Republicans vs. Reality

A lot is being made of a Wall Street Journal editorial out today that points out the obvious: House Republicans have completely screwed up the payroll tax cut extension. While it's nice to see the WSJ momentarily dip their toes in reality, they can't seem to bring themselves to go for full immersion. The editorial is crawling with half-truths and unfounded assumptions. In other words, it was obviously written by the Wall Street Journal editorial board. Still, when a rightwing propaganda outlet attacks the right wing, it's at least interesting to watch.

But has it set the GOP back on the right course? Not exactly. And by "not exactly," I mean "exactly not."

In a report on the whole fiasco, The Hill shares this tidbit:

House Republicans... think it is Democrats who will be blamed for not working with the GOP on a deal to extend the break for a year. In their talking points Tuesday, they emphasized that a conference committee was the normal process for resolving differences between the two chambers.

Why do they believe they're winning this? Because they're Republicans, of course; they only believe things that make them comfortable, back up their prejudices, or confirm their ideology. "Damn the facts, full speed ahead," could be the GOP motto. And this time, they've got a full head of steam and a heading in the wrong direction. President Obama's approvals are climbing, while the Republican Party's are falling.

"President Barack Obama's approval rating appears to be fueled by dramatic gains among middle-income Americans," explains CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The data suggest that the debate over the payroll tax is helping Obama's efforts to portray himself as the defender of the middle class." In CNN's poll, the president's approval has risen five points to 49%, the highest since a bounce after the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Obama's gains have come at the expense of the Republicans in Congress and the GOP in general. By a 50% to 31% margin, people questioned say they have more confidence in the president than in congressional Republicans to handle the major issues facing the country. Obama held a much narrower 44% to 39% margin in March.

And the GOP's overall favorable rating has dropped to six points, to 43%, since June, while the Democrats' positive rating remained steady at 55%.

"The Democrats do particularly well among middle income Americans, while the Republicans win support only from the top end of the income scale," adds Holland.

It may well be that Republican disdain for reality has finally come back to bite them. They're like Charlie Sheen, who was convinced he was "winning" while it was obvious to everyone that this was delusion. While House Republicans see themselves as "Braveheart," everyone else sees them as clowns. Reality has a liberal bias and, in this instance, that bias is harsh.

No wonder outlets like the Wall Street Journal's editorial page use reality only sparingly.



GOP's Economic Sabotage Backfiring

I want you to try -- really try -- to see the following statement as rational or logical; "A payroll tax cut extension is too important for stimulating the economy to be allowed to expire after just two months. Therefore, we need to pass a year-long extension or nothing."

OK, if you got that to make any damned sense, let me know how you did it. Because I can't get it to work at all. If an extension of the payroll tax cut is so important that it absolutely must last for a year, in what insane universe does it make sense that no extension at all is preferable to a mere two months? Further, what's preventing you from coming back in two months and demanding an extension for the remaining ten? I take this argument and I turn it over and bend it and twist it and smack it with a hammer and I just can't get it to fit within any system of logic or rationality that I know of.

As a result, I'm forced to conclude that it's stupid. Those are the rules, I don't make them up. An argument that makes no damned sense at all is just a stupid argument.

And this stupid argument is the basis for the latest roadblock thrown up by House Republicans; It's a super-important, must-pass tax cut that they love so damned much that they're willing to kill it unless it's born perfect.

If you buy that, you're a fool. And it may be that a lot of people aren't fools.

Last month, a poll made some minor press ripples. The survey was of Florida voters and was the first -- and, as far as I know, the last -- to include a very important question; "Do you think the Republicans are intentionally stalling efforts to jumpstart the economy to insure that Barack Obama is not reelected?"

49% said yes and 39% said no. And the only thing dragging the yeses below the 50% mark were Republican voters throwing the curve. Only 24% of GOP voters believed this -- which is still a lot -- compared to 70% of Democrats and 52% of indies. So the non-Republican consensus in Florida was that, yes, the GOP is deliberately throwing the game.

"To be sure, this wasn’t a national poll; it only asked voters in one state," wrote Steven Benen at the time. "But it's a large, diverse swing state that both parties take very seriously."

In that light, the GOP's payroll tax cut extension argument begins to make a little more sense. Not the argument itself, which is still logical hamburger, but the existence of the argument; it's a poorly thought-out, last minute rationalization to explain a move designed to harm the economy. The problem is that, as a poorly thought-out, last minute rationalization, not a lot of people are buying it.

[Washington Post (emphasis mine):]

Obama’s job-approval rating [in Washington Post-ABC News polling] is now at its highest since March, excluding a temporary bump after the killing of Osama bin Laden: Forty-nine percent approve, and 47 percent disapprove.

Perhaps more important to the battle over the payroll tax cut, Obama has regained an advantage over Republicans in Congress when it comes to “protecting the middle class.” In the new poll, 50 percent say they trust Obama on this issue, compared with 35 percent who choose the GOP -- a major change from last month, when the two sides were more evenly matched on the question.

On taxes, Obama has improved since early October, while public trust of the GOP has slipped. Forty-six percent now side with Obama on the issue, and 41 percent with Republicans in Congress. Independents now side with the president on that front by a 17-point margin, 49 to 32 percent.

In short, the GOP's economic sabotage is beginning to backfire. And in a big way. The GOP has gone from evenly matched to a fifteen-percent deficit in public trust to protect the middle class -- in a month. The phrase you're looking for here is "precipitous decline." A poorly thought-out, last minute rationalization isn't going to cut it. At this point, their economic sabotage is as transparent as glass.

It's time for the GOP to abandon economic sabotage. It's not working as a political strategy, which makes it pointless. It really shouldn't need saying, but the people who love to wrap themselves in the flag don't get to go out of their way to actually harm America -- especially when there's no advantage in it to anyone.



The Church of the 'Free Market'

Jeb Bush has released a religious tract. It's disguised as an op-ed on economics in the Wall Street Journal, but it's a religious tract.

Congressman Paul Ryan recently coined a smart phrase to describe the core concept of economic freedom: "The right to rise."

Think about it. We talk about the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to assembly. The right to rise doesn't seem like something we should have to protect.

But we do. We have to make it easier for people to do the things that allow them to rise. We have to let them compete. We need to let people fight for business. We need to let people take risks. We need to let people fail. We need to let people suffer the consequences of bad decisions. And we need to let people enjoy the fruits of good decisions, even good luck.

In what way is this a religious tract? Because the argument is backed up only by the strength of Bush's belief. It's a nearly fact-free piece -- the only number he brings up is the population of the United States. He proves nothing, his conclusions are apparently drawn from thin air, his arguments are tired.

Bush makes the case for unregulated capitalism or, as it's dishonestly known among conservatives, the "free market." A market that allows for monopolism and strangles competition can't honestly be described as "free," but Jeb -- like the rest of his party -- is bent on confusing market anarchy and freedom.

The problem, as Bush puts it, is that every time there's some problem, government thinks it's their job to fix it. This is apparently a terrible thing.

