News Roundup for 11/30/10

Constitution in flames
How much teabaggers love the Constitution

-Headline of the Day-
"Tea Party Nation President Says It 'Makes A Lot Of Sense' To Restrict Voting Only To Property Owners."

Boy, them teabaggers sure like their Constitution -- right up to the point that they don't. Like many brainless idiots, Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips has himself a radio show, where he can display the magnificence of his moronitude. And display it he did one day recently, when he told his audience of hundreds that the founders had put "certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. One of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you're a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you're not a property owner, you know, I'm sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners."

Tea Partiers and they're masterful grasp of history, huh? See history shows that "non-property owners" (crappy English there, what is "non-property" and how can you own it?) do have a "vested interest in the community" -- since what Judson seems to think "non-property owner" means would describe most of the volunteer soldiers in the revolutionary war and every other war since. But 'baggers are dumb and they think history is whatever they want it to be, so these non-brain owners will buy it.

Here's what he's really getting at, though. Young people, poor people, single women, etc. are all less likely to be homeowners and more likely to vote Democrat. Mr. Totally Nonpartisan Tea Party Nation President gets a woody from thinking about Democrats being kept from the polls -- by law.

Sure, teabaggers love the Constitution -- so long as they get to edit all the democracy out of it first. (Think Progress)

-Good idea-
Journalistic advice, in comic form:

Let's just go ahead and apply that rule to all journalism, OK? (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

-Bonus HotD-
"John McCain Admits He Is a Fraud, Declares Love For Russ Feingold."

You know, when I unplugged for a week, the only site I really missed was Wonkette. (Wonkette)

A Rant Directed at the Average News Consumer

NOTE: Got a bit of a project today -- a little involved, so it's going to take some time. As a result, you get a shorty today.

You may not know it, but there's an international summit on climate change going on in Cancun right now. Somewhere along the line, saving the world has become less sexy in terms of newsworthiness than Sarah Palin's twitter feed. So you probably haven't heard about it. It's nice to have a media that focuses on what's really important.

Among the un-newsworthy news coming out of Cancun is that global warming is going to create serious problems for the world, by creating a refugee crisis such as the world has never seen.


Devastating changes to sea levels, rainfall, water supplies, weather systems and crop yields are increasingly likely before the end of the century, scientists will warn tomorrow.

A special report, to be released at the start of climate negotiations in CancĂșn, Mexico, will reveal that up to a billion people face losing their homes in the next 90 years because of failures to agree curbs on carbon emissions.

Up to three billion people could lose access to clean water supplies because global temperatures cannot now be stopped from rising by 4C.

Because we've dicked around and debated the undeniable for so long, this cannot be avoided. We're in for a century of war, riots, shortages, and refugees, because a few morons were able to delay dealing with a crisis for just long enough. Thanks guys. I say we build a monument to climate change deniers, then pelt it with rocks, the way pilgrims to Mecca stone "the devil" during the Haj.

Tyndall Centre's report is here, if you're interested. If you're the average person, you're probably not. I hear Paris Hilton farted, so you probably want to go read up on that. There are only so many hours in a day.

Yesterday, I wrote that our media is broken. Today, I write that our news consumers are likewise broken. Seriously, why do you care about things Kim Kardashian does? I'm still trying to figure out why she's famous. The world is literally falling apart around you, yet for some reason, we've got to waste ink, pixels, and -- worst of all -- our attention on someone of no discernible value for no real discernible reason. The trivial is of earth-shattering importance, while the shattering of the Earth is trivia. One sixth of the world's population homeless? How terribly, terribly dull.

Turn it off. Turn it off, turn it off, turn it off.

Look, I'm not saying that all media is bad or that you should never watch TV. I watch plenty of TV, because there's a lot of good stuff. But our media has become a cupcake with enough frosting to make it look like a wedding cake. Want to know a big reason why the news isn't reporting a coming global crisis? Because you -- the average news consumer -- have told them you don't care. The media is reactive. They make their money from eyes on screens. So if you don't care, neither do they.

There's sports and weather on the hour and break for fun celebrity news, but a report showing that a global disaster has now become inevitable? No time. Lindsay Lohan's fallen over drunk at a nightclub again. And you want to know that, because...

I don't know. You explain it. It makes no earthly sense to me.


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News Roundup for 11/29/10

In an epic example of miscasting, Jackie Chan will play Joe Biden

-Headline of the Day-
"BP commissions film on BP oil disaster."

Remember that big oil spill everyone was freaking out about last summer? Well, someone's making a movie about it. And that someone, unfortunately, is the company responsible for the spill. According to the report, "BP is in the process of assembling a feature-length chronicle of the environmental catastrophe that will be all but synonymous with the oil giant's brand for many years to come: the great Gulf oil spill of 2010."

BP insists the film "is not intended to scrub its reputation clean," rather they're "making a film of the spill primarily for an internal audience as an archive of a momentous event in the company's history (not to mention those impacted by the tragedy and its aftermath)."

The film will feature Tom Hanks as Tony Hawyard and Chris Tucker as President Obama. As Hanks tries to flood the ocean with life-giving supplements from an offshore vitamin well, a bumbling Tucker tries to stop him, but is prevented from succeeding by his own ineptitude.

Box office gold. (The Upshot)

-RIP Leslie Nielsen-
According to the New York Times, "Leslie Nielsen, the Canadian-born actor who in middle age tossed aside three decades of credibility in dramatic and romantic roles to make a new, far more successful career as a comic actor in films like 'Airplane!' and the 'Naked Gun' series, died on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84."

We're also reminded that Nielsen starred in Forbidden Planet, a groundbreaking scifi classic based on Shakespeare's The Tempest. So I'm going to watch that tonight.

RIP Leslie Nielsen. We'll miss you, Shirley. (New York Times, YouTube)

-Bonus HotD-
"Sarah Palin, Justin Bieber, The Situation Among Barbara Walters' 10 Most Fascinating People."

Someone needs to tell Babs that "fascinating" isn't a synonym for "annoying." (Mediaite)

Viewing the World Through the Media's Cracked Lens

Camera with cracked lens
I decided to take a few days off over the Thanksgiving holiday, as you might've guessed. During this time, I ran a sort of experiment. I stayed away from my usual news consumption habits. I'd say I avoided internet news entirely, but I have news feeds all over the place -- in my Gmail and my iGoogle homepage, for example -- so I saw headlines. I just didn't investigate them. As a result, probably 90% of my news consumption came from TV -- mostly network and local -- and my local paper, which has just one or two pages of national and international news and, of course, an editorial page which isn't all that good at delivering information. I say it was a "sort of experiment," because it was really just a way to step back for a bit and take a breather, but the result is the same regardless: I'm about as well-informed about recent events as the average person. Which is to say, not very. Our media is broken.

For example, I learned that North and South Korea had a little kerfuffle over an island and that the reasons for this are complex. I do understand what's going on there, but it's hard for me to say how much of my understanding comes from what I knew before I unplugged. It doesn't feel like I got a lot of information and, as always, cable news about the incident came mostly in the form of opinion, with interviews of pundits and analysts and experts. Most of that opinion was about what the US should do in response. There was very little about the North Korean government's current instability and uncertainty about their future -- or the paranoid overreactions likely to result from that instability and uncertainty.

I suppose for this experiment in wearing news blinders to be an actual experiment, I'd need to break away from my news consumption habits for a much longer period -- maybe a year or more -- which is something I'm unwilling to do. All I've really done is get a little taste of what its like to let someone else do all the legwork and all I can say conclusively is that it's a lot easier, but it sucks. I can understand why so many people believe things that aren't true. It struck me that the media is interested in reporting true things, just not the truth.

