News Roundup for 9/30/10

Obama and Clinton

-Headline of the Day-
"Gallup's Obama-Hillary 2012 Primary Poll; Or, How to Invent News."

As the 2010 elections loom, they're already becoming yesterday's news. Who'll win in Novemeber? Republicans -- duh! Who even cares anyway? Now on to the next story -- whee!

And the next story is way in the far-flung future of atomic robots and flying cars and mutant zombies: 2012, where The Jetsons live. And in the 2012 Democratic primary, it'll be Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama. Or not. Probably not. Almost definitely not. Who cares? Let's have a look anyway!

Gallup asked respondents if they'd vote for Clinton or Obama and Barack Obama won by 15 points. Why are we even bothering with a primary election? It's gonna be a rout. Of course, Gallup cautions that "voter sentiments at this stage of the 2012 election cycle have low predictive validity." In English, that means it doesn't mean crap and Gallup just wasted a bunch of people's time by making them take a bullshit poll.

But it's big news! Start writing your concession speech now, Hill. (Dave Weigel)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, Uncle Mark has a cartoon about living in the olden times when America was really America!

Click for animation

OK, so that doesn't sound so good...

But they hadn't invented socialism yet, so yay! Of course, they hadn't invented penicillin yet, either. So... Yeah... (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Orly Taitz Endorses Sharron Angle, Calls Nevada Election 'Number 1 Race In America'."

Yup, gettin' some of that birther magic from The Queen herself. Sharron Angle may be royally screwed. (Huffington Post)

Fearing the Youth Vote

Item from the Statements of the Obvious Department: Barack Obama is trying to get out the youth vote. In my final post yesterday, I wrote about this. Allow me to quote myself for a moment here:

What you're seeing here is the Democrats taking a page out of history. In 1998, Russ Feingold was in a tough reelection fight for his second term. In fact, it looked like he was going to lose to construction company owner Mark Neumann. But Madison's Rep. Tammy Baldwin ran a pretty substantial get out the vote campaign on the University of Wisconsin campus to boost her own election prospects (it was to be her first term) and that brought out dems who also voted for Feingold. After the smoke cleared, Tammy had won a decisive 53% and Russ came out with 50.55% of the vote. A real squeaker for Feingold, but a win's a win.

The moral of this story: turn out the UW and Democrats win in Wisconsin. Ironically enough, Big Red is one of the things that keeps Wisconsin blue. Politically-engaged University of Wisconsin students, faculty, and union members are the party's not-so-secret weapon. Here's hoping history repeats itself.

As I said, faculty and employees are solid dem voters on average, but the bulk of the college vote comes from students. Want to know how terrified Republicans are of the youth vote? Take a gander at this:

Get that? Don't encourage young people to vote, because they're stupid. In fact, discourage them from voting. All those teabagging idiots with the misspelled signs and fumbling grasp of history and the Constitution are fine, though. We'll encourage them to vote. Older idiots are OK, it's the young idiots who are the problem. If Stossel hadn't limited his investigation to young people, he probably wouldn't have had any better luck with his photos of Boehner and Pelosi -- a recent CNN poll shows that while Nancy Pelosi is fairly well-known (and not liked), Boehner is, as CNN put it, "unknown." In any case, those who know the name may not know the face -- I don't know when that Boehner portrait was taken, but it wasn't yesterday. He's put on a few coats of orange since then. Besides, Stossel's wandering around New York, if I'm not mistaken. None of those people are going to be voting for Pelosi or Boehner anyway. And did anyone identify either Nancy or John in that clip? Someone would've had to eventually. Score one for creative editing.

Still, it says a lot about Republican fear of young voters that FOX would produce a segment telling viewers to discourage younger people from voting. It's ham-handed and transparent, sure, but these are FOX News viewers we're talking about here. Ironically enough, they aren't the sharpest pencils in the box. They're going to fall for this crap hook, line, and sinker, because there is no one in the world who so desperately needs to feel smarter than someone else as an fool. You tell them someone is dumber than they are and they'll accept the compliment gladly.

Further, let's consider the sad fact that young voters are in the same boat as other voting demographics -- the minority vote. Can you really grab some random jerk off the street and say, "This represents everyone"? There are college students taking political science classes, organizing political groups, and becoming politically active as we speak. I kind of think they might be a little better informed than average and the most likely to vote in their age demo.

If you're 18-26, 18-30, somewhere in that neighborhood, don't ask who wants you to vote, ask yourself who doesn't.


Get updates via Twitter


News Roundup for 9/29/10

Not the world's greatest boss, no matter what her coffee mug says

-Headline of the Day-
"Atty: Whitman knew housekeeper was in US illegally."

Well this is fun. The woman trying to buy the California Governor's Mansion, Meg Whitman, said in a debate yesterday, "We do have to hold employers accountable for hiring only documented workers. And we do have to enforce that law." Today, it turns out that a long-time employee of her's, Nicky Diaz, was undocumented. And Whitman knew it.

Once it became clear that Diaz's employment would hurt Whitman's chances, she fired her -- at the same time, gypping her out of a lot of money Diaz had coming to her. So Nicky got a hold of bigtime lawyer lady Gloria Allred and it was about this time that the shit began to hit the fan. The two held a press conference where Diaz told reporters that Meg knew she was undocumented and, to top off everything, that Meg was an awful bitch and a "nightmare" to work for. Rich, Republican, and a jerk -- this is starting to become something of a trend.

Of course, Whitman denies everything. Still, according to the report, "Allred claims Whitman received a letter from the Social Security Administration on April 22, 2003, saying the Social Security number provided by the housekeeper did not match the name on file. Allred did not provide a copy of the letter. The housekeeper said she saw the letter and that Whitman and her husband never asked about her immigration status after receiving it." This ought to be pretty easy to prove.

So, should employers be held accountable for hiring undocumented workers? If you agree with Meg Whitman, I guess that means you have to vote against her. Sucks to be you, Meg. (AP)

-Who not to call in an emergency-
I think it's probably an established fact that Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is a dick. But every once in a while, he goes out of his way to demonstrate just how much of a dick he is. This is the case with a bill that would send a promised $1.2 billion to Haiti for disaster relief.

See, the bill would move ahead pretty quickly, except Tom put a hold on it. Why? "He is holding the bill because it includes an unnecessary senior Haiti coordinator when we already have one," a Coburn spokesperson says.

Except we don't. Coburn argues that a coordinator for the relief effort is redundant because we have an ambassador to Haiti. That disaster recovery and diplomacy are two different things hasn't occurred to him, apparently. And would the new coordinator be super-expensive? No. According to the report, "The position would cost $1 million a year for five years, including salaries and expenses for a staff of up to seven people."

