Saturday, March 31, 2012


Rich Lowry at National Review Online, in a post titled "The Murders That Don't Count":

Delric Miller IV died in a hail of bullets a month ago. When someone fired 37 AK-47 rounds into his Detroit home at 4:30 a.m., he was mortally wounded while dozing on the couch. He was nine months old. No one made the multicolored teething ring he got for Christmas or his toy hammer into a national symbol of random violence.

Last year, Charinez Jefferson, 17, was shot and killed on a Chicago street. "She begged the shooter not to shoot her because she was pregnant," a pastor explained. The alleged assailant, Timothy Jones, 18, shot her in the head, chest and back after seeing her walking with a rival gang member.
New York Times columnist Charles Blow did not write a column about Jefferson's killing as a symbol of the perils of being a young black woman in America.

Last June, a stray bullet from a confrontation on a Brighton Beach, N.Y., boardwalk killed 16-year-old Tysha Jones as she sat on a bench. A 19-year-old man, out for revenge after an earlier scuffle on the boardwalk, was charged in the shooting. Tysha's heartbroken mother was not featured on all the national TV shows.

In January, 12-year-old Kade'jah Davis was shot and killed when, allegedly, 19-year-old Joshua Brown showed up at her Detroit house to demand the return of a cellphone from Davis’ mother. When Brown didn't get the phone, he fired shots through the front door. No one held high-profile street protests to denounce gunplay over such trifles....

An allegedly racially motivated killing, though, gins up the outrage machine in a way the routine murder of young blacks doesn't....

In America, the lives of young black people are cheap, unless they happen to fit the right agenda.

You know what's one huge difference is between the Zimmerman killing and every killing Lowry lists?

It's simple: In every case Lowry lists, everyone in America acknowledges that a crime has been committed. No one questions the notion that these killers should be arrested and tried. No one thinks the law protects the killers -- no one thinks the law ought to.

There's more beyond this. Liberals would like to see more economic opportunity for America's have-nots, and a reduction in easy access to guns. Liberals believe that personal responsibility plays a huge part, but that societal conditions do also.

But changing those conditions doesn't fit the right's agenda.

BooMan ponders Romney's running-mate choices and sees an impediment to the selection of the guy Charlie Pierce calls a zombie-eyed granny-starver (and not the fact that he is a zombie-eyed granny-starver):

I recently saw some video footage of Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on stage together and I thought they looked good together. Their statures, physiques, and overall appearances seemed to complement each other. Visually, at least, they looked like a good ticket.... But, when it comes to selecting a running mate, optics are not the only consideration. I don't know the law in Wisconsin, but it's often against the law to appear on the ballot for two separate federal offices. It's possible that Paul Ryan would have to give up his House seat in order to run for vice-president. Should the ticket lose, that would be a big sacrifice for Ryan and the movement he is leading.

Would that stop Ryan? Assuming the Romney/Ryan ticket loses, he might be just as happy to get a big book deal, to be a Fox News commentator, and to prep for the presidential run everyone expects him to make without the inconvenience of a day job. (Please note that the three guys who've won GOP primaries this year are all among the long-term unemployed.) I'm sure the plutocracy will be more than happy to stake him to some lucrative corporate-board sinecures while he's ramping up his 2016 campaign.

I hope I'm right about this, because I'd love to see Ryan on the ticket. I think the cult of Paul Ryan, and the right's hopes that he'll appear on a national ticket, are based on a bizarre level of tunnel vision among Republicans (they seem to have no idea how much ordinary Americans hate his ideas) and an inexplicable group crush on the part of Beltway journalists (they seem to have no idea that, in addition to espousing repellent ideas, he has zero charisma, and would thus give us a kind of Romney/Romney ticket; journalists may swoon over his faux-earnest wonkiness, but the rest of us don't).

Still, I think he won't take the risk. But will Chris Chriatie? BooMan again:

Chris Christie is a great attack dog, but he's on the record as saying he's not prepared to be president. Also, speaking as a Jersey Boy myself I can tell you firsthand that our abrasive bombastic style goes over like a lead balloon in the Midwest. Finally, Chris Christie is morbidly obese. His health cannot be very good.

Well, a lot of Americans are morbidly obese, so that might play in his favor. And obviously he endures the rigors of his job now. And he may have said up to this point that he's unprepared to be president, but he's headed to Israel tomorrow. Think that has nothing to do with the presidential race?

BooMan says Romney and Ryan "looked good together" in the footage he watched -- but to me the two of them look like, well, a tight-shot version of that Romney money photo from his Bain Capital days.

To me, the Romney/Christie combination looks archetypal: it's the rich guy and his muscle. The muscle makes the rich guy seem powerful, in a way that Romney never does on his own -- See? I can ask this goon to break your thumbs and he'll do it.

Would that be appealing to voters? I think it would be appealing to some. I agree with BooMan that it would be offputting to others. It's a toss-up -- but I think it would help Romney with his base even more than picking a #2 who's more ideologically pure, because the base just wants to be angry all the time.

On balance, I don't think it would work out -- but I think Romney might go for it. Romney's an angry guy, even though he's inhibited. I think Christie is what he wants to be. I think he has ethnic-guy envy.

Seen at the Drudge Report as of about 10:00 A.M.:

Marauding Negroes and international Jew bankers! Run for your lives! Anyone got a more plausible way to interpret the juxtaposition of that last story with the others?

This, of course, is under this main story:

And in the middle column, is Drudge expecting his readers to see the following and feel frightened -- or heartened?

They're anti-Islamic! Enemy of my enemy and all that, right?


The alarmist material at Drudge isn't all about ethnicity, of course, at least not directly. Yesterday there was this:

Surely this must be the evil Obama administration's preparation for martial law in its second term -- right? And indeed, the linked story tells us that a defense contractor called ATK has contracted with the Department of Homeland Security to deliver up to 450 million bullets in the next five years.

How this differs from ATK's contract to provide ammo to DHS in 2003, or in 2007, when we didn't have a scary fascist Negro in the White House, I'm not sure. But Drudge isn't going to mention those previous contracts, because Goal #1 is to keep the readers angry, paranoid, and stupid. This is what

The stocks of insurance companies have gone way up this week, and Matthew O'Brien of The Atlantic knows precisely what the Street is anticipating:

One reasonable conclusion is that Wall Street's betting that Obamacare will either be struck down in its entirety or upheld in its entirety. Both would be very, very good news for healthcare companies. The death of the individual mandate, alone, would be bad news for Big Insurance....

The worst possible outcome for healthcare insurers is if the Court only invalidates the individual mandate, kicking out the second leg of the tripod. Insurers won't be able to ditch the sick, but the healthy will ditch them. Adverse selection will quite viciously do its work on their bottom lines....

So, according to O'Brien, losing just the individual mandate would be the absolute worst thing for the insurance companies, and a complete overturning of the law would be excellent news for them.

Which is interesting, because Reed Abelson and Katie Thomas of The New York Times say the exact opposite:

"Many of us did not get the bill we wanted, but I think having to start over is worse than having to fix this," said Robert Laszewski, a health care industry consultant and former insurance executive who opposed the bill.

... Many insurers would have difficulty changing course. "The risk of repeal and starting from zero frightens them infinitely more" than having to comply with the law as written, said Michael A. Turpin, a former insurance executive who is now a senior executive at USI Insurance Services, a broker.

