  The next shutdown fight is now on, and it will be followed by a continuous number of them until the GOP is removed from a position of power.

The difference this time is that Republicans, in addition to going after NPR and Planned Parenthood, are also looking to zero out funding for Affordable Care Act provisions that have taken place already and the ones that are expected to take place in 2012.  The real issue is the clause to put all the enacted provisions into limbo until the Supreme Court can rule on the law next year.  That alone would take health insurance away from millions.  Republicans are playing with fire here, but they feel pretty good about their chances that once again they can take us hostage and extract concessions without paying a price for it.

In fact, Republicans are counting on Dems not to care in 2012.  So far the plan is working perfectly.  You have the power to make a difference.  Use it.

Unless you think permanent shutdown battles is any way to run a government.
Exercise Your Right to Petition

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Even if it's just for show, even if nothing ever gets done because of them, it's important to do this, if only for your signature to serve as witness to what people really want.

Michael Bersin at They Gave Us A Republic opened my eyes to how this petition thing is taking off. I clicked on the link, and spent the next hour immersed in the passionate demands of my fellow Americans for the changes they want.

Yes, it's hilarious and rewarding that the top signature-getter is for legalizing marijuana. But there are more than 100 petitions so far, and there are other gems - popular and not-so - to be found among them.

Top vote-getters, as of noon Thursday:

Legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

Abolish the TSA, and use its monstrous budget to fund more sophisticated, less intrusive counter-terrorism intelligence.

Forgive student loan debt (This one proves it's not old people e-signing these petitions)

Call an investigation into allegations of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in the case of Sholom Rubashkin. I have no idea who Sholom Rubashkin is, but he has a lot of friends.

Take the phrase "Under God" out of the pledge of allegiance.

Grow industrial hemp in the U.S. again.

My personal favorites:

Reverse the Citizens United decision by supported constitutional amendment. Yeah, yeah, I know, but it needs more support, people - sign it!

Support Sen. Sanders bill to fix social security by removing the cap on income. Needs your signatures, people!

Extend unemployment benefits past 99 weeks for ALL long-term unemployed Americans - for the 99ers and ANY "exhaustee". - needs signatures!

Investigate Bush administration for war crimes. Needs signatures!

Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline - this one needs signatures ASAP, especially since some fossil-fuel asshole has added a "Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline" and that one already has 250 signatures.

Grant clemency to Leonard Peltier. Needs signatures!

Make all federal election days national holidays to increase voter turnout. This one already has its minimum signature requirement, but it's important, so sign it anyway.

End the destructive, wasteful and counterproductive war on drugs. Also has lots of signatures, but this one can't have too many.

Repeal the Patriot Act. Another that has met its minimum but can't have too many.

Restore democracy by ending corporate personhood. Can't have too many signatures on this one.

There are some hilarious ones, too. Release secret information on extraterrestials is popular, and 372 people want a presidential commission to investigate the covert use of mind-control techniques on American citizens. First, it's been done. Second, nobody cared. Third, the government wants you to sign that petition.

There are several that are so specific and technical I think they refer to specific corporate loopholes, like:

"Antineoplastons, cancer drugs in FDA trials since 1995, results publicly audited by Congress, to gain final FDA-approval." Gonna need more information on that one.

Some are outside federal government purview - like abolishing abstinence-only education in schools (which are run by the states). Some are too vague, like Protect Children from Dangerous Air Pollution. Some have the right idea but the wrong method, like Make Bribing Politicians Illegal. (It already is illegal - the problem is the legal stuff that's not bribery)

There are some duplicates - at least 10 variations on legalize marijuana, and one "abolish" the Patriot Act and one "End" the Patriot Act, each with more than 5,000 signatures. These need to merge.

It's annoying that you have to click to add just 8 petitions at a time, And when you click on one to read about it and sign it, the back button takes you back to the first 8 petitions, not petitions 81-90, which is where you left it.

But it's absolutely fascinating to read, find out what your fellow Americans think is important, and add your voice to theirs.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The license plate for proud f***ing morons

Vanity plates are ridiculous but useful - they basically announce that the driver is a narcissistic braying ass and therefore likely to do something stupid like cut you off and cause a massive tie-up, so avoid them like the plague.

Now Kentucky, like Indiana, has a license plate that announces to the world the driver is a fucking moron who thinks an invisible sky wizard directs his every action, including, presumably, his steering and braking.

And more than 100,000 of these idiots have bought plates announcing their stupidity to the world, so we know who they are and can stay away from them.

From the Herald:

Kentuckians have bought more than 100,000 licens plates with the national motto, “In God We Trust,” since they were made available in Januray, the state Transportation Cabinet said Wednesday.

The sales represent 16.5 percent of total standard-issue license plate sales.

This is the first year that Kentucky motorists registering passenger vehicles have had a choice between two standard-issue license plates.

Both feature the “Unbridled Spirit” brand, but one plate also bears the motto, “In God We Trust.”

Both plates are available in county clerk offices for $21 each.

I'm still waiting for the tax-dollar-subsidized "Proud Atheist" license plate.

Herman Cain is going to need a bigger shovel for this hole he's in.

Look, I know Republicans have a pretty terrible opinion of African-American voters, but it's just another thing entirely to see African-American Republicans with terrible opinions of African-American voters.

The one African-American running for the GOP presidential nomination said Wednesday the black community was 'brainwashed' for traditionally siding with liberal politicians.

"African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded, not even considering a conservative point of view," Cain said on CNN's "The Situation Room" in an interview airing Wednesday between 5-7 p.m. ET. "I have received some of that same vitriol simply because I am running for the Republican nomination as a conservative. So it's just brainwashing and people not being open minded, pure and simple."

Ho boy.  Yeah, see...some free political campaign advice there, Herman.  When you're trying to convince a voting bloc to back you, it's best not to insult them as "brain-washed" and "not open minded".  In fact, I believe that's the chief complaint I hear from the Tea Party about how liberals supposedly feel about them.  Given this evidence, I'm going to say that particular complaint is projection, plain and simple.

Cain went on to explain that his interactions with African Americans led him to be optimistic about his own chances with the demographic. 
"This whole notion that all African-Americans are not going to vote for Obama is not necessarily true," Cain said.

He continued, "I believe a third [of African-Americans] would vote for me, based on my own anecdotal feedback. Not vote for me because I'm black but because of my policies."

So now African-American voters have to prove they're not racist bigots at the ballot box by voting for the party accusing them of being racist bigots at the ballot box.  In the immortal words of Dr. Peter Venkman, "That was your whole plan, huh?"  Wow.

Look, I understand the concept that calling the Tea Party names and insulting voters in 2010 didn't exactly make them want to vote for the Dems last year.  But it's kind of odd to see Herman Cain, a successful, intelligent African-American, to base his entire campaign off the notion that black voters are dumber than a boxcar-sized block of tofu, and the only possible reason they could vote for Democrats is that we're too stupid to know any better because we just haven't looked at how great Republican policies are for us.