"Increasingly, we have let our elected officials abridge our own economic freedoms through the annual passage of thousands of laws and their associated regulations," he writes. "We see human tragedy and we demand a regulation to prevent it. We see a criminal fraud and we demand more laws. We see an industry dying and we demand it be saved. Each time, we demand 'Do something . . . anything.'"

Yes, it's a terrible thing for government to work to prevent future "human tragedies." Three Mile Island, Love Canal, and asbestos in schools should've just been bumps in the road. Instead, the government went ahead and tried to prevent similar future incidents, which is a terrible, terrible abridgement of freedom.

Why is it an abridgment of freedom? I have to confess, you've got me there. Because Jeb Bush says so, I guess. As I said, he doesn't actually cite any facts or figures, so we just have to make a leap of faith with him. We need the "freedom to rise," which is somehow protected by a regulatory and tax structure that's responsible for income inequality that's been growing since Reagan started the ball rolling back in the eighties. It's weird, but looking at that chart, I'm seeing the "right to rise" being enjoyed by the top 5%, and 95% of Americans falling -- and only the top 1% actually rising dramatically.

But there I go citing facts. Facts have no place in a religious conversation and Jeb Bush is definitely preaching the Free Market Gospel.

"[W]e can return to the road we once knew and which has served us well," he writes, "a road where individuals acting freely and with little restraint are able to pursue fortune and prosperity as they see fit, a road where the government's role is not to shape the marketplace but to help prepare its citizens to prosper from it."

When was that exactly? Looking back, I see a nation that's always regulated business -- even back to its founding. When was this free market golden age? Then again, I keep forgetting that this is a religious argument. Bush's Golden Era of Unregulated Capitalism is a myth -- a myth that stands at the core of the Republican Party. There's a yearning for a time than never actually existed on the right, when hard work paid off and made you wealthy, instead of trapped within the class you were born into. Sure, there have been a few people who've managed to rise out of humble births and become fabulously wealthy, but they're so few that they're the exceptions that prove the rule. The stories of success are the ones that get told. The millions upon millions upon millions of stories of people spinning their wheels and getting nowhere are almost never told -- the ordinary is uninteresting.

America will be a lot better off if we ignore the fundamentalists ramblings of religious zealots like Jeb Bush. We have separation of church and state, maybe it's time to consider a separation of church and market.



Eveything You Know is Wrong by Lloyd Pye (click title to watch video)

Lloyd Pye is a novelist, a screenwriter, an independent researcher and the author of the bestselling non-fiction book, "Everything You Know is Wrong," upon which this video presentation is based. In this lecture he discusses the so-called "pre-humans," (these are the fossilized remains of hominoids ((or hominids)). He goes over the ideas of mainstream Anthropology and its complete acceptance of Darwinism and points out why he believes those ideas are wrong. Included in this section of the presentation is a discussion of Bigfoot and Sasquatch. He then ventures into the ideas of Zechariah Sitchin which he has embraced wholeheartedly. While I personally find the first part of his presentation to be brilliant, when he goes into the ideas of Sitchin he loses me. There is something about Sitchin's ideas that leave me hanging. According to Sitchin, ancient Sumerian texts reveal that homo sapiens on this planet were created by the Annunaki to be a slave race. I think he's wrong about that. It's my belief that it's the Neanderthals that were created as a slave race. I think they were the result of mixing humans with animals and that the Great Apes, (gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans) are a leftover from this process. (Interestingly, Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin had an unsuccessful program in which he tried to breed humans and apes. Was he attempting to repeat this process?).

That Neanderthals and humans fought each other has been well-established and is accepted by mainstream academics. The archaeological record shows that Neanderthals moved en masse from the Middle East towards Eastern Europe in a pattern that suggests they were running away. It's my belief that the representations of Neanderthal that we are shown in textbooks is not quite right...


News Roundup for 12/16/11

As trustworthy as she looks

-Headline of the Day-
"Michele Bachmann says 'PolitiFact came out and said that everything I said was true' in last debate."

During the last semi-weekly meeting of The Liar's Club, Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich got into a little tête-à-tête over Newt's influence lobbying with Freddie Mac. This was probably a tactical error on Shelly's part, since no one has a bigger tête than Newt -- in both the physical and metaphorical senses. Seriously, he couldn't find a football helmet that would fit over his melon in high school.

Anyway, Newt said that Shelly's claim that he lobbied for Freddie Mac was "factually not true" -- which is ironic, because it was a rare instance where she was saying something factual. And it was here that she slipped back into her old habit.

"Well, after the debates that we had last week, PolitiFact came out and said that everything that I said was true," she said. "And the evidence is that Speaker Gingrich took $1.6 million. You don't need to be within the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence-peddling with senior Republicans in Washington, D.C., to get them to do your bidding."

To which PolitiFact says:

So, yeah... (PolitiFact)

-Past the 'sell by' date-

Click to embiggen

Precisely. (Truthdig)

-Bonus HotD-
"Newt's New Endorser: OWS is a Muslim Brotherhood Plot!"

Bonus fun: it's "Gopher" from Love Boat -- who apparently is a complete lunatic.

No, really. (Mother Jones)


News Roundup for 12/15/11

Newt Gingrich has a magic spy satellite or something

-Headline of the Day-
"Newt's iffy claim: Iran hides nukes under mosques."

If there's one thing that Newt Gingrich excels at, it's pulling the purest bullshit straight out of his ass. And at a debate against Jon Huntsman in New Hampshire, he reminded us of this skill by making a claim to a "fact" that a) he couldn't possibly know and b) no one else on earth has ever claimed.

"[Iran has] huge underground facilities. Some of the underground facilities are under mosques," Newt said. "Some of them are in cities. The idea that you’re going to wage a bombing campaign that accurately takes out all the Iranian nuclear program I think is a fantasy."

It's interesting that he'd choose the word "fantasy," because this is what Newt's story seems to be. "There’s no evidence [for that]," says David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and an expert on Iran's nuclear program. "I don’t know where Gingrich gets this, but it sounds like he is just repeating rumors."

"Nope," Ken Pollack, a Mideast specialist at the Brookings Institution, says. "Never heard that they have underground facilities beneath mosques. They do have extensive tunnels at some sites, and I guess some of those tunnels may run under mosques, but I have never heard that they purposely built them under mosques as this seems to suggest."

Never mind those guys. They don't know what they're talking about. Newt knows it's true, because he heard it from this bigtime expert-on-everything-guy named "Newt." (Salon's War Room)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, you know that big war in Iraq? It's over today (sort of, kind of, a little bit...) Yay!

Click for animation

Go kiss a nurse. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Justice Department: Sheriff Arpaio mistreated Latinos."

Racist sheriff is racist and the fallout begins. Imagine my surprise. (Politico)

GOP Candidates Unified in Their Love for Failed Economic Policies

A National Review editorial is making some news today, mostly because it pleads with GOP voters to not to support Newt Gingrich. The magazine is still seen as representing the intellectual arm of the Republican Party -- despite the fact that it now features dim bulbs like Jonah Goldberg, Kathryn Jean Lopez, and Rich Lowry -- so there's some news value here. But the same now-undeserved reputation for braininess is why most conservatives won't pay any attention to it. After years of attacking "ivory tower intellectuals," they've managed to get the base to stop listening to them. Nice work, guys. Congrats on your success.

