Saturday, June 09, 2012

This day in music - June 9, 1984: Cindi Lauper's "Time After Time" starts a two-week run at #1 on the U.S. singles chart

By Richard K. Barry

I always liked Cindy Lauper's "Time After Time." I wasn't a fan otherwise. I wasn't not a fan, if you know what I mean, but I do recognize a great song when I hear it. It was on her second album, She's So Unusual. It was her second biggest commercial success after "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," needless to say.

Rolling Stone and MTV rank it at #66 of the 100 Greatest Pop Songs. It was nominated for Song of the Year at the 1985 Grammy Awards and was co-written by Lauper and Rob Hyman of The Hooters, who supplied background vocals.

For me, nothing says the '80s like "Time After Time."

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Self-righteousness, thy name is Joe (Scarborough)

The show is named after me, and
the facts are what I say they are.
As I wrote recently, Joe Scarborough, of MSNBC's Morning Joe, went on a tear about coverage in The New York Times's Home section of Mitt Romney's ostentatious California dwelling. He claimed, incorrectly, as it turned out, that the Times was treating Romney fundamentally differently than it treated earlier Democratic candidates. 

As described it:

Morning Joe Scarborough angrily rambled at length about a Times Story – on the front page of the Home section — about Mitt Romney's big, tacky house, and how his neighbors hate him and he is always calling the cops on people who smoke weed on the beach. The main problem is, Romney bought a big, expensive house by the beach, and then decided to quadruple its size, and predictably his neighbors have complaints about this.

As Alex Pareene continued:

This made Joe Scarborough mad for about 20 minutes, that this story was published, because in his imagination the New York Times would never publish a story like this about a liberal. That is false, obviously, as the Times pointed out a bit later in a statement that linked to four separate 2004 stories about... John Kerry being super rich. You and I may remember a veritable sea of coverage of Kerry’s prodigious wealth, from basically every source imaginable.

The fact that Scarborough was simply wrong about the bias didn't slow him down a bit. He continued to argue that he is right because has a general impression that he is right. Wouldn't want to confuse Joe with the facts.

To compound the absurdity of this, Scarborough added that The New York Times was "thin-skinned" for taking offence. It's a news organization being accused of bias by the host of a popular public affairs program based on nothing but his gut. I don't think a push-back says anything about the relative thickness of their skin.

I can only say that I saw the program on which all this happened. Scarborough was at his self-righteous worst. He was clearly bullying other panelists, some of whom were not agreeing with him.

Just say you were wrong, Joe. Give it a shot. It's a skill that would come in handy for you.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Friday, June 08, 2012

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell identifies Republican effort to destroy America

Via twitter: 

McDonnell: "That hope and change thing... has turned into a vision of malaise, division, and recession." 

-- Molly Ball (@mollyesque)

No, it's actually that ever-increasing Republican cynicism, extremism, and obstructionism have largely thwarted President Obama's efforts to bring meaningful change to Washington and the rest of the country (often by reaching out to Republicans and embracing what used to be, not so long ago, mainstream Republican positions (e.g., on health-care reform), as well as by providing historic leadership on increasingly popular issues like same-sex marriage) and pull the economy out of the abyss to which Republican policies had sunk it. (And, actually, what's amazing is how successful he has been in spite of Republican efforts to destroy him.)

Hope and meaningful, progressive change can't escape the black hole of doom and despair that is the Republican Party, but there is reason for hope as long as Obama is in the White House.

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Obama vs. Romney: We were always going to be right where we are

Say Gilligan, would you like
to be my running mate?
Carry my clubs, that sort of thing?
By Richard K. Barry

One of the stranger things about politics is there is often a strong consensus about how things will unfold, and then when they unfold precisely that way, we call it big news and get all breathless about it.

When Mitt Romney was still fighting for the GOP nomination, we all knew his national numbers would be depressed because other candidates were beating on him and he never was the choice of more committed conservatives anyway. His fundraising ability was hampered by the fact that conservative donors were splitting their donations. But we also knew that when things got real, third-party money would start flowing in, thanks to the Citizens United decision. The national dynamic hadn't settled yet, but we knew that when this became a two person race, it would tighten up, we knew conservatives would fall in line. We also knew that every downward economic indicator would likely depress Obama's polling numbers.

Now that it's Obama vs. Romney, so much of what we expected is happening. On top of which, Romney is now able to go to many conservative donors who were not previously with him and ask them for money for the first time.

Yes, the presidential election could be a very close race, which is something most of us expected in an economy this lousy, with money easily available to Republicans, and a Republican Congress that has clearly stated its intention to be obstructionist.

State by state, Obama is still in good shape, but the national numbers will be close throughout and we will certainly see some volatility in individual states.

On the positive side for Obama, we should know that Mitt Romney hasn't been well-defined yet in the minds of many voters. What they're responding to positively, in many cases, is the idea of a more conservative candidate, perhaps to his business experience, or even the idea of change itself in the middle of tough economic circumstances, always a popular option.

This campaign has not begun to morph into what I believe it will become: Barack Obama, a campaigning powerhouse, vs. Mitt Romney, a pathetically stiff, duplicitous, uninspiring Thurston Howell III clone who took way took long to dispatch the weakest GOP presidential nomination field in recent memory.

Even at that, the country is split and the margin of victory, at least in terms of popular vote, will be slight.

The race is on. This thing is going to be competitive. Who didn't see that coming?