Well, let's see, African-American unemployment was over 20% under Reagan, fell, shot up to 15% under Bush 41, dropped steadily under Clinton, shot back up again after Bush's financial crisis to 15% again, (after the banks collapsed the economy based on selling crappy subprime loans to minority homeowners.)  Yeah, Republican policies really, really were great for black people.  Let's have more of those.

Also, the Republicans making assumptions that we're all welfare-taking affirmative action sad sacks that are just parasites on the awesome white people's country.  Cause our ancestors originally came here for the free room and board and quaint cuisine.  Yeesh.

I ask if they think we're really this stupid, but the answer is so obvious it's depressing.
Quotation Creep

h/t Steve Benen:

In the town hall of 250 people … Romney addressed perceptions and concerns that he is “a flip flopper.”

“In the private sector,” he said, “if you don’t change your view when the facts change, well you’ll get fired for being stubborn and stupid. Winston Churchill said, ‘When the facts change I change too, Madam. What do you do?’”

Can't Romney get anything right? This line is popularly, if erroneously, attributed to John Maynard Keynes. But in any event why doesn't Romney quote a real American Hero (tm) and just go with "Facts are Stupid Things?"


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bill for Denying Coal Bust Finally Coming Due

Coal has always been a boom-bust industry, and has always dragged its dependent communities up and down with it. But for almost a century, the booms have been getting progressively smaller and shorter, the busts steeper and longer.

For decades, liberals have begged leaders in Kentucky and nationally to hedge our dangerous dependency on coal with secure jobs in safer and more reliable renewable energy. Long before climate change became a crisis, Big Coal was a clear and present danger to the economy.

Now the final bust is upon Appalachia, and coal-pandering states like Kentucky are about to free-fall without either economic or energy alternatives as a cushion.

From AP Enterprise:

Business owners like Howard, politicians and miners in the hilly coalfields of Central Appalachia blame the industry decline on tougher regulation from the Obama administration. They aren't as ready to talk about something a change in administrations cannot fix. The region's thick, easy-to-reach seams of coal are running out, forcing many operators to shift to cheaper and more destructive mining methods that draw heavier environmental regulation.

Coal here is getting harder and costlier to dig - and the region, which includes southern West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee, is headed for a huge collapse in coal production.

The U.S. Department of Energy projects that in a little more than three years, the amount of coal mined here will be just half of what it was in 2008. That's a significant loss of a signature Appalachian industry, and the jobs that come with it.

"The seams of coal that are left in this area are harder and harder to mine, and they're thinner and thinner and thinner," said Leonard Fleming, a retired Kentucky miner and union leader in Letcher County who worked in the industry for 32 years.


The Energy Department's statistical agency, the Energy Information Administration, says production is expected to drop to 112 million tons by 2015, less than half of the 234 million tons mined three years ago.

A collapse of that magnitude would have a devastating effect on the economies in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, which produce about 90 percent of Central Appalachian coal.

There were about 37,000 coal industry employees in Central Appalachia in 2008, accounting for anywhere from 1 to 40 percent of the labor force in individual counties, according to a report by Downstream Strategies, a consulting firm in Morgantown, W.Va., which issued a report on the region's coming decline. The report blames the decline on the region's depleted reserves, environmental regulations as well as competition from regions that have lower operating costs, like the western U.S.

"We are going to see declines in labor and jobs, and it's going to happen rapidly" in West Virginia, said Rory McIlmoil, who helped draft the report. McIlmoil said that state is expected to see a decline of over $100 million in the taxes coal operators pay to mine in the state.

If the loss projections are true, "that's going to have a drastic effect" in eastern Kentucky, said Brad Hall, president of the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in Pikeville.

"There's approximately 18,000 to 20,000 miners in Kentucky right now," Hall said. "If those production levels go down ... you can see what effect that would have."

Read the whole thing.

Eliminating environmental regulations will not add a single shovelful of coal to Appalachian production or save a single job.

Big Coal is done in the east, and they know it. But they're going to strip every last dime out of the hides of mountain communities before they leave.
Repealing the Social Safety Net

Half the country would like to take your health insurance coverage away from you.

WASHINGTON (AP) — States and a business group opposed to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday for a speedy ruling that puts an end to the law aimed at extending insurance coverage to more than 30 million people.

And for the record, this is a repeal, not replace, effort:

The high court should strike down the entire law, not just the main requirement that individuals purchase insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014, their appeals said.

Aside from over half the country's states, some business group is involved, too:

The filings, on behalf of 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business, also said the justices should act before the 2012 presidential election because of uncertainty over costs and requirements.

I realize our Chris Christie adoring press prefers its candidates to punch teacher union hippies rather than insure people, but a simple fact of the upcoming campaign is that the 111th Congress passed the ACA, which the president supported, and which was designed to get the country closer to something like universal health care coverage. And it was a pretty big fecking deal. I hope the president and congressional candidates embrace this accomplishment, rather than *apologize* for it.

*I plan to say a few things about Mitten Romney's "Obama Apology Tour" rhetoric in the near future.

Shocking, I know.  But Dick Morris is lying through his teeth when he says President Obama has lost support among African-Americans.

According to a Washington Post/ABC News survey, his favorability rating among African-Americans has dropped off a cliff, plunging from 83 percent five months ago to a mere 58 percent today — a drop of 25 points, a bit more than a point per week!

Nothing is more crucial to the president’s reelection strategy than a super-strong showing among black voters. In the election of 2008, he was able to increase African-American participation from 11 percent of the total vote in 2004 to 14 percent. He carried 98 percent of them. This swing accounted for fully half of his gain over the showing of John Kerry. Now his ability to repeat that performance is in doubt.

The bolded part is an outright lie.  I will repeat this and call Mr. Morris out:  he is a liar and is lying on purpose to make President Obama look bad.  Here is what the poll actually said:

New cracks have begun to show in President Obama’s support amongst African Americans, who have been his strongest supporters. Five months ago, 83 percent of African Americans held “strongly favorable” views of Obama, but in a new Washington Post-ABC news poll that number has dropped to 58 percent. That drop is similar to slipping support for Obama among all groups.

So yes, the number of African Americans holding strongly favorable opinions of the President right now are down.  This is not the same as these opinions going to unfavorable, and Dick Morris knows it.  He thinks you're too stupid to notice.   And what's President Obama's actual, total favorability rating among African Americans, counting both strongly favorable and favorable positions?

Obama is strongest in the West, and has maintained substantial favorability among Hispanics (61 percent) as well as among African-Americans (86 percent).

That's right, 86 percent.  A far cry from the 58 percent that Dick Morris claims, because Dick Morris is an outright liar.  He takes one fact and claims it's another, and he does it on purpose to suggest that the President has lost 25 percent of African Americans in just a few months.  He hasn't.

But Dick Morris knows the news orgs aren't going to fact check him, not even the Washington Post or ABC News.  It was their poll after all, and the first thing they talk about is the drop among those strongly favorable numbers.  Is that a problem?  Yes.  Does it mean Obama has "lost blacks" as Morris's column implies?  No.  He's lying.  Period.  End of story.  86 percent is not 58 percent.

