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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trigger Happy
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

As the default deadline approaches in two short days, the scrambling in Washington continues. The deal reportedly on the table involves $900 billion in cuts, followed by a Super Committee tasked with figuring out $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction--probably through a mix of mostly cuts but some revenues, at the discretion of the Super Committee.

That general outline seems to be the basis of every plan under discussion. The key negotiating point right now seems to be the so-called "trigger": namely, what happens if the Super Committee doesn't come to an agreement on the $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, and/or Congress refuses to pass the Super Committee's recommendations. The "trigger" is designed to be very painful to both sides should they not agree to the Super Committee's suggestions. And what is that trigger as it stands now?

If the committee fails to reach $1.2 trillion, it will trigger an automatic across the board spending cut, half from domestic spending, half from defense spending, of $1.5 trillion. The domestic cuts come from Medicare providers, but Medicaid and Social Security would be exempted. The enforcement mechanism carves out programs that help the poor and veterans as well.

Basically, the trigger is designed to have Democrats wail about Medicare cuts, and Republicans wail about defense cuts. As anyone with an ounce of sense knows, however, Republicans will insist on taking more hostages when it comes time to approve the Super Committee's recommendations, and they will be just as intransigent against any revenue increases in the Super Committee's recommendations as they were to the revenue increases in the current fight. That is why Boehner is actively trying to scuttle the defense cuts in the trigger currently on the table.

But keep in mind that the Tea Party types that have given Boehner such headaches aren't actually all that scared of defense cuts. Many of them believe in cutting all government spending, military spending not excepted. These people hate every government program FDR used to pull us out of the Great Depression, including the massive government spending jobs program that was World War II. Which means that a great portion of Bachmann's House and Demint's Senate will happily take Pentagon spending hostage as a way to extract even more tax and spending cuts.

That is why John Kerry said yesterday that revenue increases must be part of the trigger, since taxes are the only thing that scare Republicans enough to actually let a hostage live:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) isn't saying why both sides aren't any closer to a debt deal after a day filled with feverish negotiations Saturday, but Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) spelled it out during a floor speech Saturday night. ...

"You do not just cut, you also have to have the possibility of revenue," he said. "Because if you do not have the possibility of revenue, then the side that only wants to cut can wait for nothing to happen and the cuts take place automatically. There is no threat to them. There is no leverage for them to come to agreement on the other things."

So far, the "or else" has focused on a trigger that would slash spending across the board -- including for entitlement programs like Medicare, a near-sacred program for Democrats, as well as to defense spending, which Republicans historically have sought to protect. One of the models for the so-called trigger goes back to the Reagan era when, in 1984, Congress passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act in 1984, which included a trigger imposing draconian across-the-board spending cuts unless hard-and-fast deficit reduction goals were met.

Back then, during the Cold War anti-communist fervor, Republicans were dead-set against cuts to defense spending so the threat of an across-the-board cut that included slashing defense spending was the equivalent of "shared pain." Fast forward to 2011, however, and that threat no longer packs the same punch. Tea Party conservatives are eager to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and don't believe that nation-building is helping efforts to combat al-Qaeda or international terrorism.

So Democrats want to ensure real leverage and are demanding that any so-called trigger include revenue raisers.

Within the confines of the already preposterous "deal" in which accepting the deficit recommendations of an unaccountable Gang-of-Six-style Super Committee is the "best" possible outcome, John Kerry is right. Revenues are an essential part of the whatever trigger is put in place.

But today's reports indicate that whatever backbone Kerry was suggesting Democrats might have, appears to have disappeared. None of the reports mentions anything about revenues as part of the trigger--which is fairly obvious since Boehner appears to believe he can get away with scrapping even the Pentagon cuts.

Or maybe not. Nancy Pelosi is suggesting the current deal may not pass the House:

"We all may not be able to support it," she said. "And maybe none of us will be able to support it."

Liberals in her caucus are set to revolt. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), a leader among House progressives, blasted the deal in an official statement earlier Sunday.

""This deal trades peoples' livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it," he said.

And the details may become even less palatable for Democrats, as Republicans grit their teeth over potential defense spending cuts in the bill.

But no word on whether the lack of revenue provisions in the trigger have anything to do with House Democrats' revolt. Hopefully they do. Within the context of a horrible, no-good bill, insisting on such revenue as part of the trigger might be the best salvage Democrats can hope for at the moment. If Dems do stand up for this, the only question then becomes whether Wall St. will force enough of the GOP to the table, or whether we go forward with the 14th Amendment route.

In all likelihood, though, we'll get neither. The current "deal" already constitutes a series of Democratic caves to GOP hostage-taking, and the details of the trigger will probably be no exception.
Leaving this all behind

by digby

... for a few hours.

I'm heading out for the evening. If they announce a deal, I'm sure I'll hear the collective "huzzah" from all of you.(I suppose it might be a raspberry ... or a groan.)

In any case, if it happens, consider that it could have been worse.

And that in the next round it almost assuredly will be.

Meanwhile, you might enjoy reading this interesting piece in the NYRB:

Walter Bagehot in The English Constitution divided government into two components, the dignified part and the efficient part. The dignified part is concerned with matters of ceremony, the arrangement and conduct of state occasions for celebration or mourning, the issuance of joint communiqués with foreign leaders and commands delivered from a majestic height. The efficient part is the part of government that governs—by making laws above all, but also by striking bargains between factions, and filling the positions of upper, middle, and lower functionaries, and threshing out party platforms on the way to becoming laws.

Barack Obama from the start of his presidency has exhibited an almost exclusive taste for the dignified part of government.


Counting chickens

by digby

It's still my feeling that Democrats will end up backing this deal rather than allow Armageddon --- one of the points of letting it go down to the wire is to make it very difficult to fall out. But at least one progressive is saying no:

Representative Raul Grijalva, who heads a group of liberal Democrats in the House of Representatives, said on Sunday that he would not back an emerging debt-ceiling deal crafted by Republican and Democratic leaders.

"This deal trades peoples' livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it," Grijalva said in a statement. Grijalva heads the 74-member Congressional Progressive Caucus.

I would expect that both sides will be whipping this pretty hard. it will be interesting to see if the progressives fall behind Grijalva or if Boehner has enough votes to cobble together a majority without them. (I suspect not.)

