Saturday, June 11, 2011

Caution, naked German hikers ahead!

Time is reporting that Germany has opened "new nude-friendly nature trails."

And I say, good for Germany. I used to live there, for a few years as a teenager, and it's certainly the case that Germany has much more open and much, much healthier attitude towards nudity -- and towards sexuality generally -- than North America. There are nude beaches everywhere, and no one seems to mind. Because, really, what's the big deal?

I went with a friend once to a small lake near where I lived. Most of the people there were naked. Men, women, children --  yes, whole families where there. Sure, it was a bit of a shock, but whatever. I stayed in my swimming trunks, but the people there, basking in a certain wholesomeness, were comfortable and generally didn't care who wore what, if anything. I also remember that little excursion as one of my first, if not my very first, encounter with female beauty up close, when a rather attractive young woman, completely unclothed, floated by. I suppose it was a big deal to me, but, thankfully, in a good way.

Now, do you want to encounter less-than-attractive people hiking? Maybe not. So stay away, if you prefer. It's not about attractiveness anyway. It's about freedom.


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Friday night political randomness: Palin, Weiner, and Perry

Sorry, I've been so busy all evening wading through Palin's e-mails. Such a glorious treasure of wonderment. (No, not really. There are people who can be bothered to read through, or even to skim through, the 24,000 pages. I'm not one of them.)


So Weiner had online contact with a 17-year-old girl. Not good -- not good at all. A spokesman says that the contact was "neither explicit nor indecent," but I'm not sure it matters. Well, sure, it does, but his reputation, rightly or wrongly, has already been destroyed, and he's pretty much on his own now, with little to no support from his own party.

Perhaps it was only a matter of time before it came out that he had contact with a minor. He acted like an idiot and did idiotic things, especially for a public figure. There isn't necessarily anything wrong with having contact of an innocent nature with a near-adult, but given that he was using the Internet to chase women, the fact that his contacts included a minor only makes it all seem so much worse. Even if he wasn't sexual with this girl, the speculation that he might have been with some other minor is unavoidable.

I don't see how he escapes this. Pressure is mounting on him to resign. He says he won't, and his constituents apparently want him to stay, but he can't take much more. His thread is unravelling.


The train wreck that is the Gingrich campaign (and that is The Newt himself) leaves an opening for Perry to jump into the Republican presidential race, as some of those ex-Gingrich staffers are close to the Texas governor. And it looks like Perry is very likely to run.

Given the weakness of the field, Perry could very well emerge as one of the frontrunners, perhaps even the favourite if he manages to bridge the divide between the establishment and the far right. Pawlenty looks to be that bridge right now, but Perry could easily surpass him. Republicans, after all, are looking for a savior. Why not Perry? Pawlenty hasn't been able to get much traction, others on the right, like Bachmann (and Palin), are far too crazy/extreme, and the Tea Party and the social conservative base will never approve someone like Romney or Giuliani.

Just keep in mind that Perry isn't exactly a sensible, moderate, old-school Republican, or even the sort of conservative with broad-based appeal. Check out ThinkProgress's "Top 10 Things Texas Gov. Rick Perry Doesn’t Want You To Know About Him."


Oh, there was some good news today: The Obama Administration has extended Medicaid protections for same-sex couples.

That's some change we can believe in.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Alabama wants to be like Arizona, only worse

And so Republicans keep up their assault on undocumented immigrants:

Republican Governor Robert Bentley on Thursday signed into law a crackdown on illegal immigration in Alabama that both supporters and critics consider the toughest in the nation.

The measure will require public schools to determine the citizenship status of students -- a provision not included in an Arizona law that has been at the forefront of actions by several states to curb illegal immigration.

Under the Alabama law, police must detain someone they suspect of being in the country illegally if the person cannot produce proper documentation when stopped for any reason.

It also will be a crime to knowingly transport or harbor someone who is in the country illegally.

This isn't just a racist, draconian law to crack down on a specific group of people and deny them the dignity and fair treatment they deserve.

As Little Green Football's Charles Johnson notes, it "explicitly violates the Bill of Rights's provisions against unreasonable search and seizure, by requiring police to arrest anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally if they can’t produce documentation — when stopped for any reason... That's right — in Alabama, you may now end up in jail if you're not carrying your papers, whether or not you've done anything wrong."

I know we're supposed to be civil and all, but can't we call this what it is? It's fascism. Brought to you, as usual, by the Republican Party.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Ryan Fattman


As Think Progress is reporting, this reprehensible Republican state senator from Massachusetts is so hateful of undocumented immigrants that he thinks they shouldn't come forward if they're ever raped and beaten.