... many insurers say the health care market is deeply flawed. "The system doesn't work," said Mark T. Bertolini, the chief executive of Aetna. "Something has to be done."

The law, "while imperfect in a number of ways, was a step forward," Mr. Bertolini said....

But if I were you, I wouldn't lose too much sleep worrying about the possibility that the Supremes will overturn the whole law when Big Insurance would prefer that only part of it be overturned, or vice versa. I'm sure Big Insurance, and the rest of Big Business, have already communicated their wish list to the movement-conservative bloc on the Court. I find the Times theory more persuasive -- it's one more reason I think the law will be left seriously wounded but not killed. Besides, as I've said, you still want to keep right-wing base voters motivated for November, so the Supremes will want to leave something in place for them to hate.

Friday, March 30, 2012


Let me add something to a point Paul Krugman makes today about the individual mandate, which we learned to our surprise this week was the most unconstitutional thing ever:

Indeed, conservatives used to like the idea of required purchases as an alternative to taxes, which is why the idea for the mandate originally came not from liberals but from the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. (By the way, another pet conservative project -- private accounts to replace Social Security -- relies on, yes, mandatory contributions from individuals.)

Please, insider pundits, pols, and legal observers, do me a favor:

When the Federalist Society types on the Supreme Court are addressing the question of the constitutionality of forcing people to purchase private Social Security accounts, sometime after that's enacted into law in the Romney or Christie or Rubio administration, and they do a 180, overturn the precedent they're establishing right now, and decide that, yes, it is constitutional in this case ... please, try not to be shocked again.

I'm really getting tired of this lament:

Before this week, the well-being of tens of millions of Americans was at stake in the lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act.

Now something else is at stake, too: The legitimacy of the Supreme Court....

Virtually everybody agrees that a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act would be five to four -- a bare majority. And it would be a bare partisan majority, with the five Republican appointees overruling the four Democratic appointees. The decision would appear nakedly partisan and utterly devoid of principle. Appearances would not be deceiving....

The words are Jonathan Cohn's, and they appear under the heading "If the Supreme Court Strikes Down the Affordable Care Act, the Conservative Justices Will Do Lasting Damage to the Institution's Legitimacy."

Which would matter a lot, I suppose, if we lived in a society where the key players in hated institutions actually suffered as a result of the hate. But we don't.

Try to think of a despised American institution. Did I hear you say "Congress"? Excellent choice: according to the Real Clear Politics averages, Congress's job approval rating is 12.4% and its disapproval rating is 80.8%. It wasn't much better around Election Day in 2010 -- fewer than 20% of Americans approved of Congress's job performance.

So how did that translate at the polls? Well, 85% of House members and 84% of Senate members were reelected in 2010. That's down from previous years, but it's still sky-high.

Gallup's "Confidence in Institutions" survey shows dreadful numbers for banks, and for big business in general. Notice those guys suffering? The Wall Streeters whine as if they're suffering, but mostly what they say when they whine is, in effect, "We want all the money and respect!"

That's pretty much what we may hear from the Supremes, or at least from the chief justice. Cohn mentions John Roberts's "frequently professed concern for the court's respectability." But he seems to be oblivious to the fact that he's lost that already. (As I've noted before, a recent Bloomberg poll showed that 75% of Americans expect the Court to issue a health care ruling based on political concerns.) The actual rulings show no signs of circumspection -- Roberts apparently wants your respect in spite of those rulings.

Until we Americans start actually finding ways to hurt powerful people we despise, it's going to continue to be good to be the hated king.

Ezra Klein is one of those Beltway insiders who think that if the Supreme Court overturns the Obama health care law, single payer could well be what replaces it. That prospect doesn't fill him with joy, because he thinks it will happen slowly if it does happen, and a lot of people will remain uninsured before we get to the Promised Land. But he thinks it's quite reasonable to expect that we'll get to the Promised Land someday:

If the individual mandate is overturned, it will essentially wipe out the only plausible path to a sustainable private health-care system and single payer will be the eventual result. So: Yippee?

Not in my view. I think that path would look something like this: With health-care reform either repealed or overturned, both Democrats and Republicans shy away from proposing any big changes to the health-care system for the next decade or so. But with continued increases in the cost of health insurance and a steady erosion in employer-based coverage, Democrats begin dipping their toes in the water with a strategy based around incremental expansions of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program. They move these policies through budget reconciliation, where they can be passed with 51 votes in the Senate, and, over time, this leads to more and more Americans being covered through public insurance. Eventually, we end up with something close to a single-payer system, as a majority of Americans -- and particularly a majority of Americans who have significant health risks -- are covered by the government.

He loses me early. Why does he assume that Republicans will "shy away from proposing any big changes to the health-care system for the next decade or so"? When have Republicans shied away from seizing any issue and trying to drive the public's sense of what's "reasonable" on that issue as far to the right as possible?

And I guess Ezra's not defining the right's health care wish list -- which is focused primary on "tort reform" and buying insurance across state lines, as well as turning Medicare into a Ryan-esque nightmare -- as a set of "big changes." I think these changes would be huge. (Read Steve Benen, in particular, on why the purchase-across-state-lines provision would be awful.) And I think Republicans will eagerly try to sell this package -- or possibly just ram it down our throats -- as soon as they seize the White House and both houses of Congress.

If they don't get control of the government for a while, they'll just keep telling us about the wonderfulness of their "reforms" and assure us that they add up to FREEDOM!!!1! They'll also say that our proposals -- yes, even the small, incremental ones Ezra talks about -- add up to full-throttle socialism and fascism and dictatorship and tyranny.

If Obamacare is overturned and Democrats manage to poke their heads out of their mole hole in a few years and take baby steps toward expanding Medicare or S-CHIP, Republicans will declare even that to be a "government takeover" of health care -- and if Democrats respond with their usual wonktastic, bloodless talking points, Republicans will win the day again. OK, maybe Democrats will learn how to message the next time around, but their learning curve has been slow to nonexistent over the past few decades, so I'm not holding my breath.

You'll say I'm forgetting one thing -- public anger. Won't the public demand a solution?

Well, I'm 53 years old, and the last time I remember Heartland America sustaining a sense of outrage on an economic issue until progressive change happened was ... um, frankly, I can't remember that ever happening in my lifetime.

Heartland Americans have lost so much in the past few decades -- unions, defined-benefit pensions, good salaries -- and they've never fought back. The only fight they've mounted is against progressivism. The right has them permanently angry at us.

Don't like the gloom in this post? Then go out and find a way to get heartlanders angry at the right people for a change. Then maybe the arc of health care will bend toward justice.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


In response to Greg Sargent's post "How Did Legal Observers and Obamacare Backers Get It So Wrong?," Digby writes: current belief is that the administration's overriding problem is exactly what it seems to be --- they constantly overestimate their own abilities and underestimate the opposition's.

... it's about believing your own hype instead of believing your eyes.

That's not it. The main problem is that everyone in the Beltway believes that extremism of the kind practiced on the Supreme Court this week, or as practiced on the streets by teabaggers in the first two years of the Obama presidency and in the House ever since, is a marginal phenomenon -- our friends and acquaintances can't possibly be that extremist. No matter how much wingnuttery we get from important actors at the heart of the Republican Party and the GOP establishment, it's always believed that reason will prevail and that extremism will be pushed to the fringes. Even now, people believe that the 2012 elections will "settle" our current conflicts one way or another.

