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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

 
Florida surge

by digby

I was going to write about the results in Florida tonight but, why bother? It's a money race and the guy with the most money is winning. Shocker.

But in case you wonder what the campaigns want you to think, TPM has a nice rundown of how the various camps are spinning it. Mittster's takes the cake:

Mitt Romney wants you to dwell on a comeback kid narrative. His camp’s version goes something like this: here’s a guy who was knocked off his game by the genie let out of the bottle by the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling. Just as he was consolidating his victory in New Hampshire and his (rescinded) triumph in Iowa, suddenly a billionaire casino mogul showed up and flung millions of dollars at his bomb-throwing opponent.

And yet, the narrative goes, like a mythical hero he emerged from the flames hardened, sharpened, and willing to fight back. He raised his game in the debates and pushed back his surging rival, ultimately romping to victory by a serious margin.


Fighting, hardened, pushing and surging. We get it.

He has proved that he will spend whatever it takes to destroy his opponents and that's got to be appealing to a fair number of Republicans. But they still don't like him much. According to the exit polls, 39% are not satisfied with GOP candidates and 57% want someone else to jump in.

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Once we let them destroy Planned Parenthood, they'll give up

by digby

Divide et impera:
The nation's leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates — creating a bitter rift, linked to the abortion debate, between two iconic organizations that have assisted millions of women.

The change will mean a cutoff of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, mainly for breast exams.

Planned Parenthood says the move results from Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen says the key reason is that Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress — a probe launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.


And what do you know? This is likely the result of the increasingly sinister "common ground" strategy, in this situation being deployed in the private sector. Via Jezebel:

Interestingly, this brand new rule that suddenly appeared in the books of the Komen Foundation just so happened to coincide with a Congressional investigation launched by a Republican legislator, who himself was pressured by the pro-life group Americans United for Life. And last year's assault on Planned Parenthood also coincided with the addition of a vocally anti-abortion ex-politician to the ranks of Susan G Komen For the Cure.

Karen Handel, who was endorsed by Sarah Palin during her unsuccessful bid for governor of Georgia in 2010, has been the Foundation's Senior Vice President for Public Policy since April 2011. During her gubernatorial candidacy, she ran on an anti-choice platform, vowing that if elected, she'd defund Planned Parenthood. Handel wrote on her campaign blog,

I will be a pro-life governor who will work tirelessly to promote a culture of life in Georgia…. I believe that each and every unborn child has inherent dignity, that every abortion is a tragedy, and that government has a role, along with the faith community, in encouraging women to choose life in even the most difficult of circumstances…. since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.

She even promised to eliminate funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings provided by the organization.

How curious! A person with what looks like a personal vendetta against Planned Parenthood joins the ranks of an organization that provides funding to Planned Parenthood, and soon, that organization "defunds" Planned Parenthood.

Still, there's nothing to worry about ladies, no reason for all this hysteria over your icky parts. These people will never make any headway with this stuff in America, land of the free. Relax.


BTW: I noticed these lovely illustrations to a new folio of Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale. They really capture the feeling of the novel:




"We turn the corner onto a main street, where there's more traffic. Cars go by, black most of them, some grey and brown. There are other women with baskets, some in red, some in the dull green of the Marthas, some in the striped dresses, red and blue and green and cheap and skimpy, that mark the women of the poorer men. Econowives, they're called."


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The big money

by David Atkins

Josh Marshall makes a good point:

The Gov. Walker recall campaign is going to cost at least $100 million. A few cycles ago that was what a presidential run cost.

In the long run, there's no way progressives can win with that kind of money being thrown around. The public just doesn't have the time, attention and energy to mobilize on large scales like that every election cycle, even as corporations make it a regular feature of their expense accounts. As it is, one of the biggest problems with government is the fact that in order to stay in office, politicians have to spend at least four hours a day fundraising. That's insane. They can't do their jobs that way, and it's no wonder the system is perpetually corrupted. Politicians are human like the rest of us. If they know that making a decision that earns the wrath of big pockets means not only taking fire and heat personally, but ensuring that they have to spend hundreds of hours on the phones and rubber chicken dinner circuits just to make up the difference, it's no surprise that many of them would rather spend that time with their families instead, and cave on important bills.

We can win victories in the short-term on the most crucial and egregious fronts. But unless something is done to nip this in the bud, it's going to be a losing battle long-term.


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Self-help for frustrated rich people

by digby

So Charles Murray has a new book out called Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. And, lo and behold it appears to say that the reason for all our troubles is the bad character of poor people. What a shocker.

Greg Anrig takes a look at some of the excerpts in the Wall Street Journal and concludes that Murray is fudging the numbers. Again. And he's blaming the usual suspects for bringing us all down. Anrig writes:
Murray goes on, as always, to blame the Great Society reforms:

The creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the enactment of civil rights legislation, and programs like Food Stamps and job training set in motion a vicious cycle that led lower-income whites to stop going to church, watch more TV, and feel more alienated from the rest of the society. Even though we now incarcerate a far higher share of our citizens than any advanced country and violent crime rates have plummeted, it was laxity toward crime back in the 1960s that explains why the gap in out-of-wedlock births became much higher over that time period. The logic for those explanations may be difficult to track, and maybe Murray takes a stab at providing some evidence in support of those claims in the book itself. But if past is prologue, that evidence is likely to be highly dubious.


The solution, Murray argues, is for the upper-class to start wagging its fingers at everyone else:

The best thing that the new upper class can do to provide that reinforcement is to drop its condescending "nonjudgmentalism." Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn't hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms. When it comes to marriage and the work ethic, the new upper class must start preaching what it practices.


That should work like a charm. And it's good to know that Murray has finally figured out a way to escape his racist past --- he's blaming poor whites for being too weak-willed to resist the lures of the welfare state that was designed for blacks. Perhaps that's a form of progress.

Murray has created a quiz for everyone to take to determine if they are a member of the white working class. It would seem that he believes most upper middle class Americans spend their time at the opera or watching re-runs of Alistair Cooke's America while nibbling on bran muffins with fois gras. (Not that there's anything wrong with that --- well, maybe the fois gras.)

Anyway, you can take the test yourself --- or for even more fun, you can take the test with Jay Ackroyd and Marcy Wheeler tonight on Virtually Speaking. According to my quite high score, I am among the great unwashed lower classes, or at least have traveled extensively among them. Who knew? (Except me, of course.)

Anrig notes that David Brooks is all aquiver with excitement about this book, which stands to reason. It is a reprise of Brooks' anthropological study of American culture as seen through chain restaurants and grocery store buying habits. But like Brooks' before him, Murray's latest gives away the game. The test is clearly geared toward the over-educated, upper middle class white person who would buy such a book in the first place. And its thesis about the lower orders lack of good character and bad habits is clearly designed to make those readers feel good about themselves by contrast. Basically it's Dr Phil for closet racists and wealthy pricks. I'm sure it will sell well.


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Religious Reactionaries stick together

by digby

Perlstein's column today is a fascinating recent history of religion in American politics. It's specifically about how the right will have little problem accepting Mitt's Mormonism because they always come around on this when the chips are down. Read the whole thing. I think it's persuasive.

I just want to highlight one bit of information which I don't think is common knowledge:

You may have heard of the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Nowadays Evangelicals despise it as a heathen outfit bent on banishing God from the public square. (Here they celebrate the civil liberties victory represented by the display of a Flying Spaghetti Monster next to the Nativity scene at the courthouse in Loudoun County, Virginia.) A generation ago, however, Evangelicals were fans – back when the group was known as "Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State," and was the institutional home for those who feared the Roman church was a wicked conspiracy to colonize the United States.


