News Roundup for 8/31/11

O'Donnell, Palin
Bitter rivalry

-Headline of the Day-
"Sarah Palin Appearance at Tea Party Rally in Iowa 'No Longer Confirmed.'"

There was going to be a big tea party rally in Iowa Saturday. Or maybe there isn't. Who even knows?

See, here's what happened: Sarah Palin was going to show up for this thing, but then she found out Christine O'Donnell was going to be there too. Christine's selling this big important book nobody wants, so she's like all over the place lately. So Sarah sees that Christine's on the bill and she's all like, "No way! She's younger and prettier and -- let's face it -- crazier than I am! No way am I going to get upstaged by that witch!"

Which is totally unfair, because Christine is famously not a witch.

Anyway the 'baggers had to boot Christine or Sarah wasn't going to show. That was final. So they did. Or maybe they didn't. It's all very confusing. Sarah's saying that the organizers have lied to her. I guess she found out that Christine was going to pop out of a cake and surprise everyone with sparklers or something while Sarah did her big dance routine. I'm guessing. I don't have the details. Just piecing stuff together from the info I have, like Sherlock Holmes.

Of course, Sarah cancelled. And then she didn't cancel. And then her appearance was "on hold." She might even throw together a different shindig someplace else just to show up that snotty little witch. Who knows? It's all very indefinite and up in the air and crazy right now. And the 'bagger group, Tea Party of America, is already out $100,000 whether anything happens or not.

You know, it's organizational skills like this that got us the S&P downgrade. These people couldn't put together a peanut butter sandwich without incurring a death toll. (Wall Street Journal)

GOP frontrunners as characters from The Simpsons.

Click to embiggen

Amazingly accurate. (Reddit)

-Bonus HotD-
"Dim Michele Bachmann Wants To Drill Everglades For Oil That Isn't There."

That's right, Shelly's energy policy is just poke holes wherever you think there might be oil and screw those crazy geologists who want to dictate to Everyday Americans where there is or isn't oil. Science is our enemy! (Wonkette)

Red State Welfare Queens Revisited

Map chart
I can't figure out why Democrats and liberal commentators don't talk about this more. Especially now, with the Republican Party scrambling to cut pretty much all federal spending. But, for the most part, they aren't. It's not difficult to understand; red state economies are subsidized with blue state money. In other words, the average red state takes more federal tax dollars than it pays in, while blue states take less. I've written about it before. If we wanted to talk about welfare queens living off the largesse of federal government, Republican states are the queens we'd be discussing.

So what does this say about the economics of Republican state governments? Not good things. The ten poorest states in the nation in 2009 were all red states. What happens in red states is the Republican race to the bottom, where they cut services and spending to lower taxes, in hopes of attracting businesses and jobs. But low taxation isn't the only thing businesses are looking for. They want good schools -- not only for their own kids, but because good schools mean good workers. They want a strong infrastructure to maintain their distribution and supply chains. They want local consumers to buy their products or services. Red states offer none of these things and that is a direct result of the "tax cuts are everything" approach to economics.

All of this comes to mind because of a takedown by Robert Reich of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry wants "big government" out of our lives (except for the sex police, of course) and has advocated what Reich calls "fiscal secession" from the federal economy -- i.e., each state is on its own, financially. Leaving aside Perry's hypocrisy here, this would be a disaster for voters in most Republican-dominated states.

This might be a good deal for Texas. According to the most recent data from the Tax Foundation, the citizens of Texas receive only 94 cents from the federal government for every tax dollar they send to Washington.

But it would be a bad deal for most other red states. On average, citizens of states with strong Republican majorities get back more from the federal government than they pay in. Kentucky receives $1.51 from Washington for every dollar its citizens pay in federal taxes. Alabama gets back $1.66. Louisiana receives $1.78. Alaska, $1.84. Mississippi, $2.02. Arizona, $1.19. Idaho, $1.21. South Carolina, $1.35. Oklahoma, $1.36. Arkansas, $1.41. Montana, $1.47, Nebraska, $1.10. Wyoming, $1.11. Kansas, $1.12.

On the other hand, fiscal secession would be a boon to most blue states. The citizens of California -- harder hit by the recession than most -- receive from Washington only 78 cents for every tax dollar they send to Washington. New Yorkers get back only 79 cents on every tax dollar they send in. Massachusetts, 82 cents. Michigan, 92 cents. Oregon, 98 cents.

"The federal government is like a giant sump pump -- pulling dollars out of liberal enclaves like California, New York, Massachusetts, and Oregon -- and sending them to conservative places like Montana, Idaho, Oklahoma, Arizona, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Old South," he goes on. "As a practical matter, then, Rick Perry's fight to save America from Washington is really a secret plan to save blue states from red states."

And further, drastically reducing spending hurts taxpayers in all states. Everyone gets something back, some just get more than others and some get more than they paid. But cutting spending to states means that, of all those tax dollars your sending off to Washington, you get less back in terms of government services and things like employment. If you're in a red state, this means you're screwed. Your roads and bridges will continue to crumble, your schools will become worse, your consumer base will have less money. And businesses won't want to have anything to do with you. But don't worry, no one will have the money it takes to pay for an abortion, so you've solved the big problem, right? This isn't just a Rick Perry idea, this is a Republican idea. Anyone who thinks the Governor of Texas is an original thinker hasn't been paying attention.

