Saturday, March 29, 2014

Behind the Ad: When did making fun of farmers in Iowa become smart politics?

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Mark Jacobs (R) Senate campaign

Where: Iowa (in Eastern Iowa cable markets)

What's going on: Last week a video surfaced in which Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) makes a disparaging comment about Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), saying that Grassley was "a farmer from Iowa who never want to law school." In the clip Braley is addressing trial lawyers from Texas. 

Mark Jacobs, who is running in the crowded GOP primary for the open seat Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) will leave when he departs at the end of the year, has made use of the clip in a new ad. Braley is the only Democrat running for Harkin's seat.

Here are Braley's comments:
To put this in stark contrast, if you help me win this race you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice, someone who's been literally fighting tort reform for thirty years.

Or, you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary."

Daily Kos reports that  there's a new Rasmussen poll, half of which was conducted after Braley's "farmer" comment came out: Braley: 41, Mark Jacobs (R): 38; Braley 40, Joni Ernst (R): 37; Braley: 40, Matt Whitaker (R): 36; Braley 44, Sam Clovis (R): 31.

Two things worth noting: Is it ever really smart to laugh at farmers in Iowa, and hasn't Mitt Romney's experience taught politicians that everything is now potentially being taped?

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On the Hustings

(Gallup Politics): "Young Americans' affinity for Democratic Party has grown"

(New York Times): "Newly released Clinton-era papers show damage control during scandal"

(Wisconsin Public Radio): "Mary Burke says she can't self-fund campaign"

(National Journal): "Why Democrats are going all in on the Koch brothers"

(Washington Post): "Senate Democrats struggle to define a message that can save their majority"


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Cons think Colbert is a double agent

By Frank Moraes

Digby sent me to this very interesting study that shows exactly what I've known for a long time, The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report. For those who do not know it, The Colbert Report is more or less a parody of Bill O'Reilly's The Factor. It is to right wing opinion shows what The Daily Show is to news shows. The whole gag is that Colbert is extremely conservative and stubbornly resistant to facts. He says that he thinks with his gut. He also coined the word "truthiness," which means, "A quality characterizing a 'truth' that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively 'from the gut' or because it 'feels right' without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts."

But this is not how everyone perceives the show. With a group of 332 participants, the researchers found that when conservatives watch the show, they thought that Colbert was something like a double agent:

Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements.

What is especially interesting about this is that Colbert commonly says things on his show that would be considered totally unacceptable if they were taken straight. For example, he recently started the "Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." If there were any question whatsoever that Colbert really believed that, I would not watch the show. And that's but one example. So the fact that people watch him thinking it's satire of satire is extremely troubling.

But the fact is that I've known this about his show. I've commented about it to friends. It bothers me that a sizable section of his studio audience seems not to get the joke. The joke they get is the outrageous guy just telling it like it is. It disturbs me because most politically active people can put a nice face on conservatism. Take Paul Ryan: he always claims that his policies that seem to be bad for the poor are actually good for them. And maybe he really thinks that. But the conservative voter is the guy who watches The Colbert Report and thinks that "Ching-Chong Ding-Dong" is a valid attack on Chinese Americans.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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A.M. Headlines

(Daily News): "Port Authority Chairman Samson — linked to Bridgegate scandal — resigns post"

(New York Times): "Putin calls Obama to discuss Ukraine, White House says"

(The Hill): "Cassidy clarifies comments that uninsured are 'less educated'"

(Washington Post): "Maryland set to replace troubled health exchange with Connecticut’s system"

(Real Clear Politics): "Health law legacy eludes Obama as changes sink in"


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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Condi Rice criticizes Obama's leadership, proves she lacks anything resembling self-awareness or perspective

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Condi and Dubya. Sort of.

So Condi Rice is on the anti-Obama bandwagon, just like her pals Cheney and Rummy and rest of the detritus of the Bush II presidency:

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Barack Obama of dramatically weakening the United States' position in the world, drawing a straight line between Obama's ever-yielding foreign policy and the increasing troubles around the world.

