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Friday, August 31, 2012

Meat puppets

by digby

I keep thinking this must mean something, but I can't figure out what:

Jason Mecier spent about 100 hours constructing the political portraits, dubbed "Barack Obameat" and "Meat Romney" and used 50 bags of jerky to create each meat mosaic.

Time for drinkie winkies. It's been a long week.

Causation or correlation. Does it matter?

by digby

Just saying:

When Kappheim was approached by the arresting deputy, he said “he was very conservative and (his girlfriend) was a liberal.” He also told the deputy that “he felt that he was going to have to kill her,” the report said.

While inside of the woman’s apartment, the deputy said he found documents that made him believe Kappheim is obsessed with Fox News and the Republican Party, and that he may be a danger to others.
I've been saying
for years that people who are obsessed with Fox news and the Republican Party may be a danger to others.



by David Atkins

After all the happy Objectivist talk of the last week, it's time to step back into the real world:

It isn’t easy to stand up in an open courtroom and bear witness to the abject wretchedness of your financial situation, but by the time Doug Wallace Jr. was 31 years old, he didn’t have much left to lose by trying.

Diabetes had rendered him legally blind and unemployed just a few years after graduating from Eastern Kentucky University. He filed for bankruptcy protection and quickly got rid of thousands of dollars of medical and other debt.

But his $89,000 in student loans were another story. Federal bankruptcy law requires those who wish to erase that debt to prove that repaying it will cause an “undue hardship.” And one component of that test is often convincing a federal judge that there is a “certainty of hopelessness” to their financial lives for much of the repayment period.

“It’s like you’re not worth much in society,” Mr. Wallace said.

Nevertheless, Mr. Wallace made his case. And on Wednesday, nearly six years after he first filed for bankruptcy, he may finally get a signal as to whether his situation is sufficiently bleak to merit the cancellation of his loans.

The gantlet he has run so far is so forbidding that a large majority of bankrupt people do not attempt it. Yet for a small number of debtors like Mr. Wallace who persist, some academic research shows there may be a reasonable shot at shedding at least part of their debt. So they try...

No one keeps track of how many people bring undue hardship cases each year, but it appears to be under 1,000, far less than the number of people failing to make their student loan payments. In its most recent snapshot of student loan defaults, the Department of Education reported that among the more than 3.6 million borrowers who entered repayment from Oct. 1, 2008, to Sept. 30, 2009, more than 320,000 had fallen behind in their payments by 360 days or more by the end of September 2010. About 10.3 million students and their parents borrowed money under the federal student loan program during the 2010-11 school year.
I'm sure if all these people stopped drinking, smoking and socializing they'd all be millionaires today.

Let 'em eat cake. Mitt Romney's coming to town and he needs a tax cut while eliminating their aid. Or maybe Obama will stay in town, and Romney will pay a little more tip money in exchange for smaller cuts to their aid, in order to reduce the deficit caused by a struggling middle class at a time when borrowing money is incredibly cheap. After all, whom else are you going to vote for?

It's still a moral imperative to vote for the lesser evil. But it's not surprising if guys like Doug Wallace Jr. just stop voting entirely.

Eastwood did Romney a favor

by digby

Howard Kurtz is just wrong here:

By debating an empty chair that he pretended was President Obama--riffing through a series of strained jokes without a teleprompter--Eastwood ensured that at least half the chatter on Friday morning would be about him, not Romney. But by the weekend, that figure will rise to about 98 percent. And by Monday, Romney's acceptance speech will be largely forgotten.

I hate to tell you Howard, it was going to be forgotten by Monday anyway. And if Eastwood had given a good speech everyone would have been talking about that today too, saying he should be the one who's running for president. The problem, you see, isn't Eastwood, it's the corporation in a suit called Mitt Romney.

I'll just take a moment here to disagree a little bit with David's piece from this morning about Eastwood. I don't know exactly why he's doing as much as he is for Romney, but I don't think it comes out of hardcore right wing convictions. I followed his political career closely when he was mayor of Carmel and doing a lot of public speaking and he's a self-identified libertarian who is greatly at odds with the rank and file of the Republican Party on many issues close to their hearts. In fact, if he had been prepared and sober last night, he might have made that clear and all those Freepers would have been very uncomfortable. Instead, he was doddering and incoherent, so they just slapped their own views on to his dada-esque presentation and cheered. It was a big missed opportunity for the crazy Paulites (who got screwed at every turn.)

Anyway, while Eastwood's bizarre performance is what everyone's talking about today, it doesn't follow that everyone would have been talking about Romney's fabulous speech if it hadn't happened. The speech was dull as dishwater and the greater likelihood is that we'd all have gone back to parsing Lyin' Ryan's speech from the night before. Eastwood did Romney a big favor.

Update: Funny ---Andrea Mitchell and Brian Williams watching Eastwood:


The austerian Democrats: part II

by digby

Yesterday I linked to Corey Robin's fine piece about the history of Republican "starve the beast" philosophy and the subsequent move by the Democrats to become the conservative avatars of fiscal rectitude (as perfectly personified by Barack Obama's "balanced approach.") But this follow up to Robin's piece at The Current Moment illuminates something else that's extremely important to recognize:

How are we to understand the rise of Democratic Mugwumpery? Though one might look to the rise of neo-Keynesian theories of monetary and fiscal policy and Stiglitz’s view as Chair of Clinton’s Council of Economic advisors that balanced-budget stimulus was the key to growth, or more sociologically to the decline of organized labor and the decline of social democratic elements in the Democratic Party, we think it is worth noting something specific about the politics of deficit-spending. Big-time deficit spending requires convincing the public that the risk and potential sacrifice is worth it, that there is a specific and significant collective purpose at stake. But the Democrats are most definitely a party without a purpose. Their Mugwumpish attachment to reasonability, living within one’s means, and good government is a substitute for purpose – it is a way of giving the appearance of principled government in the absence of principles.

Consider, for instance, the fact that Republicans have become the big deficit-spenders. Robin notes that the Republican strategy of “starving the beast” by cutting taxes and hoping that spending will be reduced down to new revenue levels has only recently been successful. But as the now familiar graph shows the other major component of the recent growth in deficits has been war.

Republicans get to deficit spend not just because their side will sign-up happily to tax-cuts, but because their constituents believe big-time in war. And war costs a lot. Republicans will “sacrifice” themselves and future generations in the name of fighting a war. Now the Dems are into war too, though not quite like the Republicans. But the Dems can’t quite convince their members that the party should spend money on any other big projects – in fact, they no longer believe it themselves. Democratic spending is buried in the indirect incentive changes and obscure tweaks of the tax codes. But there is no ideal or purpose important enough that people are willing to say “screw it, we’ll come up with the money somehow – the sweat of our brow tomorrow, for the debts we incur today.” Revenue neutrality, offsets, CBO estimates – those are the buzzwords of Democratic fiscal policy. The dull, mind-numbing repetition of wonkspeak is not just a policy program, it is a totemic incantation, hoping to making something real out of the apparition of a party without projects.

Does that ever ring true. Why even the health care plan, which I was assured repeatedly was the greatest moral achievement of the last half century, was sold as "necessary to bend the cost curve." Wonkery rules.

Sometimes the Party manages to find a leader like Clinton or Obama whose personal charisma is so overwhelming that the people imbue their agenda with meaning beyond the 10 point plan and the spreadsheet. But other than that, there is just not much there other than a desire to appear to be the grown-up in the room.

This strikes me as more psychological than ideological, but I'll have to think about it a little bit more. There are powerful institutional forces that push politicians into these roles. But I suspect the idea of being the "Daddy Party" holds great allure for many of Democratic wonks and politicians for reasons that have far more to do with personal psychology than anything else.