But he'll go unchallenged by the people who should call him on it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's Banned Books Week - read something the tight asses hate

Batocchio, the Vagabond Scholar, has his excellent annual post on Banned Books Week:

This year, Banned Books Week runs from September 24th to October 1st. The main site is here. You'll find a map of censorship attempts, a handbook of materials (including the posters featured in this post), a list of local events by state, and social media links. This year, the big featured event is the Virtual Readout, in which participants make videos of themselves reading a passage from a favorite banned or challenged book, and then post them to this YouTube channel. (Orwell is well represented, and it's nice to see so many kids participating.)


As I wrote last year:

These are important distinctions. There's nothing wrong with criticizing a book on aesthetic or other grounds, but it's quite another thing to try to deny other people the right to read it. Parents can choose that their child can't check out a book from the library, but they don't get to decide that for every other child, and certainly not for every other adult. For school curriculums, it can get a bit trickier, but such things as age-appropriateness are typically discussed at length. Parents (the most common objectors) have a voice, and while the specific laws and guidelines vary by state, county or school system, parental opt-outs are commonly available.

Perhaps more importantly, when a book is taught in the curriculum, it is discussed in class with students. Parents can also discuss it with their kids. The same goes for books checked out of the library - parents can discuss it with their kids, or not let their kids check a book out. Art is capable of saying more than one thing at a time, and stories often contain ambiguity and room for interpretation. These factors make literal or authoritarian-minded people uncomfortable, but they're pretty unavoidable if you study literature and poetry. It's common for English curriculums in secondary education to try to foster critical thinking skills and a tolerance for ambiguity. Parents who think of education as indoctrination - or who favor indoctrination, only the type they want – tend not to understand or like that.

I'm not dismissive of parental anxieties, but as with questions brought up by students in class, normally they can be addressed. Racial slurs in Huck Finn, The Elephant Man and Invisible Man can and are discussed in the classroom, and that's usually a better, safer place to do so. The reality is that parental discomfort generally emerges when a parent doesn't want to discuss something with their kid. Age and maturity are legitimate issues, of course, but teenagers are often more mature or informed than their parents admit. It's that same maturity, not the lack of it, that can further unnerve an anxious parent. Navigating all this is an important part of growing up for students, and a crucial part of good parenting for the parents. Challenging a book is often just a proxy for deeper issues...

Read the whole thing.
It Gets Better: Ida B. Wells Edition

As might be apparent from the lack of posting at my own blog recently, I've become pretty tapped out by the political news of late.

One thing that usually encourages me is whatever book of American history I'm reading on the metro train at any given time. The current book in my bag is Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Well and The Campaign Against Lynching. I'm a little over 200 pages, or about a third of the way, through it. If you have any interest in the post-Reconstruction era, I heartily recommend it.

History of this sort tends to encourage me, while infuriating me at the same time. It encourages me because it reminds me of how totally effed up our country was, which makes the current situation at any time look incredibly mild by comparison.

But it's infuriating as well, that this kind of crap (mob violence, especially lynching directed at African Americans) went on and was largely ignored, excused or celebrated by varying communities of "proper society". And needless to say, it's not the kind of idealized American history most of us grew up hearing about and that is typically bandied about by the American Exceptionalists in our midst.

The book itself, however, encompasses much more than the tumult of post-Reconstruction America. In fact it doesn't confront the matter of lynching for almost 200 pages. But Ida's story is pretty interesting before all of that. She was born in 1862 and her parents died from an epidemic when she was still a teenager. Ida moved from Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee, where she was first a teacher, then a journalist, struggling to make ends meet while carving out a place for herself in the active African American community.

It is there when in 1892 three African Americans, all friends of Ida's, are lynched, that she takes to the pages of the Free Speech to denounce the lynchings in general, and the most often false justification for lynchings (the rape of white women by black men) in particular. The editorial gets Ida run out of town and her newspaper's facility destroyed by members of "polite society" in Memphis.

Surprisingly, given what I've previously read about post-Reconstruction Deep South, is that African Americans prior to the late 1880's were mostly able to vote and hold office in Memphis. Some had businesses and many owned property. Even when voting for African Americans is restricted elsewhere in the South, the response of some leading African Americans was to emphasize the need for "self improvement" before the priority of political rights.

But despite their success, or perhaps because of it, the racial climate takes a turn for the worse (although there had been signficant violence before this) when a vote on prohibition occurs. The pro-prohibition vote is defeated, and many "proper citizens" blamed the African American community, although Giddings documents that this was in fact not the case.

In any event, it provides the justification for a retrenchment in political rights for African Americans as Jim Crow begins asserting itself in the New South.

After the lynchings, and her forced exile from Memphis, Ida publishes The Truth About Lynching in a NY newspaper, which highlights Ida's evolution from proponent of "self-improvement" to the need for political and racial justice for African Americans.

I'll try to follow up the review later, depending how far I get in the book till when Steve returns.

Thanks again to Steve for the invitation to blog here again.
The Old Tunes Are the Best.

Here at SteveM's site for Dyspeptic and Disillusioned Dems I feel safe in commenting that although I'm a Yellow Dog and intend to Max out for my Party and my President this sort of thing continues to cause me to throw up a little:

From this morning's begging letter from the Obama Campaign:

Sometime next month, a supporter like you will become the millionth person to donate to this campaign.
This milestone is about more than a big number. Reaching it so early in the campaign will be a testament to our continued ability to do politics a different way.

Is there anyone in the real world who thinks that it is possible to "do politics in a different way?" The Obama's recent "pivot" (how I hate that word and the pundits who use it as though telling us the obvious was some kind of advanced mentalism) towards populism, and naming the enemy, and showmanship reveals that he is no more above politics as usual--that is, the politics of pleasing his voters and attacking his enemies--than any other politician. And more power to him for realizing that there isn't going to be a Third Way into the Second Term. But by the same token, aside from pleasing the rubes one more time, there isn't going to be any Third Way of Fundraising that leaves the big donors out in the cold. Money's money and until we can unilaterally tax the wealthy at 90 percent and apply that to our reelection campaigns through public financing the guy with the most money to donate, and the most business before our government, is still going to get his phone call answered a lot faster than I will.

I'm not accusing Obama of being a corporate stooge, or "Bush's Third Term" or anything like that. I love the President and his family personally and I think he has done as well as can be expected under the circumstances. But no one can believe this claptrap about a "new politics" unless they are delusional or deceptive. Have to hope that our President is the latter because the former is just sad.



Because the Winger mindset is that everything political must be motivated by the unending desire to win more power, the only possible explanation of the "horrifying" exchange between the President and a Google employee named Doug Edwards at yesterday's LinkedIn town hall in Silicon Valley where Edwards asked the President to raise his taxes is that the employee had to be an obvious plant in the audience.

Oh, liberals gushed when a rich audience member asked Obama that question today. It seems relevant to point out that this rich liberal is Doug Edwards from the Obama-friendly and regulation-friendly Google.

Edwards has given $300,000 to politicians since 2000 -- every single dime to Democrats. He specifically said he wanted his higher taxes to cover Pell Grants.