So why should blue state liberals care about this? For one, we're good people and watching Americans in other states slowly destroy themselves is painful. But another reason is that, as much as people like Perry like to pretend otherwise, we're one economy as much as we are one nation. And we don't need a bunch of third-world red states dragging the rest of us down.



News Roundup for 8/30/11

Baby orangutan
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade

Headline of the Day-
"Fox News Forces Candidate to Defend Reality."

You might remember a tweet sent out by GOP presidential candidate John Huntsman a few weeks ago. Huntsman, who's staked out a losing position as the "sane Republican" in the race, decided he'd had enough of the other GOP crazies. "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming," he tweeted. "Call me crazy."

So, of course, the good folks at Fox & Friends were up to the challenge -- specifically pure white ubermensch Brian Kilmeade, who may very well be the dumbest person to ever get a gig on live TV (and that includes this guy).

Basically, Bri-bri took the Rick Perry position that scientists make shit up to score that sweet, sweet grant money. It's all very stupid, which explains why Kilmeade goes there. This would have to be a massive scam and a hoax unlike any we've seen in the history of mankind. As the Washington Post reported, 97% to 98% of all scientists support the idea that global warming has a human cause. But Kilmeade, like Perry, is either unwilling or unable to do the mental heavy-lifting it takes to grasp the enormity of what he's suggesting (I vote for the latter). Want an idea of how unlikely it is that Kilmeade and Perry are right? It would have to be on the scale of faking the moonlandings, like the nutjob flatearthers believe.

But this is Brian Kilmeade and he is very stupid and this is Fox News, after all. Dumbassery is to be expected. (American Prospect)

-Can't tell the players without your scorecard!-
Having trouble telling your GOP presidential candidates apart? Try this handy chart!

Click to embiggen

Remember, Mittens is the "sane" one. (Reddit)

-Bonus HotD-
"Five Brave Souls Attend Christine O'Donnell Book Signing In Florida."

A glimpse into Sarah Palin's future. (Wonkette)

GOP: Soft on Defense

IreneRepublicans are weak on national defense. It really is that simple. If the threat is military, then they're strong on defense, but actual military threats to the United States are pretty rare. And they're big on fighting terrorism -- unfortunately, in ways that whittle away the freedom they say they're trying to defend. But get away from those threats and they could really care less. If the threat to the nation is not human, then they really have no interest in it. With Hurricane Irene come and gone, we see that the GOP's message to those affected by disaster, had they had their way, would be "sucks to be you."

And, of course, the rationale is that government does more harm than good. Katrina proved that, when the president and the head of FEMA are incompetents, that's probably true. Irene proves that, when the people running things are both qualified and give a damn, it's not true at all. But don't expect Republicans to admit that, because -- as I've already pointed out -- they're weak on national defense. It's an ideology-based weakness, so they're going to ignore all evidence to the contrary. It's what they do.

Here's an example of real world, common, day-to-day national defense in action, courtesy of Dana Milbank:

On Monday, six years to the day after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and obliterated the notion of a competent federal government, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate offered an anecdote that showed just how different things were with Hurricane Irene.

On the podium in the White House briefing room, he recalled the satellite images of Irene's path. "Do you remember seeing the satellite, how big that storm was and how close it was to the state of Florida?" he asked. Fugate, the former emergency management chief in Florida, said that a decade or so ago, "Florida would have had to evacuate based upon this track."

Instead, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's improved models predicted landfall in North Carolina, and, in fact, "the track was only about 10 miles off of where they actually thought it was going to come ashore."

So, no hit to the economy as Florida businesses needlessly shut down. No families jammed bumper-to-bumper on freeways, evacuating from a disaster that isn't going to happen. No stores emptied by panic buying. What a terrible failure of government, huh?

The competent response to Irene is "one model," wites Milbank. "The other model is to have a weak federal government, without the funds to forecast storms or to launch a robust emergency response in time to do any good. You might call that the Tea Party model."

And the Tea Party model is very real. House Republicans would cut funding for FEMA and the NOAA tracking technology that avoided a mass evacuation in Florida. Over at Fox News, they're wondering if we should even have a National Weather Service -- who needs tornado and flood warnings? -- to provide cover for Republicans who want to cut that too. From tsunami warning systems to volcano monitoring, Republicans demand we turn a blind eye to very real threats that face America. And let's not even talk about global warming.

Defense against outbreaks of disease? They want it cut. Defense against pollution? They want it cut. Earthquake research? They want it cut. Go ahead and run "Republicans cut ___" through google and, if it's a non-human threat to the nation and it falls under federal jurisdiction, they want it cut. Republicans are weak on national defense.

When all is said and done, Hurricane Irene is estimated to cost Americans as much as $7 billion dollars. But it could've been much worse. Had Tea Party Republicans been allowed to weaken our national defense further, it no doubt would've been.



News Roundup for 8/29/11

Drunk man in cowboy hat and speedo
Texas Governor Rick Perry

-Headline of the Day-
"Rick Perry: Social Security Is, In Fact, A Ponzi Scheme."