Think about that. In the 1960s "Americans United for the Separation of Church and State" was called "Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State". I'm pretty sure that clearly illustrates how times have changed.

All this started changing in the 1970s. Fighting abortion had once been an almost exclusively Catholic crusade; indeed much of the work Americans United for the Separation of Church and State was devoted to fighting those attempting to ban abortion, on the grounds that such attempts sought to introduce into government "a biased religious viewpoint." Which was around the time Evangelicals began separating themselves from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. They, Evangelicals, wanted to ban abortion too – and were now willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with Catholics to do it. Christianity Today, the magazine founded by Billy Graham, advised its readers in 1975 not to fear joining the "pro-life" cause; it had "matured," and could "no longer be dismissed as a group of cold-hearted Catholics simply taking orders from the Pope."


Rick doesn't go into this in his piece, but it's worth pointing out here. From The Nation on the occasion of Jerry Falwells death:

While abortion clinics sprung up across the United States during the early 1970s, evangelicals did little. No pastors invoked the Dred Scott decision to undermine the legal justification for abortion. There were no clinic blockades, no passionate cries to liberate the "pre-born." For Falwell and his allies, the true impetus for political action came when the Supreme Court ruled in Green v. Connally to revoke the tax-exempt status of racially discriminatory private schools in 1971. At about the same time, the Internal Revenue Service moved to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, which forbade interracial dating. (Blacks were denied entry until 1971.) Falwell was furious, complaining, "In some states it's easier to open a massage parlor than to open a Christian school."

Seeking to capitalize on mounting evangelical discontent, a right-wing Washington operative and anti-Vatican II Catholic named Paul Weyrich took a series of trips down South to meet with Falwell and other evangelical leaders. Weyrich hoped to produce a well-funded evangelical lobbying outfit that could lend grassroots muscle to the top-heavy Republican Party and effectively mobilize the vanquished forces of massive resistance into a new political bloc. In discussions with Falwell, Weyrich cited various social ills that necessitated evangelical involvement in politics, particularly abortion, school prayer and the rise of feminism. His pleas initially fell on deaf ears.

"I was trying to get those people interested in those issues and I utterly failed," Weyrich recalled in an interview in the early 1990s. "What changed their mind was Jimmy Carter's intervention against the Christian schools, trying to deny them tax-exempt status on the basis of so-called de facto segregation."


These cross-currents are always there. And religious reactionaries seem to be able to find a way to work together when it comes to suppressing any pressure for freedom and equality from below. They just need to find that sweet spot.


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Deterrence

by digby

Let's put death row on an assembly line:

Republican Rep. Larry Pittman, who was appointed to the District 82 House seat in October, expressed his views in an email sent Wednesday to every member of the General Assembly. [...]

“We need to make the death penalty a real deterrent again by actually carrying it out. Every appeal that can be made should have to be made at one time, not in a serial manner,” Pittman wrote in the email. “If murderers (and I would include abortionists, rapists, and kidnappers, as well) are actually executed, it will at least have the deterrent effect upon them. For my money, we should go back to public hangings, which would be more of a deterrent to others, as well.”


I'm for drawing and quartering myself. It really sends a message.

But I don't think there's ever going to be a proper deterrent to abortion until women are publicly executed. You're never going to stop these people from getting themselves pregnant and some of them aren't going to do their duty no matter what. The only way to properly deter them is to kill them.

The good news is this fellow is just one of many kindly folks who are tragically misunderstood. We just need to convince them of the error of their ways so they'll understand that we are all in this together. I'm sure they'll see it sometime soon.


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Citizen Training

by digby

Be advised that walking your dog off leash could get you electrocuted by the authorities.
A Montara man walking two lapdogs off leash was hit with an electric-shock gun by a National Park Service ranger after allegedly giving a false name and trying to walk away, authorities said Monday.

The park ranger encountered Gary Hesterberg with his two small dogs Sunday afternoon at Rancho Corral de Tierra, which was recently incorporated into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, said Howard Levitt, a spokesman for the park service.

Hesterberg, who said he didn't have identification with him, allegedly gave the ranger a false name, Levitt said.

The ranger, who wasn't identified, asked Hesterberg to remain at the scene, Levitt said. He tried several times to leave, and finally the ranger "pursued him a little bit and she did deploy her" electric-shock weapon, Levitt said. "That did stop him."

San Mateo County sheriff's deputies and paramedics then arrived and Hesterberg gave his real name, the park spokesman said.

Hesterberg, whose age was not available, was arrested on suspicion of failing to obey a lawful order, having dogs off-leash and knowingly providing false information, Levitt said.

Witnesses said the use of a stun gun and the arrest seemed excessive for someone walking two small dogs off leash.

"It was really scary," said Michelle Babcock, who said she had seen the incident as she and her husband were walking their two border collies. "I just felt so bad for him."

Babcock said Hesterberg had repeatedly asked the ranger why he was being detained. She didn't answer him, Babcock said.
To be clear: what this means is that if a park ranger stops you for walking your dogs off leash, you are not to ask any questions or fail to carry the proper ID or you risk being shot through with 50,000 volts. This is now the way things work. Apparently, before the taser, this park ranger would have had to shoot this person in the back with her service revolver.

Tasers have turned cops into thugs who use the weapon to demand not just compliance but respect. Someone who is walking his dogs off leash is simply not doing something that would draw this kind of response for any other reason.

Get this:
Rancho Corral de Tierra has long been an off-leash walking spot for local dog owners. In December, the area became part of the national park system, which requires that all dogs be on a leash, Levitt said.

The ranger was trying to educate residents of the rule, Levitt said
Zapping citizens with a taser is certainly one way to train them. In a science fiction dystopia.

Sadly, that's exactly what tasers are doing: they are training citizens to immediately comply with government authorities on command.

Well, at least we know we're free.

.

 
Four gutless Dems kill single-payer in California

by David Atkins

If the drama of the first two years of the Obama presidency is any indication, it's obvious that single-payer healthcare won't be coming at a national level any time soon. Fortunately, however, individual states can carry the torch where the national system is too corrupt to do so. While single-payer has passed in Vermont, the real reforms will come when big states with negotiating leverage enact it and begin to drive costs down in a big way while expanding and ameliorating coverage. California seemed like the likeliest big state to begin this process: after all, Governor Schwarzenegger twice vetoed a single-payer bill that had made its way through the legislature. So with Jerry Brown in office, it seemed reasonable to expect that the same bill would make it to the Governor's desk for a signature.

But not so fast:

California's "Medicare for all" universal health care legislation fell short of the 21 votes needed to pass the state Senate today.

Senate Bill 810 failed on a 19-15 vote during this morning's floor session, with four moderate Democrats abstaining and one voting no.

Democratic Sen. Mark Leno, who authored the bill, said the proposal would stabilize health care costs and expand access to coverage.

He called the bill, which does not include funding to cover the projected $250 billion annual cost of running the single-payer system, the first step in a "many year project" that will likely require asking voters to approve financing. He encouraged members to support the bill to allow the policy discussion to continue.

No Republicans voted for the bill. Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, criticized the proposal as an attempt to create "another costly and inefficient bureaucracy."

"There's no doubt that we need health care reform, there's no doubt that we need to improve our health care system, but members, this is not the bill to move forward," he said.

The bill faces a Tuesday deadline for passing the state Senate in the current legislative session.

