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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's Wrong With This Reporting?

by tristero

What's wrong with this reporting?

Answer: The reporter and his editors still buy into the myth of false equivalence, that "both sides" are filled with extremists.
She shook her head at how “we’ve miniaturized the process in the United States Senate,” no longer allowing lawmakers to shape or change legislation and turning every vote into a take-it-or-leave-it showdown intended to embarrass the opposition...
Nope. Democrats don't turn every single vote into a take-it-or-leave-it showdown. Republicans do.
With the announcement by Ms. Snowe, the political center has all but given way in Congress, with both Republicans and Democrats who fashioned themselves as common-sense moderates stepping down or being booted out.
Nope. The "political center" is amply represented among leading Democrats in Congress. What there hasn't been, for years, is more than a few powerful left-of-center voices. What has "given way" is the right of center, and even the hard right. What we are left with are centrist/right centrist Democrats and Republicans on the lunatic rightwing fringe.
Christie Whitman, a former Republican governor of New Jersey and Environmental Protection Agency administrator, pointed to social issues as the core problem in the polarization of American politics.
Not quite. Social issues aren't the problem. The Republican insistence on forcing ludicrous social issues to the forefront of American politics - when we have very serious problems that need attending to - is what is causing the polarization.

Am I saying that Republicans are the sole cause of the problems this country is having? Absolutely not. The absence of genuinely serious liberals from the public discourse is as great, if not a greater problem. And related to that is the absence of a compelling, modern rhetoric of liberalism.

In other words, it's not just that Republicans for the past 30 plus years have become increasingly crazy. It's that no one in a position of power knows how to confront them, mock them, label their ideas as the dangerous idiocies that they are, and start to move them back to the margins.

Either that, or no one has the political will.

Sluts, feminazis and ballbusters

by digby

One of the most controversial posts I ever wrote was one in which I speculated about Rush's little Viagra week-end in the Dominican. Duly chastised, I repented for being so rude and personal. After all, it really is wrong to speculate about other people's sex lives, even slimy pieces of work like Limbaugh.

Today, he called a woman who testified before congress about contraception a slut and a prostitute.

LIMBAUGH: What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.

So fuck him.

Imagine Jack Nicholson as a gelatinous mound of overripe compost called Rush Limbaugh and you've got his story:

Slack-jawed Fox

by digby

People wonder why they hate us? Here's why they hate us:

The notorious detention zone now includes a facility for inmates to get exercise, which is a bridge too far for the Foxers.

The “soccer field” has been installed outside Gitmo’s Camp 6, with connecting cage tunnels so that detainees do not need to be escorted to the field by guards.

Co-operative detainees have access to the field, which at present is a patch of dirt surrounded by barbed-wire fences, for up to 20 hours a day. There are no goals on the field and no reports indicate the availability of a ball.

That is a shocker. No, not the soccer field. I'm talking about the fact that the man with the bizarro glasses was advocating spending government money on teenagers. I would have thought they'd rather tear up hundred dollar bills and eat them rather than do something like that.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of those still being held at Gitmo aren't guilty of anything or were low level grunts who had no operational responsibilities. Of course they are Muslim, so that's reason enough to deny them even the slightest bit of human decency while they are being indefinitely imprisoned.

No Embarrassment

by David Atkins

George Clooney, speaking about marriage equality, gets what bothers me most about social conservatives:

"It's always been this albatross that stood out to me as the final leg of the civil rights movement," [Clooney] told Voss. "Well before Prop. 8, I've made the point that every time we’ve stood against equality, we’ve been on the wrong side of history. It’s the same kind of argument they made when they didn’t want blacks to serve in the military, or when they didn’t want blacks to marry whites. One day the marriage equality fight will look as archaic as George Wallace standing on the University of Alabama steps keeping James Hood from attending college because he was black. People will be embarrassed to have been on the wrong side."

Opponents of progressivism are almost always wrong on scientific and social issues. They were wrong on burning people at the stake to preserve theocratic geocentrism, wrong on opposing the renaissance to preserve the primacy of the Church, wrong on opposing democratic/republican government to preserve the nobility and divine right of kings, wrong on opposing the abolition of slavery to defend their feudal racist system, wrong on opposing women's suffrage and liberation to preserve the patriarchy, wrong on opposing the creation of the welfare state to preserve social darwinism, wrong on opposing the labor movement to preserve the power of robber baron capital, wrong on opposing desegregation to preserve white privilege. The list goes on and on and on and on.

And they're demonstrably wrong on opposing marriage equality, action in the face of climate change, and universal healthcare today.

Demonstrably wrong. Just as wrong as they've ever been, and always are. The only counterarguments conservatives can make in reverse are about prohibition and state Communism, and those are weak arguments at best: prohibition was not a truly progressive move, it was repealed soon afterward when it was shown not to work, and progressivism today stands on the opposite side of the issue of banning controlled substances. State Communism, meanwhile, was 1) not adopted in the West, and 2) the misguided attempt to jump 500 years of history from feudal to industrial societies overnight while disempowering the robber barons. At least in the West, conservative opposition to reasonable progressive policy is almost always wrong, and has always been wrong.

And yet conservatives have no compunction about loudly proclaiming the primacy of their antiquated belief systems and defense of privilege, and unfortunately all too often shed this mortal coil before their deeply held beliefs become the laughingstock of society.

I do wish these people could somehow be punished posthumously for all the pain they caused, and continue to cause, during their lifetimes. If there is a hell or anything resembling it, they're almost certainly bound there.

Welcome back Kerrey

by digby

Just when we were rid of Joe Lieberman, Bob Kerrey announces he is running for the Senate. Feel the magic. For those of you who are too young to remember much about him, think Evan Bayh except even more irritating. My only wish would be that he would join the Republican Party where he could be the pain in the ass gadfly in their ointment for a change.

“I think he would do very well with young people, and it would very exciting to see him reintroduce himself to a new generation of Nebraskans,” said Bob Shrum, a retired Democratic consultant now teaching at New York University. “He is the anti-politician and in this age of conformity and often drabness, his life story will appeal to young people.”

But given his age and experience, Kerrey will have a freedom many candidates don’t enjoy and thinks he can bring a message that focuses of two issues that have greatly worsened since he left the Senate in 2001—the growing federal debt and the level of income inequality in the nation.
I don't know what that means, but he's been a deficit scold for decades, so I'd imagine he's come up with some completely unworkable idea that will place him as a GOP swing vote and also before the microphones as frequently as possible to posture and preen about his moral superiority. That's pretty much what he does. I'm honestly not sure it wouldn't be better to just have a hardcore Nebraska Republican in there so that Democrats won't bother to bow and scrape under the misapprehension that he will vote their way.

Here's who we'll be dealing with:

August 28, 1996

CHICAGO - Sen. Bob Kerrey smells an odor coming from the Republican and Democratic stands on entitlements.

"It's one of the cruelest things we do, when we say, Republicans or Democrats, `Oh, we can wait and reform Social Security later,' " the Nebraska Democrat said.

Mr. Kerrey says that without reform, entitlements will claim 100 percent of the Treasury in 2012.

"This is not caused by liberals, not caused by conservatives, but by a simple demographic fact," Mr. Kerrey warned at a meeting of the Democratic Leadership Council.

"We [will have] converted the federal government into an ATM machine."
Is this guy a political savant or what?


Protection racket

by digby

There have been quite a few people who have mistakenly assumed that Darrell Issa's turn as lead corruption inquisitor was a blessing because he would have to turn up the heat on members of both parties to maintain credibility on these bipartisan money scandals. Wellll, not so much:

Last Friday at the California Republican Party’s spring convention in Burlingame, CA, Republic Report caught up with Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has been leading the investigation into the massive Countrywide bribery scandal. To Issa’s credit, his subpoena requests have revealed that members from both parties received heavily discounted mortgages, waived fees, and other special deals from Countrywide, the troubled subprime lending company that is now owned by Bank of America.

Before, the scandal was almost entirely a Democrat-only affair. Former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) received a discounted mortgage, and the news may have led to his decision to retire from the Senate in 2010. But in the last two months, it was revealed that Republican Congressmen Buck McKeon, Elton Gallegly, and Pete Sessions were also recipients of VIP Countrywide mortgages.