[On Wednesday], the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported on Fattman's incendiary comments, which he made while defending a controversial federal immigration program that many say will damage the relationship between law enforcement and immigrant communities. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has refused to join the program out of concern that immigrants who are victims of violent crimes will be afraid to report them and seek help:

Mr. Fattman dismissed concerns of some law enforcement officials — cited by the governor — who said using local police to enforce immigration laws could discourage reporting of crime by victims who are illegal immigrants. 

Asked if he would be concerned that a woman without legal immigration status was raped and beaten as she walked down the street might be afraid to report the crime to police, Mr. Fattman said he was not worried about those implications.

"My thought is that if someone is here illegally, they should be afraid to come forward," Mr. Fattman said. "If you do it the right way, you don't have to be concerned about these things," he said referring to obtaining legal immigration status.

Instead of helping rape victims, the new federal program would have police turn them directly over to the federal government to be deported.

I wish I were kidding about this, but this is pretty much in line with mainstream Republican thinking these days.

Even if you take a hard line on undocumented immigrants, even if you think they should be deported, shouldn't you at least treat them like human beings?

Fuck you, Ryan Fattman. You disgusting piece of shit.


Fattman looks like he's 12 but apparently he's 26. And, alas, he went to Tufts. I'm embarrassed. And I hope my alma mater is as well.

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Bongo at the White House

I get that the United States needs to play diplomacy with any number of not-so-good people around the world. I even get that the president of the United States needs to shake hands and listen to some of the world's more detestable leaders. It just comes with the territory.

Bongo and his family have raped their country to support their over-the-top life of luxury. Okay, he's also a reformer and perhaps also a U.S. ally, and while he's certainly autocratic, at least he's trying to modernize the country.

Still. There's something repugnant about Obama meeting him as a fellow world leader.

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Cool Hand Barack

"What we got here is... failure to communicate."

-- Captain, Cool Hand Luke (1967)

It should come as no surprise that I, as a card-carrying member of the professional left (and like many others of the same progressive political persuasion) think President Obama has done a pretty lousy job since his inauguration in January 2009. Yes, there have been accomplishments (though I for one would hardly call the watered-down and insurance-friendly HR 3962 Affordable Care Act much of an accomplishment, the few positive aspects of that law would put it in the win column), but for the past 28 months, I feel like the presidency of Barack Obama has been more about preventing Republicans from completely destroying this country and turning it into a 21st-century aristocracy than turning the USS America around and setting it on some sort of course toward hope and recovery.

From broken promises (Gitmo, taxes) to capitulation on key policy initiatives, from an expanded war in Afghanistan to his continued tacit and blatant support of the greed in corporate America, Barack Obama has been at best disappointing and at worst a Republican lite in the way he has handled the job and his relationship with the progressives and others who put him in office.

Many, like myself, have completely given up on him. In my mind, the only thing Obama has going for him is the fact that he isn't as maniacal, nuts, immature, or deranged as every person on the right or in the Republican Party has become. Compared to such raving madmen and singing assholes as Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, T-Paw, and S-Pal, Obama looks like the only sane adult in the room. In other words, 2012 is shaping up to be another election where many of us will end up voting "not Republican."

No one (including me) expected Obama to follow through on all of his ideas, policies or goals -- not one politician ever has. Even doofuses like George W. Bush had to snub his nose at many of the people and constituents who supported him both financially and electorally. That is just the way politics works. What is maddening about the Obama presidency is how fast and how far many of failings have been, some in the name of keeping the Republicans at bay (aka compromise, a word the GOP has banished from the dictionary), but many as a direct result of Barack Obama's fear of imposing any sort of pressure or power on the legislators and leaders of the government. This from allegedly the most powerful man on the planet.

Barack Obama is letting the lunatics run the asylum. And they are succeeding beyond their wildest dreams. If you think back to how demoralized the right was just after the 2008 election, in just 2 1/2 years they not only made a comeback but are actually at a point where the opposition (Democrats) is not only listening to their points but is about to incorporate and accept some of their most insane and destructive ideas.

Talk about failure to launch.

In my mind, the aspect of Obama's leadership that has proven to be the most disappointing is his complete and utter failure to communicate. I don't mean simply talk to America -- Obama has done plenty of that. I mean adapt to the fast-changing environment, manage the advent of instantaneous information, use the bully pulpit available to him, and take advantage of some of the greatest oratory skills ever gifted on an American leader. Obama's startling inability to grasp the concept of communication and engagement is (in my humble opinion) the biggest reason his presidency is falling into a sink hole of mediocrity or perhaps even failure.

