Monday, January 31, 2011

GOP in Disarray - Hitting the debt ceiling edition

It's going to be interesting to watch how the GOPers deal with this conflict. The Tea Party Republicans, who don't believe in climate change or evolution much less the consequences of policy, are demanding their duly elected candidates "do something" about that damn debt ceiling. This crackpot proposal from one beholden GOPer is especially amusing. What could go wrong?
"I intend to introduce legislation that would require the Treasury to make interest payments on our debt its first priority in the event that the debt ceiling is not raised," Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) wrote in a Friday Wall Street Journal op-ed.

If passed, Toomey's plan would require the government to cut large checks to foreign countries, and major financial institutions, before paying off its obligations to Social Security beneficiaries and other citizens owed money by the Treasury..."
Meanwhile, Boehner is forced to admit not raising the ceiling is going to be a problem. He says in a recent interview:
That would be a financial disaster not only for our country, but for the worldwide economy. Remember, the American people on Election Day said we want to cut spending and we want to create jobs. You can't create jobs if you default on the federal debt.
That may be the sanest remark I've ever heard him make, but he can't resist adding a healthy dose of partisan revisionism.
Listen, there has been a spending spree going on in Washington these last couple of years that is beyond control, and if the president is going to ask us to increase the debt limit, then he's going to have to be willing to cut up the credit cards. We've got to work together by listening to the American people and reducing these obligations that we have.
"These last couple of years?" Why, it's like the spending spree under the Bush administration that drained a healthy surplus and created most of the current deficit never happened.

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Protesters converge on Koch brother's confab

Kind of feel like I'm in a 60s flashback this week what with all the protesting going on. Of course, most eyes are turned to Egypt but here at home, over a thousand activists gathered outside the gates of a exclusive resort where the Koch brothers were hosting one of their periodic con-cons. These invitation only events where the rich and powerful scheme to take over the world have formerly operated under the radar, but no more.

David Dayen in an eye-witness account reports 25 were intentionally arrested but overall it was a peaceful protest. The LAT and NYT has more coverage and quotes from the crowd, who were chanting "this is only the beginning."

Thinking it's a tiny step forward that a "lefty" protest is being covered by the major media who found it easy to ignore hundreds of thousands of peace protesters only a few years ago. Also finding it mildly amusing and entirely appropriate that this con-con is being held in a town called Rancho Mirage. Considering how much their success in fooling the rubes relies entirely on smoke and mirrors, what could be more appropriate?

[Big thanks to "A Writer at Balloon Juice", (formerly DougJ DougJson), for the kind link.]

[Thanks also to Elspeth at The Atlantic Wire for the kind link.]

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Isn't she lovely...

Since I worked for her Dad for 20 years, I've known Jo Newman just about all of her life. I spent a lot of time with that family and literally watched her grow up. I was practically an adopted aunt to her. I still vividly recall the day she informed me she was the perfect child. She wasn't idly boasting. She was always perfect. Even in adolescence she never went through that awkward gawky stage that most teenagers do. She was always confident and a ridiculously high achiever.

We lost touch when she left to go to college and I just googled her on a whim. Just wow. She's a model.



And she's an actress now. Can't imbed this one, but here's the link to her agent's reel.

And she co-starred in a hit movie, Love and Other Drugs. Damn, they grow so fast. Now she's the perfect woman.

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We got sandy beaches

It's actually a beautiful afternoon here today but I'm dreaming of the beach and thinking about all my friends up north who are awaiting yet another winter blizzard. So to cheer us all up a few streaming webcams.

Mission Beach, CA.

Miami Beach, FL.

Palm Beach, FL.

Pink Pony, Alabama Gulf. This one has controls. You can actually zoom in close enough to almost identify people walking on the beach.

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Tea Party brewing bitter battle for 2012

As destructive as I think this is to good governance, can't help but indulging in a wee bit of schadenfreude over seeing Republicans reap what they sowed.
Leaders of more than 70 Tea Party groups in Indiana gathered last weekend to sign a proclamation saying they would all support one candidate — as yet undetermined — in a primary challenge to Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Republican who has represented the state since 1977.
Also on the Tea Party hit list are Olympia Snowe and Orrin Hatch, all for failing to pass the "true conservative" purity test.

The GOPers were laughing when they roused the ill-defined rage within the Town Hall mobs with their clever sloganery and outright lies against the Democrats. I doubt they're finding it quite so amusing now. Lugar is being targeted for "consorting with the enemy." He commited the cardinal sin of working with Democrats on New START, the Dream Act and voting to confirm Sotomayor and Kagan.
“The senator would call it bipartisanship, but we think you’re siding with the other side,” said Greg Fettig, a Tea Party supporter in Indiana.

Another, Mark Holwager, said, “He may have been a conservative at one time, but he definitely leans to the left now.”
Seems the only option left for Republicans who want to stay in office is to jump on the train to Crazytown or get ridden out of town on a rail. Helluva choice.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Little Egypt

Reading the headlines but not following the Egypt protests closely. I can't really deal with the "mania of the moment" aspect of the discourse. But everyone else is talking about it. A lot.

Of course, if I did feel like delving into it, I'd be reading Steve Hynd at Newshoggers. He's my go-to guy for unspinning the narrative on foreign policy.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Do as I say, not as I do

Here's a precious bit of historical hypocrisy. It seems Ayn Rand was a "heavy smoker who refused to believe smoking caused lung cancer." She ultimately died of the disease but here's the interesting part:
An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand's law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand's behalf she secured Rand's Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O'Connor (husband Frank O'Connor).

As Pryor said, "Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out" without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn "despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently... She didn't feel that an individual should take help."
As the author points out, but at least she hewed to acting in her own self-interest right to the end. And come to think of it, the lying and the hypocrisy still make her eligible to forever remain the far right's role model. Hell, all their biggest heroes do it.
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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Wuss Factor

Building a bit on the post below, as Ezra points out, much of this alleged Senate rules reform is based on mere handshake agreements. There aren't penalities for failing to honor the terms and the wuss factor is high. There's a reason they Reid didn't exercise the "constitutional option":
...Democrats were unable to rally enough votes for those measures among Democrats who feared retaliation from Republicans.
Therein lies the other big part of the problem. I have no faith in vague GOP promises. Seriously, does anybody really think if McConnell was Senate leader, and he really wanted to kill the filibuster, that he wouldn't ram it through? It's not like the Dems haven't proved time and again that they'll allow the GOPers to bully them into submission.

Filibuster reform is off the table because neither side of the old guard pols really want to give it up, or be forced to actually show up on the floor to stage a real one. Republican obstructionism on the other hand is most probably just simmering in a warming dish on the side bar. I have no doubt they'll be dishing it back out as soon as they see an advantage to it.

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Forget Filibuster Reform

A few weeks ago, the media reported Harry Reid was "open to filibuster reform." Maybe he really said it out loud. I was pretty sure at the time it was bluster and, sadly, I was right about Harry:
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced a series of rules changes for the Senate on which he struck an agreement with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), among them an agreement to not seek changes to the filibuster or other rules. [...]

The reforms include an end to secret holds, a reduction in the number of presidential nominations subject to the lengthy Senate confirmation process, an end to mandatory readings for amendments if they've been publicly available for at least three days, an agreement by Republicans to limit their filibusters of motions to begin debate, and an agreement by Democrats to limit instances in which they "fill the tree" — or limit the number of amendments Republicans can put to a given piece of legislation.
I guess it's better than nothing, but this is what I mean when I say the problem is old guard Dems as much as the current incarnation of the GOP. It's not about policy as much as process. Both are equally averse to any big changes in their elite little club. Their cozy set of rules work to facilitate outcomes that keep the corporate campaign money pouring in.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The silence on the sham

Very interesting. I rarely get no response to a post at DetNews. If nothing else, when they can't refute the facts, they attack the source. Seems I stunned them into silence with this poser:
So far I'm very clear on what [the GOP] wants to destroy. But can anyone tell me what exactly the Republicans want to create? I mean, where is their jobs plan?
The lack of response speaks volumes. I guess I need to ask that question more often.