But it's not the anti-endorsement of Newt Gingrich that caught my eye. It was the concise description (in the form of praise) of just about everything that's wrong with the Republican candidates and the party in general.

A hard-fought presidential primary campaign is obscuring the uncharacteristic degree of unity within the Republican party. It has reached a conservative consensus on most of the pressing issues of the day. All of the leading candidates, and almost all of the lagging ones, support the right to life. All of them favor the repeal of Obamacare. Most of them support reforms to restrain the growth of entitlement spending. All of them favor reducing the corporate tax rate to levels that will make the U.S. a competitive location for investment. Almost all of them seem to understand the dangers of a precipitate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, and of a defense policy driven by the need to protect social spending rather than the national interest. Conservatives may disagree among themselves about which candidate most deserves support, but all of us should take heart in this development -- and none of us should exaggerate the programmatic differences within the field.

I especially like the part about "a defense policy driven by the need to protect social spending rather than the national interest," as if social needs aren't in the national interest -- at least, not like the buying super-important fighter jets we never use. Blowing people up on the other side of the world -- that's in the national interest. Making sure kids at home have enough to eat? That's waste.

So, what have all these years of good old, common sense, conservative Reagonomics gotten us? Not anything good.

[Associated Press:]

Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

"Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too 'rich' to qualify," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.

"The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal," he said. "If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years."

Cut this, cut that, cut this thing over here. Pretty soon, you've got middle class taxpayers paying in to Washington and not getting anything in return. Tax credits, tax cuts, subsidies, and other government largesse are reserved solely for the "job creators" -- who are conspicuously absent in the job-creating field. Cut spending, lay off government employees, increase unemployment, and the golden shower of wealth will come trickling down from on high. Decades after Ronald Reagan promised this would all pay off, it hasn't. But just you wait. This time for sure. If the rising tide isn't lifting all boats, you're just not bailing fast enough.

And the most depressing part of all this is that organizations like the National Review thinks this is great. All the Republicans agree that we should keep committing this massive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the rich -- to the point that half of America is in poverty -- and that's a wonderful thing. They should be congratulated, because the American Dream is about taking food out of kids' mouths and giving it to people who've never missed a damned meal in their lives.

Thanks, National Review, for pointing out that all the Republicans are on board with this robbery. And don't worry, I'll take your advice, I won't vote for Newt Gingrich.

Or any of the other bass-ackward Robin Hoods the GOP has running.



News Roundup for 12/14/11

Hasn't actually signed any petitions

-Headline of the Day-
"BS Alert: Mickey Mouse And Adolf Hitler Have Not Joined Scott Walker Recall Effort."

The rightwing media is going positively mental over the "fact" that Mickey Mouse and Adolf Hitler are signing petitions to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Turns out they're losing it over nothing -- which is what they do best.

What's happening is either a poor or selective reading of a Milwaukee TV station's report on the recall effort. In that story, a reporter asked an official with Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board whether -- hypothetically -- a signature with a name like "Mickey Mouse" or "Adolf Hitler" would automatically be disqualified. The official said no. It's up to the other side to challenge signatures on the petition -- because you never know, some guy may actually be named Mickey Mouse or Adolf Hitler. Some people have idiots for parents and such things aren't unprecedented. Someone shouldn't be barred for life from signing petitions just because his mom was an moron who thought the name "Donald Duck" would be cute. As long as the signature is accompanied by a valid address and date, the GAB will err on the side of caution and assume that Adolf Hitler's parents were jerks until proven otherwise. In short, they're using common sense.

And are Mickey and Adolf signing petitions like crazy? What part of the word "hypothetical" are you having trouble with?

Of course, this is more than just the right finding an excuse for their favorite activity -- a fullblown, pants-wetting freakout over nothing. "The Hitler/Mouse hypotheticals are the go-to clichés in stories that seek to create the false hysteria about voter fraud that fuels the wave of voter ID laws which threaten to disenfranchise millions of voters nationwide, the kind of hysteria that the mainstream media abetted in its treatment of ACORN," writes Mediaite's Tommy Christopher. "It’s the exact kind of hysteria that this story feeds, which makes this potential bit of cable news fluff deadly serious. Voter ID laws are pegged to the false idea that casting fictitious votes is simple and widespread, and by conflating voter fraud with voter registration fraud. This distinction was completely lost in the ACORN story, even though the organization was required by law to submit all registrations they received, and even though they flagged all suspicious registrations."

"So when you see this Mickey Mouse story on your favorite 24 hour news outlet, don’t laugh. Do something," he concludes.

And if you see someone freaking out over this non-story, tell them to change their pants. (Mediaite)

-Word of the day-

Click to embiggen

AKA, the "self-fulfilling prophecy." (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

-Bonus HotD-
"Rick Santorum Pleads With Voters To Call Him ‘Intelligent’ Just For Once."

Voters answer, "No." (Wonkette)

DNC to Tea Party; 'Please Vote for Newt!'

After the last GOP debate, the Democratic National Committee released this web ad calling Newt Gingrich "the original Tea Partier." In it, he says a lot of things that would concern liberals, but not much that would bother conservatives. In fact, many in the rightwing blogosphere took the ad as a pathetic attempt to smear Gingrich for being correct. "[T]he fact that anyone would want to limit government spending horrifies democrats," wrote the perpetually-wrong Jim Hoft.

That Gingrich is an awful person is not something lefties need to be convinced of. A Gingrich presidency would make George W. Bush's terms look like a smashing success story, as an imperious egomaniac formed policy based on perceived personal slights and formed positions that respond to petty grievances. He would be a disaster and every liberal and Democrat knows it. The ad is clearly not aimed at the Democratic base.

And it's not aimed at the general electorate, either. For the most part, people do have a poor opinion of the Tea Party. But I don't think it's poor enough to be a handicap at the ballot box.

No, the ad is -- in my opinion -- a thinly disguised pro-Gingrich ad aimed at the 'baggers.

[Washington Post, Nov. 29:]

In surging to the top in the race for the Republican nomination, recent polls find Newt Gingrich has built a coalition of three high-turnout groups: older Republicans, tea party supporters and conservatives.


Tea party supporters swung strongly to Gingrich, from 11 percent in October to 31 percent in November, while Romney held steady at 19 percent. Conservatives show an identical swing, from 10 to 30 percent, in CNN polls from October to November.

"Tea party supporters accounted for two in three Republican voters in the 2010 midterm elections," the report continues. "And while the movement has lost support since then, tea partiers continue to make up a substantial and highly engaged segment of the Republican electorate."

Now, consider an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out today:

Romney faces a challenge with the Republican primary electorate, trailing Gingrich nationally by 17 percentage points as nearly two-thirds of Republicans view him as either liberal or moderate.

Gingrich, meanwhile, faces a challenge with the general electorate, as half of all voters say they wouldn’t vote for him in November, and as he trails President Barack Obama by more than 10 percentage points in a hypothetical contest -- compared with Romney’s two-point deficit versus the Democratic incumbent.

