News Roundup for 7/29/11

Nye looks aghast
Bill Nye reacts to a question on Fox News

-Headline of the Day-
"Bill Nye Explains To Fox News Moon Volcanoes Don't Cause Global Warming."

You might think that's one of Wonkette's typical comically hyperbolic headlines, but it's actually pretty damned close to the mark. See, Bill Nye the Science Guy was on Fox to talk about a rare volcano found on the moon. During the interview, the foxbot asked this deeply penetrating question; "Does it go, you know, anywhere close to the climate change debate that's underway here on earth? I mean, you know, if the moon had erupting volcanoes, a few years, well, a few million years ago, however you want to put it...
you know, it's not like we've been up there burning fossil fuels."

At which point, Bill blinks and answers with what the report describes as a "blank stare."

You can understand Nye's problem here -- where the fuck do you even begin? Do you start by explaining that burning fossil fuels doesn't cause volcanoes or by saying that volcanoes aren't causing global warming? And, while you're making this decision, you're also distracted by the astonishing stupidity of it all. Regardless of where you start, is Copernicus over here even capable of understanding it?

"That's the last time Fox News tries to invite an actual children's science teacher on the program," the report surmises. Yeah well, science was invented by commies to launch sputnik and fluoridate water with zombie serum.

Patriots don't do science. (Wonkette, with video)

-The GOP position on the debt ceiling explained-
See, it works like this:

Uncle Sam poster - 'I want you to pay for the richest one percent'

Hope that clears up any questions you might have. (Whip or Will)

-Bonus HotD-
"More Top Democrats Come Out in Support of 14th Amendment Solution."

If you haven't heard of it, it basically involves the President declaring the debt ceiling hereby raised, getting taken to the Supreme Court, and winning.

Not the worst plan ever. (Firedoglake)

Say it With Me; John Boehner is Just Wasting Everyone's Time

Seriously, what the hell is Sir John of Orange doing? Last night, Boehner finally had to abandon his attempt to get his debt limit bill passed, because he couldn't get enough votes in the House to push it through. But that's OK, because there was no way in hell the Senate was going to pass it anyway. Metaphorically speaking, he was gunning the engine in a desperate attempt to run straight into a brick wall before the clock ran out.

Now, he's actually taking the zero chance his bill had of surviving in the Senate and moving it into negative territory, by tying his bill to a Balanced Budget Amendment to please the crazies.


House Republican leaders will tie a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution to their two-step debt-ceiling bill — a move that is all but certain to clinch the necessary votes to pass Speaker John Boehner's proposal a day after it stalled...

Several GOP conservatives had held back their support for Boehner's bill because they wanted the balanced budget amendment provision included. It was the main point of contention in Thursday night's talks between GOP leaders and the holdouts.

The House plans to vote on the bill Friday afternoon.

"If Boehner pulls off a victory in the House, the bill will then head to a hostile Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the package is dead on arrival," the report goes on. "Reid is preparing to introduce his own debt-ceiling package, calling it 'the last train out of the station.' It shares some similarities with Boehner's plan, but would raise the debt-ceiling into 2013, rather than require a second vote in February."

Of course, the 'baggers are happy with the Balanced Budget Amendment, because they believe that people in Washington are incapable of doing their jobs -- while bending over backwards to prove that assessment correct. A Balanced Budget Amendment could more honestly be called the "Stop Me Before I Spend Again" amendment, since (presumably) no one put a gun to Republican's heads and made them vote for unfunded deficit fertilizer like Medicare Part D, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy. Taken together, these have all grown deficits at a record pace, while all these teabagging freshmen were sitting in their easy chairs, listening to Rush Limbaugh, and cheering it all on. Want to cut down on deficit spending? Elect fewer Republicans, not more.

And, in all the drama and late-night arm-twisting Boehner's plan is generating, the sheer pointlessness of his efforts is being lost. None of this is going to go anywhere, it's all a waste of time, it's all just fiddling while Rome burns. The media should be spending a lot less time on the behind-the-scenes wrangling and a lot more on the stupid pointlessness of it all. We're four days away from the debt limit deadline and Boehner's dicking around with doomed, symbolic legislation designed solely to create the appearance of doing actual work.

It's recently been asked if this is the "worst congress ever." Maybe we should narrow that down; is John Boehner the worst speaker ever?



News Roundup for 7/28/11

Man with gun to his head
John Boehner rounds up the votes for his debt limit plan

-Headline of the Day-
"Payback may be coming for congressman's 'disloyalty'."

Right now, Speaker Boehner is trying to round up enough votes to get his debt limit plan out of the House of Representatives. This is super-important, despite the fact that it will then go to the Senate to die. Yeah, Boehner's wasting everyone's time, but so what? It's super-important that this thing get passed. Why? STOP ASKING QUESTIONS!

Anyway, it really, really tight as of this writing. He's basically one vote short -- but he knows one place he might get it. And that place is Rep. Jim Jordan's Ohio district. See, the census has Ohio getting fewer congressional districts and Republicans in that state back Boehner. Jordan's a Tea Party nutjob, so he supports a more crash-and-burny approach to the debt limit, defying Boehner's calls for a just-burny solution. As a result, Ohio Republicans are threatening to draw him out of the new congressional district maps.

"He doesn't know it, but he solved a problem for Republican line-drawers by (figuratively) standing up and saying, 'I'm a jerk and I deserved to be punished,'" says an anonymous source. So it's get in line or be eaten.

Republican cannibalism; one of the more fearsome sights a cruel Mother Nature has to offer. (Columbus Dispatch)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, Dogboy and Mr. Dan are back and they're going to talk about the debt ceiling! Yay!

Click for animation

We have to destroy America to save it! (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Rep. Paul Broun Urges Debt-Addicted America To 'Give Up Its Country Club Membership'"

And while you're at it, knock it off with all the Lear Jets. (Wonkette)

Republicans Call to Rally the Base, But the Base is a No-Show

Yesterday, the farthest-right congressional Republicans decided it was time to call in the troops. Facing criticism from all sides that they've been too extreme, too irresponsible, too unyielding, and too crazy in the debt limit fight, they decided that a show of force was necessary. What they got instead was a sad little metaphor for their own delusions of popularity.


Handful of Tea PartiersIt had all the makings of a big time tea party rally: Presidential candidate Herman Cain, conservative Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah all showed up outside the Capitol Wednesday to urge members to “hold the line” against a deficit reduction compromise.

The only thing missing? A big audience.

At the start of the rally, which was organized by the American Grassroots Coalition and Tea Party Express, there were roughly 15 attendees waiting to hear the conservative lawmakers speak. By the time the senators had spoken there were still fewer than 50 tea partiers in attendance.

"My Republican leadership in the House is doing a great job. Imagine having to negotiate with Barack Obama. Imagine having to negotiate with Harry Reid. Give John Boehner, give Eric Cantor all the credit in the world," Rep. Joe Walsh told what, for lack of a better word, I'll go ahead and call a "crowd," "But embolden them. Let them know that the American people are ready for a real reform. They need your help. We need your help."

It's a thought, but I really doubt that a few dozen people are going to do the trick.