Anyway, we're where we were always going to be. Hang on.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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A pledge to America... revisited

A Pledge to America...Revisited takemycountrybackFewer jobs in May. Unemployment is up. What happened to the jobs? What a joke!

Remember many, many years ago, back in 2010, when a bunch of goofballs stood in a hardware store with their "Pledge to America" theater prop in hand and said some nonsense about putting America back to work? Well, turns out a lot of people fell for that joke and voted for them... again! Seemed eight long years of economic destruction was not enough. The thinking was, if we just give these Republicans more time, then things will become better. In fact, when you ask many of these same folks today to justify their decision from way back when, they say that the previous administration was really not all that bad compared to this one.

And as a result of their political foresight, things have changed for the better. Right? We should vote to give them back the presidency, right? After all, these guys gave us a "Pledge":

With this document, we pledge to dedicate ourselves to the task of reconnecting our highest aspirations to the permanent truths of our founding by keeping faith with the values our nation was founded on, the principles we stand for, and the priorities of our people. This is our Pledge to America.

Very patriotic. You can almost hear "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" playing as you read it.

Now, I know what you are thinking. They did not actually deliver of this pledge. Congress's approval is at record lows and the jobs are not coming. Well, perhaps you need a little help understanding the "Pledge" and how much of it was actually accomplished.

Let's break it down: 

The Pledge: "The permanent truths of our founding" 
Translation: Being gay will nto be tolerated. It says so in the Bible.

The Pledge: "Keeping faith with the values our nation was founded on" 
Translation: No abortions past 20 weeks, even in cases of rape and incest.

The Pledge: "The principles we stand for"
Translation: We will not allow taxes to go up on the wealthiest people, but poor people must pay their fair share.

The Pledge: "The priorities of our people" 
Translation: Any person suspected of not being born here, or with dark skin, must not be allowed to vote and under no circumstances should ever be allowed to be president ever again! 

You see America, it was all right there, clear as day back in 2010. Sorry if you missed it. But don't worry. This next time around things will be much more clear. And about those jobs? Well, really when you think about it, who needs jobs? America voted for a "Pledge," not jobs. If Republicans had spent all their time on jobs these last three years it would have distracted from their real agenda -- obstructing a presidency lock, stock, and barrel long enough to convince you to vote for them... again!

You still want to see jobs, huh? Ugh. Okay, then vote Republican in 2012! If you liked what they did in the first half, you will just love what's in store for Act II!

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Wisconsin, don't despair. It's not you, it's them.

By Ramona

As much as we all sorely wished that the recall effort in Wisconsin would succeed, I don't know many people who were actually shocked when it failed on Tuesday. The odds against winning were formidable. The recallers gathered thousands more signatures that they would ever need and it looked like that fact alone might carry them along to success, but Big Money fought the recall, turning the image of valued public employees into thoughtless money-grabbers at a time when belts had to be tightened. They portrayed Scott Walker as a tough, savvy, pro-business leader who was willing to take on the union-heavy public institutions responsible for dragging the state down. That was the story, and the voters bought it.

In Wisconsin, the recall effort was an actual election, pitting Governor Walker against his 2010 gubernatorial opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who seemed like a nice guy with a compelling promise to bring fair, honest governance back to that state but who, in the end, couldn't make the case broadly enough.

The word on the street the morning after the election was that voters thought recalls should be used against more egregious actions by a sitting governor. Killing the chances at collective bargaining for all public workers apparently didn't fit the bill. The word on the street was that nobody cares about unions anyway, and good riddance to them.

The word on the street was that Wisconsin is and always has been an unpredictable state and that this was a colossal waste of money and effort, no matter how many signatures were gathered and no matter how worthy the message. (Not much mention of the tens of millions of dollars Walker's buddies threw into the race to keep his regime going.)

Michigan Rising, an organization working to gather signatures for Governor Rick Snyder's recall,  announced on Wednesday that it is calling off the recall challenge. An effort to gather enough signatures fell embarrassingly short, and the loss in Wisconsin became reason enough to end it. 

We know now that recalls aren't the best way to protest. The fact that only two governors in our country's entire history have ever been recalled, and that Scott Walker was only the third to ever have been challenged, says something about the chances for success. The chances were pretty much nil from the start.

We liberal activists are getting used to failure, and getting used to failure is not a healthy thing. It's demoralizing and it's way too easy in the aftermath to just give up. It isn't that our hearts aren't in it, or that we don't take the fight seriously. It's that we've never run into such concerted, committed opposition before, and we don't have a clue about how to handle it. We're fighting a vast faction with a mighty war chest bent on taking over this country by making our own government work against us. The proof is out there, practically in neon lights, that Republican governors of many of our states have signed up for the takeover.

They follow an agenda set out for them by right-wing organizations fully capable of fighting the battle for the states all the way to the end, and they're determined not to stop there. They've forced nearly every single Republican politician to sign a pledge never to raise taxes or their funding will dry up as quick as dung in the desert sun. It's the Grover Norquist plan, and even though Grover Norquist has no real credentials, he is the frontrunning Republican rule-maker and nobody in his party ever seems to wonder who died and made him king.

The diabolically clever part of the "never raise taxes" plan is that it can be used to effectively kill any program the Republicans are against. Any social program, any essential safety net, can die an unnatural death by defunding, underfunding or outright abolishing, thanks to the new rules set in place by the likes of Norquist, ALEC, the Koch cabal, the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, and various Tea Party newbies in the House who have promised to shed real red blood if necessary in order to honor the edicts of the monied right wing.