That's my Republican State Senator Tony Strickland, who narrowly beat my good friend progressive Hannah-Beth Jackson by under 900 votes in the last election, and who is now running for Congress after redistricting made his Senate seat too Democratic to handle (Hannah-Beth will likely pick up the seat this year over primary opposition from anti-tax conservadem Jason Hodge.) Redistricting elsewhere in California should give us a couple more Senate seats as well going into 2013.

But the problem here isn't so much Tony Strickland. The problem is the gutless Democrats in blue districts who have nothing to lose by voting against single-payer healthcare when there's actually a chance of passing it, except for the wrath of insurance companies if they go for higher office. But rather than voting for or against the bill, they simple abstained, in the most gutless move possible. jpmassar at DailyKos has a rundown of who they are and their contact information:

Senator Alex Padilla (Pacoima/LA area)
Email: Senator.Padilla@sen.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 651-4020
Fax: 916324-6645

Senator Juan Vargas (San Diego area)
Email: Juan.Vargas@sen.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 651-4040
Fax: (916) 327-3522

Senator Michael Rubio (Fresno/Bakersfield area)
Email: Michael.Rubio@sen.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 651-4016

Senator Rod Wright (Los Angeles area)
Email: Senator.Wright@sen.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 651-4025
Fax: (916) 445-3712

Some of them have tougher districts than others; Padilla, for instance, is utterly inexcusable as he's in a solid blue district. But it doesn't matter. Regardless of how tough the district, and even if one grants the unlikely theory that taking a "yea" vote on single-payer would be career suicide, this issue above all is a bill to fall on one's sword for. The opportunity to really and truly pass single-payer healthcare is why one gets into Democratic politics. It's the equivalent of taking the game-winning shot at the buzzer in Game 7 of the finals, or kicking the winning field goal in the Super Bowl. And these sniveling cowards didn't just miss the shot; they didn't even pull the trigger.

Then, of course, there are the two truly awful Conservadems in the CA Senate, Ron Calderon and Lou Correa, who voted "no". Their contact information is below--though getting through to them is like talking to a brick wall:

Senator Ron Calderon
Phone: (916) 651-4030
senator.calderon@sen.ca.gov

Senator Lou Correa
Phone: (916) 651-4034
senator.correa@sen.ca.gov

Yes, there's much to fault the Obama Administration for over the last few years. But the President didn't have the opportunity to cast a deciding vote on passing single-payer healthcare for tens of millions of people. These guys did, and they blew it on the big stage.

Call them. Email them. Make them feel the heat of ten thousand suns. They deserve no less. They can still change their minds before the Tuesday deadline, but they're running out of time.

And rest assured that as long as I'm involved in California politics, this California Democratic Executive Board member will work to oppose each and every one of them in a primary for any office they might seek in the future if this bill doesn't go to the Governor's desk this year.

.

Monday, January 30, 2012

 
Post partisan depression

by digby

Last week the political world was all agog over Ryan Lizza's New Yorker article about the administration in which he revealed that after three long years of GOP obstruction the president resigned himself to the fact that post-partisanship wasn't going to work out. It may have shifted something fundamental --- for the first time people in the Village are questioning whether their beloved bipartisanship is the only way the government can function.

Lizza reminds people that Obama had always held a starry-eyed view of the various divides in the American political culture (a concern that was so aggressively attacked by his supporters in the 2008 race that those of us who raised it were left with permanent scars from the experience.) Indeed, in this respect, Lizza's analysis seems stale to me --- it's just that it apparently took four years for it to be allowed to be aired publicly. Still, it's an important piece of political journalism that may turn out to be politically significant:

If there was a single unifying argument that defined Obamaism from his earliest days in politics to his Presidential campaign, it was the idea of post-partisanship. He was proposing himself as a transformative figure, the man who would spring the lock. In an essay published in The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan, a self-proclaimed conservative, reflected on Obama’s heady appeal: “Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us.”
Wasn't it pretty to think so? But it was always daft. This yearning to get past these "quarrels" was to make the fatuous assumption that they were the petty, transient disputes of spoiled children rather than the manifestations of America's deepest and most abiding divisions. Those "quarrels" were around war, race, imperialism, equality, freedom --- all issues that have animated our politics from the very beginning of the Republic. The country was founded on them. The fighting over these issues waxes and wanes but the fight itself is definitional. While the symbolism of the first black president was always very powerful, mistaking that symbolism for an end to all these tedious disagreements was a first degree error.

As Lizza writes:
It would be hard for any President to reverse this decades-long political trend, which began when segregationist Democrats in the South—Dixiecrats like Strom Thurmond—left the Party and became Republicans. Congress is polarized largely because Americans live in communities of like-minded people who elect more ideological representatives. Obama’s rhetoric about a nation of common purpose and values no longer fits this country: there really is a red America and a blue America...
I readily forgive the youthful supporters who always believe their parents' battles are no longer worth fighting. Why should they? They don't know yet that they are always with us in some form or another and that it's as necessary to vigilantly hold the line as it is to make progress. (Two steps forward, one step back --- sometimes worse than that.)

But what's Andrew Sullivan's excuse? He's been involved in American politics for decades. Surely he saw that the modern conservative movement has become a retrograde, obscurantist, political faction that has every intention of acting out its dystopian agenda without any thought to its opposition. Indeed, politically mowing down their opposition is what animates them. They impeached a president over a sexual indiscretion. They stole an election. They bullied their way into an war on blatantly false pretenses and dared the world to defy them. What delusion would propel an allegedly sophisticated political observer to think that these people would be so dazzled by the election of a black Democratic president that it would all magically end and we would march together into a harmonious future?

And more importantly, why did Barack Obama and his team think this? And they did. As Lizza writes:
In 2006, Obama published a mild polemic, “The Audacity of Hope,” which became a blueprint for his 2008 Presidential campaign. He described politics as a system seized by two extremes. “Depending on your tastes, our condition is the natural result of radical conservatism or perverse liberalism,” he wrote. “Tom DeLay or Nancy Pelosi, big oil or greedy trial lawyers, religious zealots or gay activists, Fox News or the New York Times.” He repeated the theme later, while describing the fights between Bill Clinton and the Newt Gingrich-led House, in the nineteen-nineties: “In the back-and-forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation—a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago—played out on the national stage.” Washington, as he saw it, was self-defeatingly partisan. He believed that “any attempt by Democrats to pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy misapprehends the moment we’re in” ...
Obama wrote longingly about American politics in the mid-twentieth century, when both parties had liberal and conservative wings that allowed centrist coalitions to form.
Cheap Villager nostalgia, nothing more. Unless you define the "center" as splitting the difference between the far right fringe and the most corrupt Democrats, those days have been long gone for many years:

The Republican Party has drifted much farther to the right than the Democratic Party has drifted to the left. Jacob Hacker, a professor at Yale, whose 2006 book, “Off Center,” documented this trend, told me, citing Poole and Rosenthal’s data on congressional voting records, that, since 1975, “Senate Republicans moved roughly twice as far to the right as Senate Democrats moved to the left” and “House Republicans moved roughly six times as far to the right as House Democrats moved to the left.” In other words, the story of the past few decades is asymmetric polarization.

The idea that the permanent political establishment in DC would step in to put this crazy genie back in the bottle was absurd. They have stood by as the political system catapulted off a cliff without blinking an eye. Indeed, the centrist establishment used that partisan polarization to advance a corporate friendly austerity agenda. It was good for business. And that's what they care about.