The report goes on to tell us that "just 2 percent of [Haiti's earthquake] rubble has been cleared and 13,000 temporary shelters have been built -- less than 10 percent of the number planned." So now is probably the best time to get started here. But we can't, because Tom Coburn has decided to be a prick over a trivial disagreement.

Dick. (Think Progress)

-Bonus HotD-
"Ambush Filmmaker O'Keefe Tried To 'Punk,' 'Seduce' CNN Reporter."

"Punk" isn't the term I'd use, "frame the reporter and blackmail CNN" seems more fitting. Ethics? Who needs them? (Talking Points Memo)

Fanaticism Disguised as Skepticism

If you've got a question about religion, ask an atheist. That's the short version of the findings of a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll. Pew polled 3,400 Americans and asked questions about broad religious knowledge. Of 32 factual questions, the average atheist was able to answer 20.9. Meanwhile, the talk-about-God-all-the-damned-time people -- white evangelical protestants -- managed to get only 17.6 correct. If you want to know about religion, don't ask the religious -- they don't know crap.

This is one of those "man bites dog" stories that isn't as surprising as you'd think. Most atheists become atheist after being born into some faith tradition. Atheism isn't really a religious belief (disbelief can't logically be belief), so much as it's a conclusion. And it's a conclusion reached after investigation.

I'm not posting this to blow my own atheist horn. Rather, I'm making a point about skepticism. Atheists come to their disbelief for a reason. And we do it in spite of a culture that makes faith a virtue. It's the end of a process; we look at all the facts and come to a conclusion. You can't say that an atheist wants to believe in atheism, because most religions promise a lot better things than atheism does. "You get to be worm food!" isn't the best sales pitch in the world. Atheism is what you're left with after you've eliminated all the other possibilities.

But when we look at other so-called skeptics, we see a lot less due diligence. People who believe what they want to believe, who back off from uncomfortable truths, call themselves "skeptics" as well. Unfortunately there is no polling to back me up, but personal experience tells me that the average evolution or global warming denier doesn't know jack. They come to their conclusions not because they've weighed the facts and found the arguments wanting, but because they've looked at the issue itself and found it too terrifying to confront. Take, for example, current senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell on evolution:

O'Donnell is an "evolution skeptic" not because she knows what the hell she's talking about, but because it conflicts with preexisting beliefs. She doesn't know anything about evolution, other than BS she's read about why evolution is wrong. In fact, it's clear she doesn't even know what evolution is. Yet here she is, stating her opposition to the whole idea based on the argument that magic doesn't work. She's not a skeptic, she's an adherent to an orthodoxy. She disbelieves in evolution because the belief system she's already accepted demands its rejection. If the creation myth isn't true, maybe other things aren't true -- maybe she doesn't get to live forever. The whole thing must be flawless or uncomfortable questions come up. And uncomfortable questions must not be allowed to arise.

This is the basis of know-nothing skepticism. If the conclusion to an argument is happy-clappy party time, there is no emotional resistance to it. But if the conclusion is disaster -- as with global warming -- or that we're just mortal animals on a planet populated with other mortal animals -- as with evolution -- or anything else that leads down a dark road of uncomfortable realities, maybe we aren't so receptive to that. And maybe we find reasons not to believe it. Worse, we find reasons to dismiss all the evidence. We misapply our reason and intelligence in favor of an safe, happy place of our own creation. If people really needed to believe that one and one did not equal two, there would be a denial movement complete with dissident creationist mathematicians. I can guarantee it.

It gets down to this: if you want to believe in talking snakes and magic apples, then yay for you. I don't really care. If you want to believe we can literally pump tons of chemicals into the Earth's atmosphere without any consequence at all, you go have fun with that. I'm sure it's comforting.

But don't come to me and pretend that you have any idea what the hell you're talking about and don't start trying to write your witchdoctor beliefs into law. You want to be ignorant? Fine, it's a free country. You want to make me ignorant? No freakin' way.

And don't call yourself a skeptic when you're really just a true believer. Honesty really is the best policy.


Get updates via Twitter


News Roundup for 9/27/10

Stewart and Colbert
Taking over DC -- or not

-Headline of the Day-
"Washington DC Hotels Reports Colbert and Stewart DC Rallies Outpacing Beck."

And it's doing it bigtime. According to Gerri Smyth, Washington DC Hotel's Director of Reservations, the rate of bookings in advance of the Stewart/Colbert event is outpacing Glenn Beck's little church picnic by 25%. Still, Smyth says you can't tell much of anything from the numbers.

"We can't say that this higher demand for hotel rooms means Colbert's and Stewart's rallies mean these events will be better attended than Mr. Beck's Restoring Honor Rally," she said. "There are other factors at play, including the lead time from the initial announcement to the event, which can either compress or extend out booking patterns. Also, within about 2 weeks of Mr. Beck's event, there were effectively no hotel vacancies in Washington DC. So, we can't extrapolate and say we are going to see a bigger event. Perhaps the data shows liberals and moderates tend to be more conservative and book more in advance or maybe it means that conservative activists tend to be more self-reliant and liberal with risk taking. Or, most likely, it doesn't mean much of anything. As Mark Twain would be apt to say, perhaps 'figures lie and liars figure', so we'll just let somebody else do the figuring."

Liberals may be more conservative and conservatives may be more liberal? The mind reels. Of course, if the Stewart/Colbert rally doesn't eclipse Beck's (organizers say they're expecting just 25,000), the big labor rally set for this weekend should do the trick -- they're expecting over 100,000.

Watch the press completely ignore it. (PRBuzz)

-Not really getting the whole "funny" part-
Saturday Night Live ran a bit about Park51 offering gay weddings and abortions on site. And then it credited the parody ad to the RNC:

Of course, this was the worst thing ever. Here conservatives are, having a perfectly decent unfounded panic, and along comes SNL to make fun of it! No fair!

Well, Jill Stanek of the wingnut site Newsbusters wasn't going to take this lying down. She had a better idea for how the sketch should go. "An honest ad would have shown homosexuals being imprisoned or stoned, as these are punishments meted in Muslim societies for those committing the practice," she wrote.

I don't think I approve of what Stanek thinks is knee-slapping comedy gold... (Raw Story)

-Bonus HotD-
"Quayle Says Americans 'Must Understand' Size Of Federal Budget, But Doesn't Understand It Himself."

Dan Quayle scion Ben is running for congress to get a handle on out of control spending in Washington. So he put out an ad saying that "Government in America is today spending well over 14.5 trillion dollars a year."

Yeah, that's not so correct. We're spending $3.5 trillion a year. "Numbers can be boring," he says, "but every American can and must understand the numbers I'm about to describe." That'd be a lot easier if they weren't from the Republican Ministry of Made-Up Numbers, Ben.