They'll "settle" those conflicts only if Republicans win everything, because in that case they're just going to burn everything down. If Democrats retain the White House and emerge with control of one or both houses of Congress, the Republicans will just keep opening cans of gasoline and lighting matches, while Democrats struggle to put out the flames. Dems will probably keep the place from burning down, but only barely. Even then, nothing will be allowed to be improved.

And yet Beltway insiders will still say that the insanity is coming just from a few crazies at the fringe. They'll change their story and tell us that everything will surely settle down after 2014 or 2016. That won't be true either, unless Republicans sideline the Democrats and light the bonfires.

Let's see -- Zimmerman says Trayvon Martin punched him in the nose, knocked him to the ground, then pounded his head repeatedly on ground. The police report claims he was given first aid before arriving at the police station, but he told the paramedics he didn't need to go to the hospital despite his injuries, which his lawyer says included a broken nose. And now police video shows no apparent injuries on Zimmerman's face or the back of his head just after the incident.

So there's only one paramedic who could have possibly treated Zimmerman that night:


Here's the latest non-scoop, from Dan Riehl:

Barack Obama has remained silent as the usual suspects have been busy stirring up hate aimed at George Zimmerman, the Florida Hispanic involved in the shooting death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. Now the anger has taken a new twist, breaking out on Twitter with an account named "Kill Zimmerman." It features an image of Zimmerman in crosshairs.

First of all, what the hell does Obama have to do with any of this? Now it's his job to police all the Twitter traffic in America? Or maybe it's his job to police all the Twitter traffic that's sympathetic to African-Americans? Sort of the way every prominent black person is supposed to be responsible for anything stupid or wrong any black person does?

And what's Riehl's ultimate point? That if one idiot starts a Twitter feed urging the killing of someone, that someone is automatically innocent, and everyone who's criticized that person is automatically discredited via guilt by association?

Let's take that to its logical conclusion. If I go to Twitter and search @killobama, I get one tweet (click to enlarge):

And if I click on the @KillObama link in that tweet, I get this (click to enlarge):

"Sorry, that user is suspended," it says.

So someone once started a @KillObama account. Therefore, by Breitbart/Riehl logic, Obama is the best president ever, and everyone who's ever criticized him is discredited, and is a murderer-wannabe by association.

P.S.: Please, Twitter, take the @KillZimmerman account down as well. I'd like him tried and convicted in a court of law. No vigilantism in either direction, thank you.

I'm reading the New York Times article about the likely political fallout from the Supreme Court's health care decision, and, well, this doesn't make any sense to me:

If the Supreme Court strikes down the health care law, Republicans hope to make it a prominent element of their effort to deny him a second term.

"It would be a tremendous validation," Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, a Republican, said in an interview. "A victory in court would say that a trend toward big government solutions out of Washington has a limit and the biggest accomplishment of the Obama administration is unconstitutional."

Really? I think that would take the issue completely off the table for the GOP as a base motivator -- which would be tremendously harmful to the chances of Mitt Romney and all the down-ballot Republicans. They party has got base voters worked up to the point that they're not only furious about the health care law, they're convinced that it's the heart and soul of everything that's evil about the Obama administration. If crazy-base voters see total victory in the Supreme Court, aren't they going to let their guard down a bit? Won't they be less motivated to vote GOP, thus risking not only an Obama reelection but gains for Democrats in the Senate and House?

Of course, I don't think the GOP's overlords need to worry about that, because three days of oral arguments seem to have teed this up about as well as possible for the GOP -- my hunch is that there'll be the obvious four votes to overturn the whole law, plus a fifth (Kennedy) to get rid of the individual mandate but leave part of the law standing. And I think that's what we'll get: the law left gutted and bleeding, accompanied by the clear message -- in the heat of a presidential campaign -- that the movement-conservative bloc on the Court could have overturned the law if it'd had ONE MORE VOTE WINK WINK WINK....

Now, needless to say, Romney is a less-than-ideal guy to take this handoff from the Supremes. I don't think this will be enough to get him elected, because people don't like him. But if you're a Koch brother, and Romney is looking as if he'll have negative coattails as it is, do you really want to depress turnout even more?

I could be reading this wrong -- maybe the overlords want total victory whenever it appears to be within their grasp, regardless of the long-term consequences. But I think they may recognize that a gutted law is as effectively dead as an overturned law -- except it's undead, which means the Obama administration and congressional Democrats will hope to salvage what they can from it.

And the effort to do that will keep the wingnut voter base angry indefinitely, which would make this a base motivator for years to come. Health care reform could be like abortion or gun control: the right gets more out of not achieving total victory than it would out of winning altogether. There's always a new way to restrict abortion or broaden access to guns. The enemy always needs to be defeated. So I think the Supremes will just completely neuter the law, after which GOP pols will declare that it's still an existential threat to freedom!

John Cole flagged this New York Times story under the headline "Here's an Idea -- Stop Financing the Elections of Nihilists and Crazy People":

Big business groups like the Chamber of Commerce spent millions of dollars in 2010 to elect Republican candidates running for the House. The return on investment has not always met expectations.

Even though money for major road and bridge projects is set to run out this weekend, House Republican leaders have struggled all week to round up the votes from recalcitrant conservatives simply to extend it for 90 or even 60 days. A longer-term transportation bill that contractors and the chamber say is vital to the recovery of the construction industry appears hopelessly stalled over costs.

At the same time, House conservatives are pressing to allow the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which has financed business exports since the Depression, to run out of lending authority within weeks. The bank faces the very real possibility of shutting its doors completely by the end of May, when its legal authorization expires.

And a host of routine business tax breaks -- from wind energy subsidies to research and development tax credits -- cannot be passed because of Republican insistence that they be paid for with spending cuts....

This is what they're doing when they control one half of one branch of government. This is what they're doing to the business community, which we assumed was part of their coalition.

Now, you can argue that they're just trying to harm the economy until they can elect one of their own as president. But they don't think Mitt Romney is one of their own, do they? Do you really want to be the rent money on the notion that they're going to moderate if they win the Senate and get a president of their own party, even if (or perhaps especially if) they think he's a squish? They'd rather burn the whole country down than compromise now -- do you think they're going to be the ones doing the deferring if Romney is president? Romney, a guy whose core principles are always "Whatever you guys want"?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


A lot of liberals -- see, for instance, Josh Marshall -- think the appropriate response to a Supreme Court rejection of the individual mandate would be for progressives to pursue single-payer health care. Jonathan Bernstein and Jamelle Bouie think that's silly, because, in their view, if this Court can find a heretofore unexpected rationale for invalidating the Obama health care law, the Court will find a way to invalidate single payer as well.

But I don't think we're ever going to find out whether that's true, at least not for decades. Why? This is why:

In U.S., Fear of Big Government at Near-Record Level

Americans' concerns about the threat of big government continue to dwarf those about big business and big labor, and by an even larger margin now than in March 2009. The 64% of Americans who say big government will be the biggest threat to the country is just one percentage point shy of the record high, while the 26% who say big business is down from the 32% recorded during the recession....

(Click chart to enlarge.)