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GOP 2012 field grows like the corn in Kansas

Looks like it going to be another cycle where there are so many GOP hopefuls we won't be able to remember them all. But a few will stand out, for their sheer crazy if nothing else. Though there aren't any actually declared candidacies yet, think it's clear Bachmann has been testing the waters for a while and her "Official Tea Party Response" to the SOTU was a pretty big signal that's she's in.

Today I see, Jim DeMint coyly demurring on chasing the dream into the heart of the corn belt. Even more amusing, or terrifying depending on your POV, is Sharron Angle's apparent interest as she joins a raft of other fringe wannabes.

I'm already losing track. Off the top of my head, we have Thune, Huckabee, Mittens, Pawlenty, Giuliani, Barbour, Newt, Santorum, Mitch Daniels and some fringe mutterings about drafting Pence or Bolton. All that's missing is Christine O'Donnell.

And no, I'm not going to mention the Yukon Grifter. Even if no one else can quit The Quitter, I'm holding to the embargo through the end of February unless she does something truly newsworthy. Idiotic spewings don't count.

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Breaking: Tax cuts for billionaires adds to the deficit

Quote of the day goes to Steve Benen's response to the GOP's feigned outrage about the CBO's new deficit projection, which has unsurprisingly risen in light of the tax break for rich people deal made in the lame duck session last year.
If Republicans didn't want a higher deficit, they shouldn't have fought so hard to make it worse. They had a choice -- expensive tax breaks or deficit reduction. They made their choice, were told what the consequences would be, and are now stunned by the realization that the rules of arithmetic haven't been suspended by the GOP's force of will.
Meanwhile, Kevin Drum has the pretty chart to illustrate the point. Sadly, even empirical evidence and actual numbers won't crack the cognitive dissonance of those who really want it to be Obama and the Democrats fault.

This is why we're so screwed up right now. You can't have an adult conversation about solutions without the adults, and they're just aren't any on the far right anymore.

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Never forget - Brisenia Flores

It's a sad fact of our infotainment "news" delivery service that only missing white girls get coverage:
You've heard all about Christina Green, but do you know about Brisenia Flores? Like Christina, Brisenia was 9 years old, and she also lived in Pima County, Arizona, not far from Tucson. Like Christina, she was gunned down in cold blood by killers with strange ideas about society and politics. [...]

As her mother tells it, 9-year-old Brisenia Flores had begged the border vigilantes who had just broken into her house, "Please don't shoot me."

But they did -- in the face at point-blank range, prosecutors allege, as Brisenia's father sat dead on the couch and her mother lay on the floor, pretending that she too had been killed in the gunfire.
The perps were a crazy Minuteman woman, stoked into action by attending a Tea Party rally and her unhinged Aryan Nation type partner. This sounds familiar doesn't it?
"This is the time for all Americans to join organizations and REVOLT!!!," she wrote in a blog post that was retrieved from the Google cache by Lemons. "Refuse to be part of a system only designed to enslave you and your children. Times will be worse before they get worse. *Say no to illegal immigration* Lock and Load, Shawna Forde."
Brisenia Flores is course Hispanic. The President didn't speak at her funeral. The major news networks barely mentioned her in passing. Even now, with Forde on trial for the murders, it's not getting much play outside the blogs. Of course, if Brisenia was a white girl we would have seen the JonBenet Ramsey treatment. And if the defendant was Hispanic or other person of color who shot a white child in cold blood, one expects it would be a matter of great interest to our TV mavens. Because that fits their standard narrative.

The disparity is sad and so very wrong.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bachmann not ready for her close-up - Updated

I watched Michele Bachmann's SOTU reponse and Axelrod's gentle joke captures the most glaring weirdness.
"Am I looking at the right camera?" Axelrod joked during an appearance on MSNBC, referencing Bachmann's video.
At The Caucus, Alessandra defines the general ambience:
Representative Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party leader, didn’t bring a “prom date” to the State of the Union address, she didn’t wear the ribbon corsage and she crashed the after party known as the official Republican response. When Ms. Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, addressed the nation with her own, more alarmist assessment of its state, she seemed almost like the telekinetic high school heroine of “Carrie.”
With the overdone eye makeup, I found it a bit more campy. First thing I thought of was Elvira and her "so awful they're funny" horror movie show. But it no doubt pleased her fans and that was clearly was her target audience.

I've been thinking for a long time Bachmann wants to usurp Sarah as the pit bull with lipstick candidate. Judging from this performance, she probably has a good shot at it. But watch the video and decide for yourself. Just bizarre but mercifully short.

Update: Octopus checks into comments to note CNN's sorry slide into disrepute. For myself, I pretty much stopped even reading their website when they embedded with the Tea Party Express and they lost their last shred of credibility with me when they hired Erick son of Erick as a legitimate commentator. But it is worth nothing that Tea Party Express is not the Tea Party movement. It's a PAC whose sole purpose seems to be to enrich a GOP operative who runs a PR outfit. Octopus posts the proof at Swashzone.

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Commission's Report Blames the Banksters

You'll recall the GOPers tried to defuse this by issuing their dissent a few weeks ago, but now the official report has been released and it blames the Banksters:
WASHINGTON — The 2008 financial crisis was an “avoidable” disaster caused by widespread failures in government regulation, corporate mismanagement and heedless risk-taking by Wall Street, according to the conclusions of a federal inquiry.

The commission that investigated the crisis casts a wide net of blame, faulting two administrations, the Federal Reserve and other regulators for permitting a calamitous concoction: shoddy mortgage lending, the excessive packaging and sale of loans to investors and risky bets on securities backed by the loans.

“The greatest tragedy would be to accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing could have been done,” the panel wrote in the report’s conclusions, which were read by The New York Times. “If we accept this notion, it will happen again.”
It also knocks down the bulk of the "it's all the fault of Frannie/Freddie and irresponsible borrowers myth" that the GOPers have been relentlessly pushing since the meltdown happened.

Don't expect anything much will come of this but it's good to see some reality injected into the conversation anyway.

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SOTU 2011

I fell asleep about a half hour in so I missed the speeches. Working today so I'll have to catch up transcript later. What I did see I thought was good, if not quite as inspiring as the Tucson speech, but that was a hard act to follow. But in any event, it played well in Peoria, according to this CBS poll, 91 percent approved of Obama's proposals.

Looking at the reactions, consenus seems to be the official GOP response by Paul Ryan was boring and he failed to mention his famous roadmap that calls for privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

Really sorry I missed crazy-eyed Michele Bachmann's response. I'm hearing it was a major train wreck and filled with inaccuracies, or as we like to call them around here -- bald faced lies. The most interesting part is while her speech was endorsed by the corporate sponsored Tea Party Express, the independent Tea Party Patriots were pissed that she was being touted as giving the "official Tea Party response. They say she doesn't speak for them. Hope that one gets youtubed. I really want to see her delivery.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why Republicans win - Updated

There was some buzz yesterday was about how the GOPers, after only 19 days in power, are already claiming their takeover of the House is responsible for the improving economy. These are the same people who have been claiming the economic crash is all Obama's fault from before he even took office. Neither cause and effect, nor linear time appear to have any meaning in their world.

The Republicans have this down to an art. They shift the blame for the disasters they cause and take the credit for successes they had nothing to do with. And they get away with it because they don't back down. Not ever. Not even when the empirical evidence proves they're unrepentant liars.

