“We’re very excited,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). “It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.”[...]
“It’s wonderful,” said Rep. John Abney Culberson (R-Tex.), clapping his hands to emphasize the point. “We’re 100 percent united! Ulysses S. Grant said, ‘Quit worrying about what Bobby Lee’s doing and let’s focus on what we are doing. We are focusing on what we need to do and not worrying about what the other guy is going to do. . . . That’s how Ulysses S. Grant won the war.”[...]
During their own public events, Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) said he and his colleagues “saw the pain and the hurt and the fear, the concern about what would happen as a result of this law. And that created a renewed resolve not only in myself but in others after we got back from the August recess.”[...]
“I just think you saw members who said, ‘Look, let’s just do what we all know needs to be done and frankly what the American people want to see done,’ ” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who worked closely with Graves on the plan and helped persuade House leaders to accept it.
“Sometimes I go back to basic civics: We’re the House of Representatives. We’re the body that’s supposed to be closer to the people,” Jordan added. “That’s why the Founders gave a chance for the people to throw us out every two years. That’s why when you go home for five weeks and you hear from people that this law is not ready, that has an impact.”[...]
On Saturday, Huelskamp said the latest spending fight “is a culmination of doing what we said we were going to do.”
“Mark Twain once said, do the right thing and it will gratify some people and astonish the rest,” he said. “America’s been a little astonished by us doing the right thing in the last few days here in the House.”
On Saturday, Huelskamp said the latest spending fight “is a culmination of doing what we said we were going to do.”
“Mark Twain once said, do the right thing and it will gratify some people and astonish the rest,” he said. “America’s been a little astonished by us doing the right thing in the last few days here in the House.”
Huelskamp said Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) had talked to his GOP colleagues about the political damage Republicans suffered during similar shutdowns in the mid-1990s.
“He has an opinion,” he said. “It’s an opinion based on experience in the last century.”
Notice they all seem to think they're doing what "the American people" want. Well:
[A] new survey of 1,976 registered voters finds that only 33 percent believe that the health law should be repealed, delayed, or defunded. 29 percent believe that “Congress should make changes to improve the law,” 26 percent believe that “Congress should let the law take effect” and see what happens, and 12 percent believe that the law should be expanded. The bottom line? Voters are skeptical that Obamacare will live up to Democrats’ hype. But they also believe that it should be given a chance to succeed.
The new poll was conducted by the Morning Consult, a healthcare media company founded by Michael Ramlet. Ramlet, in evaluating the results of his survey, finds that voters are “unmoved by three months of the defund argument,” and that a majority would “blame congressional Republicans a lot for a government shutdown.”
But if you watch FOX all day and listen to Rush you'd think the American people were marching in the streets demanding that the House shut 'er down.
They're still kicking. After promising all day to produce enough Republicans to shut down this farce and pass a clean CR without all the Obamacare bullshit, Peter King made a fool of himself.
Amazing to me how many House Rs sound like Dent and King behind scenes, yet when rule vote rally builds, they get cold feet and duck away
— Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) September 30, 2013
It's an old story. Republicans are rarely (ever?) profiles in courage:
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The Ongoing Adventures Of The Eunuch Caucus
Greg Sargent calls them WINO's. Harold Meyerson dubs them Spineless Sages. I'm fond of my own moniker from back in 2006, the Eunuch Caucus. They all add up to the same thing --- congressional GOP jellyfish who wring their hands and rend their garments about the war and other failures of the Bush administration and yet can never seem to actually vote against anything the administration wants or for anything they don't. The worst cases, like McCain, Graham and Warner make a big show of being "elder statesmen" or "mavericks" and then turn around and engineer legislative atrocities like the Military Commissions Act.
This is one reason why I really hate calling the Democrats spineless. It's true that they sometimes are, but compared to their single cell invertebrate comrades on the other side they are super-heroes. The Republicans laid down for Dick Cheney's Unitary executive like a bunch of cheap hookers during fleet week with nary a thought for the constitution or even their own prerogatives. As I wrote back in '06:
I am dumbstruck by the totality of the Republicans' abdication of their duty. These men who spent years running on Madisonian principles ("The essence of government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse") now argue without any sense of irony or embarrassment that Republican Senators are nothing more than eunuchs in President Bush's political harem. They have voluntarily rendered the congress of the United States impotent to his power.
I've watched this invertebrate GOP caucus since 2000 as they submitted themselves to this lawless administration again and again, shredding every bit of self respect, every figment of institutional pride, every duty to the constitution. The look in their eyes, which is somehow interpreted as strong and defiant by the equally servile media, is actually a window to empty little men who have given up their manhood to oblige their master. The only reward they seek is unfettered access to the taxpayers money for their own use.
We are looking at fifty-five of the most powerful people in the country. Collectively the Republican Senators represent almost a hundred and fifty million citizens. And they have allowed a callow little boy like George W. Bush along with his grey eminineces Karl Rove and Dick Cheney to strip them of their consciences, their principles and their constitutional obligations. What sad little creatures, cowardly and subservient, unctuously bowing and scraping before Karl Rove the man who holds their (purse) strings and dances them around the halls of congress singing tributes to their own irrelevance at the top of their lungs. How pathetic they are.
And it continues to this day, even as their great leader has nearly destroyed their party and ruined the country.
Never make a bet that Republicans will do the right thing. You can't even count on them to act in their own self-interest --- witness their just tanking the immigration bill that will probably sink their chances of a real majority for many years to come. Their only purpose in government is to steal from the taxpayers, help their rich friends, cover up their leaders' crimes and destroy Democrats. That's it. That's all they do.
Now even Karl Rove is rendered impotent by the Frankenstein monster he created. The mere threat of a Tea Party challenge (funded by the Kochs) has the little beggars cowering in their little boots. It's always something with them that keeps them from standing up to absurdity, wherever it's coming from. Peter King could only muster himself and Charlie Dent and four fringe dwellers upset that it didn't go far enough.
Meanwhile, lest Democrats get it in their head that a clean vote will be Big Victory and we can all start dancing around like a bunch of drunk kids on prom night like we always do when the wingnuts pull one over:
That's a real winner isn't it? But hey, if we're lucky we'll get this "clear CR" and then the White House can start negotiating on the debt ceiling and we can cut all the "entitlements" too.
Eric Boehlert has written up an excellent primer on the right wing propaganda campaign against Obamacare. It's really quite astonishing when you see it all together. It even goes so far as to say that it will will allow "forced home inspections" by government agents and sex police questioning your sex life. (Obviously, that meant to scare the Limbaughian wingnut men because they clearly have no problem invading the sex lives of women.)
But Boehlert sees bigger implications for our political culture in all this and I think he's right. (I wish I didn't):
[T]he right wing's almost hypnotic, monomaniacal focus on opposing health care reform has been matched, if not outstripped, by its relentless desire to purposely lie about the new law year after year after year. That's not passion, that's propaganda. It's using mass media to spread willful lies and misinformation about public policy in hopes of advancing your own partisan cause...
The permanent misinformation model built to try to tear down Obamacare has troubling implications for future policy fights. Just as the Republicans' radical attempt to shut down the entire federal government in an effort to defund an existing law has no precedence in modern American history, the accompanying four-year propaganda campaign is likely unmatched, too.
