News Roundup for 2/28/11

Our Lord and Savior

-Headline of the day-
"Former GOP Sen. Bennett: Reagan Held Views That Were 'Absolutely Anathema' To The Tea Party."

In an interview with Fox's Greta Von Sustersomething, former Utah Senator Bob Bennett came right out and called Ronald Reagan a terr'ist-sympathizing commie. America is ashamed of him, obviously.

"Ronald Reagan would probably not recognize the description of Ronald Reagan that is coming out of a lot of the tea party blogs," Bennett said -- then said that Reagan did stuff like compromise. If you're not outraged by that, then you don't know that "compromise" is code for APPEASEMENT!!

Remember how Reagan was reelected to 12 consecutive terms with 340% of the vote? Remember how he killed Mikhail Gorbachev with his bare hands, then came home to beat Tip O'Neil into submission with Gorbachev's skull? Remember how he brought down the Soviet Union by crashing a demolition derby car into the Berlin Wall, causing it to crumble?

Man, it's like all that stuff never even happened. (ThinkProgress, with video)

-"I LOVE ME!"-
It's starting to look a lot like a large chunk of Sarah Palin's dwindling popularity comes from some lady named "Sarah Palin." Turns out Sarah had a second Facebook account for "Lou Sarah" -- which is the most imaginative name ever -- and now it's looking like she's got a second twitter account.

What are these accounts for? Why, to praise Sarah Palin, of course. (Wonkette)

-Bonus HotD-
"Obama gives props to Romney on health care."

Worst news Mittens has gotten all day. (CNN)

Real Populism Blooms, Right Wing Media Fumes

Last night, a loose, disorganized coalition of Marxist rebels, street gangs, and union thugs stormed the Capitol Square in Madison, Wisconsin, seizing the Capitol itself and occupying it. The air was thick with smoke as the rebels destroyed everything they could find. Local residents cowered in their basements, hoping the rampaging maniacs wouldn't find them, as the grim specter of death stalked this once proud city under the cover of night. Prayers for salvation went unanswered and it seemed even God had abandoned the populace.

At least, that's the impression you'd get if you were watching Fox News at about 4:00 central yesterday.

Fox's coverage was so extreme and so over-the-top that people were tweeting Fox's account to get updates on the death toll.

And the reporter who claims that protesters hit him? I'm going to go ahead and apply Breitbart's rule on that -- video or it never happened. Let the right live with the absurd burden of proof they demand of everyone else. Besides, there's good reason to believe it did never happen, since he makes the claim during a cutaway. Protesters would have no idea that the images weren't being broadcast -- there's no big neon "ON AIR" sign that goes dark in the field -- so there'd be no way for them to know that it was a perfect time to start whacking Fox's man on the scene over the head with their signs.

Meanwhile, over at Michelle Malkin's blog, we're told of a "breakdown of civil order" that "will lead to more civil disorder" by "Big Labor squatters who have grimed and slimed up the Capitol for almost two weeks." A quick check of the comment thread shows panicked calls for the National Guard to drive the protesters out with "Tear gas and bayonets." Ironically and hypocritically, these comments appear next to a sidebar item whining about how uncivil the left has been.

What all of this tells me is that the right is terrified right now. After whipping teapartiers up into a frenzy and walking away with the elections, Republicans and conservative media thought the country would be easy pickings. They'd dismantle our institutions and sell them off piece by piece -- and the populace, cowed by the "electoral might" of the Tea Party, would roll over and let it happen.

But once people got a taste of what Republican rule really meant, they didn't like it much. Republicans were warned again and again that they had no mandate. Polling showed that voters actually liked Republicans less than they liked Democrats. The wisest thing, everyone with any sense agreed, was for the GOP to take a caretaker role until they could boost their approvals a bit, then win in 2012 with an honest-to-goodness mandate. But Republicans, apparently too impatient for levelheadedness and restraint, went ahead and pretended they had a mandate anyway, steamrollering radical legislation through and acting as if they'd been elected pretty much unanimously. And look what happened. Fox News is reduced to reporting a nonexistent Maoist revolt in Madison, Wisconsin, as state after state finds itself facing the same wave of populist uprising. To flirt with the poetic, the GOP has awoken a sleeping giant.

That went well.

If you want to see what political overreach looks like, look to the Office of the Governor of Wisconsin. If you want to see what the consequences of that overreach are, look at the ripple-effect radiating outward across the country from that office.

And, if you want to see what democracy looks like, look at the protesters gathered in the capitol rotunda last night -- as well as the police who joined them.



News Roundup for 2/25/11

Scott Walker
Local criminal

-Headline of the day-
"Ex-AG sees violations by Walker in stunt call."

Remember that phone call that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took a little while back? You know, the one where he thought his boss was calling him? Yeah, that one. Turns out that Scooter may have confessed to breaking a law or three while trying to convince "David Koch" that he was being really successful in doing away with unions and please god pleasepleaseplease don't shut off the money tap to his campaign coffers.

Former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager reviewed the recording -- like everyone else under the sun -- and concluded that Walker's probably a tad bit outside the law. "There clearly are potential ethics violations, and there are potential election law violations and there are a lot of what look to me like labor law violations," she said in an interview. "I think that the ethics violations are something the (state) Government Accountability Board should look into because they are considerable. He is on tape talking with someone who he thinks is the funder of an independent political action committee to purchase advertising to benefit Republican legislators who are nervous about taking votes on legislation he sees as critical to his political success... One of the things I find most problematic in all of this is the governor's casual talk about using outside troublemakers to stir up trouble on the streets, and the fact that he only dismissed the idea because it might cause a political problem for him."

Part of the problem with the "troublemakers" thing is that, even if he finally decided against it, he says "we" thought about it. Discussing how to commit a crime is conspiracy to commit that crime -- even if you eventually decide not to. It just has to be a serious consideration, even if it's just one of many options.

"For a governor even to consider a strategy that could unnecessarily threaten the safety of peaceful demonstrators -- which the governor acknowledged he did -- is something that simply amazes me," Peg says.

So, are we going to see Scooter behind bars soon? We've got a Republican Governor, a Republican Assembly, a Republican Senate, and a Republican Attorney General.

What do you think? (Capital Times)

-Guy Colbert-
Last night, Stephen Colbert interviewed journalist and constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald on the story of Wikileaks, Anonymous, HBGary, the Obama administration, Bank of America, and Greenwald himself. It's this whole big, complicated thing, which Colbert did a great job of condensing here:

So, Colbert goes on from this to interview Greenwald. A redditor watched the interview and noticed a strange flash on Colbert's face for a moment, so a look at a slowed down clip of the flash was in order. This was what further investigation revealed:

That's a Guy Fawkes mask, a symbol of Anonymous and a reference to the movie V for Vendetta. Colbert is clearly showing support for Anon.

Or maybe he just doesn't want his World of Warcraft character messed with. (Washington Post)

-Bonus HotD-
"Witnesses: Republican Laughed When Asked 'Who's Gonna Shoot Obama?'"

Georgia Rep. Paul Broun is a douche. Proven fact. (Talking Points Memo)

Wisconsin Republicans Rush to Wait

Here's the message we can take out of Madison, Wisconsin today; Republicans are terrified. In the State Assembly, the GOP resorted to dirty tricks (again) to force through Gov. Walker's hopelessly corrupt "budget repair" bill.