The great rapprochement --- like the Grand Bargain --- was a pipe dream, and it was one that many, many Democratic voters enthusiastically bought into. I suppose after years of bullying from the hardcore rightwing partisans you can't really blame them. Needless to say it was never even remotely possible --- certainly not at this point in the development of the conservative movement.

Lizza says the president is chastened by his first three years. He's realized the limits of the presidency, that rather than being a "director of change" he's a "facilitator" who has learned to work the system rather than overhaul it. Lizza implies that this is simply how it had to be. But I'm not sure I agree with that. Certainly this grandiose notion of "post-partisanship" was impossible. But could he have been a "director" of change? I don't know. But the president came into office with the opposing party discredited, a large majority and a very large crisis. With a more clear eyed perspective, the art of the possible was expanded, at least for a time.

An earlier understanding of this might have led to a better outcome:
Predictions that Obama would usher in a new era of post-partisan consensus politics now seem not just naïve but delusional. At this political juncture, there appears to be only one real model of effective governance in Washington: partisan dominance, in which a President with large majorities in Congress can push through an ambitious agenda.
Lizza claims that President Obama did just that in his first two years. I think that's being very generous. He did pass a stimulus plan and the health care plan --- both of which suffered tremendously for the insistence on trying to get Republican buy-in long after it was patently obvious they were doing nothing more than watering down the bills before coming out against them. And the long delays gave the right the political space they needed to regroup and come back swinging: 2010 successfully ended any hope of a dominant partisan majority. It's hard to believe that a more realistic understanding of the partisan divide couldn't have created a better outcome.

But let's face facts. Even though the president seems to have abandoned his "post-partisan" fantasy and the right has re-surged strongly, there still persists a belief on the left that there is a magic formula that will break down all these unpleasant cultural and political divisions and bring the parties together. It's no longer the dream of an all powerful president who will heal our divisions by his mere presence. Today it's that we will be able to transcend our differences around policy.

Some believe we will forge new coalitions with Republicans on economics (a long held, never fulfilled dream.) Others think it will be around civil liberties or imperialism. And certainly there will be discrete pieces of legislation that can be passed in a "transpartisan" way. There always have been parochial and individual rationales for working across the aisle on occasion. Sometimes, rarely, even on principle. But a new political coalition? Unlikely. Particularly now, with the nation under stress and the Republicans hunkering down. The deep divisions we see in our politics were baked into the American cake from the beginning. It goes way beyond legislation. It's about identity.

Like I said, this phenomenon waxes and wanes. There are always periods of cooperation and relative peace interrupted by turmoil and partisan battle. Once we even had a war over it. Right now, after a decades long right wing assault and the total capitulation to its premises by the centrist establishment and corporate Democrats, whatever peace is attained by compromise will come at the expense of vulnerable people --- the elderly, children --- and liberalism in general.

I'm glad the president finally realized that he was trying to govern a nation that didn't actually exist. It won't make the outcome any better, but clarity is always good for its own sake. And it's good that the DC press has discovered partisanship again. Ed Kilgore summarizes the illuminating moment:
Presumably spurred by a Gallup analysis on Friday of partisan splits in approval ratings of recent U.S. presidents, both Politico (John Harris and Jonathan Allen) and WaPo’s The Fix (Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake) devoted top billing this morning to an effort to dash any remaining hopes of bipartisan action on the nation’s major challenges before 2013 at the earliest.

This rather banal realization is interesting primarily because it has emerged from the Beltway redoubt of those most likely to harbor the illusion that Great Big Adults in both parties ought to be able to get together and cut deals that can then be sold to the rubes around the country as representing a victory for their team.
I'm sure this news is equally unpleasant to many liberals who hate this system and will make more than a few join the growing chorus which says that electoral politics are a corrupt sewer and a big fat waste of time. And they may very well be right, at least in this moment. We are probably looking at a fairly drawn out period of political trench warfare --- ugly, boring and unsatisfying. I'm all ears if someone has a better idea. (Don't start the revolution without me!) But until that glorious day, somebody should probably keep plugging away in the trenches and trying to move the dial back to the left, even if it's inch by painful inch.

To that end, you can support these people for congress. It's one way to make change in smaller increments in our battered democracy.

And if you're looking for a silver lining, Kilgore wryly provides it:
[I]t is nice to see that the illusion of easy bipartisanship is now largely limited to Americans Elect supporters who somehow think partisans are preventing the American people from embracing by acclamation an agenda of wildly unpopular “entitlement reforms” and tax increases.
Take your victories where you can. That is good news.

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Personal invasion

by David Atkins

This is brilliant:

To protest a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) on Monday attached an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.

"We need some gender equity here," she told HuffPost. "The Virginia senate is about to pass a bill that will require a woman to have totally unnecessary medical procedure at their cost and inconvenience. If we're going to do that to women, why not do that to men?"

The Republican-controlled senate narrowly rejected the amendment Monday by a vote of 21 to 19, but passed the mandatory ultrasound bill in a voice vote. A similar bill in Texas, which physicians say has caused a "bureaucratic nightmare," is currently being challenged in court.

Howell said she is not surprised her amendment failed.

"This is more of a message type of an amendment, so I was pleased to get 19 votes," she said.

She pointed out that there are only seven women in the Virginia senate, and six of them voted in favor of her amendment, along with 13 male senators. Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier County), the sponsor of the mandatory ultrasound bill, voted against it.

Humor and counterpoint are some of the Left's most effective tools, and there's no reason they should be left just to late night comedians.

On another note, I'm increasingly convinced that electing more progressive women to office is a core strategy for the renewal of this country. There are a lot of good ones in state legislatures, ready to move onto the national stage.


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Boo hoo

by digby

Tell me again why I'm supposed to care that "progressive" Catholics are unhappy that president Obama mandated that Catholic institutions that employ people who are not members of the faith have to provide birth control coverage under the health care law? I'm hearing they feel "betrayed."

Welcome to our world folks. Now you know what it felt like for the rest of us when the administration made a deal with the Church to give abortion coverage pariah status in the health care law and treat it as though it is something so dirty that decent people wouldn't even want their money to touch the money of those who bought this dirty coverage. It wasn't pleasant.

I don't pretend to understand why progressive Catholics, who I'm told practice birth control at similar rates to non-Catholics, are upset that the government is mandating low cost coverage for everyone --- for something they personally practice. That sort of hypocrisy is simply beyond the ken of a heathen like myself. But as a political matter, the President made the right decision. Pro-choice progressive women have been shafted over and over again on reproductive issues and to enable this growing anti-birth control crusade to gain traction at the hands of a Democratic president would have been a true betrayal of epic proportions. Keep in mind that Democratic women outnumber Democratic men by nearly 10 points.

In any case, it's done. I don't care if the anti-birth control minority are crying. Why should they be immune?

Nita Chaudhary and Shaunna Thomas of weareultraviolet.org write:

Today, 1 in 3 women has trouble affording birth control. The U.S. has one of the highest rates of unplanned pregnancies in the industrialized world, and studies show that women who plan their pregnancies are likely to be healthier, seek prenatal care, and have healthier children.

Given all of this, shouldn't the question be why a group of mostly men -- bishops or otherwise -- need an extra-extra special exemption from prioritizing the health of women? Sadly, this is no freak occurrence. When the Obama administration made the misguided decision not to allow Plan B to be sold over the counter, the debate focused exclusively on the way he -- "as a father" -- viewed the idea of 11-year-old girls getting Plan B with their pack of gum. The overwhelming majority of young women who were simply trying to avoid pregnancy or abortion, both far more risky than Plan B, were ignored. And when a collection of almost all men pushed the "Bart Stupak amendment," holding health reform they supposedly supported hostage for the sake of inroads on their anti-choice agenda, the actual impact their amendment would have on women was virtually absent as news coverage lionized these men's dedication to their consciences.