In previous years, Issa has called the Countrywide mortgage scandal a “bribe.” On an appearance with Fox News, Issa declared, “I call it bribes,” and mocked Democrats for not using the term. In a widely publicized showdown with Congressman Ed Towns, another Democratic recipient of a discounted Countrywide mortgage, Issa referred to the VIP mortgages as “an attempt to bribe” government officials.

So, we asked Issa if he would extend the same language he reserved for Democrats to newly identified recipients of special Countrywide loan deals.

FANG: You’ve called the discounted mortgages an attempt to bribe Congressman Towns. Do you think it was an attempt to bribe people like Congressman Buck McKeon?

ISSA: Well, I know you’re quoting something but you’re not quoting from anything I said.

FANG: I think that was from the Oversight website actually.

ISSA: I never said attempt to bribe. What I said was Angelo Mozilo and Countrywide attempted to influence government at all levels. An important detail.

Yes, it's an important detail. Attempting to influence government is legal and bribery isn't. Making a partisan distinction between the two

Counting on Darrell Issa to police corruption in Washington in an unbiased manner is like counting on the Military Industrial Complex to come up with federal spending cuts. It's fairly sure it's going to be a self-serving exercise.

I'm hope that Issa keeps protecting McKeon and the rest of the boys, actually. Maybe when they go to jail, which is increasingly likely, he'll go down with them.

Right wing feminist pron

by digby

Dana Loesch:
"Feminists" like this seem more like the trophy girlfriends of a Sugar Daddy government than "empowered" women

Then she linked to this piece of garbage:

Sex-Crazed Co-Eds Going Broke Buying Birth Control, Student Tells Pelosi Hearing Touting Freebie Mandate

By Craig Bannister

A Georgetown co-ed told Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s hearing that the women in her law school program are having so much sex that they’re going broke, so you and I should pay for their birth control.

Speaking at a hearing held by Pelosi to tout Pres. Obama’s mandate that virtually every health insurance plan cover the full cost of contraception and abortion-inducing products, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke said that it’s too expensive to have sex in law school without mandated insurance coverage.

Apparently, four out of every ten co-eds are having so much sex that it's hard to make ends meet if they have to pay for their own contraception, Fluke's research shows.

"Forty percent of the female students at Georgetown Law reported to us that they struggled financially as a result of this policy (Georgetown student insurance not covering contraception), Fluke reported.

It costs a female student $3,000 to have protected sex over the course of her three-year stint in law school, according to her calculations.

"Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school," Fluke told the hearing.

$3,000 for birth control in three years? That’s a thousand dollars a year of sex – and, she wants us to pay for it.

Yes, us. Where do you think the insurance companies forced to cover this cost get the money to pay for these co-eds to have sex? It comes from the health care insurance premiums you and I pay.

But, back to this woman’s complaint that she’s spending $3,000 for birth control during her time in college.

"For a lot of students, like me, who are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary," she complains.

So, she earns enough money in just one summer to pays for three full years of sex. And, yes, they are full years – since she and her co-ed classmates are having sex nearly three times a day for three years straight, apparently.

At a dollar a condom if she shops at CVS pharmacy’s website, that $3,000 would buy her 3,000 condoms – or, 1,000 a year. (By the way, why does CVS.com list the weight of its condom products in terms of pounds?)

Assuming it’s not a leap year, that’s 1,000 divided by 365 – or having sex 2.74 times a day, every day, for three straight years. And, I thought Georgetown was a Catholic university where women might be prone to shun casual, unmarried sex. At least its health insurance doesn't cover contraception (that which you subsidize, you get more of, you know).

And, that’s not even considering that there are Planned Parenthood clinics in her neighborhood that give condoms away and sell them at a discount, which could help make her sexual zeal more economical.

Besides, maybe, these female law students could cut back on some other expenses to make room for more birth control in their budgets, instead of making us pick up the tab. With classes and studying and all that sex, who's got time for cable?

And, let's not forget about these deadbeat boyfriends (or random hook-ups?) who are having sex 2.74 times a day. If Fluke's going to ask the government to force anyone to foot the bill for her friends' birth control, shouldn't it be these guys?

All of this seems to suggest at least two important conclusions:

1. If these women want to have sex, we shouldn't be forced to pay for it, and
2. If these co-eds really are this guy crazy, I should've gone to law school.

Why do I have the feeling that this snotty little jerk has just dribbled out one of his sexual fantasies and is now lying back smoking a cigarette?

The conflation of condoms with other forms of birth control is cute, but unpersuasive. Condoms have a high failure rate and they require that women trust men to use them properly, so it's not exactly the smart way to go if you are in a relationship. Not that this fellow would know --- you get the feeling he thinks that that all these women who are having sex in their 20s are having it with different men each night --- again, his fantasy apparently.

And you have to love Loesch, who seems to have confused female empowerment with sadistic machismo. Here, you can see her telling Bill Maher that she'd like to "teabag" him and who can forget her memorable announcement that she'd "drop trou" and urinate all over corpses if she had the chance. I guess that's what passes for feminism on the right. We used to call it psychotic.

Homeland Occupation

by digby

So, we found out yesterday that Homeland Security was doing some tracking of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. It they've only done what was reported, it seems to be fairly benign, limited to tracking and analyzing the movement through public media. Here's the main thrust of its reasoning:

Mass gatherings associated with public protest movements can have disruptive effects on transportation, commercial, and government services, especially when staged in major metropolitan areas. Large scale demonstrations also carry the potential for violence, presenting a significant challenge for law enforcement.

I suppose that's true. But why is it the federal government's problem? No large scale political demonstration is going to be big enough that it could "disrupt" beyond the borders of a major metropolitan area or certainly not state borders. Lord knows there are plenty of local and state police around to handle anything that happens. There is no federal implication to any of it, unless it's happening in Washington DC.

These are explicitly political demonstrations, even if they aren't partisan, and great care needs to be taken to ensure that the government isn't interfering with that. I realize that we have a huge new federal policing apparatus with Homeland Security that needs to play with its toys, but I don't think it was designed for the purpose of monitoring domestic political demonstrations. After all, we already have the FBI for that --- and I would imagine they are doing their own monitoring, (also for no good reason, by the way.)

Local police are perfectly capable of handling demonstrations. There's no reason for the Feds to be involved.

But I do wonder, considering this revelation, if Homeland Security is monitoring the Tea Party at all? After all, there was a fairly good chance that some of the fringe far right characters who were involved were actually planning some terrorism. My guess is that the locals and maybe the FBI would have also been capable of dealing with that, but one could at least see some remote reasoning for DHS to be concerned with them over Occupy, which hasn't shown the slightest inclination toward any kind of terrorism or violent national threat.

DHS did warn of some threat from the Tea Party back on 09, of course. But you'll recall that they were harassed by the right wing into withdrawing their warnings. In fact, they ended up closing down the whole unit that was devoted to right wing extremist groups:

In an in-depth interview published in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, [former DHS analyst]Johnson reveals the level of sway the political right had in thwarting intelligence work on right-wing extremism. He says DHS deliberately "mischaracterized the report as unauthorized, even though it had passed through proper channels" and "instituted restrictive policies that brought the important work of his unit to a virtual standstill." As a result, Johnson "left DHS in dismay and was followed by almost all the members of his team, leaving a single analyst where there had been six." In comparison, there are at least 25 analysts devoted to tracking Islamic terrorism.

When questioned about Johnson’s claims -- which have been confirmed by current and former department officials in the Washington Post – DHS officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have repeatedly disputed his account and insist that "the level of activity by right-wing extremist groups has remained consistent over the past few years." In addition, they claim "the perception of increased extremist activity may be due to increased awareness of the threat by the government and the public." But the numbers beg to differ.

I wonder how many analysts they put on Occupy?

The fact is that right wing terrorist groups are growing and have been quite active over the past few years, which anyone who reads the paper knows. But the political pressure that was brought to bear was instantaneous and crushing. That was the end of that. So I would imagine they held back on doing any assessment of those who brought guns to political events for intimidation purposes or investigated any of the militia groups that have infiltrated the Tea Parties.

