Saturday, June 16, 2012

Egypt's important hour: Will democracy survive the weekend?

By Ali Ezzatyar

Nobody who has followed the Egyptian revolution would assert that it has progressed without a hitch. But with the Egyptian high court on Thursday invalidating Egypt's first democratically elected parliament and reinstating the candidacy of a former Mubarak crony to the presidency, the revolution has officially fallen off the rails. With the intentions of the previous regime and the military now clear, events of the next couple of months may prove to be among the most pivotal in Egypt's modern history, with implications for the entire region.

Since crowds in Tahrir Square lead to Mubarak's ouster over one year ago, the question of how much the rest of the former regime maintained control over the levers of power remained unanswered. There was an understanding that Mubarak was the leader and figurehead of a broader system, but still some hope remained that the old guard would choose to melt into the new democracy, rather than risk overt assertion of their arbitrary power again. The high court's recent decision is the most compelling evidence to date that the old guard is not only still there, but intends to stay, confirming the suspicions of the more pessimistic observers of the revolution both inside of Egypt and out. With the presidential run-off imminent, the future of Egypt's fragile democracy hangs in the balance.

While the Supreme Constitutional Court cited the unconstitutionality of a law allowing for partisan candidates to win seats designated for independents, there is little doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood's majority was the primary motivator of the decision. This sets the stage for this weekend's elections, where the Islamist candidate Mohammed Morsi will face off against Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's former prime minister. Even the most optimistic of Egypt's revolutionaries will be concerned that Morsi, the favorite, will be prevented from ascending to power one way or another. Even before the election has even taken place, allegations of plans for vote-rigging have surfaced from Egypt's opposition. Indeed, it would make little sense for the high court to invalidate the Islamist parliament, only for the old guard to allow the Islamist candidate to come to power; without a parliament, Morsi's power will be virtually unrivaled until a parliament is reinstated.

That leaves Egypt in the most precarious of positions; anger and resentment towards the former regime is palatable, and any result that does not see the Islamist candidate come to power will be considered a return to dictatorship. Especially after the high-court's decision, even an unlikely victory for Shafiq that is fair will be viewed as unsupportable by a majority of Egyptians. So, after almost 18 months of revolution, transition, and congregations in Tahrir Square, Egypt can for all intents and purposes revert to dictatorship again this weekend.

It takes little imagination to perceive what this could mean for Egypt. Its young project of democracy has yet to beget civil society institutions that would allow Egyptians to challenge their government in a meaningful way; that leaves coercion, and potentially violence, as the only means to break dictatorship's cold and tight grasp once again. Is Egypt ready to go back to square one, and claw its way back out of dictatorship?

The State Department's musings on the subject have produced only a vague and general response, that the tide of democracy in Egypt cannot be turned back. But it is unclear how much influence even the United States can have at this juncture, with its closest patrons within Egypt partially marginalized, and no strong alignment with Egypt's opposition, of which it is suspicious.

Too bad, because if the next few months prove to turn back the tide of history in Cairo, it will be a monumental failure for the very project of the Arab spring, with ramifications likely to be seen everywhere. Libya's factions will grow more paranoid of one another. Syrians have persisted through over a year of civil war; failure in Egypt will send an ominous sign to Syria's opposition and be a boon for Assad. There is more riding on Egypt than Egypt alone. And it all begins to come down to the next couple of weeks. Watch this space.

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Tucker Carlson: right-wing brat

I don't think leading figures from the right-wing noise machine necessarily had a meeting to decide on a strategy to attempt to brand Barack Obama's presidency as illegitimate, but they might as well have. They started with the laughable claim that he wasn't even born in the United States and therefore isn't eligible to be president. They moved on to arguments that he has governed in a manner inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution, implying he is "stealing" the country. You know, they want their country back. They have called him a European socialist suggesting his economic policies are un-American. In other words, they have kept up a narrative that Obama doesn't deserve the usual respect accorded the office because the office shouldn't be his.

Should we be surprised that some hack from Tucker Carlson's website went to the White House to heckle President Obama in the middle of a press conference? You know Carlson, the dweeb with the bowtie who runs The Daily Caller, also known as the brat Jon Stewart destroyed on Crossfire some years back, which led to Carlson's unemployment. More recently Carlson has aspired to be Andrew Breitbart but couldn't even achieve that level of journalistic filth.

Some staffer at The Daily Caller, a guy by the name of Neil Munro, a name we will all forget in a day or two, heckled President Obama as he delivered remarks in the White House's Rose Garden about a shift in immigration policy, which is this

A policy change from the Obama administration will stop deporting younger illegal immigrants — who came to the U.S. as children "and have since led law-abiding lives" — and grant them work permits. The move will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have feared deportation.

That's interesting and, most seem to think, a good move by Obama, though not everyone. Munro's concern is apparently

connected to comments the President made in March of 2011, in which he ruled out using an executive order to change immigration policy, even though no executive order was used for the current policy change. 

That's fine. Ask your question the way everyone else does. Play nice with the other kids. But not Munro, who barked out questions right in the middle of Obama's comments in an attempt to reduce the exchange to the level of a common barroom argument.

Munro's behaviour is simply a continuation of attempts to deny President Obama the respect that goes with the office. The right have attempted to make this about the question itself and holding the President to account, though that's absurd.

No great surprise here. The right-wing is simply continuing to claim, through this latest example of rudeness and unprofessionalism, that Obama's presidency is illegitimate.

I guess we should at least give these guys an "A" for consistency.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Vagina! Vagina! Vagina!