I keep saying it, but I think it runs in the family. Idiocy is the Quayle family curse. (Think Progress, with video)

Republicans, Blue Dogs Engage in Class Warfare

Rolls Royce
Republican and Blue Dog Democrats want to extend Bush's tax giveaway to the wealthy -- yay for bipartisanship! Unfortunately, this is proof that bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship is pretty useless. It also proves that conservatives are out of touch when it comes to economic issues. Extending the tax giveaway isn't the most popular idea out there. Worse, while Republicans don't want to pay for this at all, the Blue Dogs suggest doing this "responsibly" by cutting spending elsewhere. Since we're talking about a tax cut that would blow a $36 billion hole in the deficit, we're also talking about deep cuts someplace.

"Look, I'm glad Blue Dogs don't just want to cut taxes for the wealthy with more deficit financing, but their priorities don't make any sense," Steve Benen wrote this weekend. "They want to cut spending (which improves the economy) in order to pay for breaks for the wealth (which doesn't improve the economy)." We may be out of the recession, but we aren't out of the woods. Demand is still low, which is driving the unemployment crisis. Cutting government spending means reducing demand further, while extending the tax giveaway doesn't really do anything. If it did, the Bush economy wouldn't have been so stagnant until it finally crashed. If there's one thing that should've become obvious by now, it's that supply-side economics is basically a superstition -- we've watched it fail for about a decade, if not longer. Extending Bush's tax cuts to the richest Americans won't do a damned thing for the economy. At least, not anything positive.

Still, we've got those who FDR called "economic royalists" working to help the wealthiest at everyone else's expense. For them, economics works like this: the very wealthiest people are the most important people ever and the rest of the world is just a support system that makes their lives possible. The end.

[Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Speech before the 1936 Democratic National Convention:]

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor -- these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small-businessmen, the investments set aside for old age -- other people's money -- these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

Those who tilled the soil no longer reaped the rewards which were their right. The small measure of their gains was decreed by men in distant cities.

Throughout the nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.

"The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business," he said. "They granted that the government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live."

And so it still is. Companies employ people for 35 hours a week, instead of 40, so they can claim they're part-time and deny them benefits. They cut workers' pay -- not because the company is struggling, but because they believe they can increase their profits -- while the millions made by the people making those decisions only increases. "There's class warfare, all right," billionaire Warren Buffet once said, "but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

And we recognize the unfairness, even if we don't know about it. A new study [pdf] finds that, given our choice, we'd rather live in a society where income distribution was closer to Sweden's. In fact, we tend to believe it already is. And this is because we're unaware of how unequal our present society is. And it's incredibly unequal.

[Raw Story [emphasis mine]:]

Recent analyses have shown that income inequality in the US has grown steadily for the past three decades and reached its highest level on record, exceeding even the large disparities seen in the 1920s, before the Great Depression. Norton and Ariely estimate that the one percent wealthiest Americans hold nearly 50 percent of the country's wealth, while the richest 20 percent hold 84 percent of the wealth.

But in their study, the authors found Americans generally underestimate the income disparity. When asked to estimate, respondents on average estimated that the top 20 percent have 59 percent of the wealth (as opposed to the real number, 84 percent). And when asked to choose how much the top 20 percent should have, on average respondents said 32 percent -- a number similar to the wealth distribution seen in Sweden.

"The authors suggest the reason that American voters have not made more of an issue of the growing income gap is that they may simply not be aware of it," we're told. It's a lot easier to be a drone in the royalists' hive when you don't know you're just a drone.

Still, we have some gut awareness of this fact. We must, because we know extending the tax giveaway to the wealthy is moving in the wrong direction. Gallup shows that 44% -- the largest group -- wants tax cuts extended for everyone but the wealthy. We know that this is fair, even if we're not entirely sure why.


Get updates via Twitter


News Roundup for 9/24/10

Girl wearing insane amount of bronzer
Noted Orange-American, Rep. John Boehner

-Headline of the Day-
"Jon Stewart's Takedown Of GOP's 'Pledge To America': 'Same Sh*t We Heard Before'."

You might think I'm being a little lazy with this one, but seriously, it doesn't need any embellishment. On the rollout to the GOP's big Pledge to America thingy/stunt, Jon Stewart nails it.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Postcards From the Pledge
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

That last Boehner split-screen was perfect. If Democrats aren't making sure this thing's all over the internet, they're even dumber than I thought.

And being that dumb would take talent. (Talking Points Memo)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids! Democracy was old and stale and fair, so we've decided to replace it with...

Click for animation

Now voting is a thing of the past! Sure, you can still do it if you want to, but it's really just an antiquated formality. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Toxie's dead."

First, a note: I just installed a bunch of smoke detectors and my ears are ringing from testing them. Seriously, it's Friday, I have a headache from all the screeching, and -- to make matters worse -- they're tearing up the street out front and my world is all bang and grind and crash and beep-beep-beep-beep! And I still haven't put the tools away. So I'm phoning it in with a bunch of video clips. Sue me. Also, trust me. This one's good.

OK, so here's the setup: When it became clear what was driving the mortgage meltdown, the reporters at NPR's Planet Money did something really smart and journalismy; they bought their very own toxic asset, named it Toxie, and watched it die. These are the life and times of Toxie, the toxic asset.

Here's hoping the species has gone extinct. (NPR, via MoJo Blog)


News Roundup for 9/23/10

Hey Dave, you're not the boss of me

-Headline of the Day-
"Liberal blogger directly confronts David Axelrod, accuses White House of 'hippie punching'."


According to Greg Sargent, "Top Obama adviser David Axelrod got an earful of the liberal blogosphere's anger at the White House moments ago, when a blogger on a conference call directly called out Axelrod over White House criticism of the left, accusing the administration of 'hippie punching.'"

"We're the girl you'll take under the bleachers but you won't be seen with in the light of day," said Susan Madrak of Crooks and Liars -- somewhat justifiably. Sargent recalls press secretary Robert Gibbs, "who recently pilloried the 'professional left' for being overly critical of the White House." And now, here's Axelrod, saying, "You play a great role in informing people about the stakes of elections. One of the reasons I was eager to expend time was to enlist you."

"You want us to help you," Madrak said, "the first thing I would suggest is enough of the hippie punching." Axelrod agreed that "intramural skirmishing" was a bad thing, then went right back to begging for help.

"Madrak replied that Axelrod was missing the point," Sargent writes, "that the criticism of the left made it tougher for bloggers like herself to motivate the base."

"Right back at'cha. Right back at'cha," Axelrod replied -- according to Sargent, "a bit testily." See? Right there, Dave. You're already doing it wrong.

Here's the thing. We're the citizens, you're the politicians. We don't work for you, you work for us. Got it?

He ain't got it. (Plum Line)

-A law I can get behind...-
...almost, anyway. It has one flaw. See if you can spot it.

Proposes law requiring politicians to admit ignorance of science, ethics, and history

Make it apply to the media as well and I'm sold. (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

-Bonus HotD-
"Facebook Is Down Again, Cause Unknown."