"Sometimes campaign spin works to distance a candidate from his controversial past statements," writes TPM's Evan McMorris-Santoro. "And sometimes the candidate comes back and makes a hash of all the work his staff has done for him."

Guess which one this story is about? That's candidate extracts foot from mouth, only to immediately jam it back in there. See, Rick Perry continues to try to have his cake and eat it too, with alternating attacks and defenses of Social Security. First it was unconstitutional, then it wasn't, now it's a scam. Tomorrow, it probably won't be. It all depends on who he's talking to, I guess. And if he remembers which stance he's supposed to be taking.

"It is a Ponzi scheme for these young people," he told an audience in Iowa, "The idea that they're working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie. It is a monstrous lie on this generation, and we can't do that to them."

Does that argument sound familiar? It should; every rightwing nut has been making that argument since SS began in 1935. For the record, exactly zero of them have been right. But hey, what's a perfect historical record mean to a Republican?

Not a lot, that's what. (Talking Points Memo)

-Hurricane Dimwit-
Can we start calling Republicans soft on national defense now?

Click to embiggen

Because they are. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Is Rick Perry dumb?"

Yes. Next question, please. (Politico)

Calling the GOP "Anti-Science" is Being Generous

An angry Zeus casts thunderboltsAs a noted climatologist and expert on all things geological, Rep. Michele Bachmann can say with some degree of certainty that she knows what caused both Hurricane Irene and the earthquake that shook the east coast last week.

"I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians," she told a crowd in Florida yesterday. "We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we've got to rein in the spending." Let me just point out that the right is accusing President Obama of politicizing Irene, then move on.

Shelly's not politicizing Irene, though. She's just spelling out cold, hard facts. All this happened because God has an opinion on government spending in the US. Seems to me that a being capable of miracles would be able to be a lot more clear -- maybe writing "STOP SPENDING SO MUCH MONEY!" across the sky in fire. But never mind that; the guy who supposedly runs the entire cosmos has a problem with the ratio of revenues to expenditures in one of the world's two-hundred-fifty-some nations. Call him detail-oriented.

Of course, it pays to point out that Bachmann rejects climate science. "I don't think it has been established as a fact that global warming is the issue of the day," she said in 2010. "One thing we need to do is look at the science." Think about that for a second. The evidence isn't good enough for her to conclude that global warming in a man-made phenomenon, but the science is solid that an angry god causes earthquakes and hurricanes. Worse, it takes someone of great faith to decipher what these earthquakes and hurricanes actually mean. This is the sort of reasoning that gets virgins thrown into volcanoes.

Writing about GOP candidate John Huntsman's assertion that his party is the "anti-science party," Paul Krugman finds a great example of GOP flateartherism in Rick Perry.

Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as "just a theory," one that has "got some gaps in it" -- an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples' attention was what he said about climate change: "I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change."

That's a remarkable statement -- or maybe the right adjective is "vile."

Perry is, of course, wrong and Krugman goes on to spell out why, but we've all seen this argument destroyed often enough to know how it comes apart. I won't bore you with it here. My point in bringing up Perry is that, while pretending there isn't enough evidence to support anthropogenic global warming, he's more than willing to promote prayer as the answer to everything. As his state suffered from drought and wildfires, Perry called on residents to pray for rain. Belief in a demonstrable greenhouse effect and the acknowledging of rising temperatures that are a matter of public record is bad science, while asking favors of your cosmic buddy (a buddy for whose existence there is no evidence, by the way) is simply level-headed logic.

This is the problem with Republicans across the entire range of issues; they aren't just wrong, they're stubbornly wrong in the face of history and evidence. And worse, they hypocritically attack the evidence, while promoting beliefs for which there is no evidence at all. They believe whatever it is that makes them happiest, then rationalize away any arguments -- no matter how solid -- that would dispel that blissful ignorance. When is proof not proof? When you're a Republican and you don't want to hear it.

Global warming? That's just God having a tantrum. Evolution? It's hogwash; the science is better explained by a story about a talking snake and a magic apple. It even exists in economic policy; with the Bush tax cuts failing to create jobs for a decade, the belief -- despite the evidence staring them right in the face -- is that tax cuts create jobs. And now God apparently is weighing in on that, too.

I'd go beyond Huntsman's claim that the GOP is the "anti-science party." They're the anti-progress party, the regress party. They're the magical thinking party. The "let's try sorcery" party. The "believe what you want to believe, because it feels good" party. The party that, when it finds itself heading straight for a cliff, guns the engine -- because God loves them so much that he'll turn the cliff into a bridge to paradise.

One thing you can't call them is the "rational party." Not even close.



News Roundup for 8/26/11

Smashed typewriter
Our political press

-Headline of the Day-
"Why Political Coverage is Broken"

If you've read more than one post I've written, you probably get the impression that I'm of the opinion that our news media sucks. But there's a reason for that; our news media sucks.

Press critic Jay Rosen has a good idea as to why: reporters try to pretend they have the inside scoop all the time, by pretending they're actually part of the stories they're covering.