For example, when the media reported on Sarah Palin's criticisms of "death panels" in the healthcare reform bill, what they were reporting was true -- that Sarah Palin was talking about death panels. What they failed to report was the truth -- that Palin was slinging BS. There were no death panels. This story should've died the same day it started. Yet, by avoiding calling out Palin as a liar and a demagogue, they allowed the death panel propaganda to become a matter of debate; "Are there death panels? Sarah Palin says yes, the Democrats say no. It's big fight over the healthcare bill! Let's watch..." It turns out that you can have reporting that's 100% true but, if it avoids the central question, delivers no truth. I'm not even going to get into outlets like Fox News, which are interested in neither things that are true nor the truth.

I know I've covered all this ground before, but this is quickly becoming the issue for me; we have a news media more concerned with opinion than fact and more interested in how everything affects the now-constant electoral horse race than anything else. When Obama was elected -- in fact, probably even before -- the news media was already asking who'd run in 2012. And every decision, every incident, every gaffe or victory or loss or hiccup is reported in that context; how will it effect the upcoming elections? Analysts and pundits tell us what Obama needs to do and what Republicans need to do and what the Democratic Party needs to do. And the answer is almost never govern. Political intrigue, that's what gets people's attention. So that's what everyone talks about -- government as a never-ending game of football.

Another problem is the problem of "balance." It's a phony idea, that every issue has two points of view of equal validity. On the issue of global warming, for example, the balanced approach is to talk to a climate scientist and a climate denier, to represent both sides of the story. But the weight of opinion isn't balanced 50-50. In fact, you could hardly say there was a balance at all. 97% of scientists agree that global warming is happening and it's caused by humans. So, to really reflect the way the opinion balances out, you'd have to interview about 49 scientists to every 1 so-called skeptic. That's not the way it works in the media, though. It's usually a ratio of 1:1 -- a completely unrepresentative example of the actual debate. In fact, since 97% agree, you could argue that there isn't actually a debate anymore, just a few holdout cranks and biostitutes not worth anyone's time.

But the existence of a controversy, such as it is, is true. So the reporting is likewise true; some people do disagree with the consensus. But the truth is something else entirely and it doesn't look anything like what you see on your TV. Everything is a debate, there is no central truth to anything. Death panels? Sure, why not? Let's look at the debate. Creationism? Some people think it's true. Let's look at the debate. Tax cuts increase tax revenues? Sounds like interesting math you've got there, Senator. Let's look at the debate. Let's never, ever, ever look at the provable facts or at history. Actual numbers must be few and far between, unless they come from public opinion polls. Let's only look at the debate, who's winning the debate, and what it means for the next election, because there's always a next election.

Can democracy work if no one knows what the hell they're talking about? I have my doubts. Maybe it can, but not well. We have people voting on issues based on what they wish is true or what they're afraid is true, when they may or may not be correct. And the media makes it all possible, by offering a view of the world where there is no truth, no yes-or-no answers, no possibility of consensus. Unless 100% of self-proclaimed "experts" and "analysts" agree on something, then there is no majority opinion -- even when, in reality, that majority is overwhelming. When 97% of scientists agree that anthropogenic warming is happening, the answer to the question of whether or not it's real is most definitely not "Who knows?"

This is no way to inform a public, which means it's no way to inform voters. Informed voters are essential.


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News Roundup for 11/22/10

Allen West
One of the craziest of a new batch of crazies

-Headline of the Day-
"Rep.-Elect Allen West: In D.C. 'You Don't See People Getting Laid Off' And 'You Don't See Anyone Suffering.'"

That's because it's easier to see if you actually look. A little background here: Allen West may be the craziest fucking teabagger who actually managed to get elected. Hands down, period, the end.

But West totally gets the economy -- and, by "gets," I mean "doesn't have a clue." On Meet the Press Sunday, he basically said that, economically speaking, DC's riding the gravy train and that's why Washington doesn't understand what's up with the economy. "I think that we need to extend those tax cuts permanently across the board," he said. "Look, I come from a -- an area down in South Florida where unemployment is at 13 percent, foreclosures are absolutely high. We are seeing closed upon closed storefronts. But yet, when you walk around here in Washington, D.C., you don't see people getting laid off, you don't see, you know, anyone suffering, you don't see the foreclosures."

According to the report, "In Ward 8, which lies just south of Capitol Hill, the unemployment rate topped 28 percent last year, 'one of the highest in the nation.' West's comments about foreclosures are equally misguided, as local blog DCist shows with a video of residents lining up around the block and crowding into the Convention Center to receive free home loan counseling.

"It is extraordinarily easy for congressmen like West to arrive in Washington, ingratiate themselves in lobbyist luncheons and the cocktail circuit, and assume that economic hardship somehow passed over our nation's capital. As a result, it is no surprise that West would argue for permanent tax breaks for billionaires while -- in the very same breath -- denying the existence of poor people in D.C."

Congrats, Florida's 22nd district, you really picked a winner.

And by "winner," I mean "lunatic." (Think Progress)

-Let me put that another way-
Military spending explained simply:

Any questions? (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

-Bonus HotD-
"Suck on This."

This is pretty good; as Ireland goes under, Matt Yglesias reminds us that Thomas Freidman argued they had the best economic policy going. Bad pundit is bad. (Yglesias)

Bad News in Pretty Packages

Wrapped giftThere are some columnists I like to read just because their prose is so damned good. Frank Rich comes to mind, then media critic Tom Shales, followed in no particular order by E.J. Dionne, Cynthia Tucker, and my own hometown guy John Nichols. This isn't a comprehensive list, just a few examples. Writing -- even opinion columns -- is art and these people get that. As for myself, I tend to think of my writing as more vocal than literary -- English as it's spoken, not as it's written -- so I don't really emulate these writers. I just read them and admire them. We spend so much time thinking and talking about their arguments that we often overlook their talents. That's a little bit of a shame, but not much of one. The arguments are the whole damned point. The prose is just the pretty package the arguments come in. But a lot of work goes into that packaging, so take moment to appreciate it the next time you tear it open to get to the point.

I bring all this up because sometimes those pretty packages contain some pretty ugly truths. So thank God for the pretty packaging -- it's the bright side to some pretty awful stuff. Paul Krugman is another writer I like and his approach to truth can be pretty stark and brutal.

Former Senator Alan Simpson is a Very Serious Person. He must be -- after all, President Obama appointed him as co-chairman of a special commission on deficit reduction.

So here's what the very serious Mr. Simpson said on Friday: "I can't wait for the blood bath in April. ... When debt limit time comes, they're going to look around and say, 'What in the hell do we do now? We've got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give 'em a piece of meat, real meat,'" meaning spending cuts. "And boy, the blood bath will be extraordinary," he continued.

Think of Mr. Simpson's blood lust as one more piece of evidence that our nation is in much worse shape, much closer to a political breakdown, than most people realize.

Here's the problem: failing to raise our debt limit is exactly the same thing as declaring bankruptcy -- for no good reason. The nation's debt is large, but not unmanageably so. People are still buying the bonds, despite the fact that the interest rates are ridiculously low. This means world confidence in America is strong. Despite Republican hysteria, we are most definitely not in a Greek-style debt crisis. If we were, no one would buy our bonds. A debt crisis isn't a subtle thing, you don't wonder if you're in one, it's more like an anvil dropped on your head. It's pretty immediate and it gets your attention.

