Saturday, May 02, 2009

Bad Democrats

By Creature

Sorry, Senator Nelson, the only deal breaker on health care is if there is not a public option included. If the insurance companies can't handle the competition, then maybe they'll have to step up their game. Why does Ben Nelson hate America?

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

“We have to be careful not to f—- up and overreach. So it’s a balancing act.” -- an anonymous GOP congressional aide regarding the upcoming fight over Obama's Supreme Court nominee. A conservative not overreaching? I'll believe it when I see it.

The wilderness beckons.

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First in line

By Creature

In December I argued--maybe not on the blog, but definitely with my office-mate--that the auto industry must not fail while George Bush was still in power. Whether they were viable or not, at least let's get them through Bush's reign and into Obama's. I think this is a good example of why:

DETROIT — Labor unions usually dread bankruptcy, and for good reason. Their pay, benefits and pensions typically suffer significant cuts, as airline and steel workers can attest.

But for the United Automobile Workers union, Chrysler’s Chapter 11 case, which began in New York on Friday, could turn out to be — if the company survives and thrives — the Cadillac of bankruptcies.

The U.A.W., for example, has received upfront protection from the Treasury Department for its pension plan and the fund that will take over responsibility for retiree medical benefits.

Moreover, that fund, called the voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA, will control 55 percent of the equity in the new Chrysler once it emerges from bankruptcy, and hold a seat on the Chrysler board.

Under George Bush the American worker would have been at the back of the line getting mugged by the banks all the while, at least under Obama they were at the front and protected.

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It will never be a happy "Mission Accomplished" day

By J. Thomas Duffy

We wonder how The Commander Guy celebrated yesterday.

Did he strut around in his his new Dallas neighborhood in the flight suit? ... Stand on his back porch, reliving the moment on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln? ... Or, simply remain obtuse, as dense as he has ever been.

Yesterday, if you recall, was the 6th Anniversary of "Mission Accomplished".

You remember, when the invasion and occupation was all wrapped up, all that "stuff happens" happened, the cheering crowds of liberated people, fading in the deep crevices of The Bush Grindhouse, a few stray rose pedals, and flowers, drifting aimlessly..

As egregious (and, perhaps, criminal) as this was, it was more horrific, the complete submission, and full-throated cheerleading, of our dunce-capped media.

So many were so, so wrong.

Greg Mitchell has captured that, in his book, "So Wrong For So Long", and has a piece up on Huffington Post, "On 6th Anniversary of 'Mission Accomplished' -- How the Media Blew It";
Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a "hero" and boomed, "He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics." He added: "Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple."

PBS' Gwen Ifill said Bush was "part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan." On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, "The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a -- on a carrier landing."

Bob Schieffer on CBS said: "As far as I'm concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time." His guest, Joe Klein, responded: "Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me."

Ahh .... Dwarf, finks, phonies, and frauds, the bunch of 'em ...

Go check out, for a head-shaking chuckle, our elite media, in Mitchell's "On 6th Anniversary of 'Mission Accomplished' -- How the Media Blew It"

Bonus Links

Bush Remarks on "Mission Accomplished" Banner Embarrass White House

Top Ten Cloves: Lengths White House Staff Will Go Today To Avoid Reminding President Of "Mission Accomplished"

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Friday, May 01, 2009

The Reaction in Review (May1, 2009)

By Carol Gee

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:

Featured: The Republican Revival -- our bloggers weigh in on The National Council for a New America:
By Mustang Bobby -- "GOP declares bankruptcy," by Carl -- "The death of conservatism," by Creature -- "An attitude adjustment," and by Michael J.W. Stickings -- "A new GOP?"


By Carol Gee: "Dealing with personnel change" -- A little essay on the prevalence of high profile people in new positions, or leaving positions in Washington.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Why Obama kept Gates" --
Michael expands on why it is an OK thing that Robert Gates stayed on, as well as noting Gates' position against bombing Iran.


By J.Thomas Duffy: "Klaatu barada nikto" -- Duffy dives into the Joe Biden swine flu major media flap over how to travel safely in these perilous times.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Specter deal angers Dems" -- Michael reports that all is not rosy with Harry Reid's agreement to let Senator Specter keep all his accrued seniority intact.

By Creature: "Last night's presidential presser" -- Creature expresses the disappointment many of us share regarding prosecution for torture and predicting, "Eventually the reality of illegality will butt heads with politics."

By Boatboy: "Contractors: Not just for DoD anymore" -- Boatboy reports on a very interesting and probably little known trend, reported on AlterNet regarding how local law enforcement is embracing the contracting trend.


By Creature: "100 daze" -- Creature's genuine little gem of a post explores the "opposition's opposition," which might speak for all of us here.

By Boatboy: "On oil and the recession" -- This is a fascinating essay on some new thinking that could explain the connection between long commutes to work and the current fiscal crisis, as well as, "a clear demand for a new, more conscientious approach to energy policy and urban development."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "All about Specter" -- Michael links to previous Specter posts by our bloggers and ends with a set of very insightful points about this big news --for both parties.


By Carl: "A God-given right" -- Carl's brilliantly reasoned argument for national health care has an interesting dose of little-known background on the progress to modern medicine from the days of the founding of our nation.

By Carol Gee: "Big news about Congress" -- An examination of the important features and of the political precess associated with the new 2010 budget resolution as it moved through Congress on Tuesday.

By Capt. Fogg: "Bombs or Buicks?" -- To quote: "Of course there's a difference between pouring money into consumer products, the use and maintenance of which creates further jobs and into products that create shock and awe and a lot of debris, but if there's any discussion of that, the noise of the turf wars between the military and private sectors may be drowning it out."


By Mustang Bobby: " 'Go Lemmings Go!' " -- Bobby provides a brilliant analysis of what's going on with the current crop of rigidly-right-wing grassroots Republicans bent on delegitimizing the current administration.

By J. Thomas Duffy: "They've got to give it HAL's voice!" -- Duffy cleverly reveals the possible next spate of reality TV shows, based on an initial offering featuring Jeopardy contestants vs. a super computer, preferably having HAL's Space Odyssey voice.

