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Monday, February 28, 2011

Hey buddy, can you spare a dime?

by digby

Susie Madrak at Suburban Guerilla is holding a fundraiser. If you can spare it, she could use it and she's worth every penny.

Villagers: Americans are too dumb to make decisions

by digby

May I present --- The Village, via Hardball today:

Matthews: You poll people about what they want to see cut. They say foreign aid and general government expenses. They want to see more money in education, they don't want any cuts in social security or anything like it. If you ask them they want to see government waste cut, they don't want real cuts.

For example I was just out doing something for Alzheimers this past week out in Las Vegas trying to raise awareness out there with people who are doing research. magine telling people out there who have an Alzheimers victim in their house and they're a caregiver, "oh by the way, we're cutting spending on research." They are going to face another 20 or 30 years of Azheimers hell in this case because they can't solve the problem.

Do people really want those kind of cuts?

First, notice that the idea of raising revenue is never raised by wealthy pundits. Ever. But when you ask the American people, large numbers very much like the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy over cutting programs to close some of this revenue gap. I don't think it's any mystery why these celebrities don't want to bring that up.

But get a load of this:

Jeanne Cummings of Politico: I think in addition to those challenges that you've just outline, there is an additional one for this congress and the white house if they want to do anything. And that is that there are sizeable majorities in the 60 percent in a recent poll by Kaiser who think we can fix Medicare and Social Security by just cutting the other parts of the budget.

So the public, while they may be coming around aren't ready for this debate yet. There's a lot of education that has to take place before Washington can move in a serious and fundamental way.

What struck me with the deficit commission in December was they made recommendations that would change social security for instance, they effect of those changes wouldn't affect anybody until 2050! Ok? That's a long time from now!

And yet they were criticized roundly from both sides of the aisle and nobody's been willing to touch that one. So until they bring the public with them I think this will remain.They've got to educate the public but until they do that I think it's got to be a very tough issue.


The public isn't stupid. They know very well that there are saner ways to deal with a potential shortfall resulting in minor benefit cuts in 2037 than even bigger benefit cuts . We may be dumb, but we're not that dumb.

As for people not being willing to cut Medicare, perhaps some of these villagers ought to talk to the Republicans and their puppet masters who ran millions of dollars worth of ads in the last election demagogueing the cuts in Medicare in the health care reforms. It's funny how that's the one time in history that the Democrats took on one of their base's favored programs and didn't get any credit for it. In fact, they got crucified by the hypocritical GOP and nobody in DC said a peep.

It's not that the Village needs to "bring the public along" it's that the public needs to stop listening to the Villagers altogether. They are a font of misinformation.

Oh, and by the way, the deficit commission didn't issue any recommendations because they couldn't get a consensus. There's a reason for that if the oh-so-smug and secure establishment journalists cared to look into it they'd find it's really not painless for working people after all.

But then, according to GOP hack Susan Molinari, nobody really needs social security anymore:

Matthews: So, if you're 26 years old, this will affect you. That's 39 years. I'm just doing the math.

GOP Hack Susan Molinari: 26 year olds? 52 year olds don't rely on social security for our benefits. We've all grown up with the reality that we don't think it's going to be there for them.

What do you mean "we", rich woman?

I hope they keep up that line. You might be able to persuade some 26 year olds that they can make up for the loss of Social Security by the time they retire, but try telling that to the 50+ crowd and they will have a fight on their hands the likes of which they've never seen. Especially all the middle class workers who are taking care of aging parents, college kids, have lost jobs, housing equity and their 401ks. (And, by the way, even most people who have recovered in this downturn are still counting on social security as part of their retirement income. Only the most well-off can afford to do without it at all.)

She went on to talk about Paul Ryan coming out with an awesome benefits cuts plan in a couple of weeks, and Matthews scoffed saying he will be very, very impressed if he ever sees a politician come out with real benefits cuts that people can read in the newspaper.

I assume they all piled into Chris's limousine after the show and went out and had a lovely four star meal to talk over how very impressive that will be.

A Many Pronged Attack

by digby

I wrote about this right wing Georgia wild man Bobby Franklin a couple of months ago when he proposed that people shouldn't have to be licensed to drive. You may have heard about his recent attempt to criminalize miscarriages. Well Julie Ingersoll has connected the dots on this fine fellow and guess what? He's a Christian Reconstructionist:

Franklin has introduced a bill that lays out a "states' rights" argument that the US Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction to hear Roe v. Wade and that the Court has no constitutional authority to define who is a person and what constitutes murder.

The bill asserts in a preamble: "The State of Georgia has the duty to protect all innocent life from the moment of conception until natural death. We know that life begins at conception." The preamble is the justification for making what Franklin labels "pre-natal murder" illegal. (Georgia isn't the only state taking up new and controversial bills on abortion.)

What makes Franklin's bill different, though, is the provision on miscarriage. Miscarriage is not be considered pre-natal murder "so long as there is no human involvement whatsoever in the causation of such event." There is no indication as to how such a determination is to be made, and critics are charging that the bill would require women who have had miscarriages to provide evidence that they were not at fault, and possibly be subject to criminal investigations by the state.

Franklin's bio on the state legislature’s website claims he "has been called 'the conscience of the Republican Caucus' because he believes that civil government should return to its biblically and constitutionally defined role." That same website has a nifty little option that allows you to sort proposed bills according to their sponsors; so it was easy to get a sense of what he means by government's biblically-defined role.

He sponsored legislation to eliminate restrictions on bringing guns to church and to school. He proposed that the state of Georgia adopt a hard money currency system, and offered a resolution lecturing a state supreme court justice on the difference between a "democracy" and a "republic." He has proposed amending the law so that victims of rape would be referred to as "accusers" rather than "victims" (this applied only to rape and not other crimes, so one couldn't argue it was motivated by preserving the concept of innocent until proven guilty). Franklin has such a "limited view" of government that not only does he oppose public schools but he also thinks the state has no authority to issue driver's licenses.

Right. The state cannot issue driver's licenses but it should regulate miscarriages.

Oh, but there's more on what Franklin thinks is government's "biblically-defined role." Franklin is a member of Chalcedon Presbyterian Church, one of the few out-and-out Christian Reconstructionist churches. Featured in Bill Moyers' 1992 documentary God in Politics: On Earth As It Is In Heaven, Chalcedon Presbyterian is pastored by Joseph Morecraft, a regular lecturer at American Vision and Vision Forum events. And all of the proposed legislation noted above has roots in Christian Reconstructionist teachings or the culture of Reconstructionist-oriented biblical patriarchy.

Read on for the details.

There are quite a few of these people in politics and the right wing is electing more and more of them as they take over the Republican party. It is not some fringe part of the movement anymore as Mother Jones reveals in this story about how these "justifiable homicide" bills are cropping up all over the country:

That these measures have emerged simultaneously in a handful of states is no coincidence. It's part of a campaign orchestrated by a Washington-based anti-abortion group, which has lobbied state lawmakers to introduce legislation that it calls the "Pregnant Woman's Protection Act" [PDF]. Over the past two years, the group, Americans United for Life, has succeeded in passing versions of this bill in Missouri and Oklahoma. But there's a big difference between those bills and the measures floated recently in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa.