Oh, the abject horror of that!  The wingers are in full poutrage mode this morning, with FOX Nation calling Evans a plant and Malkin shrieking about President Obama possibly doing something Bush 43 did for eight years without a peep out of her.

The Right's position on taxes is that every successful businessperson in the country succeeded in spite of them, not because of services and programs funded by them.  The fact that Massachusetts Dem Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren dared to call out conservatives on this has clearly struck one hell of a nerve, and the President took up Warren's argument yesterday at the town hall event.  Greg Sargent:

Conservatives have offered a number of responses to this argument. Some have insisted that if wealthy people like Buffett and the former Google exec want to pay higher taxes, by God, they should go ahead and pay higher taxes. But this badly misses the point: These men are making an argument about the imperative that their whole income group do more to help solve our fiscal mess, not just about their own desire to chip in more themselves. 

And that's what the modern GOP can't comprehend, the notion that with great wealth in society and the power and freedom that wealth brings there comes responsibility to help maintain that society.  Since as I mentioned before the only possible motivation in the GOP worldview is self-aggrandizement and the relentless pursuit of more wealth, it's simply a foreign concept to many of them.

It all comes down to whether or not you believe society's wealthy should work to make the system capable of producing more like themselves, or to do everything they can to produce fewer so that wealth stays with those who have it, and by dint of possession are those most capable and worthy of having it by making sure it's not "malinvested" with the unwashed, unworthy masses.

Or, as the joke goes, American exceptionalism means a bunch of people who were born on third base in life believing they got there because they hit a triple.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Capital punishment for dummies. Okay, not for dummies. But how about for lying cops and prosecutors who get innocent people put to death?

In case you just returned from a long trip to the trans-Neptunian dwarf planet Eris and haven’t been checking the news from outer space, I wish to inform you that the state of Georgia executed a man last week who in all probability was innocent.

His name was Troy Davis. According to recent sworn statements, seven of the nine witnesses against him recanted. One of the nine who didn’t recount was accused by some of the witnesses of being the actual killer. There was no DNA evidence and some pretty shaky ballistic evidence.

Nevermind all that. Judicial review panels, including that deep spring of wisdom on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, reviewed the case and said, in effect, that they preferred to go with the recanted testimony. The judicial arguments declared, in effect, that the trial was fair even if most of the evidence was tainted.

See? The system works! It works unfairly, counter-productively, and to adverse affect. But let nobody say they don’t hear those wheels of justice grinding exceedingly small. Especially when they grind innocent people to death.

I’ve been generally against capital punishment, but I’m starting to rethink my position. Perhaps we ought to have capital punishment for any prosecutor or police officer who causes the death of an innocent person, or even a likely-innocent person, by tampering, coercing or unfairly presenting evidence – leading to conviction and execution of the accused when there is a reasonable doubt.

What if the accused only spends time in prison and is later discovered to be innocent? Imprison the S.O.B.s who railroaded the innocent until S.O.B.s have served as much time as the innocent man has.

Why do I think the number of trumped-up prosecutions and executions of innocent people would drop nearly to zero?


FOX News chief Roger Ailes has dropped all pretense of "fair and balanced" and instead feels the need to admit what the network was put on Earth to do:  push GOP talking points.

Ailes has a blunt rejoinder to those who say he runs a biased outfit: “Every other network has given all their shows to liberals. We are the balance.” Even MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough, a former GOP congressman, “tacks to the center,” Ailes complains, and “doesn’t act like a conservative.”

I'm sure that's a surprise to George Will, David Gregory, Candy Crowley and all the other "both sides do it" fetishists.  I wonder what their response to Ailes will be since everyone not on FOX is apparently a Dirty Effin' Hippie liberal right now.

Most likely they'll come to the conclusion that they need to double down on their Obama bashing, if only to show professional courtesy to Ailes' crew and take some of the workload off them, no doubt.  After all, "liberal" is just about the worst insult you can direct at any member of the Washington press corps, and Ailes has made his fortunes off making it that way.

Time to go long on fainting couch manufacturers and jewelry stores with plenty of pearls to be clutched.  Hell, the piece in question up there was written my Howard Kurtz, and includes this:

Ailes raises a Fox initiative that he cooked up: “Are our producers on board on this ‘Regulation Nation’ stuff? Are they ginned up and ready to go?” Ailes, who claims to be “hands off” in developing the series, later boasts that “no other network will cover that subject … I think regulations are totally out of control,” he adds, with bureaucrats hiring Ph.D.s to “sit in the basement and draw up regulations to try to ruin your life.” It is a message his troops cannot miss.

But he's fair and balanced, Kurtz will tell you.

Privately, Fox executives say the entire network took a hard right turn after Obama’s election, but, as the Tea Party’s popularity fades, is edging back toward the mainstream.

If that's true, then it's the mainstream that's moving, not FOX News.  Isn't that great?
Kentucky has an election this year and you don't

Hey, y'all, from Central Kentucky's Bluegrass region, home of beautiful horses and fast women, where Democrats vote republican and liberals drink heavily.

It's gubernatorial election season here, in the oddest of odd-numbered years. We elect the governor in an off year in apparent hope of attracting national political attention just as the presidential primaries are heating up. Yeah, I know.

But even if it were a good idea, it wouldn't work this year anyway because Governor Steve "Cowardly Waste of Oxygen" Beshear is 27-29 points ahead of David "Most Hated Man in Kentucky" Williams.

Beshear got there by pandering shamelessly to freakazoids ($40 million in tax breaks to the Flintstones Truther Park), Big Coal/racists (using a prime-time speech to scream imprecations at the president for letting the EPA regulate clean air and water), and teabaggers (cutting state employee pay through furloughs.)

So now that his I-can-out-repug-all-y'all campaign has put the election away, Beshear is back to pretending to be a Democratic candidate. He even publicized his meeting with the Chief commiemuslinkenyanterrist himself, Barack Hussein Obama. That would be the same tyrannical Barack Hussein Obama that Beshear has spent the last year running away from and pretending didn't exist.

Except, you know, when Kentucky needed millions of dollars for disaster relief, which we do several times a year.

And it wasn't really what anyone with a grain of sense would call a "meeting." More like shake-the-prez's-hand-in-a-rope-line then pretend you gave the most powerful man on the planet what-for.

David Shankula, with the assistance of Joe Sonka now at LEO, perfectly nails Steve Beshear's lying perfidy.

Yep, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is going to win re-election going away this November, but don't think that says anything good for Democratic candidates in Kentucky or nationwide.

Ol' Waste of Oxygen is a Democrat by courtesy, not reality.

But that doesn't mean the governor's race - and the other constitutional office races - are not knee-slappingly ludicrous.

Williams’ running mate/Lt. Gov. nominee is Richie Farmer, the incumbent Commissioner of Agriculture and the reason why it’s impossible for Kentuckians to argue that we’re not all mush-mouthed ignoramuses. To call Farmer dumb is to call a dwarf short. He’s an unbearable embarrassment. He’s also smack in the middle of what promises to be an extremely nasty divorce. Unfortunately for us, the hearing has been postponed until after the election. But that’s why Farmer, who started out the campaign much more prominently featured than Williams, has disappeared from sight.