As David Horsey wrote in yesterday's L.A. Times:

Occupy Wall Street enthusiasts can camp out on the sidewalk and conduct their exquisitely egalitarian group discussions. Anarchists can gleefully smash windows at Bank of America and Starbucks. Union members can set up phone banks and carry picket signs. But as long as elections are there to be bought, a handful of billionaires will have a far louder voice in who runs the country than all the activists on the left combined.

As a country, we've dug ourselves into a hole so deep daylight is but a distant dream. The news from Wisconsin is not good but it can't be the end. We liberals and progressives can win this thing if we work together and build our own formidable counteracting factions. (See Bernie Sanders.) It's our only chance and we can only get it done if we set aside our differences and work together with one goal in mind: That saving our country is a cause worth fighting for.

There is a truly frightening enemy out there and it isn't us. Not any of us.

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Romney lies about Obama's commitment to capitalism

Mitt just can't help himself, it seems. He's a dishonest, bullshit-spewing prick.

I get that political rhetoric in the heat of a campaign often bears little relation to the truth, but this is just absurd:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday suggested that Barack Obama had been governing as a "president of doubt and deception."

At a campaign event in Saint Louis, the former Massachusetts governor blasted Obama for not understanding the "free enterprise system."

"Sadly, it's become clear that this president simply doesn't understand or appreciate these fundamental truths of our economic system," he insisted. "Our government has a moral commitment to help every American to help himself -- him and herself. And that commitment has been broken."

"I don't believe, by the way, that it was done with evil intent or ill will," he continued. "As your president starting on day one, I will do everything in my power to end these days of drift and disappointment."

Romney noted that something was "fundamentally wrong when there over 23 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work."

"And yet, the president tells us he's doing a great job," the candidate pointed out. "Forward, he says. Off a cliff."

"I will not be that president of doubt and deception!"

Apparently he thinks he can say anything and get away with it. (It's another of those George Costanza rules: It's not a lie if you believe it.)

So Obama is an enemy of capitalism and the American Way. Why? Because he says so.

We're used to this by now, of course. Republicans have spent much of the last four years breathlessly telling us that Obama is a socialist who wants government to crush the market and control every last inch of our lives.

But where's the evidence -- in this case, the evidence that Obama "doesn't understand or appreciate these fundamental truths" of American capitalism, that somehow Obama doesn't believe in this "moral commitment" to help people succeed in the free market?

If anything, if we look back over his first term, the president has been overly committed to the market at the expense of meaningful regulation and the protection of non-wealthy Americans. Otherwise, his policies have all been about protecting "our economic system" from itself and building it up again: the stimulus package (not large enough but probably as much as he could get given Republican opposition at the time), the auto bailout, the refusal post-TARP to hold Wall Street appropriately responsible for its actions (and crimes), market-oriented, pro-Big Insurance health-care reform based on Romney's own reforms in Massachusetts (not a single-payer system), etc. Where in all that is evidence of anything even remotely resembling opposition to American capitalism?

Has the economy continued to struggle under Obama? But consider how much worse it would have gotten, and would be today, if not for what Obama did to reverse it's downward spiral, the condition he found the economy in when he took office -- all that he did in the face of Republican opposition and obstructionism. Consider what it would be like now if Republicans had gotten their way, if there had been no auto bailout, no stimulus, nothing at all to get the economy moving in the right direction, just more tax cuts for the wealthy, like Romney, and further deregulation of a financial system that almost destroyed itself, globally, precisely because there was not enough regulation.

But that hardly matters to Romney. This is the guy who wanted the auto industry to go bankrupt and who is now taking credit for saving it. He's shameless, and relentless.

And a fucking liar.

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

This day in history - June 7, 1965: The U.S. Supreme Court hands down its decision in Griswold v. Connecticut

Estelle Griswold and Dr. C. Lee Buxton
after being arrested.

Griswold v. Connecticut effectively legalized the use of contraception by married couples. That's not a typo, by the way, this happened in 1965.

This was a landmark case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protected the right to privacy in a case that involved a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of contraceptives. In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court invalidated the law on the grounds that it violated the "right to marital privacy."

The Wiki on this states:

Since Griswold, the Supreme Court has cited the right to privacy in several rulings, most notably in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), where the Court ruled that a woman's choice to have an abortion was protected as a private decision between her and her doctor.


Griswold v. Connecticut involved a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of "any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception." Although the law was passed in 1879, the statute was almost never enforced. Attempts were made to test the constitutionality of the law; however, the challenges had failed on technical grounds.

The case was eventually successfully challenged when Estelle Griswold (Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut) and Dr. C. Lee Buxton (a physician and professor at the Yale School of Medicine) opened a birth control clinic in New Haven, Connecticut, in order to test the contraception law once again. They were arrested, found guilty, and fined, which was enough to provide standing and allow the case to make its way to the Supreme Court where the Connecticut Statute was found to be unconstitutional.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Mitt Romney chose to make his own wealth a campaign issue

By Richard K. Barry

I know we are supposed to be impressed that MSNBC, the "liberal network," has a morning show hosted by a former Republican congressman, Joe Scarborough, who doesn't always agree with the more insane ramblings of his party. How nice.