Notice the trend. We always fear "big government" the most.

We're Americans. We love the government programs we've grown accustomed to -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and so on -- but we hate government. And we have no idea that that makes no sense.

The corpocracy and the right-wiong noise machine are hell-bent on keeping us this way (and would love to get us to reject even the government programs we like). Meanwhile, Democratic politicians won't make an affirmative case for government, and often don't work very hard (especially at the state and local level) to make sure government programs work well.

And I wouldn't count on future support for large government programs like single payer, either. Think about it: Who's the one politician now generating excitement among Americans under thirty? Ron Paul.

We have to make average Americans believe government is the solution in this case, and we have to fight vested interests to the death. In theory, it could be done. In practice, I don't believe it's possible anytime soon. If you disagree, start working on changing ordinary Americans' minds about government now. It's the necessary first step.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

Warch how Chuck Todd and his First Read crew at NBC News distribute blame for Supreme Court partisanship (emphasis added):

Yesterday's oral arguments at the Supreme Court raised the distinct possibility that the individual mandate -- and perhaps the entire health-care law -- could be decided by another controversial 5-4 decision. Such an outcome, especially after other 5-4 decisions like Bush vs. Gore and Citizens United, would have two potential consequences. One, it would feed the perception that the U.S. Supreme Court is as partisan as Congress and increasing parts of the media; in other words, these nine justices (either trained at liberal law schools or members of the conservative Federalist Society) are essentially political actors wearing black robes....

Oh, I see -- despite the fact that this is a Court on which nothing significant and left-leaning can possibly survive by more than a 5-4 vote, any non-right-leaning vote inevitably appears to be the result of a liberal plot. Never mind the fact that the conventional wisdom before yesterday was that the law was obviously constitutional, based on precedent that people on the right as well as the left had acknowledged. Never mind the fact that Reagan solicitor general Charles Fried and veteran Republican hack Laurence Silberman have endorsed the health care law, Silberman from the bench -- a vote to uphold will seem to be an act of naked partisanship, according to Todd and his crew, because these conspirators were all "trained at liberal law schools." (Love the sinister, McCarthyite sound of that word "trained," by the way.)

The groundwork is being laid, incidentally, for the discrediting of any decision that emerges from a Supreme Court with an Obama second-term appointee who tips the Court's ideological balance. It won't matter that we've been living for decades with a Supreme Court that has had most of its judges appointed by Republican presidents; if, in a few years, that's no longer the case, any close decisions won't really deserve to count, as far as people like Todd are concerned.

Oh, and then there's this:

And two and most importantly, a 5-4 decision would satisfy no one. If the court strikes down the mandate and the health-care law by that narrow margin, liberals and Democrats would blame it on the conservative justices. If the mandate and law are upheld by a 5-4 decision, conservatives would point their fingers at the liberals and the unpredictable "mushy" swing justice, Anthony Kennedy. That's the problem with a split decision: The losers would feel like they lost on a political technicality, not because there was a legal consensus.

You know what? A 5-4 decision the right's way will absolutely satisfy right-wingers -- they were pretty well satisfied when their presidential candidate lost the popular vote by half a million and won Florida through skulduggery, intimidation, voter caging, ballot ineptitude, and, ultimately, a partisan Supreme Court decision, so why would they be dissatisfied with this? And, really, I can't blame them -- I'd take a 5-4 call Obama's way. I'm envious of the right, however -- the right's media will proclaim that a 5-4 ruling is a historic victory over tyranny, while, if there's a 5-4 ruling our way, the "liberal media" will respond with the likes of ... this.

A lot of people who covered yesterday's Supreme Court oral arguments came away with the impression that Solicitor General Donald Verrilli did a godawful job of defending the Obama health care law -- but is it possible that he has a good excuse for that?

Adam Serwer:

... [Verrilli's] defense of Obamacare on Tuesday may go down as one of the most spectacular flameouts in the history of the court....

"What is left?" Justice Antonin Scalia demanded of Verrilli, "if the government can do this, what can it not do?" ...

The months leading up to the arguments made it clear that the government would face this obvious question. The law's defenders knew that they had to find a simple way of answering it so that its argument didn't leave the federal government with unlimited power.... Verrilli was unable to do so concisely, leaving the Democratic appointees on the court to throw him life lines, all of which a flailing Verrilli failed to grasp....

Yes, but didn't every plugged-in legal and political insider tell us that this part of the case would be a slam-dunk for the administration?

In the orgy of panel discussions, interviews and feature articles previewing this week's arguments, law professors, Supreme Court litigators and journalists confidently predicted that the justices would uphold the individual mandate as a logical extension of the federal government's well-established ability to regulate the health insurance market.

Harvard law professor Charles Fried, a solicitor general himself in the Reagan era, famously promised a couple of years ago to eat his Kangaroo skin hat if the Supreme Court struck down the law.

All the insiders tell us that the Supreme Court, whatever its members' ideology, is an institution that tries to be fair, that respects precedent, and that is highly aware of maintaining its reputation for impartiality. For the insiders, all that added up to a Court that simply had to uphold the mandate.

Meanwhile, we non-insiders aren't fooled -- a recent Bloomberg poll found that 75% of Americans believe the Court's health care decision will be based on politics, not the legal merits.

But if Verrilli shared the insider view, why should we be surprised that he wasn't prepared for total war? Didn't all the smart people say this would be a piece of cake?

You've read about the allegations that Ron Paul has entered into a non-aggression pact with Mitt Romney, in return for which Romney will pick Paul's son as his running mate.

Well, if that happens, at least one attack ad writes itself:

The top five oil companies in the United States have already made $5.8 billion in windfall profits from spiking gasoline prices this year. Yesterday, Senate Republicans agreed to debate a bill that repeals $2 billion in annual tax breaks for these super-wealthy oil giants....

[Senator Rand] Paul argued Big Oil deserves even more favors from government,
because they're doing such a good job extracting wealth from American families:
Instead of punishing them, you should want to encourage them. I would think you would want to say to the oil companies, "What obstacles are there to you making more money?" ...

Yes, there's a clip:

Yeah, in the clip he goes into the usual right-wing boilerplate about how we shouldn't punish success and how much tax the rich pay and on and on. But your attack ad is right here.

I know, I know: he'll be the running mate. Running mates don't affect the outcomes of presidential elections, except maybe in 2008 in the case of Sarah Palin.

But as I've been saying for months -- long before "Etch A Sketch" -- Mitt Romney has to pick a running mate who'll reassure his base. And the only kind of person who can reassure his base is someone who's undoubtedly said something inflammatory -- something that would horrify swing voters even as it delights Fox fans and Dittoheads. So I think we're going to get somebody on Romney's ticket whose past is a gold mine of clips like this.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


An inaccurate story from Mediaite:

A group of North Miami Beach Senior High School students participating in a walk-out demonstration in support of Trayvon Martin were caught ransacking a local Walgreens store.

Er, no, they weren't -- not if by "caught" you mean "caught on tape."

Surveillance footage shows the teens (somewhere between 80 and 100, according to police) running through the store and ransacking shelves, causing an estimated $150 in damages.

No, the surveillance footage doesn't show the teens ransacking shelves. It shows them running. And running. And running some more. Where's the ransacking?