The Commissioner of Agriculture race (yes, we elect the Commissioner of Agriculture here – waaaaaaaaay too much graft potential to leave this post in the hands of an appointee) is super-hilarious because while the incumbent Commissioner Farmer is a republican, the Democratic nominee for the post is also named … Farmer! There’s disagreement in the state as to whether republican Ritchie Farmer won the Commissioner’s race eight years ago because he played on UK’s winning basketball team or because his last name sounds like the job he wanted.

Democratic nominee Bob Farmer is hoping the latter group is right. His opponent is republican James Comer, who was predicted back in the spring to have an easy win, but between Bob’s name and the drag Williams/Ritchie are proving to be on the whole republican ticket, he may be done for.

Democratic incumbent Attorney General Jack Conway might just pull out a win, despite being the most reluctant candidate since General Sherman. Conway totally blew an easy Senate election against Tribble-Toupeed Insane Hobbit Rand Paul last year, for which state and national Democrats will never forgive him. He waited until the last minute to file for re-election, and did nothing remotely resembling campaigning for months.

If Conway wins, it’ll probably be because his republican opponent is a guy named – sit down and swallow any liquids – Todd P’Pool. That is not a typo. The man’s last name is pronounced Pee Pool. It’s French. Supposedly he’s backed by a bunch of money, but it hasn’t appeared. Donors probably can’t stop laughing long enough to sign the checks. The only votes he’ll get are from people who want to be able to spend the next four years saying Kentucky’s attorney general is named Pee Pool.

The Secretary of State’s race features the daughter of a former state Democratic Party chair who is hated by half the dems in Kentucky versus a guy who thinks it is unconstitutional for homeless people to vote, and tried to force the Secretary of State’s Office to stop allowing it. Yep, he’s the republican nominee, but not the one republicans thought would win the primary. Awkward.

We also elect the State Treasurer, who doesn’t have a whole lot to do but who hires a lot of people to do it. Democratic Incumbent Todd Hollenbach will probably win re-election, mostly because Hollenbachs have been winning elections in Kentucky since Daniel Boone was a pup.

State Auditor actually has an enormous amount of work to do, given the frequency of Bad Accounting among government entities in Kentucky, although no State Auditor in state history has done as much excellent work as the retiring incumbent Crit Luallen.

The smart move here would have been to make the Auditor an appointed position and give it to Crit for life, but that would have meant a constitutional convention at which the real owners of this state would insert a provision mandating that all Kentucky schoolchildren eat a cup of powdered coal on their cereal every morning.

The two people vying for the office, which is a traditional springboard to Treasurer or Secretary of State and then Governor, are Democratic nominee Adam Edelen and republican nominee John T. Kemper III. Neither has held public office before. Before resigning to run, Edelen was Beshear’s Chief of Staff. He is viewed by some as too handsome, too slick, and too entitled. Not that that ever stopped a Kentucky politician before. Kemper appears to be running on a platform of “I’m not a Democrat. Also, I take my wife and kids to church every week.”

It is possible that Democrats will sweep on November 8. Kentuckians like to send Democrats to Frankfort and republicans to Washington.

If I’ve piqued your interest in Kentucky politics, I highly recommend Barefoot and Progressive, Joe Sonka at LEO's Fat Lip blog, and Page One Kentucky. Or you can check out my blog at Blue in the Bluegrass.

--- Yellow Dog
There's a Thin Line Between Crazy and Conservative.*

This post by John Cole, with its link to the study reported in Der Spiegel , reminds me of the sick feeling I had reading Bob Altemeyer's book The Authoritarians. It was akin to the nausea that one had all through the Bush years--that combination of dizzying anger, disbelief, and finally, resigned comprehension. "Yes," you say to yourself "Of course. This explains it all."

In Altemeyer's book, which is so good I read it both online and downloaded from Lulu, he lays out in detail how the world functions when it is run by what he calls "High Scoring Right Wing Authoritarians" and when it is run by "Low Scoring Authoritarians." He used a personality test he developed to divide a large student population into two sets of people: those who had extreme Authoritarian tendencies and those who didn't. He then ran two large simulations of a kind of RISK/Model UN style game. Large groups of students were assigned the task of representing different countries, representing the elites of those countries, and negotiating with other countries over resources, politics, and environmental disasters. The Low Scoring Authoritarians--that is, liberals--worked calmly and courteously to solve their own country's problems and to solve world crises and averted several large famines and responded quickly to disasters. The High Scoring Authoritarians literally blew the game up--twice. They went so quickly from seeking individual and national advantage to destabilizing the entire world that they ended up at Nuclear War half an hour into the simulation and the simulation had to be stopped and reset. Then they did it again.

Altemeyer, if I recall correctly, explicitly labled Cheney and Bush both High Scoring Right Wing Authoritarians. He gave them the highest score, calling them "Double Highs" because they weren't followers, like many of their voters, but rather determined to act to increase their relative advantage. Read the Spiegel article and realize again that as a society we can choose to empower people like this, or fight like hell to prevent them from getting into positions of power. But if we leave it to them their agressive and competitive instincts will destroy us all.


ETA: Shorter Spiegel Question "What makes an individual stockbroker blow billions in a criminal deal?" Shorter Answer: "Because he can."

Testing. Testing. Testing.

(Looks around furtively. Executes a few dance steps. Makes faces in mirror. Sings very badly. Turns off light. Leaves temporarily.)


Sunday, September 25, 2011


I'm doing some traveling and I'm going to be away from the blog for a while -- until October 20. I've asked a wide range of folks to post here while I'm gone, and I have no idea how that's going to work out, so stop by -- things could get interesting. I'll miss you all, I'll miss writing about the sorry state of American political and cultural life ... but I'll be back before you know it. Meanwhile, stop by.

I spotted this in a New York Times article about the Romney-Perry duel (although, given Herman Cain's victory in the straw poll in Florida last night, this seems somewhat less like a two-candidate race now). Emphasis added below:

In the campaign headquarters for Mr. Perry on Congress Street in downtown Austin, aides have been watching videos of Mr. Romney in his 1994 Senate race in Massachusetts against Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Then, Mr. Romney supported abortion rights. In a debate, he also said: "I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush."

The material is widely known and was discussed four years ago during Mr. Romney's first presidential race. But the details were new to Mr. Perry, aides said....

Seriously? The guy is one of the leading Republican elected officials in America, and had that status four years ago as well, yet he's not well enough informed to know the details of Mitt Romney's flip-flops over the years? All sorts of grubby little bloggers (me, for instance), and blog readers, and generally well-informed citizens know this -- we know what Mitt Romney used to say and what he says now. But Rick Perry -- a Republican, an A-list politician, and a guy who probably had vague thoughts of higher office years before he seriously started running for president -- didn't even keep up with the news enough to know about this?