Never Satisfied

by digby

Meanwhile on Planet Teabag:

Tea party activists are bracing for disappointment as negotiations on the debt ceiling move closer to a deal, but sending a clear signal to congressional Republicans that they are even less willing to tolerate compromise and more likely to seek retribution against anyone who has not fully supported their agenda.

They are focused in particular on the fate of the concession they extracted from House Speaker John Boehner in order to get his debt ceiling bill through the House last week - a provision making a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution a prerequisite for raising the debt ceiling again that they regarded as a huge victory.

“If the final bill is passed by establishment Republicans and House Democrats and does not include a balanced budget amendment as a requirement, it will be completely unacceptable and will be seen as a violation of the mandate that the tea party and likeminded people gave Republicans in 2010,” said Ryan Hecker, the leader of a crowd-sourced tea party effort called the Contract from America.

“The tea party didn’t help elect Republicans because they liked Republicans. They elected Republicans to give them a second chance. And if they go moderate on this, then they have ruined their second chance, and there will be a real effort to replace them with those who will stand up for economic conservative values,” said Hecker, who helped conservative House Republicans rally support for the amendment.

I think it's great that these people are calling the shots in the most powerful nation on earth, don't you agree?

Of course, we have the Concord Coalition upset that they haven't slashed entitlements up front, so they aren't the only bozos in town.

Midday Update

by digby


Sources from both parties tell ABC News that the major potential roadblock in deficit negotiations-- the triggers -- are now essentially agreed upon. The plan is for the House to vote on this tomorrow, assuming all goes according to plan.

The agreement looks like this: if the super-committee tasked with entitlement and tax reform fails to come up with $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction that passes Congress, the “neutron bomb” goes off, -- as one Democrat put it -- spending cuts that will hit the Pentagon budget most deeply, as well as Medicare providers (not beneficiaries) and other programs.

If the super-committee comes up with some deficit reduction but not $1.5 trillion, the triggers would make up the difference.

So it’s a minimum $2.7 trillion deficit reduction deal.

And the debt ceiling will be raised by $2.4 trillion in two tranches: $900 billion immediately, and the debt ceiling will be raised by an additional $1.5 trillion next year – either through passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment, which is unlikely, or with Congress voting its disapproval..

Two items still being negotiated:

1) The exact ratio of Pentagon to non-Pentagon cuts in the trigger – Democrats want 50% from the Pentagon, Republicans want less;

2) Democrats want to exempt programs for the poor from the cuts.

Also Democrats say –- if tax reform doesn’t happen through the super-committee, President Obama will veto any extension of Bush tax cuts when they come up at the end of 2012, further creating an incentive for the super-committee to act.

All sides hope this will be enough to convince the markets and ratings agencies that the federal government is serious about deficit reduction -– in order to avoid default.

Well yes. And then "the market" will smoke a cigarette and roll over and go to sleep.

And I thought the president had promised to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy no matter what?

'Whatever we agree on, we are still going to have plenty to argue about in 2012,'" a senior administration official said, paraphrasing the president. "'I've said I'm not going to renew the tax cuts for the top two percent. We might agree on tax reform or simplification, but on the upper-income tax cuts we are just going to have to agree to disagree.'"

There have been varying reports that the Bush tax cuts were part of discussions, but I haven't seen them thrown in in exchange for "tax reform", that fabulous abstraction in which everyone gets lower rates and the government collects more money (and nobody feels a thing.) I had been hearing that the Bush tax cuts expiring would be the big liberal achievement that would make all this worthwhile. Looks like there's a possibility even that was too optimistic.

Just keep in mind that progressives should want to do all this.


Winners and losers

by digby

On CNN just a few minutes ago:

Gloria Borger: it looks like the Republicans are getting an awful lot of what they wanted

Wolf Blitzer: The Senate Republicans are going to be on board. Harry Reid's going to have a lot of Republican support in the Senate.

The problem's going to be in the House of Representatives where there's going to be a lot of opposition. There were more than 20 House Rep that voted against the Speaker John Boehner last week. And there are going to be a lot more Republicans voting against any deal this time.

But here is the key difference. Most of the Democrats will vote in favor of what the President supports.

Borger: So the question is going to be what's the balance? What does the balance have to be between Democrats and Republicans?

Blitzer: Boehner does have 40 moderate Republicans. And it's interesting. He was meeting with that, what is it called "first Tuesday" group yesterday, the moderate centrists Republicans in the House of Representatives, they will be on board with Mitch McConnell and the president of the United States. But a lot of conservative Republicans won't.

And normally, the Speaker doesn't like to have a vote unless he or she is guaranteed more than a majority of his or her own caucus. 50% percent. He might not get it because he's going to have more than enough Democrats to get this passed.

Borger: And that's what gives Nancy Pelosi a little bargaining power as the Wall Street Journal pointed out this week, the tea party Republicans are actually giving Nancy pelosit more leverage in cutting a deal because they need her votes now.

Blitzer: They'll get a lot of Democratic votes to support it. If the president of the United States -- he is not only the commander in chief but he's also the leader of the Democratic Party --- if he comes out on television sometime today or tomorrow or whatever and says "this is a good deal, it's not perfect but it averts default,economic catastrophe for the country, all that entails," he'll get a lot of Democrats.

Borger later said that the GOP Senate hawks were likely to complain about ever having to cut defense spending in any way and that the House Republicans will have a good cry over failing to get their balanced budget amendment signed sealed and delivered in time for labor day, so it's not as if the GOP is getting a good deal.

In the final analysis it's the way things have to be:

"When you look at the overall picture, we're starting to put together you could say, ok, the president gets his deal into 2013, which is what he wanted. The House gets promises of substantial budget cuts and Mitch McConnell gets his commission or committee which he wants to absolutely enforce those budget cuts.

Kind of left out of this are the base of the Democratic Party, they're not going to be happy about budget cuts to programs like Medicare for example. And what about conservative Republicans who don't want to put defense in this mix even if they get a promise of no revenues?

So you're right, there's something for everyone to hate in all this but in the end that's the only way to get something like this done.

So the President is happy, the spending cutters are happy, the entitlement slashers are happy.The anti-tax folks are happy, but they might gripe if defense is cut at all at some point in the future. And the Democratic base can go fuck itself.