[Talking Points Memo:]

After much buildup in the 61-hour debate -- of Republicans wanting things to be over, and Democrats railing against Republicans who they said would cut off debate -- at about 1 AM Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer (R) announced that he would hear a voice vote for a roll call on final passage. Immediately, the majority Republicans shouted their ayes, and the Democrats were booing, as they tried to be recognized to demand a separate motion to cut off debate.

Then Kramer called the vote. Within seconds, the digital vote system on the wall announced 51 ayes and 17 nays, and voting was suddenly closed. With a total of 96 members, that got to a majority for the bill but left 28 members who hadn't had a chance yet to vote.

At that point, the Democrats got up, chanting "Shame! Shame! Shame!" and similar exclamations, as the Republicans filed out of the room.

This was the scene, as the GOP jammed the bill through in the dead of night in the only way they could -- by denying Democrats a chance to vote (courtesy of WISC-TV):

"Some of the Democrats I spoke to, such as state Rep. Kelda Roys, maintained that the vote was illegal," writes TPM's Eric Kleefeld. "Let's see whether they pursue such avenues in court."

Actually, let's see if they have to pursue such avenues in court. The sudden GOP rush to pass this in the assembly seems absurd at this point, as the legislation now gathers dust on the clerk's desk. It still has to wait for Democratic senators to return for a vote. I can understand wanting a break after sixty-one hours of debate, but you don't need to actually pass the bill to get there. There was really no reason to jam through this legislation in the dead of night. There's no rush.

In fact, if the idea was to get the absent senators to come running back in a panic, it didn't work.


Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said Friday morning that he knows of "no intent to come back today" among the 14 Democratic senators in hiding in Illinois.

Risser said the senators, who fled last week in an attempt to stop Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget repair bill from passing, will be meeting later Friday morning.

But he said they have no plans to return in the near future, even after the Assembly passed the bill in the early morning after a heated floor session.

Fred's the longest serving state legislator in the nation, so at this point he's pretty good at this stuff. Another top dem was equally unshaken.

"We're here [in Illinois] for a reason," Sen. Jon Erpenbach told a Chicago TV station. "That reason is we believe what the governor is doing is wrong." That news story describes the fugitive senators not as outraged, not as distraught, but merely "irked." Clearly, this is only an annoyance for them and nothing that would cause them to come running home.

I believe that assembly Republicans used dirty tricks to push this through in order to manufacture some momentum behind the bill. Walker's shouting "VICTORY!!" with a megaphone from the capitol dome, but the fact is that nothing has changed. He's still on the wrong side of this, opposed to the public, and his flagship bill is still going nowhere.



News Roundup for 2/24/11

Fox logo
Wow, they just lie to everybody, don't they?

-Headline of the day-
"Records Say Fox News Chief Told Employee to Lie."

OK, this one gets a little complicated right off the bat. Turns out that Fox News big Roger Ailes wanted to a keep secret that would've hurt a buddy. See former bigtime publisher lady Judith Regan was having an affair with corrupt Bush Homeland Security appointee Bernie Kerik. Bernie Kerik got busted and Ailes told Regan to lie to investigators, because it would've embarrassed then-presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of NYC and current Nosferatu impersonator. See, Rudy had suggested Kerik to Bush, because he was trying to set him up as a hero of 9/11.

This all unraveled pretty quickly and the only real question was who the Fox exec was who was ordering Regan to lie. Now, affidavits show it was Ailes. Now, Roger's in trouble because this is a legal technicality commonly known as a "crime."

But don't worry, Ailes is a really, really rich guy and the only time a really, really rich guy goes to jail is if he pisses everyone off -- like Bernie Madoff. Ailes has only pissed off little people, like you and me, so he ought to be fine.

He can go back to doing what he does best -- lying to everyone else. (New York Times)

-Well that worked out well...-
Lisa Fitzgerald works as a counselor in the Hustisford school district. It's a nice area, kids are little pricks -- nice job, actually. So you can imagine how she must've felt when she received a layoff notice from the district.

Seems that uncertainty about the budget is forcing schools to drastic extremes -- everyone in Hustisford got the notice because, without a new budget, they aren't going to have any money. This school will have to shut its doors. And, since Wisconsin Republicans refuse to negotiate anything, the fault for these layoffs can be laid at their feet.

This is especially bad news for one of the players in the standoff. Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald is Lisa's husband. That's right, Scott just basically canned his own wife.

I'm guessing he's sleeping in the garage for a while. (Talking Points Memo)

-Bonus HotD-
"Texas Resident Arrested on Charge of Attempted Use of Weapon of Mass Destruction."

Surprisingly, it's not George W. Bush. (US Dept. of Justice)

No, It's Not a 'Prank'

Walker awash in Koch cash
It's been called a "prank call," but a phone call to Scott Walker by a guerrilla journalist posing as billionaire GOP donor David Koch would be better described as an "interview by subterfuge." Clearly, Buffalo Beast's Ian Murphy remembers the journalist's motto; to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. And Scott Walker is most definitely feeling afflicted today.

For his part, the governor is trying desperately to put the call behind him, telling reporters at a press conference that he hadn't said anything in the call that he hadn't said in public, when clearly this was BS. When had Walker told the public that he needed to bust the unions to be like Ronald Reagan, who Walker laughably claims brought down the USSR by breaking the air traffic controllers' union? When has Walker told everyone he'd thought of planting agent provocateurs in with the protesters, but ruled it out because it would probably backfire? When did he tell the public he was planning to trick Democrats into coming back to Wisconsin, in order to end his standoff with them?

And there's a lot in this call that almost no one is talking about. For instance, it's an example of either Walker's dishonesty and/or denial. He told Murphy that most of the protesters are from out of state -- a claim that PolitiFact immediately called false. Is Walker so out of touch with what's happening out his window that this is what he really believes? Or is this evidence that Walker would lie even to David Koch, if he thought it would serve his purposes? And how can Walker decry out-of-state agitators on a phone call with a Texas billionaire running ads supporting him without pegging everyone's hypocrisy meter?

But Walker's biggest problem here is legal.

[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:]

The leader of a state government watchdog group on Wednesday called for an investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's comments with a prank caller purporting to be a major donor.

Jay Heck, executive director of Wisconsin Common Cause, said Walker's remarks seeking support for Republicans from swing districts from a caller posing as an energy industry executive should be reviewed by the state Government Accountability Board.

Coordinating campaign strategy with a group that conducts independent campaign expenditures would be a law or ethics violations, Heck said.

And what about that consideration of planting "troublemakers" in the crowds of protesters? This also points to Walker's dishonesty. And the fact that it was rejected, not because it was obviously just plain wrong, but because it was seen as a possible strategic blunder, should strike anyone with a conscience as shocking.