And you've seen this yourself; reporters spend one hell of a lot more time talking about campaigning than they do about issues. And if the subject isn't elections, they spend more time on the palace intrigue of getting legislation passed than they do on what the legislation actually does. And then, after the bill passes or doesn't pass, the first question they ask isn't, "What does this mean for Americans?" No, it's, "What does this mean for Democrats/Republicans/President Obama?"

Result, straight up suckage on a massive scale and glossing over the important meat to concentrate on the minor details.

But that's not the big problem. By pretending to be political insiders, reporters fool news consumers into theink they're insiders too -- to become "cognoscenti of their own bamboozlement," which is the most awesome phrase I've read all day. In other words, it makes it awfully easy for politicians to play the media by pretending to provide the "inside scoop." As a result, the media basically reports on what amounts to advertising, not substance. And then reporters go off and report what's the message and how the message is being put out and what the message means to whom and who's polling the message... Who should really even give a fuck? What's in the damned bill or what does the candidate stand for!?!

"In campaign coverage, nothing is more common than a good lesson in candidate strategy: how Mitt Romney plans to capture the nomination by skipping the Iowa caucuses," Rosen says. "That's what fascinates the pros, the insiders. But think about it for moment: should we give our votes to the candidate with the best strategy for capturing our votes?"

Because you should, that's why. Now shut up and eat your fluff. You're a super-savvy political insider now! (PressThink)

-Fashion forward-
Moammar Q or K or G or whatever was always a leader in dictatorial fashions. What's he wearing these days?

Click to embiggen

Best I've seen him looking in years. (TruthDig)

-Bonus HotD-
"International Law Expert Chuck Norris Is (Shockingly) Wrong About UN Arms Treaty."

You know, if wingnuts stopped freaking out about things that aren't actually happening, they'd find themselves with one helluva lot of time on their hands. (Talking Points Memo)

Can Democrats Blow the Upcoming Payroll Tax Fight?

It's hard to see how Democrats could lose this one -- at least, in a PR sense. As Democrats prepare a push to extend a payroll tax break, Republicans oppose it. All of a sudden, tax breaks add to the deficit. They didn't used to, but they do now. Republicans are consistent only in their disregard for logical consistency. When the tax cuts benefit the very rich, they don't add to the deficit. When they don't... Well, that's a different story. And, of course, there's the fact that President Obama is for extending these particular cuts, which -- by the reactionary reasoning of the party -- means they must be bad.

[New York Times:]

It is hard to find a tax cut that Congressional Republicans dislike. Unless it is a tax cut pushed by President Obama.

In a turning of the tax policy tables, Democrats are increasingly hammering on Republicans who oppose the president’s proposal to extend for a year a payroll tax cut passed last year with bipartisan support.

That tax cut -- which reduces workers' contributions to Social Security this year to 4.2 percent of wages, from 6.2 percent -- expires in December. The White House would like to extend it for another year. But Republicans in Congress are balking, arguing that such a cut adds needlessly to the nation’s budget deficit, and should be replaced with an overhaul of tax policy instead.

"All tax relief is not created equal," a spokesperson for Eric Cantor said. "If the goal is job creation, Leader Cantor has long believed that there are better ways to grow the economy and create jobs than temporary payroll tax relief."

And, of course, Cantor is right. There are better ways. The problem is, he doesn't like those any better. What Eric Cantor likes is continuing an economic policy that has now been failing to create jobs for a decade. the supply-side, trickle-down, fairy tale economics rule the day in today's GOP. It hasn't been working, it won't ever work, and cultic Republican belief in it is what's keeping congress from getting anything done.

Which brings me to this:

[Associated Press:]

Americans are plenty angry at Congress in the aftermath of the debt crisis and Republicans could pay the greatest price, a new Associated Press-GfK poll suggests.

The poll finds the tea party has lost support, Republican House Speaker John Boehner is increasingly unpopular and people are warming to the idea of not just cutting spending but also raising taxes -- anathema to the GOP -- just as both parties prepare for another struggle with deficit reduction.

So raising taxes on working people to help fund tax cuts for the rich? That's really not going to fly. And Democrats are planning to force a vote on the extension in the fall. "One way or another, there will be a vote on extending these tax cuts," says Chuck Schumer, "if [Republicans] oppose it they are for tax cuts for the rich but not for the middle class." Greg Sargent describes Democrats as "giddy... about the politics of the payroll tax cut fight." Even if they lose, it's fodder for campaign ads in 2012; "Rep. X voted against tax cuts for working families, so he could help pay for the tax cuts his big money donors demanded. Call Rep. X. Ask him why he won't protect working families like yours."

But if there's one thing I've learned, it's that Democrats can screw up even a gimme. Maybe President Obama will continue his brilliant strategy of working to end fights rather than to win them. Maybe Senate Blue Dogs will break ranks and run to the Republicans' defense. Whatever the route to defeat, it's extremely possible that Democrats will find it.

Which means it's up to us. When the battle heats up, the pressure has to come from the bottom. We have to flip the party hierarchy and make it clear to dems that they work for us, not vice versa.  We have to bang phones and write letters and do the work that democracy demands.

And, when this issue is behind us, we move on to the next. It doesn't end. It never ends. Democracy is a work in constant progress. If we want Democrats to fight, we have to fight too.