I urge you to read the whole post. It's very good. And if you didn't have the chance to read Robin's from yesterday, do that too. And keep this in mind as you do:
Obama: My message to Democrats is the same message I’ve got to Republicans and independents, and that is, I want a balanced approach to deficit reduction that combines additional revenue, particularly from folks like me who can afford it, with prudent cuts on both the discretionary side and the mandatory side but that still allows us to make investments in the things we need to grow.

And that means I’m prepared to look at reforms in Medicaid. I’m prepared to look at smart reforms on Medicare. But there are things I won’t do, and this is part of the debate we’re having in this election. I do not think it is a good idea to set up Medicare as a voucher system in which seniors are spending up to $6,000 more out of pocket. That was the original proposal Congressman Ryan put forward. And there is still a strong impulse I think among some Republicans for that kind of approach.

I’m not going to slash Medicaid to the point where disabled kids or seniors who are in nursing homes are basically uncared for. We’re not going to violate the basic bargain that Social Security represents.

Now, the good news is, if you’re willing to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires, then you can make modest reforms on entitlements, reduce some additional discretionary spending, achieve deficit reduction and still preserve Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid in ways that people can count on. The only reason that you would have to go further than that is if there’s no revenue whatsoever. And that’s a major argument that we’re having with the Republicans.
Update: dday made this important point about Robin's piece:
The fact that you can draw a line in inverse proportion between what party embraces austerity and what party has the dominant position in the politics of the age should tell you what you need to know about its importance.
That's right. And today, at a time of great economic turmoil and insecurity, the Democrats have taken on the role of tax collector for the austerity regime. We know the Republicans aren't serious about any of this. ("It's yer muneee!")They will gin up a war in a New York minute if they need some stimulus and most of the country will shout "hooyah," when they do it. Just look at their campaign. Despite Ryan's dystopian hellscape plans, they are running as the protectors of Medicare and protectors of the weak and vulnerable --- and half the voters believe them. They have fashioned an entire brand that says "government is horrible except for what it does for me personally" and it works.

The Democrats, meanwhile, are bragging about how much they're willing to slash everybody's benefits out of some deluded belief that this is what people want to hear. But it's not. People want "freedom plus groceries" and as far as they can tell, that's what the Republicans have on offer.

Corey Robin was on Chris Hayes this week-end and talked a bit about this. Start at about 2:10 to hear his comments:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

By the way, there is another way, if only people will listen. It's called Prosperity Economics and a whole bunch of Blue America progressives have signed on.


David Koch endorses a Grand Bargain

by digby

Look like we're getting closer to a deal, kids. The Big Money Boyz are getting their ducks in a row.
David Koch:

“I think it’s essential to be able to achieve spending reductions and maybe it’s going to require some tax increases,” he said. “We got to come close to balancing the budget, otherwise we’re in a terrible deep problem.”
He even said he'd consider some defense cuts.

This is what the Dems have defined as a win.
My message to Democrats is the same message I’ve got to Republicans and independents, and that is, I want a balanced approach to deficit reduction that combines additional revenue, particularly from folks like me who can afford it, with prudent cuts on both the discretionary side and the mandatory side but that still allows us to make investments in the things we need to grow.

Just remember. Austerity-lite is not only unnecessary, it's counter-productive. There is another option.

Rove and the billionaires (and the guy who keeps them "from ever having to wear orange jumpsuits")

by digby

This story about Karl Rove's billionaire circle jerk illustrates everything that's wrong with our system. It's almost impossible to believe that this can be called a democracy at this point:
On the final morning of the Republican National Convention, Karl Rove took the stage at the Tampa Club to provide an exclusive breakfast briefing to about 70 of the Republican party’s highest-earning and most powerful donors. During the more than hour-long session, Rove explained to an audience dotted with hedge fund billionaires and investors—including John Paulson and Wilbur Ross—how his super PAC, American Crossroads, will persuade undecided voters in crucial swing states to vote against Barack Obama. He also detailed plans for Senate and House races, and joked, “We should sink Todd Akin. If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”

Then Rove pleaded with his audience for more money—much more...

The morning began with an address about the urgency of defeating Obama by Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio. Crossroads Chief Executive Officer Steven Law followed and introduced some of the super PAC’s staff, referring to general counsel Tom Josefiak as “the guy who keeps us from ever having to wear orange jumpsuits.”
Rove explained that Crossroads had conducted extensive focus groups and shared polling and focus group data with “all the major groups that are playing” in the election. “As many of you know, one of the most important things about Crossroads is: We don’t try and do this alone. We have partners,” he said. “The Kochs—you name it.”
Just to get the “juices flowing” of the billionaires in the room, Rove shared a little anecdote. Someone he described as a “benefactor” had recently contacted him, offering to donate $10 million to be deployed in Florida—$5 million for Republican Congressman Connie Mack’s Senate race against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and $5 million for the presidential race. But the donor placed two conditions on the money. One, his donation had to be matched by other donors. And two, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush had to start making phone calls on their behalf. Rove paused for effect and announced: “Jeb’s making phone calls for us!” The crowd erupted.

American Crossroads’ total budget, Rove said, was $300 million, with $200 million of it for the presidential race, $70 million for the Senate, and $32 million for the House.

After screening a collection of television ads aimed at such Senate battleground states as Massachusetts, the fundraising began in earnest. CEO Law said that because of the “tremendous generosity” of many of the people in the room, American Crossroads is two-thirds of the way toward reaching its $300 million goal. But it still needs much more. With advertising rates going up and the necessity of “dealing with the gender-gap issue,” they could easily spend more than $300 million.

Barbour made the final pitch. “You all give so unbelievably generously. But you know what, I don’t have any compunction about looking you in the eye and asking for more,” he said. He compared the importance of a donation to American Crossroads in this cycle to donations made to “the charity hospital” or a “big not-for-profit cancer research program that you give to.”

Yes, he said that. He told these assholes to think of buying an election as a donation to a "big-not-for-profit" cancer research program. They are that twisted.

I don't know if they can pull this off. The strategy he described is one that requires them to convince former Obama voters who are disappointed to vote for the Republican by saying nice things about Obama. The problem is that they can't escape themselves. After all, it's impossible to hide the fact that they are a group of contemptuous aristocrats vomiting massive sums of money into the political system at a time of economic suffering who cannot restrain their blood-thirsty, slavering base of Obama haters.

Good luck with the strategy though.No matter what happens, I'm sure Rove and his cronies are getting rich. And isn't that really what makes the world go around?

The base loved the old man yells at cloud routine

by David Atkins

By now most political junkies are aware of Clint Eastwood's bizarre, rambling RNC speech last night. If you didn't see it, it must be watched to be believed:

Yes, that is Clint Eastwood incoherently dressing down President Obama in an empty chair, attacking him for not closing Gitmo, and praising him for opposing invading Iraq, but attacking him for supporting being in Afghanistan. Yes, at a Republican convention.

Personally, I feel little more than sadness at the spectacle. Sadness at the mouthbreathing racists who cheered at the line "We own this country!" Sadness at the declining faculties of an American screen legend. Sadness at the way Mr. Eastwood was allowed to embarrass himself to a national audience by a bunch of Republican operatives who took a gamble and clearly screwed up without vetting the speech.

As an introduction to Mr. Romney for undecided middle-of-the-road voters it was a disaster that totally distracted from the candidate's big rollout. But for the older, almost entirely white and predominantly base that Romney is also trying to gin up, the speech was a big hit. Really. If there's any doubt, look no further than the always reliable Republican base thermometer Free Republic.

SAR knows what this election is about for the Republican base:

I wept. “We” own this country. Anglo saxon Patriots OWN this country. If you disagree, I hope you like the taste of steel.
Yep. That's the Republican heart and soul for you.

Smoothsailing writes:

Well I sure liked it. Eastwood ad-libbed for ten minutes, no script, no notes, no teleprompter. What is he now, 80?

NeverForgetBataan replies:

I liked it too.