Post a YouTube video about it on your blog, then twitter about how cut off you feel. (PC World)

"Pledge for America" Just GOP Bait and Switch

House Republicans released a new "Pledge for America" [pdf] today in Virginia. The document begins by riffing on the Declaration of Independence and the following ideas aren't a whole lot newer. "Bold" and "fresh" aren't really words you'd use to describe it. "Hyperbolic" might be a good choice, though. "An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many," we're told. President Obama and Democrats in Congress apparently appointed themselves into office. It's weird, but that's not the way I remember it. I seem to recall a few very decisive elections.

Anyone who remembers 1994's Contract with America will also remember that it really didn't go anywhere. Newt Gingrich's "Republican Revolution" began to revolve back the very next election cycle and everything went downhill from there. "Gingrich, and the freshmen congressmen who signed on to the contract, thought they could turn the House of Representatives upside down and reverse the process: Issue a political agenda and demand it be approved, virtually without hearings or debate," wrote Connecticut columnist William Torpey in 1996. Government doesn't work this way, because government wasn't designed to work this way. Worse, the ideas that House Republicans spell out are bad ones to begin with, much like they were in contract version 1.0.

[Ezra Klein:]

Their policy agenda is detailed and specific -- a decision they will almost certainly come to regret. Because when you get past the adjectives and soaring language, the talk of inalienable rights and constitutional guarantees, you're left with a set of hard promises that will increase the deficit by trillions of dollars, take health-care insurance away from tens of millions of people, create a level of policy uncertainty businesses have never previously known, and suck demand out of an economy that's already got too little of it.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow pins down one obvious agenda item that Republicans have left out.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

"Democrats have been running away from the new deal for so long, they're sometimes afraid to say it," Maddow said. "But the new deal brought us Social Security, and Social Security has been really good for America. And Republicans want to ash can it. Some Democrats may be too scared of their own shadows to say it, but it is worth saying."

If privatizing Social Security and Medicare aren't on the agenda, there's a reason for it -- those are political losers. But looking at the rest, it's hard to find political winners. Repealing healthcare reform, for example, sounds like fun now. But a lot of what's in that reform is popular. Republicans are already pretty squishy on this issue and promising to repeal the whole thing is setting yourself up for disaster. Especially considering that there's no way in hell Republicans would be able to override a veto. I suppose the maxim "If you're going to fail, fail big" applies here and the GOP thinks they can score points for ambition, but this is more of a sop to the teabaggers than anyone else.

As is making Bush's top-heavy tax cuts permanent. Not only would this explode the deficit, but it's not very popular. Which points to one of the real purposes of the 1994 Contract with America -- to create the illusion of popular support.

Most people don't remember it, but when Gingrich unveiled his big CwA, the GOP were already on their way to taking the House. The contract didn't do much to get anyone elected who wouldn't have been. And, like today's pledge, the contract was rolled out just before the elections. It was basically a bait and switch. Once Republicans got elected, they waved the contract around like a flag and said, "This is what America elected us to do!" And America was surprised to learn that they'd voted for a "Stockholder Rights Reform" package, among other things. In short, Gingrich played the "will of the people" card when he didn't actually have it. That was the whole point of the contract. And that's the point of this new CwA 2.0. John Boehner will wave around the pledge as he demands we re-fund overly expensive missile defense systems that don't work. Because that's what you voted for. See? It's right here in the pledge. America demands it!

What we're going to see in a GOP-controlled House -- assuming it happens -- is the same thing we saw after '94. Republicans will rush into office and get right to work doing things no one actually wants them to. It's what they do. Remember how Bush got reelected by scaring the bejeezus out of everyone over gays and terrorism and stem cells? And remember how he got right to work after reelection on privatizing Social Security, claiming it was what everyone voted for? Yeah, it's like that. It's why Republicans cry over abortion on the campaign trail and it's why they're freaking out over Muslims now. They say whatever it takes to get elected, then they do whatever the hell they feel like afterward. Again, it's what they do. It's what they always do. It's what they're doing now.

Luckily, it never works out well for them in the long run.


Get updates via Twitter


News Roundup for 9/22/10

Pinup girl witch
They're everywhere!

-Headline of the Day-
"Mock All You Want, Republicans And Conservatives Take Witchcraft Seriously."

According to Brian Beutler, when Delaware Tea Party crackpot Christine O'Donnell talked about "dabbling in witchcraft," she "actually offered a glimpse into a real phenomenon in right wing politics and religion: fear of witchcraft and Satanic ritual." Turns out, a lot of these people think this shit is real. Which is weird, because they're so levelheaded and sciency about things like evolution.

But then he reminds us of Sarah Palin getting spiritual protection from witches back in 2005. And you know what? It worked! Sarah and Grampy weren't brought down by witchcraft, their campaign failed because they sucked. So I guess the anti-hex lasts a while -- which is good, because the minions of Satan are all over the place.

"Many of the right's most influential religious leaders contend publicly that witches and Satan worshippers abduct thousands of people a year, many of them children, for ritual murders," Beutler reports. "Some claim to have witnessed, or, like O'Donnell, participated in, the occult practices they abhor."

Another McCain/Palin connection: campaign buddy Pastor John Hagee, who once warned that Hillary Clinton was engaging in witchcraft and that "female Satanists breed themselves to give birth to children for ritual offerings."

So is Christine crazy? Yes. Yes, she is. But no more crazy than your average religious right nutjob. (Talking Points Memo)

-I can has teabaggerz?-
Last night, TeaParty.org looked like this:

Click for larger image

That was one of the more family-friendly pages I could find. The rest were a mix of anime porn, photoshops, swastikas, and photos of Hitler. Literally hundreds of pages of the stuff, totaling over 1,300 files when I checked last night -- and rising.

What happened? Someone doesn't like teabaggers very much, that's what. Why this happened is a whole big thing, but if you want to catch up on it, try here.

The moral of this story: don't mess with 4chan. You will lose. (Mediaite)

-Bonus HotD-
"Ohio Democrat Chair Fires 'F-Word' At Tea Party."

Ohio State Democratic Party head calls teabaggers "fuckers"; fuckers are outraged by the comparison. (WOTV)

Honor or Hatred for Heroes?

Yesterday, a user going by the nick "moifaux" posted the following photo to Reddit, under the title, "Which is the gay one?":

Flag-drape coffins return from Iraq

My point in reposting it here, along with the contextual question, is that some people responded to the failure to repeal the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy by recognizing that duty and sacrifice don't have a lot to do with sexual orientation. Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals have fought and died for this country. This is a fact.

But others have responded to the continued existence of DADT with triumphalism and hate. While that Reddit user was making a thoughtful point, someone was making a thoughtless ass of themselves elsewhere.

[Joe. My. God.:]

"All Faggots Must Die."