By Capt. Fogg: "Navy Seals in the sea of slander" -- Fogg uses his great writing style (this time his edgy voice) to run down a Republican smear machine fiction about the Maersk Alabama Captain's rescue from pirates.

(Cross-posted at Behind the Links).

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GOP declares bankruptcy

By Mustang Bobby

Taking a cue from the auto industry....

Apparently two electoral losses and plunging poll numbers finally got through to some of the the leadership of the Republican Party.
Looking to rebrand a struggling Republican Party, a group of party heavyweights including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) are launching a new group that will hold town halls around the country and look to produce GOP ideas on issues like education and health care.

Republicans will announce today the creation of the "National Council for a New America," a group led by congressional party leaders that includes Bush, McCain, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as its "national panel of experts."

Bush and McCain? This is about the same as Chrysler announcing during its bankruptcy proceedings that it will bring back the DeSoto and Plymouth brands in order to revitalize the company. But they say they're willing to swallow their pride and beg the public for guidance.
In a letter announcing the formation of the NCNA, the group's leaders explain, "We do this not just to offer an alternative point of view or to be disagreeable. Instead, we want to ask the American people what their hopes and dreams are. Since January, the President and the Democratic Majority in Congress have -- rightfully so -- put forward their plan for the future, now we must listen, learn and lead through an honest, open conversation with the American people that will result in building policy proposals that will yield the best results for our nation's long-term success."

That's a really diplomatic way of saying "We know we screwed up and pissed off a lot of independents" (vide the "disagreeable" reference) and they are so fresh out of ideas that they feel the need to ask the public what they should do. Well, you have to give them credit for trying.

But not everyone is on board with calling it "rebranding." The current GOP hottie, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) says it's not: "[I]t's not a rebranding effort. What this is, is an attempt to engage and begin a conversation with the American people." As opposed to being yelled at and intimidated by Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove?

The NCNA laid out its five-point plan:
Economy: Real Solutions for Economic Recovery: As the country battles through the worst economic crisis in a generation, we must remain focused on the foundations and institutions that have made us the most prosperous people in the world and the ideas that create jobs and grow our economy....

Healthcare: Building a 21st Century, Patient-Centered System: ...All Americans deserve access to high-quality, affordable care. But such coverage cannot come at the expense of their ability to choose their own doctor and have access to the right care, at the right time, in the right setting without waiting in line while sick....

Education: Preparing Our Children to Succeed: A high-quality education should not be dependent upon a parent's income or address.... We must return power from Washington to parents and well-paid teachers who know what's best for our children.

Energy: Solutions for Energy Independence: ...We must implement a comprehensive energy policy that includes traditional fuels, alternative energy, and conservation resulting in affordable, reliable domestic energy....

National Security: Defending American Liberty and Freedom: The threats posed to our nation are more varied and evolving more than perhaps at any other time in our history. Modern communications, technology and the proliferation of weapons of all types have empowered our enemies and those who support them....

Well, maybe Mr. Cantor is right; it's not rebranding because that sounds like the same old platform the GOP has been pushing for a while now. But notice what's missing: no talk about abortion, gay marriage, prayer in school, flag-burning, and "traditional family values." That will not sit well with the Ignorant Tightass wing of the party like Mike Huckabee, Gary Bauer, Phyllis Schlafly, and James Dobson, but maybe the NCNA figures that they're on the losing end of those issues anyway.

These folks have their work cut out for them. House Minority Leader John Boehner and his pals have come up with new freak-out video that aims to scare the crap out of Americans.
House Republicans want to know: Do you feel safer?

In a remarkable video just released by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and ranking intelligence committee member Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), images of Obama "bowing" to Saudi officials and shaking hands with Hugo Chavez are interspersed with footage of the Pentagon exploding and terrorists doing bad things. All of it is back-dropped by frightening music.

"What is the overarching strategy?" Boehner asked when questioned about the video. "I'm trying to push the administration to describe what their overarching strategy is."

I guess this is what they meant by the "disagreeable" line that they need to work on.

The difference between Chrysler and the GOP is that Chrysler is worth saving.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Dealing with personnel change --

By Carol Gee

New job duties -- There are a lot of changes in Washington these days. Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pa), will have a different position on the opposite side of the aisle. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius attended her first cabinet meeting this morning. Key positions in her department are still vacant, along with several in the Justice Department. Supreme Court Justice David Souter (surprise liberal) is retiring in June. Speculation about his replacement is already ramping up, along with the Republicans' potential opposition tactics.

New challenges --With personnel changes come opportunities for their majority party Democratic bosses. But there is no question who is leading the nation. President Obama has both influence and authority in generous proportions*. And he is staffing his administration with personnel who are very smart and competent. And, no doubt, the next Supreme Court Justice will be chosen with the same kind of principled skill as the President had exhibited since taking office.

New people will be taking over Senator Specter's former Republican committee jobs. Many Republicans are not willing to deal with their new national party chairman, Michael Steele. A new Republican body is getting into gear for finding the new direction for the future. And a myriad of unofficial Republican leaders change power-up or power-down positions weekly.

New pressures -- Majority Leader Harry Reid will have a huge challenge, in my opinion, if he insists on putting Senator Specter in a key chairmanship in the front of a line of long-serving Democrats. The morning after being sworn in, Secretary Sebelius was forced in front of the cameras with Secretary Nanapolitano by her boss, to guide the nation through a threatened flu pandemic. Attorney General Eric Holder will probably be tasked by his boss to "vett" the possible Supreme Court appointees. And when the new justice comes on the court Chief Justice Roberts will be in charge of a completely "new" court, in terms of its dynamics.

New shifts -- With the steep losses suffered by Republicans, their leaders are faced with very different challenges. There are too few leaders and too many would-be leaders from among those who have no business there. Too many Republicans aspire to lead by influence rather than the authority of an actual position. Those left in authority who are not good leaders will be swept aside in the scrambles, losing the loyalty of those who should be following them. Divided and demoralized, their bosses must inspire their followers to unite around common goals, learning in the process to become the "loyal opposition."