Shouldn't we ask why women's health, our ability to control our lives and bodies and careers, is such a popular political football? Is it because the women who actually are affected have no voice in our political system?

We need to start asking women what they think about birth control getting covered by their insurance.

You can start with us. We're glad. And if you're part of the 80% of Americans who agree with us, you can sign this card letting the administration know they did the right thing: www.weareultraviolet.org
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Exceptionalism!

by digby



If we can just get those taxes down to nothing and eliminate all impediments to inheritance, we should be able to successfully recreate the British aristocracy in a generation. The founders would be proud.


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Hit me baby one more time

by digby

Ooops:

One of the biggest requests that labor had made of Congressional Dems was this: Don’t sell out unions when the long-term Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization is renegotiated with House Republicans. Unions saw this as a top prioritiy for 2012.

Well, now the verdict is in: Over a dozen unions — including a number of AFL-CIO affiliates, like the Communications Workers of America and the International Association of Machinists; and possibly the SEIU — are preparing to unleash a new letter blasting Senate Dem leaders for reaching a bad deal with Republicans on this core priority, claiming it could compromise their ability to organize in the future. They will demand that Dems pull out of the deal and insist that Dems push the GOP harder for a “clean” reauthorization that doesn’t rewrite labor law.

One labor official told me that the deal has led to "significant union discontent” with the Senate Dem leadership, which may not bode well for Dem-labor relations heading into an election year.


Sargent has the background. It's not pretty.


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Chipping Away At Romney's Sense of Entitlement

By tristero

Imagine how galling it must be to Mitt Romney to be lectured to by a Bush - yep, one of those Bushes, the ones born with silver spoons pre-inserted in their rears - on how important it is to "earn" Jeb's endorsement, and not simply expect it.

These are very strange and creepy people.

 
Shame strategy

by digby

Oh, my goodness:

Stephen Hester, head of the Royal Bank of Scotland, gave way to heavy political pressure last night to forego his £963,000 bonus.

The final straw for the RBS chief executive appears to have been the looming threat of a vote in the House of Commons condemning the Government for failing to block the payment.

He is reported to have feared becoming "a pariah" over the controversy.


But here's the problem. He's going to be sullen and unhappy now and unwilling to create any jobs. And then where will we be? It's not like there's anyone else who can do his job. (Even worse, all the employees of the bank will be demoralized because they'll feel as if they work for the civil service. Or something.)

Big mistake folks. By not insisting that this fine fellow take his million pound bonus they've robbed average citizens of their badly needed jobs. I hope they can live with themselves.

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Creative decay, courtesy our corporate overlords

by David Atkins

Kurt Andersen of Vanity Fair penned a great article this month on the comparative lack of cultural innovation over the last 20 years. Andersen notes that in architecture, art, fashion, music and other aspects of popular and consumer culture, there is very little difference between the culture of 20 years ago and that of today. By contrast, think of the enormous differences between 1992 and 1972, or between 1972 and 1952, or 1952 and 1932, or 1932 and 1912. Technology has changed significantly, of course, but styles haven't:

Think about it. Picture it. Rewind any other 20-year chunk of 20th-century time. There’s no chance you would mistake a photograph or movie of Americans or an American city from 1972—giant sideburns, collars, and bell-bottoms, leisure suits and cigarettes, AMC Javelins and Matadors and Gremlins alongside Dodge Demons, Swingers, Plymouth Dusters, and Scamps—with images from 1992. Time-travel back another 20 years, before rock ’n’ roll and the Pill and Vietnam, when both sexes wore hats and cars were big and bulbous with late-moderne fenders and fins—again, unmistakably different, 1952 from 1972. You can keep doing it and see that the characteristic surfaces and sounds of each historical moment are absolutely distinct from those of 20 years earlier or later: the clothes, the hair, the cars, the advertising—all of it. It’s even true of the 19th century: practically no respectable American man wore a beard before the 1850s, for instance, but beards were almost obligatory in the 1870s, and then disappeared again by 1900. The modern sensibility has been defined by brief stylistic shelf lives, our minds trained to register the recent past as old-fashioned.

Go deeper and you see that just 20 years also made all the difference in serious cultural output. New York’s amazing new buildings of the 1930s (the Chrysler, the Empire State) look nothing like the amazing new buildings of the 1910s (Grand Central, Woolworth) or of the 1950s (the Seagram, U.N. headquarters). Anyone can instantly identify a 50s movie (On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai) versus one from 20 years before (Grand Hotel, It Happened One Night) or 20 years after (Klute, A Clockwork Orange), or tell the difference between hit songs from 1992 (Sir Mix-a-Lot) and 1972 (Neil Young) and 1952 (Patti Page) and 1932 (Duke Ellington). When high-end literature was being redefined by James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, great novels from just 20 years earlier—Henry James’s The Ambassadors, Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth—seemed like relics of another age. And 20 years after Hemingway published his war novel For Whom the Bell Tolls a new war novel, Catch-22, made it seem preposterously antique.

Now try to spot the big, obvious, defining differences between 2012 and 1992. Movies and literature and music have never changed less over a 20-year period. Lady Gaga has replaced Madonna, Adele has replaced Mariah Carey—both distinctions without a real difference—and Jay-Z and Wilco are still Jay-Z and Wilco. Except for certain details (no Google searches, no e-mail, no cell phones), ambitious fiction from 20 years ago (Doug Coupland’s Generation X, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow) is in no way dated, and the sensibility and style of Joan Didion’s books from even 20 years before that seem plausibly circa-2012.

Andersen has a lot more evidence where this comes from in his lengthy 3-page piece. Suffice it to say that it's a fairly compelling case. The key question is why?

Andersen speculates on a number of reasons, not all of which I find convincing. But one reason occurred to me immediately while reading the piece, which Andersen does eventually address: the fact that culture and media are increasingly dominated by shareholder-interested, risk-averse conglomerates that have too much to lose by taking significant creative initiative:

Part of the explanation, as I’ve said, is that, in this thrilling but disconcerting time of technological and other disruptions, people are comforted by a world that at least still looks the way it did in the past. But the other part of the explanation is economic: like any lucrative capitalist sector, our massively scaled-up new style industry naturally seeks stability and predictability. Rapid and radical shifts in taste make it more expensive to do business and can even threaten the existence of an enterprise. One reason automobile styling has changed so little these last two decades is because the industry has been struggling to survive, which made the perpetual big annual styling changes of the Golden Age a reducible business expense. Today, Starbucks doesn’t want to have to renovate its thousands of stores every few years. If blue jeans became unfashionable tomorrow, Old Navy would be in trouble. And so on. Capitalism may depend on perpetual creative destruction, but the last thing anybody wants is their business to be the one creatively destroyed. Now that multi-billion-dollar enterprises have become style businesses and style businesses have become multi-billion-dollar enterprises, a massive damper has been placed on the general impetus for innovation and change.

This isn't exactly news to anyone who goes to the movie theater. Producers come up with sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots galore because there's built-in audience and branding for them. Doing new things and telling new stories are dangerous and potentially expensive endeavors.