Time was that someone like Scarborough would have been seen for what he is, a rigidly partisan conservative. Now that the Republican Party has moved so far to the crazy right, we are supposed to see Morning Joe as reasonable. Not for me, thank you.

Today's rant from Scarborough was all about how The New York Times is doing a full-court press reporting Mitt Romney's wealth in a way that they did not, for example, criticize John Kerry's wealth during the 2004 campaign.

Joe went on and on about this. The other panelists tip-toed around Joe, who must have hiring and firing discretion on the show, and everyone missed the point.

Romney is the one making his business success an issue. He is the one saying his excessive wealth makes him the best choice to lead the country. He's the one who is saying his career choices and experience make him better able to understand the economy and what people need to succeed. He's the one peddling the old discredited theory of trickle down economics, suggesting that we only need to make the rich richer and everyone will benefit. He's the one saying, in other words, that excessive wealth is a wonderful thing, implying that we should look at him for proof.

Romney has made his own wealth, his own success, the centerpiece of his resume. The press have every right to ask what manner of man he is and how well he would, in fact, relate to the middle class or even less well-off citizens.

Scarborough's problem seems to be that he doesn't want the press reporting the facts.

Who Romney is, what manner of man he is, is important because it tells us what kinds of decisions he might make in office. This is equally true of Obama to the extent that his experience and attributes relate to how he might govern.

If John Kerry had suggested that his personal wealth and success were an important reasons to vote for him, the press would have, I suspect, made more of it.

When Romney makes his own success in business an essential issue, too bad that he can't control how everyone in the press reports it. Not everyone is Fox News or Joe Scarborough.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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The death of one political party (or the other)

By Carl 

Contained in the transcript of this interview is an opportunity to make the Democrats (or the Republicans, if they had anyone with balls in their leadership) a permanent majority -- well, for a few decades, at any rate. 

ANDREW KOHUT: By the middle of his first term, most Democrats strongly disapproved of George W. Bush. And almost from the get-go, most Republicans have strongly disapproved of Barack Obama. So part of it is response to these presidencies and the political culture. Part of it, too, is the way the parties have changed. The parties have become smaller than they once were. We have a record number of political independents. 

JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, an unprecedented 38 percent of those surveyed identified as independents, the most to choose that description at any point in the last 75 years. 

By comparison, just 32 percent said they were Democrats, and only 24 percent now call themselves Republicans. 

There are three bits of information to process here:

1) Self-identified Democrats hold an 8 point edge over self-identified Republicans. This means the Democrats message to its membership has been more effective than the Republicans.

2) Of the 38% who self-identify as "independent," there's a strong diversity (not unexpected) of political views, but no consistency. They can be older and fiscally conservative and socially liberal (which, when you think about it, is an opportunity to make them choose either lower taxes or lower services, and message it that way), they can be younger and fiscally liberal and socially liberal, and then there are the suburban types who really only care about how to take care of the kids and will the trains run on time.

3) Most of the people in the middle, that 38%, aren't independent because they reject either party. They're independent because they believe both parties have rejected them. Both have stopped listening to their needs, they feel, and so will choose to vote on candidates.

The opportunity to pluck many of these votes back is waiting, and the work really isn't that hard. Indeed, Bill Clinton was a master at finding votes out of unlikely places, and he made it look easy. You just have to stop framing the world as "us versus them," and start framing it as "me and you."
Look, believe it or not, PBS, the NewsHour, and Judy Woodruff get it: go out and listen to these people. Speak with them, not to them, and stop using buzzwords and trying to find a Frank Luntz-like euphemism that becomes a dog whistle for an agenda.

This is a winning strategy for any level of election, from school board to Congress to president. If you pay attention, your reward will be votes. Barack Obama is somewhat better at this than Mitt Romney, and no one seriously questions who will win in November (and that's before the inevitable debates and before the inevitable Romneybot flubs).

But we need more: We need to find candidates who can set aside a personal agenda and talk with people. Let them know you take them seriously, and don't pop up snappy sound bites in response. That just sounds like you're making the voter a prop (sometimes that works, but not usually). Really listen to what they are saying, reiterate it back to them, and then find a solution in your bag of bromides that you can tailor to their concerns.

Believe me, we're going to get a lot more votes from independents if we can actually have them saying the next day at church or the dinner table or the gym, "Y'know, so-and-so sat with me and really listened to my problems. I think (s)he cares about what's going on, and may not have the answers but at least understands the question."

Take health-care reform as an issue: fully 61% of independent voters think it was a horrible idea, that there's already too much government intrusion into their lives. What does that tell you? If someone sat with you and said, "No, there's death panels and mandates and all that."

Here's what would be my response: "Y'know, maybe you have a point. There is a lot of government people running around, telling us what to do, but it's really important to remember something: those are people we elect to keep us safe from harm, to protect us for all threats, foreign and domestic. They are responsible to us, you and me, because we vote for them, or at least, we vote for their bosses. Right now, you have insurers who do the same thing government agents do -- death panels who decide whether you should live or die and how healthy you should be, and mandates that you can't be sick before you buy insurance -- and they aren't responsible to anyone except their profit margins. And they can raise prices for no other reason than they need to pay their CEO a million bucks more. Healthcare reform was an attempt to keep you in the private insurance market, so you can have choices, while keeping a firm hand on the out of control spending that health insurers are pursuing."

A progressive policy laid out in libertarian terms -- government's not the bad guys, they're trying to keep you from having to deal with the bad guys. With a dash of subtle class warfare tossed in for good measure.