Finally, although he's denied the fact all along, Walker admits that his "budget crisis" is really just an excuse for union busting. When he brings up Reagan and the ATC union, he's clearly talking about emulating his hero. He wants to break public unions, not because it's necessary, but because he believes it's a political winner. In fact, independent analysis shows that Walker's bill would only make economic and budgetary problems in Wisconsin worse. The loss of personal revenue would result in decreased wages, decreased consumer demand, increased unemployment, and decreased tax revenues. This is the GOP's bass-ackward, we've-never-heard-of-supply-and-demand economics in action. In fact, he admits that his layoff threat is just a way to pressure Democrats and workers.

The phone call should expose Walker as a dishonest, delusional, manipulative ideologue and egotist who fancies himself the next Ronald Reagan. Instead, it's being called a "prank."



Walker's Folly

Last night, the citizens of Wisconsin were subjected to a power-drunk madman threatening to shoot his hostages. I give you the man I've started calling the Governor of the State of Denial.

Frankly, I'm a little lost on why he even bothered. It's just the same old crap he's been saying over and over for days. But I guess it's that old Republican impulse; if something isn't working, it's not because it's a bad idea, it's because you're not doing enough of it. "Tax cuts didn't help the economy? More tax cuts!" -- that sort of thing. Conservatives seem to be missing a failure recognition node in the reality acceptance portion of their brains.

Keep in mind that this is the same man who promised to bring 250,000 new jobs to Wisconsin. Now he's threatening to lay off at least 1,500 workers. This makes Scott Walker a little bit of a liar. And people are noticing. While Walker may be hoping for a statewide bout of amnesia, that doesn't seem to be happening. For example, his coalition is crumbling and Republican state senators are working against him behind his back. Mere weeks into his first term, everything's coming down around Scott's ears. Failure on this level takes real talent.

If Scott Walker isn't backing down, then neither are workers. If Walker's bill goes through -- and I don't think there's much danger of that anymore -- labor groups say they'll stage a general strike. Things are most definitely not going Scooter's way.

To give you an idea how Wisconsinites are responding to Walker's speech, check out The Isthmus' Dean Robbins.

On Tuesday, Gov. Scott Walker announced he would give a "fireside chat" to address the pandemonium surrounding his controversial "budget repair bill": the teacher walkouts, the mass protests at the Capitol, the across-the-border flight of Democratic senators who want to preserve collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s public employees. Walker's use of President Franklin Roosevelt's phrase suggested that, like FDR, he would try bring an anxious citizenry together.

But, with civil war erupting around him, the governor declined to play the role of peacemaker. With the impassive expression of a corporate ax man, he refused to budge from his proposal and offer a compromise. Who promises a "fireside chat" and then tells hundreds of thousands of people that it's his way or the highway?

Robbins is actually a media critic and, long story short, Walker gets a really bad review. His speech was peppered with talking points and already debunked propaganda -- at one point, he tried to claim that the protesters swarming the square were from out of state. I've got to tell you, I was surprised to learn I'm from Nevada.

At this point, it's looking like Walker has been neutered. His may be the face of this conflict, but he's becoming increasingly irrelevant as wiser and more rational members of our government bang out a compromise behind the scenes.

And his "fireside chat" may only be a pretense to power.



News Roundup for 2/22/11

Sinking ship
Scott Walker's ship of state

-Headline of the day-
"Walker Losing Support Among Rep. State Senators."

I told ya so. Turns out that that Governor Walker's big plan to destroy the political careers of everyone in the Wisconsin Republican Party isn't so popular with those Republicans as the governor would like you to believe.

Editor of Wisconsin instution The Progressive magazine Matt Rothschild spoke with fugitive Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch and Bob says that, among the less suicidal GOPers, Walker's plan is about as popular as a fart in an elevator.

"There are six to seven Republican senators that hate this bill, really hate this bill," Jauch said. Only three defectors would be needed to kill the bill outright. Bob says he's been in touch with these senators to try to "come up with an alternative" -- presumably behind Walker's back.

Rothschild reports, "Jauch also predicted that some Republican legislators who support Walker's bill would face a recall effort." Which wouldn't be fun for them because, even if they survived it, they'd go into the next election cycle weakened by the effort and somewhat cash-poor. So they're going to be eager to avoid that, which means more incentive to stick to the union.

Poor Scott Walker. All he wanted to do was destroy working-class families.

Is that so wrong? (The Progressive)

-More bad news for Walker-
Scooter's been having a lot of fun pretending that the public is with him, but that ends today. A new USA Today/Gallup poll shows that Americans -- a group to which Wisconsinites coincidentally belong -- oppose doing away with collective bargaining for public employee unions by a ratio of about 2:1. According to the report, "The poll found that 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to one being considered in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law."

Walker's got to be wondering how everything could've gone so wrong, so quickly.

Let me help you out there, Scott -- it's called "rank incompetence." (USA Today)

-Bonus HotD-
"Is Scott Walker Cutting Off Internet Access To Thwart Protesters?"

Oh for chrissake, Scott. Name the last guy that worked out well for. (ThinkProgress)

Scott Walker's Kamikaze Run at Jobs

Scott WalkerThings in Madison seem to be moving in the right direction. Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall reported yesterday that signs point to the Wisconsin GOP losing cohesion on the governor's "budget repair bill." Republicans could've taken the sticking point -- collective bargaining -- and passed it as a stand-alone bill. Since it wouldn't have been a fiscal bill, the rules for a twenty member quorum wouldn't have applied. But Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says that this isn't going to happen and that they won't pass the bill until the filibustering Democrats return to Wisconsin.

Marshall writes that this means there's "no clear option for Walker absent some agreement with the Democrats." Scott Walker may be politically suicidal, but Wisconsin Republicans don't seem to share his eagerness for self-destruction.

Still, whenever Wisconsin is in danger of easing our unemployment rate, Scott Walker comes to drag us back from the brink. He's killed a high-speed rail project -- and all the jobs it would've created. He's killed a power plant in Madison, he's trying to regulate the wind power industry out of existence, he's refused stimulus funding for wiring schools for broadband. Now, he's threatening to lay off as many as 1,500 state workers. This is a man who came into office promising a quarter of a million new jobs. He's doing it wrong.

And these are the question the media should be asking -- what about all those jobs? When is Walker going to get to work on that? And isn't threatening massive layoffs contrary to that promise? Doesn't that make Scott Walker something of a liar? Why is it that every time we might actually reduce unemployment, Scott Walker gets in the way?

You know what would be a great way to increase state revenues? Get people to work. You know what's a lousy way to increase state revenues? Laying off people and making an already rough job market even more competitive, driving down wages. The question of the day should be, "Why does Governor Walker keep killing jobs?"

And it sounds like, behind the scenes, these are questions being asked by Wisconsin Republicans. Walker is leading his party to disaster with this overreach. A new poll from GQR Research for the AFL-CIO shows that Walker is losing Wisconsin voters.

[Talking Points Memo:]

Sixty-two percent of respondents to the poll said they view public employees favorably, while just 11% said they had an unfavorable view of the workers whose benefits packages Walker says are breaking the state budget.

Meanwhile, just 39% of respondents had a favorable view of Walker, while 49% had an unfavorable view of the freshman Republican governor. Voters are split on his job performance, with 51% saying they disapprove of the job Walker has done.

"Since the protests began, Governor Walker has seen real erosion in his standing," the GQR pollsters write in their analysis, "with a majority expressing disapproval of his job performance and disagreement with his agenda."