But this is an example of how Republican messaging is completely irresponsible -- scratch that; negligently irresponsible. They create counter-arguments out of thin air, just to be contrary. And the only reason they want to be contrary is that they want to win. Republicans are in permanent campaign mode, care nothing about governance, and strictly about winning elections, because that's what demagoguery is all about. And so they make crazy arguments that sometimes get away from them.

Look at their position on taxation -- it's positively stupid. They've convinced themselves that Reagan proved that tax cuts spur economic growth, despite the fact that Reagan had to raise taxes because it turned out he was completely wrong about this whole "tax cuts spur economic growth" thing. Revisionist history says otherwise, because doing anything else would mean admitting that Democrats are right. Being Republican means never having to learn the lessons of history, because you can always just rewrite it. But, in reality, if wishes were horses, Republicans would be riding a sane economic policy.

Republicans have told this lie so often and for so long that they've managed to believe it. And none of them believe it more than this new batch of morons they've managed to drop into office. The debt, the debt, ohmyGodthedebt!

And the debt is not the problem. At least, not the immediate one. The economy is the problem. Unconstructively contrary as always, Republicans would have everyone believe that the debt is responsible for the state of the economy, when almost the opposite is true -- the economy is (partly - read "Bush") responsible for the state of the debt. If someone out there could explain how this "debt's dragging down the economy" argument is supposed to work, I'd appreciate the input. Because it's not as obvious as you seem to think. Mostly because it makes no goddam sense at all.

Amazingly, there's no shortage of Republicans who want America to declare bankruptcy by failing to raise the debt limit. They want to create a worldwide monetary crisis, because they're idiots who've talked themselves into believing a bunch of crap that not only isn't true, but that makes no logical sense. Look, I wish we didn't have to pay taxes and I wish that the surest way to boost a bad economy was to sit on your hands and do nothing. But I also wish that public drinking fountains dispensed Anchor Steam Beer and that every time I farted I'd win a million dollars. These are all at about the same point on a scale of possibility and realism. Just because you want something to be true, it doesn't mean you can force it to be true. Reality doesn't work that way.

Unless Republicans are willing to drop their cultic idiocy and accept reality, we are in for bad, bad times. And there's not much chance of them dropping the cultic idiocy. Thank God the news came in such a pretty package.


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News Roundup for 11/19/10

Horse's ass
Rep. Mike Pence

-Headline of the Day-
"Quote of the Day"

The quote: "Jim DeMint and I are offering legislation on Capitol Hill today to say, look, let's make all the current tax rates permanent, uh, and then let's start to work from there toward putting in place the kind of policies that'll really get this economy moving again. You know, I think it's fair to say, if the current tax rates were enough to create jobs and generate economic growth we'd have a growing economy. It's not working now. Let's at least give some certainty there and then we'll fight for more tax relief."

The quoted: Rep. Mike Pence, House Republican conference chairman and likely 2012 presidential candidate.

My quote of the day: "Pence thought Bush's tax cuts would work wonders. He was wrong. This leads Pence to now believe we should keep the policy that he knows didn't work, and then do more of it. It's the patented 'fail and fail again' approach to economic policy.

"The 112th Congress really is going to be a national nightmare."

That's Steve Benen, I say, "Amen," and you can quote me on that. (Political Animal)

-Dear sweet God this is perfect-
Jon Stewart took on Glenn Beck last night and the result was purest beauty. First, he took on Fox News in his opening segment:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
George Soros Plans to Overthrow America
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

And then things got really lovely:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Manchurian Lunatic
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Jon's doing what Stephen Colbert does so well; pointing out the absurdity of an argument by applying it to something only slightly different. If it weren't for logic, the only comedy we'd have would be slapstick.

Deep... Think about it. (Comedy Central, Comedy Central)

-Bonus HotD-
"After Promising To 'Listen To The American People,' Pence Rejects Americans' Call To Not Cut Social Programs."

Yeah, Pence again -- this time with an odd definition of the word "listen." You know, I'm not a big fan of English-only legislation, but it seems to me that people in Congress should at least speak the language. (Think Progress, with video)

Griper Blade: R Stands for "Rich" and "Republican"

Jobless people stand in line
I've got a minor, yet essential, project to finish up, so this is probably going to be a short one, heavy on quotes. Some things just can't be put off, I guess... And then, some things can:

[Huffington Post:]

The House of Representatives on Thursday voted down a measure that would have reauthorized extended unemployment insurance for another three months, leaving no clear path forward to prevent the benefits from lapsing as scheduled on Nov. 30.

Without a reauthorization, the Labor Department estimates that two million long-term unemployed will prematurely stop receiving benefits before the end of the year.

"I think it's a sad moment," said Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) after the vote. "It appalls me that the Republicans keep pitching and pitching and pitching the tax cuts for the rich and won't join in a bill to help people keep their homes and not have to live in their cars."

The bill was brought to the floor under a "suspension of the rules," meaning it required approval from two-thirds of the House. It failed 258 to 154, with mostly Democratic support. Twenty-one Republicans voted in favor and 11 Democrats voted nay.

Those Democrats who voted against are pretty worthless (roll call here), but even if they'd voted for it, they wouldn't have gotten the two-thirds needed. House leadership invoked the suspension of rules to keep Republicans from loading the bill up with stupid crap. Want to fix crazy spending and stupid laws coming from Washington? Forget earmarks, eliminate riders. If you want an up-or-down vote on just this measure, this is the way you have to do it.

But what can we learn from this? My takeaway is that Republicans don't give a crap about the economy or, if they do, they want to keep it lousy until 2012. Unemployment benefits are, hands down, the most direct and immediate economic stimulus out there. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it until only people in mental hospitals think it's not true: if you want to stimulate the economy, you get money to people who you're damned sure are going to spend it. This means people who need money. And no one needs money more than the person who's unemployed.

Those high-end tax giveaways the GOP loves so much? Yeah, they don't do squat.

[David Leonhardt, New York Times:]

Liz Peek at FoxNews.com congratulates me for writing about the importance of economic growth. So in the spirit of maximizing growth, I want to pose a question: Why should we believe that extending the Bush tax cuts will provide a big lift to growth?

Those tax cuts passed in 2001 amid big promises about what they would do for the economy. What followed? The decade with the slowest average annual growth since World War II. Amazingly, that statement is true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7.

The competition for slowest growth is not even close, either. Growth from 2001 to 2007 averaged 2.39 percent a year (and growth from 2001 through the third quarter of 2010 averaged 1.66 percent). The decade with the second-worst showing for growth was 1971 to 1980 -- the dreaded 1970s -- but it still had 3.21 percent average growth.

We just ran a decade-long experiment proving conclusively that the high end tax breaks are freakin' pointless and only increase the deficit, but the Republicans want them so bad. Because they don't give a crap about you. If you're not wealthy and you think the GOP has your back, you're a fool. The Republican Party represents the rich and no one else. No one.

The rich are rich for a reason; they're wealth collectors. Money at the top just pools up there, stagnating, while doing almost nothing for the rest of the economy. Meanwhile, people who need money are guaranteed to spend it and consumer demand -- not employers -- is what creates jobs. Demand creates jobs, demand creates jobs, demand creates jobs, say it with me, demand creates jobs. Anyone who says anything different is either a liar or a dope or both.