New organization -- The cohort continues to shrink. And those losses are a reality is risking our country's well-being. So I am glad the old heads are gathering together to offer leadership to "The National Council for a New America," and fractious House Minority Whip Eric Cantor should be recognized for starting the process.

New personnel always challenge their bosses, not on purpose but because they are new. Once they have been hired and go through orientation, they need to feel welcomed and accepted in the organization. It is up to the President/CEO and the community representatives/board of directors to set the tone for taking in new people. It is yet another leadership capacity that the Democrats seem to have, and the Republicans seem to have lost. In a way I feel for them.

*Bonus feature from The Huffington Post: "300 Photos From Obama's First 100 Days: Behind The Scenes"

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Let's all torture like it's 1499

by Capt. Fogg

I know, I know, you're going to tell me that I'm obsessed with Ann Coulter and I should just ignore her until she goes away. Well, I'm not and she won't of course, but it's just that every time I think I've identified the craziest or most repugnant, evil minded, nasty and dishonest humanoid resident within the US borders, Ann, like one of those sea cucumbers that extrudes its intestines in order to gross out predators, gives us another and bigger load from her oversized colon.

Yes, of course Rush Gassbaugh is already on record as stating that the beatings, the attachment of electrodes to testicles and worse at Abu Ghraib were something only a girly man and liberal would object to, but Abu Ghraib is old news. It's all about Guantanamo and it's Ann's turn to tell us that waterboarding someone 189 times is just like a carnival ride people would actually pay to experience and that "the Muslims" are laughing at our weakness because we don't torture them enough. Only a hundred have died, after all. What we do is to put an "adorable little caterpillar" in someones cell, said adorable Ann to Sean "insanity" Hannity -- kind of like Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition using soft pillows and comfy chairs. We're "Wussies" for having any sense of morality greater than a jackal's says Ann while lounging around her luxury Palm Beach estate drinking a glass of human blood and munching on some child's barbecued leg.

Of course she's referring to our playing on some prisoner's phobias and to some, being trapped and unable to prevent an insect crawling up their leg is worse than pain. We all have some secret fear, after all. Imagine being trapped in an elevator with Coulter and Limbaugh, for instance, on the day you forgot to take your gun with you.

So I guess what the Arm Chair warriors from Palm Beach would like to see, is an America so utterly depraved and devoid of conscience as to make the world shudder in horror as we torture, maim and kill for pleasure -- you know, like real men like Ann and Rush do. Well they don't actually do anything, but they do giggle and laugh and snicker and mock decency while telling us we're "godless" for not torturing more people in more horrific ways and that we're suffering from "derangement syndromes" for criticizing evil.

Anyway, the dishonesty, the depravity, the malignant personality of laughing Ann doesn't need me to criticize it. Someone who makes a living lying, insisting that concerns of right and wrong, good and evil are for weaklings and that only cruel and inhuman leaders who make us safe by terrifying and disgusting the world can be supported -- while ridiculing liberals for being without religion isn't going to listen, and those who support her will simply read inexplicable hostility into my words and claim she's the victim.

We don't burn these people at the stake any more -- perhaps that's the danger of being Godless, but I'm just as happy that he's dead or gone or never was at all, since this is the kind of thing that would provoke any deity into raising the sea level once again.

Cross posted from Human Voices

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Yer out

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It isn't good new for the Democrats, who saw the 2010 Senate election in Kentucky as an opening against a deeply unpopular Republican incumbent and who will now likely face a tougher task winning in that red state against a different and much more popular opponent (state SoS Trey Grayson), but I welcome Jim Bunning's (possibly impending -- his minions are denying it) retirement.

The HoF pitcher, who played mostly with the Tigers and Phillies (and who threw a perfect game), is one of the craziest (and most dimwitted) Republicans on Capitol Hill (which is saying something). In 2006, Time magazine named him one of the five worst senators (which is also saying something). (See also his Wikipedia page.)

So, sure, it would nice if the reports were wrong and he stood for re-election as an easy target next year, but I suppose what's bad for the Democrats can be good, in a way, for American democracy. (Besides, Democrats intend to work hard to pick up the seat whether it's Bunning or Grayson, or anyone else. They may just have to work a little harder now.)

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Senate nixes giving bankruptcy judges power to renegotiating mortgages

By Creature

And these senators (D and R) will go home and tell the people they represent that they care, that they are on their side, that they are looking out for their interests. They will be lying, of course, unless the people they are talking to are bankers.

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The liberalizing of America

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The results of this new ABC News/WaPo poll are extremely promising -- not least because, for the first time (in ABC News/WaPo polls), support for same-sex marriage has surpassed opposition to it (49-4Link6).

As well, Americans are, according to the poll, generally supportive of allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country ("if they pay a fine and meet other requirements") and, amazingly, evenly split on marijuana legalization (46% in favor of legalization for "possession of small amounts for personal use").

Gun control is the one area (of the poll) where the trend has been in the opposite direction, with fewer in support of stricter gun laws, but, even there, a majority (51%) supports tougher gun control.

It's just one poll, I know, and it's hardly definitive, but the direction of the country -- towards liberalism and even further away from the neo-liberalism and theocratism of the right -- is pretty clear.

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Why Obama kept Gates

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Maybe because, as a Republican-leaning independent and Bush appointee, he can speak with trans-partisan credibility on military matters -- or, rather, because, being who he is, he is perceived, rightly or wrongly, as having such credibility.

So when he says, as he did yesterday, that a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities wouldn't work, that such a strike would be counter-productive, that it could make it more difficult to monitor Iran's nuclear ambitions without actually stopping them, well, it's a bit different than when a less hawkish type makes the same argument, that is, when a Democrat does.

There were other reasons to keep him on board as SecDef, of course, including continuity and stability at the Pentagon in a time of war, and I tend to agree that there is something to be said for having a Bush appointee in place for key military reforms, withdrawal from Iraq, and possible ramping up in Afghanistan (and Pakistan, with the drone war underway), though I myself never quite bought into them. Obama won. He should have appointed a new face for a new time -- not more of the same, but genuine change.