And this points out one of the problems facing the Tea Party faction in particular and the Republican Party in general -- they claim to speak for the American people, but they don't. There's a reason why Republicans keep citing the 2010 elections as evidence of what the American people want. And that reason is that, since then, there really hasn't been a lot of evidence that the people want what Republicans are selling at all. They used to be able to organize huge rallies, but that was really just a fad. When you offer simple solutions to complex problems, it doesn't take long for people to lose interest in the process. People start talking about debt limit negotiation, whip counts in the House, and the nation's bond ratings and their eyes glaze over. Turns out it wasn't so simple after all. Disappointment mixes with sheer boredom and they wander off, their attention spans spent. Because, let's face it, people who demand simple solutions demand them for a reason. That reason is not that they have the patience for the complexities of reality.

As things stand today, no one is really winning the public opinion war, but Republicans are definitely losing it. Gallup reports that approval for President Obama is at 45%, congressional Democrats at 33%, and congressional Republicans at 28%. Republican populism is missing that whole "popular" part.

Even among Republicans, support for the party is weak. Where 82% of Democrats approve of Obama and 73% approve of dems in congress, only 57% of Republican voters feel the same way about the GOP. So I guess a Tea Party rally with a crowd numbering in the dozens doesn't come as much of a surprise.

Intended as a show of strength, their rally demonstrated only their weakness.



News Roundup for 7/27/11

Circus elephant
GOP's new symbol

-Headline of the Day-
"House Republicans Revolt Against Boehner Debt Plan."

Who's the leader of House Republicans? Turns out it's not Speaker of the House John Boehner. In fact, it's looking a lot like it's nobody. Remember how Boehner went on the teevee to tell everyone that Obama's plan sucked and his ruled? Yeah, turns out that a lot of Republicans think his plans sucks. A lot GOPers don't want to raise the debt ceiling at all, mostly because they're stupid, insane, or some combination of the two.

You might remember that Boehner ran it past the guy he thought ran the House -- Rush Limbaugh -- and the boss said he was cool with it. So that means that these 'bagger nuts are to the right of Rush Limbaugh.

Boehner and his partner in crime Eric Cantor have been reduced to bullying and pleading with the crazies, but it's no go. So far, they've chosen their kamikaze run and they're sticking with it. (Crooks and Liars)

-"What could I do?"-
The real purpose of a Balanced Budget Amendment...

Click to embiggen

Any questions? (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Endangered Species Act Restored In House Revolt By Democrats."

Wow, score one for the good guys...

Although, the fact that I'm surprised demonstrates just how screwed we really are. (ThinkProgress)

Giving the Center Finger to Centrism

Paul Krugman identifies a problem around which many other problems orbit. I hesitate to call it a "philosophy," because it's too reactionary to really qualify. But the correct word escapes me, so "philosophy" it is. It's the philosophy of those who believe with all their little hearts that the grass is always literally greener on the other side of the fence. It's a philosophy born of wishful thinking.

Watching our system deal with the debt ceiling crisis -- a wholly self-inflicted crisis, which may nonetheless have disastrous consequences -- it's increasingly obvious that what we're looking at is the destructive influence of a cult that has really poisoned our political system.

And no, I don't mean the fanaticism of the right. Well, OK, that too. But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.

No, the cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.

"Think about what's happening right now," he writes. "We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating -- offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion."

Never mind that this is exactly the wrong debate to be having right now anyway. At a time of fragile economic recovery and low employment, we're not debating whether it's wise to cut government spending -- thereby reducing demand and putting government workers on the street, where they'll add competition to an already overly-competitive jobseeker market -- we're debating how much of this stupidity we should engage in. This is what passes for a "serious, adult conversation" -- a debate over whether it's better to be brainless or merely stupid. We should be talking about ways to increase demand and employment and let the ensuing increased tax revenues go a long way toward reducing the deficit.

But we can't have that conversation, because that would mean abandoning compromise and practicing leadership. And that would be the worst thing ever. Compromise is always good and if the debate is whether to cut off both healthy legs or none, then the obvious sane solution is to split the difference and amputate one.

Part of the problem is Broderism -- the belief that the appearance of functioning government is more important than results. That good government always involves "reaching across the aisle," regardless of how lamebrained those on the other side of that aisle are. And if the results are a disastrous mix of half-measures, misplaced priorities, and dead-wrong ideologies, then at least the voters know that Washington can get things done. For the Broderist, an endless string of half-baked idiocy is proof that government works. And don't forget to admire how marvelously nonpartisan they are.

For the non-Broderist, the appeal of centrism is that it's just so damned lazy. You don't have to think about it, you don't have to consider the consequences, you just have to split the ideological difference on any given issue and talking heads on Sunday shows will wag their heads like you just dropped the wisdom of Solomon on them. How do you get from New York to L.A.? Well, you drive out to St. Louis, kill the engine, and say, "Close enough." Half a loaf is better than none, after all. And think of all the gas you've saved!

So we've got two sides arguing over exactly the wrong issue and almost no one is willing to point that out. Everyone is much more interested in identifying precisely where the center lies and declaring this -- this completely arbitrary position on the GOP/Democrat scale -- to be perfection.

"I think this is a moral issue. The 'both sides are at fault' people have to know better; if they refuse to say it, it's out of some combination of fear and ego, of being unwilling to sacrifice their treasured pose of being above the fray," Krugman writes. "It's a terrible thing to watch, and our nation will pay the price."

I hope he's wrong, but I'm pretty sure he's right.



Right Redefines "Christian" to Distance Themselves from Anders Breivik

O'ReillyOver at Fox's answer to the Huffington Post -- Fox Nation -- we're informed of the marvelous news that Bill O'Reilly "shredded" the media for unfairly labeling terrorist Anders Behring Breivik a Christian. This is tremendously unfair, O'Reilly argues, because the man is "is not attached to any church."

This is Stupid Argument Number One. By this argument, the President who most wore his Christian religion on his sleeve was no Christian at all.


Throughout the 2004 presidential campaign, Democratic candidate John Kerry has been more responsible than anyone for getting notoriously secular political reporters through the doors of churches on Sunday mornings. Ever since a few conservative bishops raised questions about Kerry's Catholicism, given his pro-choice positions, journalists have trailed the Senator to church, breathlessly wondering if this will be the week he's denied communion. Some have even snarkily commented that his Boston congregation--the Paulist Center--is insufficiently traditional, calling it "New-Agey." What they haven't done is take up the task of following President George W. Bush to his home church. That's because of one small problem: He doesn't have one.

According to O'Reilly, the "Christian angle came from a Norwegian policeman not from any fact finding." This is Stupid Argument Number Two, by virtue of being completely wrong. Not only did Breivik list his religion as Christian on his Facebook page, but according to the Associated Press, Breivik wrote about using "violent means to purge Europe of non-Christians and those he deemed traitors to Christian Europe" -- an odd self-destructive position for a non-Christian European to take.

Anyway, the whole thing is just a media conspiracy to make Christians look bad. "[T]the liberal media wants to make an equivalency between the actions of Breivik and the Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh and al Qaeda," O'Reilly complains. "The left wants you to believe that fundamentalists Christians are a threat just like crazy jihadists are." I guess this is unfair because so many atheists, Jews, and Buddhists have burned down abortion clinics, shot doctors, bombed federal buildings, had armed standoffs with the ATF, and have blown up so many Olympic parks.

But the core argument isn't that the media is treating Christians unfairly, but that a self-declared Christian was really no Christian. Christians just don't do these things, the Christian right argues, and -- using the "no true Scotsman" fallacy -- offer his Christian terrorism as proof that there aren't any Christian terrorists. No "true Christian" would commit these deadly acts, therefore no Christian does.