It annoys me that something so simple seems so out of reach for so many politicians, and yet, there you have the problem with American politics in a nutshell. No one wants to do anything that hasn't been field tested and brainstormed and focus-grouped to death.

And I suppose I'd feel differently if I was spending tens of millions of dollars to serve for just two years.

All I know is I hate leaving "money" on the table and there's a giant jackpot out there.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Jeb Bush's missed moment

By Richard K. Barry

Most people who follow politics closely do it from a strongly partisan perspective. Maybe there are a couple of academics somewhere in the world who think they can be completely neutral and take no sides. But I'd be surprised if even that was true.

Having said that, it's interesting when someone on the other team, as it were, seems to give an interview that shows more humanity than partisanship, that speaks more to their personal situation rather than to the political world. For that moment, it's almost possible to forget which side you're on. Almost.

Jeb Bush was interviewed by Charlie Rose on CBS recently and was asked some of the normal questions like would he accept a VP nomination, to which he answered no. But the interesting moment came when Rose asked him if he had completely give up on any presidential aspirations. He answered no to this question as well, but only because he seems to believe that the times have, in a sense, passed him by. Rest assured I am not going to become a Jeb Bush booster, but the subtlety, intelligence, even sadness of Jeb's comments made me think the GOP picked the wrong Bush to occupy the White House.

I know I'm not the first one to say this but I don't mind repeating it.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The unwritten rules of political conquest

Yes, I'm still an idiot.
Thanks for asking.
When your side loses an election, you have to suffer through a period in which the winners get to say that their victory means that everything for which they stand, and for which they might ever stand, has been unreservedly embraced by the electorate. Even if they win by only the slimmest of margins, they get to say that their vanquished opponents are forever defeated and will never rise again. Any empirical indicators to the contrary will be, for the moment, ignored. The spoils of victory in politics allow for a window of hyperbole in which anything can be, and will be, said.

So, Democrats got spanked in the Wisconsin recall elections. I'm sure you noticed.

The rules of the game now demand that we, Democrats everywhere, the losers, take our medicine.

Accordingly, Sarah Palin gets to say that "Obama's goose is cooked." The New York Post says this is the "death knell for unions." A number of right-wing talking heads are gleefully proclaiming Wisconsin is now in play for Romney this fall. And so it goes.

Yes, victory gives them a few days to say things like this, more or less unchallenged, and then we will get back to normal.

Three things might bring them back to earth a bit sooner, if they really are inclined to live in the land of the rational: Walker outspent Barrett 8 to 1 and that won't happen anywhere in the fall; exit polls done on Tuesday had Obama up by six or seven points over Romney and also on key questions about who could best manage the economy and who cared about the middle class; finally, the recall election outcome, also according to exit polls, was really about how people felt about recall elections as much as anything. Most thought they were a bad idea short of official misconduct.

All of this suggests implications much more nuanced.

But, hey, it's their day. They get to gloat. Those are the rules. Things will get back to normal soon. Trust me.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Recall elections shouldn't happen at all

I appreciate the sentiment, but no thank you.

Final comment on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's win in yesterday's recall election should be that it was mostly a referendum on the idea of recall elections. This was my point yesterday, and exit polling data confirm it.

Daily Kos found that 60% of voters thought that recall elections were only appropriate for official misconduct. Another 10% said they are never appropriate. Only 27% said they should be used for any reason.

As Daily Kos states: "Turns out people just don't like the idea of a recall -- something worth filing away as an important lesson."

Yes, I don't like recall elections either, especially if the only complaint is that the person you are trying to recall disagrees with you on policy. That's what general elections are for.

Between elections you should be organizing, speaking out, demonstrating and basically doing everything you can (legal, of course) to make incumbents understand that if they don't change course, they will be put out of office soon enough. It's amazing how that realization can modify an elected officials behavior. But even if it doesn't, assuming they won fair and square, the price of democracy is in giving them their turn at the wheel.

The majority of voters in Wisconsin seem to agree that there is something fundamentally unfair about circumventing legitimate process. I agree with them, much as having Scott Walker win yesterday pains me. It was not only dumb to have the recall, but wrong.

You reap what you sow.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Mitt Romney's hypocrisy on his job creation record in Massachusetts

I don't believe the crap I'm saying either, but
they pay me really well.

Mitt Romney has done a pretty good of avoiding discussion of his record as Governor of Massachusetts, in part because he would have to explain RomneyCare over and over, but also because his record on job creation, something he would like us to think is a strength, turns out to be anything but.

Predictably, the Obama campaign is going to make Romney talk about his time as governor because there is a record there he must be forced to defend.

One thing that Obama's team is starting to do is attack Romney's double standard on the candidates record on job creation. As Steve Benen points out at The Maddow Blog:

When evaluating Romney's one term as governor, his campaign argues, what matters is that the governor inherited a recession. The state showed marginal improvements after four years, they now argue, moving from an economy that was losing jobs into one that was adding jobs. Can Obama use the identical standard? Of course not.

In one of the most jaw-dropping quotes of the year, Ed Gillespie went so far as to argue on Sunday that Romney's entire first year as governor shouldn't count. Asked about the fact that Massachusetts ranked 47th in job creation during Romney's tenure, Gillespie complained, "[Democrats are] averaging out over the four years. So, they are bringing down the gains of his fourth year in office, which shows the real impact of his policies, and diluting it with the first year in office."