That's certainly a deal the Village can get behind.

The Bad Deal

by digby

"Conservatives are saying it's imperfect, to which one must say, the Sistine Chapel is probably in some sense imperfect." George Will

So you've probably heard about the Big Deal that's (surprise!) congealing today, at the very last minute. Plouffe and McConnell and the rest are all over TV this morning talking about it. I'm a little surprised at how shocked people seem to be. I'ts about what I expected: trillions in cuts, no revenue, a Super Commission with a mandate to cut even more and an up or down vote requirement, and a trigger with mandated cuts if that Commission vote fails.It's pretty much a combination of the worst aspects of all the Republican plans that have been floated.

This is all they still have to fight over:

As noted here, the issue under contention was the design of a so-called "trigger," -- a penalty written into the bill meant to encourage Congress to pass further bipartisan deficit reduction legislation, authored by a new Special Committee, later this year. Here's what they've reportedly come up with, pending approval from Congressional Democrats and Republicans.

From ABC News, the key detail: "The special committee must make recommendations by late November (before Congress' Thanksgiving recess). If Congress does not approve those cuts by December 23, automatic across-the-board cuts go into effect, including cuts to Defense and Medicare. This 'trigger' is designed to force action on the deficit reduction committee's recommendations by making the alternative painful to both Democrats and Republicans."

The Medicare cuts would supposedly fall on Medicare providers, not beneficiaries. The trigger would also include a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment -- but no requirement that it be sent off to the states.

So Medicare is definitely on the chopping block. (Medicaid too -- that will be part of the other trillions in discretionary spending.)

But this part is just funny:

on CNN, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the final trigger must include incentives that don't simply allow Republicans to draw a line in the sand over revenues. "What is the sword over the Republican?" Schumer asked.

Well it has to be equal -- the one thing we are certain of, it has to be of equal sharpness and strength. The preference would be some kind of revenues, on wealthy people, on tax loopholes that would be in that. But another alternative, possible, being discussed, no agreement has been reached, would be defense cuts of equal sharpness and magnitude to domestic cuts.

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

Perhaps he's right and some mandated defense cuts will be what finally brings the Tea Party around. Sure.

Unfortunately, the trigger means there will be "entitlement cuts" in the next round:

Under the new proposal, if the new legislative body composed of 12 members of both parties doesn't come up with a bill that cuts at least $1.8 trillion by Thanksgiving, entitlement programs will automatically be slashed.

The Super Congress will be made up of six Democrats and six Republicans from both chambers. Under the reported framework, legislation the new congressional committee writes would be fast-tracked through the regular Congress and could not be filibustered or amended.

The parties are negotiating the outlines of the super panel's mandate, deciding roughly how much in cuts must come from defense spending, how much from seniors, how much from veterans, etc.

Last weekend, HuffPost reported on the extraordinary powers being delegated to the emerging Super Congress, but beltway media largely reacted by dismissing it as just another Washington commission. On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sought to disabuse anyone listening of that notion.

"Let me emphasize the joint committee," McConnell said on CNN's State of the Union. "In the early stages of this discussion, the press was talking about another commission. This is not a commission. This is a powerful, joint committee with a equal number of Republicans and Senate -- equal number of Republicans and Democrats, and, to make a recommendation back to the Senate and House by Thanksgiving of this year for an up or down vote. Think of the base closing legislation that we passed a few years ago for an up or down vote in the Senate."

The sticking point, said McConnell, is that Republicans are insisting on "triggers" that would automatically fire at beneficiaries of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare if the Super Congress doesn't act. "The trigger issue has been the one locked us in the extensive discussions. I thought we were very close to an agreement a week ago today, and then went off to our separate corners and had volleys, and now we are back into the position where we will let you know when we agree to something," said McConnell.

Republicans rejected tax increases as a trigger incentive, and the White House has responded by proposing automatic defense cuts -- which should have the consequence of enlisting defense lobbyists to push for entitlement cuts to stave off their own reductions.

For me this isn't a shocking disappointment. I have felt that this whole process was a disaster from the beginning and it really doesn't matter to me if the Democrats eke out a couple of concessions about defense cuts or close a few loopholes "in return" for these cuts. That isn't "shared sacrifice," it's asking the poorest, oldest and sickest among us to give up a piece of their meager security in exchange for the wealthy giving up some tip money and the defense industry giving up a couple of points of profit. It's stripping the nation of necessary educational, safety and environmental protections while the wealthy greedily absorb more and more of the nation's wealth and the corporations and financial industry gamble with the rest.

The idea that they are even talking about this at a time of nearly 10% official unemployment with the economy looking like it's going back into recession (if it ever left) makes this debate surreal and bizarre. To cut the safety net and shred discretionary spending in massive numbers at a time like this is mind boggling. That it's happening under a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate is profoundly depressing.

But it's happening. And sadly, I still think it will be mostly Democrats who end up voting for it.

And by the way, David Plouffe and The President really, really need to stop saying that progressives should want to do this bullshit. It's insulting ... and blindingly infuriating.

Update: Ezra's funny this morning:

Next year’s deadline offers Democrats their only chance to negotiate from a superior strategic position. Republicans will still be able to refuse to raise taxes. But if they do, it won’t matter. The only way they can succeed in keeping taxes from rising is if the Obama administration and the Democrats stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them to extend the Bush tax cuts.

Lol. Like that could ever happen.

And That Is Why Tom Friedman Is An Idiot

by tristero

Today's Times:
Watching today’s Republicans being led around by an extremist Tea Party faction, with no adult supervision, I find my mind drifting back to the late 1980s when I was assigned to cover the administration of George H.W. Bush, who I believe is one of our most underrated presidents.
No, Tom, this is one of the most underrated presidents.

What's that you say? FDR underrated?? FDR who, along with Lincoln and Washington, always tops historians' lists of our greatest presidents?

Yes, dear friends, FDR is grossly underrated. Otherwise, this country's politicians wouldn't be so hellbent on destroying every single program and policy he put into place. Otherwise, we would be extending his incomplete, yet still breathakingly awe-inspiring social legacy instead of enthusiastically dismantling it. Otherwise, he, and not Ronald Reagan, would be cited as an exemplar by leading presidential candidates of all parties. Otherwise, his name would be ready on the tips of every Democrats' tongue, rather than being held in abeyance and uttered only as a tepid parry to the slings and arrows of the lunatic right that Friedman, far too belatedly, has come to realize play an enormous role in our political discourse.