We live in an age of instantaneous sound bites, wild statements to get attention, a 24/7 socially connected world, and a lot of polluted speech clogging up the media outlets. Both sides of the political spectrum are constantly fighting for the most valuable real estate to get their message across to the greatest amount of audience. This is Advertising 101. You need a lot of people to hear you (reach) and a lot of times (frequency) to influence behavior and choice (buy your product). Americans are bombarded with 50 thousand messages a day from 10 thousand sources. It is hard to stand out from the clutter, unless you are wildly insane, wildly good-looking, or wildly connected. Even media whores like the idiot Sarah Palin and the reprehensible Eric Cantor still have to fight with the likes of nincompoops like Marcia Blackburn and Louis Gohmert for a parking spot near the movie theater.

There is one person who does not have to fight for time. That is the President of the United States. He can readily command time (I mean command time, not speak at an arena and hope the major media outlets show up) at will and use that time to sell. Barack Obama has done so little of that. Obama has ceded control of the sound bites and media influence to lunatics and douchebags like Michele Bachmann and other assorted teahajdists. Frankly, Obama barely tries.

Obama cannot stop them, nor can he make them go away -- he shouldn't. But where this president fails is that he barely tries to counter them, he barely tries to call them out, and he barely makes an effort to truly sell his ideas and products. I am sure his "handlers" sit and fret about his "image," the possibility of over-exposure and the potential for mistakes or misstatements. But this is not 1956, when three news organizations dominated the airwaves and a few newspapers set the tone. This is not even 1984, when cable news was beginning to take root. And frankly it ain't even 1996, when a bunch of Al Gore-invented connected tubery called the internets were starting to shoot out 1s and 0s in micro-seconds. It is 2012 and you have 300 million people with TV sets, 200 million people with smart phones, 100 million people banging out 140 characters to 100 million followers (including pics of bulging underwear and stuffed bikini tops), and 1 billion people on Facebook. Hell, even the Queen of Media Whoring herself, Sarah Palin, isn't even concerned about being over-exposed. She loves every minute of it, and under this atmosphere of hate, change, and technological takeover, she is actually thriving off it.

Forget dignity of the office (I think the concept of a dignified president lost all meaning when we had a bumbling inarticulate former drunk, coke-addict rube with 30 brain cells in office from 2001 to 2009), forget playing it cautious to charm the media (that stopped with the morphing of news into gossip courtesy of Rupert Murdoch) and forget nuancing the public to death. The rules have changed -- in fact, the game has changed. Being in front especially when you can command the front row and having the best ideas with (sadly) the best message is what counts. Worrying about image, over-exposure, and mistakes has gotten Barack Obama stuck in the mud. And it has put the country even deeper in the cesspool started by Ronald Reagan.

Sadly, one of the greatest speakers of his generation who actually has the ability to win friends and influence people has not. He sure hasn't won me as a friend or even influenced me. Or at least his handlers have stopped him. Obama's failure to communicate is unfortunately pushing the country more and more down the river of no return.

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So long, Newt Gingrich. It's been a train wreck.

I never thought The Newt ever had a realistic shot at the Republican presidential nomination, for a variety of reasons that I'll get to shortly. But I thought he'd be in the race at least through the early primaries, if only to reinforce the Gingrich brand that has been so profitable to him.

Actually, I'm not sure if I thought that. Given that there's really no good reason for him to be in the race, it was inevitable that his candidacy would flame out. It was just a matter of when.

Even after he challenged Paul Ryan and the new GOP orthodoxy, though, even after he repented and predictably lashed out at the media, refusing to take responsibility for himself (as usual), even when it was clear that his candidacy was doomned, I figured he'd make it into the summer and then bow out (or middle finger out, or somewhere in between) quietly, without anyone really paying any attention, without any sort of eulogy to his catastrophic campaign.

He may still last that long, but it's over, more or less. The headlines say it all:

Politico: "The Newt Gingrich campaign implosion."

WaPo: "Gingrich presidential campaign implodes."

(The word of the day, kids, is implosion.)

NYT: "Gingrich’s Senior Campaign Staff Resigns."

MSNBC: "Senior Gingrich aides resign campaign en masse."

And from the state where it all begins, and where you pretty much have to make your mark if you have any hope of winning it all:

The Des Moines Register: "Gingrich's entire paid Iowa campaign team resigns."

Etc., etc., etc. His top people in Iowa stepped down, but so did his top people in New Hampshire and South Carolina. This was indeed massive.

Now, was this because his staffers finally came to the conclusion, however obvious to the rest of us, that he has zero chance of winning? And perhaps also because they wanted to back a winner, and to go work for a winner, instead of continuing to ply their trade with a loser?

You'd think so, right?

Well, at the Weekly Standard neocon rag, Fred Barnes claims that the problem was Calista, Newt's (third) wife. Sort of:

Aides to Newt Gingrich have resigned from his presidential campaign in protest of what they felt was a takeover by Callista Gingrich, the candidate’s wife since 2000.