Again, I'm not sure what Homeland Security's role is supposed to be in all this to begin with. We already had the FBI for national law enforcement, which includes domestic terrorism.(And lord knows they have historically been eager and willing to infiltrate and monitor political movements.) I thought DHS was going to be for bringing all the federal authorities together to assess foreign threats to the "Homeland."

That it would end up infiltrating and duplicating the FBI and local law enforcement's jurisdictions was inevitable, however. If you build it, they will use it. And it appears they are using it to monitor events such as peaceful political demonstrations against domestic industries. Just don't ask them to monitor violent white supremacist groups or anti-government terrorists. It would go against the constitution and that would be wrong.

Eat What You Kill

by David Atkins

Wall Street likes to defend its lavish bonuses as justification for top performance, and necessary for keeping the best talent. So how do they explain this?

While Wall Street’s profits were battered and beaten last year, workers’ bonuses were merely bruised.

The total payouts to finance industry employees in New York are forecast to drop only 14 percent during this bonus season, according to a report issued on Wednesday by the state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli. By comparison, profits plunged, falling 51 percent.

“The securities industry, which is a critical component of the economies of New York City and New York State, faces continued challenges as it works through the fallout from the financial crisis and adjusts to regulatory reforms,” Mr. DiNapoli said in a statement

Eat what you kill, indeed.

The funniest part has to be this:

At the same time, overall compensation on Wall Street remains high relative to the rest of New York. In 2010, the average pay, including bonuses, in the securities industry in New York City hit $361,180. (Figures were not yet available for 2011). At that level, Wall Street paychecks are 5.5 times higher than those in the rest of the private sector.

Compensation has posed a dilemma at Wall Street firms. The issue has proved a lightning rod for politicians and critics who contend that the industry’s pay packages are too high.

But some banks defend their practices, arguing that compensation is critical to retaining and rewarding employees. Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, said at an investor conference on Tuesday that even in tough times, he would not pay his employees less than the going rate.

“We are going to pay competitively,” Mr. Dimon told a roomful of analysts and investors at the conference. “We need top talent. You cannot run these businesses with second-rate talent.”

If crashing the world economy and shrinking profits by half isn't second-rate talent, what is? If it's not clear by now that this is a pack of greedy parasites enriching themselves and their friends at our expense, it never will be. Maybe if we forced them to shop at government grocery stores and undergo drug tests for cocaine use it might be clearer what a drain they are on real, hard-working Americans.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Daily Squalor

by digby

No this wasn't written at Free Republic. It's at little Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, which must be convinced it needs the white supremacist audience to succeed:

For those of you who missed it, several months ago “Mr. EBT” went viral with his hit tune “My EBT.” Classic examples of Shakespearean prose from the song include this passage: “Damn, I just want some jam. Walkin’ down the aisle ’cause I’m lookin’ for the haaaamm. Wham! Where da hell da cheese at?” And who could forget this line: “I wish I could buy some weed with my EBT, but the drug dealer frontin’ me. I mean, who cares? I mean, who cares? It’s an EBT, it’s not food stamps.” Catchy and brilliant! Mr. EBT is quite the wordsmith. Of course, he would lose his street cred without his Yankees hat and leather coat. Heck, it wasn’t even his Electronic Benefit Transfer card! He “borrowed” it from his sister! And now we have Jesse Jackson telling us Barack Obama should be honored to be the “food stamp president” because food stamps pay for everything under the sun and save lives.

What’s going on, America?

These are fine examples of what many Americans witness on a regular basis. The other day, while my family and I were waiting in a check-out line at Wal-Mart, I noticed that the woman checking out in front of us was texting on her $200 cell phone (which probably costs at least $100 a month in service fees and may have been paid for by the government as well) and holding what my wife says was a $100 designer purse, with a stack of junk food, beer and cigarettes on the belt behind a line of subsistence products like milk, cheese, cereal and meat.

People pay for “necessary” items with their EBT government debit cards and then use cash for their smokes, beer and munchies. Yet, I have to fork over my hard-earned dollars for every item in my cart (and in essence theirs as well, since I pay taxes while they probably get “refunds” every April). Something is wrong here. Why is the average taxpayer both screwed by the system and forced to watch his tax dollars being wasted on people who abuse the system?

That's such a familiar old trope, it makes me feel young again. I think the older racists were a little bit more colorful though:

The term "welfare queen" is most often associated with Ronald Reagan who brought the idea to a national audience. During his 1976 presidential campaign, Reagan would tell the story of a woman from Chicago's South Side who was arrested for welfare fraud:

"She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000."

That was, of course, a lie, but then I would imagine this alleged first hand story of standing in line at the local Walmart is too. (Designer purses don't cost a hundred bucks, by the way ...)

This gets to the heart of the right's loathing for government programs. In their minds they are getting ripped off by "those people" who are freeloading and living high on the hog. (And you know what I mean by "those people" because he subtly opens the piece with a rap tune.)

This fine fellow has a solution:

Dharma-style food stamp reform would have four basic components. First, the federal government would create a government “brand” of essential food items such as milk, cheese, meat, cereal, vegetables, bread, peanut butter, beans, juice, soup, baby formula, diapers, etc., and would package the items with simple black-and-white labels and basic descriptions. The word “Government” would be stamped across the top in bold letters so everyone would know it was a welfare item. These items could be manufactured by major companies through government contracts, thus not creating a net loss to private industry. Because competition is not an issue, taste and quality, with the exception of the baby formula and baby food, would not be a top priority. Snacks, soda, cigarettes and beer would not be available through the program.

Second, the government would lease existing store fronts and set up “government stores.” There are typically several grocery store locations that have gone out of business in any given area; these would make ideal settings for the new government stores. The number of store locations would be chosen based on the size of the area and its number of food stamp recipients. The stores would be placed on public transportation routes for convenience.

Third, and most importantly, all food stamp recipients would be required to spend their government dollars at these stores. Private grocery stores and chains, such as Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, would no longer be allowed to accept EBT cards, and the money loaded on the cards could not be withdrawn and used for any other purpose. Each card would have a set dollar amount sizable enough to purchase essential items from the government store. For example, a family of four could expect to receive enough government-brand beans, rice, bread, milk, cheese, meat, cereal and vegetables to last a month with careful planning. In other words, they must be ready to stretch a food budget. Families with babies would get a month supply of formula, baby food and diapers.

Fourth, anyone who accepts government aid would have to submit to a monthly tobacco and drug test. Food stamp recipients are, after all, wards of the state. They are slaves to the government and should be reminded of that fact. If a recipient is found to have tobacco or drugs in his system, he would be dropped from the program. People on government aid would also lose the privilege of voting. That way they couldn’t vote for greater benefits or easier terms (most of them don’t vote, but now they couldn’t).

What an interesting idea. And who says conservatives believe in vote suppression?

I think this is good though. It's a straightforward portrayal of exactly what many of these folks think. I appreciate the honesty.

Newtie and the cross

by digby

This is creepy:

It was through the Pastors’ Policy Briefings that Gingrich—whose campaign declined to comment for this story—reportedly hit on the idea of launching a group called Renewing American Leadership, which he did in 2008. David Barton was among the founding board members. California pastor Jim Garlow, who helped organize the campaign to repeal California’s gay-marriage law and has likened the gay rights movement to an “antichrist spirit,” was later named president. At the time, the Tea Party had just exploded on the scene, and the group’s stated goal was to bring religious and fiscal conservatives together, in part by making a biblical case for conservative economic policies. This has indeed been part of the program. According to a report from the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way, just after the 2010 elections, Barton, Gingrich and Garlow hosted a conference call for pastors to celebrate Republican gains in the House and make the case that progressive taxation, deficit spending and the minimum wage ran counter to biblical teachings.

But Renewing American Leadership has also built bridges to the ascendant Dominionist movement, known as the New Apostolic Reformation or NAR. An offshoot of Pentecostalism—the second largest branch of Christianity and one of the fastest growing—the movement has been spreading rapidly within existing churches and congregations. While there are no credible estimates on the number of adherents, the prayer rallies convened by some NAR leaders fill stadiums. At the movement’s core is a group of self-proclaimed apostles and prophets who see themselves as the forefront of a second Reformation that will transform not only the church, but every facet of society. In fact, one of the apostles’ main teachings is that believers have to infiltrate and take control of what they call the “seven mountains of culture”—religion, family, business, arts and entertainment, education, media and government—before Jesus can return. And when they speak of taking dominion in these spheres, they often resort to the language of war. “The way some of the leaders talk, you’d think they were an army planning to take over the world,” says Margaret Poloma, a professor at the University of Akron and a practicing Pentecostal who has studied the New Apostolic movement. “It sounds to me like radical Islam.”