AUL's efforts to expand justifiable homicide statutes are part of a broader push by social conservatives to advance the political front lines on abortion and other social issues. After Republicans won the House of Representatives and swept to almost unprecedented state-level success in November, social conservatives were invigorated. Since state and federal legislative sessions began in January, they have pushed GOP lawmakers to introduce scores of bills aimed at promoting what they call a "culture of life."

That effort hasn't failed to stir up controversy. At the federal level, House Republicans have attempted to limit the circumstances under which the government would pay for abortions to cases of "forcible rape," a measure that was eventually dropped after it caused a national furor in January. Since then, cuts in federal funding for family planning, proposals specifically outlawing funding for Planned Parenthood, a Georgia bill that could criminalize some miscarriages, and the series of AUL-backed bills allowing for justifiable homicide in defense of a fetus have all helped put the culture wars back on the nation's front pages. With conservatives riding a wave of 2010 success and anti-Obama feeling into the 2012 elections, anti-abortion forces are just getting started.

There is an impulse among many liberal wonks and activists to flinch in the face of this sort of right wing assault and perversely shame those who try to raise awareness of it. I certainly heard my fill of it during the last election where my worries about a teabag revolution were met with eye rolling and derision from more than a few of my colleagues. My hope was that my fears would come to nothing, but at this point I think the evidence shows that the Big Money Boyz have decided to keep their rubes (who were always just as socially conservative as "fiscally" conservative) happy while they implement their Disaster Capitalist program.

Unfortunately, there will probably be a temptation for some Democrats to think that they will settle for these "less important" culture war items in exchange for letting up on the economic side and offer them up in negotiations. (Or that there are only so many fronts on which Democrats can fight so, let's let these go.) But everyone should know by now that when you give right wingers an inch, they take a mile. They want it all. And if push really comes to shove history shows that the Republicans will stab the social conservatives in the back long before they'll sell out the plutocrats, so there's really no point.

When I see someone like Richard Mellon Scaife criticizing the Republicans for going after Planned Parenthood, I realize that we are the proverbial frogs in slowly boiling water. The right has become very, very extreme and they are backed by big money and own one of the two major political parties in this country. And yet I haven't yet seen much visceral reaction from the policy elites aside from the usual pooh-poohing of the hysterical hippies Cassandra crones like myself.

Maybe Wisconsin and other grassroots reactions around the country will wake them up. I hope so. And I certainly hope that when they do, they realize that there is no "common ground" with people who want to criminalize miscarriage. They have declared all-out war.

Big Blubbering Babies

by digby

This is just blatant working the refs at this point, but still --- you'd think they'd have just a modicum of pride:

The head of industrial conglomerate 3M (MMM, Fortune 500) blasted the president as being "anti-business," claiming Obama has not done anything to improve the White House's relationship with Corporate America.

3M CEO George Buckley called Obama's policies "Robin Hood-esque" and told the Financial Times that manufacturers like 3M may have to shift production to other countries in order to stay competitive.

"We know what his instincts are ... he is anti business," Buckley said in an interview that ran late Sunday.

The interview comes as the White House pushes its pro-business agenda. Last week, the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness held its first meeting to brainstorm ideas on job growth and boosting the economy.

The Council is headed by a roundtable of business leaders including General Electric's (GE, Fortune 500) Jeffrey Immelt, AOL (AOL) co-founder Steve Case and Intel (INTC, Fortune 500) CEO Paul Otellini.

Otellini had been critical of the Obama administration's handling of the economic recovery back in September. But he joined 19 other CEOs for a White House summit in December to talk about job creation and other ways to move the economy forward...

Despite the recent public positions of other major business leaders, Buckley says he's not alone.

"There is a sense among companies that [the U.S.] is a difficult place to do business," he told the FT. "We've got a real choice between manufacturing in Canada or Mexico -- which tend to be more pro-business -- and America."

That's very interesting. Canada has single payer health insurance --- a huge benefit to employers --- and higher taxes, something that these people are adamantly against. And Mexico pays people slave wages with no benefits, both of which these people obviously prefer. So, this statement would be incoherent, unless you just accept it for the obvious blackmail threat it is. Believe me, they are not lobbying to be more like Canada. They are lobbying to be more like Mexico. But hey, I suppose it could end up solving the immigration problem.

And these selfish, unpatriotic crybabies wonder why everyone hates them.

The Paris Hilton Of Newspapers Sees What He Expects To See

by digby

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Keith Olberman is a very good blogger. (If you haven't seen his new blog, check it out.) Today's post about the NY Times heir Sulzberger making an epic mistake is well worth reading:

Few news stories better spoke to the destruction of union solidarity and the realization that even those public employees collectively bargaining in Wisconsin were going to have to give something back, than the New York Times’ piece a week ago tomorrow titled “Union Bonds In Wisconsin Begin To Fray.”

The by-line was shared by no less than Arthur G. Sulzberger, the son of the publisher and official carrier of the Times’ family name. The piece ran prominently on the front page. Sulzberger himself interviewed the main ‘get’ in the piece. Beyond the mere reporting was the symbolism of the Times - even the sainted liberal media Times – throwing in the towel on the inviolability of unions, conceding that an American state could renege with impunity on a good faith contract with anybody, and that maybe the Right is right every once in awhile.

Problem is, A.G. Sulzberger’s featured disillusioned unionist interviewee…wasn’t in a union...the source, Rick Hahn, now admits that while he worked in union factories, he was never, you know, in a union per se. So why did the Diogenes of the Times, Mr. Sulzberger, believe he had found his honest union man? Because Hahn “described himself to a reporter as a ‘union guy.’”

Olbermann points out that while the story was on page one, the correction was buried on page five. But while he may be a good blogger and a great broadcaster, he missed a very important part of this story. But Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution caught it right away:

For me the best part of the Scott Walker prank call is how much he loves a New York Times article:

SCOTT WALKER: The New York Times, of all things—I don't normally tell people to read the New York Times, but the front page of the New York Times, they've got a great story—one of these unbelievable moments of true journalism—what it's supposed to be, objective journalism—they got out of the capital and went down one county south of the capital, to Janesville, to Rock County, that's where the General Motors plant once was.

FAKE DAVID KOCH: Right, right.

WALKER: They moved out two years ago. The lead on this story's about a guy who was laid off two years ago, he'd been laid off twice by GM, who points out that everybody else in his town has had to sacrifice except for all these public employees, and it's about damn time they do and he supports me. And they had a bartender, they had—every stereotypical blue collar worker-type, they interviewed, and the only ones who weren't with us were ones who were either a public employee or married to a public employee. It's an unbelievable—so I went through and called all these, uh, a handful, a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day, and said to them, everyone, get that story and print it out and send it to anybody giving you grief.