And, too, it's not like he's the only one who can make the case against military action against Iran. His point was a pretty obvious one, after all. Many, many, many of us have been saying for a long, long, long time that military action wouldn't achieve its purported objectives. And, as for Gates's credibility, well, does he have any anymore with Republicans? Hardly. He's an Obama man now, and the warmongerers of the right, the nattering nabobs of neoconservatism, won't be swayed one way or the other by what he has to say, and especially when he speaks out against their bloodthirsty ambitions.

Still, take it for what it was, which was the right and honest thing to say. At the very least, whether he belongs at the Pentagon or not, this is one Bush appointee who isn't a Cheney clone.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Justice Souter set to retire

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Obama will soon need to nominate a new Supreme Court justice. Unfortunately, it's one of the liberal ones, and, surprisingly, it's David Souter, who, it is being reported, will retire in June, at the end of the current session.

(H/T: Brad Plumer at The Plank.)

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The death of conservatism

By Carl

From the formerly reliable newswire service now owned by
Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the Second Coming of the Messiah:

WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) -- Republican leaders say they're planning a new effort to revive the party's image and rebuild after the loss of Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party.

The new initiative, to be called the National Council for a New America, will involve an outreach by GOP officials including John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former national GOP chairman, CNN reported.

Others on the "panel of experts" will include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, younger brother of former President George W. Bush; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Things that make you go "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm," indeed.

Draw the battle lines, and Katie, bar the door, the
Republican Civil War has formally begun!

This could be a doozy, since both sides have deep pockets and both sides have deeply dogmatic beliefs about the direction the Republican Party needs to go in.

Unlike the Democrats, who underwent their soul-searching change thirty years ago when the deep divide between liberals and moderates coalesced after Jimmy Carter's defeat in 1980 (and look how long that lasted and that was a polite falling out!),
this one has all the earmarks of being rancorous and nasty.

One the one side, you have Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, and all the other numbnuts and yahoos whose only claim to fame is a loud voice and someone dumb enough to pay them to speak (Richard Mellon Scaife).

On the other, the line up is pretty impressive, and is clearly an attempt to staunch the bleeding that is likely to occur now that Arlen Specter has jumped ship. Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Richard Lugar will be targeted by the more conservative wing of the party for dismantling, and could follow suit. Included in the list noted above is the force majeure of the Republican Party, Sen. John McCain.

McCain's candidacy, as pathetic as it was, almost singlehandedly saved the Publicans from instant obscurity, attracting independents and even some moderate Democrats (PUMAs, mostly) to his cause.
Based strictly on numbers, McCain should have done much worse, and any other Publican would like have been crushed under Obama's wheels.

This is a problem the GOP has had coming for decades. The strident and aggressive attitude and enforcement (Remember Tom "The Hammer" DeLay?) has bubbled up ever since they caught a lucky wave in the timing of the Reagan presidency, and have taken credit for the policies that dealt long-term damage to the American economy.

Thirty year old ideas, which is all the Publicans have been able to dish up for, well, thirty years, have holes in them. The world moves past them quickly. You need to catch up.

I'm not sure who to root for, to be honest. Part of me sees a chance to have a Democratic hegemony for the bulk of this century and thinks that's a good thing, so wants the Rushians to win. Part of me remembers that thirty year old ideas get stale for both sides and that Bill Clinton was most successful when he co-opted some obscure Publican ideas and gave them his own spin, so I'd like to see McCain wrest the party back.

Either way, we're witnessing the end of conservatism.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Klaatu barada nikto

By J. Thomas Duffy

Oh, sorry, wrong video.

That's the 1951 classic The Day The Earth Stood Still.

We meant to post Vice President Joe Biden, speaking today on The Today Show on how he would be handling the Swine Flu.

Biden: ‘Wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places’

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Well, the earth hasn't stood still, there isn't panic in the streets, but Biden is sure catching a lot of crap:

Vice president Joe Biden said today he would tell his family members not to use subways in the U.S. and implied schools should be shuttered as the swine flu outbreak spread to 16 states. His remarks quickly caused a stir, drawing a rebuke from New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and later leading the White House to apologize.

The uproar began when Biden appeared on NBC's "Today" show and said he would advise against riding the subway or taking commercial flights and implied schools should be shuttered amid confirmation of the first swine-flu relation death in the U.S.

"I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," Biden said when Matt Lauer asked whether he would advise family members to use public transportation.

"I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now. It's not that it's going to Mexico, it's you're in a confined aircraft when one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft. That's me. I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation suggesting they ride the subway. "

The vice president also implied that schools should be closed as the threat of swine flu increases.


About two hours after the interview, Biden's office issued a statement attempting to clarify the vice president's remarks.


White House press secretary Robert Gibbs apologized for Biden's remarks, saying the vice president misspoke.

It's been said, that "Klaatu barada nikto," in Klaatu's native, intergalactic language, translates to:

"Biden being Biden"

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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An attitude adjustment

By Creature

As the GOP looks to "rebrand" themselves as the party of ideas (through a series of listening tours made up of people who just don't listen, go figure), I think A.L. has it basically right: "the problem is not the ideas, but the attitude."

Republicans are coming across as a bunch of obnoxious, unreasonable a-holes. When you've just been voted out of power for manifest incompetence and your opponents are led by a very popular and reasonable-sounding person, you don't have the luxury of acting smug and uncompromising all the time. You have to acknowledge error and show some humility. You have to act civilly. You have to at least try to appear pragmatic and reasonable. But the GOP is not interested in doing any of these things. Those who are left in the party are ultra-partisan and utterly convinced of their own infallibility and moral righteousness. Until they lose that attitude and general combativeness, it won't matter what their ideas are. They'll just keep turning people off.

Now, of course, ideas matter too, but there are only a finite number of times one can scream, "tax cuts," and still be taken seriously. Overall, I'm kind of amazed that the GOP hasn't yet figured out that coming across like petulant children does not play well, but I'm glad that they haven't.