News Roundup for 8/25/11

Rice and Qadaffi
The couple in happier times

-Headline of the Day-
"Condi Rice Photos Are Moammar Gaddafi's Dictator Porn of Choice."

One of the things about being ousted from power is that it's a lot like dying; if you aren't prepared for it, people are going to find some embarrassing things in your left behind stuff. In the case of Moammar G or K or Q or whatever, that means "a big ol' catalogue of fap fuel made up of Condoleezza Rice photo scrapbooks hidden in his torture castle."

It's not like there weren't clues. "I support my darling black African woman," he said in a 2007 Al Jazeera interview. "I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders... Leezza, Leezza, Leezza... I love her very much. I admire her, and I'm proud of her, because she's a black woman of African origin." Oh yeah, crack that whip, baby. Make those Arab leaders beg!

"I think I don't need to see the photos, but bizarre and creepy are good adjectives to describe much of Gadhafi's behavior," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "It doesn't surprise me. It's deeply bizarre and deeply creepy, though, if it is as you described."

To this blog's knowledge, this is the first time in history the State Department commented on photos stashed under a guy's mattress. (Wonkette, MSNBC)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, Little Suzie Newsykins is back and she's here to tell us what she learned on her summer vacation. Yay!

Dogged Daze
Click for animation

I think there might be something wrong with Suzie... (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Cantor Spox: If There's Hurricane Damage, Costs Will Have To Be Paid For With Spending Cuts."

Ooh look! A brand new hostage! (Talking Points Memo)

Griper Blade: Little Bullies, Schoolyard Taunts, and Republican Campaigning

When I was in grade school, there was this one kid. Of course, he will remain nameless, because this is the story of a little prick. He delighted in hurting people's feelings and pushing people's buttons. And he was also a coward. If you chased him down, he'd beg and cry and promise to stop being such an a-hole, but as soon as he got out of reach, he'd go right back to being a jerk -- I mean immediately. I would've kicked his ass -- maybe I should've -- but I wasn't that kind of person, I was raised right. I see now that he was some category of bully, but it didn't seem like it at the time, because all the violence in that particular relationship would've come from me. But bully he was, because he enjoyed abusing other people. And he did it because he knew I wouldn't hurt him, despite the fact that I was one of the biggest kids in the school. Seriously, I could've snapped him like a twig.

If current events are any indication, that kid has a job in the Republican Party today. At the very least, he's a Tea Partier. They're the party of insults, the party of smears, and they do it because they know liberals won't hit back in the same way. We can't, really. Our voters wouldn't like it. We're persuaded by rational argument, not schoolyard taunts. But Republicans love jerks. If you're an abrasive loudmouth, you're the best thing ever. If you don't believe me, turn on talk radio and count the seconds between insults. You won't count very high. Or better yet, correct a rightwinger on twitter. Their very first response to you will be an insult that they think is knee-slappingly clever. They mistake debate -- which in its purest form should be a fact-based, logical exposition of truth -- for a knock-down, drag-out fight in which the one who gets to say, "Ooh, burn!" is the obvious winner. Facts are meaningless, logic is irrelevant, truth is for losers. Politics is about insults and political debate is just a more formal version of "the dozens."

Which brings us to this photo being passed around by David Limbaugh:

Click to enlarge

How very typical.

[Steve Benen:]

If you're having trouble seeing it, the image claims to show Rick Perry and Barack Obama when both were 22 years old. On the left, we see Perry posing alongside an Air Force plane's cockpit, and on the right, we see a young Obama smoking and wearing a hat.

Politico says it's an image "you’re likely to see again." A Perry campaign spokesperson boasted soon after, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

Now, as it turns out, National Review's Daniel Foster noted that the picture of Obama "seems to come from a roll of film shot by a friend at Occidental college, which Obama left, in favor of Columbia, years before he was 22," suggesting the competing images aren't even accurate.

But never mind that. Even if we accept the Perry/Obama image at face value, this is still entirely pointless.

Pointless only to liberals and independents. For Republicans, this is what passes for a crushing, slam-dunk argument. Benen goes on to point out that "the presidential nominee with more military background lost six out of eight times -- 2008, 2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, and 1980 -- including each of the last five national cycles." If conservatives really gave a crap about military experience, they wouldn't have attacked John Kerry's service. And the very last guy who posed for a photo like that was a disaster.

But none of that is the point. The point is to hurt Obama and his supporters in a personal way. It's a way to rally the base, who always cheer on the bully -- think of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and signs at Tea Party rallies. Think of Sarah Palin and the hatefests that McCain-Palin rallies turned into.

And what happens when those Republicans get the tiniest bit of criticism? It's an attack! It's outrageous! Victim card! Victim card! Sarah Palin, for example, makes her living off this brainless attack-dog politics. Yet her entire argument seems to be that people should listen to her -- and maybe even make her president -- because the press is so mean to her that she deserves it. They're always just as willing to be offended as they are to offend, as quick complain about being attacked as they are to attack. They march to the attack under a banner that reads "LIBTARD!" but retreat into victimhood when confronted.

In other words, you get the taunts when they're safely out of reach and the tears when you chase them down. Looking back, I really should've kicked that kid's ass.