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Via twitter: 

Vagina. There, I said it. And gentlemen, if you can’t say it, you sure as heck shouldn’t be regulating it. #Michigan #Vagina

-- Jennifer Granholm (@JenGranholm)

(Well put, Governor.)

I can say it and certainly don't want to regulate it.

But they shouldn't be regulating it even if they can say it.


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"Voter amnesia" provides Romney's greatest chance

By Richard K. Barry

One of the more interesting things about politics is that if you can control the question, you have a decent shot at controlling the answer.

Republicans are unanimous in framing the presidential election as a referendum on how well Obama has done fixing the economic mess he encountered upon entering office. If they are successful in framing things in that way, Romney probably stands a good chance of winning in November.

It doesn't quite work for the GOP to ask Americans if they are better off now than they were four years ago, the famous Reagan line, because it simply reminds people that Republicans are responsible for the recession.

Republicans just want people to think about this moment in time and not how we got here. Republicans are counting on a disease from which Americans frequently suffer called "voter amnesia."

Obama has the harder task because it requires people to think back, to put things in context, to exercise critical judgement. Obama has to get people to understand that our economic crisis is the child of policies promoted by Republicans. Harkening back to George W. Bush is not about Obama refusing to take responsibility for his own actions, but of the President trying to point out that Bush and Romney belong to the same tribe and would push the same idea of government, the one that has created so much misery.

Obama has the harder task because voters have a notoriously short attention span. It's much as babies respond to unwanted stimuli. When they are unhappy they want something to change. It frequently doesn't matter what the change is as long as they are momentarily distracted.

Perhaps the point is: He who asks the simplest question, gets the prize.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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This day in music - June 15, 1996: Jazz great Ella Fitzgerald dies at the age of 79

By Richard K. Barry

Also known as the "First Lady of Jazz," "Queen of Jazz," and "Lady Ella," Ella Fitzgerald won 13 Grammy Awards over her career and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H.W. Bush.

With a vocal range spanning three octaves (D♭3 to D♭6), she was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a "horn-like" improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.

Here's Ella Fitzgerald singing "Round Midnight."

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Americans still blame George W. Bush, and the Republican Party he rode in on, for the bad economy

A recent Gallup poll indicates that Americans are still far more likely to blame Bush for the bad economy than Obama, and the numbers haven't changed substantially since last September.

Gallup first asked this "blame assessment" question in July 2009, six months after Obama became president. At that point, 80% of Americans gave Bush a great deal or a moderate amount of blame, compared with 32% who ascribed the same level of blame for the bad economy to Obama. The percentage blaming Bush dropped to about 70% in August 2010, and has stayed roughly in that range since. Meanwhile, about half of Americans have blamed Obama since March 2010, with little substantive change from then to the present.

Though the Romney campaign has no trouble lying about most things, they haven't been able to say that Obama caused the Great Recession, so the best they can do is say that he either hasn't fixed it quickly enough or he's made it worse.

The other piece is that many Republicans have had no difficulty throwing George W. Bush under the bus by implying they the GOP is now a fundamentally different animal opposed to the policies of both the current Democratic and the most recent Republican administration.

Romney has certainly done nothing to associate himself with W., preferring instead to go back to Reagan for inspiration, despite the fact that Reagan had no difficulty raising taxes and would be, as Jeb Bush recently said, unwelcome in today's GOP.

Implying that George W. Bush was a part of the problem is almost a requirement for Romney given how many Republicans fault Bush for the bad economy.

Republicans and Democrats distribute economic blame in different ways, as was the case last September. Democrats follow what might be described as a fairly traditional pattern: 90% blame Bush, in contrast to 19% who blame Obama.

Republicans, however, are more ecumenical in their blame, with 83% blaming Obama a great deal or moderate amount and 49% ascribing the same level of blame to Bush. Republicans, in short, are significantly more willing to blame their most recent Republican president than are Democrats willing to blame Obama.

I do understand that Romney is trying to claim there is a statute of limitations on blaming the last guy, but to the extent that the policies of 2001-2009 got us into such trouble in the first place, like under-regulating Wall Street, getting us into unnecessary wars and cutting taxes on those most able to pay, it's doubtful this will be completely successful.

I also understand the Republicans claim Obama should have been quicker to fix the mess Republicans made. It's just that at a common sense level it kind of sounds like a stupid thing to claim. And if there's one thing that is true in politics, it's that at a common sense level you want to avoid sounding too stupid.

To put a fine point on it: blindly rigid, pro-business policies, lacking any sense of concern for the public good is what got us into the jam we're in. Offering more of that, as Romney is doing, sounds pretty stupid (see paragraph above).

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Republican theocrats trying to control women's bodies tell women to shut the fuck up

A male Republican House leader in Michigan silenced two female Democratic state legislators on Thursday after the pair tried to advance a measure that would have reduced access to vasectomies.

While discussing a bill that would erode the availability of abortion, Reps. Barb Byrum and Lisa Brown introduced an amendment to apply the same regulations to vasectomies that GOP lawmakers wanted to add to abortion services. The debate grew heated, as Republicans sought to gravel down the women. Byrum was not permitted to speak in favor of the measure and Brown was repeatedly interrupted. "I'm flattered that you want to get in my vagina, but no means no," she said. The next day both were silenced.


Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger (R), said the women "will not be recognized to speak on the House floor today after being gaveled down for their comments and actions yesterday that failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives."

"Decorum," huh?

Translation: Women should just shut the fuck up and do what we say. They're lucky we even tolerate their presence outside the kitchen and bedroom. Who says we don't have a God-given right to Viagra and vasectomies? For fuck's sake, no one's telling us what we can or can't do with our penile instruments of patriarchy! Certainly not a couple of stupid bitches.