Based on the sheer breadth of these fabrications, taken in tandem with the duration over which they been told and retold, today's health care scare campaign certainly ranks among the most intense ever produced in the U.S. It also represents an almost seamless production between the Republican Party and its dedicated allies in the press who have worked tirelessly as flaks and mouthpieces.
Over the years, the propaganda production has been built into a self-sustaining cottage industry that's purposefully impervious to the truth. It's also an enterprise that provides never-ending fundraising opportunities for Republican politicians, as well as endless hours of phony outrage for right-wing media outlets.
But here's what is disturbing. Unlike sprawling controversies under the previous Democratic administration, in which Bill Clinton's professional enemies at least pretended to follow a paper trail that eventually led nowhere with regards to Whitewater and Travelgate and other manufactured "scandals," today's myth-makers largely turn a blind eye to that model.
There's no "investigation" that's fueling the health care freak out. There are no new revelations that would logically prompt this kind of hysterical strategy for a law that hasn't even been implemented yet. (In fact, unfolding news about the plan has often been quite positive.) Instead, it's a propaganda campaign designed to inhabit the conservative bubble that has come to define Republican failures under Obama. [my emphasis --- d]
If right-wing media consumers wanted to delude themselves into thinking Mitt Romney would win the White House in a "landslide," of wanted to waste years focusing on the transparently false allegation that the president was born in Africa, that was their choice. Those needless pursuits often provided comic relief for those who watched conservatives be knowingly conned by their media heroes.
But the deceitful health care propaganda campaign is different. It's a muscular, relentless attempt to undo an historic piece of legislation that affects tens of millions of Americas, and it's a campaign built upon an armada of lies. Whitewater, and the assembled "scandals" around it, was a concerted effort to destroy the Clinton presidency. This production is designed to do real damage to America's health care system, and with the shutdown threat, to harm the economy, too.
I would guess this has more to do with the gerrymandering and the stovepiping of information through right wing media than anything else. Staying in their far right bubble is actually the smart move for these guys (and gals.) All their constituents are hearing are these lies...er, propaganda through this destructive feedback loop. They have no good reason to get out of it and, frankly, most of them don't want to.
We keep going back to 1859 and 1860 to draw parallels, not because we're on the verge of a shooting civil war but because just as the antebellum South lived in its own little world believing each of its men had the fighting ability of 10 northeners, so too does the modern conservative movement believe it has the power to take over the government through hostage taking and sheer will. It's a very strange state of mind and perhaps it's a universal one, I don't know. I do know that it is an "exceptional" All-American attitude among a certain subset of egomaniacs who have been with us for a long, long time.
The right wing objection to Obamacare is built on a huge stack of lies and propaganda. It is a conservative policy originally designed by the Heritage Foundation. This tactic of hostage taking, in their hands, undertaken for dishonest, purely political reasons, is therefore inherently illegitimate.
We are living in another gilded age of rampant greed. Conservative talking points that inequality doesn't matter because the economic pie can expand infinitely have been proven to be a joke. We have a moral and economic crisis on our collective hands.
But Republicans are so crazy that all we can talk about is how much to cut from our safety net in order to placate them lest they shut down the government and throw the economy further into tailspin.
Chris Hayes explains Obamacare For Fox and Friends
Not that they have any interest in reality at the moment. The Republicans have worked themselves into a frenzy that resembles the adolescent girls who accused the Salem townspeople of witchcraft at this point. This is how they look:
I doubt they can attribute the GOP's mass hallucination to some kind of grain fungus but maybe someone should investigate whether somebody put some acid in the brownies or something. digby 9/30/2013 02:30:00 PM
Just Get Me Home
Up 'til the end, Breaking Bad told us to expect that not all was right with the world. But the last episode told us:
1. There is a cosmic scale of justice where the bad guys all die and the good guys all live.
2. The rich can be scared, but never seriously harmed.
I could not have predicted that such an unpredictable show - where everything was called into question, including the very notion of calling everything into question - would end in such a conventional fashion.
Oh, and "Felina" turned out just to be an anagram for "Finale."
But really, it was just one episode, and not an important one at that. The entire series is an extraordinary achievement.
By the way, why is Buffy rarely if ever mentioned these days when critics tick off the masterpieces of TV's Golden Age? I have my theories... tristero 9/30/2013 01:30:00 PM
Ashleigh Banfield, still kicking the right asses and taking the right names
Ashleigh Banfield hands two of the most odious MOC's a righteous smackdown --- and they do not like it.
So it turns out that insider bragging about thwarted terrorist plots has proved more harmful to our national security than the Snowden leaks:
As the nation’s spy agencies assess the fallout from disclosures about their surveillance programs, some government analysts and senior officials have made a startling finding: the impact of a leaked terrorist plot by Al Qaeda in August has caused more immediate damage to American counterterrorism efforts than the thousands of classified documents disclosed by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.
Since news reports in early August revealed that the United States intercepted messages between Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as the head of Al Qaeda, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, discussing an imminent terrorist attack, analysts have detected a sharp drop in the terrorists’ use of a major communications channel that the authorities were monitoring. Since August, senior American officials have been scrambling to find new ways to surveil the electronic messages and conversations of Al Qaeda’s leaders and operatives.
“The switches weren’t turned off, but there has been a real decrease in quality” of communications, said one United States official, who like others quoted spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence programs.
That's not to say that the "senior" government officials aren't much more upset about Snowden's revelations. After all, they were embarrassing and that's the worst possible thing that could ever happen. Because: credibility, message sending, face-saving, all the things that really matter:
Senior American officials say that Mr. Snowden’s disclosures have had a broader impact on national security in general, including counterterrorism efforts. This includes fears that Russia and China now have more technical details about the N.S.A. surveillance programs. Diplomatic ties have also been damaged, and among the results was the decision by Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, to postpone a state visit to the United States in protest over revelations that the agency spied on her, her top aides and Brazil’s largest company, the oil giant Petrobras.
The communication intercepts between Mr. Zawahri and Mr. Wuhayshi revealed what American intelligence officials and lawmakers have described as one of the most serious plots against American and other Western interests since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. It prompted the closing of 19 United States Embassies and consulates for a week, when the authorities ultimately concluded that the plot focused on the embassy in Yemen.
Besides, banks shouldn’t be obscenely profitable: they’re intermediaries, and in an efficient economy their profits should be quite easily competed away. When bank profits are high, that’s a sign that the bank in question is extracting rents from the economy, rather than helping it to grow.
Important point, don't you think?
Anyway, that's just a throwaway line in a must-read post about a CNBC appearance by Alex Pareene (what were they thinking?) in which he takes these delusional greedheads downtown. It's awesome all the way around.
The rest of the interview is a glorious exercise in watching CNBC anchors simply implode in disbelief when faced with the idea that JP Morgan in general, and Jamie Dimon in particular, might be anything other than a glorious icon of capitalist success. In the world of CNBC, the stock chart tells you everything you need to know, while the New York Times is a highly untrustworthy organ of dissent and disinformation.