Bush Senior was a terrible president, Tom. One of countless examples: Friedman,in his article, approves of Bush for not entering Baghdad at the end of Bush/Iraq I. What Friedman fails to mention is that Bush's incompetent diplomacy was likely a major factor that reinforced Saddam's decision to invade Kuwait (see bottom of numbered page 54, column 1). Of course, Bush had no right to invade Iraq - had he done his job and appointed a competent diplomatic corps and supervised them properly instead of relying on rigid ideological "realists" (who were anything but realistic), war might have been averted and the awful moral catastrophe of that war's end, as US troops watched as Saddam slaughtered countless of his own citizens, would never have happened.

Sorry, my dear historian friends, but you are bunk. While you might like FDR, the fact remains that this country offers only a token public nod to his memory and achievements. For not only in the offices of the government but also in the most influential think tanks, in the largest propaganda mills, in the slightly more legitimate "responsible" media, and most importantly, in the minds of at least half of all American voters, FDR is one of the most underrated and undervalued presidents in our history.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Do Not Go Gently Into That Goodnight
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

If you're well enough informed to be reading Hullabaloo, then you probably already know that a debt ceiling deal is apparently in the works. And it's bad. Very, very bad.

  • $2.8 trillion in deficit reduction with $1 trillion locked in through discretionary spending caps over 10 years and the remainder determined by a so-called super committee.
  • The Super Committee must report precise deficit-reduction proposals by Thanksgiving.
  • The Super Committee would have to propose $1.8 trillion spending cuts to achieve that amount of deficit reduction over 10 years.
  • If the Super Committee fails, Congress must send a balanced-budget amendment to the states for ratification. If that doesn't happen, across-the-board spending cuts would go into effect and could touch Medicare and defense spending.
  • No net new tax revenue would be part of the special committee's deliberations.

Needless to say, this is a truly horrible deal. $2.8 trillion in cuts to discretionary spending. An unaccountable "super committee" that will probably recommend cuts and "adjustments" to Medicare and Social Security. No new tax revenue of any kind.

It's hard to imagine how it gets much worse than this. If this deal goes through, it would represent nothing less than a capitulation on the part of the President and the Democratic Senate to economic terrorism on the part of the Republican caucus, and would set a major precedent for more accountability-free hostage taking in the future. Grover Norquist seems pretty happy about it, and why not? The gameplan for drowning the government in the bathtub is obvious from here. It's clear that the Democrats won't do a thing to get in the way, because there's no hostage the Democrats will be willing to shoot--or even threaten to shoot--when the GOP takes one, nor will the media abandon its postmodern "both sides are just as bad" shtick no matter how asinine the GOP becomes.

None of which even touches the fact that the discretionary spending cuts and bipartisan commission to recommend entitlement cuts are right in line with what President Obama has repeatedly said he wanted, anyway. We're certainly not going to get any help to stand up to this atrocious "compromise" from the President: he actively wants most of what is in it.

The only saving grace here is that some reports suggest that this might be a trial balloon: i.e., that the reaction from the rank-and-file on both sides might affect the ultimate acceptability of the bill. This is true on general principle, of course: the bill would still have to get through Congress, regardless of what Obama, Reid, McConnell and Boehner may have hammered out behind closed doors.

This is ultimately where the rubber meets the road. The only way to stop this "deal" at this point is to lobby Congress to oppose it.

Call (202)224-3121 and ask to speak to (or leave voicemails for) your Representative and Senators--particularly if they're Democrats. Tell them you don't want massive cuts to spending that will throw us even deeper into recession even as corporations are making record profits but not hiring Americans.

It may not be much, but it's worth a shot. It's certainly more valuable than screaming helplessly into the online ether even as austerity mania consumes the nation alive. Do not go gently into that goodnight.
Saturday Night At The Movies

Double Feature: Cowboys, Aliens, Sinners & Saints

By Dennis Hartley

Deadwood? Meet Torchwood: Cowboys and Aliens

Ah, summer. The high season of high concept films, pitched to the Hollywood higher-ups by people who are really, really, high. Hey now! Consider Cowboys and Aliens, the newest film from Iron Man director Jon “Vegas, baby, Vegas” Favreau. The title is the pitch. That’s probably all it took: “Cowboys. Aliens. Daniel Craig. Harrison Ford.” And, BAM! Green-lighted. Done deal. It’s almost eloquent, in its masterful conceptual brevity. OK, there have been precedents, vis a vis the mash-up of the Old West with sci-fi. The Valley of Gwangi is one film that immediately springs to mind-a guilty pleasure from 1969 that featured cowpokes wranglin’ a purple stop-motion T. Rex (Barney with teeth!) for a Mexican circus. Gene Autry’s Phantom Empire movie serial dates all the way back to the 1930s, which has the Singing Cowboy mixing it up with robots and denizens hailing from the underground city of ‘Murania’ (Queen Tika!). Back to the Future, Part III would fit in that theme park. Westworld and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension sort of count. And then there’s…well, others. It would be cheating to include TV, so I won’t mention The Wild, Wild West, the odd Twilight Zone or Star Trek episode, or “Gunmen of the Apocalypse” (Best.Red.Dwarf.Episode.Ever.).

The film opens, appropriately enough, with a Mystery. Actually, it opens kind of like Hangover 3. A rangy 1870s gunslinger (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of the Arizona desert with a cauterized wound, an empty holster, a non-removable, anachronistic hi-tech device affixed to his wrist…and amnesia. An absence of empty tequila bottles in the immediate vicinity would appear to indicate that there could be an interesting story behind all this. He isn’t given too much time to ponder, as he (Jake, we’ll call him) is soon set upon by some gamey ruffians with human scalps hanging from their saddles. Sizing up his wound and assuming his unusual bracelet is a kind of shackle, the boys figure Jake might be worth reward money (not only do these fellers spout authentic Western gibberish, but they ain’t none too bright). Imagine their surprise (and Jake’s) when he instinctively springs into action and expertly takes ‘em all out, Jason Bourne style. So we (and Jake) have discovered one thing right off the bat-he’s a badass.