I think it's important to make the distinction; 50% of voters aren't saying they'd vote for Obama, they're saying they would not vote for Gingrich. As I always say, it's easier to get people to vote against someone than for someone -- and half the electorate is already predisposed to voting against Gingrich.

It's clear that Team Obama would rather face Gingrich than Romney in the general election. He may beat both in every poll, but the difference between the president and Mitt is always around 2% -- way too close for comfort. So what Democrats need to do is encourage conservatives to nominate Gingrich, while avoiding building him up in the eyes of everyone else. In short, a message that all but says, "Hey Tea Partiers, vote for Newt!"

You're looking at it.



News Roundup for 12/13/11

Hitting a new Lowe

-Headline of the Day-
"Protests growing against Lowe's."

All Lowe's wants to do is sell you a hammer. Maybe some bathroom tiles. If they're lucky, some big saw thing. So it was that the home improvement chain sought what it thought was the path of least resistance when it came to wingnut bigots concerned that a TV shows wasn't portraying American Muslims as terr'isty enough. Turns out TLC's All-American Muslim managed to find a family that wasn't building bombs in their basement and this was the worst thing ever! One guy even suggested they find a family that does engage in terrorism and film that, because committing crimes against America is apparently cool with him so long as it makes Muslims look bad on the teevee.

So all these people got together and decided they needed to complain to the advertisers of the show. And that's when things got stupid. Lowe's, apparently headed by people born without spines, decided that they wouldn't advertise on a show that was controversial. They said they were sad that they'd made "some people very unhappy," but this was the way things were going to be.

But here's the problem with avoiding controversy: you can't. It's pretty much impossible -- especially when the people ginning up the controversy are a bunch of bigoted assholes who hate a show because it doesn't lie about an entire American demographic. In running away from a tiny controversy, they ran headlong into a giant one. That's the sort of brilliant business sense that we've come to expect from corporate America.

Anyhoo, now Lowe's is in trouble with the not-bigot people, which is just about everyone (I know, we've been over this all before, but some people are just tuning in). They've got MoveOn and a Democratic senator on their case, as well as people like me. It's just really, really bad.

So, the lesson here is that if you run a business and a bunch of customers tell you to start hating another bunch of customers, chase them off with a broomstick. Pronto. (Politico)

-An apt analogy-

Click to embiggen

Works for me. (DailyKos)

-Bonus HotD-
"Axelrod Plays The Monkey Butt Card On Newt Gingrich."

David Axelrod: "I told my colleagues yesterday a bit of homespun wisdom I got from an alderman in Chicago some years ago when one of his colleagues wanted to run for higher office and he was really dubious. He said, 'just remember the higher a monkey climbs on a pole, the more you can see his butt.' So, you know, [Newt Gingrich] is very high on the pole right now and we’ll see how people like the view." (Talking Points Memo)

GOP's Own Data Proves Voter ID Laws are About Suppressing the Vote

For years, the right has argued that the United States is a republic, not a democracy. The argument is deeply flawed, in that it's an "apples exclude oranges" statement. A republic is a structure, democracy is a system. To say that one rules out the other is like saying a grilled cheese sandwich is not grilled, but a sandwich. The United States is a constitutional republic that uses the system of democracy. To say anything else is simply to lie. We vote people into office, who in turn become professional voters. There's democracy all over the damned place.

I'd always assumed that Republicans made this argument as a matter of simple rhetorical dishonesty; Democrat = democracy, Republican = republic. If the United States was founded as a republic only, Republicans -- by virtue of their party's name -- could convince the weak-minded and logic-challenged that Republicans were closer to the founders' original vision. Not the best or most rational argument, but -- let's face it -- the GOP doesn't waste a lot of time on outreach to brainiacs. Think back to the Tea Party protests for examples of the deep thinkers the party attracts.

But there's a darker reason for the argument; Republicans aren't big fans of democracy. Here's the co-founder of the rightwing Heritage Institute and the Moral Majority, the late Paul Weyrich:

Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome -- good government. They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.

For Republicans, voting is only good when the right people vote -- and if you can discourage the wrong people from voting, that's great. If you can actually prevent the wrong people from voting, that's even better. Is that democracy? No, it's not -- which explains why the GOP is big on this republic argument.

And Republicans are currently waging a War on Democracy, in the form of restrictive voter ID laws. According to their arguments, voter fraud is rampant across the nation and must be dealt with. As a result, laws are passed that -- merely coincidentally, mind you -- make it more difficult for minorities, the poor, seniors, and students to vote. All blocks that tend to vote Democratic or oppose GOP policies.

After getting some pushback from voters and in the media, the Republican Party apparently felt they were in a "put up or shut up" situation. They had to prove that voter fraud was a massive problem, so the Republican National Lawyers Association collected data from 2000-2010 showing election fraud in 46 states (apparently, there were no instances of fraud in four states). The problem; if this was a "put up or shut up" situation, they would've been much better off choosing "shut up."

[Debbie Hines, Huffington Post:]

Viewing the data for the period 2000-2010, the report by its own account shows there is no link between voter fraud in states and the need for stricter voter ID laws. The data shows that during the entire 10 year period, 21 states had only 1 or 2 convictions for some form of voter irregularity. And some of these 21 states have the strictest form of voter ID laws based on a finding of 2 or less convictions in ten years. Five states had a total of three convictions over a ten year period. Rhode Island had 4 convictions for the same 10 years. Taking a close look at the RNLA data shows 30 states, including the District of Columbia had 3 or less voter fraud convictions for a 10 year period.

Voter ID laws enacted now in over half the states, require voters to present some form of identification as a requirement to vote. Fourteen states require a government issued photo ID when voting in person. At the time of registering to vote, other states like Kansas and Alabama further demand proof of citizenship beyond the federal legal requirement that citizens swear they are citizens. Kansas had one conviction for voter fraud in ten years; Alabama had three convictions in the same time period. During the 2011 legislative session, five states -- Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina -- joined Georgia and Indiana by enacting the strictest form of photo ID requirement for voters, and most of these newest changes will first come into effect for the 2012 elections.

As thin as the data is, it's padded. Included are incidents of election fraud (vote buying and ballot tampering, for example) that voter ID would do nothing to prevent. In trying to provide evidence to bolster their claims of widespread voter fraud, they've only managed to prove just how trivial a problem it actually is. In fact, even if all these instances had happened in the same year, rather than over a decade, there just wouldn't be enough of them to change the outcome of an election. Taken as they are -- ten years of data -- they show numbers so tiny that rounding errors and miscounts would be more consequential. In short, they've proved conclusively that voter fraud is not a problem.

But, then again, voter fraud isn't the problem they're trying to solve. People who aren't likely to vote Republican are the problem they're trying to solve. If you doubt that, show me the election that would've had a different outcome without voter fraud.

Republicans have cured themselves of Weyrich's "goo-goo syndrome." Now they're trying to cure the nation. We may be a republic that uses the system of democracy now, but they're working on fixing that problem.