The Democrats can't seem to counter this strategy effectively. I'd like to think it's because their conscience just won't let them lie with impunity, but this is DC and Kevin Drum raises an important point that the establishment Dems can't seem to get.
As for the broader electorate, they don't care much about generic economic growth either. They care about their own paychecks. This means that if Democrats want to win them over, they need to support policies that support economic growth and channel that growth largely toward the working and middle classes. Those are separate challenges, but without them both an agenda dedicated to economic growth won't really do us much good.
My friend Jay Ackroyd would argue it's because today's Democratic party doesn't want to win the fight since their agendas are virtually the same. I don't think he's wrong about that, at least in terms of the old guard establishment. But the emphasis is on old here. The old guard is aging out of power. The stubborn optimist in me still sees some hope that the next generation of Democrats might really try to bring the party back to its populist roots.

Update: Jay Ackroyd of the fabulous Blog Talk Radio show Virtually Speaking checks into comments to say I've mistaken his position. I urge you to read his comment because he makes some excellent additional points, but to be clear, I don't think the Obama administration's agenda is the same as the GOP. However, I do believe the old guard CorporaDems are pretty much on the same page as the GOP. Which is what I think prevents Obama from pushing for more progessive liberal policy.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

If called, Biden will serve

Oh, how happy it would have made me to have been in this pool.
Mr. Biden’s office announced his jury duty in an e-mail message, which read, “The Vice President will participate in the standard jury selection process in his capacity as a private citizen.” [...]

“I don’t consider myself different than any other person,” Biden told The News Journal. “It is an honor to be a part of the system.”
Unlike most people, I've always wanted to be on a jury. Once I actually got as far as sitting in the jury box but the prosecutor recognized me and struck me on pre-empt. In my work for local defense lawyers, I was a regular around the courthouse. Ironically, one of partners in my law firm was actually seated in a criminal trial. Apparently they didn't recognize her because she's a divorce attorney and the courthouses are separate.

But mostly, my jury experience had been more like Justice Kagan. I've been summoned probably a dozen or so times in my life but I've never been called to serve. Thinking if it ever happened, it couldn't get any cooler than being seated on the same jury as Biden.

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Sanctity of Life

Shorter ""Pro-lifers": Ban medically safe abortions and sanctify forced pregnancies or we're going to kill you. [Roy Edroso has the longer.]

Of course the sanctity of life stops at the womb. No way they want those "dead beat" poor kids to get health care or free lunch at school after they're born.

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Court rejects Rahm's run

I think we can safely assume Rahm's immediate reaction to this news was unprintable. In a move that appears to have taken nearly everyone by surprise, Rahm has been told he can't run:
Rahm Emanuel was thrown off the ballot for mayor of Chicago today by an appellate court panel, a stunning blow to the fund-raising leader in the race.

An appellate panel ruled 2-1 that Emanuel did not meet the residency standard to run for mayor.
Of course, Rahm "who has been a front-runner both in polls and in fund-raising in the race" can't have been completely taken unawares:
The question of Mr. Emanuel’s residency — and whether he had lived in Chicago long enough to appear on the city’s ballot — had been a matter of debate since Mr. Emanuel departed the White House last fall to run for mayor.
So much for the vaunted power of the Chicago political machine. If it was really that all powerful and with Rahm being Daley's chosen heir, this would never have happened. He will of course appeal to the state Supreme Court.

I'm rooting for him to win. The race will barely be worth watching without Mr. Emanuel's colorful candidacy.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Don't blame Obama for Gitmo

McClatchy posts an article today, How Congress helped thwart Obama's plan to close Guantanamo. Excuse me, but "helped"? They're totally responsible for Gitmo still being in existence today. Let's review:
...Congress' prohibition on resettling any of the detainees in the United States hamstrung the administration's global search for countries willing to take the captives in. [...]

"Were we willing to take a couple of detainees ourselves, it would've made the job of moving detainees out of Guantanamo significantly easier,'' said the official, who agreed to speak only anonymously because of the delicacy of the diplomacy.
This is one of the lefty criticisms of Obama I've never understood. He tried to close it. Few seem to remember "two days after taking the oath of office, on Jan. 22, 2009, Obama signed an executive order instructing the military to close Guantanamo within a year." Then the GOPers, amplified by the media, started the knee quaking about bring those "dangerous terrorists" onto the sacred soil of the Homeland. Instead of calling them out as big sissies and pointing out their Commander Guy is the one who created this mess, the Democrats joined them in misplaced, pissy-pants paranoia.

There are many legitimate reasons to criticize Obama's handling of military policies bequeathed to him by the neo-cons, but I don't see Gitmo as being one of them.

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Clarence Thomas forgets his spouse

After all the years I worked in the law business, I actually didn't know that "the Supreme Court is 'the only judicial body in the country that is not governed by a set of judicial ethical rules.'" It appears that they could use one. Or at least some *cough* conservative *cough* justices could. I mean it's difficult to see how this could possibly be an inadvertent omission by Clarence Thomas. Seriously, did he forget Ginni was his wife?
Virginia Thomas earned over $680,000 from conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation over five years, a group says. But Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas did not include it on financial disclosure forms.
We're talking five years in a row here and we can add the last reporting period when he also reported her income as none. Seems hard to believe she spent so much time organizing and leading the Tea Party group Liberty Central for free.

By law, Thomas is supposed to disclose sources of spousal income, but I won't be holding my breath waiting for him to suffer some penalty for it. I suppose he'll be forced to amend his reports though and maybe we'll get to find out how much Liberty Central paid for a direct pipeline to SCOTUS. So there's that...

[Big thanks to Jon Perr filling in for Mike for the kind link. Be sure to check out his own blog Perrspectives.]

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saving Social Security

This is a bit of heartening news. Greg tells us House progressives sent a sternly worded letter to Obama suggesting he use the SOTU to declare support for protecting Social Security.
The letter, which was sent over by a source, represents the clearest shot across the bow yet from House Dems on Social Security, and suggests that the left is gearing up for a big fight in the event that Obama signals openness to cuts to the program, as some expect him to do.

In the letter, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, along with 31 other Dems, argue that Obama has a unique opportunity to frame the issue by positioning himself as the keeper of the "promise of Social Security." They ask him to place himself in opposition to "radical" Republicans who are hell-bent on dismantling the program, and request a meeting to discuss how Obama and Dems will handle the issue in the 112th Congress.
Damn straight. If the Democratic Party doesn't stand for fully protecting a program they fought to enact and to preserve for all these decades, then they stand for nothing. Social Security is the signature accomplishment in the history of the party. The storm of lefty criticism over his real and perceived policy mistakes over the last two years will look like a gentle rain shower compared to the tsunami of discontent that will roar across the land if he caves even a little into the right wing narrative on this issue.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Obligatory Olbermann post

I confess I am not a Keith Olbermann fan. While I admired his work for the most part, especially during the Bush years, I've always found his style abrasive. I found his delivery as arrogant and smug as Chuck Todd. Pure nails on the blackboard. Even when I still had cable I didn't watch the show, but I did make it a point to read the transcripts of his Special Commentary segments and often linked to them.

I'm not that shocked to see he's been dumped. And contrary to some of the speculation I've seen that this was a mutual decision, I don't think that's true. It's telling that he was suspended on that bogus political contribution thing just after Comcast and NBC struck a deal to merge and now the day after the merger went through, he's suddenly out. Also, if you read the transcript of Olbermann's abrupt farewell, this line stands out:
I think the same fantasy popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I have been told -- "this will be the last edition of your show."
Maybe he did choose to quit because the management told he had to tone it down or something, but this still looks and feels like a direct result of the merger to me.

But for whatever reason, he's gone. I won't necessarily miss his voice, in the literal sense, but I will very much miss his words and his insights. Even when I disagreed with him, he was a thoughtful analyst and a courageous commentator. So yeah, he will be missed.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Gee, thanks - Updated

I don't have a big tracking system for my blogs and don't always have time to check my sitemeter referrals so I often miss links. But I happened to catch Harry and Helen Highwater of Unknown News saying something nice about me behind my back.
I nominate Libby Spencer as Secretary of the Treasury, as this brief piece demonstrates a better understanding of basic economics than I've seen from anyone in the Obama administration.
Thanks. Blushing with gratitude for the sweet props.