It's even worse in videogames, exceptions like Portal notwithstanding. Cracked had a great article on this subject last year:

But this isn't about any lack of creativity among game developers, artists, writers or anyone else. It's about money, and the fact that the market has trapped games in a fucking creative coffin (and developers will tell you the same). Everybody complains about sequels and reboots in Hollywood, but holy shit, it's nothing compared to what we have in gaming right now.

For instance, each of the Big Three game console makers took the stage at E3 to show off their biggest games of the upcoming year. Microsoft led off with the aforementioned Modern Warfare 3, which is really Call of Duty 8 (game makers like to switch up the sequel titles so the digits don't get ridiculous). Next was Tomb Raider 10 (rebooted as Tomb Raider). Then we had Mass Effect 3, and Ghost Recon 11 (titled Ghost Recon: Future Soldier). This was followed by Gears of War 3, Forza 4 and Fable 4 (called Fable: The Journey).

Next were two new games, both based on existing brands and both for toddlers (Disneyland Adventure -- a Kinect enabled game that will let your toddler tour Disneyland without you having to spring for a ticket -- and a Sesame Street game starring Elmo).

Then, finally, we reached the big announcement at the end (they always save cliffhanger "megaton" announcements for last, Steve Jobs-style) and they came out to announce that they were introducing "the beginning of a new trilogy." Yes! Something fucking new!

Then this came up on the screen: Halo 4. Confused? So was the audience. By "new trilogy" they actually meant that there would be three more Halo games. Did I mention that Halo 4 is actually Halo 7? Which means they intend to put out at least nine Halo games before they're done? Oh, wait, they also announced they were doing a gritty reboot of the decade-old Halo to make it an even 10.

Sony came up next and announced a sequel, another sequel and then a reboot. After that it went sequel, sequel, special edition of a sequel, new FPS, sequel, new FPS, sequel, special edition of a sequel, new game based on an existing property (Star Trek), sequel, sequel and sequel. Then they introduced a new system (the PS Vita) and showed it off with four sequels.

Nintendo's list went: sequel, sequel, sequel, sequel, sequel, sequel, sequel, sequel, sequel and (hold on, let me double check here) a sequel. And you already know what those were, even if you haven't played a video game in 15 years: Mario Kart, Mario World, Luigi, Zelda, Kirby, etc. Then they showed off their new system (the Wii U) with a demo reel promising that some day it would allow us to play sequels like Arkham Asylum 2, Darksiders II and Ninja Gaiden 3.

Think about the situation with Hollywood -- movies are expensive as hell, so studios are scared to death of taking creative risks and thus we get a new Transformers movie every two years. But now take that and multiply it times five, and you have the situation with video games. Literally. A video game costs five times as much as a movie ticket, and therefore customers are five times as cautious about experimenting with unfamiliar games that might wind up being shit. Game publishers respond accordingly.

And yes, we gamers are ultimately to blame. We don't even perceive how incredibly narrow our range of choices has gotten. For instance, every single gaming forum on the Internet right now is hosting at least one passionate discussion about which is better, Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3. [Emphasis added]

The videogame industry is particularly problematic in this regard. But the problem is a cultural universal with similar symptoms across the board. The malaise of large-scale corporate domination of our economy isn't just political and economic. It's cultural, too. It's the slow death of conformity and creative strangulation disguised as cool and individual expression through ironic nostalgia and the commodification of discontent.


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Sunday, January 29, 2012

 
Virtually Speaking Sunday

by digby



6pst 9est

digby and Stuart Zechman discuss developments of the week, highlighting what’s been neglected or misrepresented on the Sunday morning broadcasts, drawing from their work of the prior week and the wickedly funny Bobblespeak Translations. Featuring CoT’s the ‘Most Ridiculous Moment’ from the Sunday morning talk shows. Follow @digby56 @bobblespeak @Stuart_Zechman.


Call in number to speak with the host(646) 200-3440



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What is this "democracy" you speak of?

by digby

John McCain was just born to be a tyrant. He hid it well for a few years, but it's always been under there, lurking, waiting until his ambitions were burned out and he could be himself:

“We’ve got to stop the debates,” McCain told Meet The Press' David Gregory. “Enough with the debates, because they are driving up our candidates’, all of them, unfavorability. We have enough of that. They’ve turned into mud wrestling instead of an exposition of all our candidates views. And it’s time to recognize who the real adversary is, and it’s not each other.”
Sorry, daddy.

In every election there are a bunch of people demanding that candidates drop out, to stop the debates, to end the primaries because it's hurting the ballclub. There is a very strong strain in our country (a bipartisan one, by the way) to not allow the people to decide who's going to run for president. (This is the same impulse that immediately writes off everyone but the anointed frontrunner --- anointed, by the way, by a bunch of millionaires and the Village press corps.)

I realize it's uncomfortable for everyone's chosen candidate to have to compete for votes and make his case in something besides a 30 second ad, but it's still nice to let people at least pretend that they are participating in this thing we call "democracy." Presidential Debates are just about the only thing we've done to further that cause in the past 30 years --- so naturally the establishment is clamoring to end them.

The system will survive and the eventual nominee will come out ok. Everybody should just relax.

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Allen West Apparently Wants the Majority of Floridians to Leave America

Allen West at a Palm Beach GOP fundraiser:


"This is a battlefield that we must stand upon and we need to let president Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and my dear friend, the chairman of the Democrat National Committee, we need to let them know that Florida ain't on the table. Take your message of equality of achievement, take your message of economic dependency, and take your message of enslaving the entrepreneurial will and spirit of the American people somewhere else. You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America. Yeah, I said hell.

This is not about 1% and 99%. This is about 100%. 100% American. And I will not stand back and watch anyone defame, degrade or destroy that which my father fought for, my older brother, my father-in-law, myself, my nephew and all my friends still in uniform. I will not allow Obama to take the United States of America and destroy it. So if that means I'm the #1 target for the Democrat Party, all I gotta say is one thing: 'Bring it on, baby.'


On the other hand, here's a new NBC Marist poll from Florida:

Obama: 49%
Romney: 41%

Obama: 52%
Gingrich: 35%

Obama: 50%
Paul: 36%

Obama: 50%
Santorum: 35%

It's early, of course, and polls are a snapshot in time. But it certainly appears that at this moment, Allen West would prefer that the majority of Floridians leave the country for more socialist climes.

Perhaps it's Allen West who might need to leave America for a more libertarian paradise. He could go to the bottom of the sea for it. But I hear Afghanistan and Somalia are lovely places where no oppressive government will enforce equality of achievement on anyone (no one with a penis, anyway.)

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Do you like Gladiator movies Newtie?

by digby

I'm sure it's going to be tempting for certain wags to say this is because women think Mitt is dreamy, but I think it's probably more that Newtie is just so ... Newtie:
Romney beats Gingrich and the rest of the field by winning broadly across many subgroups -- those who are not Tea Party supporters (52 percent), those who are liberal or moderate (49 percent), make more than $75,000 a year (49 percent), identify as "conservative" (47 percent), and, in particular with women.

There was a stark gender gap between Romney and Gingrich. Women said they preferred Romney by 47-26 percent over Gingrich. The gap is closer with men, but Romney leads with them as well, 38-29 percent.
Still, the Gingrich camp has to be very pleased with this. Maybe it'll turn that gender gap around. Check out the muscular gam and taut torso:



Newtie's having that framed, I'm sure. Mitt too for that matter. Conservative boys just love a naked, sweaty Gladiator fantasy.