News Roundup for 12/12/11

YouTube's logo?

-Headline of the Day-
"Legal expert says online piracy bill is unconstitutional."

Imagine a law so broadly and stupidly written that a couple of kids singing Birthday by The Beatles could get YouTube shut down. Now stop imagining it, because it's not an entirely imaginary scenario. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is currently being bounced around in congress and would do just that. According to the report, "The bill would empower the Justice Department and copyright holders to demand that search engines, Internet providers and payment processors cut ties with websites 'dedicated' to copyright infringement." What does it mean to be "'dedicated' to copyright infringement?" Who knows? It's not defined, but since YouTube probably gets hundreds of copyright infringement notices a day, you could easily argue that it's a piracy site by SOPA's standards.

Like I said, broadly and stupidly written.

But Lawrence Tribe, a legal scholar with the Harvard Law School says that the very basis of the law is unconstitutional, since it calls for "prior restraint" -- the suppression of speech before a case goes to court. In other words, the punishment is handed down before the trial -- which is bad. And, of course, there's that whole "broadly and stupidly written" thing.

"Conceivably, an entire website containing tens of thousands of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement," Tribe says. "Such an approach would create severe practical problems for sites with substantial user-generated content, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and for blogs that allow users to post videos, photos, and other materials."

You know, sites like the one you're looking at right now. Real terrible piratey stuff.

And, of course, there's the whole question of whether law enforcement should be involved in copyright policing at all. Copyright infringement has traditionally been a civil crime, policed by lawsuits. Changing it to a criminal offense and having law enforcement police it would save media companies a lot of money, while shifting that cost to the taxpayers. In short, it's a permanent bailout for people who don't even need a temporary one -- seen a lot of starving media execs lately? Me neither, so what problem is it that we're solving here again?

But hey, it's already passed the House, which is run by Republicans who oppose burdensome, big-government regulations and corporate bailouts -- right up until the point that they don't. It's the Senate, run by supposedly big-government regulatin', baily-outy Democrats, that's holding things up here.

Here's hoping they hold it up forever. (The Hill)

-Merry Christmas to some!-

Click to embiggen

To the rest, good luck. (MSNBC)

-Bonus HotD-
"Crappy Retail Chain Lowe’s Sorry If Anyone Is Upset They Hate Muslims."

Bigots were unhappy that Lowe's advertised on a show that portrayed American Muslims as not-insane. So Lowe's pulled the ads. Now they're in trouble with the not-insane -- who are most people.

The moral of this story: always tell bigots to fuck off. Every time. (Wonkette)

Fox Unable to Fathom How GOP Screwed Themselves

Thursday, a Fox News poll showed that the public believes -- by an extremely wide margin -- that Pres. Barack Obama would probably be reelected. The video above is the reaction from the hosts of Fox's morning lobotomy patient show, Fox & Friends. As you can see, they're not taking it well. You expect Gretchen Carlson to look at the camera and ask, "We've been telling you Obama is pure evil! Haven't you people been listening to us?!?"

To be fair, the results aren't anything approaching reality, numbers-wise. The same poll shows the president winning, but that "Obama edges Romney by only 1 point and Gingrich by 5 points." So not by a comfortable margin by any means. In fact, you could call it a statistical dead heat in the Obama/Romney matchup. Still, in a non-numerical sense, the perception of that 44% who say that Obama will win is accurate within the poll, which does in fact show that Obama would win. Fox and Friends were freaking out that the largest percentage agreed with the findings of their poll.

What we see here again is what I've come to call the "clown show effect." While an endless series of GOP debates has amounted to free advertising for Republican candidates, that advertising hasn't been extremely positive. And, of course, Herman Cain's flameout didn't help any.

In fact, The Hill reports that the "political winds have shifted to the Democrats’ backs over the last month."

President Obama is in better shape at the prospect of a prolonged GOP primary battle between former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Mitt Romney. Democrats in the House have been buoyed by a series of court decisions on redistricting and Senate Democrats have recently landed potentially strong recruits in conservative-leaning states.

Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have seized on the payroll tax extension, which has divided the GOP.

Voter angst at Washington is extremely high, though it is unclear which party will feel the most of the public’s wrath next November.

"The political atmosphere is clearly volatile," the report continues. "A couple months ago, Republicans were optimistic that they had a good chance of running the White House and both chambers of Congress in January, 2013. But since then, that optimism has waned."

Another part of the problem for the GOP is their commitment to continuing to be politically tone deaf. Despite the fact that Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare-slaying plan was extremely unpopular with voters, Republicans keep going back to it as if it were the most popular idea in history. In trying to out-conservative Newt Gingrich for example, Mitt Romney's taken to waving the Ryan plan around like a flag. And the entire party is opposed to the wealthy paying their fair share in taxes, which voters poll after poll say they want.

The problem for Republicans is that they looked at Obama's poll numbers and assumed they had a gimme. No matter what they did, they reasoned, Obama was going to lose. So they might as well do whatever they wanted. Sensing easy prey, nutjobs like Cain and Bachmann and Santorum and Perry crawled out of the woodwork, figuring this was their big chance -- the election where a Republican couldn't possibly lose -- and proceeded to pollute the debate with idiocy, hate, and flim-flammery. The feeding frenzy quickly devolved into a three-ring circus, with a clown act in every ring.

And, of course, this all forced the candidates to try to outcrazy each other. The GOP base, finally tired of the original model, is looking for their next Sarah Palin. So each candidate is trying to fill that void by being as divorced from reality as they can possibly be. Pandering to the Tea Party doesn't help with general election voters, either.

Looking back, it all seems a little predictable, like this was what had to happen, given the circumstances. The only thing I find surprising about all this is the shock displayed at rightwing sideshows like Fox and Friends.



News Roundup for 12/9/11

What Gingrich pictures when he imagines a Palestinian

-Headline of the Day-
"Gingrich: Palestinians 'invented,' promises Netanyahu-style foreign policy."

Part of being a Republican is being positively insane on the issue of Israel and the middle east. It's very important to be the least realistic person in any given room on the subject and Newt Gingrich is determined to be that person.

In an interview with The Jewish Channel, Newt decided the time was right to leave reality completely behind. Not only don't Palestinians have any claim to what was formerly called "Palestine," but Palestinians themselves are just made-up things, like leprechauns, unicorns, and Reagan's welfare queens.

"Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community," Newt said. "And they had a chance to go many places. And for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940's, and I think it’s tragic."

OK, so by this logic, there is no "America," since America was part of the British Empire. And Newt as a so-called "American" doesn't actually exist, because he's part of the white race from Europe.

Consistency in logic is a real bitch, ain't it?

Which is why Newt decided to abandon consistency pretty much immediately. In the same interview, Gingrich said, "I believe if somebody goes around and says you don’t have a right to exist, they’re probably not prepared to negotiate for peace."

So what's it say when you go even further and say they never even existed in the first place? (Politico)

-Class warfare defined-

Click to embiggen

...and the middle class and labor and small businesses... (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Rick Perry Will Get Rid of Activist Judges As Soon As He Can Name One."