The above comment was left today by "Jimmy" on my post about the DADT cloture vote. The IP address *appears* to resolve to the neighborhood of GOP U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss' Atlanta office. The ISP is "United States Senate." I'm confident that the JMG internet sleuths can get to the source.

It didn't take long for Chambliss' office to confirm that the comment came from one of their computers. The office is reportedly conducting an internal investigation. It's likely that an aide left the comment, just to be a dick. But it gives you an idea of what the office culture must be like. "Jimmy" is obviously at home in the Republican Senator's office -- "moifaux" would just as obviously not be. Small-minded, stupid, hateful, arrogant, with a completely unfounded faith in their own superiority -- if you want a short list of qualities most modern conservatives share, that's a good start. We'll probably find out that "Jimmy" is a twenty-something Republican Jesus-bot who'd never set foot in Iraq or Afghanistan -- let alone a military recruiter's office. That is, if we ever find out at all. It's hard to believe that Chambliss will lose a lot of sleep over the anti-gay bigot in his office.

But the contrast between the two comments highlights the contrast between Republicans and everyone else. The majority of Americans believe it's time for DADT to go. And that's not really surprising. Opposition to repeal isn't exactly rational and isn't based on fact. The rightwing Family Research Council, for example, warns of "anarchy," while the American Family Associations' Bryan Fischer assures us that repealing DADT would result in a second Holocaust. Anarchy and murderous totalitarianism at the same time? No wonder "Jimmy" thinks "all faggots must die."

My question here is "which side do you want to be on?" Which nation would you be prouder of -- the panicky and paranoid version of the religious right or the tolerant, thoughtful version that most everyone else shares? I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the "Chambliss Aide Fired for Comment" headline -- maybe we will, but my doubts are profound. But regardless of how this turns out, we know which choice the right has made.

Because they wrote that choice into the historical record yesterday by filibustering the defense bill containing the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell."


Get updates via Twitter


News Roundup for 9/21/10

Palin wrapped in flag
Palin: "Flag Jeebus patriot moose snowmachine!"

-Headline of the Day-
"Who will win the 2012 Tea Party presidential primary?"

Oh man, I don't even want to think about November 2010, let alone 2012. But what the hell, let's speculate on which bubbling bowl of crazy teabaggers will push two years from now. Greg Sargent asks the question, but thankfully has the good sense not to answer it. Instead he posts a video from Sarah Palin, which seems to suggest that the person the baggers will like in 2012 will be the candidate who brings the most flags.

Once again, I'm struck by how much Sarah Palin's voice sounds like a chalkboard thrown into a meatgrinder. But hey, the Tea Party is "the future of politics" -- at least, according to Sarah. I have my doubts. Before we start worrying about the TP in 2012, let's consider that they have to get there first. Some of their candidates are going to get into Washington this year and they're going to say and do some seriously insane shit. Will they survive their own insanity? And there are already signs that the whole thing's running out of steam anyway.

A better question might be whether there'll actually be a Tea Party in 2012. But as long as the question's out there, let me take a cautious stab at it. Video aside, it won't be Sarah Palin. There's just no money in it and, even if she got the nomination, she'd quit halfway to election day. (Plum Line)

-How could you even survive it?-
At the Values Voters Summit this weekend, Shelly Bachmann really hit her stride with a speech delivered mostly in gibberish. I'm guessing she does this so she can avoid collecting one of these awards from PolitiFact:

Pants on Fire

see, if no one knows what the hell you're talking about, then no one can call you a liar. Pretty clever, huh?

Well, not clever enough, because Shelly apparently screwed up and said something in English. She accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of being "busy sticking the taxpayer with her $100,000 bar tab for alcohol on the military jets that she's flying."

Wow. A $100k bar tab. I don't care how long the flight is and how expensive the booze might be, that'll kill ya dead. PolitiFact actually bothered to check this one -- I guess they found out that Nancy's still alive -- and granted Shelly her much deserved award.

Here's my question: is Michele Bachmann so freakin' insane that she believes this or is she so freakin' insane that she thinks anyone else would? Either way, that's pretty freakin' insane. (PolitiFact)

-Bonus HotD-
"Republicans Filibuster Defense Bill."

GOP blocks a must-pass defense bill, leaving our troops unfunded in the field -- all because they're a'scared of the gay people. Why do Republicans hate the troops? (Washington Independent)

Putting Republicans on the Crazy Train

I've never actually been seasick, but watching Gallup's weekly polling going into the midterms gives me an idea what it must be like. At the end of August, Republicans scored a ten-point lead -- which Gallup called "unprecedented" -- in their generic congressional ballot. The press went crazy. Then, a week later, that lead was gone. Both parties were tied. This didn't match the media narrative, so this poll was widely ignored. A week later, the GOP had regained half that lead. But now this week, it's gone again, with Democrats leading by a statistically insignificant 1%. Up, down, up, down. I think I'm gonna barf.

Gallup poll graphic
Click for full sized graphic

It's hard to make any sense of this at all, other than to say that public opinion, while leaning Republican in recent months, is definitely in flux. And that it really doesn't take much to knock the GOP back a step. But the polling does come with a caveat; Republican voters are still more excited about voting. According to Gallup, a lot more.

The enthusiasm gap this past week was 19 percentage points, with 47% of Republicans very enthusiastic about voting, compared with 28% of Democrats. Republicans have enjoyed at least a 10-point advantage on this measure since Gallup began tracking congressional election preferences in March, including margins of 16 points or higher since August.

Given this continuing enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats, even a tie in registered voters' preferences will almost certainly mean the Republicans will garner the most votes on Election Day.

Registered voters may or may not be actual voters on election day, so a tie between the two parties doesn't equate to a November wash. But still, it's hard to see the Republican lead as anything but unstable. In Gallup's analysis, a lot of this has to do with some Republican candidates. They may just be too crazy for most people to stomach:

The pace of midterm congressional election campaigning is beginning to pick up, both at the individual district level, and in terms of national news emphasis. Last week's primary elections, for example, focused news attention on the potential impact of more conservative, Tea Party-backed Republican candidates on the general election. It is possible that further shifts in voter sentiment will be seen in the weeks ahead.

Shorter version: coverage of Tea Party candidates went up and the Republican Party's prospects went down.

I've seen some worries in comment threads and on social sites that people are focusing too much on personalities and not enough on policy. But those concerns ignore what those personalities actually are like. Christine O'Donnell, for example, helps cement the idea that tea party candidates are far outside the mainstream, as does Sharron Angle. Rand Paul reminds voters what they don't like about Republicans by virtue of being a near-caricature of the "pile-on-the-downtrodden" GOPer. While these perceptions won't always resonate in local races, it's clear they make some difference nationally.