The double standard is, of course, quite amazing. For these guys, it matters that Romney inherited a recession, but not that Barack Obama was handed the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

It matters that Massachusetts was adding jobs after Romney's one term, but it doesn't matter that America is adding jobs after Obama's one term. Romney's first year doesn't count, but Obama's first year does count. Creating averages based on four-year totals is wrong when it's applied to Romney, but necessary when it's applied to Obama.

As Benen argues, these are the facts, but the goal is to make the media care. The Romney campaign is completely shameless. We know that. The only thing we can do is tell the truth as often as possible. On that point, below is a video produced by the Obama campaign that lays it all out. Feel free to share.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Super June 5, 2012: Recall in Wisconsin, five presidential primaries, and American democracy in action


We're not going to be live-blogging tonight's rather significant election results -- notably the recall vote in Wisconsin, five presidential primaries (including California and New Jersey, with just one state left after today), and a pile of congressional primaries -- but Richard and I are going to comment throughout the evening, updating this post fairly frequently.

In Wisconsin, exit polls are showing a close race, so close in fact that there may be a recount, with the process dragged out for an extended period, but I think it's pretty clear Gov. Walker will survive. Polls had him up by 3-6 points, and I suspect that's where it'll land. Richard will delve into why this may be, and a lot of it has to do with simple exhaustion after a year of this.

And, I must say, while I detest Walker and have opposed him vigorously, particularly on his assault on unions, I do not generally support the recall of elected officials and do not necessarily think he should be removed from office at this time. That may put me in opposition to many on the left, but recall is actually a right-wing tool to mobilize knee-jerk populism against duly elected democratic representatives. And like him or not, Walker was elected by the people of Wisconsin. If you don't like him, fine, I'm with you, but the appropriate democratic response is not to seek his recall but to work to vote him out of office at the next general election. Which is to say, Walker's opponents will have the opportunity to vote against him in 2014. That may not be soon enough, but that's the way the system works. Sometimes your "enemies" get elected. Sometimes, often, they do things you don't like, even deeply unpopular things. It goes both ways. Deal with it.

This is not to say I wouldn't be happy if Walker were to lose this vote today. I would be, in a way, and I think it would be a good thing for Wisconsin. But the bigger issue here is about the democratic system -- and not about removing Walker from office. And on that level I'm against recall. And those who embrace it now should remember that it can go the other way as well, and that it's a weapon Republicans will not hesitate to use, just as they use impeachment and the filibuster for partisan purposes.

And while Walker may indeed survive today, he and his fellow Wisconsin Republicans did an awful lot of damage to themselves with their assault on unions. It may not be the political suicide I suggested a year ago, but they have mobilized a powerful force against them. It may not be enough today, but it could very well be enough in November, particularly if President Obama is able to prevail in Wisconsin and to benefit from labor support in other tight swing states.

Anyway, Richard wrote about this today as well, and we're pretty much in agreement about both Walker and recall. Before I hand this over to him, I encourage you to check out his posts:



Just tuning in to CNN, which is reporting that exit polls are showing a tie between Walker and Barrett at 50% to 50%. If this is right, that means the recent polling is off by a fair bit. The average of those polls is around 6-7% in favour of Walker.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, is being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer, and he looks worried. It's going to be a long night.

Wow, John King is announcing CNN's exit polls on the presidential race. Obama is up significantly, 54% to 42%. Average of recent polls only had Obama up by 6%. I'd have to think that a 12% lead for Obama signals some movement in Barrett's direction. 



Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said his campaign is contacting Wisconsin residents to counter reports of a robo-call that says anyone who signed a petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker doesn't have to vote in Tuesday's election.

Barrett, the Democrat challenging the Republican governor, said he has recorded a robo-call of his own telling people that signing a petition wasn't enough and that they do have to cast a ballot, reported. There have been a number of reports of Wisconsin residents receiving calls saying that their signature on the recall petition counts as their vote.

Republican dirty tricks? No! Never! (They never do such things, right? Vote suppression isn't a cornerstone of their electoral strategy, right?)

More here.

Oh, in case you were wondering, Mitt -- who is now running unopposed -- has won New Jersey. No need for dirty tricks on the part of his bullying buddy Chris Christie.



A few pundits are saying that if Barrett ends up losing by a small margin, there may be some unhappiness with President Obama for not helping out enough. It's the kind of thing that may not matter in any material sense, but it would be fair comment.

Excuse me for being annoyed, but Wisconsin is one of the biggest political stories of the year, and CNN is sharing airtime with coverage of the Queen. Give me a break! Over to MSNBC for me.

At the moment, 16% of polls are reporting and Walker has a healthy lead: 60% to 39%. The problem with trying to make sense of this is that we don't know where these polls are and what has yet to report. John King needs to get on the map and tell us what's going on.

As of 9:45 eastern time, CNN has just updated their exit poll to indicate Walker ahead by a 52% to 48% margin. Who knows? Oh, back to the Jubilee.

There you go. NBC is now calling it for Walker. Well, that wasn't that close at all. Were the exit polls off by that much?

The fact that Obama did well in exit polling tells me that a lot of people are either tired of the recall exercise or don't think it's right to turf Walker after he won a general election.

No doubt Walker will be a bigger star for the GOP, though I am not certain this was a referendum on a conservative agenda. But a win is a win and bragging rights come with it.