He's losing his party, he's losing the public, and he's losing all hope for reelection. All within a month of taking office. If he continues his bullheaded foolishness, I wouldn't be surprised if Republicans take him down -- if only for self-preservation.



The 'Bagger's Plan to Screw Themselves

Mark WilliamsOne of the advantages liberals have over conservatives is the conservative impulse for panic. It's a proven fact that people on the right are 'fraidy cats. As a result, they will always over-react. It's guaranteed.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that the right is reacting to a reawakened labor movement with a pants-wetting panic. Further, no one should be shocked to discover that their solution to this problem is poorly thought-out and counter-productive to their own goals.

With these facts in mind, I give you the Tea Party's plan to hang themselves.

Patriot Action Network:



That link will take you to an SEIU page where you can sign up as an "organizer" for one of their upcoming major rallies to support the union goons in Wisconsin.
Here is what I am doing in Sacramento, where they are holding a 5:30 PM event this coming Tuesday: (1) I signed up as an organizer (2) with any luck they will contact me and I will have an "in" (3) in or not I will be there and am asking as many other people as can get there to come with, all of us in SEIU shirts (those who don’t have them we can possibly buy some from vendors likely to be there) (4) we are going to target the many TV cameras and reporters looking for comments from the members there (5) we will approach the cameras to make good pictures… signs under our shirts that say things like "screw the taxpayer!" and "you OWE me!" to be pulled out for the camera (timing is important because the signs will be taken away from us) (6) we will echo those slogans in angry sounding tones to the cameras and the reporters. (7) if I do get the 'in' I am going to do my darnedest to get podium access and take the mic to do that rant from there…with any luck and if I can manage the moments to build up to it, I can probably get a cheer out of the crowd for something extreme.

So now, every time some protester missteps, every time some sign crosses a line, every time a clip of some overly passionate worker is circulated, we've got an out -- it must be a 'bagger. Scooter Walker as Hitler? Must be a 'bagger. Someone picked a fight? Must be a 'bagger. Someone handed out commie pamphlets? Must be a 'bagger. We've been handed a carte blanche. Every time something comes out to make the labor movement look bad, we can flood comment threads to news stories with that link.

Thanks 'baggers!

Specifically, we can thank racist teabagger Mark Williams, who came up with the whole idea. Williams cooked the plan up and announced it on his website, then scrubbed the entire site (google cache here). Apparently, he came to the same conclusion I did -- that this was stupid beyond words.

So, from now until the end of time, every time some protester says something crazy, every time a sign is offensive, every time a jerk gets arrested for being a jackass, it must be a 'bagger.

Thanks Mark Williams, you're (unwittingly) the best friend a worker's ever had.



News Roundup for 2/18/11

Ohio flag
The scourge of free speech and free assembly is spreading!"

-Headline of the day-
"Ohio's turn to revolt: Thousands flood statehouse over anti-union bill."

Whatever it is we've got in Wisconsin, it's catching. As Ohio considers a bill that's basically identical to Wisconsin's union-buster, Ohioans turn out at the statehouse to give them the business.

It's off to a nice start. The Columbus Dispatch reports the initial number as 3,500, while a local Tea Part counter-protest gathered an anemic 200.

"This bill is a partisan assault on working families and does nothing but punish workers and hurt the middle class, plain and simple," says Tim Burga, president of Ohio's AFL-CIO. "This bill would destroy the middle class because the working families this bill affects not only provide vital services, but put money and resources back into their communities, which support local merchants and other small businesses."

Turns out a lot of people think screwing up the economy is a bad idea. Makes you wonder why Republicans did so well last year. (Raw Story, with video)

-A little protest porn-
Sign from the protests in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's new state motto - 'drawroF'

.tghir tuoba s'tahT (The Stir)

-Bonus HotD-
"Firefighter refused call to Tucson shooting spree scene."

Meet Tucson firefighter Mark Ekstrum, America's biggest and most gaping asshole, who refused to answer the emergency call after the Giffords shooting -- because he didn't agree with her politics. According to the report, Ekstrum's refusal "may have slowed his Tucson Fire Department unit's response to the incident that left six dead and 13 wounded."

It's at times like this that I wish I believed in God, if only for the comfort of believing that jackoffs like this guy would burn in hell. (Arizona Daily Star)

Walker Has No 'Silent Majority'

Sign, 'Danger - Idiot in power'
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, facing what the right is casting as a Marxist revolution over his plan to bust public employees unions, has come to taking Richard Nixon's "silent majority" argument -- that most people support the move, but that the whiners are making it look otherwise. Facing crowds of protesters numbering as high as 30,000, Walker explained that the number was insignificant, because there are "about 5.5 million people in the state." So remember, if you're in Wisconsin and not at the capitol, you automatically support Walker. It's just (teabagger) logic.

But Walker's argument suffered a little ding recently, as actual poll numbers on the issue finally come out.

[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:]

A poll paid for by a liberal group says a majority of state residents oppose Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal currently before the state Senate.

The survey, conducted Wednesday night by The Shop Consulting, found that by a 2-to-1 ratio, respondents strongly oppose the provisions in Walker's plan or think they go too far.

Building a Stronger Wisconsin, which doesn't disclose its donors but supported Democratic candidates in the November election, paid for the poll, which has a margin of error of 4%.

Yes, it's a poll by a liberal group, but you need to consider two points. First, the survey itself was done by a private polling firm. Pollsters have nothing to sell but accuracy. If a polling outfit gets a reputation for bad or stilted data, the media will stop paying attention to their findings and clients will stop knocking on their door.

Second, where's the poll that shows otherwise? You know Republicans and corporate groups have done internal polling on this -- they'd be fools not to -- and have the "real" data. If Walker's move had broad cheesehead support, they'd be shouting it from the capitol dome with megaphones. Instead, we get an illogical statistical argument comparing the number of protesters to the number of people not protesting. Clearly, the data they have doesn't support Walker's argument.

So, is there any evidence to show that the state supports Walker and his Republicans? Not a shred. Meanwhile, there are crowds showing up in the tens of thousands protesting them and a poll showing that Wisconsinites oppose him 2-to-1.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the idea that a "silent majority" supports Walker is almost certainly BS.



News Roundup for 2/17/11

Empty chair at desk
Portrait of any Wisconsin Democrat today

-Headline of the day-
"Democratic lawmakers leave Wisconsin to protest union curbs."

Well, it's not so much a protest as it is a filibuster. But who wants to argue semantics?

See, it turns out that pretty much no one but Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker likes Walker's attempt to bust public employee unions. Turns out that giving away the state surplus, then declaring a budget emergency because of the newly created deficit, and making working people pay the bill strikes a lot of people as pretty unfair.

And some of those people are all the Democrats in the state Senate. So, on the day that Walker and his pet GOP were going to pop the champagne on the success of their heist, Democrats decided to take the day off and go to Chicago for beer and hot dogs... Or something. No one actually knows where they are.

In order for the bill to pass, there have to be 20 members voting. If it's not 20, then there's no quorum. In other words, this thing can't possibly pass today. Or tomorrow. Or anytime until the dems decide to come back from their little vacation. When will that be? A top dem asked the same question.