News Roundup for 8/23/11

T-shirt - 'Bisexuals are confused - by your prejudice'
Not a myth

-Headline of the Day-
"Bisexual men exist: study."

Yeah, yeah, yeah. There was an earthquake in DC. You don't need to hear about that from me. If there's one thing an earthquake in Washington is going to get, it's plenty of press coverage. Think about it; that's where all the reporters are. If it had happened in Kansas City, the media response would be, "Weird, huh?" and then they'd move on. But it happened to them, making it the biggest, most important news story ever.

So it falls to me to do the heavy lifting and report the real big story of the day. And that big story involves hooking up high-techy doo-dads to guys' wing-wangs and showing them porn, because scientific discovery is how civilization advances.

See, there was actually some question as to whether bi fellas existed after a 2005 study by Northwestern University turned up inconclusive. In that study, "men who identified themselves as bisexual were in fact exclusively aroused by either one sex or the other, usually by other men."

Perhaps the quality of the porn was an issue, because this time around Northwestern got a result. Awesome porn of one category and lousy porn of the other would skew the results, after all. I don't know. Just throwing it out there. Just being all pundity and engaging in baseless speculation. In any case, all those guys who say they're bi are really bi. Not really clear on why we ever doubted them in the first place, but there ya go. We've got proof now. It's science.

Progress marches on. (Raw Story)

-Buffetted by criticism-
Warren Buffett's call to raise taxes on the very rich draws a spirited response.

Click to embiggen

Might as well be a photograph. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Rebels Breach Walls of Gaddafi Compound."

Whatever. You hear about that earthquake? I understand it knocked over a lawn chair! (Crooks and Liars)

Conservative Thinkers' Self-Inflicted Dilemma

Reading a Politico piece on Republican elites worrying about 2012, you can almost stop reading after the fourth paragraph:

It's a tough time to be a conservative intellectual.

From the Weekly Standard to the Wall Street Journal, on the pages of policy periodicals and opinion sections, the egghead right's longing for a presidential candidate of ideas -- first Mitch Daniels, then Paul Ryan -- has been endless, intense, and unrequited.

Profoundly dissatisfied with the current field, that dull ache may only grow more acute after Ryan's decision Monday to take himself out of the running.

The problem, in shorthand: To many conservative elites, Rick Perry is a dope, Michele Bachmann is a joke, and Mitt Romney is a fraud.

Sums things up pretty well, doesn't it? Of course, this is something of a self-inflicted wound. After years of standing by while others rail against "ivory tower intellectuals" or even engaging in it themselves, wonky conservatives find themselves hit by a backlash. And the backlash is against not only the highly educated, but against intelligence itself. They've helped train Republican voters to distrust facts. From global warming to evolution to economics to history, the battle cry has been "What do they know?"

And so now the know-nothings, those for whom the facts mean nothing, and the finger-in-the-wind poll-followers who believe whatever is most popular -- even as whatever's popular changes from month to month -- are the big heroes. They once thought the party and the nation could hobble along with a dummy running the show, but George W. Bush proved them wrong. Republican anti-intellectualism leads to disaster and incompetence and two presidential failures in a row could put their party in the position of Democrats in the late '80s and early '90s when, rightly or wrongly, George Bush the elder managed to turn the term "liberal" into a dirty word. "Republican presidents suck," backed by solid evidence, could set the party back for a while.

But, of course, the problem facing conservative intelligentsia is that they're an endangered species. If you doubt that, consider that Paul Ryan -- author of the least popular policy proposal in years -- was their big hope. When your best possible candidate is a man who put forward a Medicare-robbing plan that was opposed by 84% of voters, then you are (and please excuse the highly technical term) royally screwed. When that's your absolute best possible choice, then you're not choosing from a very wide inventory.

They only have themselves to blame for that. It seems to me that "intellectuals" should be a little more intelligent.



It's Come to This: Republicans Want to Raise Taxes on Consumers

The overthrow of Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi is the important story of the day, to be sure. Foreign policy wonk Steve Clemons calls it a "huge win" for both the Libyan people and President Obama, while showing some understandable trepidation over what happens next. Juan Cole breaks down what the event means through the process of elimination, shooting down myths we're sure to see crop up again and again in the coming days and weeks. For once, the story of the day deserves to be the story of the day.

But the problem with the big stories is that they tend to crowd out other stories. With a 24/7 news media, this should not be the case, but it is. It's rational in a sort of televised car chase way; even if nothing's happening right now, it's inevitable that something will -- the chase will end one way or another -- and if you cut away to cover something else, you may miss the big crack up (or, as is more often the case, the anticlimactic peaceful arrest). In this case, if network cameras take their viewfinders off Libya, they may miss the money shot of Qaddafi himself being arrested or gunned down or blown up or even fleeing.

But the real world doesn't cooperate with the media world's programming decisions. Things are scheduled to happen linearly; people in the world aren't waiting for Qaddafi's last hour as dictator to run out before moving on to other things. It all goes on simultaneously, with stories overlapping. If one story becomes the story, other stories get sidelined. Take, for example, the fact that Republicans want to raise taxes on nearly half of Americans:

[Associated Press:]

News flash: Congressional Republicans want to raise your taxes. Impossible, right? GOP lawmakers are so virulently anti-tax, surely they will fight to prevent a payroll tax increase on virtually every wage-earner starting Jan. 1, right?