The euphemism offered by departing staffers was they disagreed with Gingrich's "strategy" for the campaign. Indeed, they did disagree. But it was a strategy – a part-time campaign, in effect – that Gingrich's wife favored.

If this is true, it hardly matters that it's Calista who's pushing the strategy. What matters is what the strategy is -- a strategy that pretty much proves that Newt isn't a serious candidate and isn't serious about trying to win the nomination.

And if he's not in it to win it, if I may quote Randy, then what is he in it for? Well, again, it would seem purely for himself, for his brand, to keep his name out there in the media spotlight, to profit from being a national political figure.

This is what he's always been about, ever since he left the House. He's always been tantalizing us, or rather his supporters and others who follow him and erroneously think him a serious man who deserves our attention (like those in the media associated with the Sunday morning talk shows), with the prospect of running for president. That's partly how he's been able to remain relevant, if only to the media, as well as to build his self-serving brand into a sort of mini-empire of profitable egotism.

I was somewhat surprised that he jumped into the race, as I didn't think he would, but his lack of seriousness as a candidate, if less so as a partisan policy advocate, proves the point. This is not about winning, this is about self-promotion, about marketing, about what it's always been about.

For whatever reason, his top people decided it was time to go. And it's clearly not just because of his wife, or even mainly so. Here's Politico:

Gingrich was intent on using technology and standing out at debates to get traction while his advisers believed he needed to run a campaign that incorporated both traditional, grassroots techniques as well as new ideas.

One official said the last straw came when Gingrich went forward with taking a long-planned cruise with his wife last week in the Greek isles.

There you go. His team wanted him to run a campaign that could succeed, while he only wanted to keep his star aloft. Period.


I wrote that I'd get into the variety of reasons he doesn't have, and never has had, a realistic shot at the Republican presidential nomination. But do I really need to?

Aside from the fact that he's an egomaniacal blowhard who's only in it for himself, he has way too much baggage, way too many strikes against him, not least at a time when the Tea Party and other GOP constituencies on the right are imposing litmus tests on all Republicans -- and particularly on those with presidential aspirations.

Newt's a conservative, to be sure, but he's had to make all sorts of concessions along the way, like most legislators do, and he's just not conservative enough for today's Republican Party. Consider what he said about Ryan's draconian, anti-Medicare budget plan. He was right. It is "radical." It is "right-wing social engineering." It is "too big a jump." But look how much trouble that got him into. He may not have such problems to the degree Mitt Romney does, but he has said enough and done enough throughout his career to place him on the wrong side of GOP orthodoxy. All it takes is a single transgression. He is man of many.

For my general take on Gingrich, a more thorough examination of his many flaws, see this post.


For what it's worth, Newt says he's staying in the race. He even took to Facebook to make the announcement:

I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring. The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles.

So he's committed to running an unserious campaign with no hope of winning anything. Okay. Whatever.

I suppose he can say his campaign will begin anew, now that he's lost his top people, but there's no way it lasts much longer. He's done.

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Confessions of a political junkie: The Palin Appeal

In the absence of a Republican presidential candidate who provokes any emotion other than lethargy in the eyes of the voting public, the media has taken to filtering pretty much every politically relevant (and irrelevant) news story through the lens of the upcoming presidential election. Whether economic forecasts, the Libya conflict, the debt ceiling charades, or the recent housing market reports, all are taken as some sort of political Rorschach test foretelling the outcome of the 2012 election.

On a slow news day, don't be surprised to see headlines about the ominous planetary cycles of Jupiter and Venus in President Obama's Vedic horoscope

None of this is any more reliable than a five-year-old's claim that a kangaroo just hopped the fence in the backyard of your pacific Northwest home. But these hallow stories nonetheless are still required reading for politics junkies in need of a fix during a still-sputtering launch into the 2012 campaign season.

News agencies don't capture and maintain the attention of the masses by correcting rumors, debunking myths, and settling trumped up controversies. Political palm readers and fortune tellers attract viewers by clogging the air and ether waves with exclusive reports speculating the hypothetical forecasts of potentially conclusive odds and coincidental concurrences about what and how the ever-unpredictable political winds will blow throughout the remainder of 2011.

• "How will Libya affect 2012?" (The Washington Post)
• "Will unemployment sink Obama’s 2012 campaign?" (The Daily Beast)
• "Debt ceiling fight could decide 2012 election" (RealClearPolitics)
• "Parties see Obama’s Israel policy as wedge in 2012" (The New York Times)
• "Seniors may swing 2012 vote on Medicare revolt" (Reuters)

"Join us tomorrow for a special segment on one man's homemade time-travel device – made from his wife's collection of purple and pink rubber dildos, held together with earwax and fueled by root beer – and what effect it might have in re-electing President Obama."