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Making things worse -- forever

by digby

Noting Jared Bernstein's reporting on how the misguided insistence on cutting government spending is delaying a robust recovery, Krugman adds this:

But it’s even worse than he says. Why? Because if you look at what’s being cut, it’s heavily focused on investment:










That is, we’re sacrificing the future as well as the present. Oh, and the cuts that aren’t falling on investment in physical capital are largely falling on human capital, that is, education.

It’s hard to overstate just how wrong all this is. We have a situation in which resources are sitting idle looking for uses — massive unemployment of workers, especially construction workers, capital so bereft of good investment opportunities that it’s available to the federal government at negative real interest rates. Never mind multipliers and all that (although they exist too); this is a time when government investment should be pushed very hard. Instead, it’s being slashed.


It's very hard not to believe the conspiracy theorists who say that this is consciously being done to lower wages and standard of living. Can anyone really be this dumb?

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Unimpeachable Revolutionary

by digby

Think Progress:

Norquist is now mapping out how he can ensure further anti-tax victories by securing Republican majorities. In an interview with the National Journal, he mused that a GOP mandate would obviously enact an extension of the Bush tax cuts, work to maintain a repatriation holiday for corporate profits, and even pass House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan that jeopardizes Medicare. But when asked what Republicans should do if faced with a Democratic majority that won’t keep the tax cuts, Norquist had a simple answer:“impeach” Obama.

NJ: What if the Democrats still have control? What’s your scenario then?

NORQUIST: Obama can sit there and let all the tax [cuts] lapse, and then the Republicans will have enough votes in the Senate in 2014 to impeach. The last year, he’s gone into this huddle where he does everything by executive order. He’s made no effort to work with Congress.


Grover forgets that President's can only be impeached for treason or high crimes and misdemeanors. (But then they lowered the bar so low with the last one that the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors is now anything equivalent to extramarital blow jobs, so maybe he has a point.)

Still, I think it's time to give Grover his due. It's tempting to make fun of him. His name is kind of funny,and he seems to be a bit of a clown to outside observers, but the truth is that he's probably had more influence on American politics than any other single person in the last 30 years. He has systematically pursued his "market leninist" strategy with focus and patience and resisted the lure of compromise even when the Democrats offered up big cuts to "entitlements," (something that even surprised me.)

He keeps his eye on the prize --- the prize he's been seeking since 1978:

In the handful of Marxists on an elite campus otherwise drained from a decade of political activism, Grover could find sustenance for his view that America’s power structure was dominated by Leftists arrogantly running roughshod over the lives of true Americans. And when he graduated cum laude with a degree in economics in 1978, he could pour more concrete around his already impregnable ideology by drawing on the promise of the tax rebellion erupting throughout the country. All around him, from Massachusetts to California, he saw a popular uprising against bureaucracy and socialist creep. “Get rid of the Soviet government,” he would say, “and I don’t really have much use for ours.”

He was convinced that the adults behind this tax revolt saw what the prep-school radicals at Harvard couldn’t, or wouldn’t: The struts and supports of America’s sprawling government were producing weak and dependent people.(And with the lessons in self-sufficiency that infused Grover’s childhood, he didn’t harbor much tolerance for weak, dependent people.) Government had the pernicious power to steal money from the strong and corrupt the weak with handouts. Government was communal, which meant other people (bureaucrats who weren’t as smart, otherwise they wouldn’t be bureaucrats) telling people like him what to do. The government used taxpayer dollars to create all kinds of mischief.


Norquist is philosophically a hardcore libertarian. But he's a strategist who will use any means to achive his goals. If that means temporarily making common cause with theocrats and imperialists he'll do it.

His most important and enduring tactic is the anti-tax crusade which he has never once compromised. Through it, he basically controls one of the two major parties in America. And he will not give up until he achieves what he set out to achieve --- bankrupting the federal government.

He's a fascinating fellow, whose personality seems almost underdeveloped in some respects:
Grover’s parents left him with a confident righteousness about the world and how to maneuver in it. In doing so they raised a supremely confident young man, but one who seemed to his friends strangely incapable of connecting with others. “He’s not a fellow who is motivated by or particularly needs a whole lot of human warmth or interaction,” explained one friend.

Grover would have trouble understanding, coping with, or even deciphering flaws in those around him. While friends insisted he had a strong moral compass for his own actions, the nuances of human personality in others often eluded him. Friends and allies worried: Grover would embrace a bad apple, based on a precariously built certainty that the person was an ideological loyalist. Just as readily, he’d turn against an ally, based on an equally dubious conclusion that the person was (or would be, or might be) a betrayer to the cause.

Politically, this overcharged sense of self-sufficiency produced in Grover an intolerance for the view that people might turn to government for help as an arbiter, an equalizer of society’s power imbalances. People were best off left alone; a coddling, meddling government could only sap reservoirs of individual strength. From his upbringing, too, came a natural empathy for the survivalist rhetoric of the gun crowd and the antigovernment themes of Western libertarians. Raised in a chic Northeastern suburb, Norquist would increasingly sound like a man spawned from the individualist West. “I’ve always thought,” he would explain later, “that it is part of the American ideology, the American worldview, that people should be left alone to take care of themselves, and other people shouldn’t tell you what to do.”


There's a certain kind of psychology that leads people in Grover's ideological direction. I've met any number of them over the years, many having some of those same personality traits.

But it's a rare person who has his strategic mind and capacity for serious long term commitment to a single, powerful tactic to achieve his goals. He doesn't get the credit he deserves for the state of our politics today. He's a major figure.


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Bringing the nasty

by digby

Oh, Sarah. The country misses you so:



Governor Palin:Yeah how can he say he is not part of the establishment? Well look at the players in the establishment, who are fighting so hard against him. They want to crucify him because he has tapped into that average everyday American Tea Party grassroots movement that has said ‘enough is enough of the establishment.’ That tries to run the show that tries to tweak rules and law and regulations for their own good and not for our nation’s own good.

Well when both party machines and many in the media are trying to crucify Newt Gingrich for bucking the tide and bucking the establishment that tells ya something.

I say ya know ya gotta rage against the machine, at this point, in order to defend our Republic and save what is good and secure and prosperous about our nation, we need somebody who is engaged in sudden and relentless reform and isn’t afraid to shake it up. Shake up that establishment.

So, if for no other reason to rage against the machine, vote for Newt, annoy a liberal. Vote Newt. Keep this vetting process going, keep the debate going.


I don't know if she knows that's an endorsement, but that's an endorsement. (For "sudden and relentless reform" anyway.)

I've always thought Palin was a dyed in the wool Gingrich Republican. His appeal is a pseudo-intellectual covering for nasty liberal baiting, hers is physical attractiveness covering for nasty liberal baiting. Both of those surface appeals are things conservatives are insecure about and tend to overvalue. But more than anything else it's really all about the nasty and both Newtie and Palin know how to bring it.


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Larry Summers Epitomizes What's Wrong with the World

by David Atkins

Watching this Krishnan Guru-Murthy interview with Larry Summers is enough to make any decent person want to punch a hole through a wall:



Felix Salmon has a pretty good take on it:

So I was very happy to see that Krishnan Guru-Murthy at least tried to ask Summers these questions earlier this week. Krishnan starts off with standard Summers-interview questions, asking him what he thinks about UK fiscal policy, and Summers gives his standard wise-man answers. But then Krishan gets steadily tougher, asking Summers about the advice he gave the president-elect in 2008, and eventually about his deregulatory tenure at Treasury.