Apparently not.

Many of the same Republicans who fought hammer-and-tong to keep the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts from expiring on schedule are now saying a different "temporary" tax cut should end as planned. By their own definition, that amounts to a tax increase.

The tax break extension they oppose is sought by President Barack Obama. Unlike proposed changes in the income tax, this policy helps the 46 percent of all Americans who owe no federal income taxes but who pay a "payroll tax" on practically every dime they earn.

One Republican explained the opposition. "It's always a net positive to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, "but not all tax relief is created equal for the purposes of helping to get the economy moving again."

Yeah. Some tax relief actually works, while that preferred by Republicans has about a decade-long track record of failure. After all, if lightly taxing the wealthy helps the economy, then explain why it never has. Words you will never, ever hear anyone say; "Wow, look how those Bush tax cuts created all those jobs!"

And the story here isn't just the "man bites dog" type of story that Republican opposition to tax cuts would seem to be. It's a demonstration of just how awful and stupid and counterproductive Republican economic ideas have become. In fact, GOP ideas are becoming so bad that it would be legitimate to question whether they were actively trying to slow down, halt, or even reverse economic recovery. Supply side tax cuts have never worked to boost the economy, while demand side tax cuts often do. But here's the party, standing in the way of something that history shows may help -- and in defense of something that history shows does not.

While the Libya story may overshadow this particular tax fight, the media doesn't have that excuse for the lack of coverage of the broader story -- that GOP policies have no basis in fact or history and run counter to long accepted economic principles of supply and demand. In this particular case, that means actually raising taxes on the poor to pay for tax cuts for the rich. That's not just shameless, that's not just wrong. That's so cartoonishly evil that you expect it to finally be exposed by a van full of teenagers and their dog, Scooby-Doo.

But what it's not is anything new. Economists and analysts on the left and the right are warning that GOP boneheadedness is heading us for a cliff. And why wouldn't it? Republican policies aren't based on any deep thought. They're based on the reactionary principle that if liberals like it, it must be wrong. It's a talk radio mindset that confuses spin with fact and denial of fact with truth. It's a deeply-ingrained belief -- also demonstrated by global warming denial and creationism -- that, if you don't like a fact, then it doesn't have to be true. If you just believe hard enough and strong enough and clap loud enough, Tinkerbell will recover reality will bend to your will. All it takes is a little faith; so-called "facts" and "history" are for lesser humans and losers without vision.

If the media won't cover that big story -- and they won't -- then the least we can hope for is that they'll give some decent coverage to the facet of the story being presented to them now. Republicans want to raise taxes; man bites dog.

Surely that's worth taking the media eye off Tripoli for just a few minutes?



Griper News: News Roundup for 8/18/11

John Wayne
Texas Governor Rick Perry

-Headline of the Day-
"Rick Perry Can't Defend His Claim That Social Security Is Unconstitutional Because He's 'Got A Big Mouthful.'"

Mouthful of what? If you guess BS, you're only half right. His mouth was also full of what he called "pop ups" -- despite the fact that the restaurant he was campaigning at was called "Popovers on the Square."

At the New Hampshire stop, Perry learned that the state isn't much like Texas and, if you say something insane, they're not going to let it slide. Despite having claimed in the past that Social Security is unconstitutional, Perry's trying to have it both ways by pretending to be committed to protecting it -- at least, for the generation currently collecting.

Anyway, protesters in New Hampshire weren't buying it and asked him to explain his interesting constitutional theory. it was at this point that Perry displayed his astounding rhetorical skills; "I don't think I..." he said. "I'm sorry, you must have..."

Cleared that right up, huh? Having reached the limit of his ability to string words together, Perry "stuffed a generous piece of popover in his mouth." Why lookie there! I'd surely love to answer you folks' question, but I went and jammed my skull plum full of puff pastries. Reckon I'll have to get back to you on that. Y'all have a good day and cowboy boots sixshooter horseshoes yeehaw!

Perry then rushed out, impressing onlookers with his Three Stooges imitation as he "tripped over one of the women standing at his side pressing him on Social Security."

This is what passes for presidential timber on the right these days. (ThinkProgress)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, it's a big scary world with lots of bad things happening and the press will cover it all -- after the elections!

Click for animation

Wait, did Sarah Palin sneeze? Stop the presses! (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Bachmann: The American People Are Concerned About 'The Rise Of The Soviet Union.'"

Oh for fuck's sake... (Right Wing Watch)

Note to the President: Winning Isn't Everything, It's the Only Thing

The good news is that President Obama is fixing for a fight on jobs.

[Washington Post:]

ObamaPresident Obama has decided to press Congress for a new round of stimulus spending and tax cuts as he seeks to address the great domestic policy quandary of his tenure: how to spur job growth in an age of austerity.

Obama will lay out a series of ideas in a major address right after Labor Day, when he and a largely antagonistic Congress will return from vacation, the White House said Wednesday.

The president is thinking about proposing tax cuts for companies that hire workers, new spending for roads and construction, and other measures that would target the long-term unemployed, according to administration officials and other people familiar with the matter. Some ideas, such as providing mortgage relief for struggling homeowners, could come through executive action.