"Right now, there's a vacuum," she told a crowd of more than two thousand attending the National Republican Congressional Committee's annual dinner last night in Washington, D.C. "There's a vacuum because we've decided to lower our voice. We've decided to step back. We've decided that if we step back and lower our voice, others will lead, other things will fill that vacuum." Citing Bashar al Assad's slaughter in Syria, Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine, al Qaeda's triumphant return to Fallujah, Iraq, and China's nationalist fervor, she concluded: "When America steps back and there is a vacuum, trouble will fill that vacuum."

Oh, the sheer stupidity of the everything-is-Obama's-fault crowd, which is pretty much the same as the America-as-imperial-global-hegemon crowd, as if the president of the United States, any which one, can just snap his, or her, fingers and make the world bow before America's overwhelming might. That sort of worldview, connected to neoconservative ideological fervor, is as ignorant and childish as it is astoundingly dangerous and self-destructive.

And if you're looking to find fault for weakening America's standing in the world, how about, oh, throwing some blame at those who ignored a pre-9/11 CIA memo called "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US," launched a second war on false pretenses (i.e., lies) while a first was still going on, and grossly mismanaged that second war while ignoring the first, turning Iraq into a chaotic vacuum and failing to do the job in Afghanistan, allowing al Qaeda and others to continue to thrive while also creating the conditions for terrorism as a movement and threat to grow in strength, all the while weakening America's core alliances, thoroughly obliterating its credibility and moral standing in the world as well as its capacity to engage militarily beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, and making the American people even more isolationist than ever.

And by the way, included among those who deserve that blame is not the president who rebuilt America's alliances, credibilty, and moral standing in the world, put an end to the bloody quagmire of a war in Iraq and the going-nowhere war in Afghanistan, shifted America's military resources to target al Qaeda, against enormous risk gave the green light to the operation to take out bin Laden, directly as a result of the new focus on al Qaeda, opened up diplomatic relations with Iran so as to work towards long-term peace and stability in the Middle East and to turn that country away from its nuclear ambitions, helped put an end to the brutal Qaddafi regime in Libya, and has otherwise carefully guided the U.S. through delicate international crises, from the Arab Spring to Syria to the current situation in the Ukraine, at a time when the American people want nothing of intervention and when there's really only so much even the president of the United States can do to achieve America's foreign policy goals.

So you said what, Condi? And you're blaming whom? Huh.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

And teabagger heads explode in 3....2....

By Carl

The UN has issued yet another firm and fact-filled statement with respect to global warming:

Extreme weather events in 2013 can largely be traced to global warming caused by human actions, stated in the newest Status of the Climate Report from the United Nations.

Michael Jarraud is secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization. His group just released a new annual report on global climatic conditions. Extreme weather events were experienced in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Pacific last year.

According to the new assessment, 2013 was the sixth-warmest year on record. The 13 complete years since 2000 have made up all but one of the 14 hottest on record, according to the U.N. report. Australia recorded a new average high temperature, as did parts of Africa central Asia.

It will be interesting in the run up to and the wake of the release of the ultimate climate disaster movie…not sure where to put the emphasis there, “climate” or “disaster” since I suspect it will be both…how much a stink wingnuts will want to make about this study.

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A.M. Headlines

(New York Times): "Obama to call for end to N.S.A.’s bulk data collection"

(Washington Post): "Obama’s aim to shift U.S. foreign policy runs up against an old Cold War rival"

(New York Times): "Ruling could have reach beyond issue of contraception"

(The Hill): "Four years later, Democrats wait for ObamaCare popularity bounce"

(USA Today): "14 dead, 176 missing in Washington landslide"


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Monday, March 24, 2014

Imagine this frightening scenario

By Carl

President Barack Obama wakes up on the morning of November 5, 2014 with a headache:
When FiveThirtyEight last issued a U.S. Senate forecast — way back in July — we concluded the race for Senate control was a toss-up. That was a little ahead of the conventional wisdom at the time, which characterized the Democrats as vulnerable but more likely than not to retain the chamber.