I flipped over to PMSNBC and Rachel Madcow looked like she had been kicked in her testicles.

She was gagging and frothing at the mouth. Hehe..
Lots of Freepers just loved that "joke." So funny!

There were a lot of references to the comedic stylings of Jimmy Stewart (no spring chickens, the GOP base.) AaroninCarolina says:

He reminded me of Jimmy Stewart when he did comedy (if you’re old enough to remember him). Especially the way he stammered for comedic effect.
I don't think that was comedic effect. OriginalBuckeye thinks the media is weird for reacting to the speech the way a normal person would:

I thought he was terrific. He still has a twinkle in his eye. Unfortunately I had on NBC because the audio wasn't working on FoxNews. Angria Mitchell was weird. She pronounced the speech ‘strange. He was talking to an empty chair?’. I find her strange. I suspect most people who were watching NBC know their bias. I turned it off immediately and went to another TV where the audio on FoxNews was working.

NKP_Vet agrees:

Eastwood was great. He’s 82 years old now and that is exactly how he talks now. To hell with anyone that makes fun of him.

SarahBarracuda loved it almost as much as s/he loves the Queen of Wasilla:

For an 82 year old man he looked damn good. I enjoyed his speech, he’s not a politician, he didn’t go looking at a teleprompter to tell him what to say, he spoke from the heart, and cracked some jokes, it was entertaining, and he also made a lot of valid points. I hope I look that good at 82 years young.

bscso thinks it's a generational gap. He may actually be right:

Let me tell you something. I’m a member of a seniors organization. I’m one of the youngest at almost 69 (on Sept. 13). I can’t count how many of us are “off” (by your standards) when we speak, but what we say can be taken to the bank. You don’t want to listen, fine. But we have a lot to say, and Eastwood said a lot tonight. You simply have to have an adult ear to listen.
A few freepers were nervous, but most thought Eastwood did a great job.

I strongly suspect most of the Republican base would agree. We do live in very different worlds, them and us, and all the bipartisan fetishist handwringing in the world won't change that.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sir Marco of Florida

by digby

Shorter Rubio --- up is down:

Now millions of Americans are insecure about their future. But instead of inspiring us by reminding us of what makes us special, he divides us against each other.

He tells Americans they’re worse off because others are better off. That people got rich by making others poor.

Hope and Change has become Divide and Conquer.

No matter how you feel about President Obama, this election is about your future, not his. And it’s not simply a choice between a democrat and a republican.

It’s a choice about what kind of country we want America to be.

We should remember what made us special. For most of history almost everyone was poor. Power and wealth belonged to only a few.

Your rights were whatever your rulers allowed you to have. Your future was determined by your past.

If your parents were poor, so would you be. If you were born without opportunities, so were your children.

And they'd like to make sure those traditions are honored and continued.

The sad truth is that Obama was sort of set up for this critique by his own hype. When you present yourself as the great healer who will bring everyone together, all it takes for the other side to call you a failure is to refuse to do it.

Still, this current crop of post-truth Republicans are really pushing the envelope. After all, are running a dynasty politician who traded on his famous name to make gazillions and then run for president. A man who's backed by even wealthier scions who've parlayed their own inherited fortunes into a bottomeless pit of money while the rest of the nation suffers. It doesn't exactly prove that the old aristocracy is coming back, but the signs aren't good.

Another asshole starts on third base, thinks she earned it

David Atkins

How many times does this have to happen before sociologists and psychologists actually do some studies on what is going on in these people's brains?

The richest woman in the world has a message for all you normals out there: Becoming rich is as easy as putting down that beer and getting off your ass.

Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart wrote that there is “no monopoly on becoming a millionaire,” in a column in Australian Resources Magazine, according to the AFP.

"If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain,” Rinehart wrote. “Do something to make more money yourself -- spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working.”

Rinehart has a point, working hard is one way to make a lot of money. Another way is to inherit a boatload of it and turn that wealth into more wealth. Rinehart may be more familiar with the second route. When her father died in 1992, he left the mining mogul $75 million and, yes, she multiplied that sum by 386 over the past 20 years, according to AOL Daily Finance.

It's true that probably happened because Rinehart worked hard. But in the race to become super-rich, it always helps to have a head start. Nearly 70 percent of the sons of top-earning men have worked at their dad's employer, compared to just 40 percent of sons overall, a recent study found.

Rinehart’s comments set off a firestorm in Australia, where she holds the title of richest person. The country’s Treasurer slammed her column, saying it was "an insult to the millions of Australian workers who go to work and slog it out to feed the kids and pay the bills,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
No kidding. Actually, far from spending less time drinking and socializing, the easiest and fastest way to become a millionaire isn't to work harder. It's to drink and schmooze with the right crowd.

The notion that rich people automatically work harder is preposterous. I'm a small business owner who hires various subcontractors, and I know a lot of very hardworking, very smart people who simply cannot find work. I also know a lot of lazy, not-so-bright people who make quite a bit of money mostly through luck and being in the right place at the right time.

I think we all know lots of people in both categories, and it has little to do with profligacy or prudence. I'm prudent, but I also knew that "there but for the grace of God go I," and that bad luck could befall me at any time. I also know that my success as a business owner depends on a strong, educated middle class--not whether some random dot-com billionaire or house flipper who got out just in time can afford 10 more ferraris or not.

This stuff is obvious. And, of course, in our society that taxes investment at a much lower rate than work, it's the first $1,000,000 that's the hardest to earn. From there it only gets easier.

And if a person is at all prudent and halfway intelligent, it's fairly easy to take a $75 million inheritance and turn it into a lot more. People with money actually know this. Many of them have the appropriate guilt about their good fortune to have a well-developed sense of noblesse oblige. But it's also clear that a great many of them have no such thing.

So the only question remains: what is going on in these people's heads? Are they blithely clueless fools who really don't believe that other people work hard for a living? Are they literal sociopaths who know better but don't care? Is it that our meritocracy provides them an easy justification for selfishness, and they never ask themselves any serious questions about it? What the hell is wrong with these people?

Eastwood: "don’t give me that sanctity crap!"

by digby

Hey all you journalists who are dying to get an interview with Clint Eastwood tonight, ask him about this:

GQ: [To Eastwood] You’ve described yourself as a social libertarian. What does that mean to you?

Clint Eastwood: I was an Eisenhower Republican when I started out at 21, because he promised to get us out of the Korean War. And over the years, I realized there was a Republican philosophy that I liked. And then they lost it. And libertarians had more of it.

Because what I really believe is, let’s spend a little more time leaving everybody alone. These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage? I don’t give a f–k about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of.

Leonardo Dicaprio: That’s the most infuriating thing—watching people focus on these things. Meanwhile, there’s the onset of global warming and—

Clint Eastwood: Exactly!

Leonardo Dicaprio: —and these incredibly scary and menacing things with the future of our economy. Our relationship to the rest of the world. And here we are focusing on this?

Clint Eastwood: They go on and on with all this bulls–t about “sanctity”—don’t give me that sanctity crap! Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want.

If he's unavailable, why don't you ask some of the delegates about that. I think it would be very interesting to hear what they have to say.

According to Chuck Todd, the Dems are jealous of the GOP's diversity

by digby

What the hell?

That's the weirdest thing I've ever heard. They had to go to red state to find a Hispanic mayor? Really? Did they forget about the mayor of the second largest city in the US, in the heart of the biggest Blue State in the US, Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles?