Noting the fact that the article was written by Sulzberger Jr he later wrote:

So that's ominously funny and funnily ominous in its own right. But we don't need to try to predict how honest New York Times coverage will be in the future when A.G. Sulzberger becomes publisher...because we can just examine his writing right now. Sulzberger just wrote a 733-word article about the prank call. Number of mentions of Walker loving a certain Sulzberger-written New York Times article? Zero.

Yes, that's right. Sulzberger Jr also wrote the article for the NY Times about Walker's prank call and never mentioned that Walker had talked at length about his own (incorrect) article in the call.

One hates to think that just because Sulzberger is the heir to a great newspaper empire that he has an agenda. And perhaps it's better to use Occam's Razor and just assume that he's lazy and inept as so many bosses sons are. But these events are ironically funny at the very least. Indeed, the fact that they assigned the Paris Hilton of newspapers to cover this story at all is hilarious, especially considering that he accepted the word of someone who said he was "a union man" and didn't bother to ask what union he belonged to. I'm guessing that Sulzberger Junior just assumed that no one would lie about being a member of a union. Or maybe he was the only person he could find to properly illustrate the article he already wanted to write.

This is a lovely little story of Big Media and its biases working in favor of the ruling class. Just as one would expect.

Chart O' The Day

by digby

Courtesy of Dean Baker:

Figure 1 below projects pension fund assets if pensions had continued to earn on average a 4.5 percent nominal rate of return in the period since the end of 2007. Under this assumption, state and local pension fund assets would have been $857 billion higher at the end of the third quarter of 2010.

.... In the period since the beginning of the recession, annual payments into state and local pension funds have averaged $6.9 billion less than withdrawals. By contrast, in the three years prior to the downturn, payments averaged $18.4 billion more than withdrawals. If state and local governments had continued to contribute to their pensions at the same rate as they had in the prior three years, then the total assets of these funds would be $77 billion higher than was reported at the end of the third quarter of 2010. Adding this to the $857 billion figure above results in an additional $934 billion in pension funds, a figure far higher than most estimates of the size of state and local government shortfalls.

Kevin adds:

Dean calculates that if pension funds continue to invest in a basket of assets that includes equities, and economic performance remains at historical levels, most states have a pension shortfall of less than 0.2% of income. If this is right, then either very small changes in state contributions or very small changes in employee contributions (or a combination of both) are all that's necessary to eliminate the pension shortfall entirely. It's just not as big a problem as critics are suggesting.

It might not be too late to get this word out. I am under the impression that the chicken-littling about the pension funds hasn't yet penetrated the average American's consciousness and it might not be too late to turn it around.

That would require that Democrats try not to ape Republican talking points at every turn, which is unlikely, but I live in hope.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Virtually Speaking

by digby

I'm on with dday at 6pm, talking about Madison and whatever else comes up.

Wolfowitz rolls around in the gutter. Again.

by digby

Disgraced neocon Paul Wolfowitz appeared on CNN's Zakaria show this morning and showed once again why he is a criminal weasel of epic proportions:

ZAKARIA: But you were - you were in high levels of government, so you understand the - the pressures people are dealing with. Could it be that one of concerns is that if the United States keeps calling for the ouster of - of these - of presidents, of prime ministers, that countries like Saudi Arabia will get rattled and say, wait a minute, we - you know, is the United States going to sit here and try to unseat all the - all the monarchies in the Middle East?

WOLFOWITZ: I don't think that's a legitimate reason to stand by a man who's slaughtering his own people. And I have a lot of criticisms to make of the Saudis, but I don't believe they're capable of this sort of butchery. And if we -

You know, we'd be in a much better position to say, look, with all it's faults, Saudi Arabia doesn't treat its - its subjects as trash. It doesn't kill them, brutalize them and threaten to take them back to the Stone Age. So let's put Saudi Arabia in one category.

We'd be in a much better position to do that if we were clear about Gadhafi.

Can you believe the gall of this man? First of all, he is in no position to criticize any other administration ever for botching foreign policy. it's amazing to me that he's even allowed in the country much less on television opining about democracy and freedom. Second, he's actually defending Saudi Arabia because it doesn't treat its citizens like trash, which I suppose is true if you don't count the 50% of them who are women. But who cares about them?

But Wolfowitz conveniently ignores his own administration's recent rehabilitation of the butcher for PR (and oil revenue) purposes:

ZAKARIA: You were in the administration that have - that normalized relations with Libya. It is the Bush administration that brought him in from the cold - from the cold. Were you opposed to that decision?

Excellent question, don't you think, since they paraded Qadaffi around like he was a conquering hero at the time as evidence that their bellicose posturing and illegal invading was making all the depots tremble in fear. Not to mention the fact that they took him off the terror watch list so that their oil buddies could turn on the spigot.

Here's what the spineless creep replied:

WOLFOWITZ: Look, I think we needed to give some acknowledgement to the fact that he handed over his nuclear weapons program. But it was an illegal program, and I thought we were giving him a lot by in effect saying you wouldn't suffer the fate of Saddam Hussein. I don't think we had to go nearly as far as we went.

There was a lot of pressure from Pan-Am 103 families because they wanted to collect the money that Gadhafi was offered. I -

ZAKARIA: Do you think that's really -

WOLFOWITZ: At one point, I believed - well, I was being told that the pressure was - I believe it was significant. I can't prove it. The United States went ahead and restored full diplomatic relations and had the Secretary of State visit.

I think we have should have drawn more of a line. Some move was appropriate. I think we went too far, and I think the Obama administration continued that

What an asshole. He blames the PanAm 103 families for the Bush administration paying back their oil field buddies and using Qadaffi as the poster boy for the success of the Bush Doctrine. Because they wanted they were greedy!.

Licking his comb was actually the least offensive thing he's ever done.

Something Unusual is Happening

by digby

A tweet from Wisconsin:

3rd police officer in a row I've locked eyes with whose simply said, "thank you for being here". Something very unusual is happening...

dday took some video of protesters making plan for when the police come in ---scheduled for right now --- to force the protesters out of the capitol.

If you want to see any news of this, the only place you can see it is on Fox where they are talking about the "hate in the faces" of the protesters and comparing it to Libya --- presumably with the protesters in the role of Qadaffi.

You can best follow this on Twitter. Just like countries in the Middle East.

Update: The first two to sit down to get arrested surrounded by photographers:

h/t to brandzel

Update II: According to the twitter machine: so far, no arrests. Some off duty police are staying with the protesters in solidarity. Apparently, people will be allowed to stay if they move up a floor, but some protesters are staying to get arrested.

Update III: AFL-CIO live feed is offline, some say it was cut. (Have no idea what really happened.) You can get some live stuff from this feed. Or watch Fox, which is covering this live and making sure everyone is aware that these are nothing but Union Thugs who hate America.

Update IV: TPM's Kleefeld reports:

Even the multiple police officers that I've spoken to say that they do not know whether there are plans to make any arrests.

At 3 p.m. CT, a small group of protesters held a press conference in the office of Democratic state Rep. Brett Hulsey, to announce that they would non-violently refuse to leave -- opening themselves up to the possibility of being escorted out or even arrested. The protesters included students, unionists and members of the clergy.