All the hatemongering in the world can't distract from the fact that Rick Perry really is just an idiot. (Wonkette)

GOP Flateartherism Strikes Again

At this point, I have to ask, what do Republicans have against demand? I get that they like this pie-in-the-sky supply-side stuff, but it's "supply and demand," not "supply or demand." At every turn, Republican economic policies have consumers reducing spending, as if a stagnant economy and slow to non-existent growth is the best thing ever.

Case in point:

[The Hill:]

GOP leaders hope to build momentum for an end-of-year tax package with sweeping reforms to federal unemployment benefits.

The Republican proposal is expected to reduce the total number of weeks unemployed workers are eligible for aid by as much as 40 weeks and tighten rules for eligibility.

Such a reduction would significantly reduce the cost of extending federal unemployment benefits, making it easier to secure GOP support for a measure that will also include an extension of a payroll tax cut many conservative Republicans dislike.

Can I just go ahead and say that this is stupid beyond words? Employment benefits are an economic stimulus that not only kicks in automatically, but automatically ramps up when the economy is bad and dials back when the economy improves. I don't know what it is about "the economy is people spending money" that Republicans don't get. Unemployed people spend money. Why? Because they have to. As much as the GOP likes to pretend that unemployment benefits are a lavish free ride, they represent as significant reduction in income. People collecting benefits aren't wasting that money on frivolous stuff, they're trying to figure out how to get it to cover their expenses. As a result, they spend all of it.

And with long-term unemployment a major problem, Republicans want to reduce the number of weeks a person can collect benefits? Are you kidding me? As I said before, this is stupid beyond words. What Republicans are proposing is crippling the economy in one place to pay for fixing it in another -- i.e., a sort of shifting status quo, where the problems of one sector are sloughed off on another, resulting in no net improvement. Want a payroll tax cut extension to boost consumer spending? Fine, then we have to cut unemployment benefits and reduce consumer spending there.

It's like they don't even understand the basic problem at all. The Republican War on Math marches forward.

Of course, the GOP had earlier defeated a measure that would've set up a "millionaires surtax" to pay for the extension. But we've got to protect the wealthy, because they're saving and not spending. Yeah, it doesn't make any damned sense, but really, do you even expect it to at this point?

And how do millionaires feel about the surtax?

[National Public Radio:]

[W]e put a query on Facebook. And several business owners who said they would be affected by the "millionaires surtax" responded.

"It's not in the top 20 things that we think about when we're making a business hire," said Ian Yankwitt, who owns Tortoise Investment Management.


He says his ultimate marginal tax rate "didn't even make it on the agenda."

And that was the consensus; a surtax wouldn't make any difference to the respondents.

See -- and I know this is hard for Republicans to get their heads around -- people go into business to make money. And here's the tricky part; if no one's spending money, they don't make money. You can give them the biggest tax cut in the world, but if their income is down, they'll make less money. It's weird, I know. But that's math for you. It just hates GOP economics.

Worse, people don't hire people just for the hell of it and because they can afford it. They hire people because they need them. No tax cut is going to make someone need an employee -- consumer demand will. And the reverse is true; if they can't afford a worker anymore, they'll lay them off. Why wouldn't they be able to afford to keep the job open? I don't know, maybe because some boneheaded Republicans cut unemployment benefits and now a whole bunch of people aren't spending money anymore. Things like that. As I said, math hates Republicans.

The Earth is not flat and the laws of supply and demand have not been repealed. I know that may be hard for Republicans to accept, but that's just the way things are.



News Roundup for 12/8/11

What a Great American Patriot looks like

-Headline of the Day-
"Eric Boehlert Targeted In Bungled 'Verizon' Sting."

Eric Boehlert is a terrible man who helps run Media Matters for America. How do we know he's a terrible man? Because he works for Media Matters. How do we know that's a bad thing? Because Bill O'Reilly says they're like nazis or something.

Someone has to take Media Matters down a peg, because they unfairly post rightwing craziness in the media -- verbatim and in context. This is a terrible thing.

So an unknown Great American Patriot came up with a cunning plan: dress up like a guy from Verizon and have Boehlert take a survey that has absolutely nothing to do with telephones, then post the information or give it to Fox News or something. I don't know, he's not coming forward. Probably something like that.

Anyway, that didn't work. Turns out that, in order to be a respected media critic, you've got to be all smart and stuff -- smart enough to know that questions about his salary and the 99-percenters had jack-all to do with phones. So he called the Great American Patriot on his BS and the guy took off running.

"The only sort of comical part was he forgot which way he was supposed to run in case I started following. He ended up sort of in the road, and he sort of turned left and then right," Boehlert told Sam Stein of the Huffington Post. "The last I saw him he was in a full sprint down my street running away from my house."

So who was the Great American Patriot? Who knows? Speculation is that he may be part of James O'Keefe's fake sting/propaganda outfit Project Veritas. But that's only speculation. He might just be someone inspired by O'Keefe to try his hand at the same sort of confidence gaming. Whoever he is, he's gone. And whatever he brilliant sting was trying to accomplish failed.

Come forward, Great American Patriot, and meet the recognition you deserve. (Huffington Post)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, Little Suzie Newsykins is back and she's here to talk about Newt Gingrich! Yay!

Click for animation

Bonus: he kind of looks like the guy who runs the Keebler Elf tree. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Bill O'Reilly Hits Community Organizer with Umbrella, Tries to Get Him Arrested."

Blowhard Bill really is just an awful person. (Right Wing Watch)

GOP Enthusiasm and The Clown Show Effect

When I look at polling, I tend to use myself as a model. I look at the question and think about how I'd answer it. Maybe that's not the best way to go about it. I suppose I'm not always the average voter.

For example, take voter enthusiasm polls. For myself, enthusiasm is pretty much irrelevant. I go out and vote regardless of how stoked I am about it in any particular cycle. Using myself as a model, voter enthusiasm would be a meaningless stat. But other people apparently react differently to their own enthusiasm. The polls really do seem to reflect the final turnout.

Which is why a new Gallup poll must have Republicans feeling a little uneasy. When respondents were asked, "Thinking ahead to the election for president next year, compared to previous elections, are you more enthusiastic than usual, or less enthusiastic?" 49% of "Republicans and independents who lean Republican" reported being more enthusiastic. This compares well with the 44% of Democrats and dem leaners who say the same.

And it's at this point that the good news ends for the GOP. Their enthusiasm has dropped nearly 10% from September, when it was at 58%. Call it the "clown show effect."


Republicans' enthusiasm about voting has dropped and, as a result, the enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats has narrowed significantly. This marks a change from the decided enthusiasm advantage Republicans enjoyed just two months ago and in last year's midterm elections.

The decrease in Republicans' enthusiasm could reflect the intensive and bruising battle for the GOP nomination going on within the party, and the rapid rise and fall of various candidates in the esteem of rank-and-file Republicans nationwide. Once the Republican nominee is determined next year, Republicans' voting enthusiasm may steady, but whether this is at a high, medium, or low level remains to be seen.

So this may be the low point, after which it rises again. But if Gallup is right and this is the result of candidate skirmishing and the embarrassing spectacle of candidates like Herman Cain, then that seems unlikely.