Here's a partial list of high profile Democratic Hispanic officials:

Joe Baca (U.S. Representative from California)

Xavier Becerra (U.S. Representative from California, former chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus)

Albert Bustamante (former U.S. Representative from Texas, former chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus)

Cruz Bustamante (former Lieutenant Governor of California and Speaker of the California State Assembly)

Linda Chavez-Thompson (former vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, 2010 Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Texas)

Gery Chico (chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education)

Edward D. Garza (former mayor of San Antonio, TX)

Ron Gonzales (former mayor of San Jose, CA)

Charlie Gonzalez (U.S. Representative from Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus)

Raúl Grijalva (U.S. Representative from Arizona)

Luis Gutiérrez (U.S. Representative from Illinois)

Rubén Hinojosa (U.S. Representative from Texas)

Bob Menendez (U.S. Senator and former U.S. Representative from New Jersey, former chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and House Democratic Caucus)

Gloria Molina (chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority)

Grace Napolitano (U.S. Representative from California, former chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus)

Ed Pastor (U.S. Representative from Arizona, former chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus)

Silvestre Reyes (U.S. Representative from Texas, former chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus)

Bill Richardson (former Governor of New Mexico, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. Secretary of Energy, former U.S. Representative and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus)

Lucille Roybal-Allard (U.S. Representative from California, former chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus)

Ken Salazar (U.S. Secretary of the Interior, former U.S. Senator from Colorado, former Attorney General of Colorado)

Linda Sánchez (U.S. Representative from California)

Loretta Sánchez (U.S. Representative from California)

José Enrique Serrano (U.S. Representative from New York, former chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus)

Hilda Solis (U.S. Secretary of Labor, former U.S. Representative from California)

Esteban Edward Torres (former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, former U.S. Representative from California, former chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus)

Nydia Velázquez (U.S. Representative from New York, former chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to Congress)

Antonio Villaraigosa (Mayor of Los Angeles, former Speaker of the California State Assembly)

You'll note that the Secretary of Labor is an Hispanic woman. The Secretary of the interior is an Hispanic man. Senator Bob Menendez is just as much an Hispanic Senator as Marco Rubio. What's he talking about?

I have little doubt that they wanted a young Hispanic mayor from a Red State for all kinds of reasons. But it's not because the Democrats couldn't find any Hispanics from a Blue State to speak. That's absurd.

Also too, diversity? There are no black elected Democratic officials? Perhaps we should introduce them to the Congressional black caucus or Governor Deval Patrick. Not to mention that guy in the White House.

And 12 of 17 women Senators are Democrats, 54 of the House's 76 women are Democrats. Governors Beverly Purdue and Christine Gregoire are both Democrats.

Now it's true that nearly every single Hispanic and African American Republican is an elected official or a member of the media. But there are certainly more elected minorities and women in the Democratic Party. I think Chuck may need a nap.

Must see TV: Samantha Bee at the RNC

by digby

>Watch the delegates defend Mitt Romney's right to choose. It's a doozy:

This is exactly what I think of every time I hear these people drone on about freedom and liberty.

"I’m not going to slash Medicaid to the point where disabled kids or seniors who are in nursing homes are basically uncared for."

by digby

I wrote below about how the Republicans have decided this is a base election and they are saying whatever it takes to get their voters to the polls. The Obama campaign isn't going that way. They have apparently decided that the road to victory can assume that the Democratic base has totally accepted austerity but is worried that the other side won't ask millionaires to "pay a little bit more in taxes" to help mute the pain.

In any case, if you were expecting a spirited defense of the safety net in the face of the dystopian hellscape of the Romney-Ryan plan, think again:

In 2011, as part of the grand bargain that didn’t work, you put a lot on the table that was uncomfortable for Democrats — changes to Medicare, changes to Social Security, cuts to Medicaid. For your Democrats who are supporting you now, should they expect you to go no further than that in the second term? What is your message to them about what you’re willing to put on the table to get a deal with Republicans on entitlements?

My message to Democrats is the same message I’ve got to Republicans and independents, and that is, I want a balanced approach to deficit reduction that combines additional revenue, particularly from folks like me who can afford it, with prudent cuts on both the discretionary side and the mandatory side but that still allows us to make investments in the things we need to grow.

And that means I’m prepared to look at reforms in Medicaid. I’m prepared to look at smart reforms on Medicare. But there are things I won’t do, and this is part of the debate we’re having in this election. I do not think it is a good idea to set up Medicare as a voucher system in which seniors are spending up to $6,000 more out of pocket. That was the original proposal Congressman Ryan put forward. And there is still a strong impulse I think among some Republicans for that kind of approach.

I’m not going to slash Medicaid to the point where disabled kids or seniors who are in nursing homes are basically uncared for. We’re not going to violate the basic bargain that Social Security represents.

Now, the good news is, if you’re willing to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires, then you can make modest reforms on entitlements, reduce some additional discretionary spending, achieve deficit reduction and still preserve Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid in ways that people can count on. The only reason that you would have to go further than that is if there’s no revenue whatsoever. And that’s a major argument that we’re having with the Republicans.
Well hell. I'm sure glad he isn't willing to cut Medicaid to where the disabled aren't "basically" cared for. And, you know, it's good that he's not going to violate the "basic bargain" that social security "represents." Big relief.

Vote Obama/Biden 2012 -- We won't cut your benefits quite as much as the other guys.

If you want to know how we got here, this piece by Corey Robin is a must-read. I confess that I didn't know a lot of this history of the deficit fetish and the tensions among the hawks about how to shrink government. It's a fascinating piece, featuring a long analysis of the GOPs internal evolution from balanced budgets to "no new taxes" by Bruce Bartlett.

I'll just excerpt this bit of it to illustrate the above point:
[T]hough Bartlett’s piece is about the GOP, it’s hard not to see how the Democrats have come to play the same role in the contemporary political order that Republicans once played under the New Deal.

Starting with Walter Mondale’s famous pledge in 1984 to raise taxes in order to bring down the deficit—one of Barlett’s footnotes reveals this delicious and disturbing anecdote: just after announcing his tax pledge at the DNC convention to wild applause, Mondale turned to Dan Rostenkowski and said, “Look at ‘em. We’re going to tax their ass off.”—Democrats have become the party of austerity.

Like Republicans of yore, the Democrats have repeatedly sought to reduce the debt and deficits, only to find themselves held hostage to the other side’s designs of depriving the welfare state of much needed cash.

Consider the two major presidential cycles of the last three decades: Reagan/Bush-Clinton and Bush-Obama.

During the 1980s, the Republicans cut taxes and ran up huge deficits. Then Bill Clinton came into office and announced his intention to reduce deficits. Anxious to appease Robert Rubin and the bond market, he abandoned whatever pretense of a progressive economic agenda he had set out during the campaign. He and the Democrats raised taxes and allowed government spending to decline dramatically as a percentage of GDP. By the end of his second term, Clinton had managed to generate a surplus—with the explicit purpose of not only reducing the debt but also shoring up Social Security—only to have the Bush White House squander that surplus through massive tax cuts and increased military spending.

When Barack Obama assumed office in 2008, he faced a similar conundrum as Clinton. The Bush Republicans had run up massive deficits and debt. Though the financial crisis (and his overwhelming victory) seemed to give Obama the warrant to spend—remember when we were all Keynesians again?—he was constrained by congressional Republicans and conservative elements in his own party, including the Wall Streeters who had been among his earliest supporters and happened to have a disproportionate influence in the White House. All of these forces seemed to worry more about the deficit than they did about the recession. The result, of course, was a much smaller stimulus package than many progressives had hoped for.

Then came the health care bill, which also has to be understood in the context of—indeed cannot be separated from—the politics of deficits and debt reduction. Throughout the health care negotiations, Obama took great pains to stress that his bill would not increase the deficit (CBO scores became as important to the national conversation as health care itself). Incredibly, this was an entirely Democratic, and self-imposed, constraint, which made the passage of health care reform more difficult than it might have been. As Jonathan Chait pointed out in 2010:

“Paygo” was a reform imposed by the 1990 budget agreement that required Congress to offset the cost of any new entitlement program or tax cuts with entitlement cuts or tax hikes. It was a significant factor in the decline of the deficit through the 1990s. Republicans hated it because it required them to offset the cost of tax cuts with either spending cuts or increases in other taxes, thereby making the trade-offs of tax cuts explicit. When they took control of Congress in 2001, Republicans ended the Paygo rule, which allowed them to pass a series of tax cuts along with a Medicare prescription drug benefit without any offsetting measures. The structural deficit exploded.