In addition, Republicans are running pretty much fact-free campaigns. With a media unwilling to separate fact from fiction, this puts the truth at a disadvantage. Even if you counter lies with facts, there's nothing to back you up -- other than those same facts. It's a depressing truth that facts don't matter anymore and Republicans know it. You bring figures from the Congressional Budget Office, the Republican brings figures from the GOP Ministry of Made-Up Numbers, and Wolf Blitzer shrugs his shoulders and says there are two sides to every story -- now here's video of Bristol Palin on Dancing With the Stars. Having a reporter point out lies would be "liberal media bias." What do you do with that? What can you do with that?

The only avenue left to dig Democrats out of the hole is to point out the obvious and the undeniable -- a lot of these people are crazy. And not the fun-at-a-party kind of crazy, the bad kind. Put Republicans on the spot, make them defend these lunatics or cut them loose. Are you with Rand Paul on the Civil Rights Act? Do you agree with Alaska senatorial candidate Joe Miller that federal unemployment benefits are unconstitutional? Do you agree with Sharron Angle that Social Security should be phased out and the Department of Education shut down -- or that rape can be a blessing in disguise? Give Republican candidates a choice: appeal to the teabagger base or to the rest of the electorate. It's a situation most won't benefit from. Advantage becomes predicament, since most of that GOP enthusiasm comes from the feverish base. And that's not enough in all cases.

It's kind of a cliche that denying you're crazy is a losing battle. The more you deny it, the crazier you look. And the alternative isn't any better; confirming you're crazy doesn't win you any prizes either. Pin Republican candidates down on issues the craziest among them advocate, then let the unwinnable situation work its magic.

I know it seems cynical, but given our media landscape, what's left? Polling shows that the Republican advantage on anything other than enthusiasm is pretty weak. So knock the weak leg out from under them. People don't like the extremism, so make them declare their extremism or lack of it. Are you or are you not this crazy? In our current media environment, it might be the only strategy that actually works.


Get updates via Twitter


News Roundup for 9/20/10

Empty Nevada desert
Crowd shot from National Tea Party Convention

-Headline of the Day-
"Vegas Hotel: The Tea Party Convention Is Canceled."

There was going to be a big teabagger convention in Las Vegas, but now it appears there won't be. In fact, if it weren't for the hotel telling reporters the event had been canceled, there would be no evidence there was ever going to be a convention at all. The group holding the event, Tea Party Nation, makes no mention of the convention on its website.

Of course, other teabaggers say the Tea Party Nation is fake, but in a movement that supposedly has no central leadership, how does anyone get to say who's real and who's not?

"If the convention really is off, the loss of the event will stand as the third high-profile tea party organizing fail in a month," reports TPM. "With the election rapidly approaching, the failure of the LibertyXPO in DC this month, the second DC 9/12 rally and now the second convention suggest those that hope to leverage the movement for big, nationally-covered productions may have tapped out the tea party grassroots."

Is the Tea Party pooped? Are they Tea Partied out? Here's hoping... (Talking Points Memo)

-Losing another constituency-
By now, you're probably familiar with rightwing Delaware loon Christine O'Donnell's 1999 claim that she "dabbled in witchcraft" but "never joined a coven." My take on this has been that Christine is so far into religious nut territory that she probably means she read a horoscope once. This weekend, she tried to laugh off her old comments by saying it was back in high school and she hung out with "questionable folks," just like everyone else. Hahahahahaha!

The problem: bona fide witches aren't happy being called "questionable folks."

"Yes, this was 11 years ago she said that," said Reverend Selena Fox, a nice Wiccan lady from my neck of the woods. "But the kinds of things she is saying now, saying 'well in high school you are with despicable characters' or some such thing, she is actually defaming Wiccans. Whether she intends to do that or not as a way to try and get herself out of this political problem she has created for herself, the fact is America really needs to be a place where you can celebrate diversity and practice your religion without getting ridiculed or defamed."

Yeah, tell that to Muslims, Selena. If you aren't Christian and, further, not exactly their kind Christian, you're questionable folks. That's the law in these people's world. Christine's comments were in the context of being anti-Halloween -- even some Christian holidays aren't Christian enough for these people. Not helping any was that she confused witchcraft with Satanism, which kind of makes me wonder if she wasn't just slinging bullshit in the first place. Or if she really did mean she read a horoscope once.

And, while we're on the subject, here's a fun game: let's say a big time Democrat -- say, Barack Obama -- says exactly the same thing. How do you think people like Christine would react to that? It'd get added to the already contradictory bio they've written for the guy and we'd never stop hearing about how he's a black liberation theology Christian who's a secret Muslim and a Satanist.

Still, keep it up Christine. If you really try with all your little heart, I'm sure you can manage to alienate everyone. (Huffington Post)

-Bonus HotD-
"So a Comedian Sits Next to Former GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman on a Plane..."

You sort of get the idea of where this is going. Add that it's former Air America Morning Sedition host Marc Maron, throw in twitter and a camera phone, and you know. (Gawker)

A Wedge Issue Becomes Too Hot to Use

Stack of newspapers
It's an example of how stupid our national discourse has become. On September 11, the Portland Press Herald in Maine ran a front page story on Eid al Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan. It was the worst thing ever, according to some readers, and editor Richard Connor felt the need to issue a front-page apology the next day.

We made a news decision on Friday that offended many readers and we sincerely apologize for it.

Many saw Saturday's front-page story and photo regarding the local observance of the end of Ramadan as offensive, particularly on the day, September 11, when our nation and the world were paying tribute to those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks nine years ago.

We have acknowledged that we erred by at least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on the front page.

This struck a lot of people as crazy. In fact, if covering Eid on 9/11 could, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered a mistake, apologizing for it was a bigger one. Coverage of peaceful Muslims must now be "balanced" with coverage of violent Muslims? That's a pretty offensive stance. Connor now claims he was answering complaints that he didn't cover 9/11 at all, but the opening paragraphs of the apology suggests the complaints were about Muslims in the paper on 9/11 -- as if they're real Americans and not outsiders who all share responsibility for the worst terrorist attack in American history. In fact, a lot of people took it that way, which is probably why Connor took to NPR's On The Media to defend his editorial decision to apologize.

It's a contentious interview, probably a little more confrontational than NPR listeners are used to. But Connor was trying to rewrite his apology and interviewer Bob Garfield wasn't going to let him get away with it. As is often the case with NPR's website, the comments following the interview are a mix of the dumb and the thoughtful. Let's focus on the thoughtful.