Gingrich is a disaster waiting to happen. So far, the press has gone relatively easy on his past and Newt's benefited from that. But once people start doing oppo-research, they won't have a lot of trouble digging up dirt. In fact, "digging" is probably the wrong word -- it's all so public that "fetching" is probably better. Want the juicy details? Just go to Wikipedia.

And then there's Mitt Romney. Romney may not be the ethics nightmare that Gingrich embodies, but it's pretty clear that he's Republican voters' Plan B. They intensely dislike his finger-in-the-wind approach to politics and policy and don't trust him -- perhaps rightly -- to remain as conservative as he pretends to be. Romney's like that weird, space-saving spare tire -- not a good fit, unreliable, but when you need it you'll use it. It'll get you were you need to go, but you don't want to ride on it forever. If he gets to the White House, Republicans will wind up riding on that tire for four years until they get a chance to replace it.

These are most likely the two biggest contenders for nominee -- a train wreck and a flip-flopper. Who's left in the not-Romney category who hasn't already been cycled out? Rick Santorum, who's just plain mean, and Jon Huntsman, who's the sort of politician that Republicans fear Romney secretly to be. Ron Paul? I just don't see it. Legalizing drugs and prostitution alone counts him out, as does cutting aid to Israel.

The impression that Republicans have a weak field this cycle is entirely accurate. There's no one to get excited about here. Republican voters seem to have spent a lot of enthusiasm energy on Herman Cain, who was a doomed candidate even before we found out he was a serial sexual harasser and an adulterer. He was obviously unprepared and unserious.

Frankly, I don't see GOP enthusiasm improving much as time goes on. I could be wrong -- predictions have a bad habit of coming back and biting you from behind. But right now, things look pretty downward-oriented for the GOP. Meanwhile, Democrats have a chance to get economic populism behind them -- and they're taking it. They seem to be taking GOP talking points by the horns, giving Democratic voters something to fight. Want to get voters to the polls? Give them something to be against. Some voters will always hold their noses and vote for more of the same, but more will vote against something with relish.

We'll see how things pan out in the long run, but at the moment, things seem to be turning Democrats' way.



News Roundup for 12/7/11

Rick keeps his girlish figure by pummeling poor people

-Headline of the Day-
"Santorum: We Don’t Need Food Stamps Because Obesity Rates Are So High."

Good news, everyone; Rick Santorum has noticed that the problem of hunger in America has gone away!

Where'd it go? Who knows. But he doesn't see any hunger around anywhere. See, Rick's -- oh, let's go ahead and call it "reasoning" -- works this way: we've got a lot of people on food stamps and there are overweight people. The end. So it's safe to cut funding for food stamps.

"If hunger is a problem in America, then why do we have an obesity problem among the people who we say have a hunger program?" Rick asks.

Fair question, fair question... I'm sorry, no it's not. It's a stupid question. Not everyone receiving food stamps is overweight, for one. For another, being overweight doesn't mean you're eating right. Need me to draw you picture? Here you go:

Rick probably doesn't know it, being a fabulously well-to-do former Senator, but cheap food is shitty food. And shitty food makes you gain weight. People don't have a weight problem because they're eating too healthy, you know. It's mostly because they eat junk. I always say that if all you can afford for dinner is a 99 cent mac and cheese dinner and a can of Orange Faygo, you're going to put on weight. It's almost unavoidable.

But that's what you call yer "facts and logic."

Rick Santorum doesn't do facts and logic. (ThinkProgress)

-Things ain't looking good for Mittens-

Click for full comic

They probably have Sandusky confused with Herman Cain. (GoComics)

-Bonus HotD-
"Bolling Apologizes To 'Froggy,' Challenges Him To Debate."

Remember how Fox idiot Eric Bolling accused the muppets of being commies? Now he wants to debate Kermit. Kermit is a puppet. He isn't real. Apparently, some people haven't figured that out.

And, no. He didn't really apologize.

Proof positive Fox is the channel for complete morons. (Media Matters)

Recognizing the Failure of Reaganomics

Nearly every presidential candidate in my memory has promised to change Washington for the better. Politicians need to do things differently, we're told. To work together, to find common ground, to put aside politics for the good of the nation. It all sounds good, but the problem with this promise is that you're promising to change someone else. If Washington doesn't want to change, Washington isn't going to change. And, as we've seen in recent years, if Washington actually wants to get worse, then there isn't a lot any one person can do about it. Barack Obama, like every candidate before him, promised to change the way Washington worked. The problem was that he meant it.

President Obama kept to this centrist, moderate path long after it became clear it didn't lead anywhere. Republicans became a jerking-kneed herd, obstructing anything Democratic, out of a fit of sore-loserism and the belief that political sabotage would pay off for them at the ballot box. Centrism should have died, but Obama seemed to believe there was still some hope. There wasn't. There can probably never be. Democracy is an adversarial system and fighting is built in. A system where one side wins and one side loses once every two years fosters competition, not cooperation. The basic argument behind centrism and moderation is deeply, deeply flawed; that cooperation is more important than the best ideas, that the process is more important than the result.

So it came as both a surprise and a relief when President Obama spoke at Osawatomie, Kansas yesterday. The centrist Obama was mostly absent. Instead, a partisan Obama stepped up to the podium.

Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes -- especially for the wealthy -- our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the price of liberty.

Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. (Laughter.) But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ‘50s and ‘60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade. I mean, understand, it’s not as if we haven’t tried this theory.

Robert Reich has a better breakdown of the speech than I can provide, but the basic argument here is that Republican ideas simply do not work. They've resulted in failure after failure after failure. This isn't a matter of opinion, it's a matter of history. Plain facts, uncomfortable truths, and putting solutions above compromise? This is a different Barack Obama.

[Steve Benen:]

You want a populist president, putting the interests of working families and the middle class above all? You’ve got it. For 55 minutes, Barack Obama made the case for progressive governance while destroying the foundation for the right’s vision.

This wasn’t a “let’s compromise” speech. It wasn’t a “Democrats and Republican can get along” speech. And it certainly wasn’t a “I’m ready to meet my opponents half-way” speech. Obama’s given those speeches, he’s made those efforts, and he’s invested enormous energy in trying to close the gap between the parties.

The president does not seem willing, though, to keep pushing a right-wing boulder that will not move. Instead, Obama is presenting the vision he believes in, and wants the American mainstream to rally behind it, whether radicalized Republicans like it or not.

More of this please -- and less of the centrist compromiser. Here's hoping this Obama stays around after the election.



News Roundup for 12/6/11

Ineffective Effective protester

-Headline of the Day-
"Cuomo caves to protesters, will hike taxes on rich New Yorkers."

Those Occupy Wall Street commies are never going to accomplish anything, because they don't have a message and they're living outside like hobos and they're screwing around with drum circles and... Oh look, they accomplished something!

According to the report, "After facing repeated protests over his resistance to raising taxes on wealthy New Yorkers, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo relented on Tuesday, striking a deal with legislators that will boost state revenues by $1.9 billion while simultaneously dropping the middle class tax rate to the lowest it has been in 58 years."