A thing of beauty:
I hear tell that nobody under 55 watches CNBC anymore, not even the Wall Street cowboys. It's just another insular little corner for rich white guys (and the money honeys who love them.)
I said this on twitter earlier, but realized I needed to provide some examples. Many of the mainstream pundits who eye-rolled and tut-tutted bloggers and activists for failing to understand the ways of the world are now commonly recycling ideas we were discussing half a decade ago.
What’s happening here ain’t exactly clear. But I have a notion: The Republicans are finally having their ’60s. Half a century after the American left experienced its days of rage, its repudiation of the political establishment, conservatives are having their own political catharsis. Ted Cruz is their spotlight-seeking Abbie Hoffman. (The Texas senator’s faux filibuster last week reminded me of Hoffman’s vow to “levitate” the Pentagon using psychic energy.) The Tea Party is their manifesto-brandishing Students for a Democratic Society. Threatening to blow up America’s credit rating is their version of civil disobedience. And Obamacare is their Vietnam.
I won't even mention those who spilled gallons of ink deriding liberal bloggers for being radical partisans just a few years back who are now lauded as oracles for their columns writing exactly what those liberal radicals were writing at the time.
I guess this is one of those times to remind yourself that nobody is ever rewarded for being the first to be right. I certainly won't hold my breath waiting for an apology. In the end it's a good thing. Still you have to wonder what might have happened if the mainstream media and the liberal establishment had paid closer attention before it got to this point. We were running around with our hair on fire and they told us hippies to go take a shower and get a haircut.
If the Republicans are now having their version of the 60s, the Democratic Party and its spokespeople like Marcus ran from the real 60s long after it made any sense. And in doing so they ended up enabling this crazed right wing we see today. Every move they made to the right in fear of being labeled "radical" made the right move even farther. Look where we are now.
I tend to think "generations" is a pretty useless term, but in this one sense it's vitally important. The 60s marked everyone who lived through them and we've been living in reaction to them in one way or another ever since. When the late cohort of baby boomers like myself finally die out (it won't be that long ...) maybe the country can finally reset.
Where's the process story media when you need them?
by David Atkins
Most of the critiques that partisan bloggers (particularly on the progressive side) make against traditional journalists can be boiled down to two main arguments. First is the "both sides do it" ethic that eschews facts in order to appear unbiased. Second is the focus on political process stories over substance stories.
But remarkably, the press' beloved process stories are scarce in recent days. It's easy to find substantive articles detailing the consequences of a government shutdown. But the usual process stories detailing the blow by blow moves and counter moves aren't as ubiquitous as usual.
That's partly because the process story here is very unusual but fairly simple: Republicans are using the power of the purse in the House in make hostage-taking demands they could not get under normal legislative circumstances. An analysis of the process at work here would look very bad for conservatives. Journalists in turn would worry about accusations of bias for telling the truth.
Which goes to show that the main reason we usually get process stories over substance stories is not just that they're easier to write, but that substance stories about which side wants to provide health insurance to people versus which side wants to cut Social Security and ban birth control would look fairly damning to Republicans.
But when the usually dull process story makes Republicans look even worse, then suddenly the process story goes out the window.
It isn't bias if it's true. The traditional media should spend more pixels and ink making clear to the public just how unusual and outrageous it is for one party to holding the entire government hostage like this--particularly less than a year away from an election in which the hostage takers lost handily.
Annnnd ... the bucket of lukewarm spit award goes to Mark Halperin
I guess until they literally fire on Ft Sumter, and maybe not even then, the Villagers will insist that both sides are equally to blame:
Such a wise, wise man, so clearly superior to all those silly people fighting over all that silly health care and budget nonsense. I'm so glad he's a leading arbiter of political conventional wisdom. It's working out just great for everyone.
"If you want people to get health insurance, the best way for them to get health insurance is to get a job."
And fuck you to the self-employed and small business owners, I guess. Who needs 'em?
That's not an original thought, by the way. You all recall this I'm sure:
On CSPAN’s Washington Journal yesterday, former Republican congressman Tom Davis received a call from an elderly woman named Dorothy, who said that because she has diabetes, health insurance companies “reject” her. “They don’t even want to accept me,” said Dorothy. “Is that, is that possible they could get away with that? That seems like discriminating.”
Davis responded by saying that he understood her “dilemma” and that she probably wouldn’t be able to retire by 62 as she desires. Advising her that she’d be alright if she found “a job with a major employer,” Davis said it would be “difficult” on her own:
DAVIS: I don’t think you’ll find, probably be able to find some health insurance but if its with a small business or you’re going out on your own, it’s difficult at this point. There may be a government plan or private plans that are mandated coming out of this that are maybe able to help you. … I don’t know any reason why you shouldn’t be able to find something out there, but you want to look for an employer that has a health care plan. Good luck.
WOMAN: "Senator Coburn, we need help (crying) my husband has traumatic brain injury, and his health insurance would not cover him to even drink, (Crying) and, what I need to know is are you gonna help him, where he could eat and drink, we left the Nursing Home and they told us we're on our own.
He left with a feeding tube, I've been working with him but I'm not a speech pathologist, a profession though that take six years for a Masters, and I try to get him to eat and drink again and this means so much to me (crying). "
COBURN: "Well I think, first of all yeah, we'll help, uh, the first thing we'll do is see what we can do individually to help you, uh, through our office.
Uhm, but the other thing that's missing in this debate is us as neighbors. Helping people that need our help, uh, you know, we tend to, (clapping) the idea that the government is the solution to our problem is an inaccurate, a very inaccurate statement, (clapping) Government, government..."
Oh, and by the way, they don't think employers should be required to offer health insurance either. So, if they decide it's too expensive, it's really it's all about begging from your neighbors. After all, if you get sick when you aren't rich, it's really your fault right? You should be humiliated. Or die.
For the first time since 1975, the NSA invited in a bunch of academics to flatter thembrief them about the secret programs and this interview with one of the participants gives us some idea of what their charm offensive is supposed to accomplish. I'll let you read the whole thing but these answers from the NSA struck me as being so vacuous as to demand some kind of response:
Q: Have Snowden’s actions endangered national security or international relations?
A: The standard lines about “irreparable harm” are not convincing to many people because they are so vague, we’ve heard them so often, and the government classifies boatloads of information that shouldn’t be secret.
But NSA officials got a little more specific. They said Snowden has hurt national security in three ways: The first is that he revealed government surveillance capabilities. Second, he’s revealed politically embarrassing things that are harming relations with our allies – and they believe there is more to come. (Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff postponed a state visit to Washington, for example, following the release of evidence that the U.S. spied on Brazilian politicians and business leaders.) They said Snowden has a pattern of releasing embarrassing information around big international meetings, such as the G20 summit. The third damaging impact is that Snowden has hurt the NSA’s ability to produce intelligence.
If he revealed embarrassing information about the US Government spying on its allies and it harmed relations with them, isn't the problem that the government is doing this, not that it's been revealed? I guess they honestly believe that America should be spying on her allies and that Americans think that's a good thing. I don't think that's been determined. If the government is doing things that will break trust with their friends maybe it should think twice about doing it rather than getting bent out of shape when its been discovered. I'm sorry they're embarrassed. Perhaps they should consider not doing embarrassing things.