It's helpful when Republicans expose themselves for what they really are, isn't it?

And good for Byrum and Brown for fighting back.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Romney campaign's juvenile assholery on full display in Ohio

You know, this pretty much sums up Republicans' disrespectful regard for President Obama the past four years:

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Republican nominee Mitt Romney's guerrilla tactics continued Thursday, as the campaign bus circled the venue where President Barack Obama will be speaking this afternoon.

As it passed the assembled throngs of supporters awaiting entry to the event at Cuyahoga Community College, the bus honked its horn dozens of times, before circling around to do it again. Obama supporters jeered and booed each time the bus passed the line outside of the security screening area.


An Obama campaign aide responded to the Romney effort saying "that's not our style," adding "campaigns are a reflection of the candidate."

And a reflection of the candidate's party as well.

The difference between Mitt Romney at prep school and Mitt Romney as an adult is, apparently, that these days he has people to do his harassment for him. His emotional age appears not to have changed.


I think a certain level of cockiness is impressive to the media types, and that results in better press coverage of the campaign. But this? This is punk stuff. This is just brattiness. It's not a sign of confidence. It's juvenile.

And so very Romney.


For more, see Josh Marshall, who writes that "[t]he Romney camp has made a straightforward calculation that it can make up with appeals to the conservative id the ground it can't ever make up convincing anyone that Romney is really a right-wing ideologue."

Which is to say, Romney evidently thinks that acting like an asshole, which isn't exactly a stretch for him, will make him more appealing to the right.

He may very well be right.

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John McCain to meet the press... again

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Via twitter: 

Sunday I'll talk with WH Senior Adviser David Plouffe and 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain on the economy and #Decision2012.

-- David Gregory (@davidgregory)

John McCain? Seriously?

What exactly does he bring to the table at this point other than senility, the impression of being somewhat less crazy than the rest of his party (which is true), and the ashes of the faux maverick reputation he rode self-aggrandizingly to Beltway media belovedness?

And whatever will Meet the Press do when he's done? Three possibilities: 

1) Continue to wheel out his embalmed corpse every Sunday morning; 

2) Bump up every other conservative white male on their guest list, which is the vast majority of the list, so as not to skip a beat; and/or 

3) More Newt!

I see all three as equally likely. And I think we're likely to see all three.

Keep up the great work, DG!

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Democracy in America: Going, going, gone...

It's good to be king.
Not only is it wonderful news casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson has given the leading Romney Super PAC $10 million but, according to Forbes, "a well-placed source in the Adelson camp with direct knowledge of his thinking says that further donations will be limitless."

The source added that Adelson believes "no price is too high" to protect the U.S. from what he sees as the "socialization" of America.

The article continues on to say that Adelson could give $1 billion or so and not even notice.

I guess the fact that Adelson has made more money during the Obama administration than nearly any other American has made him that much more interested in a robust exercise of his citizenship.

Anyway, this is fabulous news for democracy. Why should anyone be concerned that a single individual could spend $1 billion on a presidential election? What could be wrong with that? Can't you just hear the bells of freedom ringing?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Obama should stick to his message

Is there a problem?
Several news sources are abuzz with headlines about how President Obama is going to reboot his campaign with a speech in Ohio today. After the poor May jobs report, the Democrat's loss in Wisconsin and the president's gaffe about the "the private sector doing fine," some on Obama's team might be getting a tad nervous.

Polls are tightening up and the GOP is starting to get behind their candidate as the money is rolling in, particularly from the financial sector.

So, we're getting into the long haul. I assume Obama will talk about differing visions for the country, about how Romney's policies would help those who don't need the help, and how Obama would work to create greater opportunity and fairness as the middle class tries to hold on to what's left of the American dream. I hope so, anyway.

I know Romney wants the ballot question to be about who can fix the economy. I understand that he wants us to believe that his business experience gives him an advantage, that if Romney wins, we all win, or some such nonsense.

For a while there every Republican talking head was saying that America consists of the rich and the soon-to-be rich, which sounds more like a lottery advertising slogan than a campaign theme.

Obama's message has to be that, for a guy like Romney, worrying about the bottom line means that very few win while most lose. That's what his business experience has taught him. That's what he would bring to the White House.

It's ironic that the right has always gotten great traction by saying the left wants to redistribute wealth from the "have more" to the "have less." It's time the rest of us started talking about the fact that people like Romney have always been about redistributing wealth in the other direction.

Experience creating wealth is not the same thing as experience creating jobs. I hope American voters clue into that fact in time not to make a big mistake.

Never forget that, in Romney's world, America consists of the rich and the soon-to-be screwed.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Wall Street is buying Mitt Romney. Whatever they're paying is too much.

Not that we needed proof, but now we have it that Wall Street is giving big to Mitt Romney thanks to information provided in campaign finance filings. According to Politico:

Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and the super PAC supporting it are outraising Obama among financial-sector donors $37.1 million to $4.8 million.

Near the front of the pack are 19 Obama donors from 2008 who are giving big to Romney.

The 19 have already given $4.8 million to Romney's presidential campaign and the super PAC supporting it through the end of April, according to a POLITICO analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.

None of them has given a penny to the president's reelection campaign or the super PAC supporting it.

Here's the best part:

Ken Griffin, founder of the Chicago-based hedge fund Citadel, has accused Obama of engaging in "class warfare" and gave $2,500 to Romney's campaign, plus nearly $1.1 million to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. But in 2008, Griffin donated the maximum $4,600 to Obama’s campaign and helped raise another $50,000 to $100,000.