They made clear that they would not be belligerent with police officers -- who, they noted, had cooperated with protest leaders on issues of crowd locations and sanitation for the past week and a half. Instead, they blamed the decision to close the Capitol on the Republican-controlled state government.

When 4 p.m. came, hardly anybody left, and the chanting continued. At about 4:15 p.m., a protest organizer announced on the ground floor that everyone present had to make a choice: To leave, or to stay and move to the first upper floor. Some people did indeed leave, but many others filed up the stairs, expanding the already large presence on the first upper floor.

In a further sign that hardly anything has changed, the chants are still being led from the same place they have been the whole time: The center of the ground floor, which is visible from the balconies of the upper floors. A few protesters have remained on the ground floor, continuing to lead the chants in plain sight of the police.

An Important Anniversary

by digby

While I was waiting in vain for a story about the rallies in Madison and across the country yesterday on CNN, I did happen to catch this important story, as Heather at C&L did:

I didn't know that yesterday was the Tea Party's "birthday" but wasn't surprised to see that CNN celebrated it. It has, after all, been a big story for them over the past two years what with following them all over the country and reporting every gathering of more than four people as a national event. Now, the rise of a real populist movement in America that isn't actually backed by major corporations and wealthy individuals is stale. Been there, done that and all that rot.

Fox, however, is following the Madison story closely and is working hard to set the narrative:

h/t to @stopbeck
Laying out The Case Against Birth Control

by digby

In case you were wonder whether women are being hysterical about the war on Planned Parenthood, here's Kathryn Lopez to explain why it's a legitimate concern:

Why are Republicans waging war on contraception? It's not the first time the question has been asked, and it won't be the last. Truth be told, Republicans aren't engaging in battle on that front -- but the phrase gets close to a legitimate fight.

Congress, for its part, held an unprecedented vote in the House in February to end funding of Planned Parenthood. It's not a permanent or final vote; it was attached to a short-term move to keep the government funded. The debate in Congress was given momentum by the Live Action investigatory videos, which raised significant questions about what exactly Planned Parenthood is doing; but the rest of us need to discuss why we've let Planned Parenthood step in as a mainstream Band-Aid, throwing contraception and even abortion at problems that have much more fundamental solutions.

While women may want love and marriage, they don't expect it. Justice Sandra O'Connor wrote in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey opinion that women had "organized intimate relationships, and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail." And why wouldn't they? Who, nowadays, encourages them to want more?

We've come to expect less for and from ourselves, and for and from one another. In part, it's the fruit of the contraceptive pill. New York magazine recently observed in a cover feature: "The pill is so ingrained in our culture today that girls go on it in college, even high school, and stay on it for five, 10, 15, even 20 years." That, of course, has had all kinds of fallout: a false sense of freedom, security. And it has ravaged women's fertility, as it seeks to mute exactly what women's reproductive power is all about.

That's why I want to turn back the clock -- to a time when we valued love and marriage and didn't expect, support and even encourage promiscuity. Life and history don't work that way, obviously, there is no actual rewind. But we do have opportunities to learn from our mistakes.

The spending fight over Planned Parenthood in Congress is about a number of things. It's primarily about good stewardship, as so much of the spending debate is. But beyond legislation, beyond anything Congress can or should do, it is a call to arms for a new sexual revolution. It's about wanting more for ourselves and for those whom we love. It's about ending the surrender to a contraceptive mentality that treats human sexuality as just another commercial transaction.

She goes on to describe what she sees as an offensive TV commercial for a birth control pill which shows women celebrating their choices, which she sees as wanton sexuality run amok.

It's rather refreshing to see it all laid out so clearly, I must say. But that's it. They want to turn back the clock to a time when women's role in life was strictly proscribed unless she stayed celibate. (Married women, of course, would be "free" to use their "reproductive power".)

This is what it's all about kids, whether anyone wants to admit it or not. The war on women (in this case being waged by a woman) is about the fear of female sexuality. This is powerful, primal stuff -- eve and apples and all that -- and it should be taken seriously. Just because it sounds patently absurd today doesn't mean that it can't be a serious "debate" tomorrow. Happens all the time.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday Night At The Movies

Oscar Thoughts

by digby

Dennis is taking the week off, leaving us bereft of his invaluable insights just when we need him the most. (It's Oscar week-end fergawdsakes!) So .... I guess I'll have to try to fill his Pradas.

In my previous life I would have seen every movie nominated, already filled out my ballot and put a fairly good sized bet on the line. You see, if you work in Hollywood, the Oscars aren't really about the movies, although it helps if they got good reviews. The studios (and sometime individuals) spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a boatload of hype and advertising so if you read the trade papers and listen to the buzz you can usually figure out where the heat is and make a good bet. But that was a while ago. Now I rarely see films on the big screen and usually miss the hot movies until they make their way to the DVD release. And the sad truth is that I just don't watch as many movies as I used to. But here goes, from my meager knowledge of this year's Best Picture nominees:

Of the best picture nominations, I have seen Inception, The Kids Are Alright, The King's Speech, and The Social Network. I could kick myself for not seeing Black Swan yet because I am usually a big fan of Aronofsky, but I just haven't gotten to it. True Grit, The Fighter and Winter's Bone are on my list to see at the earliest opportunity. I'll probably skip Toy Story, even though I know it's supposed to be great, but I'm old and I've never much liked animation of any kind. (This is where being dead inside comes in.) I won't see 127 Hours because it sounds excruciating and life is short.

For me the best picture of the year (of those I saw) was Inception.(Oddly, according to this NY Times article, it is the choice of most non-Americans who participated in their poll. Go figure.) I just thought it was a fascinating meditation on the nature of reality, which in this day and age is something we should all spend a a little time contemplating. And it was a masterful cinematic achievement, far more interesting and creative than the usual 3D, digitized Gameboy movies. So for me, it's Best Picture.

But I also like the others. I thought The Kids are Alright featured the most interesting performance that I saw all year with Annette Benning's very subtle rendering, in which she managed to be recognizably gay without a moment of cliche or overt stereotype. Julianne Moore was also very good, but she was more of the lipstick lesbian in the couple and I don't think her role required quite the nuance of Benning's. As it turns out, a long term gay marriage has the same tensions of all marriage, albeit with some additional complications. But in the end, infidelity, insecurity, growing older --- it's all human, with all that that implies. So, for me, Benning gets the nod for Best Actress. The movie was really all in her face.

The Social Network was just great, and it's a very close call for me between it and Inception for Best Picture. The whole idea of who "owns" ideas is interesting and in this case it's all wrapped up in class and aspiration and jealousy. Plus the moody cinematography and music made Cambridge look like something out of the Spanish Inquisition, which was sort of fitting.

Finally, The King's Speech. Yes, I know everyone found it life changing, but I just thought it was a good, solid English hat movie. And there's nothing wrong with that! I love a good hat movie, especially one that features Helena Bonham Carter, who really knows how to wear one. Colin Firth was excellent as always, but for me, his great performance last year in A Single Man was the award winner. I expect he'll win. Everyone seems to think so and I can't argue with them. Most great actors finally win for characters with disabilities.