(Oh, and saying that Snowden has "hurt NSA's ability to produce intelligence" doesn't qualify as "more specific.")
I don't mean to be critical. It's an interesting interview:
Q: What were your biggest takeaways from this meeting?
A: I would say one of the things that I did walk away from the meeting hearing – and I think that perhaps this is the big policy question – is that the NSA orientation is to collect now, ask questions later. So the question is: Is that the right operating philosophy; are we comfortable as a democratic society with that collect-now-ask-later approach?
I would hope not. But the implication is that we are all totally on board with the NSA's (secret) spying mission and are simply arguing over the methods. That's not true. There is a ton of dissent out there over the idea that the NSA should have these capabilities at all and certainly whether it should be spying on our allies, particularly when it comes to doing it for commercial purposes (as it seems to have been done in Brazil and China at least.) After all, in today's global economy that is not something that necessarily benefits average Americans or any other average person on this planet.
Moreover, allowing any secret government agency this kind of power and virtually unlimited resources, regardless of the alleged oversight (which in practice operates 99% of the time as a rubber stamp)is begging for trouble. There may be trade-offs involved in checking this power, but it's far more likely that the greater threat to our freedom will come from within rather than without, particularly when you have a gargantuan bureaucracy which always seeks to maintain itself. It's just the way these things work. This thing clearly needs to be reined in generally, not just have its methods re-evaluated.
This is just more of the "we need to be more open about how awesome we are so that people will be "comfortable" with our massive secret spying operation." But that's why they call it Big Brother --- so people will feel comfortable.
Listening to the Republicans lie outrageously on the Sunday shows about the catastrophic effects of a program that isn't even in effect (while denying that climate change exists!) is enough to give me a headache. It reminded me of this:
Rick Perlstein wrote a fascinating article for The Daily Beast about what he calls out "mendocracy" --- which means a society ruled by liars. He discusses the fact that most Americans believe that Obama raised their taxes when he actually lowered them and uses Limbaugh's admonition to his audience that Obama always means exactly the opposite of what he says as an example of how that kind of thing comes to pass.
(a) A mountebank teaches his millions of followers that everything the president says is a priori a lie;
b) The mainstream media that acts as if anything his millions of followers believe is a priori deserving of respect as heartland folk wisdom (note the cover article lionizing Limbaugh in this week's Newsweek);
(c) The president unilaterally renders himself constitutionally incapable of breaking the chain between (a) and (b), such that, (d), the assumption that Obama raised taxes when he really lowered them becomes hegemonic for a majority of the electorate, and even a large plurality of Democrats.
Q.E.D.: Governing has become impossible.
Nothing beats this nonsense about the ACA already causing millions of people to suffer and die when it hasn't even started --- which is why they have to stop it. It's so daft, it's hard for me to believe they can say this without their heads exploding. But they're all doing it. The morning talk show round tables were simply incomprehensible as a result.
Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.
The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.
The policy shift was intended to help the agency “discover and track” connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States, according to an N.S.A. memorandum from January 2011. The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said. Because of concerns about infringing on the privacy of American citizens, the computer analysis of such data had previously been permitted only for foreigners.
The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents. They do not indicate any restrictions on the use of such “enrichment” data, and several former senior Obama administration officials said the agency drew on it for both Americans and foreigners.
But don't worry. Unless you know a foreigner or know someone who knows a foreigner or someone who knows someone who knows someone who is a foreigner you have absolutely nothing to worry about:
An agency spokeswoman, asked about the analyses of Americans’ data, said, “All data queries must include a foreign intelligence justification, period.”
“All of N.S.A.’s work has a foreign intelligence purpose,” the spokeswoman added. “Our activities are centered on counterterrorism, counterproliferation and cybersecurity.”
The legal underpinning of the policy change, she said, was a 1979 Supreme Court ruling that Americans could have no expectation of privacy about what numbers they had called. Based on that ruling, the Justice Department and the Pentagon decided that it was permissible to create contact chains using Americans’ “metadata,” which includes the timing, location and other details of calls and e-mails, but not their content. The agency is not required to seek warrants for the analyses from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court:
Well, at least they can't share their analysis with other agencies. Well, not much anyway. (Not that we'd know about it if they did since federal agencies routinely dummy up their evidence trail so as not to reveal where they got the information.)
And remember the minimization rules on this have a very convenient out when it comes to sharing the information:
In the 2011 memo explaining the shift, N.S.A. analysts were told that they could trace the contacts of Americans as long as they cited a foreign intelligence justification. That could include anything from ties to terrorism, weapons proliferation or international drug smuggling to spying on conversations of foreign politicians, business figures or activists.
Analysts were warned to follow existing “minimization rules,” which prohibit the N.S.A. from sharing with other agencies names and other details of Americans whose communications are collected, unless they are necessary to understand foreign intelligence reports or there is evidence of a crime.
There are lots of "crimes" on the books.
And you have to love how drug smuggling is always right up there with nuclear proliferation as an existential threat.
And as we deal with more budget madness in Washington, it's important to consider this:
The overall volume of metadata collected by the N.S.A. is reflected in the agency’s secret 2013 budget request to Congress. The budget document, disclosed by Mr. Snowden, shows that the agency is pouring money and manpower into creating a metadata repository capable of taking in 20 billion “record events” daily and making them available to N.S.A. analysts within 60 minutes.
The spending includes support for the “Enterprise Knowledge System,” which has a $394 million multiyear budget and is designed to “rapidly discover and correlate complex relationships and patterns across diverse data sources on a massive scale,” according to a 2008 document. The data is automatically computed to speed queries and discover new targets for surveillance.
That's a lot of money don't you think? And we have no idea if these programs are the least bit effective. That's top secret too.
I'll admit up front that I don't know from the sport of Formula One racing. In fact, I've never held any particular fascination for loud, fast cars (or any kind of sports, for that matter). If that makes me less than a manly man, well, I'll just have to live with that fact. However, I am fascinated by other people's fascination with competitive sport; after all, (paraphrasing one of my favorite lines from Harold and Maude) they're my species. There's certainly an impressive amount of time, effort and money poured into this peculiarly human compulsion to be the "champion" or securing the best seats for cheering one on; even if in the grand scheme of things it doesn't mean shit to a tree (to reappropriate a Jefferson Airplane lyric). So what is it that motivates a person to squeeze into the cockpit of what essentially amounts to an incendiary bomb on wheels to go screaming around tight curves and through mountain tunnels at speeds up to 350mph? Well, aside from the intense adrenaline rush, the international fame and glory, the piles of dough and the unlimited sex (alright...perhaps I haven't completely thought this through).