There are only moments of hope – the political reporter's desperate attempt to meet his quota with a "historic perspective" on presidential odds during times of high unemployment. "No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent," The New York Times reported on June 1. But then, on June 2, some smartass bubble-bursting rationalist drowns the "historic perspective" in context: "The 7.2% threshold is largely irrelevant... The more relevant metric is directional – are things better or getting worse by the time voters head to the polls, and if worse, who gets the blame." Ronald Reagan won in '84 because the American public thought the economy was improving. George H.W. Bush lost because the public didn't think so.

In other words, you can't predict the second coming of Christ with a protractor, a deck of Tarot cards, and a map of ancient Mesopotamia. There are 17 months of economic forecasts before the election, any action on the debt ceiling is still months away, Libya won't ever become a splinter issue, abortion will continue to be one through 2016, the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be just as influential in 2012 as it will be in 3012, gay rights will take a back seat to immigration by the end of 2011, and Medicare will remain as is even as Republicans continue the suicidal quest to legitimize the Paul Ryan privatization plan.

In the meantime, as we wait for someone to enter the race who has more than the proverbial snowball's chance in hell of competing with Obama, we're left with the similarly speculative news reports about Weinergate, the long-in-coming and completely unsurprising news of John Edwards' indictment, and the 24/7 media circus surrounding former half-term governor Sarah Palin's donor-funded-but-allegedly-non-campaign-related mystery bus tour along the East Coast.

As a political junkie with a blog, you're forced to take the bait and add your own unoriginal observations to the three million other unoriginal observations already circulating the web. When Google says a reality show pop star is trending, a reality show pop star is what you write about. After two hours sulking in a lawn chair on the porch, a half-rack of empty beer cans scattered at your feet, and a handful of Somas fully dissolved and faithfully pumping through your bloodstream, you might be ready to take the plunge into TV-celebrity tabloid territory. It shouldn't be that difficult. You've done it before (more times than you care to recall), but descending into the gossip genre is the writer's equivalent of taking one for the team. It's made only slightly more bearable by the fact that much greater men, employed, syndicated, nationally-known, and respected journalists, have swallowed their pride as you must yours and given in to the public's yearning for useless tidbits about useless dimwits.

The irony is nauseating: You shower a publicity whore with the very attention you criticize her for seeking. And then, begrudgingly, you join the drudges of bottom-feeder news critics, drown out the delusions of one day contributing something more valuable to the world than snarky regurgitations of already clichéd talking points, forget about the months you've spent struggling to maintain any sort of presence in the already saturated blogosphere, and you write the fucking thing – a 1,000 word column that not all that many people will read. It will the your most popular post of the month...

The acolytes of Palin's brigade who troll the web for critics of their revolutionary hero inevitably will strike back. It's in the cards. As guaranteed as the sunrise on May 22nd. And you're ready for it. She deserves it, you say. She's clinging to her star power despite any rational expectation that she will break her record of contributing anything more than partisan vitriol and populist paranoia to the public discourse. She's touring the east in a bus funded by fans who will donate even more to her political action committee, only to realize they were duped when she announces that she won't run. It's no different than Newt Gingrich's "Entrepreneur of the Year Award" scheme or Glenn Beck's gold bullion marketing scam

People magazine

But the Palin army has grown wiser over the years, and when they accuse you of beating a dead horse, the guilt piles on. She's a failed vice presidential candidate, a failed governor, and a failed mother who totes her disabled son around the country as a prop and chops the double-chin off her chubby daughter in a plastic surgery procedure the family defended as a medically necessary "corrective surgery." She has a web page outlining (in bullet points) her stance on nearly 400 political issues, and yet the only domestic or foreign policy she could ever take credit for is "Drill, baby, drill." She stays in the limelight by baiting the media with constant hints of a presidential run despite having done nothing over the past three years to increase her credibility, beef up her policy positions, or even read up on history. If she thinks she deserves the publicity, she deserves the scrutiny, too. Right? Right? Either way, we're still talking about her – or mercilessly flogging what at this point is the rotting carcass of a barren hinny.

But fuck 'em. A Palinite can't wander into a discussion about Palin's potential 2012 candidacy and get pissed that we're talking about Palin's potential 2012 candidacy rather than talking about "issues" and "the future of our union" and "the principles of what really matter" and "the legacy we are leaving our younger generations," as if the discussion of PALIN'S POTENTIAL 2012 CANDIDACY isn't what EVERYBODY is talking about this week, and as if it's the only topic anyone has ever discussed on the web. That's like berating a friend for posting on Facebook that she's "impressed by a Texas rest area with granite counters and free internet" rather than talking about "issues" and "the future of our union" and "the principles of what really matter" and "the legacy we are leaving our younger generations."