When Democrats recaptured Congress, they re-imposed pay-go rules, leaving an exception for extension of the Bush tax cuts for income under $250,000. That’s one reason why the Affordable Care Act had to be offset with hundreds of billions of dollars in politically-painful Medicare cuts, rather than financed solely through borrowing like the Medicare prescription drug law. Naturally, this made the Affordable Care Act much harder to pass through Congress as well as less popular — bills that hide their cost pass more quickly and with less complaint than bills that make make explicit who is going to pay for their costs.

Just as the White House and Congress were wrapping up their negotiations on the health care bill in the early months of 2010, Obama announced that the great challenge of the age was debt reduction. Though it’s often argued that Obama was pushed into that position by the Republican takeover of the House in November 2010, the fact is that he created the Bowles-Simpson Commission in February 2010, with the declared purpose of balancing the budget by 2015 and reducing the debt. The committee’s membership, chosen by Obama, included on the Democratic side deficit hawks like Max Baucus and on the Republican side…Paul Ryan.

At every step, then, of the two major initiatives of his administration—the stimulus and health care bills—Obama shouldered the load of debt and deficits. Whether that was by default or design remains the subject of much debate. But what’s not in dispute is that the debt has become the Democrats’ burden and/or vocation, which the Republicans are free to flout at will.
So here we are, entering a campaign with Obama begging the media to recognize him and the Democrats as the party of austerity—for being willing to make difficult and deep cuts to Medicare and Social Security—and Republicans happily calling for a constitutional amendment requiring congressional super majorities for tax increases.

I urge you to read the whole post. It is an important piece of this puzzle of how we got to a point at which the basic political argument has shrunk to small differences over how much to cut.

We're still just studying what they do

by digby

There are tons of people doing fact checks on Paul Ryan's unprecedented mendacity in a convention acceptance speech so I'm not going to bother. The Romney campaign has clearly decided that this is a base turnout election and the way to win is to throw red meat at their followers, regardless of the truth. They have their own media, after all, so it doesn't really matter if the other half of the country is screaming about their lies. Their voters won't hear it, and even if they do they won't believe it.

Perhaps this still explains the Republican strategy better than anything else:
"When we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
That's not all that different from this:
Romney pollster Neil Newhouse: "We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."
On a more prosaic level, some of this is a function of the massive amounts of information out there and the nature of the two party system. All it takes is for one side to tell a lie and the other side to call them out, for many people to retreat to their partisan corners. They don't feel capable of sorting out the truth so they rely on their tribal identification.

Recall this from the other day:

"We think that the fact that the work requirement has been taken out of welfare is the wrong thing to do," said Peggy Testa, attending a Tuesday rally near Pittsburgh for Romney running mate Rep. Paul Ryan.

When told that's not actually what had happened, Testa replied: "At this point, [I] don't know exactly what is true and what isn't, OK? But what I do know is I trust the Romney-Ryan ticket, and I do not trust Obama."

Another Romney supporter at the Ryan rally said it's really tough to know what's true anymore.

"I think we always have to look at who the fact checkers are," Ken Mohn said. "There's lots of ... groups that purport themselves to be neutral, nonpartisan, but often are [partisan]."

So, we have political leaders who have decided they no longer need to be moored to reality and followers who are too confused by the complex world we live in to sort out the truth from fiction. This campaign is the natural result.

And the joke's on us, folks. Does anyone remember this?

Cheney, former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, summarizes complaints about the cultural malady best thought of as relativism the belief that, in any situation, truthfulness derives from the political relationships perceived by specific ideologies.

In each of six chapters, Cheney considers a particular aspect of relativism and the damage it has done: so-called multiculturalism in primary and secondary education; political correctness in the universities; deconstructionism in the scholarship of the humanities; radical feminist legal theory in legal education and jurisprudence; politicized exaggeration and falsification in art, popular culture, and psychotherapy; and so-called new (i.e., politically slanted) news in the mainstream press.
She wrote that book in 1995. Just as they adopted the totalitarian methods of the communists they once loathed, they have adopted the post-modern relativism of the pointy-headed intellectuals they once accused of destroying Western civilization. The more they hate a thing, it seems, the more they actually admire it.

Update: You have to appreciate the way they are defending Paul Ryan's lies today.


A libertarian can lead himself to water, but he can't be forced to drink

by David Atkins

I suppose most people can read a story like this and feel sorry for this man. I can't bring myself to do so:

Perhaps no one knows the story of Port Orange, Fla., better than Allen Green. He has lived in Port Orange, just south of Daytona Beach, for 73 years. And for many of those years, he has been the city's mayor. Allen has a lot of memories of the Port Orange of his youth.

A few feet from the banks of the Halifax River, he says there was a cluster of buildings -- many of them were oyster houses. "Oysters were everything. They built roadways out of them. There was a lot of shrimpers. There were fishermen. That type of people, working-class people," he said.

Today, the population of Port Orange is 50 times bigger than it was when Green was a kid. And in many ways, it is emblematic of small cities across Florida that embraced growth and development over the last decade. In the case of Port Orange, much of its growth happened after a string of hurricanes hit the region in 2004 and 2005.

What were things like around here then?

"Before the rockets started falling? Everybody got greedy. After the hurricanes, everybody. You had that insurance money flowing. You had the economy flowing and they bought overpriced land, overpriced buildings, condominiums. Everybody had multiple homes," said Green.
A big real estate bubble enabled by a focus on flash-in-the-pan asset growth, the elimination of Glass Steagall and other deregulatory moves happened, followed by the inevitable collapse. Big developments went belly up. The city got into fiscal straits.

But it's not just the deregulated boom that hit this oyster town: it was anti-tax ideology, too.

"We're one of the very few states in the country that does not have an income tax," said Ken Small, technical services manager at the Florida League of Cities.

That means cities and counties pay their bills with taxes they collect on property. That worked well-enough when home values were high, but since the housing bubble burst, municipalities have been struggling. Nearly half of all homeowners in this county owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth.

"Cities and counties have gone through tremendous budget cutting," said Small. "And many of those cities are showing their tax base is still shrinking."

Last year, Port Orange collected a third less money in property taxes than it did five years earlier -- $3.5 million less. Green says what has made the tax problem even worse are all the exemptions written into Florida law.

"Nothing against veterans, they get a veteran's exemption," said Green.

There's also an exemption if your permanent residence in Florida, and if you're a senior. And in this community, a quarter of the population qualifies. "If you do exemption, exemption, exemption, they're not paying their way," added Green.

Green estimates 35 percent of Port Orange pays no taxes to the city.

"That is not right. There is a cost associated with the quality of life, and you should pay your fair share of it," he said.
So, deregulated boom combined with no taxes. A perfect libertarian storm. But wait, there's more!

Like many other mayors in Florida, Green faces tough decisions -- how to pay for city services, salaries for 400 full-time workers, etc. Green says he always wanted to see Port Orange grow, but nowhere near as fast as it did. He believes the town has lost its sense of community. Big boxes are coming in, he said, adding that he's not a fan.

The changes remind Green of a song he likes by country singer Alan Jackson called "Little Man." Some of the songs lyrics include: "And now the court square is just a set of streets. The people go around, but they don't think about the little man that built this town, before the big money shut him down, and killed the little man."

OK, let's sum again: big deregulation bubble pops, leaves low-tax base town broke, with big business big boxes having driven out all the moms and pops. Sounds familiar. Sounds obvious. Sounds like a political problem that anyone with half a brain could figure out the answer to. And yet...