It took some doing, but I actually found an argument dumber than O'Reilly's. It probably won't surprise many to learn I found it at WorldNetDaily. In this particular bit of inanity, Breivik isn't a Christian because he believes in evolution. By this argument, there are only a handful of "real" Christians in Europe, where the superstitious notion of Creationism is overwhelmingly rejected. Again, we see a variation of the "no true scotsman" argument -- no "real" Christian would believe in evolution, therefore Anders Breivik is no Christian at all.

What both of these arguments (and they're just examples, there are plenty of others) ignore is the very basic tenet of Christian belief -- the absolute core and purpose of the entire religion; that no one is beyond redemption and that the only thing it takes to get into Heaven is acceptance of Jesus as your savior.If you accept Jesus as your savior, but kill dozens of people in Norway, you're a Christian -- by definition.

Now, imagine the situation is reversed and Muslims are saying a terrorist wasn't a "true" Muslim -- because it has been, plenty of times. Have the right bought that argument and, if not, why should we?



News Roundup for 7/25/11

Woman asleep in front of TV
Average voter watches debt limit fight

-Headline of the Day-
"Harry Reid Calls House Republicans' Bluff."

The debt limit follies go on and on as Harry Reid proposes a plan that gives Republicans everything they say they want and Republicans refuse it.

See, the GOP said they wanted $2.7 trillion in spending cuts, so they got that. They said they wanted it without tax increases, so they got that. What they didn't say was that they wanted Democrats to attack Medicare, to let them off the hook for the insanely unpopular plan Paul Ryan put together -- and they didn't get that, so no deal.

"Ah-ha!" says Harry. "I've got you now! Now we know your true purpose and you've been bargaining in bad faith and..." You know what? Nobody fucking cares anymore. That's what I'm sensing anyway. People see headlines like this and they translate it to "CONGRESS STILL DICKING AROUND." Maybe a week ago this would've amounted to something, but voters are suffering from stupid-fatigue. They just want it over and done with.

Give the GOP a final offer, say, "Take it or leave it," and let the chips lie. If they let the economy go belly-up, they can pay the price in November.

Fuck it already. (Matthew Yglesias)

-See, 'cause marriage is like that and stuff-
On Marcus Bachmann's "pray the gay away" "clinic":

Click to embiggen

Bah-dum-bump! (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Time Travel Impossible, Say Scientists."

Well there's a bummer. Turns out the Vulcan Science Directorate was right after all. (Discovery News)

When Ignoring Terrorism is Just "Good Politics"

Let us hope that the US (Democratic and Republican party) allows us, their European cultural and economical crown vassals, to liberate ourselves and deport the Muslims without them militarily intervening. We shouldn't forget that we have many allies in the US including a sizable faction of the Republican Party.

When Norwegian terrorism suspect Anders Behring Breivik wrote that in his "manifesto," it was probably a lot truer than he realized -- for reasons that he likely hadn't considered. It's easy to look at the anti-Muslim bigotry of rightwing figures like Herman Cain and come to the conclusion that other anti-Islam nuts have "allies" in the GOP. I'm not singling Cain out here, he was just the first who came to mind. There's no shortage of others.

KingBut the most obvious evidence isn't always the best evidence. After all, Cain isn't part of the institutional Republican Party. He's a GOP presidential candidate, sure, but he could legitimately claim the outsider label. He's a member of the party, but plays no real part in the party's structure. To that end, we have to look at people like New York Rep. Peter King to find these allies within the structural GOP.

Buried within a New York Times story (about the rightwing blogosphere whining that people are "unfairly" connecting them with a killer who quoted them on a regular basis) is this bit of info:

Despite the Norway killings, Representative Peter T. King, the New York Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he had no plans to broaden contentious hearings about the radicalization of Muslim Americans and would hold the third one as planned on Wednesday. He said his committee focused on terrorist threats with foreign ties and suggested that the Judiciary Committee might be more appropriate for looking at non-Muslim threats.

Kings argument makes absolutely no sense at all. Here I thought Norway was a foreign country. Boy, is my face red.

But behind the excuse is the reason for the excuse -- that investigating rightwing hate would be bad politics. Drag Pam Geller before the Homeland Security Committee and grill her about her radicalization of anti-Islam sentiments? Unthinkable. Like Breivik, King has an ally in Geller -- and all the other nuts who've stoked a "mosque at Ground Zero" hysteria for months and months on end. It'd mean looking into the crazies within his own party who fearmonger over a nonexistent threat of Sharia law. And it would mean angering a xenophobic Tea Party base who love the crazies and the hatebloggers. Worse, it would mean highlighting his own anti-Muslim grandstanding.

Meanwhile, avoiding bad politics means ignoring this, from the same NYT piece:

The killings in Norway "could easily happen here," said [Daryl Johnson, a Department of Homeland Security analyst]. The Hutaree, an extremist Christian militia in Michigan accused last year of plotting to kill police officers and planting bombs at their funerals, had an arsenal of weapons larger than all the Muslim plotters charged in the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks combined, he said.

We found a rightwing private army in Michigan, but it would be irresponsible of the Homeland Security Committee to investigate things like this, because it happened in the homeland. The security of the homeland is apparently not the responsibility of the Homeland Security Committee. I don't know. You figure it out. It doesn't make a damned bit of sense to me.

If one thing is clear, it's that Rep. Peter King is in violation of his oath of office -- in which he swore to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" -- in order to avoid a politically sticky situation. We're just going to ignore domestic threats, because a bunch of whiny bloggers and poorly-informed 'baggers refuse to acknowledge that the threat even exists.

Breivik was right that anti-Islam extremists have allies in the GOP. And if those allies aren't quite willing to join in the fight, they're more than willing to look the other way.



News Roundup for 7/21/11

West in scuba gear
Totally not-insane Rep. Allen West greeting visitors to his office

-Headline of the Day-
"West: Wasserman Schultz And Dems Attack Me Because I’m A Black Conservative."

When Allen West let his rage get away from him, it got him into a little hot water. After Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she didn't like the way West voted, West fired off an email that stopped just short of accusing her of being the Whore of Babylon. I guess because he's a thin-skinned prick or something. Really Al, if you want nothing but praise, you really picked the wrong profession.

Anyhoo, West's email struck a lot of people as pretty sexist (how would he have responded if Schultz wrote to tell him he proved he wasn't a man?) and now a bunch of Democratic women are demanding his apology.

Well, that's not going to happen. See, these commie whores -- including this one and this one -- are just being racist. They're mad because a black man had the guts to leave the liberal "21st-century plantation" -- whatever the hell that's supposed to mean (conservatives really seem to like inapt slavery metaphors).

"The thing that really most aggravates me is that there is this double standard, in that the people on the hard left can continue to attack conservatives and especially minority conservatives, and female conservatives," said West. "But yet when all of a sudden you stand up and you say that you will not tolerate this anymore, then they claim to be a victim -- which I find just absolutely laughable."

This strikes me as an odd statement to make while you're playing both the victim and the race cards. (Talking Points Memo)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, have you heard about the big drought in Africa? No? There's a reason for that...

We are the Whirled
Click for animation

The thing about starving people is that, if you ignore them, they really will go away. (MarkFiore.com)

-Headline of the Day-
"Fox Host: Free Birth Control Is Liberal Conspiracy To 'Eradicate The Poor.'"