Also thanks to Gary Farber for the kind link. That was very sweet of you, Gary.

Update: I really should check more often so I can properly thank my detractors. Just did a quick google and found lots of critics who've linked to me in the last eighteen months or so. Couple of fresh ones though. Rick Moran name checks me in a post at David Horowitz' Front Page magazine about Rep. Cohen's Nazi analogy. And earlier in the month National Journal jumps on my DetNews post pointing out polling shows most Americans actually do think the rich could pay a bit more in taxes. Who knew they were even reading me?

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Tea Party Takeover

The establishment GOPers created the Tea Party monster. Now they're finding it out they have to live with it. It would be funny, if it wasn't so dangerous. Tea Party insurgents are set to take control of the party machine in New Hampshire. The frontrunner walked it back some, but already is talking about litmus tests for 2012 hopefuls.

Chris Christie is beset by the right wing jihadists for daring to appoint a -- gasp -- Muslim to the bench.

In Arizona, Tea Party discontents threaten to depose Sheriff Dupnik because he dared to suggest the state has been overrun by hot-headed hooligans.

And I'm too lazy to look it up, but I'm pretty sure I predicted Michelle Bachman would make a play to replace Sarah as the Tea Party Barbie Doll candidate. Willing to predict now that she might succeed.

The establishment GOPers thought they were being so clever when they drummed up the anti-big gummit anger. Maybe they thought they could control the rage and direct it solely towards Democrats. They told the Tea Party, they are the majority of real 'Murkins. The TPs believe it as gospel now and demand the establishment dance to their tune. And just like in the Wild West when the mean cowboy makes the town drunk dance, these people have guns.

Anticipating the next two years are going to really horrible. But at least it will be interesting to watch the old guard GOPers have to swallow the bitter drink they brewed.

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Finally - No Palin February - Updated

I don't know what they did with the real Dana "dickwhisperer" Milbank but this is the third column in a month that didn't make me retch. In fact, I'm totally with Milbank on this:
But today is the first day of the rest of my life. And so, I hereby pledge that, beginning on Feb 1, 2011, I will not mention Sarah Palin - in print, online or on television - for one month. Furthermore, I call on others in the news media to join me in this pledge of a Palin-free February. With enough support, I believe we may even be able to extend the moratorium beyond one month, but we are up against a powerful compulsion, and we must take this struggle day by day. [...]

It's impossible, I figured, because Palin is a huge source of cheap Web clicks, television ratings and media buzz. If any of us refused to partake of her Facebook candy or declined to use her as blog bait, we would be sending millions of Web surfers, readers, viewers and listeners to our less scrupulous competitors. [...]

And so I pledge to you: Sarah Palin's name will not cross my lips - or my keyboard - for the entire month of February. Who's with me?
Of course, up until this week, I've been on board with this pledge for months now. But considering Josh Marshall's recent excuses for covering Palin, I don't have much hope it's going to work, or even that Milbank will stick to the pledge. It's all about the click$$$.

Update: Dana's pledge got more attention than I expected. In comments, Southern Beale says she'll join the embargo. Democratic Daily and Outside the Beltway are in. The Nation is out. They want the clicks. Andrew Sullivan is unsurprisingly out. I didn't think he can kick his Palin addiction and neither does he. Meanwhile, our favorite marsupial, skippy, is in and created a great logo.

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What Obama "should" do

I've come to loathe the "what Obama should do" genre of punditry. The advice is often unrealistic and inevitably contradictory. It's only value in my mind is to point up how being President is really a horrible job. There's simply no way to balance such conflicting demands.

That being said, this wish list of "what Obama should say" in the SOTU is interesting. I'm going with this one:
Adam Green, co-founder, Progressive Change Campaign Committee: “He should use the State of the Union to draw a firm line in the sand against any reduction of the Social Security benefits that American workers earned, paid for, and do not want to see cut. Then he should offer a progressive vision for creating jobs and fighting for middle class families over big corporations.”
Not holding my breath waiting for it to happen. At this point I'm just hoping he doesn't parrot the "fiscal conservatives" talking point about how Social Security is going to ruin us unless it's "fixed." And I don't want to hear anything about "hard choices" unless he's talking about military spending.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Not missing Joe at all

I was just thinking the other night that I'm so old, I remember when Joe Lieberman was my state Senator. If memory serves, he was always an insufferable prima donna, looking for the limelight. That aside, I don't have much else to say about him but Gail Collins farewell to Holy Joe is worth reading today. It starts like this:
On Wednesday, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut announced that he won't be a candidate for re-election in 2012. Normally people look particularly appealing when they're promising to go away. This time, not so much.
Seriously, read the rest. It's funny because it's true.

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Blame Atrios, not Obama

The breathless headline is catchy. "Michelle Obama's 'Get Moving' Program Linked to Pedestrian Deaths". But don't click that link to Mark Levin's pathetic attempt to turn his trash into traffic treasure. TBogg translates perfectly with his trademark snark.

The basic story is the Governors Highway Safety Association is just appalled that "after four straight years of steady declines, pedestrian deaths were up during the first six months of 2010, the latest figures available to be studied." They darkly surmise the First Lady's program to get people to exercise more is putting them in danger as they embrace her call to pedestrianism.

James Joyner takes an academic approach and checks the actual stats and gives us the horrifying rise in the death toll. According to the report, "1,891 pedestrians were killed in the first six months of 2010, up from 1,884 in the same period in 2009." OMG, that's "a 0.4 percent increase" or in other words (counting on my fingers) 7 more deaths.

Of course, this mayhem is wrongly being pinned on Michelle Obama. I mean who listens to her anyway? This tragedy clearly needs to laid at the feet of Atrios. If it wasn't for his diabolical campaign to make everyone move to Manhattan, give up their cars and take mass transit, none of this would have happened. Clearly these victims are being mowed down on their way to bus stops and subway stations.

On a totally unrelated note, I have a suggestion for prissy men who are offended by boobs. Newsflash guys. Those "twin turbos" are not generally removable. Next time try looking at her face instead of her chest.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An apt (Nazi) analogy - Updated

All analogies are not created equal. Sometimes nothing else is more apt than a Nazi analogy and that would seem to be the case with Rep. Steve Cohen's analogy on GOP lies about healthcare. Watch the video, because the voice inflection matters, but here's a transcript:
“They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels," Cohen said. "You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That's the same kind of thing."

“The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it--believed it and you have the Holocaust. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care. Politifact said the biggest lie of 2010 was a government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover," Cohen said.
So what did he say that wasn't true? The Republicans are telling Goebbels sized lies. Goebbels lied and millions died. The GOP is lying and the end result if they're successful, is millions will die for lack of health care. What is that if not a stealth, slow motion Holocaust for the uninsured?

And seriously. Watch Cohen's entire speech [via]. Cohen's words weren't spoken in anger. He was giving voice to the genuine concerns of the voiceless. Really not seeing the reason for the mass hurlings onto the fainting couch. This looks like just another ginned up media outrage to slake the news hole.

Update: Cohen is not backing down. Good for him. No reason to apologize. As he points out, he was comparing the tactics, not specifically the people. It's not equivalent to calling them Nazis.

Update: My friend Hart agrees and has much more to say.

[More health reform posts at the Detroit News today.]

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Working Capitol

For those who love insider gossip, this piece on Obama's economic team offers plenty and explains to an extent why the first two years were such a policy disaster. I read it as a validation of much of the lefty criticism of his picks.