Cut to the requisite “Man with No Name rides into dusty cowtown” Leone homage scene (you thought they’d forgotten?). Meet our crusty yet benign saloon keeper (Sam Rockwell). Say “hey” to our crusty yet benign town sheriff (Keith Carradine…again). And I want to give a special shout out for the preacher man who ain’t afeared to handle a shootin’ iron (Clancy Brown, with his huge Lurch head). And no 1870s cowtown would be complete without its resident posse of drunken asshole bullies, a whoopin’ and a hollerin’ and recklessly shootin’ up the place, led by the spoiled, arrogant son (Paul Dano) of the local cattle baron (Harrison Ford) who “owns” the town. Daddy’s little angel makes quite a scene terrorizing the good townsfolk until Jake decides to take him down a notch. The situation escalates to a point where the sheriff has no choice but to arrest them both. Junior petulantly warns all that his Daddy will be very cross-and he’ll make ‘em all pay. Daddy does eventually ride in, and the whole powder keg is set to explode, when everyone gets sidetracked by an alien invasion (just in time, too-because the attack occurs as they are on the verge of runnin’ plumb out of wild West film clichés).

There’s not much point in synopsizing the remainder of the narrative, because despite the fact that I just saw the movie last night, and it’s allegedly still fresh in my mind, I’ve already forgotten a lot of what happens next. But I don’t think it really matters, in the grand scheme of things. I do remember lots of explosions and gooey strands of fleshy alien viscera hanging off the cacti like so much tinsel on a Christmas Tree. Oh, and there’s something about a magic ring, and the end of the world (no, not really, I’m just checking to see if you’re still paying attention to this ridiculous film review). But if you really must pry (“I must! I must!”), I will tell you that what does ensue is basically a remake of The Searchers, with Harrison Ford’s character standing in for John Wayne, and alien abductors substituting for the Native American kidnappers in John Ford’s film. Oh (he said, attempting to appear casual)…there is the lovely Olivia Wilde, who plays the one person who could possibly help Jake “remember” how he got in the state we found him in at the beginning of the film. To extrapolate further about her character would constitute “spoilers”, so I’ll leave it there. Did I mention Olivia Wilde was in this?

Is it worth seeing? That depends. If you’re a sci-fi “purist” you probably want to steer clear (too many potential tirade-inducing logic holes in the narrative for you Spock types). If you demand coherent story lines in your movies…you might not want to bother either (the film has six credited writers-‘nuff said). But if you’re in a popcorn mood, and ready for big, dumb, loud fun, with lots of action, serviceable special effects and a few decent chuckles-then you may want to take a peek (even if you don’t remember any of it the next day). Cowboys. Aliens. Daniel Craig. Harrison Ford…what more do you want?

Previous posts with related themes:

Iron Man

Give me a sign, Lord: Salvation Boulevard

Salvation Boulevard is precisely the type of black comedy cum social satire cum noirish morality play that the Coen brothers really excel at. Unfortunately, the Coen brothers didn’t direct it. Or write it. However, I will hand it to writer-director George Ratliff-it does take a special kind of skill to so effectively squander the potential of a cast that includes Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Marisa Tomei and Ed Harris.

Kinnear plays ex-Deadhead Carl, a member of a megachurch who has traded the tie-dye and Thai Stick of hippiedom for the sackcloth and ashes of born-again Christendom. Well, maybe not completely (is there really such a thing as an “ex”-Deadhead?), because you get the impression that his wife Gwen (Connelly) is the one who really wears the piety in the family. Gwen is slavishly devoted to the edicts of the church’s charismatic leader, Pastor Dan (Brosnan), a slick hustler with ambitions to build his own “city on a hill” (more as a monument to himself, than to the Lord-one suspects). Their teen daughter (Isabelle Fuhrman) is apprehensive about Mom’s push to psych her up for taking her “vows” at an upcoming “purity ball”. Meanwhile, malleable Carl just goes with the flow.

One evening, following a televised debate at the megachurch between Pastor Dan and guest speaker Dr. Blaylock (Harris), a famous atheist writer, Carl ends up driving the pastor to the doctor’s home for a nightcap. In the midst of a conversation about the possibilities of the two men co-authoring a book, Pastor Dan accidently shoots Dr. Blaylock in the head while handling an antique pistol (oops!), leaving the writer alive, but in a coma. Carl, of course, wants to do the right thing and call the police immediately; but the silver-tongued pastor persuades him to hold off until they get back to the church (you see what’s coming, don’t you?). Yes, Carl is being set up to be the fall guy-and by the time he realizes it, Pastor Dan (with no shortage of worshipful toadies at his disposal) has the upper hand. No one believes Carl’s side of the story, even Gwen (she chalks it up as a “hallucination”-maybe a relapse to his druggie DFH past). He finally finds a sympathetic ear in a female church security guard (Tomei) who bonds with him as a fellow Deadhead.

Once the pair (seemingly the only two sane and likable characters in the story) hit the highway in a VW van, with the evil heavies from the church in hot pursuit, you would think that you are now in for a darkly amusing “road movie”, chockablock with wacky vignettes fueled by the colorful characters encountered along the way. You would think. But it is at this point in the film that Ratliff (and his co-writer Douglas Stone) make a fatal mistake. Well, two. First, Tomei’s character gets dropped like a rock-which is too bad, because the only time the film really came alive for me was when she was onscreen (as much as I admire her fine dramatic work in recent years, I have always found her to be particularly skillful in comedic roles-she’s sort of our modern Judy Holliday). Secondly, from the moment Carl is abruptly kidnapped by a Mexican drug lord (don’t ask) the whole narrative gets hijacked as well, grinding the entire film to a thudding halt.

It’s been a while since I have found myself remaining so stone faced through a “comedy”. I’m not sure what happened here; but most of the cast (with the exception of Tomei) sleepwalk through the film (and these are excellent, reliable actors). Bad direction? Not enough direction? Weak script? All of the above? Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint. Whatever the root cause, the end product is forced and flat; it’s like a lame network sitcom making a futile attempt to be as hip as, say, Weeds. I had also greatly anticipated the re-pairing of Brosnan and Kinnear, who made a perfect tag team in the 2005 black comedy, The Matador. But alas, it was not to be. Another unpardonable sin-the megachurch phenom is so ripe for a satirical takedown, and that opportunity is blown as well. So I am afraid I have to say: “Praise the Lord and pass the multiplex” on this one.