Kinda, yeah. If people aren't having kids that they can't afford, a lot fewer of them will wind up in poverty.

Explain to me again how that's a bad thing? (ThinkProgress, with video)

There's Only One Pledge that Should Matter to House GOP -- And It's Not Grover Norquist's

The head of the anti-tax taliban, Americans for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist, just blinked.

[Washington Post:]

NorquistWITH A HANDFUL of exceptions, every Republican member of Congress has signed a pledge against increasing taxes. Would allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as scheduled in 2012 violate this vow? We posed this question to Grover Norquist, its author and enforcer, and his answer was both surprising and encouraging: No.

In other words, according to Mr. Norquist's interpretation of the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, lawmakers have the technical leeway to bring in as much as $4 trillion in new tax revenue -- the cost of extending President George W. Bush's tax cuts for another decade -- without being accused of breaking their promise. "Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase," Mr. Norquist told us. So it doesn't violate the pledge? "We wouldn't hold it that way," he said.

Norquist later walked his statement back a hair. "Any changes in taxes should be kept separate from the budget deal," he said on MSNBC this morning. It's not extremely clear why it should be kept separate from debt limit negotiations, other than the fact that Norquist sensed he'd given away too much. Still, if doing away with Bush's high-end tax cuts doesn't violate the pledge, it doesn't violate the pledge.

Of course, as a conservative activist, Grover probably doesn't feel like he's under any obligation to be shackled by consistency. After all, he said pretty much the exact opposite about a year ago, so there's definitely a pivot here.

"Norquist doesn't want Bush's budget-busting tax cuts to expire, but that's not the point," explains Steve Benen. "Republican lawmakers are terrified of violating his pledge, and here's Norquist, on the record, saying GOP members can keep their word and allow a return to Clinton-era rates."

The fact that "Republican lawmakers are terrified of violating his pledge" should be disturbing to everyone. There's only one pledge that actually matters -- their oath of office -- and if it ever comes to a point where a pledge not to raise taxes and a pledge to "bear true faith and allegiance" to the US and Constitution and "faithfully discharge" their required duties, then there shouldn't be any question at all that the anti-tax pledge goes out the window. You don't get to throw the nation -- and the globe -- into economic turmoil because you once made a promise to a fanatical nutjob.

You do what's best for the nation, Grover's little pledge be damned.



News Roundup for 7/20/11

Hostage taker
GOP House member "negotiates" with White House, Senate

-Headline of the Day-
"Former Senator Judd Gregg Says Shutdown Needed Before House Will Agree To Debt Limit Deal."

House Republicans have lost their damned minds. That's pretty much the gist of Judd Gregg's analysis of the debt limit standoff. "My gut tells me that we'll need a weekend of drama -- maybe a weekend of the government not paying its bills -- politicians need drama to make something happen," he says. "As soon as social security checks don't go out, the politics will change. I suspect it'll take artificial drama to get closure past the House." Of course, missing the deadline won't be so "artificial." The markets are already getting spooked.

Granted, the rest of his assessment sounds pretty pie-in-the-sky -- that a drop in the US credit rating is no big deal and no one's going to worry much about it -- but it gives you an idea of just how unseriously the average Republican is taking all this.

To make matters worse, Greg Sargent is reporting that the House Republican Nutjob Caucus (i.e., most of them) is "whipping furiously to block McConnell proposal in the House." The McConnell proposal is convoluted and silly, sure, but it's really the only way out for the GOP. "That all sounds pretty ominous," he writes. "But it's also possible, as Senate GOP and Dem aides are hoping, that there will be a drop dead moment of terror next week that will, shall we say, persuade people to rethink their positions a bit."

Wishful thinking, if you ask me. If Judd Gregg is any example, conservatives believe that default is no big deal. Besides, you can't scare someone sane, you can only scare them crazier.

And if you think you've seen the GOP hit rock bottom in the sanity department, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Expect Michele Bachmann to start making appearances with a birdcage on her head. (Business Insider)

-What you feel happening is not happening-
I'd say that the heat was frying Rush's brain, but all the drugs already took care of that. Anyway, you know this big heat wave we're having? We're not really having that. It's a government conspiracy to get us all to believe in global warming.

Don't forget Dittoheads, when you go out today, take a coat and refuse water. Prove them commies wrong. (Media Matters)

-Bonus HotD-
"Palin on mainstream media: 'I want to help them... I have a journalism degree.'"

Translation: "My movie crashed on arrival, this gravy train is winding down, and I have no shot at the presidency. Somebody give me a job!" (ThinkProgress)

Tea Party Freshmen's Phony Opposition to Spending

Canned porkYou could call it hypocritical, mostly because it is. Tea Party freshmen who claim to be all about cutting spending are practicing an "austerity for you, but not for me" approach to government funding. Elected on a platform of cutting government to the bone, they've since gone on to make sure their constituents know they're bringing home the bacon.

[New York Times:]

An examination of spending bills, news releases and communications with federal agencies obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that nearly two dozen freshmen have sought money for projects that could ultimately cost billions of dollars, while calling for less spending and banning pork projects.

Politicians have long advocated for projects on behalf of individuals and businesses back home, even without earmarks. Several lawmakers said they were merely providing a constituent service. But since many of the freshman Republicans campaigned on a pledge to cut spending and to change Washington’s time-honored ways, their support of spending projects suggests that in many cases ideology can go only so far in serving the needs of people back home.

Let me be clear here, contrary to Republicans' own rhetoric, there's nothing wrong with this per se. People send their tax dollars to Washington and they should expect to see some of it return to their states. The federal government should supply states with infrastructure funding, education funding, etc. This is not the problem.

And the hypocrisy is only a marginal problem. If they're grandstanding on cutting spending, while demanding government funds, that's just par for the Republican course. It's a party characterized by hypocrisy. At least taxpayers are getting a bang for their buck, despite the bluster of the blowhards representing them.

No, what this story does is highlight Republicans' real intentions. Republicans don't have a problem with spending and they haven't since Reagan. GOP presidents have racked up deficit after deficit. The party helped the previous president run up record deficits. The idea that Republicans are institutionally opposed to spending, taxes, and deficits is a joke.

What Republicans have a problem with are social programs and policies they oppose on purely political or ideological grounds. Why do you think they want to go after Medicare, rather than raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans? Why do you think they want to do away with collective bargaining at the state level -- a move that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker testified under oath would not save the state any money? Why were they all so silent when Orrin Hatch suggested we raise taxes on the poor and middle class, to spare the wealthy their share of the tax burden?

And now, why are they talking about drastic cuts to spending -- except that spending that helps them get reelected?

It's not spending they hate, it's Medicare, it's Medicaid, it's Social Security, it's labor laws and consumer protections and regulations limiting fraud and pollution and bribery. Home to creationist morons, they're social Darwinists who believe that government aid must be earned. And it must be earned by becoming filthy rich and donating to Republicans. Anyone else is on their own; the General Welfare clause doesn't apply to them.

The Republican Party isn't opposed to spending and it isn't opposed to bringing tax dollars back to the states. But they'll be goddamed if any of those tax dollars wind up in the pocket of someone who isn't already rich.



News Roundup for 7/19/11

Bachmann's crazy eyes
Still squirellier than a walnut grove

-Headline of the Day-
"Did team Pawlenty drop the Bachmann is unstable and on meds story?"