"It is critical that the next president appreciates that America's prosperity is driven by the innovation and hard work of the American worker, whose valiant efforts have, in recent years, been undermined by the oppressive weight of government intervention," Griffin told POLITICO in a statement.

And, yes, Romney is helped by Obama's support for Dodd-Frank, and his call for the super-rich to pay a bit more in taxes, not to mention the fact that the President has ever so gingerly suggested that maybe, just maybe, these blood-sucking Wall Street bastards bear some small responsibility for the near destruction of the economy. Hell, no one went to jail, though I'm sure why not.

It is simply amazing that these people have the nerve to claim Obama is engaging in class warfare. The rich have always understood their class interests and they are pouring money hand over fist into arming their side for battle. Nice try of this idiot Griffin to align his interests with the interests of real working Americans.

As Obama said of Romney at a campaign stop in Baltimore on Tuesday:

He seems to believe that if CEOs and wealthy investors like him are doing well, then the rest us automatically do well. What a lot of current Republicans don't seem to get is that a healthy economy doesn't just mean you’re maximizing your own profits through massive layoffs and busting unions. You don't make America stronger by shipping jobs and profits overseas.

Wall Street wants to make middle class Americans afraid to embrace their own class interests by calling what is going on in the country class warfare. But it doesn't matter what you call it. The interests of the 1% are not the same as the interests of the 99%. It's good that we now have campaign finance filing numbers to prove it.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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New Gingrich gets one right

It's almost impossible to know what to make of Newt Gingrich and the things he says. Recently, he said this in an interview with Al Sharpton on MSNBC:

It is very difficult in America today. If you look at New York where Mayor Bloomberg spent an extraordinary amount of personal money to buy the mayor’s office for the third time. It is fairly hard to compete with a billionaire if — if they get to spend all the money they want and the middle-class candidate's raising money in $2,500 units. So I think the current system is rigged, frankly, in favor of the wealthy.

Of course, Newt is right, and that doesn't happen very often. It would be easy to chalk it up to sour grapes. If Gingrich could have raised the kind of money it took to win the GOP nomination, he certainly wouldn't be complaining at this point. But Romney was able to dispatch him with cold hard cash, and that was that.

More typically, right-wingers want to argue that spending your own money any way you like is simply an expression of freedom. If someone like, say, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, wants to give $10 million of his own money to a Pro-Romney Super Pac, that's freedom. It's his money, or so conservatives like to say.

What is unstated is what you can do with that money. And what you can do with money is bombard voters with messages, through various media, in a way that eventually makes it impossible for them to think for themselves. We don't like to say it, but what money in politics proves is that most people aren't very well informed. Money can effectively manipulate their biases and fears and take advantage of their inability to distinguish between truth and lies. It can inflame voters to care too much about things that shouldn't matter and ignore things that should.

Money is only a problem in politics because so many people are so easily manipulated by the dark arts of political messaging.

Unfortunately, the way it works is that Sheldon Adelson's freedom to spend $10 million on Romney's campaign interferes with the freedom of many people to think for themselves. I understand that we are drawn to the fiction that people make up their own minds and are, as Milton Friedman once said, free to choose.

But unless we regulate (there's that word) the amount of money candidates can spend and make it relatively fair, democracy is a sham. Even Newt Gingrich gets that.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kill someone? The NRA has your back.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Via twitter: 

NRA offers "Stand Your Ground" insurance to cover legal costs of shooting people. (link)

-- ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress)

In related news, the civilized world again today rejected America's application for re-admission to its ranks.

And, really, can you blame it?


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Michigan tries to rig it for Republicans

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Via twitter: 

Michigan poised to pass new voter suppression legislation. (link)

-- ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress)

Well, for Republicans it's either that or get Romney and his gang of rich douchebag prep school toughs to go beat up undesirable voters (i.e., those more likely to vote Democratic) one by one.

Much easier just to fuck democracy, and rig elections, by effectively disenfranchising people en masse.

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Yes, but hey, let's destroy unions and pensions!

By Carl 

You poor kids will have to support your parents while your kids are still in college.

My dad worked 45 years in construction. He was union. He got full health insurance for him and his family, including us younglings until we were 21 or out of college. This included full eyecare, dental, and disability coverage. The man didn't work an hour of overtime (although he did skip nearly every vacation he could so he could bank the paid time off).

We were far from rich -- when he was out of work, we made do on sandwiches for lunch and dinner from the ham my mom would boil on Sundays -- but he managed to sock away a few bucks here and there such that he had about $250K put away when he retired. He and my mom almost outlived that money, but then they did not live a frugal retirement.

Had he not received a pension and Social Security, he would have easily outlived that money, and just around the time I was starting a family.

I look at my current circumstances and realize that I, too, feel I have put away almost enough to carry me through retirement and leave a little something for my kid. Before the 2008 market crash, I was a lot more certain. I worry that by the time I do retire, I won't be able to.

And I don't have a pension. I have a 401(k) and I make contributions to it to the maximum allowable. Hell, I even borrow against it when the markets tank just so I can force myself to guarantee some return on my investment (nothing like paying yourself interest).

Companies used to match 401(k)s. I once worked for a firm that would match your withholdings, then match it again (that's right, you tripled your money on day one). Now, I'm lucky if the corpoRATocrat ponies up a thousand bucks a year.

I look at my daughter, and feel she's the luckiest person on the face of the earth: she has three sets of elders working full time, all of whom will leave her money when they pass on. You see, there are no siblings or cousins around. She's it.