Apparently, back in the 70s, there was a "merciless" mano a mano sports rivalry (even sexier than the one betwixt Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky?!) involving a pair of European F1 drivers. Now, I'm taking director Ron Howard and screenwriter Peter Morgan's word for it, because prior to watching the Frost/Nixon team's latest fact-based drama Rush, I had never heard of Austrian race driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) or his professional nemesis James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) who hailed from the UK. The two were a classic "oil and water" mix. Hunt was the reckless rock star type, reveling in all the hedonistic excess at his disposal. Lauda was decidedly more reserved and methodical, in both his professional and personal life. The one thing that these two men did share in common was their lofty opinions of themselves. The precise origins of the rivalry are not made 100% clear; so I assume it's your typical scenario of two males with high-T levels jockeying for the alpha position (don't the sports announcers routinely refer to the drivers whizzing around the racetrack en masse as the 'pack' ("He's pulling ahead of the pack!")?
As one might expect, there's a lot of ear-plug inducing scenes involving loud cars navigating dangerously narrow roads at suicidal rates of speed, as the two rivals chase each other on assorted Grand Prix courses all around Europe and Asia. What you might not expect, however, is the compelling dual character study that lies at the heart of the film. The "rivalry" reveals itself to be more of a relationship borne of a begrudging mutual respect; taking on an even more interesting dynamic following Lauda's near-death experience in a horrific fiery crash on the notoriously deadly Nurburgring circuit in 1976. Bruhl and Hemsworth both give excellent performances (each actor also bears an uncanny physical likeness to his respective real-life counterpart). Bruhl (who had a brief but memorable turn as a skeptical and quietly menacing SS officer in Inglourious Basterds ) is proving himself to be a subtly chameleonic character actor, and Hemsworth's infectious energy and brash high-spirited scenery-chewing recalls a young Peter O'Toole. The excellent Alexandra Maria Lara (The Baader Meinhof Complex) plays Lauda's devoted wife Marlene, and Olivia Wilde appears as Hunt's supermodel trophy wife, Suzy.
I found Howard's film reminiscent of Michael Ritchie's Downhill Racer, another "sports movie" that isn't really so much about sports per se, as it is an examination of the obsessive nature of a person who strives to be a "champion". In that 1969 character study, Robert Redford plays a talented but arrogant athlete who joins the U.S. ski team, immediately butting heads with the coach (Gene Hackman), his teammates and pretty much anyone else he comes in contact with (OK, he's a dick). Like Hunt and Lauda (at least, as they are dramatized here), the Redford character only seems truly fulfilled when he's "winning"...everything else is superfluous. I also see an interesting corollary with Howard and Morgan's previous creative collaboration, suggesting a possible diptych. The adversarial dynamic between David Frost and Richard Nixon is similar to Lauda and Hunt's. Frost was handsome, outgoing and had a rep as a "ladies man" (like Hunt) and Nixon was brooding and stand-offish, yet quietly crafty (like Lauda). Frost and Nixon circled each other warily, like two boxers vying for the champion's belt. I'm not sure how I got from Formula One to politics. Say, is there some kind of trophy for what I just did?
Don Jon: Guido a guidette
In her review of the classic 1966 film Alfie, in which Michael Caine stars as a self-styled "Cockney Don Juan" who pridefully confides his chauvinistic tenets on sex and shameless objectification of women directly to the audience, the late Pauline Kael wrote in reference to screenwriter Bill Naughton's dialogue that "[he] keeps the viewer absorbed in Alfie, the cold-hearted sexual hotshot, and his self-exculpatory line of reasoning." If you fast forward the time line from swinging 60s London to the present-day Jersey shore, trading a double-breasted suit for a wife-beater, this could double as a description of the eponymous character of Don Jon, who explains his philosophy thusly:
There's only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn.
"Self exculpatory" is an understatement. Especially once Jon (played with unfettered "fuhgettaboutit" swagger by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who also wrote and directed) really gets cooking on a breathless jag describing his love affair with internet porn. Not that he has any trouble with the ladies, mind you (his nickname stems from a seemingly effortless ability to bed a different woman every weekend, much to the wonderment and admiration of his "boys"). This may be moot to interject, but our hero may be exhibiting classic signs of sex addiction. I'm not judging; I'm just sayin'. Anyway, back to the porn. The thing is, as much as he does love the ladies, it seems that sex with a partner somehow never measures up to the online experience; he can't "lose himself" in the moment in quite the same way. Again, I risk belaboring the obvious: Is it possible that the porn addiction has given 'Don' J some unrealistic expectations about actual adult relationships?
Enter Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) a knockout beauty who responds to Jon's time-tested moves...but only up to a point. She is nobody's one-night stand; she wants to be wooed. At first, Jon responds like the proverbial deer in the headlights. This could require radical concessions, like maybe (gulp) meeting for lunch or (worse case) coffee first. What is this strange new feeling? Could it be this “love” of which people speak? And just as Jon begins to sense the paradigm shift, he meets another (more mature) woman (Julianne Moore, acting circles around everyone else) who seems to be genuinely interested in him as a person (he has no idea what to make of that). Jon's amusing Sunday confessions begin to expand beyond his typical “Bless me, Father, I masturbated 34 times this week.”
Gordon-Levitt has poured admirable effort into his directing debut, but in his over-eagerness to prove himself, he may have put a few too many eggs in the basket. On the plus side, he's assembled a great cast. In fact, some of the supporting players threaten to walk away with the film; particularly a surprisingly effective Tony Danza (yes, that Tony Danza) as Jon's father, telegraphing (with expert comic timing) how the apple hasn't fallen too far from the tree. Brie Larson (as Jon's sullen sister) steals every scene she's in-no small feat considering that she spends most of the film staring at her cell phone, until deciding to impart a few words of wisdom toward the end (it's that whole Silent Bob thing). On the down side, there are jarring tonal shifts that leave you scratching your head as to what Gordon-Levitt is trying to say at times with this (sort of) morality play/social satire hybrid. Still, I was entertained. I laughed, and almost cried (just don't tell my boys).
To gain steam for his initiative to tie funding of the government to defunding Obamacare, Senator Ted Cruz appeared at events over the summer with the Tea Party Express, a political action committee. “Either continue funding the government without giving one more dime to Obamacare, or shut down the government,” demands Tea Party Express chair Amy Kremer.
The Tea Party Express, in turn, has sponsored fundraising drives to help “elect more leaders like Ted Cruz.”
One problem for Cruz-acolytes hoping to make their way into office? The Tea Party Express PAC has spent nearly every dollar of the $2.1 million it has raised this year on campaign consultants and fundraising fees, but not a dime in transfers to candidates or on independent expenditures. In previous years, the PAC has funneled much of its proceeds to Russo Marsh and Rogers, a Republican consulting firm in Sacramento, California.
The frantic crusade to screw up the launch of the Affordable Care Act is a sad tale in American politics. If conservatives are successful, even with a short-term government shutdown Cruz and his House GOP allies might achieve, patients will suffer. If young people fail to sign up for health insurance—the stated goal of one Koch-backed front group now airing television advertisements—more will drown under crushing debt if they find themselves in need of serious medical care. But Washington, DC, has a bizarre way of incentivizing harmful behavior, and the sabotage Obamacare campaign is not without its winners.
A set of campaign consultants and insurance agents stand to profit from confusing Americans on the eve of the healthcare reform enrollment date.