The "issues" never get resolved. The pendulum swings every two years, politicians come in and out of power, voters think they've really got a good one who will push for this or that environmental or social issue, they don't, and we go back to the polls to elect a new batch of do-nothing leaders. The worse part is, it'll be another few weeks before we even get to pretend like the issues matter. Palin is in the news. Before her, it was Donald Trump. Next week, who knows? Maybe Michele Bachmann. And oh what a travesty it will be as the news media turn the American public's attention away from "the issues" as it chases another week's worth of sensational news reports about what impact Bachmann will have on the presidential race. The political junkies of the blogosphere will act like it's an abomination against their integrity to dedicate a few minutes of their precious time writing some snarky bullshit critique of her already well-known, impossible-to-overcome odds of winning the presidency.

And it will be their most popular post of the month.

(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

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Wisconsin GOP likely to redistrict Ryan's seat to make it even more red. Taking no chances, eh?

I have written a few times that Congressman Paul Ryan, of the Wisconsin 1st District, would be wise to forget about any presidential aspirations in 2012 and instead focus on retaining his own seat. In truth, I don't think there is much chance that he would lose it but for the fact that the budget plan carrying his name, which would essentially privatize Medicare, is so unpopular.

Sure, Democrats are salivating over what happened in the special election in the New York 26th, and it will be a good issue to run on, but Ryan has been winning easily for quite some time and has never received less than 63% of the vote.

Again, it's a hard pick-up for the Democrats, though an item today in The Huffington Post did catch my eye. It read:

Ryan's 1st Congressional District stretches along the Illinois border from industrial Racine to the rolling farms of Rock County. Republicans, who control the state legislature, are expected to use redistricting to make it more red, pulling it west away from the bluer communities along the shore of Lake Michigan.

So, while Ryan losing seems a long-shot, the fact that his Republican friends at the Legislature are stacking the deck to help him along to victory is interesting. Maybe they know something we don't know, or maybe they know exactly what we know.

The 1st as constituted now is a swing district, going for Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008. Governor Walker's budget-cutting measures and assault on public sector unions have certainly helped to make Republicans more vulnerable than they would otherwise be, and then there's that pesky Medicare issue.

To state the obvious, as Kyle Kondik, analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, has done:

It's difficult to imagine that Ryan will lose. But if he does, it will be because there is a Democratic tidal wave. A tidal wave that will have been created in no small part because of Ryan's budget proposal.

If that tidal wave comes, and that's a huge "if," Ryan could be vulnerable. Without his budget plan, we are not even having this conversation. Ryan says that's not a problem for him because his budget is more important than his seat. Okay. I'd be interested to know how many others in the GOP House caucus feel the same way - those who don't typically win with 63% of the vote.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Yet another update on the Nevada 2nd special election -- Sharron Angle is out

Somehow I missed a development in the special election coming this fall to fill the Nevada 2nd Congressional seat vacated by Dean Heller when he replaced John Ensign in the U.S. Senate after Ensign resigned amid an ethics inquiry.

The big news is that, Sharron Angle, Tea Party star, and failed Nevada Senate candidate, has decided not to seek the seat after seriously gearing up to take a shot at it.

It's all very interesting, with elements of local intrigue, but it boiled down to the fact that a judge ruled that the political parties must pick their candidate, one candidate per party, for the ballot to take place on Sept. 13th.

This overturned Secretary of State Ross Miller's earlier decision that anyone could run in what would have amounted to a free-for-all.

As it seemed unlikely that Angle would get the Republican Party nod, she apparently decided she didn't like the odds of running in a field that would include a GOP sanctioned nominee. Instead, she was clearly hoping for a very crowded field in which she might benefit from a strong Tea Party base and good vote splits.

Democrats were also hoping for the free-for-all scenario on the same theory that many candidates could potentially split the conservative vote in a way beneficial to them.

But it's not over yet as the Nevada Supreme Court will hear arguments on June 28th. There is even some talk that the Sept. 13th election might be delayed to give the court more time to render a decision.

Currently, 28 candidates have filed to run, including 14 Republicans and 9 Democrats.

Still hard to know what will happen here, both in the courts and at the ballot box. I should note that McCain took the district by a slim 88 votes against Obama out of 335,720 cast in 2008, though the Republican (Heller) took the Congressional race by more than 10% in the same year.

It's interesting that Angle dropped out before the case wound its way through the courts.

Here is what she had to say, as reported in the National Journal:

Current outcomes concerning the special election have made this election in Nevada an illegitimate process that disenfranchises the electorate. Clearly, no solution that the Supreme Court can make will correct the injury to free and open elections caused by ambiguous laws and subsequent lawsuits. 

While criticizing back room deals by a "select group of people" she also indicated that she didn't want to run in a free-for-all scenario either, which are the only options currently under consideration by the Nevada Supreme Court.