And even then, I feel this horrible twinge that it won't be enough. I've squirreled away some money for her, and she has some money that my folks put in trust for her, and that's barely going to get her started in life.

She'll be a leg up on me at her age, to be sure, but my future held promise. This world does not.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)


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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mitt Romney and the speed of lying

How do I lie to thee?
Let me count the ways.
First Romney's surrogate says that Mitt's gaffe about wanting to cut cops, fireman and teachers wasn't a gaffe at all, that, due to population changes and technological advances, this is exactly what we should do.

Despite the fact that classroom overcrowding and the decimation of local public safety departments puts the lie to such nonsense, Romney campaigner John Sununu was out there saying it anyway and defending his candidate.

This morning I speculated that Romney would either backtrack or spin and, based on Sununu's work, spinning seemed to be the option taken.

What I forgot is that there is always another option for Romney and that is to flat out lie. Romney just denied that he said what he said, denied what his own people were already defending him for having said. Man, this guy is hard to keep up with.

Brian Kilmeade on Fox asked Romney about the statement that he would cut cops, firemen and teachers and the Obama campaign's claim that this showed him to be out of touch. Romney responded with this:

That's a very strange accusation. Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states. The federal government doesn't pay for teachers, firefighters, or policemen. So obviously that's absurd.

I repeat, Mitt Romney denied saying what his own people were already out there defending him for having said. That's what's obviously absurd.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Super Bowl champion New York Giants get their day at the White House

On Friday, my beloved Super Bowl Champion New York Giant got their day in the sun with President Obama at the White House. Such visits have become a ritual, of course. Must be a great day for the team.

Among the president's comments was this:

I would just advise the sports writers out there the next time Eli says he thinks he is an elite quarterback, you may just want to be quiet. Eli wasn't alone of course. Justin Tuck got to the QB, Victor Cruz scored and salsa'd. Mario Manningham gets his feet in bounds for the biggest catch of his life. Nobody was perfect but everybody did their job.

On that point about Eli being an elite quarterback, let's put that one to rest.

How many weeks until camp opens?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Jeb Bush is not the future of the Republican Party

In an early scene of the movie The Contender, President Jackson Evans (played by Jeff Bridges) tells Virginia Governor Jack Hathaway (played by William Petersen) that he, the governor, is the future of the Democratic Party... and always will be.

(It's one of my favorite movie lines ever, one that has broad application: "You're the future of [insert organization name]. And you always will be.)

Jeb Bush has been the future of the Republican Party for a long time now. And perhaps he always will be. It's not clear that his time will ever come.


Jon Chait wrote a post yesterday in which he stated that "[Jeb] Bush is clearly engaged in an effort to position himself as the next leader of the Republican Party.

Chait's argument is essentially that Bush, anticipating a possible Romney loss in November, is "setting himself as the cure" to what ails the party by "publicly urging Republicans to moderate their tone toward Latinos and to embrace immigration reform" and more generally by "follow[ing] the example of his brother's 2000 campaign, offering a great deal of moderation in tone and very little in substance." In other words, Bush, who "speaks fluent Spanish and has a Mexican-American wife," understands that his party is doomed unless it successfully courts the Latino vote and that it can't do that by taking a hardline stand on undocumented immigration of the kind Romney took in courting the party's right-wing base during the primaries.

And Chait thinks this is what Republicans will be looking for in 2016, should Romney lose:

If you try to imagine the Republican consensus after a potential losing election, it will look like this. It will recognize that its harsh partisan rhetoric turned off voters, and will urgently want to woo Latinos, while holding on to as much as possible of the party's domestic policy agenda. And oh, by the way, the party will be casting about for somebody to lead it.

I agree with Chait's assessment that "[t]he Latino vote is both growing in size and seems to be tilting ever more strongly toward the Democrats, a combination that will rapidly make the electoral map virtually unwinnable," but disagree with his prediction of what the Republican consensus would look like. Indeed, on that second point I think he has it completely wrong.

While there's no doubt that Bush would be a formidable candidate in 2016, not least because he would likely have much of the party establishment behind him, including many of the big-time donors (along with the likes of Karl Rove, who organizes those donors), there's also no doubt, I think, that the party will continue to drift rightward with or without Romney in the White House.

A Romney loss wouldn't send a message to the party that it should lose the "harsh partisan rhetoric," whether on immigration or anything else, and certainly wouldn't bring about the return of sensible Republican moderation, or what passed for moderation once upon a time, it would be a clear indication to the extremists in the ascendancy, those purging non-absolutists from their ranks, from Dear Leader Rush all the way down to the grassroots, that the party erred badly in going with what Newt Gingrich called "a timid Massachusetts moderate" and that the way to win in future would be to go with proven ideologues, with true believers of the right.

In other words, a Romney loss wouldn't mean a turn to Jeb Bush, or to a similarly pragmatic and non-absolutist conservative like Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie, it would mean a turn to someone like Marco Rubio. Indeed, the only reason Republicans didn't go with such a conservative this year is that no one -- not Gingrich, not Santorum, not Perry -- emerged as a credible right-wing alternative to the shamelessly pandering Romney.

Sure, Republicans quickly fell into lockstep behind Romney, but that's to be expected of Republicans. It doesn't mean the party likes him. And many in the party will be quick to blame him should he lose, just as they blamed John McCain last time, but worse. You really think Sarah Palin and her right-wing ilk will say to themselves, "Let's get behind Jeb Bush, he's the right sort of bipartisan moderate to lead us after that whole Romney debacle"? Of course not. They'll be out for blood and they'll be looking to nominate one of their own in 2016. (It doesn't help Jeb's cause that he's criticizing today's GOP, even going so far as to say that Ronald Reagan wouldn't be welcome in it.)