Obviously these Dominionists are either dumb or they are hypocrites, maybe both. Gingrich? I wonder how much money he got out of them.

I'm being facetious, but the truth is that this movement merits keeping an eye on. True, they backed the wrong horse this time --- should have gone with Santorum. But there are more of them than we think and they are very influential at the state level. Rick Perry is one of their major pets. And look at what Texas has accomplished.

Dow Hits 13,000 under Class Warfare President

by David Atkins

I guess good times are here again on Wall Street:

U.S. stocks closed at multi-year highs, as investors weighed a small pullback in oil prices and improving consumer confidence against a worse-than-expected drop in durable goods orders.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) closed above 13,000 for the first time since May 19, 2008, after narrowly missing that finish line for the past several trading days. The DJIA added 24 points, or 0.2%. While the 13,000 level is not considered technically significant, it is a psychological milestone.

I personally detest the use of stock indices as a measure of economic health. In an age where the top 1% who own the vast majority of stock investments are so utterly disconnected from the rest of us, cheering the rise of the Dow is about as useful as cheering discounted prices on yachts. Sure, a rising market helps 401Ks (for what that's worth) and can sometimes be a predictor of lagging employment increases--though given our increasingly jobless recoveries, the latter is less and less true. But generally speaking, a healthier stock market doesn't mean a whole lot to the rest of us. In fact, I think one of the most baneful legacies the Clinton Administration left us was a national obsession with stock market indices as the key measure of our national prosperity, when they used to be the more appropriate concern of the dull business section on page 4 of your newspaper.

Still, Wall Street has a nice psychological gain to cheer about today.

Not that it will matter, of course. Our neoliberal president who has done essentially everything the Bond Lords asked for, will still get smeared from now through November as a radical class warrior because he once dared to hurt their widdle feelings by calling them fat cats that one time.

The funny thing is that these financial genius Masters of the Universe will try in a fit of pique to get a Republican president elected, who will in turn without question escalate a war with Iran, creating oil shocks that will crash the economy again, devastating most of their portfolios (though a few profiteers will make out like bandits.)

These guys may be quantitative mavens with a sociopathic talent for manipulating their fellow man, but geniuses they aren't. They're trying to kill their golden goose because it once honked at them the wrong way.

Angela Merkel in the suds

by digby

I think she was much more bothered by George W. Bush's uninvited back rub. I suspect beer down the back probably is more pleasant.

Blue America Chat: Ken Aden from Arkansas

by digby

One of the greatest difficulties for progressives these days is imagining how we can possibly win elections when the 1% has uncapped a fire hose full of money into our politics. It's a daunting prospect, to be sure. Their gusher of cash is so overwhelming that it's hard to see how average people can possibly compete. But that's why Blue America is so enthusiastic about progressive candidates around the country who are coming up with craetive strategies and tactics to meet the challenge. Turns out that big money ads may be able to tear someone down but it still can't buy you love the way a one on one conversation can.

One of the most inventive progressive grassroots strategists in the country is Ken Aden of Arkansas' 3rd district. Ken is one of those rare politicians with both the common touch and a long term vision who has sat down and thought through how to wage his campaign on the ground, one on one. With a combination of high-tech micro-targeting savvy and a sophisticated field operation using dedicated volunteers to walk the district and meet every possible voter, this strategy shows how progressives can overcome the odds.

As you can see from the video above, Ken is a man with grassroots organizing experience, empathy and intelligence. And he knows his constituents as neighbors and friends.

Ken says:
Because a legitimate campaign effort has never been mounted by a Democrat running for Congress, voters have never had the opportunity to be introduced to a Democratic candidate who believes what they believe. Incumbent Steve Womack is a Tea Party Republican who believes Social Security and Medicare must be cut and changed. However, the residents of the district don’t feel the same way. In Benton County alone, more than $600 million in Social Security payments, Medicare funding, and Medicare prescription drug coverage was utilized by residents. Districtwide, that figure tops $1 billion dollars in combine Medicare and Social Security Payments. The people who depend upon these programs don’t want to see them cut, but they’ve never had a Democratic congressional campaign knock on their door and make them aware that there is an option other than a Republican.

Check out the reaction he gets on that subject:

"If you even think of cutting Medicare, if you even think of cutting Social Security, you're a criminal." Words progressive Democrats should live by.

Ken's making some waves, that's for sure. You may have read in the national news that his campaign manager came home a few weeks ago to find that someone had murdered his family cat and scrawled the word "liberal" on it. Aden is a former combat soldier and doesn't scare easily and neither does his campaign. In fact, it propelled them to double their efforts to get out and talk to the people and let them know who it is that's on their side when it comes to protecting their livelihoods, their economic security and their futures. (Hint: it isn't cowards who would kill a defenseless animal.)

Blue America endorsed Ken with great enthusiasm and we are spreading the good word about his grassroots strategic vision to progressive challengers across the country. We believe that this kind of creativity and energy can pay off. But he needs all the help we can give him to keep the campaign funded. He won't be able to match a corrupt Republican incumbent, not even close. But he has a good chance to win if he can put this plan into practice and defeat him with sharp grassroots tactics and hard work. Please donate here if you can.

And please join us at 11am PST/1pm CST for a Blue America live chat with Ken at Crooks and Liars, where he'll be taking questions on the issues and his strategic vision for waging grassroots campaigns in the age of Citizens' United. You'll come away feeling a lot more confident that the right candidate with the right plan can beat the right wing.

Paul Ryan wants all the female icky to STFU

by digby


House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan insisted Tuesday that while the media and the Democratic Party were trying to sidetrack Republicans with social issues, the GOP is dedicated to tackling economic issues.

“It’s not troubling for me” that there is conversation about social issues, the Wisconsin Republican said on CBS’s “This Morning.” “I think that’s more about the media, and maybe the Democrats who are trying to move it in that direction.”

“I don’t think we’re going to have a sidetrack into social issues,” Ryan asserted.The Wisconsin Republican said that Republican presidential candidates were mostly talking about economic issues.

I guess these guys were all testifying about the capital gains tax:

More than a thousand anti-choice and restrictive reproductive bills have been pushed by Republicans around the nation just since 2010. They can pretend all they want that the Tea Party takeover was strictly economic, but it won't make it true. Reap what you sow, Paul Ryan.

On the other hand, many Republicans aren't as concerned as Ryan (who fears his star will wane, I'm guessing, as social issues are revealed once again as the primary concern of GOP base voters.) Nancy Scola observes:

[S]ome Republicans are seeing an upside in the raging debate: It’s a chance, they argue, to prove to Americans that Barack Obama truly does want to weasel his way into every aspect of American life. And they’re counting on voters to recognize that fact come fall.

“It’s not really about whether contraception would be included in insurance coverage,” says Tim LeFever, talking about the approach to including birth control in the plans of religious employers that the Obama administration is selling as a compromise with the Catholic Church. LeFever runs the Capitol Resource Institute, a Focus-on-the-Family-type group, and is a California real estate lawyer. Access to contraception is settled law, he points out, some 50 years after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Griswold v. Connecticut. “It’s that with our country’s tradition of religious liberty, Obama would step in like he did. Very few people consider the compromise anything more than a wink and a nod. Most of us say, ‘Of course we’re still paying for it. You’re still going to war against our conscience.’ ”

And that, argue Republicans, is what this debate is all about. It’s not birth control. “The argument has been made that 98 percent of Catholic women have used contraception,” says LeFever. “But then the counterargument is that 98 percent of Catholic women have found a way to get contraception.”

I guess we're going to see if that's right. Frankly, I'm mostly afraid that men will start to agitate for a Grand Bargain common ground solution in order to end a debate about something they don't want to talk about. (I suspect Ryan represents a fair number from both parties.)In my view it's important to fight this out and see where we stand as a nation.