And Summers doesn’t even come close to apologizing, or admitting that he made any kind of mistake at all. Quite the opposite: he starts getting very touchy, telling Krishnan that he’s reducing complex questions to overly simplistic black-and-white narratives. Halfway through the interview, Krishnan asks Summers whether laissez-faire capitalism isn’t working for the middle classes. And Summers pushes back. “I’m a Democrat,” he says, adding that “I’ve long been someone who favored significant interventions to protect the environment.”

“Protect the environment?” responds Krishnan. “Didn’t you advise the president not to sign up to Kyoto?”

“No, no,” replies Summers.

“You didn’t?”

“No. I advised that an agreement be designed in order to protect the American economy, and the United States not take on obligations that would render its businesses uncompetitive.”

Summers never explains how this differs from advice not to sign up to Kyoto, nor does he give an example of any “significant interventions” he pushed for to protect the environment.

On deregulation, he's even more disgusting. Summers' answer to probing questions on his role in creating the bubble economy:

Would it have been better if the whole of the 2010 financial reform legislation had passed in 1999 or 1998 or 1992? Yes, of course it would have been better. But at the time Bill Clinton was president, there essentially were no credit default swaps. So the issue that became a serious problem really wasn’t an issue that was on the horizon… If you want to assign responsibility, If you take a market that essentially didn’t exist in the 1990s, that grew for eight years from 2001 to 2008, and then brought on a major collapse, if you were looking to hold people responsible, you would look to… officials of the Bush Administration. I’m not going to tell you that I foresaw this crisis in all its dimensions, but without sounding like Newt Gingrich here, for you to read two articles that a researcher handed you and sling this stuff is not really to give your viewers a very clear chance.

But Salmon sets the record straight:
Summers is absolutely wrong about credit derivatives not existing in the late 1990s. He was Treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001; Euromoney Magazine had splashed the words “Credit Derivatives” all over its front cover in March 1996. And Brooksley Born, between 1996 and 1999, was literally losing sleep over those things as head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Summers’s response to Born? To make sure she was marginalized, and, eventually, pushed out of her job entirely.

Elections come and go. Presidents come and go. But the only way things will change is if people like Bob Rubin, Phil Gramm, Larry Summers and anyone in their remotest orbits are explicitly exiled from power for all the world to see. The troubles with the Obama Administration began from the moment they picked financial advisers prior to even taking office.javascript:void(0)

There is hope, though, in the likes of Darcy Burner and Elizabeth Warren. If the country can survive that long, 2016 and 2020 might be the time when the Larry Summerses of the world are finally given the boot they so richly deserve.

It will probably take a woman, and one not associated with the last 30 years of asset-based Bond-Lord-worshipping fiscal insanity.


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Saturday, January 28, 2012

 
Saturday Night At The Movies


Dr. Terrible’s house of horrible


By Dennis Hartley














Thank you! I’m here until Thursday: The Theatre Bizarre


I know you didn’t ask, but in case you were wondering, the horror anthology is alive and deliriously unwell, as evidenced in a Grand Guignol-worthy collection of short films called The Theatre Bizarre. Think The Night Gallery meets Red Shoe Diaries…hosted by the Jim Rose Circus. And I should warn you up front: this one’s not for the squeamish.


Actually, your framing hosts for the evening are a troupe of creepy performers who lurch about the stage like crazed marionettes, while an emcee (the ever-disturbing Udo Kier, getting his Uncle Fester on in a big way) introduces each of the six vignettes to his po-faced audience of one (Virginia Newcomb), a young woman who has straggled in to the seemingly abandoned venue. These interludes (directed by Jeremy Kasten) do lend symmetry to a collection that would otherwise have a tenuous sense of thematic cohesion.

Curiously, the anthology launches with its weakest installment, “The Mother of Toads” (directed by Richard Stanley). An American anthropologist and his girlfriend get sidetracked from their road trip in the French countryside by a mysterious gypsy woman. The actors give amateurish, oddly mannered readings, like the “performances” in a cheap porno (a stab at irony, perhaps?). The most viscous inter-species sex scene since The Man Who Fell to Earth aside, it’s a lackluster and predictable (if mercifully short) affair.

Things perk up a bit in the next piece, “I Love You” (directed by Buddy Giovinazzo). In this Memento -flavored tale, a man awakens on his bathroom floor with a gashed hand and partial amnesia. As he flashes back, we are given glimpses of a highly dysfunctional relationship that he may or may not still be embroiled in. It’s a gruesome, yet cleverly constructed cautionary tale about obsession, possessiveness, and knowing when to let go.


The darkly comic “Wet Dreams”, directed by B-movie cult hero Tom Savini (and possibly inspired by the charming real-life story of John and Lorena Bobbit), is the grossest, yet (perversely) the most entertaining installment. An abusive husband, who seems to be quite literally trapped in a Freudian nightmare, gets his just desserts; whether he gets them literally or figuratively is left up to the viewer. Savini also casts himself as a psychiatrist. And a warning: you may be put off of chorizo and eggs for quite some time.


Next, Douglas Buck helms “The Accident”. After a little girl witnesses a horrific road accident, she peppers her mother with questions about mortality. It’s a simple concept, but beautifully acted, artfully photographed and quite resonant. Hands down, it is the best of the bunch. In fact, if I had seen it outside the context of this particular anthology (say, as a stand-alone at a short film festival), I would consider it Oscar-worthy; it’s that good.


Now, the one that made me look away. Repeatedly. “Vision Stains” (directed by Karim Hussain) gleefully recalls the most famously unwatchable moment in Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou. Repeatedly. This is too bad, because while I give Hussain’s piece an “A” for originality, I couldn’t stop squirming (then again, I’m a wimp). A homeless female serial killer haunts urban back alleys, seeking out women who (from her judgment, at least) already exist in a kind of living death; junkies, alkies and the generally disenfranchised. The twist is that, at the moment of their literal death, she sees theirlife flash in front of her eyes (it involves a hypodermic needle…don’t ask). Then she dutifully records their biographies into her journal (goes to show what some people won’t do for a good story).


The final “chapter”, or perhaps tagged more appropriately, the “dessert” is directed by David Gregory. “Sweets” is a mixed bag; Annie Hall meets Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. An annoyingly whiney fellow begs his dominatrix-like girlfriend not to dump him, while flashbacks recall the arc of their relationship (which is mostly comprised of the couple force-feeding each other voluminous amounts of syrupy, gloppy, sickly-sweet substances). Okay, I get it; relationships can be “sticky”, and falling out of love is not unlike suffering a huge sugar crash. While it’s a welcome bit of levity (considering what has preceded it), the piece ultimately overdoses on its own metaphorical sugar high. Although, if you’re on a diet, it would be great aversion therapy.


Granted, The Theatre Bizarre is not for all tastes. That being said, there is nothing here that I would consider to be “tasteless” purely for the sake of being tasteless, if you know what I’m saying. That’s because there is a certain amount of intelligence at work here, coupled with a sense that the filmmakers are occasionally peeking around the curtains to wink at the audience and assure us, “hey, it’s only a movie”. That is what separates this film from most contemporary horror, which has been co-opted and essentially overrun by some truly abhorrent subgenres (like “torture porn”-no thanks!). God, I miss Rod Serling.


Picture if you will: Twilight Zone: The Movie, Creepshow, Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, Tales From the Crypt, Black Sabbath, Kwaidan, Dead of Night (1945), Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1943), Tales of Terror, Twice-Told Tales, The House That Dripped Blood, Asylum, The Vault of Horror, Cat’s Eye, Two Evil Eyes, Torture Garden, The Offspring, The Monster Club, From Beyond the Grave, Trick ‘r Treat.

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