"The question is when are the Republicans going to sit down seriously with the other side on this issue and try to work something out," asks Sen. John Erpenbach - which is a real name. "When are we going to be reasonable about this and slow things down?"

Republicans need to answer those questions, because -- by wild coincidence -- that's probably when the Democrats plan to get back from their field trip. (Reuters)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, we've got a special cartoon today. It's educational and it's all about math! Yay!

Military Math Boot Camp
Click for animation

Don't try that math in school, kids... (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Runaway Wisconsin State Senator Wins Internet."

Democrat Lena Taylor updates her Facebook status as "brb," which I guess is some sort of commie code. (Wonkette)

A Drastic Solution for a Phony Crisis

Another short one today. Here's the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda, courtesy of Associated Press:

Thousands of protesters have been jamming the building daily, hoping to convince state lawmakers of the foolishness of Governor Scott Walker's plan to basically dismantle most public employee unions. It's a plan that moves the budget burden from those who can afford it, to middle class families. Not only is this incredibly unjust, but it's a recipe for economic disaster, driving down consumer demand as thousands of public employees are forced to cut back drastically.

With this as the backdrop, I give you a must-read editorial in Madison's The Capital Times:

[L]ike just about every other state in the country, Wisconsin is managing in a weak economy. The difference is that Wisconsin is managing better -- or at least it had been managing better until Walker took over. Despite shortfalls in revenue following the economic downturn that hit its peak with the Bush-era stock market collapse, the state has balanced budgets, maintained basic services and high-quality schools, and kept employment and business development steadier than the rest of the country. It has managed so well, in fact, that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently released a memo detailing how the state will end the 2009-2011 budget biennium with a budget surplus.

In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state's budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker's new spending schemes -- or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues -- the "crisis" would not exist.

So Scott Walker literally puts the state in the red paying back wealthy donors and cronies, then takes that deficit -- that he created -- and uses it as an excuse to screw working families. This isn't just wrong, this isn't just crony capitalism, this is corrupt. It may be legal corruption, but it's corrupt all the same. Walker is taking money away from working families, so he can give it to special interests.

There isn't a word that accurately describes how angry I am with this man right now.



News Roundup for 2/16/11

Man hides under desk
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

-Headline of the day-
"Union Protests Continue, Teachers Call In Sick Opposing WI Gov's Proposals."

Wisconsin's Scott Walker continues his quest to become America's worst governor as protesters basically invade the Capitol building in protest of his plan to dismantle most public employee unions. Schools are shutting down, traffic to the capitol square is nonexistent and Walker's support in the state is dropping like a stone.

So Scott's solution? Reiterate his threat to call out the National Guard, who -- at this point -- would probably grab signs and join in the marching.

Seeing his young governorship crumbling around his ears, Walker went all Baghdad Bob, claiming the protests numbering in the tens of thousands weren't significant, because there are "about 5.5 million people in the state." So I guess if you aren't actually out there with the firefighters, the teachers, the university employees, and the public works guys, you're totally, 100% behind Scott Walker.

You know, it's that sort of finger-on-the-pulse-of-the-people thinking that got Gov. Walker where he is today -- hiding under his desk, drinking heavily, and wishing everyone would just go away. (Talking Points Memo)

-2nd amendment remedy-
Stephen Colbert breaks down a new bill being proposed by Arizona state senator and Second Amendment hero Ron Gould.

So, to sum up, if you're a really, really stupid person and you hurt someone with a gun, you'd be golden. (Comedy Central)

-Bonus HotD-
"Barack Obama plays hardball with veto threat."

And so the Newt-Gringrichification of John Boehner begins... (Politico)

The Great GOP Wealth Redistribution

John BoehnerOver the last two years since President Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it. We're broke. It's time for us to get serious about how we're spending the nation's money.
-House Speaker John Boehner

All told, we find that Boehner’s 200,000 number is way off. We rate it False.

At this point, it should be abundantly clear that Republicans are about as interested in jobs as they are in the truth. Likewise, the math suggests that they aren't really all that interested in the deficit, either. After all, in demanding that the tax cuts for the richest 2% of Americans be extended, they've committed to adding $36 billion to the deficit. Yet, now that those tax cuts have been extended, Republicans insist on paying for them after the fact. So they propose taking things away from you. It's a massive redistribution of wealth, from the middle class to the wealthy. And, in the mainstream media, almost no one is pointing this out.

Remember during the healthcare debate, when Republicans posed as defenders of Medicare? Yeah, they aren't doing that anymore. In the name of appeasing the Almighty Deficit, while preserving the Sacred Tax Cuts, Republicans now demand cuts to entitlements -- meaning Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

The term you're looking for right now is "bait and switch."

If all those "town hall mob" types are silent now that their money is really under attack, others are not. In the Grand Republican attempt to rob from the middle class to give to the rich, some people are fighting back. You can go ahead and thank them later for it.

[Wisconsin State Journal:]

In one of the largest protests in recent memory, thousands of angry union supporters gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday to oppose a bill by Gov. Scott Walker that would greatly weaken organized labor in Wisconsin.

More than 12,000 protesters gathered in two separate rallies outside the Capitol, many of them carrying signs and chanting "Recall Walker" or "Kill this bill." Thousands more crowded inside the rotunda and watched TV monitors broadcasting a public hearing on the governor's proposal.

Capitol Police officers, Department of Natural Resources wardens, UW police and state troopers provided beefed-up security, but the crowd remained peaceful -- if loud.

In case you missed it, Republican Governor Scott Walker proposed what is essentially the destruction of public employee unions in the state, in order to balance the budget (a constitutional requirement), without raising taxes -- especially on the wealthy. So Walker's decided to take money out of the pockets of state employees and offer it to wealthy business owners. Those business owners will then relocate to Wisconsin and, by "creating jobs," give all that money back to workers. If no part of that makes any damned sense to you at all, then congratulations, your brain works.

And this isn't a new scheme in Wisconsin. For years, our business tax rates have been out of whack with our personal tax rates -- giving huge breaks to businesses in hopes that they'll relocate here. As a result, a GM plant in Janesville shut down -- just one in a long string of plant closures and businesses moving out of state. Turns out that taxation isn't the be-all and end-all of business location decisions. They also look at the supply chain and infrastructure and even the quality of the potential workers -- good schools help there.

But, if shifting the tax burden away from the wealthy to the middle class hasn't actually worked to create jobs, you'd never know it from listening to Republicans. Their wealthy donors -- their true constituency -- demand deeper and deeper tax cuts and the Republican Party, corrupt to their core, are more than happy to give it to them, while cooking up slick pitches to sell you on screwing yourself over. After all, that money has to come from someplace, so -- of course -- it'll come from you.

It'll be taken in the form of cuts to entitlements, which you paid into and deserve to see returned to you. It'll be taken in the form of cuts to services and education, in decreased regulation as cuts are made to oversight boards to fund the tax cuts for the rich. It'll be taken in the form of lower wages, as union-busting drives the prevailing wage down and unemployment rises because public sector workers have been laid off, increasing competition in the labor market and driving down demand for new workers. It'll come in the form of poorer education for your children, decreased job stability, and increased poverty.