That's all I've got folks. I still haven't seen Precious, that's how out of it I am, so take this with a grain of salt. And feel free to weigh in with insults and derision in the comments.

Maybe If They'd Brought Some Big Puppets

by digby

Not that you would know it by the cable news networks, but there were some rallies today, a particularly big one in Madison. Dday's reporting from there with video:

Madison Police confirms that the crowd is between 70-100K, and that there have been no arrests today. Keep in mind that there’s a snowstorm outside.
comment on this

The funny thing is that all these people look like Real Americans to me. Real Americans protesting outside in a snowstorm. Hello? Anyone care?

I guess not. But then they don't have their own network setting the news agenda for the country. Too bad.
I am glad to report, however, that CNN's repeating their blockbuster interview with Iman so if you are desperate to find out what's happening in the dirty underbelly of the world of super-models, you won't be disappointed.

Update: I do have to point out just how well phrased and nicely lettered the signs all are. I guess that's to be expected since so many of the "union thugs" are teachers.

When he was young and foolish

by digby

Here's something about which I haven't noticed much discussion, but apparently Governor Walker's voice on tape isn't the only thing he has in common with Richard Nixon.

It's from the Marquette University paper during last fall's campaign:

Nice play is far away and forgotten, as the Wisconsin gubernatorial race between candidates Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker (R) and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) has turned from agreeable to negative.

Both candidates have gotten their shots in. A recent commercial produced by Barrett targeted Walker’s “mismanagement” of Milwaukee County and blamed him for its current economic state. On the other side, Walker coined Barrett as a “radical environmentalist” and a “polluter” due to problems with the Milwaukee sewage system.

But for Walker, a questionable campaigning strategy is apparently nothing new.

Walker attended Marquette from 1986 t0 1990, but never attained a degree (see page 5). His sophomore year, Walker ran for president of the Associated Students of Marquette University (ASMU, the former title for Marquette Student Government). He was accused of violating campaign guidelines on multiple occasions.

The Tribune reported then that he was found guilty of illegal campaigning two weeks before his candidacy became official. Later, a Walker campaign worker was seen placing brochures under doors at the YMCA. Door-to-door campaigning was strictly prohibited.

Walker initially denied this but later admitted to the violation, which resulted in lost campaign privileges at the YMCA.

In the run-up to election day, the Tribune’s editorial board endorsed Walker’s opponent John Quigley, but said either candidate had the potential to serve effectively.

However, the Tribune revised its editorial the following day, calling Walker “unfit for presidency.” The column cited Walker’s distribution of a mudslinging brochure about Quigley that featured statements such as “constantly shouting about fighting the administration” and “trying to lead several ineffective protests of his own.”

The revision also expressed disappointment in Walker’s campaign workers reportedly throwing away issues of the Tribune after the endorsement was initially made.

Walker dismissed this, saying he had no knowledge of what his supporters did, according to a Tribune article from February 25, 1988.

In a Tribune article dated April 25, 2002, Walker recalled the election, saying he regretted the approach he took to campaigning.

“I didn’t achieve office because I focused on personalities and egos,” Walker said in the article.

He also blamed Quigley for the negative path the race took, saying he made the election into a partisan one.

Walker has said Barrett is responsible for the negative direction the current gubernatorial race has taken, using attack ads to compensate for his trailing position in polls.

Graeme Zielinski, communications director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said he believes Walker will do anything to win the election.

“He practiced dirty tricks and mudslinging back then,” Zielinski said. “He’s still doing the same thing today … the ‘say anything, do anything’ campaign.”

Zielinski also said Walker “shamed himself by the way he acted at Marquette” and that his campaign was one of the dirtiest in school history.

The office of Friends of Scott Walker had not responded to multiple interview requests as of press time.

Stephanie Marecki, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences and president of Students for Walker, said they will continue their support regardless of past indiscretions.

“I would look at these violations as something that represent a college experience, and not something that should define Mr. Walker or his current campaign,” Marecki said. “Anything that happened, he undoubtedly learned a lot from it.”

Looks like it.

h/t to RP
Lot's happening only some of it real

by digby

These are the stories at the top of my newsfeed.

Tea party supporters packed a Phoenix convention center Saturday to hear from two possible contenders for next year's Republican presidential nomination — an election the conservative populist movement is determined to help shape after its success helping the GOP in the midterm elections.

The weekend summit, which was organized by the Tea Party Patriots group and had more than 2,000 registered attendees, gave potential candidates a chance to connect directly with a segment of voters who have shown that they get to the polls on Election Day but are skeptical of the political establishment.


White House chief of staff Bill Daley has told Democratic activists to "keep up the fight" and not lose faith despite continued hard economic times.

Daley recalled the days after the November elections, when Republicans won the House and increased their ranks in the Senate.

He said the conventional wisdom was that President Barack Obama's agenda had stalled. But by year's end, Obama had a tax-cut deal with Republicans, the Senate ratified a nuclear arms treaty with Russia and Congress approved the long-stalled repeal of a ban on openly gay military service.

Embarrassing, isn't it?

However, while reading those two article together makes it seem that the allegedly populist Tea Party is an up from the bottom movement of ordinary Americans while the "activist" Democrats being addressed by a corporate centrist are driven from the top down, both parties are answering to the same powerful forces. The Tea Partiers are carrying out their agenda the same way that Daley's activist at the DNC are, even if they don't realize it. Nothing the Tea Partiers are doing in any way truly threatens the goals of the oligarchs --- Koch and Murdoch wouldn't be backing them so strongly if it did. The main economic differences between the parties at the moment are between the free market neo-liberals in the Democratic Party and the crude Randian market fundamentalists in the GOP. "Populism" isn't really at play in either of those stories.

But there is something else happening that really does threaten the status quo. Here's Mike Elk, reporting from Madison:

"My father always said during a strike is when we would rebuild the labor movement," said Sadlowski, a veteran organizer whose father famously vied to head the United Steelworkers of America in the late '70s. "We are proving it right here."

Older union organizers have been sharing their experiences organizing in the workplace with students who have never engaged with the labor movement before. Some youngsters have been so inspired that they are talking about dedicating their lives to it.

"Everyday I come down here I just feel like we are winning," said Andrew Cole, who is in his twenties. "We are just a bunch of people standing around a Capitol talking together and singing songs, but through this collective voice we have been able to define the national debate about unions."

Likewise, young and optimistic organizers have been giving older ones, beaten down by years of anti-union actions, new ideas -- and new hope that it might be possible to rebuild the much-decimated labor movement.

Sadlowski has served as a bridge between the two groups, often coordinating communication among protesters occupying the Capitol. "I think what we created here is the first true labor temple" he said. "Coming down to the Capitol is a lot like coming to church. It's rejuvenating; it's a spiritual experience for a lot of people."

But unlike a church, where people go home at night, hundreds of protesters have turned the Capitol into their temporary home. People have been sleeping there overnight since Tuesday Feb. 15. They eat meals there, and go to nearby houses and dormitories to take showers.