Might the upcoming presidential election help solve some of Port Orange's economic woes? For Green, it's not likley. He says the only election he cares about this year already happened -- Green just won a fifth term. The last presidential candidate he voted for was Ronald Reagan. He backed Ron Paul in the primaries, and is not enthusiastic about either President Obama or Mitt Romney. In many ways, Green says development was the economy or Port Orange, and he doesn't think either candidate can help the city find an alternative.
Oh, he's right that neither candidate is likely to help his town. Obama won't do much to rescue it. Romney would help destroy it utterly. But Ron Paul? He'd be worse, if that's even possible, than Mitt Romney

So no. I can't feel sorry for this guy. Not in the least. If even people who are looking the problems with modern American conservative economics squarely in the face, when that economic system has destroyed their home, their town and everything they've spent their life living for, there's just no help for them. We just have to leave them behind, stop trying to even reach them and build a better future without them.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The "Subsidization" Queen

by digby

You know, I have taken a boatload of shit over the past few years for suggesting that many Americans might still be harboring some racial animus and that the election of Obama was forcing it to the surface. I hate to say "I told you so" but I told you so.

This article by Ron Fournier -- no friend to liberals -- spells it out in minute detail. It starts off like this:
At Linda’s Place at 9 Mile Road and Harper, where $2.99 gets you two eggs, hash browns, bacon, and an honest conversation about racial politics, I chatted with Detroit firefighter Dave Miller and his pal, contractor Benson Brundage. As it turned out, that breakfast-table conversation helps explain why (and how) Mitt Romney is playing the race card with his patently false welfare ad.

“Let’s talk about your polling,” Benson said. He grabbed from my hand an Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor survey showing that middle-class blacks and Hispanics are far more optimistic about their children’s future than are whites of the same economic status. “What do you think the unemployment rate is among blacks? In Detroit, it’s probably 40 percent. If the unemployment rate is that high, why is it that they are so optimistic about their future and the future of their children?”

Benson paused, heard no reply, and answered his own question.


There it is. The Macomb County buzz word for welfare, a synonym that rests on the tongues of the white middle class like sour milk. Men like Miller and Benson don’t use the N-word and they don’t hate (disclosure: I grew up with Miller, who now lives in Macomb County): For a five-figure salary and overtime, Miller risks his life fighting fires in a black neighborhood just south of 8 Mile Road. But Benson casually overestimated the black unemployment rate in Detroit by more than 10 percentage points, and both he and Miller will talk your ear off about welfare cheats.

“It’s a generational apathy,” Miller said, “and they keep getting more and more (apathetic) because they don’t have to work. If they sleep all day and free money …”

“ … Comes in the mail,” Benson said.

“… not in the mail anymore,” Miller said, “It’s in a magic card they can swipe.”
They poked at their egg yolks until Miller broke the silence. “I feel like a fool for not jumping on that shit and getting some (welfare) myself,” Miller said. “But I couldn’t sleep at night.”

And that attitude is exactly what the Romney campaign is exploiting with their welfare ad and that's because their polling is showing that it works:
Before explaining why these tactics work (and why Romney’s team knows, or should know, they are playing the race card), let’s quickly deal with this fact: The ad is wrong. As countless impartial fact-checkers have noted, the Obama administration memo cited by the Romney team actually gives states flexibility to find better ways of getting welfare recipients into jobs.

Why ignore fact-checkers? First, internal GOP polling and focus groups offer convincing evidence that the welfare ad is hurting Obama. Second, the welfare issue, generally speaking, triggers anger in white blue-collar voters that is easily directed toward Democrats. This information comes from senior GOP strategists who have worked both for President Bush and Romney. They spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution.

Furthermore, a senior GOP pollster said he has shared with the Romney camp surveys showing that white working-class voters who backed Obama in 2008 have moved to Romney in recent weeks “almost certainly because of the welfare ad. We’re talking a (percentage) point or two, but that could be significant.”
I quoted Time's Michael Scherer saying that the only way to stop these lies is for their own to call them out. Well, in many ways that's what's happened here. Fournier is a conservative journalist. The McCain campaign tried to hire him.

Never let it be said that Mitt Romney isn't a real Republican. He has shown that he's as willing as George W. Bush was when they staged their South Carolina whisper campaign against John McCain's "black child" in 2000 and Bush Sr's Willie Horton and Ronald Reagan's Philadelphia Mississippi speech. Hell, he's right up there with Jesse Helms' famous "hands" ad.

But I am struck by how obvious it is. Lee Atwater wasn't exactly correct when he made this famous prediction:
You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

Perhaps "subsidization" is more abstract than "nigger, nigger", true. But Romney's welfare trope has been around since Reagan's day and we're 30 years on. (Read the article to see its racism fully deconstructed.) Obviously, the election of the first black president has brought some of this back up to the surface, but the crudeness and the total abandonment of any adherence to the truth in the details wasn't supposed to work after all this time.

But it's clear that this bigotry still exists in the United States. It's as American as apple pie.

h/t to Corey Robin

I urge you to read the whole Fournier article. It's the best thing I've ever read by him.

Mitt Romney's Debt to Hypocrisy

by David Atkins

The incomparable Matt Taibbi gets to the heart of one of the most outrageous hypocrisies of the 2012 campaign:

And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a "turnaround specialist," a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.

By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions – placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place. That same man then runs for president riding an image of children roasting on flames of debt, choosing as his running mate perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous on the subject of the evils of borrowed money than the candidate himself. If Romney pulls off this whopper, you'll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It's almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House.

The unlikeliness of Romney's gambit isn't simply a reflection of his own artlessly unapologetic mindset – it stands as an emblem for the resiliency of the entire sociopathic Wall Street set he represents. Four years ago, the Mitt Romneys of the world nearly destroyed the global economy with their greed, shortsightedness and – most notably – wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit. The sight was so disgusting that people everywhere were ready to drop an H-bomb on Lower Manhattan and bayonet the survivors. But today that same insane greed ethos, that same belief in the lunatic pursuit of instant borrowed millions – it's dusted itself off, it's had a shave and a shoeshine, and it's back out there running for president.

Mitt Romney, it turns out, is the perfect frontman for Wall Street's greed revolution. He's not a two-bit, shifty-eyed huckster like Lloyd Blankfein. He's not a sighing, eye-rolling, arrogant jerkwad like Jamie Dimon. But Mitt believes the same things those guys believe: He's been right with them on the front lines of the financialization revolution, a decades-long campaign in which the old, simple, let's-make-stuff-and-sell-it manufacturing economy was replaced with a new, highly complex, let's-take-stuff-and-trash-it financial economy. Instead of cars and airplanes, we built swaps, CDOs and other toxic financial products. Instead of building new companies from the ground up, we took out massive bank loans and used them to acquire existing firms, liquidating every asset in sight and leaving the target companies holding the note. The new borrow-and-conquer economy was morally sanctified by an almost religious faith in the grossly euphemistic concept of "creative destruction," and amounted to a total abdication of collective responsibility by America's rich, whose new thing was making assloads of money in ever-shorter campaigns of economic conquest, sending the proceeds offshore, and shrugging as the great towns and factories their parents and grandparents built were shuttered and boarded up, crushed by a true prairie fire of debt.

Mitt Romney – a man whose own father built cars and nurtured communities, and was one of the old-school industrial anachronisms pushed aside by the new generation's wealth grab – has emerged now to sell this make-nothing, take-everything, screw-everyone ethos to the world. He's Gordon Gekko, but a new and improved version, with better PR – and a bigger goal. A takeover artist all his life, Romney is now trying to take over America itself. And if his own history is any guide, we'll all end up paying for the acquisition.

And that's just a small section of a much lengthier and brilliant article. Click over and take a look. If Jon Stewart is the voice of a generation, Taibbi is its conscience: smart enough to know what's wrong with the system, courageous enough to call it what is it no matter whose feelings get hurt, and savvy enough to know there's still a big difference between electing the likes of Obama and Romney in spite of it all.