When it comes to a decision about whether to screw you or give the rich another handout, be prepared to drop your pants. Because that decision has already been made. If John Boehner's statement doesn't prove to you, absolutely and without question, that Republicans don't give a rat's ass about jobs -- or you -- then you're just committed to your own chumpery. It's become a religion to you and there's nothing I can do to save you from yourself or from those Republican shamans you worship.

But don't be surprised if people try to save themselves.



I'm Sticking With the Union

This is the extent of my morning post today. I'm hitting the streets with a few thousand of my fellow Wisconsinites.
WISC-TV, Madison:

Public and private sector union leaders in Wisconsin are coming together to oppose Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to take away collective bargaining rights for nearly all public employees in the state and force them to pay more for their pensions and health insurance.

Union leaders at a news conference on Monday said ending collective bargaining will weaken the middle class in Wisconsin. They are urging Walker to instead resume negotiations with the unions. Thousands of union members were expected to converge on the Capitol on Tuesday for a hearing.
Wisconsin State Journal:

"It is very possible that if the vote goes against public employees, we will witness something that hasn't happened since the 70s: massive strikes," [Mike Sacco, president of the WLEA local that represents UW and Capitol cops] writes. "This may be the only way to fight this 'wartime' mentality of the state. Only with mass unity of the teachers and all other public employees will we be able to beat back this aggression by the governor's office."

While I'm not a public employee, this just plain ain't right. These are good people and good workers. They've been loyal employees and when their employer treats them like crap, someone has to stand up for them. Especially in this case, where the people of Wisconsin are the employer.

Scott Walker may think it's fun to be a lousy, tyrannical boss. But I don't. I'm going out to stand with my employees.


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News Roundup for 2/14/11

Man with tinfoil hat
Likely 2012 GOP nominee

-Headline of the day-
"The GOP's enormous, gaping 2012 vacuum."

And we're not just talking about Sarah Palin here... Ba-dum-bum!

If the CPAC conference proved anything, it's that the ultra-conservative base has no freakin' clue what it is they want and that's hurting them. According to the report, "If you want to declare a winner from CPAC, the annual conservative convention that wrapped up over the weekend, a good case could be made for Barack Obama, mainly because the proceedings underscored the degree to which every likely GOP presidential candidate has serious deficiencies."

Despite Ron Paul winning the Crazy People's Action Conference straw poll, pretty much everyone is in agreement that Mittens Romney is the strongest candidate, real-world-wise. And the problem there is that Mittens sucks. Coming in second in the straw poll, he's been running like hell away from his own healthcare plan in Massachusetts, which is virtually identical to the dreaded "ObamaCare." So, barring the unforeseen, he's primaried out (do you really believe the wingnut candidates aren't going to attack him for it?).

Everyone else is either too crazy to beat Obama or too cautious to blow their chance on a losing campaign.

Which probably means Palin-Bachmann '12. (War Room)

-It kinda, sorta has something to do with Valentines Day-
Love, medicine, and politics.

Venn Diagram
Click for fullsize comic

Makes perfect sense to me. (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

-Bonus HotD-
"Iran Protests Go Crazy (Somewhere John Bolton Is Planning To Nuke Iran)"

Yeah, but John Bolton's always doing that. (Wonkette)

The No Job Agenda

Union WorkersJobs, jobs, jobs. Republicans are all about jobs. Except they aren't. When it comes to things that will definitely create actual, real-world jobs -- i.e., infrastructure spending -- they're against it. But when it comes to pie-in-the-sky schemes that have never created jobs -- i.e., tax give-aways to the wealthy and corporations -- they're all for it. The reason is simple. The GOP is about jobs; not very good jobs, not very plentiful jobs, and jobs not to workers' advantage.

It's basically supply and demand. If unemployment is high, then this drives wages down. Since the Republican Party represents businesses, not workers, unemployment is good for their constituency. But you don't get elected by promising high unemployment and low wages, so you make up some crackpot economic theory that immediate employment by government -- even if that employment is in the private sector -- is bad, but potential and hypothetical jobs down the road are good. Then, with the help of a rightwing media noise machine and a mainstream media completely uninterested in facts, you convince everyone that supply and demand is bass-ackward -- that employers, not consumers, are the "job creators" and that everything you have must be sacrificed on their altar. And presto chango: you've just been talked into giving away a little of your Social Security, a little of your Medicaid, to give a big, juicy tax break to the rich. Because this is going to create jobs. Never mind that it never has in the past -- this time for sure. Kick that football again, Charlie Brown.

Needless to say, if you aren't wealthy and you're voting Republican, you're being played for a sucker. Need proof? Consider how the right feels about unionized labor. Unions keep the prevailing wage higher, because of their ability to negotiate a decent wage and benefits. Whether you belong to a union or not, you benefit from union activities. When they lobby for laws that help their members, all workers benefit. And when they negotiate a better deal than management would've liked, they drive wages up in their industry. If there is anything that's a bigger roadblock to the Republican cheap labor agenda than unions, it's low unemployment.

All of which goes a long way toward explaining this:

[Talking Points Memo:]

Wisconsin's new Republican governor has set a new benchmark in fraying state-union relations in the wake of massive GOP victories in the November elections.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Scott Walker proposed stripping nearly all government workers of their collective bargaining rights. And as a warning shot across the bow, he told Wisconsin reporters Friday that he's alerted the National Guard ahead of any unrest, or in the event that state services are interrupted. Under his plan, which he'll include in his forthcoming budget proposal, most state workers would no longer be able to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits or anything other than higher salaries, which couldn't rise at a quicker pace than the Consumer Price Index.

In other words, Walker wants to bust the union. And, if you don't like it, here's a National Guard baton.

[John Nichols, The Capital Times:]

The governor’s budget repair bill, which includes a plan to gut collective bargaining protections for state employees, does not seek to get the state's fiscal house in order.

Rather, it is seeks a political goal: destroying public employee unions, which demand fair treatment of workers and hold governors of both parties to account when they seek to undermine public services and public education.

At every level, Walker's proposal sows the seeds of political, social and economic instability.

"The governor wants to ram a change that Democrats and Republicans agree is radical through the Legislature as part of a budget repair bill -- with no serious hearings and little in the way of honest debate," Nichols goes on. "If he gets his way, the great mass of Wisconsinites will have no real say regarding the change."

And this isn't just something local to Wisconsin. Recently, the US Chamber of Commerce was caught in a scheme to undermine labor and those friendly to labor with a "surreptitious sabotage campaign." A scandal, by the way, that's getting no coverage in the corporate-owned press. If it's not on CNN, it never happened.

And that jobs agenda the Republicans claim to have; where is it? What will any of this do to create jobs? While complaining about unemployment, the GOP is working to cut government spending, which will result in job losses. After screaming, "Jobs, jobs, jobs!" for the better part of last year, you'd be hard pressed to find any effort by Republican leadership anywhere that will create jobs.

Because the fact is, they just aren't interested in that. It's contrary to their agenda.


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News Roundup for 2/11/11

Map of Iraq
According to one neocon, completely incapable of democracy

-Headline of the Day-
"Former Bush-Cheney National Spokesman Thinks Muslims Are Incapable Of Democracy: 'This Is The Middle East'."