Oh, and you've got maybe 100 kids and they did $150 worth of damage? If so, that's not right, obviously -- but shouldn't this many kids be able to do a hell of a lot more damage than that?

This story says,

According to North Miami Beach Police, between 400 to 500 students from North Miami Beach Senior High School took part in a student protest Friday, March 23rd when as many as 100 of those students swarmed the Walgreens around 10:40 a.m.

Surveillance video released by police Tuesday showed the students flooding through the front doors of the business.

The school Assistant Principal is also seen in the video trying to stop the students from continuing to flood into the store and telling the ones inside to get out.

Some of the students ransacked shelving displays and broke some merchandise, valued at approximately $150, according to North Miami Beach police.

Police and Walgreens have yet to determine if any store items may have been stolen.

So, let's sum up. Most of the 400 to 500 kids were peaceful. Some kids ran into the store and then ran out when an assistant principal urged them to do so -- and the shots of kids running out come about thirty seconds after the shots of kids running in, according the video's clock. Most of the kids are seen not vandalizing anything, even though it's within their power to engage in some serious mayhem. Some merchandise and displays were damaged, which could have been the work of a couple of the kids rather than the vast majority who are seen not vandalizing anything.

And yet this shows up at Drudge, naturally, as an example of why Scary Black Youths are inordinately more scary than, y'know, hyper young people of any race who, in the manner of young people, sometimes display a diminished sense of personal responsibility.


If the whole health care law is struck down, what we'll get, as soon as Republicans completely take over the federal government, is the complete GOP wish list: tort "reform," loser pays, insurance across state lines (meaning one state in the union will be to health insurance what South Dakota is to credit cards, with the most lax regulation, and the majority of health insurance will eventually come from there)....

None of it will solve any of the problems, but the frog will be boiled slowly, so it will a gradual adjustment for Americans to the notion that health care is a problem that, gosh, simply can't be solved, kind of the way gun violence simply can't be solved (even though it actually could be if we had reasonable gun laws like every other civilized country on the planet). We'll just get used to less. Widespread health insurance will simply become a relic, like widespread defined-benefit pensions. If you had insurance for a while, you're grandkids will think you had it soft.

UPDATE: Steve Benen lays this out in more detail.

We all know that high-profile civil and criminal cases are routinely tried in the media long before they ever reach a courtroom; legal teams concoct media strategies to influence potential jurors long before they're called to a voir dire. It's happening on behalf of George Zimmerman now, of course.

I think a lot of people naively assumed before now that the Supreme Court was above all that. You get a sense of that while reading the lead paragraphs of the New York Times story on Randy Barnett, the libertarian lawyer who's championed the notion that the Obama health care law is unconstitutional:

When Congress passed legislation requiring nearly all Americans to obtain health insurance, Randy E. Barnett, a passionate libertarian who teaches law at Georgetown, argued that the bill was unconstitutional. Many of his colleagues, on both the left and the right, dismissed the idea as ridiculous -- and still do.

But over the past two years, through his prolific writings, speaking engagements and television appearances, Professor Barnett has helped drive the question of the health care law's constitutionality from the fringes of academia into the mainstream of American legal debate and right onto the agenda of the United States Supreme Court.

"He's gotten an amazing amount of attention for an argument that he created out of whole cloth," said one of his many critics, Douglas Laycock, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School. "Under existing case law this is a very easy case; this is obviously constitutional. I think he's going to lose eight to one."

As we know now, he's not going to lose eight to one. In fact, he's going to win:

CNN's legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin reports that the court's conservative wing appeared skeptical of the Obama administration's arguments in favor of the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act.

"This was a train wreck for the Obama administration. This law looks like it's going to be struck down," Toobin said on CNN. "All of the predictions including mine that the justices would not have a problem with this law were wrong."


...Justice Anthony Kennedy's comment Tuesday morning during the arguments at the heart of the health-care case have to leave the government -- and the Obama administration -- a little worried.

... Justice Kennedy, largely viewed as the swing vote in the case. said Tuesday the government has a "very heavy burden of justification" to show where the Constitution authorizes the Congress to change the relation of individuals to the government.

... Solicitor General Donald Verrilli was defending the law before the justices, arguing that Congress was regulating the health-care market in which people were already participating, rather than breaking new ground by forcing them to buy a product.

Justice Kennedy pushed Verrilli on this front, asking whether the same reasoning could apply to food. The justice asked what limits, if any, there would be to government powers under his argument.

Sounds like an argument ripped straight from the challengers' playbook....

I'd say the 24/7 Overton-window movers of the right swayed Kennedy the way George Zimmerman's lawyers are trying to sway any jurors who might hear his case, only in a (perhaps) more high-class way -- by pressing the notion that (as the Times characterizes Randy Barnett's argument) the health care law is "unprecedented, uncabined (lawyerly jargon for unlimited), unnecessary and dangerous" relentlessly, and in every forum possible, until the longtime assumption of constitutionality for laws of this kind is now called into question. You know the old saying that "the Supreme Court follows the election returns"? Well, the Court isn't merely going to follow the 2010 election returns -- it's going to follow the cable news and AM radio ratings. Anthony Kennedy is responding to years of zone-flooding by anti-PPACA monomaniacs, and by the entire wave of pseudo-libertarians who've arisen in recent years to question every aspect of modern government devised since the days of Wilson or Teddy Roosevelt. This is how it is now. Anyone who thought the Supreme Court was above all this, well, you just lost your innocence, and it's about time.

A new New York Times poll reveals that opposition to the war in Afghanistan has increased from 53% to 69%. But, of course, an old pal is here to respond to those numbers with a resounding LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU:

Michael E. O'Hanlon, a military expert at the Brookings Institution who is close to American commanders in Afghanistan, said that the opinion polls reflected a lack of awareness of the current policy, which calls for slowly turning over portions of the country to Afghan security forces, like the southern provinces, where American troops have tamped down the violence.

"I honestly believe if more people understood that there is a strategy and intended sequence of events with an end in sight, they would be tolerant," Mr. O’Hanlon said. "The overall image of this war is of U.S. troops mired in quicksand and getting blown up and arbitrarily waiting until 2014 to come home. Of course you'd be against it."

No, Michael -- nobody except you and the rest of the Bush-era "Clap louder for all wars!" crowd cares anymore what the intent is, what the plan is. We see what the results are. Even if you didn't think there was much of a Bush strategy in Afghanistan after Tora, it's clear that there's been an Obama strategy and an "intended sequence of events" for three years, and it hasn't un-quagmired the quagmire. But why am I wasting my time arguing? You'll always be wrong, and you'll always be one of the media's go-to quote sources. We'll never be rid of you and your zombie talking points.

There's a lot of chortling on Twitter right now about the latest Thurston Howell story about Mitt Romney:

At Mitt Romney’s proposed California beach house, the cars will have their own separate elevator. may not help Romney -- whose wealth has caused him trouble connecting with average folks -- to be seen building a split-level, four-vehicle garage that comes with a "car lift" to transport automobiles between floors, according to 2008 schematic plans for the renovation obtained by POLITICO that are on file with the city of San Diego....