No, Mitt didn't say it. But the true head of the GOP did.

by digby

A truthful gaffe:
Yahoo News fired its Washington bureau chief on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after he was caught on an open microphone saying that Mitt Romney and his wife, at the GOP convention in Florida while a hurricane was approaching Louisiana, were "happy to have a party with black people drowning."

Company spokeswoman Anne Espiritu said Wednesday that David Chalian's remark was inappropriate and does not represent Yahoo's views.
Ok. Except there are very prominent Republicans who are having a grand old time with the prospect:
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Okay, folks, it's a moment of truth. We are mere hours away now from Tropical Storm Isaac, which everybody is desperately hoping becomes a hurricane. I can't believe this. They are desperately hoping that it becomes a hurricane. It's the Democrats' wet dream that this thing hit New Orleans. So, you know me. My middle name is Solutions. I have some ideas for the Republicans. How to deal with the tropical storm, slash, hurricane hitting New Orleans.

The first thing we do is offer to send 500 bus drivers to New Orleans, paid for by us, to make sure that the buses that were not used by the Democrat mayor during Hurricane Katrina will be used to evacuate people should it become necessary. The second thing that I think the Republicans ought to do is send bags of money instead of sand. Bags full of money to shore up the levees in New Orleans. This would accomplish many things. A, it would show our compassion. B, we could have Romney's five sons who CNN last night asked, "What's it like to be rich as sin," or whatever. They did. Piers Morgan asked Romney's sons, (paraphrasing) "What's it like to be stinking rich?" So we have Romney's five sons deliver the bags of money to shore up the levees.

Now, this will accomplish much. It will show our compassion, and it will do something else. Once we publicize that we have sent 500 bags of money -- well, whatever number of bags, bags filled with money to shore up the levees, what will happen? The poor of New Orleans will storm the levees and steal the bags, thereby putting themselves at risk for the eventual flooding that will happen once they remove the bags of money. And that way the Republicans can get rid of even more Democrats in Louisiana and shore up the state for themselves. How about those two ideas, folks? Am I not thinking or am I thinking?

Now, it's true that Mitt and Rush aren't the same and it's wrong to convict Romney of guilt by association. Chalian has apologized and he's been fired.

But I'd guess Rush isn't worried about that. After all, they love him at the National Review:
Rush's angry, frustrated critics discount how hard it is to make an outrageous charge against him stick. But, we listeners have spent years with him, we know him, and trust him. Rush is one of those rare acquaintances who can be defended against an assault challenging his character without ever knowing the "facts." We trust his good judgment, his unerring decency, and his fierce loyalty to the country he loves and to the courageous young Americans who defend her.
And, by the way, Mitt does "pal around" with Limbaugh, but Rush says he hasn't talked to him "in weeks." And it's wrong to assume that Mitt listened to Rush's broadcast yesterday and agreed with it. More likely, those attendees who threw peanuts at the African American camerawoman and said they were "feeding the animals" did.


Too little too late?

by digby

Some good news on the vote suppression front:
A federal judge on Wednesday said he was prepared to grant a permanent injunction that would block controversial restrictions on voter registration groups passed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) last year.

Federal Judge Robert L. Hinkle had earlier put a temporary hold on the measure, declaring that it put "harsh and impractical" restrictions on civic groups focused on registering new voters. In his latest order, Hinkle stated that he intends to permanently block the law, pending the case's dismissal from a Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs and the state of Florida have reportedly agreed not to appeal Hinkle's ruling.

“This order is a decisive victory for Florida voters,” said Lee Rowland of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, one of the attorneys who argued the case for the plaintiffs, in a statement. “The Florida legislature has tried repeatedly to stifle access to voter registration opportunities, and once again a federal court has stopped them in their tracks. We are thrilled that voter registration groups can now get back to what they do best -- expanding our democracy.”
Unfortunately, it's only two months until the election and this has already happened:
Since a new set of state voting laws went into effect more than a year ago, the number of new Democrats registering in Florida has all but disappeared, according to a Times-Union review.

During the 13 months beginning July 1 the year before elections in 2004 and 2008, registered Democrats increased by an average of 209,425 voters. From 2011 to this year, that number was 11,365.

In Duval County alone there were about 13,000 new Democrats, meaning the rest of the state lost them.

Over that same time, the number of registered Republicans increased by 128,039, topping the average of 103,555 during the past two presidential cycles.

Overall, Democrats still hold a 445,794 statewide registration advantage.

On July 1, 2011, a sweeping election law overhaul passed by the Legislature put new restrictions on groups that hold voter registration drives. Among the changes, groups were required to file new voter registration applications with election officials within 48 hours, instead of the old 10 days, or face a penalty.

Groups said the new rules made it impossible to comply. As a result, many got out of the registration game until a federal judge ruled in their favor at the end of May, 11 months later.

“It has without a doubt hurt registration numbers,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Florida. “It really gummed up the works and made it harder for Floridians to get registered.”

Macnab said Democrats may have seen a bigger impact because registration groups often target areas that lean Democratic.

“We try to get to areas that don’t have easy access to traditional means of getting registered,” she said. “That’s places like college campuses, senior centers and low-income communities.”

Proponents argued the rules were needed to root out voter fraud.

“Increasing the accountability of those who collect voter registrations helps protect the rights of new voter registrants,” said Secretary of State Ken Detzner, even though local election officials say that hasn’t been a problem.

This was inevitable when the Democrats did nothing about electoral reform after the 200 debacle and then turned on their own during and after the 2008 election cycle by allowing voter registration efforts to be demonized with crude propaganda. Maybe they couldn't have stopped it, but they didn't make much of an effort to counter it and now the chickens have come home to roost. Failing to register virtually any new voters since 2010 in the state of Florida could prove to be a fatal error.

CNN is fighting the perception of being biased against racist thugs

by digby

Greg Sargent reports on the bizarre fact that CNN is refusing to do any real reporting on the racial incident at the RNC yesterday involving one of its employees:

As you’ve surely heard by now, two GOP convention attendees were ejected from the festivities last night after throwing nuts at a black CNN camera-woman. The words “this is how we feed animals” were uttered.

The incident was first tweeted by David Shuster and confirmed by TPM. The GOP put out a statement condemning the incident as “deplorable,” which is good. CNN put out its own terse statement last night confirming the bare minimum about the affair.
But as my Post colleague Erik Wemple noted last night, the question is whether CNN, which presumably knows all the details about the incident, will treat this as a news story, and report in full detail what happened.

The answer, so far, appears to be No. CNN has since posted a brief item on the incident, but here’s what it does not tell you: The identity of the target of the nut attack or of the alleged nut hurlers. Whoever wrote the CNN item did not say whether it made any attempt to interview the target — or to identify the nut throwers.

As Greg goes on to point out, this is likely because CNN is afraid of appearing biased and it doesn't want to be part of the story. And this is despite the context of Romney campaign's Jesse helms level welfare strategy and vote suppression effort.

It is an act of cowardice on their part brought about, I presume, by the Republican hissy fits during the primary campaign against any news network that dared to bring up race. That sort of playing the refs has always been very successful --- they're so aggressive and hostile that it makes normal people naturally recoil. But CNN is a professional news network. If they won't even tell a story about some Republican cretins who launched a racial attack on one of their own employees, they're pretty worthless.

They probably would have cut to commercial when Dan Rather was punched in the stomach by Richard Daley's goons at the 1968 Democratic convention. I certainly don't think you'd hear Wolf Blitzer say, "I think we've got a bunch of thugs here, Dan," as Walter Cronkite did. That would be biased against the thugs.


Flying their wealth flag proudly

by digby

Ok, this is just getting ridiculous now:

Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign toasted its top donors Wednesday aboard a 150-foot yacht flying the flag of the Cayman Islands.