If you want an accurate and clear-eyed view of the middle east, you talk to a neocon -- because they've been so right on everything so far.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone that Fox News turned to Terry Holt, a former national spokesman for the 2004 Bush-Cheney presidential campaign, to talk about the prospects for democracy in the newly-Mubarak-free Egypt. Foxbot Martha MacCallum said that Egyptian people "want democracy, they’re tired of being repressed, they want something better."

Nononononono! said Holt. Democracy is beyond the monkey-people of Egypt, because they're all like Arab and stuff. See, the "traditions there do not support their embracing" democracy, because it's an alien concept. Never mind that they're talking about democracy all the damned time, Egyptians have never even heard of it.

Kind makes you wonder why the neocons wanted to dick around with democracy in Iraq, doesn't it? (ThinkProgress, with video)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, you know that Ariana Huggington lady? She just got richer! Yay!

News in a Nutshell
Click for animation

Maybe the rest of us just got a little poorer, though... (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Republicans turn Congress into 'clogged toilet,' says Democratic lawmaker."

Cogent, concise, and accurate. (The Hill)


Woman with 'out' written on her palm
It looks like yesterday's reporting that Hosni Mubarak would step down as President of Egypt were premature -- but barely. I was going to write about something else, but there's only one real story today. Mubarak has stepped down and there's dancing in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. If Mubarak had hoped yesterday's speech would save his butt, he was about as wrong as he could possibly be.

[Juan Cole:]

After the crowd at Tahrir Square absorbed the news that Mubarak was still president and that his gestures to them were mostly vague or symbolic, they were from all accounts angry. Some took off their shoes and showed the soles, a sign of disrespect. To their credit, the protesters mostly quietly dispersed in order to get some rest for Friday, when they were already calling for major protests.

But, some were so exercised that 3,000 headed toward the presidential palace, where they staged a demonstration. Another 10,000 headed toward the television station, which they surrounded. The symbology here was dire, since the first thing a coup-maker in the Arab world does is to send tanks to surround the television station.

In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, the crowds were enraged by the speech, according to Aljazeera. correspondent. Some chanted, "Hosni Mubarak, shame, shame; you want Egypt engulfed in flame!" They planned for a big procession on Friday after prayers, and smaller neighborhood rallies.

So yeah, that didn't go so well. Apparently, it caught everyone by surprise. Not only was the White House and the CIA expecting Mubarak to step down yesterday, but so was the Egyptian military. In punking the military, Mubarak severed the one thin thread still connecting him to power.

[New York Times:]

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned his post and turned over all power to the military, ending his 30 years of autocratic rule and bowing to a historic popular uprising that has transformed politics in Egypt and around the Arab world.

The streets of Cairo exploded in shouts of "God is Great" moments after Mr. Mubarak's vice president and longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, announced during evening prayers that Mr. Mubarak has passed all authority to a council of military leaders.

"Taking into consideration the difficult circumstances the country is going through, President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the post of president of the republic and has tasked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to manage the state's affairs," Mr. Suleiman, grave and ashen, said in a brief televised statement.

The reports I've seen have the military ceding power to the Supreme Court at some point, with Omar Sulieman also on the outs, but there's a chance those are incorrect.

I'm keeping this short today, because I don't want to get too deep into a situation that's so open-ended and start making predictions. Egypt is a bit of a blank slate now, but the only thing that seems 100% certain is that Hosni Mubarak will not return to power. And the only direction in which Egypt can move is forward. There is no doubt that we're watching the middle east change in a very fundamental way.


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For Republicans, a Coming Dose of Reality

Bucket of ice waterPart of the problem I have with Republicans is that they refuse to live in reality. For most, the cause is the fact that they don't have to. Former lobbyists, PAC folks, wealthy vanity campaigners, CEOs, and various and sundry political hacks, the closest many have come to hardship is finding out the club is out of topshelf scotch. They still have nightmares about that awful, awful rail booze.

But for others, there's a self-inflicted ignorance. Many of the fresh new GOP faces in Washington represent the first generation of lawmakers whose entire adult lives were spent under the spell of conservative talk radio. They were probably introduced to politics by Rush Limbaugh in the '90s and they haven't moved that dial since. If they don't live in the real world, it's because they no longer know where it is.

Regardless of the reason that reality is a strange neighborhood to them, when Republicans take a walk through it, it comes as something of a shock.


Ask any House Republican about repealing President Barack Obama's health care law, and you'll get the same fiery, self-assured talking points about tearing down what Speaker John Boehner has called a "monstrosity."

But talk to some of the 16 freshman lawmakers who have declined their government health benefits, and you'll hear a different side of the story -- about tough out-of-pocket expenses, pre-existing conditions and support for health reforms that would help those who struggle with their coverage. As they venture into the free market for health insurance, these lawmakers -- many of whom swept into office fueled by tea party anger over the health care law -- are facing monthly premiums of $1,200 and fears of double-digit rate hikes.

The experience has caused some of them to think harder about the "replace" part of the "repeal and replace" mantra the GOP has adopted regarding the health care law.

Being forced to face reality can be a bracing experience, like a bucket of cold water in the face. And, like that bucket of ice water, it can be about as welcome. So, it's not extremely surprising that many would go out of their way to create an elaborate, alternate reality where all solutions simple and the only people who don't see things that way are liars, fools, and communist stooges. Denial exists for a reason.

So, after foolishly accepting the challenge to live in reality for a little bit, these teabagger congress members are starting to see that maybe the "best healthcare system in the world" isn't so awfully great after all. In fact, it kind of blows. It's expensive, it doesn't cover a lot, and it leaves a lot of people out in the cold. So they start to think maybe when they plan to replace the healthcare law, they should consider something that looks a lot like the current healthcare law.

This sort of reality shock is about to hit all the new, ambitious GOPers, whether they turned down their Nazi gummint healthcare or not. And that's the root of John Boehner's problems -- it hasn't happened yet. But it's about to.


Faced with a revolt on the right, House Republicans scrambled Wednesday to adjust their budget strategy and come up with tens of billions of dollars in additional savings-- including a possible across-the-board cut -- to appease tea party supporters.

The day began with the once-proud House Appropriations Committee previewing what it saw as an unprecedented package of more than $40 billion in reductions from current domestic and foreign aid funding. But even as the numbers were released, conservatives at a morning caucus demanded twice the reductions. And by late in the day, the committee’s cardinals were closeted away in the Capitol, fending off talk of across-the-board cuts but also admitting they will most likely need days more to come up with an alternative.

Boehner had been talking with the White House about budget cuts, but the 'baggers seem to want to cut the Obama administration out of the loop. They want big, deep cuts, they want them now, and there's no way in hell they're ever going to get them. They may want to say, "Damn the White House, cut, cut, cut!" but they're forgetting that you can't remove the president from the process. He's got a big, fat veto pen and Republicans have nowhere near the votes to override it. They may not like it, but Barack Obama is still the president. All the founder worship and tricorner hats don't mean that Republicans now rule Washington. It was an election, not a revolution, and the GOP still only controls a fraction of the lawmaking process. Democrats control the White House and the Senate. Like it or not, we're still winning here.