What happens when an unemployed person gets a benefit check? They convert that money into something they need; a rent payment, a car payment, food, clothing, school supplies, etc. And that money moves on. It goes into a cash register or a ledger and it's converted into pay again. Then those people spend it and other people get paid and on and on up the economic ladder until it gets to the very top. No one loses when an unemployment benefit check is cut. No one.

And don't talk to me about what whether higher taxation of the wealthy is "fair" or not. Screw fair. Life isn't fair. And the last person who should be whining about what is or isn't fair is the guy who wakes up in a penthouse every morning to a view of his vast empire. If you're eating steak every night, while someone else is struggling -- or even failing -- to feed their kids, you get to shut up about "fair." The "let them eat cake" argument hasn't worked out so well for those who have made it in the past, so it's probably a really good idea to avoid making it now. Just shut it.

If you want to know what the GOP's economic ideas are, there's your real world example, played out on the floor of congress and in our nation's recent history. Bass-ackward, boneheaded, economic flateartherism that can only benefit the wealthy and no one else. No one.


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News Roundup for 11/18/10

Government Motors
The worst thing ever!

-Headline of the Day-
"FLASHBACK: Republicans Warned That GM Rescue Was 'Road Toward Socialism,' 'Predictable' Disaster."

Ooh, that creeping socialism! Let's all hate it, grrrr!

On news that GM's stock is rising like [INSERT PORNO ERECTION REFERENCE HERE], Think Progress looks back at what a bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, idea Republicans said this whole auto bailout thing was. I'd throw in some quotes, but I think that covers it; it was going to be a big waste of money, destroy capitalism forever and all, and probably pee in your breakfast cereal. It was just awful.

Now GM has issued an IPO which is expected to raise $23.1 billion, the stock is on the rise, and the dirty, awful commie federal gummint holds a hold bunch of that same stock -- stock they got at about the same price you'd pay for a used Kleenex. All the suck seems to have been removed from this deal, while no one was looking.

According to the report, "if the government had not invested in the automotive industry, up to 80,000 automotive jobs would have been lost, and General Motors alone would have lost one million units of sales in 2009. Once Chrysler and GM emerged from their 'orderly' bankruptcies, the growth of automotive sector employment has been strong, with 52,900 workers added since July 2009. Had GM and Chrysler not successfully emerged, those jobs would have been permanently lost."

Dammit, big gummint communism, you win this time. But next time, for sure. (Think Progress)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, did you hear about the newest game show? It's called:

Mad as Hell!
Click for animation

Sounds fun, but the prizes really suck... (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"McConnell: Health Care Reform Leads America On A Path To Tyranny."

Yeah, just like the GM bailout was a path to communism... Take my advice, America; assume these idiots are always wrong.

Because they are. (Talking Points Memo)

Sarah Palin, Queen of Spades

Queen of SpadesAn interesting set of statistics and analysis from Mark Gersh for CBS News:

Fresh off a major shift in power in the House, we might expect another volatile congressional election in 2012.

Here's why: this year, 25 races were decided by 3 percent or less in the major-party vote share (13 Democratic and 12 Republican) pending recounts and final vote totals. Another 30 were decided by three percent - eight percent (18 Democratic and 17 Republican). Forty-two more races were decided by just 8 percent - 12 percent (25 Democratic and 17 Republican).

So overall, 56 Democratic and 52 Republicans won with majorities of 56 percent or less, and those races comprise 23 percent of the entire House. Add the unpredictable effects of redistricting to the 2012 equation, and the prospect of a 4th straight election with a turnover of 20 or seats is plausible.

This isn't to say it will happen, it's just a lot more forceful than saying, "It could happen." In fact, he goes on to make a pretty plausible case. Remember, the 2010 midterms saw Democratic voters stay home. In races where the difference was less than three points on up to eight points, that could've really made the difference. So, what's being said here isn't just that it's possible, but that it's really possible, even if it's way too early put money on anything yet.

Unmentioned in the article is the Queen of Spades in the GOP's hand, to use a hearts metaphor. Sarah Palin has been making some noise about running, going so far as saying she believes she could beat Barack Obama. Republicans have her and, when the hand is played out, they may very well be stuck with her as their nominee.

And even if they don't, we know from experience that Palin is a brutal -- if not terribly effective -- campaigner. A terrible demagogue and a shameless liar, we can expect her to start labeling her opponents as terrorist sympathizers, socialists, and to question their patriotism and fitness for office. This is especially true if the race is tight or she's down in the polls. Political brutality is her go-to place; if a little love tap is required, she'll smack you in the face with a shovel.

So, whether she wins or not, she's going to cause damage to her own party. Pundits, being pundits, will discuss whether accusations of Romney being a college commie or Huckabee being satanist hurts their campaigns, without ever touching on whether the accusations are true or not. For once, media idiocy plays to Democrats' favor.

It may actually be worse if she loses. It's not hard to imagine her launching a campaign to have tea partiers demand that she be put on the ticket as the vice presidential candidate -- while denying she has anything to do with it. Maybe whip up some hysteria about an anti-Palin conspiracy, because they're "afraid" of her. Slash and burn, all the way.

This could cause so much tension within the party that some Palin-backers could go PUMA and either stay home on election day or defect to the other side out of spite. If Palin-backers voting Obama seems unlikely to you, those Clinton PUMAs voted for McCain. Rationality isn't exactly a requirement in a voter.

And, if Palin's on the ballot, Democrats don't stay home. Remember, people vote against things. And the only thing Democrats would want to vote against more than Sarah Palin is childhood leukemia. This helps down-ticket candidates, if only because it's possible to vote a straight ticket. But it helps more because Republicans will be expected to line up behind their nominees. Praising Sarah Palin is probably not a good way to win over voters from the other side.

That said, I'm not saying that any of this is going to happen, just that it's all well within the realm of possibility. I try not to forecast. But if Palin runs, it's hard to see how that helps any Republicans, especially when their current hold on what power they have is so tenuous.

As I said, Sarah Palin is the Republican's Queen of Spades. It's hard to see how they wouldn't be forced to eat those points if she ran.


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News Roundup for 11/17/10

Cowan mugshot
Today's Second Amendment hero

-Headline of the Day-
"Man Shoots TV Over Bristol Palin Dancing."

Apparently, this happened right down the road from me, which is fun. I'm not sure where Vermont, Wisconsin is, but if it's in Dane County, it's in my neck of the woods. Yay for me!

This one needs a little background. Bristol Palin has been a contestant on Dancing With the Stars and, despite sucking, she keeps winning because teabaggers are starfucking losers with nothing better to do but call in and vote for their favorite quasi-celebrity. File this one under "Shit That Ain't Right, But That You Probably Shouldn't Lose Sleep Over." Because, let's face it, DWtS is blowful. When I was a kid, we knew how to deal with celebrities and reality TV. We had Circus of the Stars, where you'd stick David Hasselhoff on a motorcycle and jump him through a flaming hoop or give Loni Anderson a whip and a chair and put her in a cage full of lions. That's what you do with celebrities on reality television -- you try to kill them. Now that's entertainment. Dancing With the Stars is basically just watching people try not to knock the cameras over.

Anyway, Steven Cowan was watching this travesty of television -- while drinking, because really, how else are you going to get through it? -- when Fumblefoots Palin won yet again. According to the report, "Cowan 'jumped up and swore, saying something to the effect of, "The fucking politics." Steven was upset that a political figure's daughter was dancing on this particular show when Steven did not think that she was a good dancer,' the [police] complaint notes." It was at this point that he blew a hole in his TV -- I guess because he lost the remote or something -- "and then pointed the shotgun" at his wife. "She added that Cowan warned her that he would kill himself if she brought anyone back to their home in the town of Vermont.," the report states.