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Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XC

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've neglected to post on some of the recent days of violence that have rocked Iraq, but here, alas, is the latest bloody development:

Six car bombings in four hours killed 48 people and wounded 81 in various Baghdad neighborhoods Wednesday, according to Iraq's Interior Ministry.

In a separate incident, five people were killed and three wounded by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad, a ministry official said.

Yes, it is still appropriate to blame Bush, Cheney, and the warmongers for much of this mess. It is still their war, after all, that is being fought, with both the U.S. and, more so, Iraq, paying dearly for their gross mismanagement of it.

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Harman turning to King Kaiser?

By J. Thomas Duffy

I don't know what to make of this.

Is it, like, throwing in the towel? ... Laying down the Queen when you know checkmate is inevitable?

Jane Harman, certainly, is capable of doing it herself.

As you recall, Miss Jane got herself into a messy little scandal recently (see here and here for some of the latest news).

Does she really need to hire Lanny Davis to go out, on camera, and piss-and-moan for her?

It will remain to be seen if Lanny brings the full monty (and does he lose the Faux News gig?).

Will Lanny retrain, and bring over with him, the Grand Central Locker Room Creatures, last seen pumping it out for Hillary, to start adoring Jane Harmen?

"Jane is back! The keeper of the light! All hail Jane! All hail Jane! Oh Jane can you see by the dawn's early light..."

The King Kaiser reference?

We defer to author, and primo satirist, Barry Crimmins:

While waiting for the Indiana totals, the cable networks marked time by reeling in some of the slack from the jaws of their commentators, who finally seemed to have worked through the denial stage of their grief over the terminal status of the Clinton campaign. Serious hilarity ensued on CNN when Clinton family bootblack Lanny Davis, accustomed to leisurely swatting softballs in such surroundings, was asked to try to explain how his candidate could possibly garner the Democratic nomination. His clumsy response looked even shiftier as Davis squirmed in a suit last worn by Joseph Bologna as King Kaiser in the "Boss Hijack" sketch in My Favorite Year.

And, now, Harman has a blogger (a very good one) planning on running against her.

Hope Lanny gets the suit dry-cleaned before that happens, so as to wash off all that Hillary karma soaked into it.

(Photo by Barry Crimmins)

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Specter deal angers Dems

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Hill:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) deal to allow Sen. Arlen Specter to retain his seniority after he switches to the Democratic Conference has not been received well by senior senators in the party.

Several Democrats are furious with Reid for agreeing to let Specter (Pa.) keep the seniority accrued over more than 28 years as a Republican senator. That could allow him to leap past senior Democrats on powerful panels -- including the Appropriations and Judiciary committees.

Can you blame them? For all the good feeling among Democrats over Specter's defection -- it gets them ever closer to the magic, filibuster-proof 60, and it embarrasses the Republicans, signalling just what a far-right party they are -- it must be remembered that Specter is still, as he always has been, a Republican. To the extent that he's now a Democrat, or a "Democrat," he's what's called a DINO (Democrat-In-Name-Only). He intends to remain as "independent" as ever, which is to say, he'll only be voting with his new party when it suits him, when, as was the case with his defection in the first place, it's politically convenient (given that he's looking ahead with determined self-interest to his re-election bid next year) for him to do so. Given that his vote isn't a sure thing -- and given that even with Specter seated and Franken taking his place as #60, the Democrats will have a tough time coming up with 60 votes (given that the 60 includes non-team players like Lieberman, Bayh, and Nelson -- what is the point of allowing him to maintain his seniority? (For more on this, see my recent post here.)

Senate Democrats -- the real Democrats in the Senate, those who fight for the party and what it stands for -- have every right to be angry.

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Asses of Evil

By Capt. Fogg

They understand I'm not like no politician they have looked at, ever.

I'm not so sure, but I am sure that if Neal Horsley were running as a Democrat, the blowhards would be in ecstasy and the blogs would be brimming over with hilarity enough to last for years and years of giggling.

Horsley, after all, admits to having had sex with a mule:

You experiment with anything that moves when you are growing up sexually,

says the Georgia Creator's Rights Party gubernatorial candidate. That's the TCRP, or T-Crap for short. Of course, Neal is all grown up now, and that's why his family hates him and he's almost killed his son and he publishes the names of doctors who perform abortions and crosses them off as they are murdered and is willing to start another civil war so that Georgia can secede and overturn Roe v. Wade even if it costs the life of his child -- or yours.

Is this what's left at the bottom of the barrel the GOP has drunk from all these years, or is this just a Georgia thang?

I contend this is really about people's ability to believe in God. When it comes to that place, when you're talking about God's plan to protect himself, then the lives of people become, really, almost irrelevant... in the degree that they result in Him being glorified. That's the nature of the truth,

says the very Christian Horsley. That's the nature of a scared, vulnerable and weak God who needs to protect himself no matter who gets killed in the process. Glory is important, people are irrelevant, and if you don't believe in Horsley's God, then you're irrelevant.

I suspect Neal isn't the sole bat in the Religious Right's belfry. I suspect Sarah Palin is just as bonkers but more reluctant to open her personal can of batshit gumbo to a public viewing.

To be sure, Horsely is a long-shot candidate even in the Bible Belt, but with careful handling and sufficient rabble-rousing, there is no reason he can't go far. Just how far he does go will be interesting to observe as a measure of the post-Obama fundamentalist world that continues to lower the bar in its desperate game of limbo.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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By Michael J.W. Stickings

That's the percentage of Americans who, according to a new NBC/WSJ poll, identify themselves as Republican. (Overall, only 13 percent identify as "Strong Republican," while 7 percent are "Not very strong Republican" and 11 percent are "Independent / lean Republican.")

Increasingly extreme, increasingly irrelevant, increasingly small.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 GOP!

(H/T to Creature, of course, who does these number-based posts so well. I hope he doesn't mind my treading on his turf.)