Previous posts with related themes:



Very Serious

by digby

Paul Krugman lauds Jonathan Chait's jeremiad against the "establishment" for using the debt ceiling as an excuse to slash spending. It's certainly true that they did that and it was obviously a bad decision, which many of them are now regretting.

But this from Chait is nonsense:

When Republicans first proposed tying a debt ceiling hike to a measure to reduce the deficit, President Obama instead proposed a traditional, clean debt ceiling hike. He found this position politically untenable for many reasons, one of them being that deficit scolds insisted that using the debt ceiling to force a fiscal adjustment was a terrific idea, and that connecting the deficit debate to a potentially cataclysmic financial event was the mark of seriousness.

I know it's unpleasant to think about, but I'm afraid that the President is one of those serious people. It's true that they came to believe that it was "politically untenable" to hold fast for a clean debt ceiling, but it's important to acknowledge why that is. Elizabeth Drew reported:

The question arises, aside from Obama’s chronically allowing the Republicans to define the agenda and even the terminology (the pejorative word “Obamacare” is now even used by news broadcasters), why did he so definitively place himself on the side of the deficit reducers at a time when growth and job creation were by far the country’s most urgent needs?

It all goes back to the “shellacking” Obama took in the 2010 elections. The President’s political advisers studied the numbers and concluded that the voters wanted the government to spend less. This was an arguable interpretation. Nevertheless, the political advisers believed that elections are decided by middle-of-the-road independent voters, and this group became the target for determining the policies of the next two years.

That explains a lot about the course the President has been taking this year. The political team’s reading of these voters was that to them, a dollar spent by government to create a job is a dollar wasted. The only thing that carries weight with such swing voters, they decided—in another arguable proposition—is cutting spending. Moreover, like Democrats—and very unlike Republicans—these voters do not consider “compromise” a dirty word.

The President proposed at least two modest plans for stimulus spending, someone familiar with all these deliberations told me, “but he’s not as Keynesian as before.” This person said, “If the political advisers had told him in 2009 that the median voter didn’t like the stimulus, he’d have told them to get lost.” By 2011, in his State of the Union address in January he moved from jobs creation (such as the stimulus program) toward longer-term investment.

The speech Obama gave on April 13 marked his conversion to fiscal centrism; to being the fiscally responsible Democrat. In that speech he stated that he wanted to reduce the debt by $4 trillion—thus aligning himself with the Republicans—but also asked for revenues to partly offset that reduction. It was all about reelection politics, designed to appeal to this same group of independents. “And that’s why,” I was told by the person familiar with the White House deliberations, “he went bigger in the deficit reduction talks; bringing in Social Security is consistent with that slice of the electorate they’re trying to reach.” This person said, “There’s a bit of bass-ackwardness to this; the deficit spending you’d want to focus on right now is the jobs issue.”

And we also know that he came to see this as an opportunity to make his long desired Grand Bargain. How do we know this? Because he told us so, over and over again.

And he and John Boehner worked together for months to get it done:

Only a President, elected to serve all the people, can do certain things — including reach out and lift up a friend or rival into the heady temple of Executive power. "I'm the President of the United States," Obama told Boehner. "You're the Speaker of the House. We're the two most responsible leaders right now." And so they began to talk about the truly epic possibility of using the threat, the genuine danger of default, to freeze out their respective extremists and make the kind of historic deal that no one really thought possible anymore — bigger than when Reagan and Tip O'Neill overhauled the tax code in 1986 or when Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich passed welfare reform a decade later. It would include deeper cuts in spending, the elimination of all kinds of tax loopholes and lower income tax rates for all. "Come on, you and I," Boehner admitted telling Obama. "Let's lock arms, and we'll jump out of the boat together."

Perhaps he didn't originally conceive of the debt ceiling as a good way to force spending cuts, but he sure jumped on the bandwagon with gusto when the other side proposed it. And frankly, considering his early telegraphing of the Grand Bargain as a legacy item and his fetish for big bipartisan compromise, I think it's fair to speculate that he saw this as the only way to get it done early on.

The White House knew since January that the Republicans were preparing to shake the president down over the debt ceiling. They said it openly. ("It's a leverage moment for Republicans. The president needs us. There are things we were elected to do. Let's accomplish those if the president needs us to clean up the old mess.") If he had truly wanted a clean debt ceiling vote, it wouldn't have been hard to show that the Republicans were planning to blackmail the country before the President put any of his famous compromises on the table. Just because it didn't work out the way they planned it doesn't mean they didn't want it to.

None of this is to say that the Republicans aren't completely batshit insane, of course. They've proven that they are so batshit insane they won't take the best deal they've ever been offered, and that's some serious insanity. It's also true, however, that had the President and the Speaker been allowed to do their backroom deal we might not be facing a global financial meltdown --- but the United States would be facing exactly the same policy failure.

And how did you like the kabuki dance, Mr Lincoln?

by digby

Reading this piece by John Judis about President Obama's misreading of Lincoln's "compromises" reminded me of a (far less elegant) post of mine from some years back on the subject of America's original sin and the two tribes that emerged from it. Judis writes:

THIS IS IMPORTANT because Obama may now be facing his own crisis of the Union. Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999. If there is an earlier American precedent for today’s Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to, and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery.

It's my my ongoing thesis on this blog that we've never stopped fighting that war, it just varies in intensity. My old post quoted extensively from a speech by historian Steven Z. Starr, who made it on the centennial anniversary of the civil war:

The second basic issue between the sections lay in the area of politics; necessarily so, for it was in the political arena that the problems between the sections were fought out until the South decided that political solutions, reached by a process of give and take, were no longer adequate to protect its "honor and self-respect.”

Bear in mind that middle and upper class Southerners were politicians by birthright. Active participation in politics was, in the South, a way of life. One would expect, therefore, to find a much greater degree of political skill and acumen there than in the North. What one finds there instead is demagogy, bombast, irresponsibility, incompetence, a childish refusal to come to grips with realities, and a habitual substitution of slogans, symbols and bogeymen for facts. These are strong statements, but hardly strong enough to fit the situation.