By now, you've probably figured out that Michele Bachmann is a lunatic. Well, it also turns out that she suffers "stress-triggered migraines" that sound an awful lot like bouts of even deeper goofiness. Like maybe these aren't migraines at all, but episodes where she's overcome by her own goofiness.

Needless to say, this may have some effect on the Iowa straw poll next month. Sure, Shelly's popular with all the other nuts right now, but what happens when she out-crazies them? Maybe not good things.

All of which has people who aren't fans of Bachmann at all wondering, "What is the deal here?" And the more they look into what is the deal, the more the deal looks like rival crazy Tim Pawlenty. According to Kombiz at AMERICAblog, "The story had two sources who were obviously high level staff members or connected to high level staff members who worked for Michele Bachmann. A third person verified that Michele Bachmann does indeed get migraines. I had a suspicion that the Pawlenty campaign was behind the hit, since they have one of Bachmann's former Chief of Staff, Ron Carey, supporting the campaign. The campaign has used Carey to attack Bachmann in the past. And the fact that Pawlenty's path requires that he beat Bachmann in the Ames straw poll next month."

Worse, "a Republican who is also suspicious that Pawlenty dropped the bogus story emailed me a link to another two high level staffers who would know about Bachmann's health problems and who are also supporting the Pawlenty campaign."

So, final score: Shelly's probably still a nut and Pawlenty's probably a dick. Once the smoke clears, neither is going to seem like much of a revelation. (AMERICAblog)

-Seems to be working, though-
Pawlenty's dickery seems to have Team Bachmann pretty rattled. As you can imagine, the press thinks this is the best thing ever and they've been trying to get a microphone in Shelly's face. ABC's lead investigative reporter Brian Ross attempted to do just that -- and nearly got his ass kicked by Bachmann goons.

Ross tried to get a comment in person from Bachmann at a rally. He followed her to a parking ramp, where things got ugly. "When Ross made a beeline for the white SUV waiting to carry Bachmann away, two Bachmann men pounced on him, grabbing and pushing him multiple times with what looked to me like unusual force," the report tells us. "In fact, I have never seen a reporter treated so roughly at a campaign event, especially not a presidential one. Ross was finally able to break away and lob his question at Bachmann one more time, but she ignored him again."

"We were videotaping Brian asking questions," says ABC News senior VP Jeffrey That'll probably work out great for the Bachmann '12 team.

Asked if he'd ever been handled so roughly while attempting to ask a question, Ross answered, "A few times. Mostly by mafia people." (Plum Line)

-Bonus HotD-
"Allen West: Obama Supporters Are 'A Threat To The Gene Pool.'"

Yeah, whatever Adolph. Have fun with your Tea Party master race. (ThinkProgress)

Debt Ceiling Deadline May be Sooner than August 2

However crazy you think House Republicans, take that and double it. You'll still fall short.


Washington's frayed nerves showed through Monday amid tough talk on the right, a White House veto threat, canceled weekend passes and the top Senate Democrat likening default to a "very, very scary" outcome even for those "who believe government should be small enough to drown in a bathtub."

"What will it take," asked an agitated Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), "for my Republican colleagues to wake up to the fact that they're playing a game of political chicken with the entire global economy?"

It'll take a default, apparently. Many House Republicans seem to sincerely believe that all this debt ceiling talk is scare tactics. America has made the tremendous mistake of electing a bunch of nuts who think you get to believe whatever you want to believe and that, worse, that you can force what you want to believe to become true. Talk of default goes into the same box as global warming and evolution. Now we're observing the predictable consequence -- they're running full speed toward a brick wall, while refusing to believe the brick wall exists.

With the clock ticking, House Republicans feel the need to waste a day with a completely symbolic vote on their draconian "Cut, Cap and Balance plan" -- a hopeless effort to, among other things, make it much easier to gut Medicare and Social Security and much harder to raise taxes. Politico's Jonathan Allen and Jake Sherman report that if this doomed effort is Plan A, then there is no Plan B.

There's a narrative gaining traction in Washington as a debt crisis looms: House Republican hard-liners might soften their stance once they’ve gotten a vote on their Cut, Cap and Balance proposal.

But if that's the case, the conservatives aren't in on the plan.

While such a vote would usually be viewed as a chance to win some political cover for those who later agree to a more moderate deal, the idea of seeking cover out of a symbolic vote is foreign -- if not outright offensive -- to the new breed of House Republicans.

The debt-limit disunity has grown so dire in Republican circles that party leaders were still rounding up votes Monday night on the conservative movement's pet cut, cap and balance plan. The decision to appease conservatives could backfire on party leaders if the bill fails, leaving them without a demonstration of the conference's position.

Whatever happens in the House, the Senate seems set to move forward with Mitch McConnell's Rube Goldberg plan. What House GOP wants be damned, this is what they'll finally wind up dealing with.

"If the 'Cut, Cap, and Balance Act' passes the House, it will be considered and defeated in the Senate," explains Steve Benen. "If all goes according to plan, the details of McConnell/Reid will be presented later this week, starting the clock. This will initiate a series of Republican filibusters, which once exhausted, will clear the way for a Senate floor vote by July 29 -- a week from Friday -- leaving the radicalized House just four days to debate and pass the emergency measure before the Aug. 2 deadline."

And it's important to point out that we don't have to actually default to screw up the economy here. If Wall Street thinks we headed to default, they'll react before we get there. For the record, a market panic is not good for the economy. By leaving "just four days to debate and pass the emergency measure," House Republicans invite this panic.

Just don't try to tell them that. They'll laugh at your "alarmism."



News Roundup for 7/18/11

The 'Leave Brittany Alone!' guy

-Headline of the Day-
"News Corp.-owned media outlets say people are overreacting to News Corp. scandal."

Have you heard about the latest "scandal of the month?" Pffft! Something about hacking and phones and who even cares? It's all way too high-tech for you to understand and it's just liberal hippies attacking conservative media anyway, so you should probably just ignore the whole thing, all right? Now shut up and eat your Casey Anthony "news."

That's News Corp's take on the scandal rocking a little company called... Let's see here... "News Corp." Tempest in a teapot. The Wall Street Journal has an editorial about how everyone's blowing everything out of proportion. "We... trust that readers can see through the commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics," writes the WSJ editorial board. "The Schadenfreude is so thick you can't cut it with a chainsaw."

Oh poor News Corp!

But it was Fox News that really brought the stupid (a safe bet in any situation), with a segment on their morning show that's such unbelievable bullshit that you wish there was a stronger word for bullshit. Fox & Friends not only wondered what the big deal was, but through very cautious wording, left the impression that it was News of the World that was hacked, instead of being the hacker.

WSJ complains that Murdoch detractors "want their readers to believe, based on no evidence, that the tabloid excesses of one publication somehow tarnish thousands of other News Corp. journalists across the world."

Oh, you guys are providing us with plenty of evidence. I point you again to the brainless Fox & Friends and their lame attempt to confuse the issue.

If they're typical of your "thousands of other News Corp. journalists across the world," then you've got nothing worth defending. (Salon's War Room)

-The things that really matter-
The deadline for raising the debt ceiling is bearing down on us, so House Republicans decided it was time to take on the scourge of curly light bulb last week. Because nothing in the world is more important than giving Americans the freedom to buy crappy, inefficient, money-leaking light bulbs if they so choose. And so, the GOP's message is this:

Click to embiggen

Any questions? (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Sarah Palin Movie Boasts Solid 0% Rating On Rotten Tomatoes."