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Last night's presidential presser

By Creature

Overall another good job of deconstructing the issues for the American people by the president. I do think it's worth noting that, no matter how pressed, the president still would not call the Bush administration's ordering of waterboarding a "crime" (he called it a "mistake"). Surely disappointing, but I don't believe he's closing the door, whatsoever, to prosecutions. As his top aid, Valerie Jarrett, made clear in a post conference interview, it's up to the attorney general to make that call. And, I think, despite Obama's desire to look forward, that is exactly what is happening. Eventually the reality of illegality will butt heads with politics. Obama knows this, but it's in his interest not appear too zealous as we travel toward that road.

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A new GOP?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

CNN: "Coming soon to a battleground state near you: a new effort to revive the image of the Republican Party and to counter President Obama's characterization of Republicans as "the party of 'no.'"

And who's running this "National Council for a New America"? Why, a veritable brain trust of Republican idea-mongering: not just McCain and Jeb Bush but -- can you contain your excitement? -- Jindal, Romney, Barbour, and some of the leading right-wing lights on Capitol Hill: Boehner, Cantor, Pence, McConnell, Kyl, Alexander.

Looks to me like the GOP vision for a "New America" will be dreamed up by the same old Republicans who find themselves an increasingly extreme, and increasingly irrelevant, minority party in D.C.


As will be the happy face -- i.e., the new "brand" -- they put on their same-old-same-old ideological fusion of neo-liberalism and theocratism that will no doubt be the outcome of this whole ridiculous effort.

Good luck selling that, repackaged or not, to an American public that has clearly had enough.

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Contractors: Not just for the DoD anymore

By Boatboy

Jeremy Scahill has a compelling article up on Alternet about how local law enforcement is embracing the contracting trend.

This privatization trend is hardly new, but it is accelerating. While events such as the Nisour Square massacre committed in September 2007 by Blackwater operatives in Baghdad show the lethal danger of unleashing mercenary forces on foreign soil, one area with the potential for extreme abuses resulting from this privatization is in domestic law enforcement in the U.S.

Many people may not be aware of this, but since the 1980s, private security guards have outnumbered police officers.

"The more than 1 million contract security officers, and an equal number of guards estimated to work directly for U.S. corporations, dwarf the nearly 700,000 sworn law enforcement officers in the United States," according to the Washington Post. Some estimate that private security operate inside the U.S. at a 5-to-1 ratio with police.

In New Orleans, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of the city, private security poured in. Armed operatives from companies like Blackwater, Wackenhut, Intercon and DynCorp spread out in the city. Within two weeks of the hurricane, the number of private security companies registered in Louisiana jumped from 185 to 235.


Now it seems that some cities think it is a great idea to expand the use of these private forces using taxpayer funds.

The Wall Street Journal this week reported, "Facing pressure to crack down on crime amid a record budget deficit, Oakland is joining other U.S. cities that are turning over more law-enforcement duties to private armed guards. The City Council recently voted to hire International Services Inc., a private security agency, to patrol crime-plagued districts. While a few Oakland retail districts previously have pooled cash to pay for unarmed security services, using public funds to pay for private armed guards would mark a first for the city."

In a stunning development revealed late Wednesday night, Oakland dropped its plan to hire International Services Inc. after the firm's founder and two other executives were arrested on charges of defrauding the state of California out of more than $9 million in workers compensation.


Why do some Oakland officials want this? On the one hand, the belief that it will bring security, but also to save money:
Hiring private guards is less expensive than hiring new officers. Oakland -- facing a record $80 million budget shortfall -- spends about 65 percent of its budget for police and fire services, including about $250,000 annually, including benefits and salary, on each police officer.

In contrast, for about $200,000 a year, the city can contract to hire four private guards to patrol the troubled East Oakland district where four on-duty police officers were killed in March. And the company, not the city, is responsible for insurance for the guards.
As in many cities, this is a contentious issue in Oakland, which has struggled to deal with substantial violence on the one hand and police brutality on the other. According to the San Francisco Chronicle:
The areas where the armed guards were supposed to have been deployed have a disproportionate share of homicides, assaults with deadly weapons and robberies. … The crime rate in the area, according to a 2003 blight study, is between 225 and 150 percent higher than the city as a whole.
Scahill's point is well taken, since as we have seen elsewhere private contractors are bound neither by their oaths as public servants nor law nor treaty when it comes to fulfilling their mission objectives. The antics of Blackwater, Custer Battles et al on the streets of Baghdad, Jalalabad, Masar-e-Sharif or Khabul have been bad enough: transplanted to US cities employing private security as law enforcement, those tendencies will have tragic effects for those communities just as has been seen in Louisiana and California to date.

I can recall, from my years out West, the "patrol specials" that local businesses put on the streets. These were either off-duty or out-of-work police officers, whose backgrounds had been inspected, working in their own communities and funded by business and local organisations as a supplement to the SFPD presence. They were also a small minority, functioning as an adjunct rather than a functional replacement for the beat cops. The new trend looks nothing like the patrol special concept. The programmes Scahill outlines are far larger, with personnel brought in from outside the community (including as far away as Israel as he points out): these people will have little if any feeling for the communities they are tasked to serve. The results are tragically predictable.

It is understandable, particularly in the current crisis, for a municipality to seek to save resources, and contractors offer on the surface an immediate economy over their police department peers. However, the point that they will be less restrained, more aggressive, and far less interested in the rights of the residents of the communities where they are deployed is valid. Those tendencies will almost certainly lead to more litigation for abuse, harassment, and wrongful death, which regardless of the pains suffered by the communities affected will result in the economies of their employment vaporised by the resulting judgments. Since any municipality will have less invested in defending a contractor than a comparable law enforcement officer, sworn to public service and on the municipality's payroll, the likelihood that that municipality will pay some sort of damages increases, making the cost/benefit calculus untenable in the long term. Even if the cost in lost liberties and lives were acceptable, any community choosing to contract with private security for law enforcement faces the likelihood that the fiscal costs will become unacceptable even if that is not the case immediately.