His wife called 911 anyway and he wound up in an all-night standoff with police that ended at 11 the next morning -- which is really taking your time coming to the realization that maybe this wasn't the best way to deal with this whole thing.

The moral of this story is not "don't drink" or "don't use guns." The moral of this story is, for the Love of God, don't ever watch Dancing With the Stars. (The Smoking Gun)

-You're doing it wrong-
A new CNN poll [pdf] finds that only 1 in 3 respondents believe that Bush's tax giveaway to the $250k+ club should be extended. Also, 7 in 10 believe that "don't ask, don't tell" should be thrown out. And people believe that healthcare reform should either stay as it is or be tweaked, 50%-47%.

And they all went and voted Republican, because they're the tax-raising, gay-loving, healthcare reform-embracing party. Steven Cowan, give me a hit off that bottle... (CNN)

-Bonus HotD-
"Nancy Pelosi Elected to Lead House Dems in New Congress; Boehner to Lead GOP."

Those midterms sure changed everything, didn't they? (CBS News)

Let the GOP Infighting Begin

Elephants fightingThe internal battle over earmarks in the GOP seems to be all but over. Republicans have decided to unilaterally disarm. There are still a few holdouts, but with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell caving on the issue, things are swinging the anti-earmark way. As a purple state resident, I see (a selfish) reason to cheer here. See, the bluer the state, the more money it pays to the feds in tax money. And the redder the state, the more money it takes out. I've written about it before; "In terms of federal taxes spent in their states, Mississippi gets 202% of every dollar they pay, West Virginia get 176%, Arkansas gets 141%, South Carolina gets 135%, and Kentucky gets 151%. The only state in the five wealthiest that receives more than they pay out is Maryland, at 130%." If you ban earmarks, then red states are going to see a lot less money heading their way and they're going to have to start living in the real world, where their screwy economic flateartherism is no longer subsidized by states with wiser policies. Have fun with that, guys. Enjoy funding your own projects with happy thoughts and good intentions.

Meanwhile, earmarks don't mean crap to the deficit. Earmarks make up less that 2% of federal spending, so eliminating them solves almost nothing. I hate to say it, but Mitch McConnell was right; banning earmarks is dumb -- especially for Republicans. Sure, projects like the "bridge to nowhere" are wasteful, but don't blame the process, blame the corrupt congress members gaming the process. Like a balanced budget amendment, this is a "stop us before we spend again!" measure. It's like putting the blame for running a red light on the lack of one of those railroad crossing gates at the intersection.

But hey, it's a free country. If they want to exercise their Second Amendment rights by shooting themselves in the foot, I'm not very interested in stopping them. As I said, it works out great for me. I should be seeing more Wisconsin tax money coming back to Wisconsin, for a change. States like Mississippi or Kentucky, you're on your own. The free ride is apparently over. Make sure to thank your various elected officials for that.

But if this intra-party battle seems to be going to the anti-earmark crowd, then a bigger battle is on the horizon. The Republican party has been using a schizoid "less government/more laws" messaging for decades and the contradiction has finally resulted in a party with multiple personality disorder.

[Mother Jones:]

In the months leading up to the midterm congressional elections, the tea party movement managed to tamp down on its internal divisions in pursuit of a shared goal of defeating Democrats. But with the elections over, the movement's fault lines are starting to show, and tensions between the tea party's social conservative and libertarian wings are poised to explode into an all-out civil war.

"It's easier for them to be united around the political agenda of defeating Democrats than it is going to be agreeing on a legislative agenda," observes Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way.

The article goes on to use an alliance between tea partiers and gay Republicans as an example. "Already, there are Washington insiders and special interest groups that hope to co-opt the Tea Party's message and use it to push their own agenda -- particularly as it relates to social issues," the coalition wrote in a letter to McConnell and House speaker-to-be John Boehner. "We are disappointed but not surprised by this development. We recognize the importance of values but believe strongly that those values should be taught by families and our houses of worship and not legislated from Washington, D.C."

In other words, while some conservatives are saying that now would be a good time to ban abortion and gay marriage once and for all, another faction is asking, "What part of that says 'small government' to you?" Government regulation is government regulation, they argue, whether it's of businesses and markets or whether it's of people's lives and private actions.

And some new Republicans are taking cutting sending seriously, which means taking on traditionally-sacred Republican cows.

[Huffington Post:]

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed concern Monday that some new Republican legislators would be defined by their "protectionism and isolationism," two views that the Vietnam War veteran feared would result in a butting of heads within the party on Afghanistan and defense spending.

"I think there are going to be some tensions within our party," McCain said during a conference put on by Foreign Policy Initiative, a DC-based think tank. "I worry a lot about the rise of protectionism and isolationism in the Republican Party."

A prime example, McCain continued, was Rand Paul, Kentucky's next U.S. Senator.

Paul has been skeptical that spending on Afghanistan is worth it and has said that we'd have to "look at military spending," as well as domestic spending, if we really want to reduce the deficit. This is most definitely not what the Republican establishment is about -- not after Reagan. The establishment wants to whittle away at domestic spending, eventually eliminating the social safety net, while the tea partiers and libertarians want to take a hatchet to everything.

Whether all this results in a genuine schism for the party is yet to be seen, but it may be a pretty safe bet to say the days of lock-step Republicanism are over. The bad news may be that neither side in the GOP argument is right, while the good news is that they'll spend a lot of time slowing each other down and limiting the damage.


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News Roundup for 11/16/10

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), noted communist

-Headline of the Day-
"GOP frosh: Where's my health care?"

Newly-minted Maryland GOP congress critter Andy Harris ran against healthcare reform because it's evil and communist and you know who else didn't like sick people? Hitler, that's who! Seriously, gummint-run healthcare is just the worst.

Unless, of course, it's for him. When Harris found out at a post-election meeting that he wouldn't get govt. healthcare on day one, he kind of freaked out, wondering "why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care." Wow, twenty-eight days without health insurance, can you imagine?

Andy wondered if "he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap." A congressional aide present at the time tells Politico he was "struck by the similarity to Harris's request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine."

Welcome to today's America, where not only don't the voters know the issues that bring them to the polls, but neither do the candidates who take stands on those issues. (Politico)

-It gets worse-
Jon Stewart and The Daily Show take on John McCain's increasingly irrational and incoherent stance on "don't ask, don't tell."

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
It Gets Worse PSA
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

There's no fool like an old fool, I guess. (Comedy Central)

-Bonus HotD-
"Where Did Our Debt Come From?"

Former Pentagon budget analyst Frank Spinney takes a look at our current national debt to see where it all came from. The answer: Reagan, Bush, and Bush.

But you already knew that. (The Atlantic)

Private Contractors Failing Just as Spectacularly in Afghanistan

Let's talk about how superior the private sector is to the public sector for a bit. We're going to hear a lot from Republicans about how government is evil and corrupt and incompetent, and how the private sector is the only entity that can really get things done -- and does it cheaper. The first problem here is that the math doesn't work at all. Let's say a project will cost X when all is said and done. You look at materials, labor, equipment you may need, gas, etc. and that's what you wind up with. A private contractor would need X + profit to get the job done. Government can do it for X, because it doesn't have to turn a profit. Last time I checked, X + anything is more than just X, so the idea that a private company can do the same thing for less doesn't really pan out, arithmetically. The only way you can pull this off is to subtract from X -- and that means skimping on something somewhere and winding up with a cheap piece of crap. Doubt it? Then explain why military personnel were being electrocuted in showers in Iraq or why they were served rotten meat.