If you're pressed for time, this shorter version captures the essence of the personality conflicts among Obama's advisors. I especially liked these two bits:
Mr. Baker writes that the president’s economic team “fractured repeatedly over philosophy (should jobs or deficits take priority?) and personality (who got to attend which meetings?), resulting in feuds that ultimately helped break it apart.” [...]

“To some of his colleagues, Summers was an eye-rolling intellectual bully,” Baker writes. “‘He’s much better at telling you why you’re stupid than creating a system that can produce usable policy solutions,’ said one Obama adviser, who, like others, did not want to be named criticizing Summers. At meetings, colleagues with differing viewpoints felt the full force of his capacity for finding flaws in their reasoning.”
I always thought the odious Mr. Summers was Obama's worst choice and the sluggish pace of recovery confirms the wrong people won the jobs versus deficit debate. Which suggests if Obama had only listened to the hippies, we would be a much different place right now.

It's not too late yet but, time is running out.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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The "mystery" of the jobless recovery

NYT tells me the experts are confounded by this conundrum:
Alone among the world’s economic powers, the United States is suffering through a deep jobs slump that can’t be explained by the rest of the economy’s performance. [...]

Economists are now engaged in a spirited debate, much of it conducted on popular blogs like Marginal Revolution, about the causes of the American jobs slump. Lawrence Katz, a Harvard labor economist, calls the full picture “genuinely puzzling.”
Well here's a couple of clues from the same piece:
Just consider the main measure of corporate health: profits. In Canada, Japan and most of Europe, corporate profits have still not recovered to precrisis levels. In the United States, profits have more than recovered, rising 12 percent since late 2007. [...]

...a greatly shrunken group of American workers, working harder and more efficiently, is producing these goods and services.
I'm not a big time econoexpert but not seeing why it's so damned difficult to connect the dots here. Mega-corporations are building enormous profits by cutting their workforces and compelling remaining workers, under threat of losing their jobs, to do the work of two or three people for the same amount of pay, often accompanied by reduced benefits.

The mega-corps aren't using these profits to expand and create new jobs. They're using the money to make more money -- for themselves. They buy back their own stocks. They pass it out freely to their execs via obscene bonus packages. Those execs don't spend that money here. They tend to invest it in foreign vehicles that offer bigger returns and then they avoid contributing their fair share to the national revenues by stashing the dough in offshore accounts and other tax dodging schemes.

And I'm not the only one who noticed that the biggest winners in this "recovery" are the financial industry "wizards" who crashed the economy in the first place and sent the majority of the population into a downward spiral of ever increasing economic insecurity at best and flat out poverty at worst.

You don't to be a high paid economist to see the obvious solution. An economy that depends on consumerism won't recover unless more people have money to spend. So quit coddling the 1%ers at the top and find ways to put money in the pockets of Americans who will spend it on goods and services -- in America.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bomb threat thwarted in Spokane

Story is just breaking now so reports are sketchy but it appears there was a serious bomb attempt in Washington state yesterday.
A backpack bomb with the potential of killing or injuring dozens of people was found Monday along the route of a Martin Luther King Day “unity march” in downtown Spokane, Wash., authorities said today.
Gratefully, the bomb was discovered and neutralized well before it could cause mass mayhem.

Don't want to jump to any hasty conclusions but that the bomb was planted along a MLK parade route does make it seem likely we'll be adding this incident to Digby's list.

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Lieberman leaving the race

I loathe posting unsourced rumors but this one is likely to be true. Joe Liberman is leaving the Senate. He's expected to announce his retirement tomorrow. According to an unnamed person who is close to the Senator, Lieberman "chose to retire rather than risk being defeated."

Don't need to be a soothsayer to see he is in significant danger of defeat. His polling numbers are in the tank and he already has one official opponent. Former Democratic secretary of state Susan Bysiewicz announced her candidacy today. There will be more and the Tea Party Wrestling Woman, Linda McMahon, is said to be toying with running again on the GOP side.

Makes sense for Joe to make a gracious exit and go out on top. In a respectable amount of time he can quietly slip through the revolving door and use his decades worth of contacts to land a corporate job at an obscene salary. Giving up the spotlight will be tough for him I think, but betting he'll make enough money taking corporate welfare for working behind the scenes to take the sting out of it.

Meanwhile, it will be very interesting to see how he handles his last year in office.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

McCain's Lament

To be fair this is probably the most gracious op-ed McCain has ever written. Most people are quoting the positive remarks he made about President Obama being a real American with the best interests of the country at heart. But much of it still falls into whiny old codger territory. Like this bit:
Political leaders are not and cannot reasonably be expected to be indifferent to the cruelest calumnies aimed at their character. Imagine how it must feel to have watched one week ago the incomprehensible massacre of innocents committed by someone who had lost some essential part of his humanity, to have shared in the heartache for its victims and in the admiration for those who acted heroically to save the lives of others - and to have heard in the coverage of that tragedy voices accusing you of complicity in it.
Yes John, let's just imagine. I'm sure the poverty stricken people whose safety net your party relentlessly attempts to shred will be able to relate to being falsely accused of being too coddled. All those unemployed Americans who listen to Republicans refuse to extend benefits to them on the grounds they're too lazy to look for work, or too proud to take menial minimum wage jobs, can surely empathize with unfair accusations. And the millions more who won't be able to afford health insurance once your party passes the repeal of "job killing" health care reform are just waiting in line to soothe your hurt feelings over the grossly insulting suggestion that perhaps false rhetoric which demonizes political opponents contributes to a toxic social environment.

On a vaguely related and lighter note, the Republican National Committee chose Reince Priebus as their new leader. I have a feeling he won't be nearly as entertaining as Steele was but the funny name lends itself to some dry humor. As pointed out to me by my friend Jeffram, who didn't originate it but passed it on; if you take the vowels out of his name, it spells RNC PR BS. Yeah it's a cheap shot, but it is kind of funny in a painfully apt sort of way.

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Logic doesn't live here anymore

I'm frequently appalled by the low regard you Earthmen have for life. ~Spock: The Galileo Seven
Krugman continues on his nearly futile mission to inject some reality into our political discourse. I doubt he will ever be able to crack through the cognitive dissonance that forms the bedrock of the GOP base, but you have to give him a lot of credit for trying. He takes on the upcoming health care repeal madness today and it's worth reading in full but I do have a bit of a quibble with this point:
We are, I believe, witnessing something new in American politics. Last year, looking at claims that we can cut taxes, avoid cuts to any popular program and still balance the budget, I observed that Republicans seemed to have lost interest in the war on terror and shifted focus to the war on arithmetic. But now the G.O.P. has moved on to an even bigger project: the war on logic.
I'm not sure it's all that new. What has defined the GOP agenda more than outrageously false bombast delivered to the base with self righteous certainty? It has served them very well since they were thrown out of power. Logic would ruin the narrative. But this is an important point that is often overlooked.
And it’s not about the money. As I tried to explain in my last column, the modern G.O.P. has been taken over by an ideology in which the suffering of the unfortunate isn’t a proper concern of government, and alleviating that suffering at taxpayer expense is immoral, never mind how little it costs.

Given that their minds were made up from the beginning, top Republicans weren’t interested in and didn’t need any real policy analysis — in fact, they’re basically contemptuous of such analysis, something that shines through in their health care report. All they ever needed or wanted were some numbers and charts to wave at the press, fooling some people into believing that we’re having some kind of rational discussion. We aren’t.
Sadly, as the DFHs at Eschaton might say, using rational discussion and the GOP in the same sentence assumes facts not in evidence Dr. Krugman.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gulf Coast Syndrome

I read this article and the first thing I thought of was all those thousands of dead birds and fish that were in the news a couple of weeks ago. I've been wondering since then if people are still getting sick from dispersant exposure. It appears they are:
"People who can afford the 300-dollar blood tests have found alarming rates of chemicals in their bodies, and these people are concerned and doing what they can to speak out," she said. "But they feel they can't wait for Congress or Obama to address this, because they need doctors and support now in the communities."