My guess is that the next sound you hear will be a Romney spokesperson pointing out that the candidate's wife has multiple sclerosis, and arguing that this is strictly an accommodation for her. At which point it won't matter that you have to be pretty damn rich to be able to accommodate a family member's MS this way (most people with a family member who has MS don't have this option), and it won't matter that (as the linked story also explains) the planned house will have a basement larger than the entire house it's meant to replace (a detail that was previously reported), and it won't matter that (as the story also notes) the Romneys have hired their own lobbyist to get the house approved by local authorities (which doesn't strike me as odd, but I live in the same media market as the Hamptons, so I read about stinking-rich people doing things like this all the time). All that will matter is that evil liberals are picking on a sick woman. Are there no depths to which the hateful left won't sink?

I'll give Oliver Willis the last word:

remember all those opportunities the right passed up to make fun of john kerry's wealth? no? me neither.

I really hope the health care law is upheld (though I don't expect that to happen), and yet I'm sure that wouldn't be the end of the fight by any means. I think, once they're back in power, right-wingers really would try to do what Louie Gohmert predicts:

Liberals should be concerned about what a future "redneck president" could impose on them if the Supreme Court upholds the healthcare reform law's mandate that everyone have insurance, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said Monday.

"Let's say you want to follow this administration's idea of greatest good for the greatest number of people," Gohmert said. "It ought to scare liberals to come run and join conservatives, because what it means is when this president's out of the White House and you get a conservative in there, if this president has the authority under ObamaCare ... to trample on religious rights, then some redneck president's got the right to say, 'you know what, there's some practices that go on in your house that cost people too much money and healthcare, so we're going to have the right to rule over those as well.' "

Now, when Gohmert talks about "practices that go on in your house that cost people too much money and healthcare" I don't think he's referring to, say, eating too much greasy takeout food and washing it down with half a dozen Bud tallboys and/or crystal meth and never getting more exercise than the amount you get walking from the TV chair to the driver's seat of the pickup truck. I know exactly what he means -- he means gay sex, because thoroughly discredited right-wing pseudo-science, which is believed by a large percentage of the right, including right-wingers who claim to be sophisticated, tells us that gay men and lesbians have shockingly brief lifespans and die sooner than straight people from all sorts of causes, including accidents. Oh, and I'm sure he's also referring to abortion, which all right-wingers "know" causes breast cancer, even though that assertion has been thoroughly debunked. And I almost forgot the supposed link between having an abortion and depression, even though that's also been debunked.

Right-wingers never admit defeat, so if they somehow manage to lose at the Supreme Court on the mandate issue, they absolutely will take advantage of it the next time they control the entire federal government. And if you think they won't try to use pseudo-science in legislation, obviously you haven't been paying attention to the climate change debate in America.

Now, it's not at all clear that they can actually succeed in these efforts. But they'll certainly be more than happy to waste everyone's time trying, because payback is their idea of good governance.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

Monday, March 26, 2012


In response to Rick Santorum's "Obamaville" ad...

... Paul Waldman writes:

Holy crap! Was that a shot of Barack Obama forcing a little girl to bite the head off her beloved guinea pig? Maybe not, but almost. Apparently, it will take Obama only two years to turn America into some combination of "The Day After" and "Saw."

My question is, do the people on the Santorum campaign actually believe this will be persuasive to anyone? Or are they so blinded by their own hatred of Obama that they can't see how silly this is? Or do they just think that they have to ramp up the rhetoric to keep the Republican base from resignedly signing on with Mitt Romney?

No, I don't think they believe it's silly -- I'm certain a lot of them think it's an accurate prophecy. I'd lay even odds that Rick Santorum himself believes it.

Jonathan Bernstein adds:

... that, to me, fully sums up the Republican case against Barack Obama, or at least one weird variety of it. Obama is about to do all sorts of horrible things: bankrupt the nation, induce hyperinflation, confiscate guns, bring back the Fairness Doctrine. About to do them.

Bernstein's point is that this isn't particularly persuasive to people who've noticed that he hasn't already done any of these things. But for the primaries, what does it matter?

Public Policy Polling has made a practice of asking Republican primary voters whether they believe the president was born in America. In reply, a lot of harrumphing pundits have insisted that it's silly to ask this, because even if the majority of Republicans say he's a foreigner, they don't really believe he's a foreigner, because ... shut up, that's why.

Well, I'd like to see PPP or another polling outfit ask a series of questions testing GOP paranoia and delusion:

* If President Obama is reelected, do you believe he'll confiscate all privately owned firearms in America?
* If President Obama is reelected, do you believe America will be a fully communist nation by the end of his term?
* If President Obama is reelected, do you think he will make the practice of Christianity illegal in America?

I think we would benefit from learning the Republican electorate's answers to these questions. Let's quantify just how deep the paranoia strikes.

Paul Krugman has a great column today about the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise known as ALEC:

What is ALEC? Despite claims that it's nonpartisan, it's very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn't just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization -- that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations.

Krugman goes on to discuss ALEC's support for Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which would seem to advance no corporatist goal but is certainly the kind of bill that keeps right-wing voters turning out to vote Republican, which ultimately serves ALEC's fat-cat goals.

But I want to talk about some of that privatization ALEC likes so much.

Do you remember Pat Robertson's declaration, a couple of weeks ago, that marijuana should be legal? That got a lot of attention, including a fair amount of praise from lefties.

I was skeptical. In late 2010, I wrote an I-smell-a-rat post when Robertson hinted at support for marijuana decriminalization. I was skeptical because he seemed to be trying to drum up business for prison outreach ministries with this campaign:

... Calling it getting "smart" on crime, Robertson aired a clip on a recent episode of his 700 Club television show that advocated the viewpoint of drug law reformers who run prison outreach ministries.

A narrator even claimed that religious prison outreach has "saved" millions in public funds by helping to reduce the number of prisoners who return shortly after being released....

And look who was announcing support for initiatives of this kind at precisely that moment:

A group of national conservatives led by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Russell Keene of the American Conservative Union, and former Attorney General Ed Meese unveiled the“Right On Crime” initiative and website....

Norquist noted that criminal justice is a legitimate function of government but that conservatives ought to be interested in saving money and performing that function as efficiently as possible. He added that much of the conservative interest in rehabilitation and prison reform started with faith-based organizations.

Chuck Colson with Prison Fellowship Industries and Pat Nolan with the Justice Fellowship are among the supporters of the Right On Crime Initiatives....

Now let's wander over to the Prison Overcrowding page at the ALEC Web site. Gosh -- it appears that ALEC has the same goals:

Governors and corrections officials have the responsibility of conscientiously reducing corrections spending by utilizing evidenced-based practices, such as expanding vocational skills, educational opportunities, and religious programs....

Inmates should be encouraged to participate in faith-based programs.

And what do you know -- the "private sector chair" of ALEC's Corrections and Reentry Working Group is Pat Nolan of Prison Fellowship, the group most associated with Pat Robertson's ally Chuck Colson.

So don't give Pat too much credit for wisdom on pot. It's a right-wing thing. It's an ALEC thing. If this happens, the rich have less government to pay for and a significant part of the right-wing coalition gets to treat more and more people involved in drugs as rehab cases, not criminals -- for a fee.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

(Sorry -- obligatory long post on health care.)

The health care bill hits the Supreme Court today -- and please, Court-watchers, spare me all the thoughtful explanations of why Scalia or Alito or Roberts or some combination of these guys might vote to uphold the law (I'm talking to you, Nina Totenberg). This is for the Movement. This is for the Cause. It doesn't matter that, say, Scalia upheld a reading of the Constitution's commerce clause in a marijuana case that seems relevant to this case. Only one thing is relevant to this case for the Court's Wingnut Four: the needs of movement conservatism.