Money will be a big part of the story. No doubt about that. There is also no doubt that this result will put Wisconsin in play in November.

That's it for me. Will I be able to survive a full day of conservative gloating tomorrow? I'm not sure.

Good night. 



One question will be, should Obama have done more -- or, really, just something, anything -- to help the anti-Walker campaign?

I say no. First, he would have been accused of meddling in a state matter.

Second, it's not clear that his involvement would have helped matters. Could he have swayed a few independents? Yes, possibly, but it's unlikely he could have done enough to tip the balance. Actually, given that Walker has survived by a wide margin, wider than the polls were indicated, there's no way he would have been able to.

Third, following on the above, a Walker win would have been spun by Republicans as an Obama loss. Even if he never could have done enough to tip the balance, his involvement would have been seen as a personal failure, proof of his electoral weakness.

Fourth, Walker's win might actually help Obama and Democrats generally in Wisconsin in November, as they'll be able to run against the governor's (and Republicans' generally) extremism. Plus, it's likely that the Democratic base will come out of this recall election energized for a win in November. (Well, that's what I'm hoping, anyway.)

Of course, Republicans will spin this as a glorious victory, and of course that will mean turning it on Obama, but I doubt this will have much impact on the rest of the national campaign. And, again, even with Walker's win tonight, Wisconsin is still Obama's to lose.

Otherwise, Romney has won California! Hardly a surprise given that he has a car elevator there -- and, again, that he's running unopposed.

The other three states voting today, along with Cali and Jersey, were Montana, New Mexico, and South Dakota. Yes, Romney won all three. But what a nice job by Santorum pulling in 12% in SD and 10% in NM. The dream lives.

There were some high-profile Congressional primaries today. We'll get to those in the days to come. For now, that's it for us.

Good night, everyone.

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Al Qaeda #2 killed in a drone attack: Will Obama get a grade bump from Professor Romney?

I can do this.
Various news outlets are reporting that Al Qaeda's deputy leader, Abu Yahya al-Libi, has been killed in a drone strike in northern Pakistan. This has, according to reports, been confirmed by an American official. The New York Times is referring to this as "the single biggest success in the controversial campaign's eight-year history in the country."

The official, quoted anonymously, described Mr. Libi as one of Al Qaeda's "most experienced and versatile leaders," and said he had "played a critical role in the groups planning against the West, providing oversight of the external operations efforts."

Whatever one may think of the drone program, and there are critics, I have to wonder if this would earn President Obama a little extra credit on the Mitt Romney grading index. You'll recall Romney gave Obama an "F" for his foreign policy performance. Might this push it up to a "D" or, dare we dream, a "C"? Oh, I'm sure President Obama hopes so. Wouldn't want to disappoint teacher.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Update on the Wisconsin recall election

By Richard K. Barry

Earlier in the day I jumped on the bandwagon with those who think Gov. Scott Walker can hold onto his job in the Wisconsin recall today. Like everybody else, I based that on recent polling.

Of course, neither I nor anyone else with an opinion knows what's going to happen when the votes are counted. What we do know is that turnout appears to be up significantly in polling places on the north side of Milwaukee, according someone tweeting from there. Apparently, election officials in Milwaukee had to call in extra workers to handle the crush there and other places in the city.

Who knows? You get these stories on election day. But if turnout is up significantly state-wide Walker could be in trouble. People interested in change are probably more likely to come out than those interested in the status quo.

The funny thing is that as much as I dislike Scott Walker, I don't like recall elections. Barring illegal activity, I'd prefer to see an elected official serve out the term. That's the implied deal when they run for office and we ought to, I believe, honor the agreement. The other thing is, "you live by the recall, you die by the recall." Do you really want a liberal executive or legislator to have to fight a recall every time the right doesn't like some progressive program? Typically conservatives love recalls because they don't want government to do anything and think most positive action is illegitimate. It makes it damn near impossible to govern for anybody.

I'm not saying I wouldn't have showed up today if I lived on Wisconsin. But I am saying I'd have wished I didn't have to.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Would Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's survival tell us anything useful about the fall?

By Richard K. Barry

As Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight suggests, it really does look like Gov. Scott Walker is going to be able to save his job in today's recall election in Wisconsin. An average of recent polls has Walker up by 6.7% over his Democratic challenger Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee. Some polls have it closer, some with a much larger margin for Walker, but the Governor remains the clear favorite. As well, there are very few undecided voters, which means less volatility in the electorate. In other words, we are not likely to be surprised.

It is true that Barrett's forces are claiming they will have a better "get-out-the-vote" operation, so we'll have to watch for that. Silver also notes that recall elections are rare so the margin of error in the polls might be greater than normal. Fine, I'll tune in.

A few thoughts come to mind. The state is fairly evenly split in support for Walker, but this recall exercise has been going on for some time. You'll remember that two Wisconsin state senators were ousted last August, though four were able to hang on. Some people who may not adore Scott Walker may be just as happy to send a message that they are tired of the recall circus, reasoning that it's only fair to let him serve out his term. After all, he's up for reelection in 2014. Voting to remove someone from office takes a great deal of passion, a passion which may be absent for many voters.

I know Republicans would be very happy to win here, and will consider this an omen for the fall. Interestingly, the same polls that have Walker up by more than 6% have Obama over Romney by the same amount. That does mean, as Silver points out, that some Walker supporters are prepared to vote for Obama. This should remind us that things are never that linear in politics.