The conservative media frenzy over the defunding debate has invigorated donors to many PACs, not just Tea Party Express. The Senate Conservative Fund PAC recorded its largest-ever fundraising hauls last month, though it spends way more on candidates and on candidate ads than the Tea Party Express. Still, the Jim DeMint–linked PAC expended nearly half its coffers on administrative, research and fundraising payments this year. FreedomWorks, the RNC and the Club for Growth have hopped on the Cruz campaign to raise funds by advocating the repeal of Obamacare. For a non-federal election year, at least these PACs are doing well.
The rigid anti–healthcare reform politics of the Koch brothers is also having a stimulative effect upon a small circle of Republican consultants. Americans for Prosperity, the largest Koch-owned front, pays the traditional 15 percent commission rate on all their television buys—the latest round going to Target Enterprises, a Sherman Oaks, California-based GOP media company. And with a seemingly endless appetite for anti-Obamacare paid media and anti-Obamacare grassroots organizers, Koch makes good on its claim of being a stellar job-creator, at least for jobs in right-wing political advocacy.
There's more, much more. Wingnut welfare is a huge business that depends upon fear and loathing of government programs and Americans of a dusky hue (actually that's the same thing in their minds) to make big bucks for those who work in that business. And with benefactors like the Koch Brothers, there's a whole lot of money to go around.
New Rule: Conservatives who love to brag about American exceptionalism must come here to California, and see it in person. And then they should be afraid -- very afraid. Because while the rest of the country is beset by stories of right-wing takeovers in places like North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, California is going in the opposite direction and creating the kind of modern, liberal nation the country as a whole can only dream about. And not only can't the rest of the country stop us -- we're going to drag you along with us.
It wasn't that long ago that pundits were calling California a failed state and saying it was ungovernable. But in 2010, when other states were busy electing whatever Tea Partier claimed to hate government the most, we elected a guy who actually liked it, Jerry Brown.
Since then, everything Republicans say can't or won't work -- gun control, immigration reform, high-speed rail -- California is making work. And everything conservatives claim will unravel the fabric of our society -- universal healthcare, higher taxes on the rich, gay marriage, medical marijuana -- has only made California stronger. And all we had to do to accomplish that was vote out every single Republican. Without a Republican governor and without a legislature being cock-blocked by Republicans, a $27 billion deficit was turned into a surplus, continuing the proud American tradition of Republicans blowing a huge hole in the budget and then Democrats coming in and cleaning it up.(Read .... on)
That can't be right. It's a dystopian hellscape filled with shallow people who only care about themselves (well, except for that liberal thing.) Nobody would ever want to live here.
Well unless you like nice cities and small towns, great weather, great beaches, mountains and deserts and a lot of really, really good food, especially mexican food --- and lots of Mexicans! And despite the allegedly Stalinist, conformist nature of liberalism people are quite free here to be as individualistic as they choose, which is oddly what the liberty loving right hates most about us. They call us fruits and nuts and get mad because we eat vegetables.
The truth is that it's very far from perfect here. It's not as if the Democrats in Sacramento, including Jerry Brown, are free from conflict and corruption. But for the most part, they aren't insane which makes a huge difference when you're trying to drag yourself out of a hole created by greedheads and kooks in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis. Just denying lunatics the power to create chaos is enough to allow for some modest government actions to turn the ship of state a few degrees toward normal. Lord knows they could have done more. But Maher is correct that we were able to at least keep the state from completely melting down by refusing to empower this right wing freakshow.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating and our pudding tastes a lot better than it did a few years ago. Unfortunately, our national government will very likely be held hostage by the far right in the House for quite a long time to come with no hope of changing it. These fanatics have basically walled themselves off in gerrymandered districts with only FOX and Rush to keep them company and they're determined to hunker down and outlast the rest of us. Who knows what chaos they'll leave in their wake when this is all done?
To understand why [the Republicans are willing to contemplate shutdown], I need to again refer back to something I posted more than two years ago, right after I was the first speaker at the first meeting of the House tea party caucus.
I was talking informally with a number of the members of Congress who had been there after the meeting ended. There was unanimous agreement among those members that the biggest thing the House GOP had done wrong during the 1995 and 1995-96 shutdowns was that it had given in to Bill Clinton too early. The GOP would have gotten a much better deal, they told me, if it had pushed harder and been willing to keep the government closed longer.
Pushing until the very, very last minute has been one of the mainstays of the House GOP's negotiating strategy on budget issues ever since . With one exception -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) unilaterally deciding nine days before the deadline to cut a deal with the White House to extend the reduction in the payroll tax -- every budget decision since 2011 has gone up to, and in some cases beyond, the deadline.
This is why no one should have been surprised when the House GOP announced earlier today that it will not simply accept the Senate-passed clear CR. even though there are less than three full days before the end of the fiscal year. It may still do that or, rather, the caucus may allow House Democrats and handful of Republicans to do that, but it will only happen at or just after Monday at midnight...and even that's not certain.
Anything else would have violated the tea party negotiating principle I was told in February 2011.
So what do they expect to get by pushing this to the very limit? Surely it isn't the Obamacare delay. That's just not going to happen. And it's hard to see that repealing the Medical device tax would be enough to justify all this drama. So what's the real bottom line?
House Republicans unveiled a plan on Saturday that would keep the government open until Dec. 15 in exchange for a one-year delay of Obamacare—an idea Democrats have vowed to reject.
That leaves Congress barreling toward a government shutdown on Oct. 1, the same day Americans can begin signing up for insurance under President Obama’s health care law.
Regardless of its prospects in the Democratic-controlled Senate, Republicans enthusiastically embraced the new plan in a special closed-door meeting on Saturday, breaking out into huge applause as members cheered “Let’s vote!”
“The whole room: ‘Let’s vote!’” Congressman John Culberson of Texas recalled. “I said, like 9/11, ‘let’s roll!’”
Culberson was referring to a quote from Todd Beamer aboard Flight 93, a plane hijacked by al Qaeda terrorists on September 11 that crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers fought to regain control.
Uhm, they do know what happened to Flight 93, right?
So the brilliant strategist Ted Cruz sent Mike Lee a tweet. Except ...
This reminds me of one of my own favorite aphorisms (if I do say so myself) from way back about arguing with a libertarian:
After a while you realize that it's like playing chess with a four year old. He gets a very intent look on his face and moves the pieces around the board with authority. But he isn't really playing the game.
*And what with the Queen's obscenely bodacious tatas? Is that godly?
No doubt David Finkel is an excellent reporter, a good writer, and likely his heart is in the right place. Nevertheless:
Removed from the bonds of their unit — severed from the love of comrades that Finkel calls “the truth of war” — each soldier navigates the postwar on his own...”
Nope. War has exactly one fundamental truth: mass slaughter. All the rest - the bonding, the obscene justifications for war dreamt up by those who stand to gain from mass killing - they are all merely corollaries of that truth.
Of course, Finkel's remark is just a literary flourish, something we notice, if at all, as simply a sign that the writer is intelligent and thoughtful. But micro-rhetoric matters. Tropes such as Finkel's serve to romanticize war by locating war's truth anywhere except in the killing. Often inadvertently, they help validate a pervasive mindset that considers the indiscriminate carnage of war a reasonable price to pay, even when other, more sensible and less bloody alternatives exist.