In the early days, the Capitol occupation was almost entirely coordinated by the Teaching Assistant's Association, the union of teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. But other unions have become more involved in occupying the Capitol since, organizing groups to clean the building and provide food and supplies for people camping out there. Local pizza businesses have been experiencing a mini-boom as people from all over the country and even the world have called in delivery orders for the protesters, while Midwestern grandmothers with thick Wisconsin accents stop by to deliver trays of food cooked at home. In one back hallway, you can find tables full of food as well as boxes of donated supplies like toilet paper, water, toothbrushes, soap, spare hats, scarves, and gloves that are free to take. This level of organization is what has made it sustainable for hundreds of people to more or less live in the capitol building of a major Midwestern state.

And then there's this:

Anonymous, the notorious collective of unnamed Internet activists, is declaring war on the controversial Koch brothers. In a press release this weekend Anonymous accuses the brothers and their financial empire of attempting "to usurp American Democracy," and call for a "boycott all Koch Industries' paper products." Anonymous accuses the Koch brothers of taking "actions to undermine the legitimate political process in Wisconsin."

David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries are billionaire brothers responsible for financing numerous conservative causes and Tea Party activities. In their press release Anonymous claims:

The Koch brothers have made a science of fabricating 'grassroots' organizations and advertising campaigns to support them in an attempt to sway voters based on their falsehoods. Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and Citizens United are just a few of these organizations. In a world where corporate money has become the lifeblood of political influence, the labor unions are one of the few ways citizens have to fight against corporate greed. Anonymous cannot ignore the plight of the citizen-workers of Wisconsin, or the opportunity to fight for the people in America's broken political system. For these reasons, we feel that the Koch brothers threaten the United States democratic system and, by extension, all freedom-loving individuals everywhere. As such, we have no choice but to spread the word of the Koch brothers' political manipulation, their single-minded intent and the insidious truth of their actions in Wisconsin, for all to witness.

Things are happening that threaten the elites of the current gilded age. But not at that dog and pony show in Arizona (even though the sincere believers among the Tea Partiers think it is) and certainly not at the DNC meeting featuring a pep talk by Bill "JP Morgan" Daley.

Face To Face With The Folks

by digby

It's hard out here for a Governor:

[A tavern] in Madison, WI confirms that on Friday night, Patrick Sweeney (one of the owners) politely asked Scott Walker to leave the establishment when other customers began boo-ing him. A bartender at The Merchant said that, “his presence was causing a disturbance to the other customers and management asked him to leave.

Gott Laff explains:

I won’t link directly to the restaurant because, along with enthusiastic support, it is also getting threats. I’m sure those are from the very wealthy, lazy, hammock-swinging, resort-lollygagging, ungrateful union thugs who utterly resent all the anti-Walker passion

This is very uncivil, I'm sure, but it shouldn't result in threats to the restaurant owner fergawdsakes. It's a part of being a politician, although I don't think most modern politicians have experienced this as much as those in the past may have. It's becoming more common. Recall this incident, from the other side:

Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson and his wife were leaving dinner at a new pizza joint near their home in Omaha one night last week when a patron began complaining about Nelson’s decisive vote in favor of the Senate’s health care bill.

Other customers started booing. A woman yelled, “Get him the hell out of here!” And the Nelsons and their dining companions beat a hasty retreat.

I think it's probably not such a bad thing for our politicians to experience some authentic, spontaneous derision from their constituents outside the ritualized forms we've created like Townhalls and talk radio. Governors and Senators especially are usually treated with such deference in their daily lives that I expect experiencing something else in the course of daily living might bring it home to them more viscerally than it otherwise would.

Obviously, no one wants this sort of anger to get out of hand. We know where that can lead. But these people aren't royals and a little righteous verbal feedback in a democracy is a healthy thing.

Update: Evidently, there is reason to believe this didn't happen to Walker. The point still stands, however.

Keeping Them In their Place

by digby

I'm really enjoying watching fabulously compensated TV celebrities on CNN this morning kvetch and moan about how much more union workers make than your average worker and why they need to give up their fat salaries and benefits for the greater good. According to the graphic they put up on the screen the average public employee makes 917 bucks a week compared to 717 bucks a week for the non-union workers. Who do these greedy bastards think they are? TV hosts?

In other words, what I'm being told right now by these wealthy spokesmodels and fatuous gasbags is that these college educated teachers and urban planners and blue collar workers like road and sewage workers need to bring their salaries down below 40k a year because they are living way too high off the hog.

Adele Stan connects some dots:

In the week-long battle taking place in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights, you'd expect Fox News to be doing what it's done: misreporting the story, mistakenly characterizing a poll supporting public workers to mean its opposite, featuring Glenn Beck painting the protests of union workers as something cooked up by Stalinists. And you might be tempted to think, well, that's just Fox playing to its base of frightened Tea Partiers who prefer a fact-free zone to the more challenging territory of actual news, where the answers are never pat, and the world is a bit more complicated than it seems in the realm of Fox Nation.

You might think it's all about what brings in the advertising dollars for Rupert Murdoch, CEO of Fox's parent company, News Corporation. But it runs much deeper than that, involving key players at the Wall Street Journal, News Corp.'s crown jewel. The informal partnership between billionaire David Koch, whose campaign dollars and astroturf group, Americans for Prosperity, have fomented the Wisconsin crisis, and billionaire Rupert Murdoch, is profoundly ideological -- the ideology being the exponential enrichment of the two men's heirs, all dressed up in the language of libertarianism and free enterprise. Together with his brother, Charles -- also a big donor to right-wing causes --David Koch runs Koch Industries, the conglomerate that sprang from the oil and gas company founded by his father.

Read on for the the details. She is absolutely correct. And it reminds me of this piece again:

From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use "social issues" as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats.

More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.

The defenders of aristocracy represent aristocracy as a natural phenomenon, but in reality it is the most artificial thing on earth. Although one of the goals of every aristocracy is to make its preferred social order seem permanent and timeless, in reality conservatism must be reinvented in every generation. This is true for many reasons, including internal conflicts among the aristocrats; institutional shifts due to climate, markets, or warfare; and ideological gains and losses in the perpetual struggle against democracy.

In some societies the aristocracy is rigid, closed, and stratified, while in others it is more of an aspiration among various fluid and factionalized groups. The situation in the United States right now is toward the latter end of the spectrum. A main goal in life of all aristocrats, however, is to pass on their positions of privilege to their children, and many of the aspiring aristocrats of the United States are appointing their children to positions in government and in the archipelago of think tanks that promote conservative theories.

read on, there's much more ...