Interestingly, Scola quotes a Republican pollster and strategist who breaks down that battle in some very familiar ways --- not based on gender, but rather our other tribal fault lines:

What sort of political legs does the “war on women” slogan have, I asked Goeas. He let out a hearty laugh. “It fits into the category of ‘nice try.’”

Goeas puts some numbers behind that take. “Many of the women that react that way” – as in, who come away from the present debate over contraception with the idea that Republicans are eager to whittle down their right to conceive and bear children as they see fit – “aren’t Republican voters to begin with.” According to a new poll of 1,000 likely voters to be released next week, says Goeas, Republicans and Democrats do equally well on the question of which party best shares their values, tied at 46 percent. There’s only a tiny gender gap. Men lean 48 to 45 percent Republican, while women lean towards Democrats at a rate of 47 to 43 percent.

“If you’re looking at whether in fact Republicans are losing women, you can’t just look at young women, or young single women, or African-American women, or Hispanic women – you have to look at the demographics where Republicans have been strong – white women, for example, or senior women.” Slippage among those groups would be cause to worry, says Goeas. “And I’m seeing no sign of that.”

David's piece below discusses the "demographics are destiny" theme that Democrats have been leaning on for quite a while now. There's more to be said on that another time, but let's just say that until we achieve our demographically certain majority for all time, the socially conservative white Republican majority can do a lot of damage. I wouldn't wait for the numbers to magically change.

Update: You have to love this. The Alabama crusader who put the state rape requirement in his bill has backed off his specific language:

SB12 will no longer require “a woman seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound in which a doctor or technician inserted an ultrasound transducer, or wand, inside her,” State Sen. Clay Scofield (R) explained in a statement Monday, allowing the woman to determine which “method of ultrasound that she would be more comfortable with.”

Big of him, isn't it?

Seriously, these people have been trying to pass laws about inserting "wands" inside women for no reason. I honestly think we're going to look back on this and realize that it was a historical moment. I just don't know what the history will show happened next.

Also, too, the bill is still an insulting, infantalizing piece of shit.

This is What Terrifies Conservatives

by David Atkins

That the conservative base and establishment have gone off an ideological cliff isn't in question. The only question at hand is why, whether anyone but a few media moguls is really in control of it, and whether it's a trend indicating strength and strategic brilliance, the rise of a new potential totalitarianism, or the last flaring embers of a dying demographic and cultural identity. Perhaps it's more than one of the above.

For his part, Jonathan Chait in the New York Magazine leans toward door #3 in fairly convincing fashion:

Today, cosmopolitan liberals may still feel like an embattled sect—they certainly describe their political fights in those terms—but time has transformed their rump minority into a collective majority. As conservative strategists will tell you, there are now more of “them” than “us.” What’s more, the disparity will continue to grow indefinitely. Obama actually lost the over-45-year-old vote in 2008, gaining his entire victory margin from younger voters—more racially diverse, better educated, less religious, and more socially and economically liberal.

Portents of this future were surely rendered all the more vivid by the startling reality that the man presiding over the new majority just happened to be, himself, young, urban, hip, and black. When jubilant supporters of Obama gathered in Grant Park on Election Night in 2008, Republicans saw a glimpse of their own political mortality. And a galvanizing picture of just what their new rulers would look like.

In the cold calculus of game theory, the expected response to this state of affairs would be to accommodate yourself to the growing strength of the opposing coalition—to persuade pockets of voters on the Democratic margins they might be better served by Republicans. Yet the psychology of decline does not always operate in a straightforward, rational way. A strategy of managing slow decay is unpleasant, and history is replete with instances of leaders who persuaded themselves of the opposite of the obvious conclusion. Rather than adjust themselves to their slowly weakening position, they chose instead to stage a decisive confrontation. If the terms of the fight grow more unfavorable with every passing year, well, all the more reason to have the fight sooner. This was the thought process of the antebellum southern states, sizing up the growing population and industrial might of the North. It was the thinking of the leaders of Austria-Hungary, watching their empire deteriorate and deciding they needed a decisive war with Serbia to save themselves.

At varying levels of conscious and subconscious thought, this is also the reasoning that has driven Republicans in the Obama era. Surveying the landscape, they have concluded that they must strike quickly and decisively at the opposition before all hope is lost.

Arthur Brooks, the president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a high-profile presence on the Republican intellectual scene, wrote a 2010 book titled The Battle, urging conservatives to treat the struggle for economic libertarianism as a “culture war” between capitalism and socialism, in which compromise was impossible. Time was running short, Brooks pleaded in apocalyptic tones. The “real core” of what he called Obama’s socialistic supporters was voters under 30. “It is the future of our country,” he wrote. “And this group has exhibited a frightening openness to statism in the age of Obama.”

Chait goes on to hypothesize that the 2012 election is rapidly being seen as the point of no return for conservatism as we know it, and that the refusal of Republicans to compromise with Democrats even on a Grand Bargain mostly favorable to them represents a last-ditch attempt to regain control of all branches of government. The idea from there would be to take just two years to so dismantle everything progressives have spent decades trying to build, that it would take a new generation their entire political careers just to repair the damage.

I'm not sure I wholly buy the argument; I doubt the lurch rightward has quite as much strategy or immediate desperation as all that. But there is something truly to be said for Republicans' increasingly apocalyptic sense of the times, and for a progressively paranoid worldview that sees the entire world crumbling beneath their feet.

Of course, liberal commentators will point out that the top 1% appear to be doing quite fine in the Obama era, and that not much has happened to really change the status quo. What does it matter, they might argue, if the delusional rubes on the right see Obama as the harbinger of their destruction? What matters is that the plutocrats don't, they will say. Some (who clearly don't spend enough time consuming conservative media or hanging out with conservative acquaintances) have even suggested that Republicans are throwing this election because they're happy with the current Presidency, all things considered.

But that would be a mistake that overlooks one pivotal fact: devastating realignments don't usually happen overnight, but rather slowly. FDR's presidency was more the exception than the rule. True, progressives had many reasons to hope that Obama's election would mean an FDR-style reversal, coming as it did on the heels of a major economic downturn clearly caused by conservative economic policies. The President's own tendency toward an obsession with grand political compromises certainly hasn't helped. On the other hand, President Obama has a far more conservative legislature with a much more sluggishly corrupt system to deal with than did FDR.

In terms of electoral realignments, the election of Barack Obama may rather most closely resemble the election of Richard Nixon. That's not a bad thing, either.

Richard Nixon was the beginning of the conservative realignment. Barry Goldwater lost, and lost badly. But he ignited the movement conservative coalition. The Goldwater conservatives upended the establishment and elected Richard Nixon. The parallels between Goldwater and Howard Dean, and Nixon and Obama are striking in this regard.

But as with Obama and the left, Nixon disappointed his movement conservatives. He wasn't the man they had hoped he would be. He founded the EPA, opened trade relations with China, almost passed a more progressive health law than the ACA, and much more besides. He was a total paranoid crook tactically and personally speaking, but from a public policy standpoint he was actually fairly liberal even for his time (to say nothing of today.) But that doesn't mean that he and his Southern Strategy weren't the harbinger of an enduring, half-century long coalition that remains politically vibrant, even dominant, to this day.

The same can be said for Barack Obama. No, he hasn't been as progressive as many liberals of the Howard Dean persuasion, myself included, would have liked. But his very existence--and more importantly, of the electoral coalition that sent him to the Oval Office as well as the younger, hipper, more urban, more multiracial, more cosmopolitan political ethic he represents--are here to stay. And not just to stay, but to be the prophet of the dominant political era to come.

Perhaps Barack Obama will not realize the desires and natural policy outcomes that derive from such a coalition. Indeed, he almost certainly will not and can not, any more than Nixon could have implemented the fully formed Reagan agenda back in 1971. But he has done much. And the next president elected by this coalition will do more, and the next one after that will do even more than the one that came before, until in 25 years, even a Republican president will be significantly more liberal than any Democrat in 2008. Conservatives understand this, even if only at a deep-seated level in the darkest fathoms of their collective angst.