It doesn't help the Cause for the Supremes to strike down the entire law, because then it won't be a rallying cry in November. Enough of the law has to be left in place to keep the GOP base's blood boiling. But I think the Wingnut Four will want to get rid of some of it -- Obama's doing well in the polls against Romney, and Romney continues to be an inept candidate, so they won't want to leave the law completely intact; mustn't risk the possibility that it will survive to be successfully implemented (even though leaving it intact would really rally the base: "we need Supreme Court justices who are even more right-wing!").

So I'm assuming the individual mandate will be declared unconstitutional. Now, I see that the Obama administration, somewhat surprisingly, has said that if the individual mandate is overturned, every provision of the law dependent on the mandate should also be overturned. It's as if the administration is saying, "Well, if you hurt the law, you should do the decent thing and effectively kill it." (And, of course, opponents of the law want the whole law overturned.)

Last week, in a New York Times op-ed, Abbe Gluck and Michael Graetz discussed this:

Both the Obama administration and the law’s opponents have one argument in common. They express concern about what might happen to health insurance markets if the mandate is severed from the statute but the requirements that insurance companies cover sick patients and don't charge them higher rates remain. If healthy people do not have to buy insurance and insurance companies are forced to cover the sick, they warn, insurance would be far more expensive.

So that's what I think the Wingnut Four will want to do: make mischief. They'll leave the law bleeding but able to survive -- but likely to be more expensive. Perfect! See? It's evil, wallet-snatching Big Government!

Politico says:

Under this scenario, Congress would face tremendous pressure to come up with an alternative to the mandate to encourage healthy people to buy health insurance.

Ha -- this Congress? Or even the next one? Feel pressure to salvage the law? This is a perfect recipe for creating anti-Obama chaos, while leaving enough of the law intact that the rubes will want to kill it altogether.

Ah, but there are only four apparatchik wingnuts on the Court -- what if they can't get a majority? Well, that's why we have today's consideration of the notion that the law can't even be challenged at all yet, because a nineteenth-century statute says you can't challenge a tax until someone has actually paid it. (The question under consideration is whether the health care law's fees are a tax for the purposes of that statute.) I find this curious:

Since no party in the Supreme Court litigation has claimed that the act applies, the court asked an independent lawyer to argue the position that the court cannot rule on the mandate's constitutionality until the financial penalties for failing to obtain insurance go into effect in 2015.

Did you follow that -- "no party in the Supreme Court litigation has claimed that the [nineteenth-century] act applies"? The Supremes went out and forced this into the case. Why? Because the Wingnut Four feel they can't risk taking the health care law up if there's even the slightest possibility that it will emerge free and clear and constitutional. So if they can't get a useful idiot to join them in an election-year mugging of Obama on any provision, they'll scrape together five votes for a punt based on this nineteenth-century law, and leave the health care act in legal limbo -- not approved, not rejected.

This is going to be a mugging. This is not going to be a proud moment for the Court. The Wingnut Four don't care.

Yesterday, on ABC News, an African-American man was trotted out by George Zimmerman's spin team; the man says he's Zimmerman's friend and tells us that Zimmerman didn't say "coons" on the 911 tape, he said "goons."

... in fact, I spoke with my teenage daughter yesterday, and the word in question, I mean, it's the difference between a "c" and a "g," from what I understand, and "goon" is apparently a term of endearment in the high schools these days.

Well, I'm over at Urban Dictionary and I'm not seeing any definition for "goon" that suggests anything of the sort. Now, admittedly, the definitions are all a few years old. But Zimmerman is way too old to be hep to the latest lingo.

And there is this definition (and there's at least one other definition besides this one that's similar and that references Florida):

this word has many definitions, but in Florida & many hoods across tha country, a goon is a real nigga: ready 2 ride or die 4 his/hers, takes care of their fam, not scared of tha law or any other nigga, makin his/her own money legally or not, never snitches always follows tha street code.

The definition makes a reference to the 2007 song "Goons Lurkin" by the Florida rapper Plies (video here).

So if Zimmerman really did say "fucking goons," there's every reason to think he was calling Trayvon Martin a thug. Would it be so strange if, out of his obsession with real and imagined street criminals, he learned slang (if slightly dated slang) that refers to the people he fears/is obsessed with?


But I don't buy that, because, even though it's not 100% clear whether he utters a racial slur, it's quite clear that the first sound of the word in question is a "c" sound:

So this is ridiculous -- although I bet it's quite effective in creating reasonable doubt among potential Zimmerman jurors.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


The sidebar of the Prosper Now blog at lists a post by John Mariotti with the following title:

Is There An Imposter In The White House? An Excerpt from "Hope Is Not A Strategy"

The post went up yesterday, but Forbes has since taken it down -- if you go to the link, it's dead. But Free Republic has preserved part of the text:

There is something very wrong when the sitting president refuses to divulge huge pieces of information about his background. What is he hiding? Maybe the "birthers" were a little extreme, but is there something wrong with this "manufactured candidate," whose history remains sealed from public view? What is he hiding?

Could the "Hawaii birth certificate" be a forgery? Is there something much worse -- like "sponsorship" by an unnamed special interest? I don't know. I do know that the man in the White House now is an imposter. The only question is which kind of an imposter: an incompetent "pretender" or a genuine phony, a "Manchurian candidate," who is a liberal, ½ black and ½ white, and an obvious Muslim sympathizer (despite claims of being a Christian -- in clear conflict with his non-Christian behavior)....

This text also appears here. A longer version appears here. Excerpts appear all over the right-o-sphere, with links back to Forbes.

The Prosperity Now blog is published at in association with the Prosper Foundation, which describes itself as "a Not-for-Profit organization that supports entrepreneurship & innovation" that "currently provides information grants to 15 academic institutions," including Northwestern, Notre Dame, and Texas Tech. Mariotti is "the President/CEO & Founder of The Enterprise Group (, a coalition of time-shared executive advisors™ , which he founded in 1994" -- whatever the hell that means.

Nice folks you've got blogging for you, Forbes. Oh, and tell me again how people who tell pollsters that they doubt Obama's citizenship are just venting anger in a way that shouldn't be taken literally.

Have you seen the cover of today's print New York Post? Notice how the Trayvon Martin case is covered:

What the cover story tells Post readers is no news to a lot of us -- we've known for a while that George Zimmerman was a vigilante wannabe -- but I'm surprised the Murdoch paper is bringing it up, and I'm even more surprised that it's the front-page story. And the headline -- "Trayvon's killer a cop wannabe on paranoid patrol." Amazing. The Post also has the story about the man who's claiming that he saw Trayvon Martin assault George Zimmerman. I'm shocked that that's not on the Post's front page.

And check out yesterday's cover:

The entirety of the right-wing media, including the rest of the Murdoch empire, could be like this -- in fact, the entire right could be like this. The right could decide that this is a case in which we can stop fighting for once.