"New York citizens earning $20,000 per year or more are currently taxed at a rate of 6.85 percent, as are married couples earning more than $40,000 per year," the report continues. "The new tax brackets would drop tax rates for the lowest incomes to 6.45 percent, while increasing the rates for higher earners. Couples with incomes between $150,000 and $300,000 will pay 6.65 percent; households that earn $300,000 to $2 million will pay 6.85 percent; and incomes over $2 million will be taxed at 8.82 percent..."

That sound you hear is about a thousand empty-headed pundits and corporate apologists eating crow. (Raw Story)

-And a Happy Newt Year-

Click to embiggen

I don't know what they're complaining about, they almost got stuck with Cain. This is actually a step up. (Truthdig)

-Bonus HotD-
"Hero Child Explains Gay Rights In Words Bachmann Can Understand."

Eight year old Elijah from Myrtle Beach leaves Shelly Bachmann speechless, becomes hero to the nation. (Wonkette, with video)

GOP Insiders Panic Over Gingrich

Please excuse the above ante-meridian idiocy. I normally don't have a lot of use for talking heads and the worst are morning talking heads. Apparently, when you first get up, you're five years old. While MSNBC's Morning Joe never quite plums the depths that Fox and Friends reaches, it's clearly not for a lack of trying. Joe Scarborough and his merry band don't seem to have it in them to pretend to be quite so stupid as Fox's AM freak show, but that doesn't stop them from giving it the old college try.

The clip is brought to our attention by Taylor Marsh, who has this to say about it:

The Republican establishment has seen what their base is about to do and they’re in a panic and rightly so. The tipping point coming when Donald Trump reentered the fray with his Apprentice Debate, the optics and audio of which boiled down the Republican farce we’ve been watching all year.

This segment is delicious... really, watch it. At one point at then end of the opening segment of “Morning Joe,” Scarborough even served up that Republicans are talking about how to “broker a convention.” The Hill has a further report along the same lines, though it’s not just the “kingmakers” in a meltdown over the very real possibility of Newt Gingrich winning the nomination. It’s everybody in the entire conservative echelon.

If you can't bring yourself to watch the video, I can hardly blame you. Suffice it to say that Scarborough -- who served with Newt and knows him personally -- sees the possibility of a Gingrich nomination as a looming disaster. It's a meteor on a collision course with the GOP and would cause the party to lose bigger than Goldwater did in '64.

Scarborough believes that Republican voters don't remember Newt Gingrich or, if they do, remember him incorrectly. He's probably right. Gingrich is a profoundly unlikeable man with a tremendous ego, so convinced of his own brilliance that he doesn't really edit his thoughts before the come out of his mouth -- if an idea pops into his head, it's like he has to articulate it. As a result, he winds up saying some seriously crazy things.

Worse, Newt legitimately seems to hate the poor, downtrodden, and underprivileged and enjoys kicking people while they're down. This is already evident in his present rhetoric and, if Obama turns the debate to income inequality and the 99% -- as he's almost certain to do -- Gingrich will become positively cartoonish. I can say this without being hyperbolic; Newt Gingrich is a nasty, nasty man.

And as a nasty man, Newt left very few friends behind when he resigned as Speaker of the House. The aforementioned Hill piece makes that clear. Rep. Peter King remembers a man who was "condescending... dismissive," with a "superiority complex." Columnist George Will says Gingrich "embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive." Sen. Richard Burr recalls "a guy of 1,000 ideas, and the attention span of a 1-year-old," whose "discipline and his attention to any individual thing is not his strong suit."

And, as much as Tea Party voters seem to like him now, Libertarians say they won't like him later.

[Talking Points Memo:]

“Newt is the establishment. He’s antithetical to what the Tea Party is talking about,” explains [Christopher Barron, a Republican strategist with libertarian leanings and head of GOProud, which represents gay conservatives]. “This is about building on the Tea Party’s success. It would take a lot of selective amnesia” to think Newt could represent the Tea Party’s agenda.


“There’s a belief that the field represents a pre-Tea Party Republicanism,” said Michael D. Tanner, a senior research fellow at the Libertarian Cato Institute. It’s a crop of left-overs, he explains. Libertarians wanted Paul Ryan or Chris Christie. Instead, they got “pre-Tea Party folks.” Tanner wrote an op-ed last week in National Review Online on both Romney and Gingrich’s brand of Bush-era, big government conservatism. “Gingrich has been held in low-esteem by libertarians for a long time.”


This week, Cato vice president Gene Healy penned a piece in the Washington Examiner urging conservatives not to settle on Newt. “Newt’s hardly the ‘anti-Romney,’” Healy cautions, “he’s Mitt Romney with more baggage.”

Long story short, Newt represents the latest in bad ideas the Republican base has had lately. And Democrats should do very little to discourage them from making that choice. If President Obama put out an official campaign statement saying the president was terrified of a Gingrich candidacy, that'd be great. And Democrats should go on talking head shows to beg the 'baggers not to throw them in the briar patch by nominating Newt.



News Roundup for 12/5/11

Hates America

-Headline of the Day-
"The Muppets Are Communist, Fox Business Network Says."

Muppets are commies! So says Fox Business' Eric Bolling (who, by the way, is just awful). According to the report, "Last week, on the network's Follow the Money program, host Eric Bolling went McCarthy on the new, Disney-released film, The Muppets, insisting that its storyline featuring an evil oil baron made it the latest example of Hollywood's so-called liberal agenda."

See, the new Muppet movie has a rich and powerful villain -- a totally new thing in fiction that no one has ever done before. And, since the villain is a rich oil man, that means the muppets are commies trying to brainwash our children, not that the villain is a movie cliché.

"It's amazing how far the left will go just to manipulate your kids, to convince them, give the anti-corporate message," Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Center told Bolling.

"They've been doing it for decades. Hollywood, the left, the media, they hate the oil industry," Gainor continued. "They hate corporate America. And so you'll see all these movies attacking it, whether it was Cars 2, which was another kids' movie, the George Clooney movie Syriana, There Will Be Blood, all these movies attacking the oil industry, none of them reminding people what oil means for most people: fuel to light a hospital, heat your home, fuel an ambulance to get you to the hospital if you need that. And they don't want to tell that story."

I'll tell you why they don't want to tell that story -- it's crushingly dull and awful storytelling.

Look, it's a really simple and ancient literary formula; the stronger the villain, the greater the hero. That's why Sauron was a creature of almost godlike power and not just a guy with an argument for the beneficial aspects of magic rings. A rich guy is a guy with (in movie logic) unlimited resources -- who better to test the heroism of a bunch of carpet remnants?

But, as always, when the right sees an excuse to play the victim card, they play it. Proving, once again, that they don't get heroism at all. (Huffington Post)

-That's all, folks!-

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-Bonus HotD-
"Kansas Is Spending $2,180 Per Day Defending Its Anti-Abortion Laws."

Republican "fiscal sanity" at work; defending clearly unconstitutional laws from their inevitable doom. (ThinkProgress)