I would just add this:

"Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions." --- Thomas Paine


Friday, February 25, 2011

Movement Players In Concert

by digby

Ryan Grim connects some of the dots on the assault against Planned Parenthood and it just shows how well organized and disciplined the conservatives can be around issues upon which they all agree:

The House Republican move to strip federal funds from the nation's most well-known reproductive health care provider as part of its budget last week was the culmination of a multi-year effort that involved parallel action by top Republicans and conservative media operatives playing up the work of a California college student who has been creating surreptitious videos of Planned Parenthood employees for years. The student, Lila Rose, is the president of an organization called Live Action that pays actors to walk into Planned Parenthood offices with hidden cameras, much as James O'Keefe did to undermine the community-organizing group ACORN. The Live Action stars pretend to be a pimp and a prostitute engaged in human trafficking and looking for birth control, STD testing and abortions. The videos that the organization puts out can be convincing and disturbing -- and in at least two cases were found by Planned Parenthood to be legitimate cause for dismissals -- but thorough, frame-by-frame reviews of the full-length videos show that what is posted on YouTube often bears little relation to what happened in reality, due to heavy editing that alters the meaning of conversations.

Last Friday, the day the House moved to defund Planned Parenthood, Glenn Beck devoted the entirety of his hourlong Fox News show to the organization and brought Rose into the studio to narrate some of her videos -- clips that were spliced to create conversations that never happened. Along with Fox News, the conservative blog Big Government, which played a leading role in promoting the ACORN videos, has been pushing Rose's productions. In a column written for Big Government less than a week before the funding vote, Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, laid out the case against Planned Parenthood.
Grim also makes the important point that groups like ACORN and Planned Parenthood are also seen as institutions that benefit Democrats, which puts them in the cross hairs of the "defund the left" strategy. The right understands how important that is, particularly now in the age of Citizens United. If they can simultaneously dry up the funding and delegitimize government functions among the people who need them, it is going to be increasingly difficult for progressives to compete. It's a smart move.

Update: And in other news, here's a Koch front group Americans for Prosperity spokesman spelling it all out:

Speaking at CPAC’s “Panel for Labor Policy,” Hagerstrom said that AFP really wants to do is to “take the unions out at the knees”:

HAGERSTROM: It’s easy to go out there and fight taxes and increased regulation, you know we send out an action alert on taxes to AFP and we get thousands of people to respond. You send out one on a more complicated issue and it just doesn’t quite resonate…We fight these battles on taxes and regulation but really what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees so they don’t have the resources to fight these battles.

Because It Worked So Well The First Time

by digby

Well, it's not quite as sexy as presidential blowjobs but perhaps it will do in a pinch:
"I believe the Republicans next week should pass a resolution instructing the president to enforce the law and to obey his own constitutional oath, and they should say if he fails to do so that they will zero out [defund] the office of attorney general and take other steps as necessary until the president agrees to do his job," said Gingrich. "His job is to enforce the rule of law and for us to start replacing the rule of law with the rule of Obama is a very dangerous precedent."

He didn't call for immediate impeachment hearings, but didn't rule them out if Obama balks at any congressional demands to enforce the law.

And shutting down the government was huge success that the Republicans should repeat if at all possible. Here's Newt in this week-end's WaPo:
The Washington establishment believes that the government shutdown of 1995 was a disastrous mistake that accomplished little and cost House Republicans politically.

While the shutdown produced some short-term pain, it set the stage for a budget deal in 1996 that led to the largest drop in federal discretionary spending since 1969. The discipline imposed by this budget - overall spending grew at an average of 2.9 percent a year while I was speaker of the House, the slowest rate in decades - allowed us to reach a balanced-budget deal in 1997.

This would all have been impossible had Republicans not stood firm in 1995 and shown the American people (and the White House) that we were serious about reducing spending.

This historic success was not an achievement of the Clinton administration. In the summer of 1995, administration officials publicly expressed doubt that our aggressive timeline for a balanced budget was even possible. Instead, the balanced budget was an outcome driven by House Republicans with limited support from skeptical Senate Republicans.

Yeah, right. That's how it happened. Gingrich was a real hero:

I won't be surprised if they follow Newtie's advice and rush right over that cliff again. Unfortunately, they don't have the luxury of a once in a generation technology bubble making their antics entertaining to the masses who were making money hand over fist. They might not find it quite as fun this time.

Rich Man Poor Man

by digby

One would think this would be an obvious point, but it isn't:
When it comes to improving public understanding of tax policy, nothing has been more troubling than the deeply flawed coverage of the Wisconsin state employees' fight over collective bargaining.

Economic nonsense is being reported as fact in most of the news reports on the Wisconsin dispute, the product of a breakdown of skepticism among journalists multiplied by their lack of understanding of basic economic principles.

Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to "contribute more" to their pension and health insurance plans.

Accepting Gov. Walker' s assertions as fact, and failing to check, created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.

Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin' s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

How can that be? Because the "contributions" consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.

Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply "contribute more" to Wisconsin' s retirement system (or as the argument goes, "pay their fair share" of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin' s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.
This is right up there with the logic that says because Social Security will likely have a 10% shortfall 30 years from now we need to cut 20% right now.

But there is some good news on this front from Greg Sargent:
I've got some new polling from Gallup that underscores this point: It turns out that the only income group that favors Governor Scott Walker's proposal to roll back public employee bargaining rights are those who make over $90,000.

As you know, Gallup released a poll earlier this week finding that 61 percent of Americans oppose Walker's plan, versus only 33 percent who are in favor. It turns out Gallup has crosstabs which give us an income breakdown of that finding, which the firm sent my way:

* Among those who make less than $24,000 annually, 74 percent oppose the proposal, versus only 14 percent who favor it.

* Among those who make $24,000 to $59,000, 63 percent oppose the proposal, versus only 33 percent who favor it.

* Among those who make $60,000 to $89,000, 53 percent oppose the proposal, versus only 41 percent who favor it.

* Among those who make $90,000 and up, 50 percent favor the proposal, versus 47 percent who oppose it.

Only the last, highest-income category favors the proposal; working and low-to-middle class folks all oppose it.

Now, as Mark Blumenthal notes, we need to proceed with caution, because there's not a lot of data available on this topic. But I think it's fair to speculate that the focus of Walker's proposal on rolling back long-accepted bargaining rights, and the massive amount of media attention to it, may have reframed the debate and refocused the public's attention in a way that is undermining the right's previous advantage on questions involving public employees.

I think when people focus on the fact that the Republicans are slamming their friends and neighbors, the war on workers becomes a little bit less abstract. It's called class solidarity.
Which brings me to this fatuous blog post asking why liberals don't hate the wealthy donors who support Common Cause? Well, he answers the question himself:

What Common Cause is is a bunch of millionaires and billionaires trying to prevent other millionaires and billionaires from participating in the political process the same way they do. In other words, they are hypocrites. The Times could write a story headlined Billionaires' Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute and have the article be about not the Koch brothers but about the funders of Common Cause. But the left-wing interest groups rarely get that kind of treatment in the Times, where these left-wing interest groups are more commonly quoted approvingly as expert sources rather than scrutinized skeptically or suspiciously as targets.

If a bunch of millionaires and billionaires believe in egalitarianism and democracy and devote some of their resources to ensuring that America is something other than a crude banana republic, that's great. Whether public employees have pensions or not, millionaires and billionaires have many huge advantages, from better health to longer lives to more material comfort. The rich don't need class solidarity. They have the all the money.