This election, then, is about much more than Barack Obama. For conservatives, It's about putting back in the genie's bottle the coalition that the election of 2008 began to unleash. It's about reverting America back to a time when the Nixon coalition was still comfortably in charge--whether it elected Republicans like Reagan or Democrats like Clinton.

That's what terrifies them, and that's a major part of what is driving this parabolic path of extremism on which the conservative movement finds itself. Their time is up, and they know it. But denial is a very powerful motivator that leads to irrationally stubborn belligerence. Which means that no matter what Democrats do, and no matter how hard politicians like Barack Obama himself may try, and even no matter how much progress the 99% may or may not make against the plutocrats, the civility of our politics is going to get much, much more strained over the next few years.

The old Nixon coalition is not going ride quietly off into the sunset, not by a long shot.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Authoritarian victimhood

by digby

Wow, here's a strange collision of protest culture:

A teenage girl was detained Monday outside the Capitol after police separated Occupy protesters from a group opposing black-on-white violence in South Africa.

The girl with Occupy Oakland was taken to Juvenile Hall after she became combative and assaulted an officer who asked her to pick up litter, California Highway Patrol Officer Sean Kennedy said. He did not have her age or city of residence.

"It's a free country and we're here to protect everyone's rights," Kennedy said.

There were no other arrests, despite shouting and sign-waving by competing protesters who were separated by about two-dozen officers on foot and horseback.

Activists with the Occupy group cursed at peace officers and about 40 mostly white men who were at the Capitol to draw attention to what they say is white genocide.

Organizers for the South Africa Project said similar demonstrations were planned in other states and elsewhere in California.

"There is white genocide going on in South Africa. It's a government-backed genocide," said Kyle Krieger, a spokesman for the South Africa Project.

His comments were echoed by other men, some with shaved heads and prominent tattoos.

Occupy protesters, some wearing hoods or masks, said they came from the San Francisco Bay area to counter what they called a racist group affiliated with former Louisiana Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Some in the Occupy crowd also had shaved heads or mohawk haircuts and equally prominent tattoos, but a different message.

The update in the Sacramento Bee is so obviously biased toward the police officers that I am taking it with a grain of salt. But it does seem to the case that a bunch of White Supremacists were screamed at by Occupy protesters, somebody threw something, the cops went after the Occupy folks and chaos ensued. The white supremacists and the police are claiming to be the victims.

Yes, the white supremacists have a right to protest. But then so does Occupy. And the government has an obligation to protect the rights of both groups. I'm fairly sure there's something profound to be gleaned from all this but I'm damned if I know exactly what it is.

Slasher Rerun: Deficit Zombie's from hell

by digby

Apparently Steny Hoyer is determined to slash the safety net before there's even the slightest chance that a few sane Democrats might be elected next fall:

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is looking to shake legislative politics out of unconsciousness as early as this spring, and force a vote on a bipartisan legislative proposal - which would include higher taxes and cuts to federal programs — to reduce deficits by trillions of dollars over the coming years.

The push is intended to disrupt the consensus among most political leaders that Congress will punt budget consolidation efforts until after November — when the election returns are in, and the January 1, 2013 expiry of the Bush tax cuts and deep across-the-board spending cuts make real action inevitable.

In a speech hosted Monday morning by Third Way, Hoyer revealed that he and other lawmakers are looking for the right moment to introduce a bill that would achieve the sorts of deficit reduction goals that have eluded Congress and the White House thus far.

“Members of both parties, and on both sides of the Capitol, are working to ensure that the next time we find ourselves at an impasse — which could be sooner, rather than later — we will be ready, with a legislative package in hand to address our debt and deficit in a comprehensive, long-term way,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer declined to discuss the specifics of this bill, but suggested it would deal with spending and tax policies of all kinds. He and his colleagues face one key problem: there’s a lot of white space on the legislative calendar this year, and that means they’ll have a hard time leveraging unwilling members into action.

I'm beginning to think we should elect the most crazed Tea Partiers we can find and encourage them to hold fast and never pass any bill that President Obama might sign. With Democrats like Hoyer around, it's probably our only hope.

Where the sexists live

by digby

I always wondered what the women who hear crap like this on Rush Limbaugh think when they hear it. I'm sure many of them are so beaten down that they think it's normal and there are always a fair number of Phyllis Schlafly's out there. But how could any self-respecting female not be repulsed by crap like this?

As it turns out, he's just talking to the guys they way these guys talk when the beyotches aren't around:

Setting it up for the next phase

by digby

Following up on my earlier post, here's a great new piece by Perlstein in Rolling Stone. This is just so right on:

Here's the problem: Even if Obamaism works on its own terms – that is, if Sullivan is right that Obama’s presidency is precisely on course – it can't stop Republicans from wrecking the country. Instead, it may end up abetting them.

To understand why, let's look at Ronald Reagan. Barack Obama has famously cited him as a role model for how transformative a president can be. Well, what did he transform, and how did he do it? Here's how: He planted an ideological flag. From the start, he relentlessly identified America's malaise with a villain, one that had a name, or two names – liberalism, the Democratic Party – and a face – that of James Earl Carter. Reagan's argument was, on its face, absurd. For all Carter's stumbles as president, the economic crisis he inherited had been incubated under two Republican presidents, Nixon and Ford (see this historical masterpiece for an account of Nixon's role in wrecking the economy), and via a war in Vietnam that Reagan had supported and celebrated. What's more, to arrest the economy's slide, Jimmy Carter did something rather heroic and self-sacrificing, well summarized here: He appointed Paul Volcker as Federal Reserve chairman with a mandate to squeeze the money supply, which induced the recession that helped defeat Carter – as Carter knew it might – but which also slayed the inflation dragon and, by 1983-84, long after Carter had lost to Reagan, saved the economy.

In office, Reagan, on the level of policy, endorsed Carter's economics by reappointing Volcker. But on the level of politics, in one of the greatest acts of broad-gauged mendacity in presidential history, he blamed Carter for the economic failure, tied that failure to liberal ideology and its supposed embrace of "big government" (Carter in fact took on big government), and gave conservatism credit for every success. Deregulation and supply-side tax-cuts brought us "morning in America," he said. That was bullshit, but it won him a reelection landslide against Walter Mondale, Carter's VP, whom he labeled "Vice President Malaise."

What's the lesson? It’s not that you have to lie – Republicans had to do that to win, but Democrats don't. No, Democrats, in 2009, could simply have told the truth, and called it hell. The truth was this: For the first few years of this new century, America had ventured upon a natural experiment not attempted since the 1920s – governing the country with conservatives in control of all three branches of government. The result, of course, was – smoking ruins. Everybody knew it. A majority of Americans was receptive to "liberal solutions," and even conservatives knew it – which was why, after Obama delivered his February 24, 2009 speech defending the stimulus that, as I noted last week, got a 92 percent approval rating, and Bobby Jindal responded to it by excoriating the $140 million in stimulus spending "for something called 'volcano' monitoring," David Brooks said his "stale, government-is-the-problem, you can't trust the government" rhetoric was "a disaster for the Republican Party.”

Barack Obama knew it too. He just wouldn't say it. He refused to criticize right-wing ideology. Or to make a full-throated case that Democrats offered an ideological alternative.

Instead, his favorite campaign line on the Republican record was a story about competence: The Republicans "drove the country into the ditch," and "now they want the keys back." But Republicans aren't bad drivers; they drive exactly where they want to go, pedal to the metal. Sure, they sometimes compromise on tactics – certainly Reagan did. But he, and they, never waver on strategic aims. They plant their flag in an uncompromising position, and wait for the world to come around – which, quite often, it eventually does. This is because in a media environment based on the ideology of "balance," in which anything one of the parties insists upon must be given equal weight to whatever the other party says back, the party that plants its ideological flag further from the center makes the center move. And that is how America changes. You set the stage for future changes by shifting the rhetoric of the present.

And it's the lack of doing that, and not just on Obama's part but virtually all national Democrats, that has brought us to the point at which the country no longer has any sense of what liberalism stands for. Sure they all like the individual policies, but they don't understand that they are liberal, based upon a coherent set of values and philosophical worldview. In fact, they often believe they are conservative because the Republicans pretty much tell them that anything they like, by definition, cannot be liberal.