I'm not saying I'll be happy if Walker wins, but I won't be ready to think this means Obama won't win the state. Maybe it will be closer there between the President and Mitt Romney than we thought and maybe Obama will have to spend more time and money to hold on, but the presidential race will have many more twists and turns before we're done. These things will happen everywhere, good and bad. I wouldn't read too much into Scott Walker's survival.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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In case you were wondering, yes, North Carolina Republicans are bigots

Emboldened by a recently enacted constitutional amendment prohibiting civil unions and same-sex marriage, North Carolina's Republican party adopted a platform yesterday that condones discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation." The platform's Article Ill: Individual Liberty states:

Government should treat all citizens impartially, without regard to wealth, race, ethnicity, disability, religion, sex, political affiliation or national origin. We oppose all forms of invidious discrimination. Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category.

The document also argues that "The ideal environment for raising children is a two-parent family with a mother and father who are married and committed to that life-long relationship" and opposes "adoption by same sex couples."

What else is new?

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Behind the Ad: Does any sane person think Mitt Romney is the voice of the common man?

(Another installment in our "Behind the Ad" series.)

Who: American Future Fund, a conservative PAC.

Where: Online.

What's going on: This online ad criticizes ties between Wall Street and the Obama administration. It's been a very successful effort, called "Justice for Sale," and it is generating very healthy online traffic. The funny thing is that it asks a few very good questions about why no senior Wall Street executives have been charged for their malfeasance causing the great recession. It draws attention to the pipeline from Wall Street to Washington, which has provided senior staff for the White House. It talks about money that was raised in the past by President Obama from Wall Street sources.

Okay, I'll buy the knock on Obama for being too close to Wall Street. But conservatives being the ones to make the criticism? That's a little weird. People who want to see Mitt Romney, Mr. Vulture Capitalist, as our next president take issues with Obama's relationship to big money? People who never get tired of calling Obama a socialist think he's too close to the epicenter of worldwide capitalism? People who think Obama wants to regulate every facet of our lives, especially business, believe he's in the pocket of the same banks and financial institutions who hate anyone looking over their shoulder?

Consistency is not a strong suit for these people.

And the best part is that if Obama were so beholden to Wall Street, why are they abandoning him in droves to support Mitt Romney? If Obama is such a shill for these folks, Wall Street isn't just ungrateful, they're stupid.

Have a look:

Wall Street Ditches Obama, backs Romney (CNN)

Wall Street Executives Turn Back on Obama, Donating to Romney (The Hill)

Romney Beating Obama in the Fight for Wall Street Cash (New York Times)

Analysis: Mitt Romney, not Obama, the Candidate of Wall Street, Banks, Donations Records Show (National Post)

Mitt Romney Beating President Obama Raising Wall Street Cash (Huffington Post)

Obama Struggling to Raise Donations from Wall Street (

Okay, I'll stop there. It wasn't exactly hard to find these links, and there are more where these came from.

But seriously folks, I get it. Some conservatives with money to burn think they can make Mitt Romney the candidate of economic populism by attacking Obama's ties to Wall Street. Yeah, both Romney and Obama have ties to Wall Street. They are national political figures. You can't do that without the money guys to some degree, much as I hate it. But, do you think anyone is going to believe Mitt Romney is the champion of the common man or that Barack Obama represents wealth and privilege in America?

Nice ad, but I think they're wasting their money.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Scary, and yet...

By Carl 

You're all familiar with the Hubble Telescope, that marvel of engineering and science that has created some of the most spectacular and iconic space images of the past decades.

It's about to die, not from some catastrophe, but merely from old age and lack of life support. Now that the shuttle program is terminated, no one much feels like flying up to it to do maintenance and repair.

We would be blind to beauty, except for something that has happened that is at once creepy and wondrous:

The National Science Foundation has just revealed the existence of not one, but two pristine, Hubble-class space telescopes, still in their original wrappings, in a warehouse in Rochester, N.Y. The pair was originally built for the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency in charge of spy satellites, to look down at Earth rather than up into space. But the NRO has moved on to bigger and better instruments, and decided to hand the telescopes over. "It just blew me a way when I heard about this," says Princeton astrophysicist David Spergel, a member of the National Academy of Science's Committee On Astrophysics and Astronomy. "I knew nothing about it."

Two points to notice here:

The Hubble makes your 50x military grade binoculars look like the magnifying glass they used to put in Cracker Jack boxes. Imagine one of those pointed down at you sunbathing nude in your backyard. Now imagine a telescope that puts the Hubble to shame. That's what the NRO had in a warehouse, waiting to be deployed.

Second, note that they never deployed them because they found an improved way of spying on us!

Let that sink in for a minute. Despite the obvious budget concerns -- why are we holding not one but two perfectly good telescopes in a warehouse in Rochester, NY never to be deployed because they became obsolete? How much were they and where in the budget do they show up, if at all? -- our government is handing down the best telescope we've ever invented, from a spy ring to our science division.

Why wasn't that working the other way around? I mean, I get that you can't be too public with your intelligence gathering, but on the other hand, science is important to our security, too, and particularly space. That's why NASA even exists in the first place! You could, for example, publicly misrepresent the level of technology on the telescope, and gift it from NASA to the NRO.

I know, the military gets the best candy, even if like a goose fatted for pate, it has to be rammed into its gullet, but come on, Congress. This is science. This is (mostly) good for us.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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