Our new forecast goes a half-step further: We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber. The Democrats’ position has deteriorated somewhat since last summer, with President Obama’s approval ratings down to 42 or 43 percent from an average of about 45 percent before. Furthermore, as compared with 2010 or 2012, the GOP has done a better job of recruiting credible candidates, with some exceptions.

As always, we encourage you to read this analysis with some caution. Republicans have great opportunities in a number of states, but only in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana and Arkansas do we rate the races as clearly leaning their way. Republicans will also have to win at least two toss-up races, perhaps in Alaska, North Carolina or Michigan, or to convert states such as New Hampshire into that category. And they’ll have to avoid taking losses of their own in Georgia and Kentucky, where the fundamentals favor them but recent polls show extremely competitive races.

Short answer: The GOP has a 60% chance of wresting control of the Senate from the Democrats.

Mind you, this is not a fair assessment of the political will of the nation. Recent polls seem to indicate a general distrust of Republicans (can’t find the link right now, but I’ll keep searching) but you have to counterbalance that with the consistent view that the nation has that the government ought to be divided amongst parties.

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A.M. Headlines

(New York Times): "Inquiry is said to clear Christie, but that’s his lawyers’ verdict"

(CNN): "Jimmy Carter believes the NSA monitoring his emails"

(CBS): "Obamacare anniversary provides more 2014 fodder"

(Bloomberg): 'World leaders discuss Ukraine as worry grows over Russia"

(Los Angeles Times): "Shaping a response to Russia will be a high-stakes test for Obama"


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Sunday, March 23, 2014

On the Hustings


(FiveThirtyEight): "GOP is slight favourite in race for Senate control"

(Reuters): "Another Bush run for the White House? Jeb may be up for it"

(Real Clear Politics): "Poll: "First female president" is top reason to elect Hillary"

(New York Times): "Paul has ideas, but his backers want 2016 plan"

(Miami Herald): "Gov. Rick Scott’s finance co-chair exits amid campaign turmoil"


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Yes, dear reader, Hillary is running

By Richard K. Barry

Speaking at the close of the Clinton Global Initiative University conference at Arizona State University yesterday, Hillary Clinton said she is very much concerned about the direction of the country and is weighing another presidential campaign.

Last week Politico ran a story stating that it has now become a matter of accepted fact among Democratic operatives that "Hillary Clinton is freezing the Democratic 2016 field as she waits until possibly late this year to decide on another presidential run." In other words, they say that it is nearly "impossible for anyone other than Clinton to raise money or build a campaign infrastructure, the thinking goes, with Clinton hovering overhead."

Clinton's defenders, however, say that Hillary is doing them all a big favour because she is "shielding other prospective Democratic contenders from months of attacks and scrutiny they’d probably face without her in the picture."

Oh, bullshit all around. Ms. Clinton is doing what's best for Ms. Clinton, as you would expect.

The point is that Hillary is going to get in, and very likely going to be the next president unless the Republicans can figure out a way to nominate a candidate radical enough to placate the GOP base, but moderate enough to win a general election. Cold day in hell on that one. 

As for Hillary, it's way too early. Why would she declare her intentions when every story now is about how popular should would be as a candidate? The moment she says it's a go, that dynamic changes and she will have to start playing defence. Better to put that off for as long as possible. 

And other Democratic hopefuls should just put themselves back in their pockets for 2024.

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A.M. Headlines

(The Hill): "Dems ramp up offense on ObamaCare"

(New York Times): "As sanctions start, Russia feels a sting"

(Wall Street Journal): "Obama meets with tech CEOs to discuss government surveillance"

(The Detroit News): "Gay marriage ban struck down"

(USA Today): "Malaysia: French satellite images may show debris"


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