I've been railing about this for years. Yes, the president has little real power when it comes to domestic issues and yes, he is hamstrung by his feckless congressional caucus and yes, the bully pulpit is bullshit, etc, etc. But I simply do not agree that it isn't the president (and the party leadership's) job to use their rhetoric and national forum to articulate a political vision and set the stage for future progress. It's not enough to be personally inspiring. In order to make advances and secure the ones you have, you have to appeal to people on the level of cultural, political, and ideological identity. The left and center left in America today is a mishmash of inchoate political confusion and discrete issue advocacy. We don't even agree on what to call ourselves.

What we are seeing happen right now as a result of this failure to stake an ideological flag is the mainstreaming of Paul Ryan's dystopian Randism and a foreign policy (in both policy and political terms)in which the only daylight between the parties is so slight that the greatest danger ahead is that the right wing will feel compelled to ever more dangerous adventurism simply in order to make a statement.(Unless they adopt Paulist isolationism, which I greatly doubt, they have nowhere to go but all the way down the rabbit hole.)

Read Perlstein's whole piece. It's a gem. And worth thinking about if you want to understand why some liberals are so disillusioned and depressed about the missed opportunity of the Obama mandate coupled with an economic crisis. The prospect of having to reinvent the wheel again next time is just exhausting. It gets harder and harder to do that the further both parties continuously move toward neo-liberal policies and authoritarianism.

"Things happen quickly sometimes"

by digby

For those who agree with Ron Paul and friends that the US should withdraw from the world entirely (no foreign aid for you!) and the federal government should be pretty much dissolved in favor of allowing the 50 states to run their own affairs, here's a little preview of the sort of thing we might expect if they get their way:

On Friday, the Wyoming House of Representatives advanced a bill to set up a task force to prepare for the total economic and political collapse of the United States. Per the bill, the panel would investigate things like food storage options and metals-based currencies, to be implemented in the event of a major catastrophe.

Then it goes three steps further. An amendment by GOP state rep. Kermit Brown*, calls on the task force to examine "Conditions under which the state of Wyoming should implement a draft, raise a standing army, marine corps, navy and air force and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier." As Miller explained to the Casper Star-Tribune, "Things happen quickly sometimes."

As far as I know, Wyoming is not on any ocean so it's hard to see what use it would have for a navy, but perhaps they are contemplating invading some of the coastal states and taking over their territory. They are, after all, populated by their worst enemies --- liberals, gays and racial minorities. "Things happen quickly sometimes."

Non-aggression tack

by digby

EJ Dionne thinks that Democrats should be wary of getting too cocky because the Obama lead is fragile and the Republicans might just decide to be sane before the election:

[T]he GOP's self-correction in Virginia is also a warning for Democrats. Republicans, now aware that they are on a losing track, may begin to engineer a series of course changes. The fact that House Republicans reached agreement with the president to continue the payroll tax holiday is the clearest sign that the party realizes how a far more assertive Obama is dangerous to them in a way that the conciliatory Obama of last year's debt-ceiling battle was not.

That's interesting in two respects. The first is that he thinks "the Republicans" have the capability of changing course, which would mean they are not ideologues and zealots, they have just been being strategically stupid. It's certainly possible, but I've had the feeling numerous times over the past couple of years that the leadership would have very much liked to take yes for an answer, but couldn't get the votes. So, I think it's debatable whether or not that's a reasonable proposition.

What he says about Obama being dangerous when he's being assertive is more intriguing. I'm one of those who think that the electorate is already polarized so there's nothing to be gained by trying to split the difference or appeal across party lines. But EJ Dionne is the one who recently took the president to task for being "assertive" about the contraception requirement. Maybe it was a sophisticated feint of some sort, but it certainly sounded as if he truly felt the President should have been "conciliatory".

Dionne is normally one of the good guys and just seems to have a blind spot when it comes to this Catholic issue, so I'm not going to hold it against him. But generally speaking, the Democratic Villagers have insisted that Obama should be conciliatory and bipartisan, which ended up moving the goalposts substantially to the right over the past four years. I suspect that was fine with them in terms of Obama, but now they are looking at a GOP that's certifiably nuts, having been encouraged to pull so hard from the right that they've fallen over the cliff.

I'm still not entirely sure why it took the administration so long to recognize that the Republicans were going to be a totally obstructionist opposition (or realize that they could benefit from being in opposition to them.) But I can't for the life of me understand why the Very Serious Political People didn't see it. One can only assume they just didn't want to. Indeed, if you look at David's post below about the nauseating piece in today's New York Times hitting Obama for failing to fully enact the GOP agenda, you can see that the pundit class and mainstream journalism remains a funadamental part of our problem.

New York Times Hits Obama for Hyperpartisanship, Inadequate Kowtowing to Deficit Commission. No, Seriously.

by David Atkins

The Times just came out with its first article in a series called A Measure of Change, supposedly dedicated to assessing President Obama's record. The first article is a masterpiece of of the Church of High Broderism, a four page hit piece on the president painting the Bowles-Simpson commissioners as heroes, calling the deficit "perhaps the nation's biggest problem," and Paul Ryan as a good-faith player who fell victim to the President's hyperpartisan approach.

The entire piece is written in tragic undertones, as if all the benevolent efforts to ignore unemployment while cutting spending to decrease the deficit were stymied by unfortunate circumstances and nasty partisanship that sadly undercut the most holy work in American politics.

Any random paragraph sampling is enough to make an honest and sane person howl. Consider this:
But the downsides for Mr. Obama have become clear. His partisan turn undercuts a central promise of his 2008 campaign, to rise above the rancor. And by neither embracing Bowles-Simpson nor explaining his objections and quickly offering an alternative, Mr. Obama arguably failed to show leadership on perhaps the country’s biggest problem. This month, in a New York Times/CBS News poll, 59 percent of Americans disapproved of his handling of the deficit.

Or this:
After a golf game in June, Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner began secret talks.

In a few weeks, they seemed within a handshake of a potentially historic deal. Mr. Obama offered more than ever before, including changes in the Social Security cost-of-living formula and slowly raising Medicare’s eligibility age to 67, an idea that went beyond Bowles-Simpson. Mr. Boehner would support $800 billion in 10-year revenues.

But in a drama that transfixed the world amid threats of an American default, the talks collapsed, revived and finally died.

The Times knows what dirty hippie bloggers haven't figured out: the threat of default wasn't a hostage-taking con game set up by Republicans, but rather a true possibility created by hyperpartisan intransigence against reaching a nice Grand Bargain. They don't need evidence for that assertion, of course; it just feels right, and allows the authors to stand above the nasty partisan fray, demanding austerity of all the greedy little people.

And then, of course, there's poor little victim Paul Ryan:
“My naïveté was thinking, O.K., we’ll put our budget out there first and then he’ll loosen up and start coming to us and we’ll really start talking,” Mr. Ryan recalled. “And what we got was the back of his hand.”

Mr. Ryan bolted from the hall after the speech. Mr. Sperling ran after him to explain that the Obama team had not known he would attend and had not set him up to witness the attack. “You just poisoned the well,” Mr. Ryan snapped.

Mr. Obama, now hopeful, aides said, that he had set the stage for compromise, met the next day with Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson. Both had been in the audience. “What did you think?” he asked, according to Mr. Simpson. “I thought it was harsh,” Mr. Bowles said.

“I didn’t think I was,” Mr. Obama replied.

“I thought it was like inviting a guy to his own hanging,” Mr. Simpson said.

But the authors still hold out desperate hope that welfare queen Medicare recipients will get what's coming to them in Obama's second term:

Since then, in speeches around the country, Mr. Obama has emphasized job-creation spending and tax cuts more than deficit reduction. Gone from his still-pending legislation are some of the concessions he offered Mr. Boehner — presumably in reserve for the elusive grand bargain.

At their recent lunch, Mr. Obama assured Mr. Bowles he would not give up. Mr. Bowles said the president talked of seeing “a real opportunity” for compromise after the election, when Republicans will be eager to avoid the expiration of Bush tax cuts and automatic cuts in military spending — suggesting another chance for a deal inspired by Bowles-Simpson.