Maintaining a police force is not an inexpensive proposition. But it is something any US citizen has a right to expect of his/her government. Handing off that responsibility may seem like an effective solution to the budget constraints of the present, but the costs in dollars, public trust and individual lives are nearly certain to eclipse any short term gain any city choosing to sidestep its responsibility to its citizens would see.

(Cross-posted from
View From The Docks.)

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New Hampshire Senate votes for same-sex marriage

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It wasn't a decisive vote -- just 13-11 for legislation that includes legal protections for anti-gay religious groups -- but it's nothing if not a step in the right direction in a state that, while generally libertarian, is fairly red. (The House passed similar legislation last month.)

While I think that same-sex marriage is a right that can and ought to be articulated by the courts, when necessary, it is refreshing to see democratic legislatures, as opposed to appointed judges, leading the way.

Anti-gay bigotry is alive and well across the land, of course, but it is pretty clear where the country is headed.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

H1N1, anyone?

By Carl

I've deliberately stayed away from the swine flu story this week because frankly, apart from the Mexico crisis, it doesn't seem to be that virulent.

Already, 70 cases have been reported in the US, with the
first death in Texas, a toddler, the typical fatality in a flu epidemic.

Although the WHO and the US are taking steps to treat this as a pandemic, and there's evidence to believe that while they are being cautious,
they are not being alarmist, there are reasons to think that this is being blown a little out of proportion by the global media.

For one thing, this is not the
first swine flu outbreak in the US. And like that epidemic, there are strains of the avian flu mixed in the virus. It will be bad (I had that flu: nasty little bug) but it should be a fairly short-lived matter, perhaps two or three months for it to work its course.

So of course, I urge you to stay healthy, wash your hands frequently, and if you know someone from California or Mexico or
New York City (or live there), be extra careful in keeping yourself from catching anything.

And cross your fingers.

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)

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100 daze

By Creature

What's struck me most about the first 100 days with our new Democratic president has nothing to do with the president himself. For anyone paying attention, he's pretty much what was advertised. What does stand out for me is the opposition's opposition. I never expected a smooth ride, but I also didn't anticipate this level of vitriol. With no more moderates in the GOP to temper the idiocy, the conservative right has had a field day. From message-less cries of socialist, to fascist, to tea-bagging, to the end of the world as we know it, it's been quite a ride these last 100 days. Thankfully, despite their megaphone, their pissing on the Obama parade hasn't taken hold with the population at large. If anything, it has backfired, and that bodes well for the president's next 100.

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On oil and the recession

By Boatboy

Almost as footnote to my earlier post "Green or Not," The Atlantic dished this little item up a few days ago.

In it, Derek Thompson reviews
a Brookings Institution paper written by James Hamilton forecasting a drastic market downturn should oil prices spike, and compares the forecast with the last two years when oil prices did spike.

Hamilton went back to 2003, when crude oil was around $30 a gallon and forecast what an oil shock like the one we experienced in 2007-08 (when oil peaked around $140) would do to GDP. He graphed the result through the end of 2008 and, lo and behold, it was damn close to actual GDP.


What about real estate, subprime mortgages and defaults? Hamilton says the housing industry had been tightening up long before the recession -- "subtracting 0.94% from the average annual GDP growth rate over 2006:Q4-2007:Q3." And housing is factored into Hamilton's analysis. It was just one of a handful of multipliers that always turn down during oil shocks.

The Real Time Economics Blog at WSJ moves the theory forward with a pretty interesting bit of revisionist history. The grand retelling goes something like this. Cheap gasoline from the 1990s into this decade encouraged families to set up their homes farther from the cities where they worked. But as the price of gas began to increase, it put a big strain of these families' commutes. With gas rising from $2 to $4, the price of these long drives doubled, straining those families' most expensive payments, namely: mortgages. When families realized they could not afford their exurban commutes, they sold their homes for a big loss. Voila: Their mortgage crisis became a bank crisis and the rest is our living history.
I find Thompson's closing comments particularly telling:

My head's still spinning a bit, but it's interesting to think about the political consequences of a report like this being mainstreamed. If the idea somehow stuck that an oil shock was responsible for the financial crisis, it could be a significant catalyzer for the push toward energy reform. Today we're seeing a great national movement to change Wall Street because the general consensus is that Wall Street caused this crisis. Whether Hamilton's theory is wacko or brilliant, just imagine what a national movement to revolutionize America's energy consumption would look like. What if we had oil parties instead of tea parties, demanding more government investment in alternative fuels and subsidies for green technologies. That would really be something.
Also of note are Hamilton's own words, on his own blog:

My paper uses a number of different models that had been fit to earlier historical episodes to see what they imply about the contribution that the oil shock of 2007-08 might have made to real GDP growth over the last year. The approaches surveyed include Edelstein and Kilian (2007), who examined the detailed response of various components of consumer spending, Blanchard and Gali (2007), who studied the extent to which the contribution of oil shocks has significantly decreased over time, my 2003 paper, which emphasized the role of nonlinearities, and a model-free data summary of the observed behavior of different economic magnitudes following this and previous oil shocks. Although the approaches are quite different, they all support a common conclusion: had there been no increase in oil prices between 2007:Q3 and 2008:Q2, the U.S. economy would not have been in a recession over the period 2007:Q4 through 2008:Q3. [emphasis added]
Progressives have long maintained that the US suburban/exurban lifestyle is inefficient to the point of waste, and encourages overexpenditure on energy and materiel. Hamilton now shows us that this may well be true, and adds on a layer of vast economic vulnerability incurred through energy dependency.

If Hamilton's theories are to be believed in whole, the US needs a far more radical rethinking of its preferred lifestyle for the long term than has been discussed to date. Interim solutions, such as alternative energy and hybrid vehicles, are just that: temporary solutions to what will likely become a permanent problem. Unless vast resources of cheap, non-polluting energy can be sourced and managed domestically, the exurb is ultimately finished, since it will become economically unfeasible to commute any substantial distance or to travel far for shopping. Commercial distribution channels will also need to be rethought in this light: the great centralised warehouse may also become a thing of the past.