In 2006, Business Week reported, "The losses to fraud and waste in Iraq are almost certainly in the billions, current and former government officials agree. The Special IG for Iraq Reconstruction says it has more than 80 open investigations and has referred 20 more cases to the Justice Dept. for prosecution. A spokesman for the criminal investigative arm of the Defense Dept. says that office expects a 'rise in referrals of potential fraud or corruption cases' because of the recent deployment to Iraq of additional Pentagon investigators and FBI agents."

Billions in waste and fraud, often covered by unfinished and unusable projects, doesn't really strike me as big savings. It strikes me as waste and fraud. The military used to do a lot of this stuff themselves -- do we really need to outsource mess halls and laundry duty, for example? -- but now it has, for reasons nobody seems to be very good at explaining, become completely impossible. The military can fire a long range missile straight down the chimney of some terrorist hide out with pin-point accuracy, but they couldn't possibly cook a damned hamburger.

If you think anything's changed since the bad old days of 2006, you'd be wrong. We're making the same mistake in Afghanistan that we did in Iraq -- that of assuming that contractors want to do anything other than wring every last dime out of projects. McClatchy has published a bunch of information on contractors in Afghanistan and the stories are far, far too familiar. There are some stories of Afghan corruption and mismanagement, while some of the stories involve the American variety. The results are the same regardless of the nationality of the contractor. Projects go unfinished -- money pits peppered all over Afghanistan.

Worse, we knew many of the contractors were shady, but we hired them anyway.

-Louis Berger continues to jointly hold a $1.4 billion contract for rebuilding Afghanistan, despite settling with the Justice Department this month in an overbilling investigation. As the settlement talks proceeded, the U.S. military awarded a portion of a $490 million contract to the company as well. As part of the settlement, the company will be permitted to continue bidding for future contracts.

-A subsidiary of Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater, was awarded a quarter of all contracts issued in Afghanistan by the Army Space and Missile Defense Command from 2007 to 2009, according to government records. McClatchy reported earlier this year that the Obama administration decided not to bring criminal charges against the security contractor after a nearly four-year investigation found sanctions violations, illegal exports and bribery.

-ITT Corp. was awarded $800 million in contracts for building maintenance and training in Afghanistan this year, despite violating export laws. The firm admitted in 2007 to sending classified materials to foreign nations, including China.

-Northrop Grumman, which paid millions to resolve allegations of improperly testing military parts, is also a leading firm in Afghanistan.

-A subsidiary of Agility was tapped along with two partners to oversee a one-year, $643.5 million contract that could eventually total almost $6 billion. At that point, Agility, formerly known as Public Warehousing Co., was being investigated for overbilling the military for food services. Five months later, in November 2009, the company was indicted for what federal agents described as "major fraud." DynCorp, one of the partners, then removed Agility from the contract, citing the indictment.

We hired a company that sold classified materials to China? If corporations really were people, this corporate person would be in prison right now. It's always amazing what corporate gangsters can get away with.

None of this is to say that private industry has no place in the military. Historically speaking, private industry has always played a role. We've always bought weapons, uniforms, vehicles, furniture, fixtures, etc. from manufacturers, for example, and that's almost certain to continue.

But services? That's something new and that's not working out too awfully well. Maybe we should rethink that. But, with the new Republican House majority coming in, there doesn't seem to be much hope of any rethinking any time soon.


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News Roundup for 11/15/10

New Oxford American Dictionary
The dictionary will now make you dumber

-Headline of the Day-
"Palin's 'Refudiate' Wins 2010 Word Of The Year."

Sarah Palin has been working hard to make the world a little more stupid place and it's finally paid off. "Refudiate" is now a real, live word that you can use in a game of Scrabble. The New Oxford American Dictionary has declared it the word of the year, so it's going in the dictionary and you can't laugh at anyone who says it anymore, because it's a perfectly cromnulent word.

"refudiate: verb used loosely to mean "reject": she called on them to refudiate the proposal to build a mosque. ([origin -- blend of refute and repudiate]," NOAD now reads.

"From a strictly lexical interpretation of the different contexts in which Palin has used 'refudiate,' we have concluded that neither 'refute' nor 'repudiate' seems consistently precise, and that 'refudiate' more or less stands on its own, suggesting a general sense of 'reject,'" the editors say in defense of their position.

I hereby "refudiate" the New Oxford American Dictionary. When someone says something idiotic, you don't just go "fix" the language for them. (Talking Points Memo)

The ACLU is helping a group of middle schoolers sue a Pennsylvania school district over their band of bracelets that raise money to fight breast cancer. The problem: the wording on the bracelets.

"I am writing from in-school suspension for wearing an 'I love Boobies' bracelet," Brianna Hawk wrote in a recent letter to the local Easton paper. "Even though I am only 13 years old, I am well aware of breast cancer and the effects it has on women."

You know what I find weirdest about this? Only kids call them "boobies" anyway, because adults -- being more mature -- prefer to use "bazongas." Still, no "boobie" bracelets, because apparently that's a bad word that kids shouldn't know.

I think the cat's already out of the bag on that one. Apparently, the rubber wristbands have been banned all over the country. Seriously, don't we have anything more important to worry about? Because it seems to me that just about anything would be more important. (Associated Press)

-Bonus HotD-
"Please stop asking Newt Gingrich if he'll run for president."

He never answers and you're just encouraging him. So knock it off. (War Room)

Lame Duck Day

Statue of Liberty replica, seeming frozen in the ice of Lake Mendota
Only in Madison, Wisconsin... More than once, the Statue of Liberty has appeared to be frozen in the ice of Lake Mendota, like a scene from some Japanese snow monkey version of Planet of the Apes. For years, people visiting the Capitol would drive past a giant fiberglass fish, sitting atop a two-story secondhand store called "The Buy-Sell Shop," just three blocks away. That space is now an entertainment complex housing a bar, a bar, and -- I'm pretty sure -- a bar. And one year, then-Mayor Paul Soglin showed up to a City Council meeting wearing a duck costume, complete with crutches and a prop cast on his leg, to acknowledge his status as a lame duck. It's a weird place.

Likewise, Washington DC is a weird place. Unfortunately, not in a good way -- at least, not the government part of it. Don't expect Nancy Pelosi to wear the lame duck suit anytime soon. And, let's face it, that's probably a good thing. If Republican leadership are anything, they're serious, serious people -- or, at least, serious acting people. Like funeral directors, they only seem to frown. Somehow, they'd turn a display of self-depreciating humor into an act of anti-American mockery that only helps the terrorists. This lame duck session is going to be no fun. And all that no fun starts today.

If history is any guide, we may not see much happen during this period of waiting, unless it absolutely has to happen. And even then, it may not. If Republicans are serious about a shutdown of government, it'll happen before December 2, when a spending authorization bill must be passed. If they're somewhat less serious, they'll negotiate a stopgap spending measure that will fund government at least until the new House majority is sworn in. Or, of course, there's also the possibility -- slim though it may be -- that they'll be more reasonable in victory than they have been in defeat and help pass an honest-to-goodness spending measure. We'll see. But it won't be very long before we see if they unfurl their "No Compromise!" banner or whether all that talk of being unyielding jerks about everything was just red meat for the chumps. Here's hoping it was the latter.