LaTosha Brown, director of the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health, which works with 250 community groups, agreed that "the key concern expressed by the community in response to the report is the overwhelming need for access to health care."
In fact, they're not just sick. They're already starting to die.
There is bruising and skin lesions, not just with clean-up workers, these are residents not involved in the clean-up," Bradberry told IPS. "Just yesterday I learned of five people on Grand Isle who passed away…people who did not have health problems prior to this. Nevertheless, there has not been any talk of monitoring of these communities."
There's no reason not to set up a monitoring system and every reason to do so since so little is known about the long term effects of exposure. Years from now, when enough medical anomalies have accumulated, I bet they'll call it Gulf Coast Syndrome. And many will deny its existence, just like Agent Orange and DU exposure and Gulf War Syndrome.

Meanwhile, the victims shouldn't expect any immediate help from the current conservative majority in the House. They're too busy repealing insurance reform so that even more people end up without any health care.

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How to create a climate of hate

Frank Rich weighs in on the effect of hate speech on crazy people and notes that Gabrielle Gifford's prescient interview with Chuck Todd was ignored at the time and hasn't been understood in context in the aftermath of her shooting. Rich recalls the atmosphere that surrounded the creation of Palin's crosshairs map and her companion tweet to "reload." He goes on to say:
Have politicians stoked the pre-Loughner violence by advocating that citizens pursue “Second Amendment remedies” or be “armed and dangerous”? We don’t know. What’s more disturbing is what Republican and conservative leaders have not said. Their continuing silence during two years of simmering violence has been chilling.
Well I spent the last few hours reviewing the archives and they had plenty to say in that week. Watching the GOPers rally the Tea Party protesters with outright lies on the steps of the Capitol was still just as horrifying as it was in the moment. The repeated claims of a government takeover of health care. Michele Bachmann's claims that she kept upping to the point where she claimed 100% of of our economy was private before Obama became president and he had already taken over 51% of it with a tyrannical power grab. And the featuring of far right opinion makers like Mark Levin to issue dire warnings about the loss of freedom.

Then came the actual vote the next day where the Republicans incited the protesters from the balcony of the Capitol. They waved signs saying "Kill the Bill" but most notable was Iowa GOPer Steve King holding up a Pelosi poster and really played to the angry mob:
He first gave a "thumbs down" sign. Then, King wiped his hand across her face. That was followed by a slapping motion in front of Pelosi's picture. [Truncated video here]
This is the same Rep. Steve King who later suggested that the guy who flew a plane into an IRS building in Austin was essentially justified. Meanwhile, inside the chambers, the Republicans cheered drunken hecklers who were disrupting the proceedings. In the days that followed, there were many calls for violence and incidents of vandalism. The leading voices of the far right made excuses, as did their media arm and their internet apologists.

And just as in the wake of the assassination attempt on Rep. Giffords, the Tucson Tea Party chair blamed her for the shooting, back then the Republicans countered claims that were fomenting violence by claiming it was the Democrats talking about the GOP's irresponsible rhetoric that was actually the cause.

Even if we'll never be able to draw a straight line between any one of these instances, and these are just from one week, it's difficult to argue that the cumulative effect of this sort of rhetoric over months on end didn't create a climate of hate in which violent ideation thrives. Nonetheless, that's exactly what I expect them to do.

The far right is one trick pony. They've followed Hannah Giles advice for years. "Attack. Attack. Attack. Never defend." Sadly, considering their current response to the tragedy in Tucson, it appears they don't feel the need to learn a new one. Which doesn't bode well for any kind of new honesty in DC. If a the massacre in Tucson didn't shake them into introspection or engender even a modicum of self-awareness, there is little hope anything will.

[Thanks Mike]

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Teabaggers and the Democrat Party

I'm not a big fan of his, but Bill Maher makes a good point here. I only know that because I read the transcript. I stopped watching him years ago because I don't really like that sort of confrontational infotainment any more than Robert Stein does.

It's not necessary and it distracts from the messaging if the intent is to influence the debate beyond reaching, and preaching to, a target audience. The greater truth, which is the Founding Fathers were Liberals and would not have supported the present day Tea Party, is going to be lost on the audience that needs to internalize it the most, because Maher insists on persisting with the teabagger meme.

Yes, they named themselves, but they've been embarassed enough by it. I don't see a whole lot of difference between that and the GOPers insistence on using Democrat Party. I know I'm being too preachy but just saying, if we become like them, don't the terrorists win -- or something?

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Eleventy dimensional tiddly winks

I really want to believe that this a super-secret fiendish plan to get lefties to call that goofy Gateway Pundit Guy a dunderhead so he can point out how uncivil we are. I mean nobody is that stupid, are they?

Or are they? Sad to see Ed Driscoll bite on this one and can only assume he's being wilfully obtuse. He used to have much higher standards.

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Uncanny resemblance

Getting off to a slow start today so a quick linkfest to kick myself into gear. Starting with this via Avedon. I basically agree with the points raised here about how Obama's speech doesn't negate the problematic aspects of his presidency. However, neither do I think those problems negate the value of the speech. But the reason I'm posting it is I was just floored by the author, her picture on the left. Not only is her nym libbyliberal but we could be twins if we were the same age. I have a photo of myself in exactly that pose. Sadly that one is not in a digital format, but this old one is pretty close. Uncanny, no?

And speaking of uncanny resemblances, this photoshop is startling.

My friend Michael Stickings came up with the photo from the memorial service. The McCains and Obama in Arizona.

Also, as long as we're on the subject, this political cartoon is the best Tucson commentary I've seen.

But to end on a more positive note, this was a pretty picture from the big snowstorm this week up north. Corkscrew hazel tree, with snow. I was surprised at how few there were on twitter. Guess northerners don't get so hyped up by blizzards.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

The Myth of Civility

This is an important point as we try to understand why our society is breaking down. As mistermix points out it's not the incivility, it's the dishonesty. He gets quote of the day:
The reason that hundreds of angry people came to town hall meetings in my Congressional district in 2009, and the reason that police had to be present where they had never been before, wasn’t because someone was “uncivil”. It was because their media heroes and party leaders told them a pack of lies about death panels, federal funding for abortions, Medicare being taken away and free insurance for illegal immigrants. The questions that my Congressman took at those hate-filled meetings weren’t reasonable queries about limited government, deficits and healthcare outcomes. They were questions about why he wanted to kill grandma, let the government pay to abort babies, and take away Medicare.
Actually, they were barely couched as questions. More like red-faced, spittle-flecked taunts and they weren't exactly looking for answers so much as they were to intimidate those damned libruls with their rage.

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TPaw's unsurprising turn-around

"Above all, attack, attack, attack. Never defend." ~Hannah Giles
Breaking my embargo twice in a week to mention her name because I find it very interesting that Pawlenty fiercely defended Palin yesterday.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) kicked off his book tour Thursday with a speech at the National Press Club that included a staunch defense of a potential rival for the GOP nomination — former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Pawlenty slammed Palin critics, who he said made "instant judgments" on the basis of "incomplete facts" in the hours after the Tucson shooting that killed at least six people and critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 13 others.
Why it was only a couple of days ago that the "opinion leaders" of the far right were asking is Pawlenty manly enough to be our man? Insty collected the complaints pushing back on Pawlenty's mild suggestion that in retrospect, maybe Palin pushing her gunsights map wasn't such a great idea. Insty heartily pats this guy on the back:
But he should have anticipated that topic number one would be Tucson, and that if he wants to be held in high regard by the party’s base, he should take advantage of the opportunity to be a hero by standing up to the pathetically weak left-wing narrative.
And The Perfessor taps the martini swilling drunk blogger for their battle cry.
We fight the Left on this and we fight it hard.
The armchair warriors of the 101st Keyboardists are fightin' men dammit. No retreat. No surrender. And it appears Pawlenty heard them loud and clear. Not only did he go on the attack, he threw in DADT repeal as an added penance for his momentary lapse of sanity.