What happens when all these frothing 'baggers figure out that demanding everything may mean getting almost nothing? If the sixteen who turned down federal health insurance are any indication, they may just moderate a bit. In this case, John Boehner will find his coalition a lot less fractious, but not as close to the far right as he'd like. The danger is that the phony populism will become real populism and members will start considering all the people, not just the ones with the deepest pockets. Big money donors may be an advantage, but they're not a guarantee -- you still can't literally buy votes.

Of course, this may not happen at all. Republicans have a long history of putting ideology above people and their almost religious faith in that ideology above reality. Why do you think they still cling to their stupid supply-side economics, despite the fact that it's failed over and over and over? In this case, Boehner winds up with the same rebellious House he has now and winds up becoming the next Newt Gingrich. Gridlock reigns, becomes unpopular, and Boehner becomes its face.

That's a reality and, whether House leadership likes it or not, they're going to have to face it.


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News Roundup for 2/9/11

Man drinks beer on couch
House GOP's work ethic

-Headline of the day-
"Will the 112th Congress work hard -- or hardly work?"

I know what you're thinking; congress hardly worked before. But this is different. As is fitting for a new House Speaker with a fun in the sun, Tom Collins by noon work ethic, there's a new schedule for all those congress critters eager to earn the tax payer's money. And boy, are they ever not going to earn it.

Asks the editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor, "Would you like to earn a week's vacation for every two weeks you work? If so, you should run for Congress. According to the restructured legislative calendar that new House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia has set, House lawmakers in Washington will generally stay in session for two consecutive weeks, then get a week off."

Slick deal, huh? And, if you think about it, it's sort of a backdoor pay raise, since those Reps get paid the same amount regardless of how long they work. On a per hour basis, congressional pay just increased 33%. Yay!

And what are they going to do with all this extra time? Imagine a compound word incorporating "fund" and "raising" and you get the idea. (Christian Science Monitor)

-Not exactly blinded by love-
The new healthcare reform law is almost certain to wind up before the Supreme Court. At this point, the only way I can think of that it wouldn't would be if the court refused to hear the case -- or cases, as those case may be.

So the fact that Ginni Thomas, wife of SCOTUS guy Clarence Thomas, is opening a lobbying shop to give "voice to... the tea party movement in the halls of Congress" has people wondering if Clarence can be all that fair a judge here. In fact, the conflict of interest would be so clear that 74 members of congress are asking him to recuse himself from the case before there even is a case, just to be on the safe side.

"As Members of Congress, we were surprised by recent revelations of your financial ties to leading organizations dedicated to lobbying against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," they wrote to Clarence in a letter. "We write today to respectfully ask that you maintain the integrity of this court and recuse yourself from any deliberations on the constitutionality of this act."

They go on to say that "there is a strong conflict between the Thomas household's financial gain through your spouse's activities and your role as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. We urge you to recuse yourself from this case." In fact, hearing the case would stand a damned good chance of violating federal law.

But don't worry, Thomas would probably take any charges against him all the way to the Supreme Court, where we all know he'd dispassionately dispense justice upon himself. (ThinkProgress)

-Bonus HotD-
"Rep. Chris Lee Sending Half-Naked Pics To Ladies On Craigslist."

Care to take a stab at which party he belongs to and how he says he feels about the "sanctity of marriage?"

Got it in one, didn't you? (Wonkette)

Fracturing the Coalition

John Boehner cries It was a move worthy of Harry Reid. Assuming that an extension of key provisions of the PATRIOT Act would pass easily, House Speaker John Boehner put the bill on the fast track, suspending the rules to push it through so they could get right to work on such "job-saving" measures as defunding healthcare reform and shutting down Planned Parenthood. In doing so, Boehner had to raise the bar -- instead of needing a simple majority to pass, the bill needed a two-thirds majority to pass without amendments or debate. Turns out the Speaker's whip count was off a tad and the measure failed by seven votes.

Don't get too excited though. It'll be reintroduced the slow way and it'll pass. Then again, that's what everyone said about it this time. With the bill open to amendments and debate, it may be that opponents can either weaken the bill or insert a poison-pill amendment to give other members an incentive to vote against it. The clock is ticking. If the extension isn't passed, the provisions -- "roving" surveillance, so ability to snoop through personal records (including library records), and the ability to spy on people not affiliated with terrorists groups -- end on February 28.

Good news, to be sure. But the importance of this decidedly temporary defeat isn't the only thing that's being overstated here. Many are crediting the Tea Party with the defeat. The problem with this analysis: many 'baggers voted for the extension and, if you look at the number of those who dissented from their party, it doesn't actually add up.

Dave Weigel points out that while eight Tea Party freshman voted against the bill -- and yes, it needed seven to pass -- they were part of a block of twenty-six GOP dissenters. Handing this victory to the Tea Party may not be extremely accurate, but that hasn't stopped the left from encouraging these newly-minted "mavericks."

"It is time we really remember what the essence of that motto 'Don't Tread on Me' really means. It means you protect your liberty.You stand for freedom..." Rep. Dennis Kucinich said during the debate -- and repeated in a statement after this victory for his side of the argument. "We are all patriots here and we all want America to be protected but we have to remember our Constitutional experience...We didn't hear 'give me liberty or give me a wiretap.' We didn't hear 'don't tread on me... but it's okay to spy.' What we heard was a ringing declaration for freedom.And it was enshrined in our Constitution." Kucinich, one of the leftiest lefties in all of leftiedom, was deliberately hitting on Tea Party themes during and after the debate. It's obvious that he saw PATRIOT Act opponents' opportunity to chip away Republican votes a lot more clearly than did Speaker Boehner or House GOP Whip Eric Cantor.

And, for a victory so temporary, Democrats' joy seemed a little overstated -- from The Hill:

Veteran Democratic Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.) exited the House chamber boasting that the GOP unsuccessfully held the scheduled 15-minute vote open for a total of 35 minutes to twist enough Republican arms to change the outcome.

"They didn't have the votes! They kept trying to get them to switch, but couldn't get them," Frank exclaimed as he walked through reporters in the Speaker's Lobby, which is just off the House floor.

Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay (Mo.) laughed as he told The Hill, "We're so happy, I'm so happy. I voted against it. They tried to get enough Rs to switch their votes, because the Tea Party voted 'no' also... but it wasn't enough."

Seems like a lot of jubilation over what is really just a delay of the nearly inevitable, doesn't it? That's because it's not just about setting the GOP agenda back a couple of weeks -- it's about finding a chink in the Republican Majority's armor.

Like all parties, the Republican Party is really a coalition party made up of people with different priorities. And, like all majority parties, that coalition is broader in the GOP than among the Democrats. The days of "lock-step," robotic Republicanism are over -- up to a point, cutting taxes and spending are still a near-consensus in the party. And people like Boehner and Cantor, whose political chops are centered around a unified front, seem completely unprepared for it . Further, the fact that this vote failed when House leadership thought it was a sure bet shows that they thought Republican dissent was almost impossible. Now Boehner will have to twist arms and wrangle votes like a Pelosi and, frankly, I doubt he's up to the job. A comically oversized gavel doesn't give you oversized competence. There's a lot less scotch and golf in John Boehner's future -- probably a lot less than he's prepared for.


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