Robert Fisk is one of the few who understood war's real truth.
House and Senate leadership aides in both parties are increasingly convinced the federal government will close for the first time in more than 17 years on Tuesday morning.
There is still time to avoid such a climactic stalemate, the aides acknowledged. But unless there is a dramatic change in momentum, the likelihood that a partisan showdown over government funding and the future of Obamacare could lead to a shutdown has increased dramatically.
With a special closed-door meeting meeting of House Republicans set for noon Saturday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his top lieutenants have not yet formulated their next play in their quest to keep the government open. It’s not even clear that the House will vote on Saturday.
There have been repeated contacts between GOP and Democratic leaders and senior aides in recent days but no negotiations of any sort – or sign those are about to start – to resolve the standoff. Both sides feel they have made their position known to the other side, and are unwilling to make any concessions at this moment.
Senior House GOP sources say Republicans are likely to send the Senate an amended government-funding bill, but not a proposed one-week stop gap measure. Without that one-week funding bill - needed while Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the White House try to reach a compromise agreement - the federal government will beginning shutting down “non-essential” operations on Tuesday morning.
I could spend the next several paragraphs eviscerating Politico's insultingly contrafactual "both sides do it" reporting, but it's not even worth the effort. Let's talk about John Boehner for the moment.
Until recently, the conventional wisdom was that Republicans would have their little farce, the Tea Party would fold its arms and hold its breath until it went blue, and then John Boehner would violate the Hastert rule and put something on the floor that Democrats and just enough House and Senate Republicans could vote for.
A government shutdown would mean one of two things: either there aren't even a pittance of sane Congressional Republicans left to get a reasonable bill through, or John Boehner won't violate the Hastert rule again lest it mean the end of his Speakership.
Either way it's probably time John Boehner stepped aside. If he can't avert a shutdown within his caucus, he needs to resign.
In case you were wondering whether this polarization is attributable to both parties, it's not:
Below we use DW-NOMINATE scores updated through the August recess of the 113th Congress to plot the mean first dimension (liberal-conservative) scores of Republicans and Democrats and the difference in these party means over time. Using the difference of party means as a measure of polarization, we find that polarization ticked upwards from 1.09 in the 112th House to 1.11 in the 113th House. This increase is entirely attributable to a change in the House Republican mean from 0.69 to 0.71 on the liberal-conservative dimension. House Democrats in the 112th and 113th Congresses both occupied a mean position of -0.40.
At what point does even big business decide climate change is a problem?
by David Atkins
Despite the conservative climate denialists and venal fossil fuel conglomerate flacks, the banking and insurance industry isn't taking climate change lightly:
Nick Robins, who heads the climate change centre at HSBC, said business leaders will be studying the findings closely – especially those involved in managing risk.
“The key thing now is taking this very high quality science and then translating it into a risk management strategy for business which is question both of size of impact and the probability of impact,” he said.”We actually need to avoid not just the most likely scenarios but those long tail high impact scenarios as well.”
Even if warming is kept to 2C – which the IPCC report made clear would only happen with extreme effort – the risk of climate disruption was still too high for the insurance industry and for investment managers, Robins said.
“If you look at those sectors they are well in advance of many sectors thinking about this issue. Those are the people in the economy we pay to manage risk for us,” he said.
Robins said the report is likely to provide further impetus for the move to a low-carbon economy – despite all the talk of a brief hiatus in warming.
“There are multiple drivers now that give us more confidence that we are going to accelerate the drive to a low carbon economy. We have much better science, and we are in a much better position to deploy solutions.”
The big question here has to be at what point big business, including the banking, food production and especially insurance industries decide that something must be done about this. Ever since the Powell memo big business has been united against long-term thinking progressive policy under the idea that if one business interest succumbs to regulation, every business interest will suffer. But there has to come a point at which the rest of the American business sector realizes that if the gas and petroleum industries get their way, their own bottom lines will be irreparably damaged.
The same could be said on other fronts, too. How long is American business going to suffer under the thumb of employer-provided healthcare just to let the health insurance industry avoid regulation? How long is American business going to put up with a sour economy and constant crisis economics just so Wall Street can try to steal more pension and Social Security funds?
American political battles are usually pitched between progressive interests using government as a regulatory force for the common good, against entrenched wealthy business interests. But when an entire political party goes far off the rails to harm 90% of the country to benefit just a few business interests, doesn't the rest of corporate America have to stand back at a certain point and wonder if it's all worth it? At what point does even Gordon Gekko decide it might be worth divesting from oil futures rather than resign himself to letting his beach house be swallowed by hurricanes and rising tides? Conscience be damned--even rational self interest should be kicking in here.
At some point the calculus for the majority of even American corporate interests has to shift. Most American businesses will be greatly harmed by the effects of climate change, while only the fossil fuels industry stands to lose from a shift to renewables. The demand-side effects of an Apollo Program for renewable energy would boost profits and sales. The Republican Party isn't even serving the majority of big business well anymore, to say nothing of small businesses, microbusinesses or regular wage earners across the nation.
Yesterday we reported that Crossfire host Newt Gingrich may have broken ethical rules for conflicts of interest set forth by CNN's EVP of standards and practices Rick Davis.
Today, those rules appear to have changed. In a statement to Media Matters, Davis clarifies the network's new ethics policy for disclosing potential conflicts of interest:
We are clarifying the policy and making it clear Newt Gingrich is not in violation. The policy: If a Crossfire co-host has made a financial contribution to a politician who appears on the program or is the focus of the program, disclosure is not required during the show since the co-host's political support is obvious by his or her point of view expressed on the program."
This statement is quite the departure from an earlier interview Davis held with Media Matters ahead of Crossfire's launch earlier this month.
"If Newt is helping fund a candidate and that candidate's on the show, or being discussed on the show, of course he'll disclose that," Davis said at the time. "Disclosure is important when it's relevant."
But then, you wouldn't want to lose an expert on government shutdowns at a time like this would you?
The details are complicated, but please don't lose sight of these three essential points:
As a matter of substance, constant-shutdown, permanent-emergency governance is so destructive that no other serious country engages in or could tolerate it. The United States can afford it only because we are -- still -- so rich, with so much margin for waste and error. Details on this and other items below.*
As a matter of politics, this is different from anything we learned about in classrooms or expected until the past few years. We're used to thinking that the most important disagreements are between the major parties, not within one party; and that disagreements over policies, goals, tactics can be addressed by negotiation or compromise.
This time, the fight that matters is within the Republican party, and that fight is over whether compromise itself is legitimate.** Outsiders to this struggle -- the president and his administration, Democratic legislators as a group, voters or "opinion leaders" outside the generally safe districts that elected the new House majority -- have essentially no leverage in this fight. I can't recall any situation like this in my own experience, and the only even-approximate historic parallel (with obvious differences) is the inability of Northern/free-state opinion to affect the debate within the slave-state South from the 1840s onward. Nor is there a conceivable "compromise" the Democrats could offer that would placate the other side.