Again, this is not to say that Bush would necessarily lose. 2016 is a long way away, and it's possible, if not likely, that the Republican Party as a whole would respond with some sense to a loss in 2012, maybe even that it would come to appreciate the significant demographic shifts that are turning the electorate against it.

But I doubt it.

The party may indeed be looking for someone new to lead it after November. I just have a hard time believing it'll be Jeb Bush, whose time always seems to be right around the corner.

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I wonder if Gov. Bobby Jindal came cheap?

Can I be your VP? I promise to say whatever
you like. And I'll check my integrity at the door.

I honestly don't care about the over-the-top nonsense GOP talking heads like to throw around about Democrats actually disliking capitalism. One wing of the conservative bullshit machine claims Obama is too close to Wall Street; another claims he and his administration don't believe in free enterprise.

I know how politics works. You say all kinds of nonsense to see what sticks. So Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has a new attack ad in which he actually says:

I suspect that many in the Obama administration really don't believe in private enterprise. At best, they see business as something to be endured so that it can provide tax money for government programs.

Add to that the incoherent claim that President Obama is inexperienced, which, as Steve Benen points out, is an odd claim after

eight years in state government, four years in the U.S. Senate, and four years as the president of the United States during a time of crisis -- as being inexperienced.

Yes, they prefer Mitt Romney, "the least-experienced major-party presidential nominee in more than 70 years." Republicans are always fighting the last battle.

Anyway, Mitt Romney has been running around claiming the same thing about Obama's attitude about capitalism, that the President is turning American away from being a "free-enterprise nation." I know, the Tea Party crazies have been calling Obama a socialist from day one, which can only mean one thing: they are first class idiots. Only someone who has no idea what socialism is would consider President Obama a socialist.

Then again, this is the wing of the party that never really went away after Goldwater's defeat in 1964. Barry Goldwater himself once stood up in the Senate to tell Eisenhower, as Rick Perlstein describes it, that he was a betrayer of the people's trust and a quisling in thrall to Democrats' "economic inebriation.' Goldwater also said that Eisenhower embraced, "the siren song of socialism."

You have to figure if the people who gave birth to crazy-ass conservatism were willing to call President Eisenhower a socialist, what chance does Barack Obama have?

My point is that radical Republicans have always said these things about anyone who thought government had a role to play in ensuring equality of opportunity and fairness in our capitalist economic system. Every now and then these people pick up their heads to say if you are not a pure laissez faire capitalist, you are dirty fucking socialist. It comes in cycles, and, lucky us, we're living through one now.

But I have to ask if this stuff resonates with anyone? Let me qualify that: Does this stuff resonate with anyone who is not already predisposed to think that members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are actually communists, as Rep. Allen West (R) claimed not that long ago? Does this stuff work with people who are not already convinced that Democrats are really zombies intent on destroying free enterprise?

It truly has become baseless name calling, and Mitt Romney is right in the middle of it, as is Bobby Jindal for whom some people seem to have a modicum of respect, although I can't understand why at this point. Guess Bobby really wants that VP slot and doesn't care what he has to say to get it.

I suppose they test these attack lines. I suppose they had a meeting where someone said, "let's say that Obama is against capitalism," because, you know, he had the nerve to say Mitt Romney is a blood-sucking son-of-a-bitch who never gave a damn about the jobs destroyed through his vulture capitalist activities.

I get it. I get it. I get it. I know what they're going for. Maybe it'll work. I don't know. I don't think so.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Republican politics: smaller government for the other guy

By Richard K. Barry

When your candidate gets caught saying something incredibly stupid, there is always, of course, an attempt to either take back the stupid thing said or try to explain it away by claiming that the stupid comment was perfectly sensible after all.

As for the dueling gaffes by Obama and Romney, one about the private sector doing fine and the other about the country not needing any more cops, fireman and teachers, it looks like the President has simply backtracked, but not Romney.

No, his team appears to have doubled down. As reported by Think Progress, "former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R), a top Romney campaign surrogate, backed Romney's call, telling MSNBC that changes in technology and population shifts have made layoffs of teachers and public safety officials necessary."

As Think Progress notes, this might be true if "classrooms were not busting at the seams because there are fewer teachers, and cities and towns across the country were mot closing entire public safety departments due to budget cuts."

The problem for the Romney campaign is that they haven't figured out that a lot of people like the thought of smaller government as long as it doesn't adversely effect their own lives. Good budget cuts are cuts that take away someone else's services, bad budget cuts are cuts that take away your own. Reductions in the number of cops, fireman and teachers effect nearly everyone in a very immediate way and there is no way John Sununu can spin Romney out of that fact.

Like I said, conservatives, and those who vote with them from time to time, always want smaller government for other people. The trick for Republican politicians is to convince your voter universe that this is what you are proposing. Comments about cops, firemen and teachers blow up that narrative completely.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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No matter how you slice it, we're to blame for global warming

By Carl 

Ocean warming is our fault:

A study published last weekend on Nature Climate Change claims to give the lie to the notion that if the world is warming, it's not our fault.

With the kind of certainty that will send the Heartland Institute reaching for Plan C ("the world should focus on mitigation"), the study, Human-induced global ocean warming on multidecadal timescales, ends with the bald factual statement: "We have identified a human-induced fingerprint in observed estimates of upper-ocean warming on multidecadal timescales".

Alternatively, as oceanographer Professor Nathan Bindoff of the University of Tasmania put it speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "No matter how you look at it, we did it". 

That creaking sound you hear is the wingnut machine gearing up to find someone else to blame. So much for "personal responsibility," huh?