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Straight shooters

I've been thinking about how many of our commonly used expressions use violent imagery. I suppose it's not surprising since our history from the very birth of the nation has been steeped in wars. I used to have a running joke about this particular phrase with a regular customer at the place I bartended. It's all about context really and I suppose there wasn't any deliberate evil intent when this was put up but I'm glad to see this happen all the same:
"Clear Channel Outdoor management in Tucson quickly elected to take down this ad - believing that discussion of its interpretation would not contribute to the desire for healing in the Tucson community," Clear Channel said.

The joke by the way between me and Al was, "You and me pal. We're straight shooters in a corkscrew world." Of course we were talking about beer and a shot of booze.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Obama rekindles hope in Tuscon

If you missed President Obama's memorial tribute in Tuscon last night, it's worth reading in full. Or better yet, watch the video even though it runs a bit long because of the applause.

While most focused on his words, his most bitter critics have been pointing to the applause as somehow disrespectful, likening it to a pep rally. I admit I found it a bit jarring myself, but not because it was misplaced, simply because it was so enthusiatic and so prolonged that it interupted the flow of his speech. No matter, he adjusted his cadence perfectly and maintained the dignity of the moment. In any event, the applause was clearly a release for collective grief and in celebration of the departed they were there to honor.

From beginning to end, Obama's words both comforted and inspired us to put aside our anger and frustrations and hark to our best and kindest impulses. A couple of passages that struck me most deeply:
We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -– but rather, how well we have loved -- (applause)-- and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better. (Applause.)
For me that encapsulates what being a liberal is really about. It's a call for compassion, to seek outcomes for the common good rather than conquests for personal benefit or political power. And his words for the fallen 9 year old didn't leave a dry eye in the house.

Imagine -- imagine for a moment, here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council. She saw public service as something exciting and hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want to live up to her expectations. (Applause.) I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. (Applause.) All of us -– we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations. (Applause.)
Our President gently challenged us last night to employ our words and acts as tools to heal our common bonds as fellow Americans, rather than weapons to widen the partisan rifts between us. I hope that at least some will listen.

Of course, it's impossible not to see the contrast between our President's stirring of our hearts and Palin's pre-emptive strike earlier in the day with the release of her video statement. Where Obama rekindled the light of hope, Palin lobbed another of her IEDs into the discourse. As Michael Shear so succinctly put it, "[Palin's] video statement captured with precision the bubbling anger and resentment that is an undercurrent of the national conversation about our public discourse."

In short, Obama asked us to honor the victims by restoring civility in our discourse, while predictably, Palin used this tragedy to cast herself as the victim and called on her loyalists to keep the cauldron of caustic commentary boiling. As many have said in the last few hours, it left her looking very small and mean in comparison.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Palin's Pogrom

Breaking my Palin embargo, but not to pile on about her tasteless use of "blood libel" to criticize the media for criticizing her. I'm pretty sure she's so uninformed she had no idea about the genesis of the phrase and simply used it because others already did and she liked the sound of it. But since I forced myself to read about Palin's latest gibberish, I'll address a couple of other points.
Ms. Palin quoted former President Ronald Reagan as saying that society should not be blamed for the acts of an individual. She said, “It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”
That is unless the individual in question repeatedly engages in hate speech and violent gun related imagery. Can't be held accountable for that. She has the right to take wild potshots from behind an impenetrable screen. But if anyone points out she's missed her mark, why that's persecution of her free speech. First Amendment baby. No dirty libruls or lamestream media may apply.

No reason to temper the vitrolic rhetoric either.
“We will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults,” she said.
Wait, is she talking about us here, or about her own substantial contribution to creating this climate of hate in which violent ideation thrives? Of course, she doesn't worry about the violence because she's taking her shots from the safety of an undisclosed video studio, in front of a camera, not a live audience.

In fact, does anyone remember the last time she appeared at an unscripted event where she might have to answer questions that weren't pre-screened? I honestly can't. I mean, if she thinks it's so safe out here with the "real 'Murkans" that she enjoys inciting to anger with her garbled "dissents," why does she never exercise her precious free speech rights in open public forums?

And one last thing. After her numerous "jokes" about Obama, one has to wonder if she used a teleprompter for her latest offal offering? Seems likely since I didn't hear she was reading her little diatribe off her hand.

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Worst timed product release ever

In light of the tragic political assassination attempt in Arizona, one might think it would be in extraordinarily bad taste to go ahead and release this tribute to atrociously bad manners. But no:
A South Carolina gun and accessories company is selling semi-automatic rifle components inscribed with “You lie” – a tribute to the infamous words of 2nd District Republican Congressman Joe Wilson when he shouted at President Barack Obama during a congressional speech about national health care reform in the fall of 2009.

“Palmetto State Armory would like to honor our esteemed congressman Joe Wilson with the release of our new ‘You Lie’ AR-15 lower receiver,” reads a portion of the company’s website. [...]

The product “is neither endorsed nor affiliated with Joe Wilson or his campaign,” according to a line of text at the bottom of the page. A picture of Wilson holding a rifle and standing in the company's gun shop appears on the same page. The company offers the components, marked “MULTI to accommodate most builds,” for $99.95 apiece.
Oddly, not seeing that Wilson has made a statement distancing himself from the release. So get 'em while they're hot. The website advises “Only 999 of these will be produced, get yours before they are gone!”

Noticing a 999 theme here. Ironically, 999 has a particular significance:
In numerology, 999 is the point of transformation, an inverted 666, the moment at which we shift a crisis in the direction of an opportunity. In Taoism, this is known as ‘wei-chi’, a Chinese character which means both ‘crisis’ AND ‘opportunity’.
How fitting. They never miss an opportunity to capitalize on the madness of the far right. A cynic might even think that's why their leading spokesmouths and apologists are so desperate to continue cultivating the climate of hate which provokes the anger.

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False equivalency

Shame on you James Taranto. Somehow the false equivalency and deliberately obtuse defense of the toxic rhetoric that's created the conditions encouraging violent acting out by crazy people seems worse when it's in the Wall St. Journal. You can read that tripe for yourself if you want to. I don't recommend wasting the time but since I already did, let me offer a couple of quick rebuttals.

Yes, this most certainly was a political assassination. While the reasons may never be clear, the shooter didn't just randomly wander into a shopping center to commit his pre-mediated murder. He targeted a sitting Congressperson, whom he had been apparently obsessed with for a great many years. That's the very definition of a political assassination and Taranto should be able to grasp that.

As for the "lefties do it too" meme being frantically pushed by every trash talking wingnut in the universe in their desperate attempts to pretend "this has nothing to do with them," it's telling that they have to dig back to 2004 to find some isolated, paltry instances on the left. Whereas, using their criteria, to truly chronicle all the examples of far right eliminationist rhetoric and evocations of gun imagery would take more bandwidth than an entire encyclopedia.

More tellingly, I haven't seen a single one of these irresponsible apologists come up with a related list of violent incidents that can easily and rather directly be linked to their incendiary, and all too often completely false, rhetoric.

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Don't blame Sharron Angle

The far right's denial of complicity in the Arizona assassination was so immediate and remains so fierce one can only surmise it speaks of a extremely guilty conscience. Their desperate attempts to make this just another singular incident by a lone crazy person absent of all external factors is stunning to behold.

I've been laying low, watching the story develop and so far Sharron Angle is one of the most brazen of the "don't blame me" GOPers.
"I have consistently called for reasonable political dialogue on policy issues to encourage civil political education and debate," Angle said in her first statement addressing the fallout from Saturday's attack. "Inappropriately attributing blame of a singular tragedy to achieve a political agenda is contrary to civil discourse, and is a media ploy to which I refuse to belong."
Because really, society couldn't ask for more civil discourse than this:

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

In the moment it may look bad

It's likely the shooter's reasoning won't ever fit into a tidy narrative of direct cause and effect. But his ramblings make clear he was concerned about a tyrannical government and the word tyranny drops easily from the lips of far too many of our politicians and high profile media figures, knowing full well it's just hyperbole designed to advance personal goals.