The South had an almost unbroken control of the Federal Government from 1789 until secession. The presidents were either Southerners., or Northerners like Pierce and Buchanan, who were mere puppets in the hands of Southern senators and cabinet members. For seventy years, the Supreme Court had a majority of Southern justices. With the aid of its Northern allies and the three-fifths rule, the South controlled one or both houses of Congress. The fifteen Slave States, with a white population of not quite eight million, had 30 senators, 90 representatives, and 120 electoral votes, whereas the State of New York, with a population of four million had two senators, 33 representatives, and 35 electoral votes. Even the election of 1860 left the South in control of both houses of Congress, and until at least 1863, Lincoln and the Republicans would have been powerless to pass legislation hostile to the South, and through its control of the Senate, the South could have blocked the confirmation of every Lincoln appointee whom it considered unfriendly. In spite of this, and notwithstanding Lincoln's repeated assurances that he would not, directly or indirectly, interfere with slavery where it already existed, the South chose to secede.

Starr goes on to show that this irrational behavior was not due to the south failing to get the the legislation it wanted, because it did. It became an emotional issue in which it was important to "crack the whip over the heads of the northern men" and they began to make enemies of their allies in the territories. As Starr says, "this tale of political ineptitude, the habitual misreading of the minds of opponents, the misjudging of the practical possibilities of a given situation, the purposeless striving for effect, the substitution of arrogance and threats for rational discussion, could be expanded many fold."

Starr's view is that the south behaved irrationally prior to the civil war because of it's defensiveness about its culture of slavery. He grants that there other differences, some exaggerated and some quite real, but notes that most people of both regions were farmers and had more in common than not. The record suggests one very important difference, however, and that was that the south had a much inferior educational system,

...in 1850, 20.3% of white Southerners over the age of twenty were illiterate, as against less than one-half of one percent of New Englanders.

But it is important to point out that lack of educational opportunities was a significant factor in preventing the rise of a class of intelligent, educated farmers and artisans in the South. Only two Southern states, North Carolina and Kentucky, had respectable public school systems before 1860, and this had much to do with the failure of Southern whites to understand that their "peculiar institution" was out of tune with the moral, social, and even economic sentiment of the times, and with their readiness to follow the Pied Pipers who thought that a nation and a state could be founded on the enslavement of four million human beings. These are among the dangers of a closed society and of an iron curtain.
Granting the existence of cultural differences between the North and South, can we assume that they would necessarily lead to a Civil War? Obviously not. Such differences lead to animosity and war only if one side develops a national inferiority complex, begins to blame all its shortcomings on the other side, enforces a rigid conformity on its own people, and tries to make up for its own sins of omission and commission by name-calling, by nursing an exaggerated pride and sensitiveness, and by cultivating a reckless aggressiveness as a substitute for reason.
And this was the refuge of the South. For ten years before secession, Northerners were commonly referred to as “mongrels and hirelings." The North was described as "a conglomeration of greasy mechanics filthy operatives, small-fisted farmers, and moonstruck theorists ... hardly fit for association with a southern gentleman's body servant." And, most fatal delusion of all, Southerners began to credit themselves with fighting ability equal to that of nine, five, or more conservatively, three Northerners. Once a nation or a section begins to speak and think in such terms, reason has gone out the window and emotion has taken over. This is precisely what happened in the South, and this is why the Cotton States seceded before Lincoln was even inaugurated and before his administration had committed, or had a chance to commit, any act of aggression against them. Such behavior is fundamentally irrational, and cannot be explained in rational terms.

Interesting, yes?

The civil war, of course, made everything worse. Reconstruction was a nightmare and the north never had even the slightest idea what to do about the race problem once they dealt with the slavery problem. (Indeed, when it comes to racism, the north shared most of the same beliefs. They just didn't live among many blacks so they didn't have to deal with those problems until much later.) But, the ignominy of reconstruction gave birth to the Lost Cause mythology and that only reinforced the already outsized sense of wounded pride.

The south today has forty percent that votes with the blue states in national elections. They are white progressive modern people who share the southern cultural identity but have avoided the 200 year old baggage that makes it impossible to identify with people not of their own tribe and african-americans who were excluded except as scapegoats and second class citizens. (I'm sure nonetheless that some of what I've written sticks in the craw of many of you and you may feel that old resentment. It appears to me as if this is an ingrained reaction to discussions of this sort. It certainly has been around forever.)

I'm not going to take a stand against "heartland values" or "southern culture" whatever it's defined as this week. It seems to me that it would be worthless, because this battle is obviously tribal, not specific to any particular issue. Slavery and Jim Crow are long gone. Now it's religion and gays. The lines are drawn as they've always been and there will be no reconciliation through politics. Even a bloody civil war couldn't do that.

History suggests that the southern culture has always been as defined by it's resentment toward the rest of the country as much as anything else. The so-called bi-coastal liberal elites certainly don't think of themselves as having a lot in common with each other, other than being Americans. People from Los Angeles and Vermont call themselves Californians and New Englanders, respectively. I don't think they believe they share a "culture." People in Seattle call themselves pacific northwesterners. People in New York call themselves New Yorkers --- Chicagoans midwesterners. They identify themselves by their specific region and a broader identity as Americans, not by this alleged Bi-coastal cultural alliance. This notion of two easily identifiable cultures is only held by the people who used to call themselves the confederacy and now call themselves "the heartland." That alone should be reason to stop and question what is really going on here.

One thing this little historical trip should show everyone is that it is nonsense to think that this cultural resentment and cultural contempt was created by Hollywood movie stars and limosine liberals from New York City. Indeed, this has been a problem since the dawn of the republic. And it isn't a problem that will be solved by the Red States gaining and maintaining power. They have held power many times throughout our history and they were still filled with resentment toward "the north" (now "the liberal elites.") And, it won't be solved by adopting different stances on "moral issues," or telling the current Democratic southern constituencies to suck it up. Maybe it's time we looked a little bit deeper and realized that this tribal problem isn't going to be solved by politics at all.