What is it about ignorance that's so damn appealing to GOP voters? If this guy had a Jan Brewer record on immigration and a Michele Bachmann opinion on HPV he'd be on a glide path to the nomination -- ignorance wouldn't be a hindrance, it would be a selling point. Reagan, W, Perry -- and now maybe Cain -- what it is about lack of knowledge that the base finds so appealing?

Ross Douthat's take on the Troy Davis case is really rather mind-boggling:

If capital punishment disappears in the United States, it won't be because voters and politicians no longer want to execute the guilty. It will be because they're afraid of executing the innocent.

This is a healthy fear for a society to have. But there's a danger here for advocates of criminal justice reform. After all, in a world without the death penalty, Davis probably wouldn't have been retried or exonerated. His appeals would still have been denied, he would have spent the rest of his life in prison, and far fewer people would have known or cared about his fate.

Instead, he received a level of legal assistance, media attention and activist support that few convicts can ever hope for.

So, really, even though he was executed and all, Troy Davis actually benefited from the fact that there's a death penalty.

Good grief. What is Douthat saying? Is he arguing that no one has ever called for the reexamination of evidence in a non-capital case? (That would be news to the Innocence Project, which focuses on both, as well as a wide range of other criminal justice issues.) Is he saying that no exoneration in a non-capital case ever makes the news? (The young men convicted in the Central Park jogger case weren't on Death Row, and news that they were wrongly convicted certainly got quite a bit of attention here in New York.)


It pains me just to process the nonsense Douthat is peddling here. The convoluted argument he's making is that a focus on the death penalty is immoral because it draws attention away from other abuses in the criminal justice system. But is that even correct? And why on earth can't we have a discussion of both?

Simply throwing up our hands and eliminating executions entirely ... could prove to be a form of moral evasion -- a way to console ourselves with the knowledge that no innocents are ever executed, even as more pervasive abuses go unchecked....

This point was made well last week by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, writing for The American Scene. In any penal system, he pointed out, but especially in our own -- which can be brutal, overcrowded, rife with rape and other forms of violence -- a lifelong prison sentence can prove more cruel and unusual than a speedy execution. And a society that supposedly values liberty as much or more than life itself hasn't necessarily become more civilized if it preserves its convicts' lives while consistently violating their rights and dignity.

Is there a quota on how many abuses in the criminal justice system we're allowed to discuss at once? A lot of people are trying to discuss both the death penalty and other abuses. A lot of people are open to a discussion of both the death penalty and other abuses. Douthat's problem is that he himself isn't open to a discussion of both, because he thinks the death penalty is moral, and so he's using that belief as an excuse to ignore calls for other reforms that he claims he would actually support. In other words: you liberals support doing A and B; I support doing B, but because I reject your call for A, it's your fault that we can't work together on B. And he's ascribing that line of reasoning to all of America.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


It's possible that the Department of Justice just saved Rick Perry's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination:

DOJ: Rick Perry's Texas Redistricting Plan Purposefully Discriminated Against Minorities

The Justice Department said late Friday that based on their preliminary investigation, a congressional redistricting map signed into law by Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry appears to have been "adopted, at least in part, for the purpose of diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice to Congress."

DOJ's Civil Rights Division is specifically contesting the changes made to Texas Districts 23 and 27, which they say would not provide Hispanic citizens with the ability to elect candidates of their choice.

... the federal agency came out stronger against the state House of Representatives plan, which they flat out said "violates Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in that it was adopted, at least in part, for the purpose of diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice to the Texas House of Representatives." ...

If he really wants to be the Republican nominee, he should milk this for all it's worth. He should denounce the continued existence of the Voting Rights Act and declare that, even though there was a certaindegree of voting unpleasantness a number of decades ago, the law is a tyrannical infringement on the right of a free people. He should make sure every Republican knows he signed off on this redistricting map. Hell, the Framers limited the franchise to white male property owners. Maybe they knew somethin' we don't! Yee-haw!

I believe Rick Perry want to get reelected again in increasingly Hispanic Texas if the runnin'-for-president thing doesn't work out, so I suspect he won't do what I'm suggesting. But it would help him a lot. It would erase the compassionate stench of his support for tuition assistance to undocumented students in his state. It would make him seem like the mean, racist sumbitch the base was hoping he would turn out to be.

(I don't really think he can openly embrace the racism of this. But he can piously swear that he and the legislature don't have a racist bone in their bodies, and that racism was the furthest thing from their minds when they agreed to this plan, and he can nod and wink to the base while angrily denouncing the Justice Department and its liberal, pro-Democrat agenda ... and boom, front-runner status reinstated.)

The GOP Establishment's worries about Rick Perry aren't leading everyone to rally around Mitt Romney -- naturally, they're also leading to a desire for yet another wingnut savior. (Um, isn't that what Perry was supposed to be?) So, predictably after the last debate, we're getting this at Newsmax:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is reconsidering his decision not to enter the 2012 presidential race — and he says he will let top Republican donors know within days about his plans, Newsmax has learned....

Newsmax has learned that the effort to draft Christie culminated in a hush-hush powwow held in the past week with Christie and several notable Republican billionaires....

Yeah, but Christie has meetings like this with zillionaires who are crushing on him -- here's a post I wrote about one such meeting in July.

Oh, but there's also Bill Kristol saying, "I know Chris Christie is thinking about it," as reported by Politico. (Well, Christie's thinking about being courted. I don't know if he's really thinking about running.)


Think Christie will be welcomed with hosannas as the true-blue 100% conservative the rubes are waiting for? Well, start with his best-known deviations from conservative correctness:

It was startling enough when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called out Islamophobes who were throwing fits over his appointment of a Muslim judge:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appointed Muslim-American judge Sohail Mohammed to the state bench this week and has no patience for his detractors....

When asked about fears that Mohammed could bring Sharia Law into his practice, Christie (who is known for his combative interchanges with reporters) snapped back:

"Sharia Law has nothing to do with this at all, it's crazy!"
Now Christie is saying that he thinks global climate change is real and probably man-made:
"I can’t claim to fully understand all of this," he said. "Certainly not after just a few months of study. But when you have over 90 percent of the world's scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role it's time to defer to the experts."

Beyond that, as Hot Air notes, Christie wants a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, he's supported the assault weapons ban in a 1995 campaign for State Assembly and said this in an interview with Sean Hannity as he was running for governor:

... on certain gun control issues, looking at it from a law enforcement perspective, seeing how many police officers were killed -- we have an illegal gun problem in New Jersey.

...Listen, at the end of the day, what I support are common sense laws that will allow people to protect themselves. But I also am very concerned about the safety of our police officers on the streets. Very concerned. And I want to make sure that we don't have an abundance of guns out there.

Unacceptable! He says "abundance of guns" like it's a bad thing!

Oh, and there's this ad he put out when he was running, on renewable energy. Watch just the beginning and tell me how he'll live this down with the crazy base:

There's no doubt that renewable energy is the future here in New Jersey and there is really no better time than for us the begin the discussion of not only how it will lead us to energy independence, but also how it will help create more good paying, middle class jobs for New Jerseyans. It's a change that President Obama stands firmly behind. I couldn't agree more.