But that's not going to happen, is it? I think it's happening at the Post only because the Post has a large non-white readership. And it's not even happening at the Post Web site, where the paranoid-Zimmerman story is buried.*

I can't imagine it happening at Fox because, for Roger Ailes to cover a story like this and not use it as an excuse to fight liberals ... well, that would make him feel like Jeremy Renner in the supermarket near the end of The Hurt Locker. Ailes can't bear not to fight us at every possible opportunity -- he certainly can't bear to acknowledge agreeing with us.

So, great -- the Post's coverage has some human decency. I'm sure that won't be allowed to spread.

*UPDATE:A point I meant to make here is that the Web site is presumably aimed at a nationwide audience, so heaven forfend it should proclaim sympathy for Trayvon Martin.
(or something like that)

New York Times God-botherer Ross Douthat ponders the question of why Tim Tebow is controversial:

Why is Tim Tebow such a fascinating and polarizing figure? Not just because he claims to be religious; that claim is commonplace among football stars and ordinary Americans alike. Rather, it's because his conduct -- kind, charitable, chaste, guileless -- seems to actually vindicate his claim to be in possession of a life-altering truth.

Ah, I see. That must be it. Tebow is "polarizing" because he's both Christian and apparently in possession of a number of virtues identified as Christian, which would make him the first such person many of evil, angry secularists have ever encountered in our lives of whom that's true. Or perhaps Douthat is saying that people who hate Tebow hate everyone who seems to be both Christian and charitable. That must be why liberals routinely go to Habitat for Humanity building sites and throw rocks at Jimmy Carter while he's hammering nails.

Why is it impossible for Tebow's fan club in the right-wing media to acknowledge the fact that it's the not the Christianity of Tebow that gets up people's noses, it's the look-at-me-look-at-me way that Tebow evangelizes for his religion at every possible opportunity. It's the eyebalack with the Bible verses and the kneeling on the 30-yard line, not the belief system itself?

I remember when Dennis Rodman of the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls emerged with rainbow-colored hair, a then-surprising number of tattoos, and a penchant for cross-dressing in off-the-court public appearances. I thought it was amusing -- but if there were people who didn't like him, I can understand that. He probably offended some conservatives, as well as some beer-and-a-shot sports fans who just want players to look, y'know, regular. But, as I recall, he acknowledged his provocations. He understood that what he was doing was going to be somewhat "polarizing." (And he didn't use time-outs to get on-court touch-ups of his dye job. In fact "between the lines" he played the way he'd played when his hair was its natural color.)

Tebow and the pundits in his amen corner seem to think that it's the faith that drives us crazy, not the strenuous efforts at attention-getting. Well, sorry -- it's the attention-getting.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I saw this at Conservatives4Palin (via Memeorandum):

Gov. Palin via Facebook
Two fellow Alaskan women, Kirsten Powers and Penny Lee, penned a letter to the New York Times calling out misogynist attacks on women in public life.

They included this interesting aside: "Coincidentally we both hail from Alaska -- where women are treated as equals -- so perhaps our threshold for this kind of behavior is less than here in the Lower 48."

As an Alaskan woman, I completely agree. Women up here do not tolerate the sexist stereotyping and behavior.

The letter Palin is quoting is in reference to Bill Maher's recent Times op-ed, "Please Stop Apologizing," which asked people to ignore offensive speech they don't like.

I'm not going to address the content of Maher's op-ed. I just find Palin's assertion that Alaskans don't tolerate sexism a wee bit curious.

Here's has-been right-wing rocker Ted Nugent waving a machine gun and (after an insult of Barack Obama) saying to Hillary Clinton, "Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch."

Nugent previously said the following about Hillary Clinton:

You probably can't use the term "toxic cunt" in your magazine, but that's what she is.

Gosh, who is that I see with Ted Nugent? It couldn't be you, Sarah, could it?

Sure looks like tolerating to me, Sarah. Then again, you're not in Alaska in that picture, so maybe it doesn't count.

It doesn't surprise me at all that Rick Santorum is getting this kind of reaction from Christian conservative women on the campaign trail, even if it runs counter to some conventional wisdom we were hearing a while ago:

On the Right, Santorum Has Women's Vote

... performers asked each other and the crowd what they liked best about the presidential candidate. Camille Harris, 20, exclaimed into the microphone, "Seven kids! Seven kids!" Turning her attention to Mr. Santorum's youngest, Isabella, born with a genetic disorder, the singer added, "Didn't abort the last one, which is amazing."

Then several women in the crowd called out that Mr. Santorum was a Christian and a "man of faith," and that he was "honest and honorable." Bursting with enthusiasm, one woman said, "He's for life!"

There is no mistaking the bond that Mr. Santorum has with conservative women -- particularly married women -- a group that has formed a core of his support since the primaries began in January. He has handily carried the votes of women in primaries that he has won, including those in Mississippi and Alabama. And where he has lost, in Arizona, South Carolina and Illinois, he has enjoyed a higher level of support among women than men....

"If he can run his household, he can run the country. Amen!" Haley Harris, 18, told the Mandeville crowd.

I was skeptical when I started to read that Santorum had a "woman problem" -- or at least I was skeptical that he had a problem among women on the right. A lot of people on our side assumed he'd start struggling with women as cultural issues came to the fore and his positions on those issues became better known, but that's not true in the GOP -- his approval ratings among Republican and Republican-leaning women have soared recently.

I actually noticed something similar to this four years ago, with regard to Mike Huckabee -- in the early days of the '08 campaign, Huckabee did quite well among women; in a poll conducted just after the '08 election, Huckabee did better among women than among men, and Sarah Palin did better among men than among women.

I'll stick by what I wrote back then:

As for Huckabee, that result fits a widely observed phenomenon -- that women like church (and ministers) more than men do. Here's a blog post by a theology-school professor that invokes fairly recent books with titles such as Why Men Hate Going to Church and The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, as well as a book written back in the 1970s by Ann Douglas (a professor of mine) called The Feminization of American Culture, which describes how nineteenth-century preachers and women jointly occupied a marginalized sentimental sphere. I did a post a couple of years ago about a group called GodMen, who gathered in evangelical churches and discussed ways of making church more guy-friendly, discussions that were accompanied by the comedy stylings of right-wing comic Brad Stine and a band playing a song called "Testosterone High." ("Forget the ying and the yang/ I'll take the boom and the bang/ Give me another dose of testosterone"). The female skew in churches is a big problem, I gather, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised at Huckabee's numbers in this poll.

Huckabee is a Protestant minister; Santorum just talks like one, even though he's neither a minister nor Protestant. I think the result is the same.

Religious-right women like him because he talks values talk, because he has a large family, and because he makes sure voters know that he and his wife didn't choose abortion when they learned that their daughter would be born with trisomy-18.

Our side's recent talk about Planned Parenthood and contraception has rallied a lot of women in the middle to our side -- at least I hope it has -- but I think it's politicized a lot of right-wing women in exactly the opposite way. They like not being feminist. They like embodying what they think is the exact opposite of what we believe. (For instance, they think we hate them if they're stay-at-home moms.)

I hope that's not true in the center as well, because long after Santorum's campaign is a distant memory, Democrats are going to be trying to win women's votes with talk about choice and contraception and women's health and Planned Parenthood. Will it rally more people than it will alienate? Probably -- it's probably a net gain for our side. But it does really inspire women on the right to oppose Democrats. And right now, Santorum is getting a bit of benefit from that in the primaries.