As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a "standoff," a "showdown," a "failure of leadership," a sign of "partisan gridlock," or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism*** and an inability to see or describe what is going on...
This isn't "gridlock." It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us -- and, should there be a debt default, harm the rest of the world too.
For some reason liberals still seem to believe that it's good for them that the Tea Partiers are crazy because then the sane Republicans will vote them out of office. I dunno:
PPP's newest national poll finds Ted Cruz is now the top choice of Republican primary voters to be their candidate for President in 2016. He leads the way with 20% to 17% for Rand Paul, 14% for Chris Christie, 11% for Jeb Bush, 10% each for Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan, 4% for Bobby Jindal, and 3% each for Rick Santorum and Scott Walker.
Cruz has gained 8 points since our last national 2016 poll in July while everyone else has more or less stayed in place. He's made himself the face of a government shutdown over Obamacare, and the Republican base supports that by a 64/20 margin. It's not surprising that Republicans identifying as 'very conservative' support a shutdown 75/10, but even the moderate wing of the party supports it by a 46/36 margin.
Cruz is leading the GOP field based especially on his appeal to 'very conservative' primary voters, who he gets 34% with t0 17% for Rand Paul and 12% for Paul Ryan. Voters who fall into that ideological group make up the largest portion of the Republican electorate at 39%. With moderates Cruz gets only 4% with Christie leading at 34% to 12% for Jeb Bush and 10% for Marco Rubio, but they only account for 18% of GOP voters and thus aren't all that relevant to Cruz's prospects for winning a Republican nomination.
Our numbers also suggest that Cruz is now viewed more broadly as the leader of the Republican Party. When asked whether they trust Cruz or GOP leader Mitch McConnell more, Cruz wins out 49/13. When it comes to who's more trusted between Cruz and Speaker John Boehner, Cruz has a 51/20 advantage. And when it comes to Cruz and 2008 GOP nominee and Senate colleague John McCain, Cruz wins out 52/31. He now has more credibility with the GOP base than the folks who have been leading the party for years.
The problem isn't that the Tea party is crazy. It's that Republicans are crazy. Only 18% of them can be described a moderate.
I suppose the good news is that they are in a minority in the nation at large so they ae unlikely to succeed at national politics. But these people are in gerrymandered districts and very deep Red States where the crazy is concentrated. They'll continue to act crazy as long as the lunatic Republican base --- which is most of the party --- supports this crap.
And don't think for a minute that reality must bite one day and they'll be forced to admit their folly. If they shut down the government or refuse to raise the debt ceiling and all hell breaks loose, they will not wake up one morning, look in the mirror and say to themselves that they went too far. That will never happen. They'll just blame the hippies, the blacks, Obamacare or Big Gummint. They never, ever, ever blame themselves.
In case you're busy with important things, like watching The Real Housewives, and haven't been following the detailed ins and outs of the latest Congressional brouhaha, Ed Kilgore gives you the upshot:
Originally John Boehner wanted to give his charges the chance for an extended temper tantrum about Obamacare timed to conclude when the moment arrived to keep the federal government functioning, perhaps with a bit less money. Nope, that wasn’t sufficient. So the GOP headed directly towards a government shutdown, until Boehner and company looked about two inches beyond their own noses and saw that the public was (tragically) more tolerant towards a debt limit default threat than a shutdown. So the House GOP leaders moved in that direction. But they soon discovered getting the entire House GOP to vote for a debt limit increase would require a measure that incarnated every conservative policy fantasy in sight, and they are still struggling to get the votes. So now they may throw some sand in the gears of the continuing appropriations resolution and perhaps generate a mini-shutdown as a tonic to the troops, and hope that between the appropriations and debt limit measures they can slake the destructive furies of the Republican Party and its often-caustic right-wing chorus, and maybe even mark up a victory or two if Democrats conclude concessions are better than economy-wreaking chaos.
Golly, I wonder what those concessions might be? It's worked out so well before. It is chaos, but chaos can often accrue to the benefit of the crazies, can't it?
Being completely out of control does create some leverage, particularly if the firebug is willing to set fire to himself (“When you are on fire,” Richard Pryor famously observed after nearly incinerating himself in a freebase cocaine accident, “people get out of your way.”). So people start thinking about making concessions they wouldn’t otherwise consider, or contemplating scenarios they wouldn’t otherwise entertain.
This whole thing brings to mind this article about the Madman Theory from a few years back:
One of the starting points for Cold War game theory was President Eisenhower's proposed doctrine of "massive retaliation": Washington would respond viciously to any attack on the US or its allies. This, the thinking went, would create enough fear to deter enemy aggression. But Kissinger believed this policy could actually encourage our enemies and limit our power. Would the US really nuke Moscow if the Soviets funded some communist insurgents in Angola or took over a corner of Iran? Of course not. As a result, enemies would engage in "salami tactics," slicing away at American interests, confident that the US would not respond.
Cluster bombs, designed with "submunition" ordnance to set off a chain-reaction of explosions, became an important part of the US conventional military arsenal in the 1960s. In Southeast Asia, cluster bombs allowed the US military to inflict widespread damage on the enemy from the air, without resorting to nuclear weapons.
Video: The National Archives
The White House needed a wider range of military options. More choices, the thinking went, would allow us to prevent some conflicts from starting, gain bargaining leverage in others, and stop still others from escalating. This game-theory logic was the foundation for what became in the '60s and '70s the doctrine of "flexible response": Washington would respond to small threats in small ways and big threats in big ways.
The madman theory was an extension of that doctrine. If you're going to rely on the leverage you gain from being able to respond in flexible ways — from quiet nighttime assassinations to nuclear reprisals — you need to convince your opponents that even the most extreme option is really on the table. And one way to do that is to make them think you are crazy.
Consider a game that theorist Thomas Schelling described to his students at Harvard in the '60s: You're standing at the edge of a cliff, chained by the ankle to another person. As soon as one of you cries uncle, you'll both be released, and whoever remained silent will get a large prize. What do you do? You can't push the other person off the cliff, because then you'll die, too. But you can dance and walk closer and closer to the edge. If you're willing to show that you'll brave a certain amount of risk, your partner may concede — and you might win the prize. But if you convince your adversary that you're crazy and liable to hop off in any direction at any moment, he'll probably cry uncle immediately. If the US appeared reckless, impatient, even insane, rivals might accept bargains they would have rejected under normal conditions. In terms of game theory, a new equilibrium would emerge as leaders in Moscow, Hanoi, and Havana contemplated how terrible things could become if they provoked an out-of-control president to experiment with the awful weapons at his disposal.
The nuclear-armed B-52 flights near Soviet territory appeared to be a direct application of this kind of game theory. H. R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, wrote in his diary that Kissinger believed evidence of US irrationality would "jar the Soviets and North Vietnam." Nixon encouraged Kissinger to expand this approach. "If the Vietnam thing is raised" in conversations with Moscow, Nixon advised, Kissinger should "shake his head and say, 'I am sorry, Mr. Ambassador, but [the president] is out of control." Nixon told Haldeman: "I want the North Vietnamese to believe that I've reached the point that I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can't restrain him when he is angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button' — and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.
The problem is that the Tea Partiers really are mad.