Wealthy individuals who are evolved enough to see that our shared world is a more secure place if everyone has an equal chance and that a solid middle class society is not only more enlightened but more stable (ask the Libyans...) are not only decent and compassionate, they are smart enough to know what their self-interest really is. It's the same as everyone else's.

The left wing commie General Dwight Eisenhower once said:
"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

Americans used to have solidarity simply as Americans. But these people are killing that tradition, pulling the rug out from under the middle class by insisting on a harsh, Hobbesian law of the jungle in which the middle class American Dream is turning into a nightmare.

It's true that their numbers are negligible and they are stupid. But 40 years later they have seized the Republican Party and brainwashed a legion of souls into voting against their own self-interest and do their dirty work for them. One can only hope that Eisenhower's prediction about the outcome of such an experiment is true or we're all going down with the ship together.

h/t to jh
Beck With A Bouffant

by digby

These poor, confused people:

As Sarah Palin wonders whether to run for president, she might want to talk to people in places such as South Carolina.

She'd find her star fading, and her prospects daunting.

Republicans still like her, but now they openly question whether she could or should be nominated for president, let alone elected.

At a recent gathering in South Carolina, the site of a crucial early presidential primary next year, party activists said the former Alaska governor didn't have the experience, the knowledge of issues or the ability to get beyond folksy slang and bumper-sticker generalities that they think is needed to win and govern.

Many are shopping for someone else. They're looking at Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., for example, and seeing what they call a smarter, more experienced candidate who's equally as conservative.

"Sarah Palin with a brain," said Gail Moore, a Republican from Columbia.

Palin, Bachman, Angle, O'Donnell --- the choices these Tea Partiers have for female leadership is pathetic. None of them are exactly intellectual giants. Or even average, frankly. But of all of them, Palin seems to me to have the most charisma and highly developed political skills, such as they are. (She's got a certain cheery Reaganesque form of nastiness that makes her a more formidable politician.) If she'd stayed off Facebook and twitter she might have kept some of her mystique. But Bachman is a politician only a true believer could love. Seriously:

“We need to simply tell people the facts, like Glenn Beck, with that chalkboard, that man can explain anything. I think if we give Glenn Beck the numbers, he can solve this.”

If you think it can't get worse ...

Shock Doctrine FTW

by digby

This is working out awfully well:

Britain's economy shrank by 0.6% in the final quarter of last year, a sharper fall than previously thought.

The surprise downward revision, from a 0.5% quarterly drop reported last month, was blamed on industry and service sector firms whose performance was worse than originally estimated. Consumer spending also slipped and the economy was kept afloat by higher government spending, which will see sharp cuts in coming months.

The Office for National Statistics stuck to its view that the harsh winter weather in December – the coldest December on record – contributed 0.5 percentage points to the decline, so without the snow GDP would still have shown a slight fall.

Meanwhile the US economy grew more slowly than initially estimated in the fourth quarter as government spending contracted at a sharper rate and consumer spending was less robust than first thought. US GDP rose at an annualised rate of 2.8%, revised down from 3.2%.

Output from the UK service industries fell by 0.7% between October and December from the previous quarter, rather than 0.5% – led by a 1.1% drop in finance and business services – while industrial production was also revised lower to show growth of 0.7% compared with the earlier estimate of 0.9%. Construction slumped by 2.5%.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "The government's hope of an upwards revision of growth has been dashed. It's time to wake up and smell an economy in big trouble. We need a plan B that doesn't send it over the edge with deep rapid spending cuts."

What was that saying about those who forget history are doomed ...?

Krugman a has written a provocative column on GOP Shock Doctrine economics that I'm sure has sent the shrieking harpies into hysteria. And he draws the analogy between the Republicans and the Coalition Provisions Authority in Iraq, which I hadn't thought of. When you think about it, it makes sense, particularly since the GOP Viceroy John Boehner appears to be just as inept -- and tan --- as Paul Bremer was:

As many readers may recall, the results were spectacular — in a bad way. Instead of focusing on the urgent problems of a shattered economy and society, which would soon descend into a murderous civil war, those Bush appointees were obsessed with imposing a conservative ideological vision. Indeed, with looters still prowling the streets of Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, the American viceroy, told a Washington Post reporter that one of his top priorities was to “corporatize and privatize state-owned enterprises” — Mr. Bremer’s words, not the reporter’s — and to “wean people from the idea the state supports everything.”

The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority was the centerpiece of Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine,” which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.

Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display.

Krugman goes on to outline how this is taking place, and I think he's absolutely correct. Indeed, Walker himself admitted it in his little chit-chat with the fake David Koch:

Walker: ... This is — you know, I told my cabinet, I had a dinner the Sunday, or excuse me, the Monday right after the 6th. Came home from the Super Bowl where the Packers won, and that Monday night I had all of my cabinet over to the residence for dinner. Talked about what we were gonna do, how we were gonna do it. We’d already kinda built plans up, but it was kind of the last hurrah before we dropped the bomb. And I stood up and I pulled out a picture of Ronald Reagan, and I said, you know, this may seem a little melodramatic, but 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan, whose 100th birthday we just celebrated the day before, had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air-traffic controllers. And, uh, I said, to me that moment was more important than just for labor relations or even the federal budget, that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism because from that point forward, the Soviets and the Communists knew that Ronald Reagan wasn’t a pushover. And, uh, I said this may not have as broad of world implications, but in Wisconsin’s history — little did I know how big it would be nationally — in Wisconsin’s history, I said this is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history. And this is why it’s so important that they were all there. I had a cabinet meeting this morning and I reminded them of that and I said for those of you who thought I was being melodramatic you now know it was purely putting it in the right context.

Mike Konzcal put together a handy little graphic that shows exactly what the bomb looks like:

There’s a three-prong approach in Governor Walker’s plan that highlights a blueprint for conservative governorship after the 2010 election. The first is breaking public sector unions and public sector workers generally. The second is streamlining benefits away from legislative authority, especially for health care and in fighting the Health Care Reform Act. The third is the selling of public assets to private interests under firesale and crony capitalist situations.

This wasn’t clear to me at first. I thought this was about a narrow disagreement over teacher’s unions. Depending on what you read, you may have only seen a few of these parts, and you may have not seen them put together as a coherent whole. This will be the framework that other conservative governors, and even a few Democratic ones, will use in their state, so it is good to get a working model in place.

The well-researched article is worth reading in its entirehey haven't exactly been discrete in describing their plans.

They're well on their way in the UK. And it's not working out very well. Their economy is shrinking again. And growth here in the last quarter was an anemic 2.8%. Maybe the economy will come roaring back and make these draconian Shock Therapy measures seem unnecessary, but it's not looking good. Indeed, the whole point of the shock doctrine is to keep people under enough stress that they will not fight it.

Wisconsin is showing that it might not be as easy as they thought it would be, but as ex-SEIU leader Andy Stern says in this interview, "It may not end beautifully." He's not saying that the workers will lose, but that they could lose "the spin" which equals the same thing. I share that concern. Spin is the lifeblood of the Shock Doctrine.

Update: Read this and see if it sounds familiar at all.