Forget it. They'll make mincemeat of him. And this is the fun of the 2012 GOP race (despite the dread that comes from the realization that one of these frauds and nutjobs could really become president): everyone who can win is at risk of losing because of purity tests, and the testing is likely to become more rigorous and severe.

Bizarrely, Mitt Romney seems to understand this best. So he may win as a result.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Maybe Perry...

... was just trying to pay tribute to the Republican Party's #1 hero:

After those awkward Reagan moments took place, in his first debate with Walter Mondale, the Gipper went back and regrouped. Roger Ailes told him to substitute happy talk for facts, and America concluded that Reagan won the debate with a now-famous quip:

"I want you to understand that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign," Reagan winked. "I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience."

That was the last Reagan-Mondale debate. Reagan went on to win 49 states that year.

Seriously, Perry may stage just such a comeback precisely because there's such alarm about his lousy performance last night -- assuming he's got it in him to bounce back. Flops like that do tend to concentrate the mind.

(Perry video via Hit & Run. Apologies for the video title -- it's not mine.)

It's no surprise that a High WASP wannabe like David Brooks would look at the issue of whether college athletes should be paid and side with "the amateur ideal," concluding that what worked for Princetonians in 1914 is appropriate in 2011, even for poor, indifferently educated inner-city kids who desperately hope to parlay athletic talent into professional sports careers, against very long odds.

At Princeton, Hobey Baker was the glittering star of college sports, dominating in both football and hockey. He was also famous for his sportsmanship. He had only one penalty called on him his entire college hockey career. After each game, he went to the opposing locker room to thank his opponents for a good match. He was acutely modest when people spoke of his triumphs.

(Because sportsmanship is categorically impossible if you take payment for playing. That's why professional golfers are always beating each other over the head with clubs while on the links.)

Oh, and of course, liberals hate amateur sports because we have no moral compass:

Today's left-leaning historians generally excoriate the amateur ideal for its snobbery and the hypocrisy it engendered. The movie "Chariots of Fire" popularized their critique. In the film, the upholders of the amateur ideal are snobbish, anti-Semitic reactionaries. The heroes are unabashedly commercial and practical. Modern and free-thinking, they pay people so they can win.

Thus did the left-wing critique welcome the corporate domination of sport.

(Yes, because these are our only two choices: limit sports to well-heeled toffs or turn the whole business into the war of each against all. There's no possibility of regulating sports so there's a middle ground.)

Brooks actually acknowledges that there are abuses in modern college sports:

Quarterback Cam Newton was investigated for violating the amateur rules. Meanwhile, there were at least 15 corporate logos on the uniform he wore every week. A.J. Green, a wide receiver, was punished for selling his jersey. While he was serving his suspension, the school continued selling replicas of his No. 8 jersey for $39.95 and up.

... one of the reasons schools fight to keep the student-athlete tag on their players is to keep from having to pay workman's compensation if they get hurt. Kent Waldrep, a running back, was paralyzed while playing for Texas Christian. He sued to get some compensation for his sacrifice for the university. T.C.U. fought him in court and won.

And so, while it's clear that he's coming down on the side of the Playing Fields of Eton and the Old School Tie, you expect him to leaven his defense of amateurism by recommending something to restrain the greed of universities and broadcasters.

But no.

Think of this as if it's any other business. The players are labor; the universities are management; the broadcaster's are management's business partners. Brooks sees greed and commercialism poisoning all three groups. Guess which of these groups needs to refrain from being paid?

How exactly would you pay [the athletes]? Would the stars get millions while the rest get hardly nothing? Would you pay the wrestling team, or any of the female athletes? Only 7 percent of Division I athletic programs make money, according to the N.C.A.A.; where would the salary dollars come from?

(I don't know, David -- where do the million-dollar coaches' salaries come from? And isn't your usual answer in these cases to let the market decide? Aren't you just backing away from this because you simply don't want any athlete to be paid anything?)

... A competitive society requires a set of social institutions that restrain naked self-interest and shortsighted greed.

What you mean is "A competitive society requires a set of social institutions that restrain some people's naked self-interest and shortsighted greed -- or maybe just their desire to make a buck for doing their job." Playing big-time college sports is a job, David, whether you like it or not.

The amateur ideal, though faded and worn, still imposes some restraints. It forces athletes, seduced by Michael Jordan fantasies, to at least think of themselves partially as students.

Sure -- when the schools aren't pushes them extremely hard to play, and pushing them equally hard to downplay academics.

It forces coaches, an obsessively competitive group, to pay homage to academic pursuits.

Stop, you're killing me.

I guess this is the same sort of "shared sacrifice" people like Brooks propose after financial fat cats destroy the economy -- and I guess it's also the same kind of even distribution of blame that we get after such a crisis. Football-factory schools, big broadcasters, and poor 19-year-olds are equally driven by greed, just as "we" are all responsible for the repacking of liar loans on Wall Street as Triple-A securities. And everyone should pay, with "everyone" meaning "everyone who had no power within the system."

You know what Rick Santorum said last night regarding the fate of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in a Santorum administration:

That policy would be reinstituted. And as far as people who are in -- in -- I would not throw them out, because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration, but we would move forward in -- in conformity with what was happening in the past, which was, sex is not an issue. It is -- it should not be an issue. Leave it alone, keep it -- keep it to yourself, whether you're a heterosexual or a homosexual.

Atrios noted the hypocrisy. ("If only the big gay gayeee gayee gays would stop talking about all the hot sexy sexytime all the damn sexytime everything would be ok. Oh, and have you met my wife and 4 children?") But let me just remind you of how Rick Santorum and his wife keep this personal stuff to themselves:

Father First, Senator Second

In his Senate office, on a shelf next to an autographed baseball, Sen. Rick Santorum keeps a framed photo of his son Gabriel Michael, the fourth of his seven children. Named for two archangels, Gabriel Michael was born prematurely, at 20 weeks, on Oct. 11, 1996, and lived two hours outside the womb.

Upon their son's death, Rick and Karen Santorum opted not to bring his body to a funeral home. Instead, they bundled him in a blanket and drove him to Karen's parents' home in Pittsburgh. There, they spent several hours kissing and cuddling Gabriel with his three siblings, ages 6, 4 and 1 1/2. They took photos, sang lullabies in his ear and held a private Mass.

"That's my little guy," Santorum says, pointing to the photo of Gabriel, in which his tiny physique is framed by his father's hand. The senator often speaks of his late son in the present tense. It is a rare instance in which he talks softly.

He and Karen brought Gabriel's body home so their children could "absorb and understand that they had a brother," Santorum says. "We wanted them to see that he was real," not an abstraction, he says. Not a "fetus," either, as Rick and Karen were appalled to see him described -- "a 20-week-old fetus" -- on a hospital form. They changed the form to read "20-week-old baby."

Karen Santorum, a former nurse, wrote letters to her son during and after her pregnancy. She compiled them into a book, "Letters to Gabriel," a collection of prayers, Bible passages and a chronicle of the prenatal complications that led to Gabriel's premature delivery....