The term "budget reconciliation" is likely to make an appearance again, as many of the measures this remaining session will be budget related. An extension of unemployment benefits, a defense authorization bill, and of course the Bush tax giveaway -- this last must be dealt with in this congress or everyone's taxes will increase.

Harry Reid has a 400 bills passed by the House that the Senate will have to deal with, so that will become an omnibus -- that's going to be a huge bill, so expect Republicans to grandstand about it, even though its very existence is their own damned fault for practicing obstructionism in the Senate. Really, there's a pretty comprehensive catalog of legislation they'll take a crack at at Firedoglake, so go check that out if you want the skinny on everything. It looks like a lot, but it really isn't. Most of these things will live or die pretty quickly. Harry Reid says the DREAM Act, which is a fairly modest reform to immigration, is a priority. And the President wants a ratified START Treaty on his desk this session.

If you want a preview of what the remaining days of the 111th congress will look like, just look at what it has been like. It'll be Democrats getting things done, while Republicans engage in histrionic hairtearing and howls that America is being destroyed from within. In short, it probably isn't go to be anymore rational a process than it has been. Here's my wishlist; a Senate rule change either narrowing the use of the filibuster or increasing the number of votes it takes to sustain one, letting the tax beaks for the top two percent expire, and extending unemployment benefits. Whether I'll get my wishes is another question.

It's the last of the 111th and the 112th is guaranteed to be a basketcase of a congress, so there's a little more urgency with this lame duck session than with most. The next congress will be the classic do-nothing congress, because Republicans have decided that the best strategy in the world is complaining about Obama and Democrats while literally doing as little as possible. They're a party in a holding pattern, waiting until 2012. And they want everything to stay in stasis until then. They do only the absolute bare minimum -- or, as I said, perhaps not even that -- and then complain that nothing's getting done and try to blame everything on President Obama. I'm not normally a big fan of prognostication, but this all just seems so obvious. I don't think you'd get rich betting against it.

And all the while, you and me and the rest of the country will just sit. Nothing will move, nothing will happen, we'll be like that Statue of Liberty was, out on the lake -- seemingly frozen in ice.


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I shutter in leather eyes lashes

Cuff me to black veins

Fool me into your prison

Cut me in your dungeon

I am the spy

Love me
In heart shaped locket

Keep me in your magazine article

Between news lines and spread

I am muted space

Between cherry red lipstick stains

Drawn in stitched panties

Made of lace.

Reach for me

Beyond wire rimmed lens

Dense imperfection

Music and conversation fades

I am beyond the crowds

In Contempt

Handcuffed to buttons

The way my smile creases your heart.

As I fade back into the distance

You smell me on your fingers.

Griper News: News Roundup for 11/12/10

Still from the movie 'Them'
Gov. Rick Perry, shown speaking with a Texas constituent

-Headline of the Day-
"Revealed: Texas officials covered up dangerously radioactive tap water for years."

So that's what's wrong with GWB, Rick Perry, Louis Gohmert, Joe Barton, and the rest of the Texas crew -- they're radioactive monstrosities, like Godzilla or the giant ants in Them. I guess the comic book industry takes a little hit here as we have proof that radiation doesn't give you super-powers, it gives you anti-super-powers.

All kidding aside, this is pretty bad. According to the report, "Texas officials charged with protecting the environment and public health have for years made arbitrary subtractions to the measured levels of radiation delivered by water utilities across the state, according to a series of investigative reports out of Houston.

"Those subtractions, based on the test results' margin of error, made all the difference for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ): without the reduction, demonstrated levels of dangerous radiation would have been in excess of federal limits for years." Apparently, Texas needs to add "good" in front of "environmental quality," so the TCEQ knows which way they're supposed to be going with this whole quality thing.

And wasn't Texas Gov. Rick Perry just on The Daily Show recently, bragging about the state's brilliant approach to environmentalism?

Why yes. Yes, he was. (Raw Story, with video)

-I don't think you're quite finished with that yet-
This ad showed up on my other blog, Griper Blade, today:

Ad with 'Lorem Ipsum' text

If you're not seeing the funny here, look up "filler text" and "Lorem Ipsum" on Wikipedia. Good thing they didn't go with "Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood." (Griper Blade, I guess. It's really Google Adsense -- or maybe Politics Daily -- but I'll take the plug myself)

-Bonus HotD-
"Study Finds That 100,000 Latinos Have Left Arizona Since The Implementation Of Its Radical Immigration Law."

Mission accomplished, I guess. (Think Progress)

-Bonus Fun-
FAIL Blog finds this bit of fail in a victory speech from election night.

This is my new senator, so yay for me! I think Ron Johnson may make the roundup with some frequency -- because he's just such an idiot. We're talking Bachmann-Palin-level idiocy here. And I'm not saying that just to be mean, I'm saying that just to be accurate. Thanks Wisconsin voters!

Now you Johnson voters go vote this video up at Funny or Die and you may yet redeem yourselves a little. But just a little. (FAIL Blog)

The Word of the Day is "Compromise"

I'm not going to bother to look it up -- it's just an anecdote anyway -- but after George W. Bush beat John Kerry one sad day, CNN ran a poll asking if people were happy with election results. Surprise, surprise; the poll found that the exact same percentage of people who voted for Bush reported being happy that Bush was reelected. At the time, my response was "well duh!" Basically, when you ask people if they're happy that the person they voted for won, they're going to say yes. And if you ask them if they're happy their candidate lost, they're going to say no. So, I saw this poll as a big waste of time. You really didn't need to be a psychic to know which way it would turn out. About the only good thing I could think of to say about it was that it was obviously accurate.

CBS news has engaged in the same waste of time and it turns out I owe CNN an apology. I didn't have a blog back then, but I talked smack about you CNN guys to my friends. Sorry about that. Because this time, it wasn't a waste of time at all. I suppose there was a chance it wouldn't be then, either. It turns out that after giving Republicans a big day at the polls, we aren't exactly excited about the results.

While 40 percent do say they are pleased by the election outcome, that's a significantly smaller percentage than the 58 percent who were pleased following the 2006 midterm elections.

Americans also don't expect much from those they elected: Forty-one percent predict fewer accomplishments than usual from the new Congress. The percentage who expect more to get done than usual is down from 47 percent after the 2006 midterms to 39 percent today.

I have no earthly idea what to make of this. I could go to a pundit standby -- that voters liked the candidates in their races, while thinking everyone else's was a jerk -- but it's almost certainly wrong to apply a single motive to as diverse a group of people as the voting public. I'm not a big fan of mindreading anyway.

Still, reading through the poll, many of the results are more what you'd expect if Republicans had lost. For example, letting Bush's tax giveaway to the top 2% expire narrowly beats extending them -- 47%-44%. Also, the report tells us, "Seventy-two percent -- including a majority of Republicans -- want Congressional Republicans to compromise, while just 21 percent say they should stick to their positions. And 78 percent say the president should compromise as well, compared to 16 percent who want him to stand his ground." This despite the fact that GOP motto these days is "No Compromise!"

Whatever this poll may or may not tell us about the mindset of voters on election day, it tells us a lot about the mindset afterward. If you've ever wondered what a clear lack of a mandate looks like, you can wonder no more -- you're looking at it. A lot of noise has been made about how expensive Democratic overreach was for them, but -- as things stand right now -- Republicans reaching anywhere but across the aisle will likewise be overreaching. They can't do anything without running counter to public opinion. John Boehner has his work cut out for him. If he delivers on his promises, he's screwed. If he doesn't, he's screwed. John of Orange's days as Speaker of the House aren't going to be easy. There's a lot less golfing in the man's future.