Regardless of the long-term implications of the paper, the work is a clear demand for a new, more conscientious approach to energy policy and urban development. This should also include industrialised agriculture, as that behemoth is a voracious consumer of petroleum products yet, due to its nature, frequently left out of petroleum-based energy policy debates.

Doing so, it would necessarily distinguish between the rural - farming, ranching, etc - and the urban/exurban markets: rural communities should be supported even as the larger urban/exurban communities are revisited in light of this new information. Too little thought is given to the distinctions between the rural landscape, isolated from the major energy consuming markets and largely self-sufficient, and the ever more costly urban environments that drive most energy and civic planning policies, and most resistance to urban-centred efforts at energy efficiency stem from their unthinking application to the countryside where such concerns are measurably smaller and less immediate.

Regardless of the planning remaining to be done, the paper presents an excellent take on the correlation between the costs of sprawl and the economic health of the industrial West. The built-in inefficiencies of the suburb and exurb, coupled with the uncertainty of energy supply - particularly oil - to maintain that sprawl, can be seen to have substantial impact on market sectors not immediately connected to those inefficiencies and uncertainties. Whether or not Hamilton's paper spawns the movement for energy independence Thompson describes, the mumbers deserve the attention of policymakers, and the implications demand public dialogue on the correlations between imported resources and community development.

(h/t Andrew Sullivan)

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By Creature

That's the percent decline in GDP for the first quarter of this year. It's a "worse-than-expected" drop as "sharp cutbacks by businesses and the biggest drop in U.S. exports in 40 years overwhelmed a rebound in consumer spending." So while consumers stepped up to the plate and spent some cash, this drop is mainly the result of business cutbacks. Maybe we can take comfort in the consumer confidence, spending half of this equation, but until the business world stops retrenching we've got a long way to go (especially on the unemployment front). Ugh.


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All about Specter

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Reaction team really came through yesterday with some outstanding commentary on the big news of the day, Arlen Specter's aisle-hopping from the Republicans to the Democrats. Here are some quick links to those posts:

-- Capt. Fogg: "Arlen Specter, D-Pennsylvania"
-- Creature: "Specter's switch"
-- Mustang Bobby: "The spectre of Arlen Specter"
-- Carl: "What deal was cut?"
-- Carol Gee: "Big news about Congress"
-- Creature: "Quote of the Day" (Snowe on the GOP)

Here are some quick points:

-- It's pretty clear Specter's move had almost everything to do with politics, and with his own self-preservation, and, as Jon Stewart rightly noted last night, next to nothing to do with principle. Yes, he mentioned the "Reagan Big Tent" in his statement, as well as spending his 29-year Senate career representing not the Republican Party but "the people of Pennsylvania," but what is obviously of the utmost concern to him is his re-election, and he is currently running well behind challenger Pat Toomey in the polls.

-- Specter isn't so much a Democrat as a non-Republican (given the current right-wing bent of the GOP). As he explained: "My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans." No, but he has been a Republican for a long, long time, and he obviously found enough to like in and about the GOP to remain a Republican for that long. He is admittedly more independent than most Republicans, but his claim to bipartisanship here -- actually, his claim to transcendence of partisanship altogether -- rings hollow. (As Glenn Greenwald rightly notes, Specter is hardly the liberal-moderate he is made out to be in the media: "The idea that Specter is a 'liberal' Republican or even a 'moderate' reflects how far to the Right both the GOP and our overall political spectrum has shifted.")

-- "I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America." That a nice way of saying that he's out for himself.

-- With Al Franken, the Democrats will have 60 votes on strict party-line votes -- yes, the filibuster-proof 60 -- but we mustn't forget that the 60 includes quasi-Democrat Joe Lieberman and the Blue Dog likes of Evan Bayh, not to mention conservatives like Ben Nelson. Democrats do not do party loyalty all that well, or certainly not as well as Republicans, and so it will be difficult to secure a filibuster-proof majority. With respect to Specter, what is clear is that Democrats won't be able to count on his vote. He will be a "Democrat," but not a Democrat, that is, a Democrat in name only.

-- Given that Specter will be a Democrat in name only, should we welcome his conversion? Insofar as it makes the GOP look bad, yes, absolutely. But there are real Democrats who could have run for the Senate, and won, next year. Would it not be better to have a Democrat like Joe Sestak or Patrick Murphy in the Senate instead of a Democrat of convenience like Specter? Unless Specter votes with his new party on key issues like health care, I'm not sure how this actually helps the Democrats beyond the obvious PR boost. (Greenwald again: "Democrats will understandably celebrate today’s announcement, but beyond the questions of raw political power, it is mystifying why they would want to build their majority by embracing politicians who reject most of their ostensible views.")

-- Well, unless other Republicans follow Specter across the aisle. Collins and Snowe, Maine's two "Republican" senators? Maybe. If Specter is the first domino to fall, then it's a positive move regardless of how he votes.

-- Snowe called Specter's move "devastating." More: "I've always been deeply concerned about the views of the Republican Party nationally in terms of their exclusionary policies and views towards moderate Republicans."

-- The Republican Party is becoming ever more of an isolated, extreme, irrelevant party. And yet don't seem to care. Indeed, high-profile Republicans like Krazy Bill Kristol and Dear Leader Rush are welcoming Specter's defection. Limbaugh: "It's ultimately good. You're weeding out people who aren't really Republicans." Yes, and you're also purifying the party into oblivion.

That's it for now. Whatever my reservations, I'm still happy with the move. While Specter isn't a Democrat, and while Democrats shouldn't count on his vote, his defection hurts the Republicans and is a significant PR boon for the Democrats. The Democrats will still have to work hard to pass legislation in the Senate, and they not be able to reach 60 even with Specter in the fold, but with the Republicans further marginalizing themselves into a rightist party of rigid and narrow ideology, with a popular president in the White House, and with a huge majority in the House, there is every possibility that they will be able to overcome both internal and external challenges and enact meaningful reform.

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