"I am a subscriber to the Portland Press Herald, and I was appalled by Richard Connor's apology," wrote Edie Doty of Portland. "On the Media has taken NOTHING out of context. The questioning of Richard Connor is fair, and the reason the interviewer questions him harder is because Connor is denying what he quite plainly wrote. His apology does indeed state that the coverage of Ramadan should have been balanced with coverage of 9/11. He could have written a column that said the folks who complained about the lack of 9/11 coverage on 9/11 are right, but those who complain about the Ramadan coverage are wrong and here's why. (For background: ten years ago, there were only a handful of Muslims in Maine; Portland has since resettled many Somali refugees, so a Ramadan ceremony of the size covered in the newspaper is indeed news.) Connor, who is relatively new to Maine himself, had a golden opportunity to address the anti-Muslim hysteria sweeping the country and to appeal to people's better selves. He blew it."

But it's a commenter who identifies himself simply as "Robert" from New York City who makes the best point:

I wish that Bob had posed the following hypothetical to Mr. Connor: Imagine that 9/11 had received the same amount of coverage on 9/11 as it actually did, but instead of the end of Ramadan there was an article about a lobster festival or a major celebration at a local institution such as the Bath Iron Works or L.L. Bean. Would there have been as many complaints that 9/11 coverage was shortchanged?

Good point. In fact, you'd imagine that any frontpage story other than Muslims celebrating a holiday would've gone pretty much unnoticed. Would there be outraged letters to the editor over coverage of a school bake sale on 9/11? Yeah, that seems pretty doubtful. As much as Connor tries to spin the reaction away, it's hard to remove it from the context. People complained about positive coverage of Muslims on the anniversary of 9/11 and he wrote a frontpage apology for that coverage.

But this demonstrates what's become a larger problem with the aftermath of the Republican Summer of Hate -- you just can't win. Which means that, sort of by default, the side advocating tolerance comes out on top. Capital newspaper The Hill reported this weekend that the big anti-Islam hate festival has become so toxic that none but the most committed rightwing loons are willing to touch it. For the most part, the anti-Islam propaganda is coming from those not facing elections. While it's also true that Democrats aren't taking the issue on either, the effect of having nearly everyone drop it is a return to the pre-Summer of Hate status quo.

"Both sides smell danger on this issue," said Bill Galston, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institute, told the paper. "The Republicans [are wary] because they run the risk of going over the top and looking narrow and bigoted, which is never a good thing to appear, particularly to independent voters, who are so important in these midterm elections... And on the Democratic side there is clearly the fear that if they hit the civil liberties and intolerance theme too hard, that'll play very well in liberal districts but maybe not so well in swing districts where people are maybe a little bit more ambivalent about the whole thing."

If Democrats are afraid to defend Muslims, it hardly makes any difference -- Republicans are now afraid to attack them. With the exception of a few nuts who don't stand a chance anyway, the whole "Let's all hate Muslims!" thing is done -- at least, as far as actual candidates go. Newt Gingrich and Pam Geller aren't likely to moderate on the issue any time soon (or ever), but we're moving into the election season, they're not running for anything, so they're going to see a drop in coverage of their grandstanding. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if people on the right tell them privately that they need to dial it back. Whether they'd even take that advice is another story. In Geller's case, once this is over, she goes back to being nobody.

So, does this mean the whole thing is over? Not in reality. The anti-Islam nuts are still going to be anti-Islam nuts. But as far as the mainstream media is concerned, yeah, it's pretty much done. Whether this is just a cease-fire or a lasting end to hostilities remains to be seen, but one thing is clear -- the Republican summer of hate has backfired on Republicans. They put a lot of effort into creating this wedge issue out of thin air and now it's too dangerous to touch.

While it would be better to have all the haters renounce hatred, this is probably the best we'll ever get in the real world. It's not the best resolution -- mostly because it's not a resolution at all -- but if it's the best we're likely to get for a while, I'll take it.

For now.


Get updates via Twitter


News Roundup for 9/17/10

Biden talks on phone while construction workers laugh
"Guys, Guys... Now she's saying someone's hiding in her bushes! Pfffft!"

-Headline of the Day-
"Christine O'Donnell Thought Joe Biden Tapped Her Phone."

Christine O'Donnell, anti-masturbation activist and the GOP's nominee to represent Delaware in the Senate, is a woman whose radar is never down. Always on the lookout for any shenanigans, she knows that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance -- over everything. While some may call this psychotic, other more wise and less hyperbolic voices would call merely paranoiac. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I always say.

And so it was that, in 2008 race, Christine decided that Joe Biden had tapped her phone. Because that's just being cautious. Always assume the other candidate is a complete criminal. It's in Sun Tzu's Art of War or Zap Brannigan's Big Book of War or something. Biden then went on to win that race, 65%-35% -- the largest margin of any election in Biden's career. And he scored this big win despite the fact that he was also Obama's running mate and not spending a lot of time on the Delaware race. Now we know why, the big cheater!

So look for this to become a big White House scandal -- right after Christine gets that little thing about campaign finance laws straightened out. (Talking Points Memo)

-It is on!-
The time has come. After night after night of teasing out the big announcement, Jon Stewart dropped the bomb:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

But wait, Stephen Colbert will not be outdone:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
March to Keep Fear Alive
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

So which is it going to be, Team Sanity or Team Fear? Personally, I'm leaning toward Fear, but I really want to see a sea of signs that say, "I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler."

So I'm torn. (Comedy Central vs. Comedy Central)

-Bonus HotD-
"Bayh Argues Bush Tax Cuts For The Rich Should Take Priority Over 'Fairness And Things Like That'."

I am so not going to miss Evan Bayh. (Think Progress)


News Roundup for 9/16/10

Golden egg
And Blue Dogs are determined to kill the goose

-Headline of the Day-
"Top pollster to Dems: Hold a vote on middle class tax cuts!"

Look, when you've got italics and an exclamation point, you'd better do as the man says. And that man is Democratic polling guru Stan Greenberg. "A vote will make this issue real, and bring out the clarity of the Democrats' position. This is an election that's being profoundly shaped by who's engaged. Republicans are engaged. They are turning out in large numbers," Greenberg told Greg Sargent. "You have got to give Democrats reasons to vote. Things have to be at stake for Democrats to vote. This is an opportunity to make politics relevant to these voters."

You know who else said something similar today? Someone really, really clever, that's who. This thing is a total gimme -- which means you should be on the lookout for Blue Dog chucklenuts determined to fuck it all up...

Why look, here they are now! I'm not going to miss these guys after they lose in November. (Plum Line)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, summer's over and you know what that means! School! And Uncle Mark has brought a special friend to tell us what she did on her summer vacation. Yay!

Back to School!
Click for animation

Um... Ahem!... Yes... Well...

Don't do stuff like that kids. There's plenty of time to be an idiot after you grow up. A lot of grownups are idiots all the time, so no need to rush. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"PG&E Never Used $5 Million Rate Hike It Touted For Repairs To Fix Pipeline It Admitted Was 'High Risk'."