That means no good independent review anywhere. Worst. Movie. Ever. (Wonkette)

Yes, the Public Would Blame Republicans for a Default

Eric Cantor, John BoehnerIn the debt ceiling debate, there are no political winners. That's one message you could take away from a new CBS News poll showing that, of all the players in the debt negotiations, a majority of Americans approve of none. On this issue, it's disapprovals across the board.

But another message you could take away would be that, of all the political losers in this fight, the Republicans are the biggest -- by a wide margin. From the polling report itself (pdf):

More Americans disapprove than approve of how President Barack Obama is handling the negotiations with members of Congress about raising the debt ceiling, but Democrats and Republicans in Congress fare even worse. 43% approve of how the President is handling the talks, and 48% disapprove. Approval drops to 31% for the Democrats in Congress. Just 21% approve of the Republicans’ handling of the negotiations, while 71% disapprove.

In fact, the report tells us, "Even half of Republicans, 51%, disapprove of how members of their party in Congress are handling the negotiations. Far fewer Democrats disapprove of how their own party (32%) or President Obama (22%) is handling the talks."

The biggest winner, by virtue of being the least loser, is President Obama -- the man to who Republicans have furiously been trying to shift any blame. Clearly this isn't working -- at least, not working as well as they'd hoped. Or as well as some of their crazier supporters had predicted.

[Erick Erickson, RedState:]

Now is a time for choosing. Now is your time for choosing. As I pointed out to John Boehner yesterday, despite what the pundits in Washington are telling you, it is you and not Obama who hold most of the cards. Obama has a legacy to worry about. Should the United States lose its bond rating, it will be called the "Obama Depression." Congress does not get pinned with this stuff.

"Of course Erick Erickson's analysis of the debt ceiling situation is simplistic, incorrect, and stupid," wrote Alex Pareene in one of my favorite quotes from last week. "Erick Erickson wrote it. He's a clown."

But he's not a lonely clown. There are no shortage of rightwing radio nuts calling for default. And worse than Erick-Erick's sloppy wishful thinking is default denialism; a Tea Party delusion that a damaging default as a result of failure to raise the debt limit is an alarmist position. Count Rep. Alan West, Rep. Michele Bachmann and many others among those. See, if liberals worry about something, then it's nothing you should worry about -- like global warming. It's what being a reactionary robot is all about.

So, of course, the crazier conservatives will ignore the CBS Poll, just as they ignore all evidence that doesn't support their position. They'll wander around with their heads in the clouds, completely certain that their arguments -- presented without evidence -- are 100% correct.

To their credit, GOP leadership is trying to get these nuts to see reality. I have my doubts as to whether this is even possible. This is the generation that Republicans have trained, through rightwing media, to ignore facts in favor of talking points. Now these crazies have talking points of their own.



News Roundup for 7/15/11

gay pride parader
Marcus Bachmann

-Headline of the Day-
"The Barbarian Defense: Marcus Bachmann, Allies Say Embarrassing Tape Is A Fake."

Marcus Bachmann is the TOTALLY NOT GAY husband of Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, so it only makes sense that the DEVIL WOULD ATTACK HIM with scandalous evidence that he's just an asshole.

See, back in 2010, Marcus was on a wingnut radio show called Point of View, where he said that gay people were barbarians who needed a spanking. Or something like that. Who even knows?

And who even cares? Because the tape of that interview is a SATANIC LIE aimed at bringing down Michele Bachmann's candidacy -- which is the only thing standing between us and the Apocalypse.

"Bachmann said that someone must have doctored the recording of the interview, in which he addressed child discipline as well as homosexuality and sex education," according to a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

So, is someone out there trying to make the Bachmanns seem homophobic?

Yeah, like they'd really have to do that. (Talking Points Memo)

-In related news-
That conversion therapy Marcus does? Totally blown out of proportion.

Bachmann's husband's therapy turns gay men into straight women
Click to view full strip

Why, she's perfectly lovely... (Bad Reporter)

-Bonus HotD-
"Fox And Friends Defends News Corp's Hacking Scandal: 'We Should Move On'."

Of course they did. (ThinkProgress)

You Can't Fight Crazy -- But You Can Vote it Out of Office

Example of teabagger math
I hate to say it, but part of me -- the "I told you so" portion of my brain -- wants the Republican Party to remain stupid, for the president to fail to convince them to come off the ledge, and for the US to default. This part of my brain feels that if we go over that cliff, Republicans (and the craziest Tea Party nuts especially) will have been proven wrong once and for all. After all the Tea Party, always more than happy to believe whatever horsecrap makes them more comfortable, is home to the idea of the default myth -- i.e., that if the debt ceiling isn't raised, the US won't default and anyone who says otherwise is just a commie spendthrift trying to scare you. My lizard brain thinks that when interest rates skyrocket, deficits get even worse, and unemployment goes through the roof, then they'll see...

But, of course, a more rational part of me knows that this is a fruitless hope. After all, didn't I just say that they believe whatever they want to believe? You can't convince them with proof. They'll just come up with some crazy argument that the US didn't default, that the administration held back its secret hoard of money to punish Republicans at the polls. When you're dealing with people who engage in magical thinking, "proof" is a meaningless word.

Unfortunately, it's looking more and more like the "I told you so" portion of my brain may get some satisfaction. As the August 2 deadline approaches, there are few signs that the nuts are becoming saner and that reality will finally sink in. And while that may not happen to the looniest Republicans, it's happening to their traditional backers and enablers.

[Paul Krugman:]

There aren't many positive aspects to the looming possibility of a U.S. debt default. But there has been, I have to admit, an element of comic relief -- of the black-humor variety -- in the spectacle of so many people who have been in denial suddenly waking up and smelling the crazy.

A number of commentators seem shocked at how unreasonable Republicans are being. "Has the G.O.P. gone insane?" they ask.

Why, yes, it has. But this isn't something that just happened, it's the culmination of a process that has been going on for decades. Anyone surprised by the extremism and irresponsibility now on display either hasn't been paying attention, or has been deliberately turning a blind eye.

I'm guessing it's the latter. Although it's only really come to a head relatively recently. It was the McCain/Palin rallies, with their cries of "terrorist" and "kill him," that lead to the town hall mobs. It was the town hall mobs that led to the Tea Party. And it was the Tea Party that led to a largely fact-free debate on jobs, the deficit, and the economy. And before all that, there was conservative talk radio, miseducating a generation with lies and distortions and propaganda. Rush Limbaugh's audience has finally been elected to congress and the result is a impending crisis that they refuse to acknowledge even exists.

And the reason they refuse to believe the eminently believable is because they are, at base, cowards and spoiled children. Unable to face the harsh and frightening facts of the real world, they threaten to hold their breath until they get their pony. They don't like the facts, so they demand the facts change to suit them. The fact that Reagan's vision of a glorious supply-side economy is turning out to be a complete failure most definitely does not suit them. So wishful thinking passes for reasoning and baseless opinion becomes fact.

At this point, the best we can hope for is that voters wake up to what useless, bratty jerks the Republican Party has become and vote them out of office when the next election cycle rolls around -- if not before then.



News Roundup for 7/14/11

Rube Goldberg machine
Infographic of the Reid-McConnell debt limit plan

-Headline of the day-
"Harry Reid And Mitch McConnell: 'Hybrid' Solution To Debt Standoff."