The "liberal elites" will no doubt be making more compromises in the direction of heartland values for pragmatic reasons. But, judging by history, it won't change a thing. Neither will Republican political dominance. So, maybe it's time for the heartland to take a good hard look at itself and ask when they are going to adopt the culture of responsibility they profess with such fervor. It sure looks to me as if they've been nursing a case of historical pique for more than 200 years and that resentment no longer has any more meaning than a somewhat self-destructive insistence on maintaining a cultural identity that's defined by it's anger toward the rest of the country. They are talking themselves into a theocratic police state in order to "crack the whip over the heads of the northern men" and it's not likely to work out for them any better this time than it did the first time. The real elites in the church, the government and the corporations will take them down right along with us when that comes to pass.

The parties still represent the two tribes that were created out of slavery and the same dynamic prevails today. During the Bush years we were all fascinated by the comparison between the civil war map and the 2004 election. It still represents the political bases of the two parties pretty well, with the ascension of the Randian kook faction recently coming out of the Upper Midwest. It's interesting how this tribal identity spread beyond region, however, a subject which is partially covered in fascinating detail in Kevin Philips 2007 book called American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century. he shows how the Southern Baptist convention spread beyond the South to dominate Protestantism in general and it partially explains how this Southern based tribal identity comes to be found in pockets throughout the country. There's also urban white backlash and the dominance of corporate sponsored media aimed at stoking the resentments that animate this particular American identity. This tribe now calls itself the Tea Party or the Conservative Movement and it dominates the Republican coalition.

If President Obama wants to be the Lincoln of his day he needs to recognize that the same dynamics that drove the Southern coalition to total lunacy in 1860 are driving it there today because as John Judis points out, he's had it wrong from the beginning:

When Barack Obama announced his presidential candidacy on February 10, 2007, he did it in Springfield, Illinois, in the same place where Abraham Lincoln had made his historic challenge to slavery in June 1858. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Lincoln had declared, conveying his conviction that the union could no longer countenance the existence of a slave-owning South.

This speech, Obama said, was the basis of his candidacy: “And that is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still live, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States,” Obama said. But Obama had Lincoln’s speech exactly backwards. Lincoln wasn’t calling for a divided house to stay together. He was arguing against compromise with the slave South.

This Resentment Tribe doesn't do compromise. You have to beat them. But then I suspect that President Obama understands this very well. It's just that he's torn between his centrist ideology, which is well served by this chaos (opportunity!) and his need to operate in a partisan system. In the end, he may achieve the other side's policy goals and be punished politically anyway. It's not policy or politics that drives these people, it's tribal resentment. And he will never be one of them.


Cult of centrism, or rightwing media?
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

Digby and I have both been emphasizing Krugman's point lately about the media's cult of centrism, the relativistic postmodern approach to truth that sees everything as mere "perspective" rather than factual reality.

But on second thought, that analysis may merit some questioning. Consider the following thought experiment:

Suppose there were a bill coming up to fund, say, money for troop pay. Or the existence of the base in Guantanamo. Or Pentagon black ops budgets for monitoring potential nuclear terrorism threats. Fairly essential things Republicans care about.

Suppose that bill came up fairly regularly and passed completely without incident under GOP and Democratic administrations alike.

Now suppose Democrats controlled just the Senate, but a Republican who won election in a landslide held the White House and the Speaker's gavel lay in GOP hands as well.

Now suppose Senate Democrats decided that they simply weren't going to allow the troops to be paid at all unless we returned to Reagan-era 50% marginal tax rates on the wealthy and a 35% capital gains tax rate. Suppose that the Republican President and the Speaker totally capitulated on the essence of these demands (I know, stop laughing for just a moment to read on) but said that they would only accept a 40% marginal rate and 25% capital gains rate. Suppose the Republican President put on the table wholly unrelated closures of other corporate tax loopholes and an end of oil drilling subsidies as a cherry on top in a "Grand Bargain", but only in exchange for some fairly minor and inconsequential cuts to discretionary spending that most reasonable people on both sides felt to be wasteful.

Now suppose that Senate Democrats rejected that deal, threatening to withhold pay for the troops/Guantanamo/nuclear terrorism funding on general principle, arguing that their not getting the money at all might be a good thing, because starving the beast might force the Republican President to defund the military-industrial complex entirely. Suppose Congress could not come to a deal as the Democratic Senate remained intransigent on this point, and the Senate Majority Leader's job were under fire as Democrats excoriated him for also daring to allow funding for troop body armor in the bill because after all, what do they need that for? (And yes, stop laughing again at the fact that in the real world, it's Democrats who work to give the troops body armor and Republicans who vote against it.)

How would the modern media treat that scenario? Would it be a postmodern "both sides do it" mishmash of weary journalistic malaise?

Of course not. Every "liberal" columnist from Joe Klein to Dana Milbank would spend every waking moment tut tutting the crazy, unreasonable Democrats. Regular newspaper articles would breathlessly characterize Democratic actions as hostage-taking, replete with stories about the danger being placed on America and how much regular folks in the heartland hate those awful Democrats. And the howling on the Right? Well, take the regular over-the-top screaming, and amplify the Drudge flashers and Fox News chyrons by tenfold. You would almost almost certainly see physical violence against Democratic legislators.

The point of this exercise, of course, is that we don't really have a cult of centrism in the media. We just have a right wing media. Period.

Some of it is right wing by choice. The rest of it is scared into the position by pressure from conservative advocacy groups, or fear of losing their jobs. But we should really call it what it is. "Cult of centrism" really doesn't do justice to what has happened to media in this country.
Not crazy enough for the kooks

by digby

In case you were worrying overmuch about the Senate kabuki, this should set your mind at ease:

Even Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who had promised to use all parliamentary procedures at his disposal to slow approval of any plan with a balanced-budget provision, said Friday that he was still mulling his strategy in coming days.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said, indicating he would take into account an appeal from McConnell to allow an expedited process, if a compromise were reached. “I’m certainly going to listen — we’re playing up against a pretty important deadline here, and I don’t want to fool with that.”

I wonder if DeMint knows what he's in for:

Tea Party leaders from the Tea Party Express, Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Founding Fathers, and United West are targeting their hero Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and three other GOP freshman for supposedly trading in their Tea Party principles to support House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) debt ceiling plan. Chaffing under his new title of “Tea Party defector,” West scoffed at his supporters’ derision this morning on the Laura Ingraham Show. “If [Tea Party] folks, one minute they are saying I’m their Tea Party hero and three, four days later I’m their tea party defector, that kind of schizophrenia I’m not going to get involved in,” he said.

Trouble in Tea-a-dise?