And then things got all explodey. Remember folks, the private sector is flawless and it's the government that can't do anything right. (Think Progress)

Voting Against the Fat Cats

Wall Street street sign
If you follow this blog even occasionally, you're probably familiar with the truism that people don't vote for things, they vote against things. Like all simple rules, it's probably not 100% correct 100% of the time, but it's true enough to help understand what would otherwise be confusing behavior on the part of the electorate. In fact, if you need some way to understand the way voters are behaving in this cycle, you really don't need to look any farther. People are voting against Democrats, not for Republicans; it's just that this is a two party system and voting against one requires casting your vote for the other.

For example, a new New York Times poll [pdf] shows that 51% disapprove of President Obama's performance on the economy and 55% would vote out (i.e., against) incumbents. And then it gets interesting.

[Greg Sargent, The Plum Line:]

But the internals show the public disapproves of the GOP even more (68 percent), overwhelmingly thinks the GOP lacks a clear plan to solve our problems (72 percent), and opposes GOP policies like extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich (53 percent).

This is why negative campaigning works. Because people vote against things. Republicans have spent most of Obama's first term giving voters reasons to vote against Democrats, while Democrats have been busy defending themselves. As a result, the debate has become "vote against Democrats" vs. "vote for Democrats" and human nature dictates that the pro-Dem argument -- no matter how valid -- is weaker by virtue of the consistently negative motivations of the average voter. People need to be given reasons to vote against Republicans, not to get excited about Democrats, especially since the data shows that a significant portion your work is already done for you.

For example, in another post, Sargent points to other internal findings of the poll and sees the following (emphasis his):

If the Republicans win control of Congress in November do you think they will try to return to the economic policies of George W. Bush or won't they try to return to the policies of George W. Bush?

Return to policies of George W. Bush 47

Won't return to George W. Bush policies 36

And a National Journal poll confirms: 45% think the GOP will return to Bush policies, while 33% disagree. "[M]y bet is that the shift is being driven by the debate over whether to extend the Bush tax cuts, which has dominated the news in recent days," Sargent writes. "The unanimous Republican support for extending the Bush tax cuts, especially for the rich, may have focused public attention on the Dem argument that Republicans want nothing more than a return to Bush policies."

In other words, people are against extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and rightly see it as a return to Bush's failed policies. The magic word "against" is playing on the Democrats' team here. They really need to pass it the ball and let it score. The partisan pollster Democracy Corps agrees.

This will be a tough election, but fortunately, the unfolding tax issue can work strongly to help Democrats and define the choice in the election. This is a case where Democrats are strongly aligned with public thinking and priorities. Only 38 percent favor extending the Bush tax cuts for those over $250,000 -- the official position of Republican leaders and candidates. Clearly messaging around this choice -- with Democrats voting for middle class tax cuts, while starting to address the deficit and protecting Social Security, contrasted with Republican candidates who still believe trickle-down economics and worsening the deficit -- works for progressives.

"Contrasted" being the operative word here. "We're for this, they're for that. We all agree they're wrong. Vote against them."

"Democrats should embrace a tax debate," continues Democracy Corps' analysis. "Frankly, they do not have many issues where:

-There is a 17-point margin in favor of the Democratic position, 55 to 38 percent.

-The strong messages gives a disproportionate lift to the Democratic candidates -- scored 13 points better than named Democratic candidates while Republican messages performed half as well.

-There is an opportunity to show seriousness on the deficit, while undermining Republicans on the issue.

-The choice re-enforces Democrats' core values and strongest framework for the election (for the middle class versus Wall Street)."

Conclusion: "Progressives should welcome the debate over extending middle class tax cuts while letting taxes increase for the wealthy as Congress re-convenes. It reflects good policy during these tumultuous economic times, and could prove to be good politics for those facing an uphill battle this November."

Amen. "Vote against Republicans and Wall Street" is a message that may not turn this election cycle around, but would definitely apply the brakes to a runaway train. And, as I've pointed out before, if you can keep Republicans from taking the House, their base will be crushed -- they're operating on pure certainty right now. Anything short of that is a loss. A lot of them will get even crazier, but a lot of them will just walk away. The Tea Party movement, where the GOP is getting a lot of its momentum, is composed largely of previously uninvolved people. If you doubt that, consider how little they know. These are not people who've been keeping a close eye on the political scene for years. In fact, since most of them seem to believe that the TARP bailout was Obama's fault, we can assume they haven't even been watching very closely until a few months after Obama took office. If Republicans make strong gains in November, but still fail to control the House of Representatives, then they're probably done for a while. They'll go back to disliking all politicians and tuning it all out. Republicans would go into 2012 with the wind knocked out of them.

But, in order for this to happen, you need to give people something to vote against. Democrats are being handed that issue on a silver platter. People don't like Republicans, they don't like Wall Street, and they don't like extending Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy. Tell them vote against it all.


Get updates via Twitter


News Roundup for 9/15/10

Mr. Spock
Not Sen. Jim DeMint

-Headline of the Day-
"DeMint on GOP: 'I don t want the majority back if we don t believe anything'."

If you don't know who Sen. Jim Demint is, then just take it from me, he's out of his mind. Which probably explains why he backed Tea Party goofball Christine O'Donnell over the electable Mike Castle in the Delaware Republican senatorial primary. DeMint got his wish, O'Donnell won, and now she's a sure bet to lose in November. As a result, any hopes the Republicans had of taking both chambers are now boned. It's not like no one knew she was a doomed candidate going into this thing, it was a widely accepted fact.

Still, DeMint felt purity was more important than electability and he explained his thinking to FOX news. "I don't want the majority back if we don't believe anything," DeMint told some Foxbot. "So I think if we want the numbers, if we want the majority, then we're going to have to stand on some principles that the American people believe in."

Notice the self-contradiction? Christine isn't electable, but Republicans should back her anyway, because that's what the American people want -- even though they won't elect her.

I guess in DeMint's world, Delaware -- one of the thirteen original colonies -- isn't really America. (The Hill, via Political Wire)

-Unlike Cheney, she will never tell you to go fuck yourself-
Rachel Maddow unearths '90s MTV footage of the newly-minted Delaware Republican Senatorial nominee Christine O'Donnell -- which Talking Points Memo calls a "must-see":

OK. Number one, she looks like a rejected cast member from Saved By the Bell. Number two, she's freakin' nuts -- and that hasn't changed over the years. Even Karl Rove says she's squirrelly. This is what Republican talking points do to your head, people. Friends don't let friends buy into Republican talking points. Stage an intervention, if you have to.

She is so gonna lose, though. Which is going to be really fun to watch... Not to mention, really gratifying. She's just an awful person. (Talking Points Memo)

-Bonus HotD-
"McConnell Proposes Paying For Massive $4 Trillion Tax Cut With $300 Billion Spending Freeze."

That's what you like about Republicans, their masterful grasp of math. The good news is, thanks to Christine, Mitch stands virtually no chance of being the Senate majority leader. (Think Progress)