Now it seems that the only process she would accept is a primary system, which is disallowed by Nevada state law.

Who know? It sounds like she didn't like the way things were shaping up and decided to take a hike by pissing in all directions.

Angle has thus far given no clear indication of future plans. Too bad, if only for the entertainment value. She certainly puts on a good show - crazy, but good.

What I find most interesting in all of this, though, is the length to which the GOP establishment may be willing to go to ensure they don't repeat the mistakes of 2010 with crazy Tea Party-backed candidates.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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If I Was A Paranoid...

By Carl
...I would think Anthony Weiner's "mistake" wasn't.
While the nation has been focused on one dick, a bunch of other dicks in the White House have been fighting a shadow war in Yemen:
A major American newspaper is reporting that the U.S. government has intensified its covert war in Yemen in recent weeks, deploying armed drones and fighter jets to attack militant suspects seeking to undermine the shaky Sana'a government.

Citing U.S. officials, The New York Times said that after nearly a year-long pause in American airstrikes, the U.S. has accelerated its campaign in an attempt to keep militants linked to al-Qaida from consolidating power. The attacks are being led by the U.S. Defense Department's Joint Special Operations Command in close coordination with the CIA.

The report said that last Friday American jets killed a mid-level al-Qaida operative, Abu Ali al-Harithi, and several other militant suspects in a strike in southern Yemen. Weeks before, drones fired missiles aimed at Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born Islamic cleric that the U.S. has been trying to kill for more than a year. But he survived the attack.

Now, I'm all for a campaign that stops Al Qaeda from reconstituting itself, but here's the thing: The Yemeni people seem quite happy to let the current administration in Sana'a fall. Indeed, the regime in charge seems to be acknowledging this is a period of transition and yes, periods of transition leave vacuums that groups like Al Qaeda will seek to fill.
It also seems as if we are doing this at the behest of another party whose interest is less than humanitarian: the Saudis.
This adds an aspect to this covert war that is distasteful and unseemly. We're not doing this to foster stability so much as doing it to prevent the same thing from happening in Saudi Arabia, the fall of the House of Saud. It's a little like Disneyland asking the National Guard to stop a strike at Knots Berry Farms amusement park, and the National Guard sending in undercover troops.
We have no business hewing to the desires of the Saudi royal family, except...
If we don't, then the threat they can lodge is to take their business to China. One suspects our failure in Iraq was a futile, poorly planned and badly executed attempt to prevent just that or at least to give the Sauds reason to pause in that effort.
Perhaps that's an exaggeration, although if it is, it's one that has an awful lot of circumstance supporting it. Perhaps our mission there truly is to support a transition to a populist coalition government that will be more responsive to the people of Yemen, with the added bonus of giving us a foothold in a nation that is mission critical to our fight against terror attacks. It's true that both north and south Yemen have suffered through prolonged civil violence in the past five years (north Yemen has seen a civil war for nearly ten).
And it's also true that Yemen has a strategic significance in the port of Aden, and the gateway to Asia from the Red Sea and Suez Canal, all the more reason China would be interested in "helping out" the Saudis. Keep in mind, however, that Somalia is right across from Aden and Yemen, and the canal itself is controlled by Egypt, which lends a new facet of danger to the proceedings. 
We're in the middle of something extremely tricky here, but hey, pay no attention to that! Please keep bashing Anthony Weiner!  
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Elephant Dung #35: Palin's chief of staff slams Bachmann advisor Ed Rollins

Tracking the GOP Civil War

By Michael J.W. Stickings

 (For an explanation of this ongoing series, see here. For previous entries, see here.)

Ed Rollins struck first, calling Sarah Palin not "serious" and saying that his soon-to-be candidate (?), Michele Bachmann, looks good by comparison.

Needless to say, that didn't go over well with the Palin camp:

"Beltway political strategist Ed Rollins has a long, long track record of taking high profile jobs and promptly sticking his foot in his mouth," said Sarah PAC chief of staff Michael Glassner in an emailed statement. "To no one's surprise he has done it again, while also fueling a contrived narrative about the presidential race by the mainstream media. One would expect that his woodshed moment is coming and that a retraction will be issued soon."

Oooh. Aaah.

Rollins was right about Palin, if not so much about Bachmann, but it seems to me that his intention was not to much to dismiss Palin altogether but to spin his candidate as something other than a Palin clone or, worse, a lesser Palin, an unsatisfactory replacement for the real thing. So he notes that Palin isn't serious while Bachmann is, that Bachmann has extensive experience while Palin doesn't.

Will it work? Maybe. If Palin doesn't run, and she likely won't, there's a huge opening for Bachmann to emerge as the preferred right-wing (i.e., Republican mainstream) alternative to Romney and perhaps Giuliani. Pawlenty is trying hard to be that altnerative by stressing his conservative bona fides (or making them up on the go), but he lacks Bachmann's dynamism, charisma, and Tea Party appeal.