The exclusive event, hosted by a Florida developer on his yacht "Cracker Bay," was one of a dozen exclusive events meant to nurture those who have raised more than $1 million for Romney's bid.

"I think it's ironic they do this aboard a yacht that doesn't even pay its taxes," said a woman who lives aboard a much smaller boat moored at the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina.

Romney's Cayman-based investments have come under fire during the campaign.
The Cracker Bay is owned by Gary Morse, developer of the Villages retirement community. Companies controlled by Morse gave nearly $1 million to the pro-Romney Restore Our Future superPAC. Registered in the Caymans, the Cracker Bay has an impressive art collection and can seat 30 for dinner.

Romney to date has declined to identify the names of his top "bundlers" -- those who gather checks from scores of donors on the candidate's behalf.

"He is the first nominee in 12 years to withhold these names," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money on the website opensecrets.org.

"These are the most important insiders," she said. "The public needs to know who these people are because thy are the one's who stand to gain the most from a Romney presidency."

Her group and others have gathered more than 20,000 signatures from people calling on Romney to name his top bundlers.

Campaign officials at the event declined comment."I think Gov. Romney is going to do what he has to to follow the law," Gov. McDonnell told ABC News.

Among those attending was Mel Sembler, a former top supporter of President George W. Bush and Charlie Moncrief, an oil executive from Texas, and his wife Kit. Other guests covered up their nametags as they exited for waiting busses and SUVs to take them to their next event.
This is shaping up to be one of the most astonishing candidacies we've seen in a very long time. The 1% had managed to get one of their own nominated to be the president and he's not really trying to hide it. Not that it was necessary. Most candidates would do their bidding. But in their current arrogant delusion, having power isn't enough. Neither is it enough for them to have all they need to gather more and more of the world's wealth for themselves. They want to be validated. So they are pulling out all the stops for their own Galtish Batman and his Randian Robin.

For the best article you're going to read on just what a scam --- a full blown con game --- the Romney candidacy is, read this latest from Taibbi:

By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions – placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place. That same man then runs for president riding an image of children roasting on flames of debt, choosing as his running mate perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous on the subject of the evils of borrowed money than the candidate himself. If Romney pulls off this whopper, you'll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It's almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House.

The unlikeliness of Romney's gambit isn't simply a reflection of his own artlessly unapologetic mindset – it stands as an emblem for the resiliency of the entire sociopathic Wall Street set he represents. Four years ago, the Mitt Romneys of the world nearly destroyed the global economy with their greed, shortsightedness and – most notably – wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit. The sight was so disgusting that people everywhere were ready to drop an H-bomb on Lower Manhattan and bayonet the survivors. But today that same insane greed ethos, that same belief in the lunatic pursuit of instant borrowed millions – it's dusted itself off, it's had a shave and a shoeshine, and it's back out there running for president.

Mitt Romney, it turns out, is the perfect frontman for Wall Street's greed revolution.
Yes he is.

Paul Ryan: "Yes", progressivism is a cancer

by digby

Today is Paul Ryan day at the RNC and it's oh so exciting. The Republican dreamboat's big national debut is bound to make the Villagers all breathless. And thecorwd is going to go wild:

Here's my personal favorite Ryan post, which I think says a lot about the man, the company he keeps

some people think he's brilliant, no doubt about it:

GLENN BECK: Nice to meet you, sir. Tell me, tell me your thoughts on progressivism.

PAUL RYAN: Right. What I have been trying to do, and if you read the entire Oklahoma speech or read my speech to Hillsdale College that they put in there on Primus Magazine, you can get them on my Facebook page, what I've been trying to do is indict the entire vision of progressivism because I see progressivism as the source, the intellectual source for the big government problems that are plaguing us today and so to me it's really important to flush progressives out into the field of open debate.

GLENN: I love you.

PAUL RYAN: So people can actually see what this ideology means and where it's going to lead us and how it attacks the American idea.

GLENN: Okay. Hang on just a second. I ‑‑ did you see my speech at CPAC?

PAUL RYAN: I've read it. I didn't see it. I've read it, a transcript of it.

GLENN: And I think we're saying the same thing. I call it ‑‑

PAUL RYAN: We are saying the same thing.

GLENN: It's a cancer.

PAUL RYAN: Exactly. Look, I come from ‑‑ I'm calling you from Janesville, Wisconsin where I'm born and raised.

GLENN: Holy cow.

PAUL RYAN: Where we raise our family, 35 miles from Madison. I grew up hearing about this stuff. This stuff came from these German intellectuals to Madison‑University of Wisconsin and sort of out there from the beginning of the last century. So this is something we are familiar with where I come from. It never sat right with me.

And as I grew up, I learned more about the founders and reading the Austrians and others that this is really a cancer because it basically takes the notion that our rights come from God and nature and turns it on its head and says, no, no, no, no, no, they come from government, and we here in government are here to give you your rights and therefore ration, redistribute and regulate your rights. It's a complete affront of the whole idea of this country and that is to me what we as conservatives, or classical liberals if you want to get technical.

GLENN: Thank you.

"If you want to get technical." He's real smart, huh? Just like the other randroids I met when I was freshman in college and ran into again later when I first started writing about politics online. They were the same people, they'd just never intellectually progressed beyond their first big insight, which was that being selfish was a virtue.

Here's a little intro from the Obama campaign:

Don't Get Mad. Get Even.

by David Atkins

I have to admit that I have nothing to say about the goings on at the GOP's big fluffy convention. That's because I haven't seen any part of it or read much about it. As I type this, I just finished chairing a 5-hour meeting of Ventura Democrats figuring out, among other things, how to spend our money and resources to help win victories in elections including a House seat pickup in CA26, and two State Senate pickups that would give Democrats a crucial 2/3 supermajority in that chamber.

Four or eight years ago I would have been spending tonight sitting on my couch, avoiding the urge to throw things at the television as I watched a parade of soulless hucksters lie and preen for an audience of moral cretins.

Now I don't get mad. I get even. And it feels much, much more satisfying.

I'm sure I'll get lots of feedback from the holier-than-thous insisting that all politics is a sham, that the parties are broken, and that they never watched a moment of the GOP convention and haven't watched it in decades. Or from the people who insist that they're morally superior for not owning a television. And so be it.

But for the rest of you out there, may I offer a piece of simple advice: don't get mad. Get even. These people want to hand over our democracy to the ultra-wealthy and play to the basest instincts of the basest people. We can stop them.

If you have a contested race in your neighborhood, volunteer. Turn off the TV and head out to the campaign or local Dem field office.

And if you don't have a contested race in your neighborhood, contact the campaign of your favorite progressive legislator from outside your district. Barack Obama is always seeking organizers, of course, but if the President is too conservative for your tastes there are always more progressive options. See if the Elizabeth Warren campaign needs help. If you want to limit the role of money in politics, you could help Julia Brownley, who authored the DISCLOSE/Clean Money act to force big donors to disclose themselves at the end of political ads, and who is up against a hard-right Tea Partier named Tony Strickland. Give Chris Murphy a hand against the odious Linda McMahon.

And that says nothing of the full slate of retrograde ballot propositions all over the map, from 2/3 revenue requirements in Michigan to anti-labor initiatives in California and elsewhere.

There are literally hundreds of races out there desperate for people to help them. Most people always assume that there are other people who will do these things. But when you get up and close to it, it's increasingly obvious how limited the manpower to fight these battles really is. Every single person willing to step up to the plate and actually talk to voters can make a huge difference. And it's really, really satisfying.

So this year, don't listen to the lies and get angry. Get even. Get out there and beat these people who so richly deserve it. And then hold the Democrats' feet to the fire to stop them from backsliding every single day after November 6th.

But first, please do get out there and get even. You'll feel better when you do.