It bothers me that most want to see Obama compromise as well, but the realist in me knows that this is what he'd do anyway. While his own party held majorities in both the House and Senate, he bent over backwards to meet Republicans halfway -- needlessly and to the point where it looked like dithering. President Obama's centrist reflex may be what got him into this mess, but it might also be what gets him out of it. And I say that despite the fact that I'm part of that 16% minority who'd rather see him turn into a Pelosi-like fighter.

The numbers also suggest that when it comes to gridlock -- which nearly everyone expects -- Republicans lose. If the word of the day is "compromise," then lying on your back, waving your arms and legs and screaming "Communist!" isn't going to get the job done.

There's reason to worry about compromise, though, and it has to be played right. People always say they want compromise. It's because people are decent and they want to see everyone get a fair shake. But compromise has two things going against it. First, my definition of compromise is an arrangement where all parties agree to be equally unhappy with the result. I think that's pretty accurate and people don't like to be unhappy. Healthcare reform is a great example of this. Some people think it goes too far, some people think it doesn't go far enough, but almost no one thinks it's exactly what we need. No one is happy with it. Unhappy people tend to vote against their unhappiness.

Second, compromise as a concept is one thing, while compromise as fact is another. Compromise sounds good in theory, but when you want something, you want it. Not half of it. A compromise doesn't feel like a compromise, it feels like a loss. This also makes voters unhappy, with the same result as my previous point. If you doubt either point, I give you Exhibit A: a 2010 electoral sweep that did not go in President Compromise's favor.

Still, it's pretty clear that "compromise" is today's secret word and the person who says it most often will probably win the hundred dollars. It's a stand-alone word; it can't have "no" in front of it. Obama's going to say it most, it may be his only way of going forward and it's in his nature. Meanwhile, Republicans have promised not to say it at all.

To sum it all up, compromise is probably better as a concept than a reality and Republicans have all but guaranteed they'll do everything they can to keep it conceptual. We'll see how that works out for them, but -- for the moment, at least -- it looks like they're handing Obama and the Democrats the advantage.


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News Roundup for 11/11/10

Axelrod chokes a staffer
David Axelrod, shown making a snap decision

-Headline of the Day-
"White House Gives In On Bush Tax Cuts."

Super-rich people will continue to feed off the public debt like mindless, undead monsters for the foreseeable future (sorry, just saw the latest episode of Walking Dead... It was awesome!). So says the Huffington Post's always reliable Sam Stein. Sam says that top Obamanaut David Axelrod thinks that the only way they'll be able to extend tax cuts for anyone is to extend tax cuts for the Wall Street zombies. Otherwise, Republicans are willing to shoot the hostage -- who, by the way, is you. Stein says he got it straight from the horse's mouth.

But wait, the equally reliable Greg Sargent says nuh-uh, that's not what he was told. Axelrod sent him an email saying the whole story isn't so true and wonders where people get these crazy ideas. Since Sam got the info from an interview with Axelrod, I'd have to say that he probably got the idea from some jerk named "Axelrod." Just sayin'.

I'd also say that it looks like this Axelrod guy has no idea what the fuck he wants to do. (Huffington Post)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, remember that Barack Obama guy? He's here to talk to us about what he's going to do now that the elections are over! Yay!

Click for animation

You know, every candidate says they're going try to find common ground with the other party. Who knew this guy really meant it? (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Bristol Palin Survives 'Dancing' Elimination Round With Help of Tea Party."

Hey guys, if Bristol wins a game show, it's not exactly a blow against communism, you know. I don't care what Glenn Beck says. (Bloomberg)

GOP = No Jobs II

Depression era billboard - 'Jobless men keep going, we can't take care of our own'
It was a weird coincidence. I was planning on writing a follow-up to a post I wrote last week -- "GOP = No Jobs." And what do I wake up to? A very informative comment to that very post telling me that it's the same story in South Carolina. Things are tough all over, but nowhere are they so tough as in those states with new or incumbent Republican governors.

To bring you up to speed, the original post spelled out how the Republican word of the day -- "austerity" -- is actually synonymous with increased unemployment. When you cut spending, you're cutting people. And when you oppose new spending, you oppose new jobs. This is inarguably true. You can't fight math. We can argue over whether this is a good idea or not (I'll take "not"), but no one can truthfully argue that cutting spending doesn't cut jobs, thereby increasing unemployment.

I bring all this back up and revisit the post because all is not lost here. While Republican governors grandstand on the "no new jobs" platform, the White House plays hardball -- and reality is their leverage.

[Associated Press:]

The Obama administration has a message for Republican governors who campaigned against the president's high-speed rail program: Build the trains or give back the money.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Tuesday rejected a request from Gov.-elect John Kasich in Ohio to use the $400 million in federal funds pledged to that state's train project on other projects like road construction or freight lines.

"I would like high-speed rail to be part of Ohio's future," LaHood wrote. But if the state won't go forward, it's necessary "to wind down Ohio's involvement in the project so that we do not waste taxpayers' money," he said.

Wisconsin's governor-in-waiting Scott Walker got a similar letter. No train, no money and you owe us for what was spent. The federal government isn't handing out cash for you to blow on anything you want. That's train money and you either use it or lose it.

In a way, it's actually doing these guys a favor. Think about it: you take an idiotic and self-destructive stand to either get elected or re-elected and the White House comes along and bails you out by tying your hands. Consider yourself saved from yourself. Because, as employment rolls plummet in your state, you don't have an incumbent to blame anymore -- you're the incumbent and you're responsible now. You can't run against things anymore, you have to defend things. In politics, this is the weaker position. If Wisconsin's Scott Walker thinks he's not going to face a "he cost the state 5,500 new jobs before he was even sworn in" ad sometime in the future, then he's forgotten how political campaigns work -- within less than a month of winning one. Walker ran on a promise to create 250,000 new jobs (a number he pretty much pulled out of his butt) and losing a few thousand at the gitgo isn't exactly movement in the correct direction.

Keep in mind that I'm just using Walker as an example here, since it's the situation I know most about. As the AP story demonstrates, other governors and governors-elect are in the same boat. Walker's campaign against the rail line became extremely popular, but these things lose momentum fast. If it turns out that it's either lose $100 million or accept $810 million -- and that's the choice as it stands -- then people aren't going to give a hot damn about principles down the road. Especially if unemployment rises, which it will. If there's one thing you can say about those swing voters that put Walker in, it's that they're fickle. Look at Barack Obama; when he was elected, everyone was all, "Yay, we're getting healthcare reform and a big stimulus to help the economy!" After he was elected, they switched teams. All of a sudden, the message of the day was, "Oh no! Obama's jamming healthcare reform and a big stimulus down our throats! Help, Republicans! Help!" Movements in an electoral cycle are really "movements" -- momentary and in quotes. Few are really committed to anything other than good results and they'll jump ship in a heartbeat if things don't go their way. This reality must be settling in at Team Walker HQ about now, as an eight-hundred-ten-million dollar sword of Damocles dangles over their heads by a hundred-million dollar hair.

[Dave Dayen, Firedoglake:]

We've seen this game of chicken play out over the past two years, with governors who appear far more ideologically committed than Walker and Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich. Rick Perry, Mark Sanford and even Sarah Palin all made rumblings about not accepting stimulus funds, and they all buckled in the end. Walker and Kasich appear sincere about killing the rail projects, but now that LaHood has told them that the money is "use it or lose it," let's watch and enjoy.

Yes, let's.


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