But it will be hard for Bachmann to make her mark with Palin hovering over the race and sucking the energy out of the Republican field by dominating media coverage. The longer she hovers, without formally announcing one way or the other, the better it is for Romney, who remains the frontrunner without a credible right-wing opponent (other than Pawlenty, perhaps), but the worse it is for Bachmann, who at some point needs to jump in and stake out her territory while attracting as much coverage as possible. Rollins knows this, surely, and what he said was intended to drive in the wedge to promote Bachmann at Palin's expense, encourage the media to dismiss Palin (as if that's possible), and add to the various Republican efforts to destroy Palin's credibility.

Ultimately, there will be peace between Palin and Bachmann, and Palin may even endorse her, but until Palin gets out of the way, we can probably expect more of this to come.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Steve Jobs announces "Klaatu barada nikto!" -- new iBuilding

I couldn't sit on the DL when I espied the news of this today;


After having a banner WWDC start yesterday, Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs humbly presented his idea for a new Apple campus at the Cupertino City Council today. Jobs wants to build one building that will hold 12,000 Apple employees on a former Hewlett-Packard property in the area between Tantau North Wolfe, Homestead and the 280 freeway.”It’s a little like a spaceship landed,” Jobs says. No kidding.

Jobs began the presentation referring to the fact that Apple is growing “like a weed,” and that its current campus at D’Anza and the 280 isn’t enough — fitting only about 2,800 people. Apple currently rents buildings to house its other 6,700 employees in the area. The new building will augment the current campus.

There's more, something about Matrix-like Curved Holographic windows and how the whole place will be powered by Soylent Green.


And WTF was this Justin Bieberish adoration?

The individual members of the Cupertino City Council seemed like they were in awe the entire time the infamously charismatic Apple CEO spoke (which isn’t surprising), asking Jobs for free Wifi and iPads for constituents as well as for an Apple store that's actually in Cupertino and not in the Valley or Los Gatos. Jobs shyly responded to the requests, "I think we bring a lot more than free Wifi."

Beware Cupertino, the past is prologue.

Barnhardt: One thing, Mr. Klaatu: suppose this group should reject your proposals. What is the alternative? 

Klaatu: I'm afraid there is no alternative. In such a case, the planet Earth would have to be... eliminated 

Barnhardt: Such power exists? 

Klaatu: I assure you, such power exists

You can watch it here (and notice, around the 11:00 mark, when Jobs holds the "largest tax payer in Cupertino" thing over their heads, and, around the 17:00 mark, Jobs pulling a Timmy-from-Twilight Zone, wishing the Kaiser Cement plant into the cornfield).

What went unannounced, sources told The Garlic, is that this is the beginning of an ambitious new "iBuilding" division of Apple, and in the yet-to-be-announced future, the debut of "iBlueprint," where anyone can download designs of homes or buildings.

Bonus Riffs

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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This day in history - June 8, 1949: George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is published

As I watch and listen to Republicans go about their daily business with their constant use of doublespeak, George Orwell is never far from my mind. It seems, though, that Orwell never used the term doublespeak but rather coined newspeak and doublethink.

Apparently someone helpfully combined these other terms and came up with doublespeak as a word that Orwell might have coined, to the point that most think he did.

One source defines newspeak as "deliberately ambiguous and contradictory language used to mislead and manipulate the public." 

Doublethink is defined as "thought marked by the acceptance of gross contradictions and falsehoods, especially when used as a technique of self-indoctrination." 

Doublespeak is defined as:

Language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., downsizing or layoffs), making the truth less unpleasant, without denying its nature. It may also be deployed as intentional ambiguity, or reversal of meaning (for example, naming the state of war "peace"). In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth.

As an example of Orwellian language, I need only go back a couple of days to a post I did on New Hampshire Congressman Charlie Bass's attempt to sugarcoat what the Ryan budget plan wants to do to Medicare.

He writes:

The Budget Resolution [i.e., the Ryan Budget Plan] ensures that Americans aged 54 and younger will still have Medicare when they retire by implementing a new, sustainable model of Medicare.

He goes on to say that Democratic attempts to characterize the plan as "ending Medicare" are "blatantly and wholly false, and have been deliberately crafted to mislead and frighten voters."

I don't know, Representative Bass; I don't think George Orwell would have any difficulty recognizing what you and your friend are up to.

Yes, someone is engaging in deliberately ambiguous and contradictory language and gross contradictions and falsehoods in an attempt to disguise the nature of the truth, and it's not the Democratic critics of Ryancare. It's you.

War is not peace, and a privatized voucher system is not Medicare.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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