You know how I'm always saying that if you meet someone who's crazy halfway, the results are halfway crazy? Turns out that Harry Reid has decided to meet Mitch McConnell halfway and the results are predictable. The two have knocked together a plan to raise the debt ceiling and... Well, check it out for yourself.

According to the report, "The plan, which is being hatched by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), would ensure that over $1.5 trillion in cuts over ten years be passed into law. It would also grant President Obama the authority to extend the debt ceiling through the 2012 election season while requiring him to propose -- but allowing him to ultimately veto -- cuts beyond those initial $1.5 trillion."

OK, do what now? Each day, this thing gets more needlessly complicated. Did I mention the new panel? Yeah, "the deal would create a new 'deficit commission' comprised solely of lawmakers who would be tasked with finding additional savings in the budget. The commission's recommendations would be given automatic, amendment-free votes in both chambers of Congress." Because the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House are in agreement so often, I guess. This will all pass sure as shootin', right?

Here's what you do; you sit Mitch and Boehner down in a room -- Cantor you lock in a steamer trunk -- and tell them that polling shows that the public is inclined to blame the GOP if the country goes into default. You tell them that you'll officially change the name of the Oval Office to the "Everything's Republican's Fault Room" and work 24/7 to see that the public's inclination doesn't change. White House press conferences will feature a pullstring toy and every time a reporter pulls the string, it'll say, "Everything's Republicans' fault!" Special editions of Jeopardy will be commissioned, where every answer is "What is something that's the Republicans' fault?" And Air Force One will fly back and forth of the nation, fitted with a mile-long banner reading... Well, you get the idea.

That ought to do the trick. (Huffington Post)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, Uncle Mark has a special cartoon he calls "Mourning in America." Yay!

Um, wait... Is that spelled right?

Mourning in America
Click for animation

Yeah. I guess that's spelled right. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Minnesota Governor Offers To End Shutdown, Reestablish Beer Supply."

Pray he succeeds or Minnesotan society will surely collapse. (Wonkette)

Griper Blade: Republican Group Exists to Institute Corporate Rule

ALEC logoThere's a great piece up at the Center for Media and Democracy about the work of ALEC or American Legislative Exchange Council. The group has been working at the state level to fundamentally change America, state by state. If there's an unpopular governor passing unpopular laws through an unpopular state legislature, ALEC is behind them. Voter ID laws, union-busting laws, laws shifting the tax burden away from the wealthy to the poor and middle class, cuts in state services, etc. -- all can be traced back to ALEC.

In fact, many of these bills have the same language from state to state. Since ALEC describe themselves as the largest "membership association of state legislators," it would seem that these state officials were writing these bills with the help of legislators for other states. This would go a long way toward explaining why so many of their bills look cut-and-paste. But closer scrutinity proves this assumption wrong.

In April 2011, some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. met behind closed doors in Cincinnati about their wish lists for changing state laws. This exchange was part of a series of corporate meetings nurtured and fueled by the Koch Industries family fortune and other corporate funding.

At an extravagant hotel gilded just before the Great Depression, corporate executives from the tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, State Farm Insurance, and other corporations were joined by their "task force" co-chairs -- all Republican state legislators -- to approve "model" legislation. They jointly head task forces of what is called the "American Legislative Exchange Council" (ALEC).

There, as the Center for Media and Democracy has learned, these corporate-politician committees secretly voted on bills to rewrite numerous state laws. According to the documents we have posted to ALEC Exposed, corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.

"It is a worrisome marriage of corporations and politicians, which seems to normalize a kind of corruption of the legislative process -- of the democratic process--in a nation of free people where the government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people, not the corporations," writes Center for Media and Democracy Executive Director Lisa Graves.

As always when dealing with the backroom workings of the Republican Party, there is also hypocrisy here. "Unelected" is a standard GOP buzzword; we have to worry about unelected judges "legislating from the bench," about unelected bureaucrats making our healthcare decisions, about unelected regulators hampering businesses -- and here they are, letting unelected corporate lobbyists write law.

But it goes deeper, gets more disturbing, than that. In an unrelated piece about the Washington standoff over the debt limit, political analyst Stuart Rothenberg explains where the sticking point lies:

Most recently elected House Republicans believe that government can’t and shouldn’t do all it has done. Cutting spending is merely the means to cutting government, as Ronald Reagan understood.

Yes, Republicans complained about the costs associated with the Democrats' health care bill, with the 2009 economic stimulus and with the Democrats' cap-and-trade proposal, but that's not the real reason why they opposed those initiatives.

They don't believe that government should involve itself in the market that directly, or in picking winners and losers. They regard the health care bill's individual mandate as excessive government intervention into individual rights. And they don't trust bureaucrats or government officials to decide what's good for people.

Apparently, the logical conclusion this line of reasoning leads to is that corporations get "to decide what's good for people." The same people who told you smoking was good for you, that asbestos was fine, that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was completely under control. Those are the people who get to decide what's best for you -- not the people you elected for that job.

It's the obvious solution to the Republican logical equation; if A=B and B=C, then A=C. That is, if government is bad and that government is a democracy, then democracy is bad.

A sham democracy it is, then.



News Roundup for 7/13/11

I, for one, welcome our new manatee overlords

-Headline of the day-
"Florida Tea Party Worries about Government's Secret Manatee Conspiracy."

Freedom-lovin' Floridians rejoice! The Tea Party has come to rescue you from the evil clutches of the dreaded and fearsome sea cow, overlords of the commie, one-world UN.

No, seriously.

According to the report, the leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, one Edna Mattos, told the St. Petersburg Times that the expansion of a local manatee refuge was just part of the UN's plot to take over the world. "We believe that (federal regulators') aim is to control the fish and wildlife, in addition to the use of the land that surrounds this area, and the people that live here and visit...," she said. "As most of us know, this all ties in to the United Nations' Agenda 21 and Sustainability."

Agenda 21 is something 'baggers started freaking out about after the NAFTA Superhighway stubbornly refused to stop being a paranoid fantasy.

"We cannot elevate nature above people," Edna said. "That's against the Bible and the Bill of Rights."

Let me address those two points in reverse order: no it's not and who cares?

We'll worry about what the Bible says when Jesus gets elected. (Mother Jones)

-Maybe we should try something else-
If tax cuts for the rich create jobs...

Political cartoon
Click to embiggen

...why aren't they doing it now? (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"74 Percent Of Republicans Think Deficit Reduction Should Include Tax Increases And Spending Cuts."

Unfortunately, 0% of that 74% hold elected office. (ThinkProgress)

Obama Swamping GOP Fundraising

It's a point I make often -- in fact, regular readers may think I try to pound it into the ground -- that people generally don't vote for things, but against things. I suppose the same goes for fundraising. It's a lot easier to get people to open their wallets to stop something than to start something. This is why negative campaigning works; it's all about being against something. Candidate X voted for a bill I don't like and candidate X must be stopped.

There isn't anything wrong with this in and of itself. Progress is impossible without preventing backsliding. And, although it might appear to the contrary, it seems to make progress possible. Progress is always opposed and whether something moves forward or not seems to depend on the weakness of the opposition (in most cases), rather than the strength of the support.

Anyway, this whole theory of mine goes a long way toward explaining this:

[Talking Points Memo:]

The latest fundraising numbers from President Obama's reelection effort are jaw-dropping and represent the kind of haul Republicans have been warning their supporters about for months.