The capitalist system, at least as espoused in this country, pretends that individual pursuits will create a greater good. And that only works in closed systems, and with heavy (Adam Smith* was quite clear on this point) governmental supervision with the potential for intervention.

(*side note: I'd actually give capitalism a try if we agreed to stick to the rules Smith laid out, by the way, and stop whining that "government is the problem.")

Why should government get involved? Because a person might be smart, but he's short-sighted. People as a body are stupid, but still short-sighted. If anyone doubts this, the lessons of Easter Island make it quite clear. There, an entire civilization cleared every tree off an island, destroyed the entire vegetative ecosystem and then vanished, mostly through exodus but in large part by simply dying off.

They killed themselves off in their greed.

A government that can identify and track a problem is in the best position to find solutions that restore some form of balance to the equation. It's not perfect, mostly because it's human, but it is a damn sight better than warning everyone to stop doing what their doing.

That turns into a global game of Steal The Bacon, where everyone sort of eyes everyone else and says, "You go first." Problems like this that affect everyone demand leadership that everyone will listen to. After all, how many decades have scientists warned Americans... hell, the world, about the dangers of cigarette smoking? Yet it wasn't until the governments of the world rolled up their collective sleeves and started imposing regulations and laws that we saw smoking decline.

"Libertarians" would say that it's an individual decision to smoke or pollute his environment, and I'd say, "Great! If that person can stand living in a bubble completely cut off from the rest of us, fine. He or she can smoke and pollute and litter to his heart's content."

But it's a societal problem that has consequences far beyond the little bubble that person lives in. This is the point "libertarians" don't get. You pay for someone else's mess. This is akin to asking you to wipe someone else's ass.

This study published in Nature Climate Change shows that naturally recurring events can only account for about ten percent of global oceanic temperature rise.

Meaning humanity scored an "A" in fucking the planet up!

Global climate change can't be traced to a single people... although the U.S. would have to be at the top of any list of culprits... but it can be attributed to the cumulative effects of arrogance and greed of individuals, coupled with a lack of internal censors and individual responsibilities.

As we've seen, people pretty much suck, full stop, but they suck in particular about problems that are not their immediate concern. Even when you show them the consequences of their actions -- if you're old enough, you remember the pollution commercial from the '70s in which an actor portraying a First Nationer weeps at the damage done to his land -- many choose to ignore those consequences or come to some bizarre Kubler-Ross level of mourning that they get trapped in: usually denial, often anger.

It's going to take that level of presentation, an abrupt disaster broadcast 24/7 across the world that cannot possibly be denied as global oceanic warming or sea level rise, for Americans to come to grips with it. I figure if maybe Pensacola, Florida or Biloxi, Mississippi were suddenly swallowed up by the sea, never to return, that might do it.

But then I thought that before Katrina hit.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Tony Perkins, theocratic bigot extraordinaire, comparies gay pride to adultery, drunkenness

It's hard to keep track of the anti-gay bigotry that is so widespread on the right, and throughout the Republican Party, but, thankfully, sites like Right Wing Watch do their best to document the various actions and utterings by conservatives.

Conservatives like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council -- or "Family" "Research" "Council," a leading theocratic organization with a great deal of influence on the right -- a conservative who appears all over the media spewing his bigotry with a facade of civility, a conservative who, like so many others of his ilk, hates gays and thinks they're destroying America.

We know what to expect from Perkins, but it's important to keep tracking his bigotry, if only to be able to point to it when refuting their various arguments against gay rights. (For example, Perkins and others try to make the case that opposition to same-sex marriage is really about religious freedom. To the extent that that's true, it's just about the freedom to institutionalize bigotry.) Last week, for example, came this:

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council filled in for Sandy Rios on her morning talk show last week on the American Family Association’s radio network and had to respond to a caller named J.R. who said that anti-gay activists like Perkins were promoting misconceptions about gays and lesbians while ignoring societal ills. Perkins tried to explain that equality for gays and lesbians has damaging consequences for society, warning that gay rights will end religious freedom and twist public accommodations laws.

He insisted that the Religious Right isn't overlooking issues like alcoholism and adultery since there aren't people advocating for "Adultery Pride Month" or "Drunkenness Pride Month" in the same way many recognize June as LGBT Pride Month. Later, another caller agreed with his assessment equating homosexuals with adulterers and alcoholics, and Perkins noted that "when it comes to drunkenness, we have laws that are trying to protect the rest of society."

Specifically, he said this:

The month of June is Gay Pride Month. Now, I have not yet seen where they have declared Adultery Pride Month, I have not seen where they have declared the Drunkenness Pride Month. Here's the issue, J.R. it's not a matter of whether or not someone can do what they want to do with their lives, God gave Adam and Eve a choice, but that's not what we're talking about here.

We're talking about redefining the rest of culture and making others both embrace, celebrate and subsidize. We're talking about changing the laws that will influence what our children are taught in schools, it's already happening in those states that have legalized same-sex marriage or had it forced upon them by the courts.

See how he twists it around and tries to make it about freedom, as if same-sex marriage is part of some totalitarian plot? That in itself is ridiculous -- this is about rights, and of course anyone is still free to be a bigot and belong to a church that promotes bigotry, and it's not like legalizing same-sex marriage somehow interferes with "traditional" marriage, whatever the fearmongering from Perkins and his ilk about how gay rights will turn everyone gay, or something like that, whatever bullshit it is.

No, what's really going on here is bigotry. Perkins objects that children will be taught... what? That gays and lesbians are human beings with rights? Is he worried that children will... what? Choose the gay? Please. He's an idiot.