And while I am reluctant to point fingers, it's clear that the blood is on the media's hands for failing to call out false accusations and over the top hyperbole rather than following their usual M.O. of treating it as just another opinion. "Some say" journalism is as responsibile for this tragedy as anything is. And there may be no better illustration of this than Chuck Todd's response to an interview with Gabrielle Giffords shortly after the health care vote. (If you're in a hurry, start at the 2:10 mark.)



Chuck practically mocks her concern. It's clear in his words and demeanor he thinks she's making too much of "the usual" kind of political bickering. From his chair, this is just all part of a big game. No different than a sports contest. But as many of us had been saying since the campaign of 08 when Palin blithely painted Obama as a "pal of terrorists," this was not the usual kind of politics. It was extreme, misleading, incendiary and was going to end in blood. I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am to have been right in that prediction.

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The Arizona Assassinations

I had a lot to talk about yesterday but of course when I got home from work, and heard about the assassination attempt on Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, other concerns seemed trivial in comparison. Emotions are running high on all sides and the burning question when such tragedies occur is always - why?

It's far too early to pinpoint the exact reason that drove this young man to such extremes but one thing is clear. This was an attempted political assassination, not just a random act of violence by a crazy person. His target was clearly Rep. Giffords who was holding a well publicized, public event to speak with her constituents. But why her? Why now?

I'm trying to avoid the finger pointing, but I've been haunted by these clear facts:
And for those wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist. (Her father says that “the whole Tea Party” was her enemy.) And yes, she was on Sarah Palin’s infamous “crosshairs” list.
It was bitter contest and she won by a slim margin. I'm reluctant to succumb to drawing straight lines between this disturbed kid and the toxic hyperbole that has dominated our political discourse for far too long but one can't help but recall the many GOP and Tea Party candidates who made reference to Second Amendment solutions and armed revolution. And while this kid may well have been a "lone wolf," he is just the latest in a long line of "lone wolves" who committed acts of armed violence in just the last couple years. Via Digby, this list of the bigger instances should at least suggest there's a connection between fomenting anger and fear for political or personal gain and inspiring unstable individuals to act out on it.

Certainly, the local Sheriff sees it that way:
"When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government," he said. "The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on this country is getting to be outrageous and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."
Of course, no one, not even the most virulent partisans actually wishes the end result will be murder. They do mainly stoke the public anger for personal gain, to win ratings or power. However, as the list continues to grow, it's certainly time to admit that false and violent rhetoric can not be carelessly tossed out to the masses without consequences.
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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Heartless

It's enormously frustrating to see the same people who got away with lying about innoccuous end of life planning and equating it with "death panels" then turn around and get away with actually instituting for real death panels. The truly sad part is I suppose conservatives are cheering for this policy because nothing says "fiscally responsible conservative" like sentencing poor people to death.
CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports at least two people have died since November. Mark Price, a father of six, died waiting for a bone marrow transplant. Now the University Medical Center in Tucson says a man needing a new liver died due to the cutbacks.
There are about 100 people who are probably going to die because of Arizona's cutting off funding for transplants for Medicaid recipients. The poorest of the poor. And at what "great" savings?
Campbell says cutting the transplant program is saving Arizona $1.4 million, or one-tenth of 1 percent of its $825 million budget deficit.
But that's the taxpayers money don'tcha know and hell, we can't afford to be keeping these deadbeats alive, can we?

Meanwhile, I'm betting the taxpayers coughed up more than a million on keeping this heartless man alive. And I mean that almost literally.
Mr. Cheney’s heart will never beat at full strength again, doctors say. His new mechanical pump, a partial artificial heart known as a ventricular assist device, leaves patients without a pulse because it pushes blood continuously instead of mimicking the heart’s own beat.
Got that, the man has no pulse. One step away from a zombie and he bled enough money out of his government service connections to pay for his own damn transplant, which he's likely to need soon.

They say the waiting list shows no favoritism, but what do you want to bet Darth boy won't die waiting for one? Also betting not one conservative will complain about their tax dollars paying for this deadbeat.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

GOP Promises

Gosh, those "cut spending" slogans sounded so good during the campaign season. It swept them into office, but now that they're in charge of the purse strings, I've yet to see a single GOPer make even one suggestion for a specific program cut. That most especially includes our new Speaker. When asked the question, John "Big Gavel" Boehner came up empty:
In an interview set to air tonight, NBC’s Brian Williams asked Boehner to name a specific item he’d cut, and Boehner couldn’t deliver:

WILLIAMS: Name a program right now that we could do without.

BOEHNER: I don’t think I have one off the top of my head.
It's not like Republicans haven't had the last two years, and certainly the last two months, to come up with even a couple of specifics. But I read somewhere yesterday that they've already filed at least 20 bills with the word repeal in them. The "repeal everything the Democratic party accomplished" seems to be the only promise they've managed to keep. As Think Progress points out:
During just their first couple of days in control of the House, Republicans have voided loads of promises when it comes to the budget, including halving their promised budget cuts for the current year (cuts which they now say were “hypothetical”) and exempting their first bill from their own budget rules.
Source links embedded at TP's post. Going to be so much "fun" for the next two years. Of course, on the bright side, we won't run out of blogging fodder. So there's that...

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Keystone Kop Constitutionalists

Building a bit on my previous post, the very serious Congressional Homage to The Constitution was not without its enduring moments of low comedy. Two of the august members of the new empowered GOP were forced to escape the pagentry to attend a little side event down the hall. Thus they missed the legal part of the Constitutional requirement.
The Republicans, incumbent Pete Sessions of Texas and freshman Mike Fitzpatrick, missed the swearing in because they were at a fundraiser in the Capitol Visitors Center. The pair watched the swearing-in on television from the Capitol Visitors Center with their hands raised.
Sadly, "there is no provision in the Constitution for a remote swearing-in by television." This put an abrupt end to the official opening of business.
On Thursday, the Rules Committee adjourned because Sessions had made a motion to open proceedings to begin considering the GOP bill to repeal health care reform - an action that can only be taken by an official member of Congress.
Yes our intrepid pair had already violated the sacred Constitution by voting before having been legally sanctioned. Oh to have a youtube of that moment.

To paraphase Steve Benen, if the Democrats wanted to be prickish about it, they could insist on voiding all business conducted thus far, subjecting the GOP to the embarassment of having to redo the entire process and slowing their avalanche of repeal bill filings.

That's almost certainly what the Republicans would have done in this position rather than agree to unanimous consent that Boehner will now probably have to ask for in order to avoid the delay. Fortunately for our new Speaker, the Democrats are likely to be more reasonable -- or cowardly, depending on your outlook. They're likely to agree and he won't even have to cry.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Conflict Constitutionalists

As promised, the very reverent reading of the Constitution was staged in the hallowed halls of Congress today. The tragicomedic production was not without its moments of high drama. When they got to the "President shall be a natural born citizen" clause, a Birther in the audience burst out in an anguished solliloquy. Help us Jesus indeed.

But the drama wasn't entirely confined to the gallery. The GOP went all PC on the script and decided on an abridged version of the Sacred Document, leaving out those inconvenient original Constitution bits about prohibition and the relative less than one human value of colored people that would have just runined the happy narrative. This led to some unhappy ad-libbing on the main stage.

But in the whole, a good time was had by all. And in a nod to the old boy/girl seating rule of of bygone ages, they lined up alternately by party to say their lines. It was the epitome of bipartisan comedy comity. [graphic credit]

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