In a video sent to reporters and supporters Wednesday morning, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina announced $86 million in total fundraising between April and June of this year. Messina said $47 million went to the Obama campaign itself, while $38 million went to the DNC.

The combined goal was $60 million. In the end, Obama's fundraising forces burst through that goal by more than $20 million, which is more than Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney raised in total.

Politico puts the amount in deeper context, reporting, "The $86 million raised for Obama’s reelection easily doubles -- and nearly triples -- all the major GOP candidates to announce so far, combined. While there are a few Republicans who haven’t shared their numbers, including Michele Bachmann, the group that includes Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich has taken in just $33.1 million."

What's surprising about this is that Obama's support among Democrats is actually pretty weak. The 2008 enthusiasm for the guy is pretty much gone -- whittled away in compromise after compromise -- but he's still able to raise a significant amount of money.

Of course, the incumbent's advantage applies to fundraising, too. Those who want a friend in the White House are going to play the odds. And, since the odds are that the incumbent wins, that candidate generally gets the bulk of that influence-seeking cash.

But the rest comes from individuals and issue-oriented PACS -- things like pro-choice groups, labor groups, environmental organizations, gay rights groups, etc. It's here that the "voting against things" idea kicks in. Faced with a truly crazy GOP, these organizations have seen their fundraising skyrocket. For example, Planned Parenthood's fundraising is up, in response to attacks from both national and local Republicans. Likewise, labor groups are seeing an increase. A lot of that money's going to find its way into the president's reelection fund.

And who can blame them? Republicans are engaging in an insane overreach nationwide, acting as if they'd been elected unanimously. Unions are under attack, education is under attack, women's health services are under attack, the environment is under attack, consumer protection is under attack.

Worse, the Republican presidential candidates are currently in a contest to see who can be the most insane. Want to raise a lot of money from pro-choice or gay groups? Send out a flyer showing Michele Bachmann's latest poll numbers in the GOP primary, along with a list of things she's said.

I can guarantee, those people will be against that.



News Roundup for 7/12/11

Evile robot
Robots don't want you to vote

-Headline of the Day-
"'Right to Life' robocalls from D.C. tell Wisconsin recall voters to stay home."

Did you know that the recalls are beginning in Wisconsin today? They are! The first primaries are today. I don't get to play because my state senator is so beloved they couldn't get enough signatures to start a recall against him. Sucks to be me.

And, if somebody called "Right to Life" has anything to say about it, no one else will know they get to play either. According to one report, "Local news blog WI Voices reported that registered Democrats have been receiving recorded calls, claiming to be from a Right to Life group. The recorded call instructs them that they don't need to go to the polling place to vote, saying, 'You don't need to worry. Your absentee ballot is in the mail.'"

Going to the polls? Pffft! That's for chumps. You just sit there in your easychair and wait for that sweet, sweet absentee ballot to come in the mail -- way too late to mail it in.

And who is "Right to Life?" Who knows. Caller ID says the call is coming from 703-410-3201, but MrNumber.com says, "703-410-3201 is not a valid number. If you are sure that you got a phone call from a number beginning with this prefix, the caller may have 'spoofed' caller ID." Previous Robocalls from Sam "Joe the Plumber" Wurzlehoopy have been reported from this number -- asking people to support Scott Walker.

And Republicans think that voters are the big voting fraud problem. (Blue Cheddar)

-You thought you knew about the phone-hacking scandal...-
...and maybe you did. But John Oliver sums it up better than most news organizations in a comedy sketch.

Learn something you didn't know from that? I'll bet you did. (Comedy Central)

-Bonus HotD-
"Obama: 'I Cannot Guarantee' Social Security Checks Will Go Out Aug. 3."

See what happened there? The president just stole the Republicans' hostage.

They're gonna be mad... (ThinkProgress)

Caterpillar Exec to Congress in May: "Make Our Crime Legal"

I was cruising through Reddit last night when this item caught my attention:

[Bloomberg News:]

Caterpillar Inc. used offshore subsidiaries in Switzerland and Bermuda to avoid about $2 billion in U.S. taxes from 2000 to 2009, boosting its earnings through a "tax and financial statement fraud," according to a Caterpillar executive’s lawsuit.

The company, the world's largest construction-equipment maker, sold and shipped spare parts globally from an Illinois warehouse while improperly attributing at least $5.6 billion of profits from those sales to a unit in Geneva, according to the suit filed by Daniel J. Schlicksup. He was a global tax strategy manager for Caterpillar from 2005 to 2008.

Schlicksup, 49, sued in U.S. District Court in Peoria, Illinois, in 2009, claiming he was moved to a job that limits his career opportunities because he complained to superiors that the "Swiss Structure" ran afoul of U.S. tax rules. He's seeking a court order to give him back his old job and prevent any retaliation. He also seeks stock options that he claims were wrongly withheld as well as legal fees and punitive damages.

Just crooked corporate business as usual, right? Actually, yes. This sort of thing happens all the time and will continue to happen until corporate CEOs start doing actual prison time.

But what's especially galling in this case is that, back in May, the president of Caterpillar was called to testify before congress on how unfair the US tax code was.

[Peoria Journal Star:]

A Caterpillar Inc. executive called on Congress on Thursday to enact tax reform that would "level the playing field," allowing U.S. companies to better compete with foreign firms.

Ed Rapp, Caterpillar's group president and chief financial officer, suggested that the United States reduce its corporate tax rate and do away with a "worldwide" tax in testimony before the House's Ways and Means Committee, whose members include Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria.

"The U.S. tax code too often tilts the field to the advantage of our growing foreign competitors," he said.

"In China, the corporate tax is 25 percent. If Caterpillar earns $1,000 there, we pay $250 to China. If we bring that money back to the United States, we must pay another $100 to the U.S. Treasury, bringing the total tax rate to 35 percent. However, if a competitor from the United Kingdom earns $1,000 in China, it pays only the $250 Chinese tax," Rapp complained.

Here's the thing: he was basically going before congress and requesting that they make his company's crime legal. See, Caterpillar set up a phony Swiss outfit called "Caterpillar SARL" or CSARL. CSARL would work as a "global purchaser" of parts for the equipment company. The company would be wholly Swiss and not subject to US tax laws.

However, the report tells us CSARL "had no spare-parts employees and did no work to sell or ship the parts, Schlicksup claims in the lawsuit. The parts are shipped to dealers around the globe from a warehouse in Morton, Illinois, about 10 miles southeast of Caterpillar's Peoria headquarters, according to the lawsuit, which also describes the spare-parts business as the company's most profitable line." This allowed Caterpillar to avoid paying the taxes it owed to the tune of $2 billion. This should be considered theft on a massive scale.

Another point; in addition to basically begging House Republicans to make his scam legal, Rapp was making an argument that would encourage American companies to outsource jobs. And his argument was a teenager's argument -- "Chinese moms let their companies do it!"

I don't care if some countries are fine with outsourcing, we're not. Period. End of story. Now go to your room.

Rapp's underlying argument -- crime aside -- is that we should view tax code in terms of fairness, rather than effectiveness. But my view is that people who wake up to penthouse views don't get to complain about fairness. Fabulously well-to-do and complaining about how rough things are? Unacceptable.

But to make that argument while you're running a criminal enterprise? It's long past time that tax cheats and corporate frauds are dealt with through fines. It's time to get tough on crime. It's time for people to start going to prison.