And when he comparies gay pride -- the self-respecting pride of a diverse community that throughout history, including recent history, including in the present as well, has suffered terribly at the hands of theocrats and other bigots -- to adultery and drunkenness, he's just exposing himself for what he truly is.

A man of ignorance and hate. Like so many on the right.

(image: The Daily Show's Perkins Cam)

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Georgia's Klan Highway

Via twitter: 

KKK chapter wants to adopt stretch of Georgia highway. (link)

-- CNN (@CNN)

Shouldn't we get Georgia's favorite son (and Klan endorsee) Newt Gingrich to weigh in?

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Knock it off

Steve Almond has an essay in yesterday's New York Times magazine that, in the words of Charlie Pierce, makes me want to guzzle anti-freeze. The very title -- "Liberals Are Ruining America. I Know Because I Am One" -- made me groan before I even read it, and once I did, I wanted to throw it across the room.

His basic premise is that if we ignore the right-wing noise machine like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News or somehow seal them off from the civil discourse that the grown-ups are having, they will go away:

Imagine, if you will, the domino effect that would ensue if liberals and moderates simply tuned out the demagogues. Yes, they would still be able to manipulate their legions into endorsing cruel and self-defeating policies. But their voices would be sealed within the echo chamber of extremism and sealed off from the majority of Americans who honestly just want our common problems solved. They would be marginalized in the same way as activists who rant about racial purity or anarchy.

Rush Limbaugh would be a radio host catering to a few million angry commuters, not the alpha male of conservatism. Fox News would be a popular fringe network, not the reliable conduit by which paranoid hogwash infects our mainstream media.

In this world, it would be much harder to mislead people because media outlets would shift their resources to covering the content of proposed legislation, the exploding role of corporate influence in our affairs of state and the scientifically confirmed predicaments we face as a species.

Liberals and moderates would no longer be able to mollify themselves by watching Jon Stewart mock conservative wack jobs. They would be forced to consider their own values and the sort of actions necessary to reify [sic] those values in the world. They might even consider breaching our artificially inflated partisan divide.

To that I say with all the due respect and decorum that I can muster: Bullshit. We have tried that approach before, and it hasn't worked. It didn't work in the 1990s when the machine went after the Clintons. Yes, Bill Clinton survived impeachment and Newt Gingrich was tossed out, but like the monster in Alien, Newt came back; we just spent a year enduring his inanities, and it wasn't as much fun this time because he's still insufferable and boring as whale shit. They do not go away -- Mr. Almond as much admits that -- they only get worse. So why does anyone think that by ignoring them or isolating them will work this time?

I know all too well how little stomach progressives have for aggressive politics. We would much rather have a nice discussion over a nice glass of wine and reason together. But that's not what the haters and the right-wingers want. In the first place, those reasonable Republicans have all been primaried out of office, and even the ones who try vainly to sound reasonable are still capable of calling you a Nazi.

Liberals have got to get over their squimishness. The way to fight back is to fight back. Don't give an inch. It's like fighting a wildfire; you put it out in one area, it comes back somewhere else, so you put it out there. You respond to every provocation, every nutty e-mail sent by your whack-job relative about Kenyan birth certificates and Michelle's garden. It doesn't have to be a long discourse with facts and figures; they don't work, and well-intentioned pearl-clutchers like Steve Almond only enable them. Knock it off. You call bullshit and you call out the racist bigoted Neanderthal bullies that they are. You don't bring a peace pipe to a knife fight, and you don't win the argument by conceding anything.  Of course, that assumes they want to have an argument. They don't. They want to end the chit-chat and get on with the bloodletting.

Take it from someone who spent a lot of his early years at the mercy of bullies: It's surprising how fast they run for their momma when you actually do fight back. It works. And it feels very, very good when you win. But you can't ever let your guard down, and no matter what happens in November, they'll still be out there.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Jeb Bush takes a shot at today's GOP

They said they'd let us know
about our application.

If you think Mitt Romney's campaign will put Obama surrogate Cory Booker's critical comments about Obama's attacks on Bain Capital into numerous campaign ads, you're right. If you think they will do the same with Bill Clinton's statements praising Romney's stellar business career, you're right about that too. But, ultimately, the best self-inflicted wound from a campaign may come from recent comments by Jeb Bush that neither his father nor Ronald Reagan could get elected in todays radical right-wing Republican party:

Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad — they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party — and I don't — as having an orthodoxy that doesn't allow for disagreement, doesn't allow for finding some common ground," Bush said, adding that he views the hyper-partisan moment as "temporary."

Back to my dad's time and Ronald Reagan's time – they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support. Reagan would be criticized for doing the things that he did.

Jeb also took his shots at Obama for his own partisanship, which is what you would expect. But saying the Republican party as currently constituted is blindly partisan, and having the words come from one of the most respected members of the GOP could be very useful to the Democrats.

It's not particularly new. Even Mike Huckabee once said the same thing about Ronald Reagan having a hard time getting nominated for the presidency in this iteration of the party, but it's still a very intriguing perspective.

You'll recall Indiana GOP Senate nominee Richard Mourdock saying that bi-partisanship means Democrats agreeing to do what Republicans want done. Yeah, well, that's Jeb's point.

The ad almost writes itself: one part Mourdock, two parts Jeb, with the message, "Today's Republican Party doesn't care about governing America. They just want to impose their radical agenda. Even Jeb Bush says Ronald Reagan wouldn't be welcome in today's GOP."

Compared to this, Booker and Clinton would be small potatoes.

Forget your enemies. It's your friends who will bury you.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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