“To see his commitment,” Mr. Bowles said, “gave me real hope.”

All mockery aside, the article does have one use value beyond serving as an ipecac substitute. It's a potent reminder that the President, together with Plouffe and Axelrod as political advisers, desperately wanted the Grand Bargain against the better judgment of Democrats with a head on their shoulders:

From the start, some Obama advisers were wary of a commission. But while the administration was consumed in its first year with initiatives that critics would denounce as big-government liberalism — the stimulus package to help revive the economy and the health care law — the president had mused to aides about a bipartisan panel to address the mounting debt. He had inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit for 2009, roughly the size of the 2012 shortfall, and benefits for an aging population soon would increase deficits to unsustainable levels.

In the summer of 2009, he charged economic advisers with researching the history of presidential commissions. Their findings were discouraging: in decades of such panels, only one, the 1983 Greenspan commission to save a bankrupt Social Security system, had produced results.

By 2010, signs of economic recovery alternated with reports of continued high unemployment and home foreclosures. Inside the White House, an intensifying debate over a commission reflected the tension between those seeking continued stimulus, including Lawrence H. Summers, then the senior economic adviser, and those emphasizing deficit reduction, chiefly the former budget director, Peter R. Orszag.

Mr. Orszag argued that forming a panel could buy the administration support for more stimulus measures and time to write a deficit plan. His allies included political advisers David Axelrod and David Plouffe, who saw a commission’s appeal to independent voters.

Mr. Summers had backing from Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who shared others’ concerns that a commission might box the president in with proposals he could not support or pass. Also opposed were legislative aides, who channeled the objections of Congressional Democratic leaders to a panel they could not control.

But the president, by all accounts, still favored the idea, arguing it was the only way to get Republicans to accept tax increases and Democrats to support savings in entitlement programs. Ultimately, the White House was backed into creating a panel: it was the price moderate Democrats exacted to raise the debt limit that winter so the nation could keep borrowing to pay its bills.

Alarmingly, it would seem that Larry Summers and Tim Geithner were among the few voices of reason arguing against this foolishness, but were overwhelmed by the President himself, flanked by Orszag, Axelrod and Plouffe.

That's terrifying and depressing.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fukushima wave

by digby

I don't know if I even want to see this, but we should all probably watch it anyway:

Watch Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

It's amazing to me that this was only a year ago. It was the most riveting live footage I think I've ever seen:

Evil geniuses or abject idiots?

David Atkins

The New York Times gave me a good laugh today:

The party’s new delegate system is a major contributor to the prolonged nature of the contest, along with the advent of supportive and well-financed “super PACs” that have helped Mr. Romney’s competitors stay in the delegate hunt when their candidacies might otherwise have withered without enough cash.

For many Republicans, the question is not just whether Mr. Romney will eventually capture the nomination, but at what cost.

There is a growing sense among party leaders that the primary fight has gone on long enough and that continued attacks by the candidates and their allies have steered the conversation away from the economy and could damage the party’s prospects in the fall.

As Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum traded a new round of sharp charges in Michigan on Saturday, some Republican leaders expressed concern about the effects of a prolonged and nasty primary fight.

“The general election prospects for Republicans certainly would be better served if more focus was spent on Obama’s policies and the failures of those policies,” said Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi and a longtime party leader. “There’s still time for that, but it would improve our prospects greatly.”

Gee, you think?

Most of time I think of conservative leaders as evil geniuses more than abject fools. Their voting base are generally oppressed rubes, delusional ideologues, racists or vicious sociopaths, but the leadership is generally very smart and cagey.

But this primary season has made me seriously question that. From the standpoint of Republican interests, the last six months have been a carnival of comical incompetence by the GOP and its candidates. Whether or not one agrees with me and Digby that the birth control fight is better for the social conservative agenda long term, there's almost no doubt that the sudden obsession with social issues far outside the American mainstream is a terrible thing for Republicans in the short term.

Of course, the other possibility is that the leadership is still composed of evil geniuses, but they've almost completely lost control of their voting base, having overprimed its fury beyond the ability to manage. The career trajectory of one Karl Rove would seem to indicate as much.

That in turn is partly a product of the fact that Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the like require increasing doses of outrage to stay relevant to their audiences. Add in the fact that the conservative media machine is no longer the messaging machine for the GOP, but the GOP is rather the legislative arm of conservative media magnates, and it's not exactly a surprise that we've reached a point of no return for Republican leadership.

My assumption has always been that the GOP would get its act together and coalesce in united fashion behind a nominee. But now I'm not so sure anymore. It's going to be a very interesting next nine months or so.

Governor Moonbeam goes dark

by digby

Sometimes you just want to give up. This is a seriously great idea. And Governor Jerry Brown seems determined to tank it.

Howie Sez:

So how does our experienced problem-solving governor in his third term and umpteenth elected office overall, and his merry band of establishment Sacramento Democrats, screw it up? Let us count the ways he does:

Proposes their own idiotic tax ballot measure that sucks in the following ways: (1) It raises sales taxes. Regressive and wildly unpopular. (2) It raises taxes on those making over $250,000 instead of just those making over $1 million. Unpopular (a lot of Californians think they might make that much one day). (3) Sends all the new revenue straight to the General Fund in Sacramento instead of counties so they can spend it on refunding prisons or who knows what. Politically stupid and unpopular (the legislature has a lower approval rating than Congress, if you can believe it). (4) Lasts only 5 years, so we have to do this all over again when, because of Prop 13, we have no property tax revenue coming in and income/sales tax revenue drops off a cliff when we enter another recession, so more cuts on the way. Plain stupid public policy.

Raises money to pay for signature-gathering and the campaign from the following entities all of whom, by the way, have business before the governor: Occidental Petroleum ($250,000), Blue Shield ($100,000), Kaiser ($250,000), American Beverage Association ($250,000) CA Hospital Association ($500,000), various casinos ($375,000), PG&E ($25,000), California Beer and Beverage Distributors ($75,000). Corrupt, scummy and not exactly good press.

• Gets all his buddies in the Legislature, namely Speaker Perez and Senate President Steinberg, to kow-tow to his line and decree no Legislature Democrat shall endorse the Millionaires Tax of 2012, they shall only endorse raising taxes on their own constituents by way of his stupid measure. Right, because in this Occupy/99% environment, I really want my caucus members explaining to reporters why they oppose raising taxes on greedy millionaires and want to raise them on all the poor people in my district. Politically suicidal and immoral.

• Has his loyal sidekick, political adviser Steve Glazer (the one with the odd homoerotic twitter handle @steveforjerry) to tweet various nasty things about the folks working to pass the Millionaires Tax of 2012, such as that they are in political denial and a circular firing squad. Divisive and obnoxious not to mention the fact that his boss is backing the less-popular measure that's more likely to fail and screw a lot of people over if it passes. If you are concerned about a firing squad, Steve, maybe you should, uh... stop firing?

• Goes to the CA Dem Party Convention two weekends ago in San Diego to tell a ballroom full of activists and delegates that he hasn't quite figured out all this tax measure stuff yet, but don't worry: "you'll get your marching orders soon enough." Haughty and just plain stupid. Thanks Jerry, I was waiting for you to tell me what to do.

• And just this week, releases a made-up poll of just 500 people that tell him what he wants to hear: multiple measures on one ballot will lead to all of them failing. Although funny enough, the same poll shows that the Millionaires Tax of 2012 is actually more popular than his, the 4th straight poll to do so. Transparent tactic.

• And the icing on the cake: rumors fly yesterday that he's proposing a 24% fees hike (over 4 years) for the UC system. So that's right, if you're planning on going to college this fall, you can expect to pay a quarter more than the number you're staring at today. But don't blame Jerry, he's only the one proposing a ballot measure that doesn't fund the UC to help keep fees down while attacking the one frigging ballot measure that does.

Read the whole thing. Oy vey.

This polls really well. The political environment is ripe. And once again the corrupt and risk averse politicians are determined to keep our government corrupt and dysfunctional. It works fine for them, I guess.

As Howie concludes:
I don't know what the hell Jerry Brown is doing, or what kind of political genius Jerry Brown thinks he is, but I ain't waiting around for his marching orders, and neither should you.
If you're a Californian, here's your petition.