That was in The Washington Post in 2005. That's how Santorum keeps this sort of thing to himself -- by welcome a Post reporter into his office and showing him a picture of the now-dead fetus he and his wife heterosexually created. And talking about the book his wife wrote on the same subject.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum really went after Rick Perry on immigration last night -- and Perry tried to wriggle out of the tight spot, ironically, with the sort of line George W. Bush used to deploy under the tutelage of a guy who's now Perry's great enemy, Karl Rove. Perry said, of his support for a policy to provide a tuition break to undocumented students, "If you say that we should not educate children who come into our state for no other reason than that they've been brought their through no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart." Bush loved to talk about what was in his heart; it worked for him with the base. It might have worked for Perry, but the policy he's defending is utterly repulsive to GOP voters.

In a focus group segment on Fox News after the debate, Frank Luntz said that Perry's immigration talk elicited "the most negative reaction that I've seen any Republican candidate have among primary voters," based on approve-disapprove meters his focus group members used as they watched the debate. We have to take his word for it because the clip of the discussion with meter readouts superimposed had technical difficulties, but I trust that a lot of the focus groupers agree with one of their number, a woman who said that giving undocumented young people a tuition break has the effect of "actually putting people's lives at risk." (No, really, she said that -- wingnuts go online and spread every story they ever read about illegal immigrants committing crimes, then come to the conclusion that anecdotes are data and therefore all illegal immigrants are dangerous criminals.)

The focus groupers thought Romney won the debate, and when Luntz asked people who'd switched their allegiance precisely how they'd switched, two went from Perry to Romney, two from Perry to Gingrich, one from Romney to Cain, and one from Santorum to Romney. So, in this unscientific poll, Perry lost 4, Cain got 1, Romney netted 2 -- and Gingrich, amazingly, got 2.(Maybe Bill Clinton isn't completely crazy to think Newt could emerge victorious from the scrum?)

I guess what doesn't ring true for me is the sense that these people are going to stick with Romney -- he's gotten much better than you'd have ever thought he could be at stoking their rage and thus making them feel good (then again, so did George H.W. Bush in 1988), but can he sustain that? Or will he (in the wingers' eyes) go wobbly again, and leave them longing for Chris Christie, or Reagan's corpse? (I still don't think Palin's going to swoop in and take this, though, if Perry is drowning, her entry into the race could be an anvil.)

I guess I'll be surprised if Perry doesn't figure out a way to up his game -- unless he has such a sense of himself as a guy who can't lose that he doesn't know how to knuckle down and improve his campaign skills.


Oddly, Michelle Malkin thinks the immigration segment was the second-worst moment of the night -- the worst, she says, was Perry's failure to attack Romney on flip-flopping with sufficient eloquence. Go to the Malkin link if you care to see what she's talking about -- but jeez, Michelle -- attacking one of your front-runners for not doing a better job of insulting your other front-runner? Do you guys want to lose to Obama, just so you can say that you were too pure for this world?


AND: The booing of a gay soldier who asked a question via video, and Rick Santorum's unsympathetic response to that soldier (to put it mildly), does lead me to wonder why Santorum isn't doing better with Republican voters -- he hates what they hate, he's on the right side of every litmus test issue, and he's a vigorous and energetic debater. Two possible explanations: everyone knows he's a loser who got shellacked in his last election, and maybe even Repubhlicans find him obnoxiously self-regarding. He does seem to answer every question with an air of "You fools have no idea how great I am and how unworthy you are of me." GOP mean-spiritedness knows no limits, but it's supposed to come with at least a wafer-thin veneer of apparent niceness, but Santorum can't pull even that off.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Hey, Mitt Romney (and Karl Rove and the rest of the GOP Establishment): You want to get the GOP base to reject Rick Perry? This is how you do it:

Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) has pointed to job growth in Texas during the current economic downturn as one of his main accomplishments. But analysis of Current Population Survey (CPS) data collected by the Census Bureau show that immigrants (legal and illegal) have been the primary beneficiaries of this growth since 2007, not native-born workers....

Among the findings:

* Of jobs created in Texas since 2007, 81 percent were taken by newly arrived immigrant workers (legal and illegal)....

That's from the Center for Immigration Studies, a "low-immigration" advocacy group. Is this my preferred line of attack against Rick Perry? No -- but all the stuff I don't like about Perry is precisely what endears him to the GOP base. I think this is where you want to go if you want to hurt him with the base.

But the Stop Perry movement in the GOP Establishment is being led by Karl Rove, who, of course, tried to win Hispanic voters over to the GOP by means of an immigration reform effort in the Bush years. Bush and Rove had their heads handed to them by the base when they tried this. Old habits die hard, however.

You know what's not working? Romney's attacks on Perry on the subject of Social Security. A Quinnipiac poll has Perry leading in Florida, despite his "Ponzi" talk:

Voters in Florida, with the nation's highest concentration of senior citizens, say 58 -- 33 percent that it is "unfair" to describe Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme," as Perry has done. But among Republicans, the only ones allowed to vote in the state's crucial primary, 52 percent say that is a fair way to describe the nation's retirement system.

And that's the second Florida poll to show Perry in the lead.

You know what's not going to work? What GOP Establishmentarian Jennifer Rubin is talking about here:

Perry has to get the ethics issue off the deck

My colleague Marc Thiessen doesn’t like the source of much of the data on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s system of patronage. He claims that Texans for Public Justice is a "secretive, left-wing, Soros-funded organization,"and their reports should be ignored.

There are three problems with this. A great deal of the data has been reported elsewhere. The Post and Texas papers, as well as other publications, have confirmed the system of pay-to-play that keeps Perry’s big donors very happy.... In Texas Perry's activities may have passed muster, but now he's got to justify this conduct to a national electorate.

Second, Perry's handlers have only said that he appoints people on the basis of merit. That's it. Voters will have to judge, given the huge number of appointees and the correlation with big donations, if this is believable.

And finally, arguing that the same group investigated President George W. Bush is a non sequitor. A I noted in the report, TPJ says that both Govs. Ann Richards and George W. Bush engaged in some of this, but Perry’s is on a grander scale. Moreover, Perry is running as a Tea Party candidate. He can't simply get by by saying "this is how it’s done in Texas."

That last part is a real hoot, because Rubin actually believes the tea party BS about hating cronyism, when, in fact, the tea party hates only Democratic cronyism (and cronyism on the part of "RINOs," meaning Republicans who don't vote in 100% lockstep on every litmus-test issue).

Rubin adds,

... A savvy Republican operative (who previously was enthusiastic about Perry and is now undecided) said it best to me this afternoon. "If he gets better and explains all this he'll be the nominee. And if not, he won’t be."Yup.

Nope. He doesn't have to explain this. Democrats and independents are so cynical at this point that we expect all pols to be corrupt. Republican voters naively believe there are right-wing "Constitution-loving" Jimmy Stewarts in tricorn hats who are pure as the driven snow, and everyone else is a tool of Satan. But if you please these rube voters on their litmus tests, they'll assume you're pure. So Perry can just shrug this off.

(Rubin and Quinnipiac via Jonathan Chait.)