The bad news is that President Obama is fixing for a fight on jobs. White House chief of staff William Daley once said of the president, "He's not someone to walk away from a tough fight." Which is actually pretty true. The problem is that he seems more interested in ending those tough fights than in winning them.

If "trying is the first step toward failing" is Homer Simpson's motto, "fighting is the first step toward caving" is Barack Obama's.

And he's already putting his caving foot forward, as he so often does. He proposes tax cuts and asking the super-committee to cut more than $1.5 trillion in spending cuts. You sweeten the deal after the prospect objects, not before. It's the public option all over again -- the president gives himself nowhere to retreat to but Republican territory. Unemployment and wage stagnation aren't contributing factors to a bad economy, they're the primary problems. They aren't symptoms, they're the disease. Solve those and everything else comes together -- including increased tax revenues that drive down the deficit. Focusing on cutting spending means "living within our means," yes. But these aren't the means any sane person wants to live with and cutting spending in reaction to our current economic situation means accepting it as the status quo. The idea that cutting spending will magically create jobs is the purest BS anyone ever sold. It doesn't even make sense. Yet Barack Obama plays along with the GOP, helping them sell this crap -- a sales job which will, by the way, make it harder to do sane things in the future. All because it allows him to propose big things and settle for crumbs in the form of nearly useless half-measures. We need solutions -- solutions Republicans don't have and actually hate -- but what we get are bumperstickers and bandaids and window dressing.

This is the reason that public approval of Obama's handling of the economy is at a historic low of 26%. Yes, Republicans have blocked him at every turn, demanding things that aren't helpful in the best cases and are actually damaging in the worst, but Obama's been broadcasting his plays beforehand by countering arguments that have yet to be made. He deserves that 26%. Not because his ideas are bad, but because he himself makes it impossible to have those ideas carried out.



News Roundup for 8/17/11

Dyer wears skull mask
Just your normal teabagger

-Headline of the Day-
"Manhunt On For Ex-Marine Oathkeeper Accused Of Rape."

You know those rightwing extremists that it's silly to worry about? Yeah, one of them is on the run in Oklahoma, likely armed and dangerous, after not showing up to court on "one charge of possessing an unregistered grenade launcher that was registered as stolen from a military base in California, and one charge of raping a minor."

Former Marine and current militia-type Charles Dyer is a crazy SOB and believes that the whole thing is a government conspiracy to put him away. So he plans to go out with guns blazing. "I have been pushed to the limits multiple times by law enforcement and the judicial system in an attempt to cause me to take violent action against them," he said in an email sent to his attorney. "If I do, I know I will be the monster they depict me as."

Yeah, we totally shouldn't worry about guys like this. Did I mention he was a member of the Tea Party?

At least he's not a union thug. Those are the people we have to worry about. Right? (Talking Points Memo, with video)

-Man of the people-
Mittens explains that corporations are people.

Click to embiggen

And it's true. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Santorum: 'Huge Moral Failings' Are The 'Root Cause' Of Our Economic Problems."

Translation: the economy sucks because gay people and abortion exist. (ThinkProgress)

Wisconsin Summer Recall Wrap-Up: Republicans Call This "Winning"

Walker as Charlie Sheen - 'Winning!'
I have to admit, I was prepared to be disappointed last night. After the last wave of Wisconsin recall elections, I was ready for at least one poll to be wrong and for dems to lose at least one seat. Turns out, all my preparations were for naught -- both Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch sailed to easy and comfortable wins. I'm not going to complain.

It's important to remember the rationale behind the recalls. For Republicans, it was their support of Gov. Walker's union-busting. But for Democrats, the recalls were about leaving the state to prevent a quorum for that union-busting. Wisconsin residents were supposed to be outraged that dems had gone "fleebagger" -- by conservatives' argument, leaving the state rather than doing their jobs. So, of the two rationales, one proved weak. After the smoke had cleared, not a single Democrat had been recalled.

While losing is being cast as winning by Republicans and the punditry (the GOP keeps their senate majority, albeit barely), it's important to note that this represents a shift in reasoning; a fact that's not lost on Wisconsin native John Nichols.

Wisconsin Democrats have won the last two of nine state Senate recall elections held over the course of the summer, meaning that the opponents of Governor Scott Walker's attacks on collective-bargaining rights have prevailed in the majority of recall elections and claimed the majority of votes cast in what many saw as a statewide referendum on Walker's policies.

If the recalls really were a referendum on Walker's agenda, then Walker clearly lost. Because, as Nichols points out, Democrats "claimed the majority of votes cast" in that referendum. Further, voters approved -- in every, single race -- of Democrats who left the state to deny that agenda.

And keeping their majority? That may not be much comfort to Republicans, as the debate has now been pulled back to the left toward the center.

That means that Democrat have narrowed the Republican advantage in the Wisconsin Senate to a razor-thin 17-16 split, which puts a moderate Republican senator who opposed Walker's assault on collective-bargaining rights in a position to work with Democrats to temper the extremes of the governor and his allies.

Republicans point out that the Democrats did not succeed in taking control of the state Senate, an ardent hope of the opposition party and its allies as their pursued their efforts to oust GOP senators in last week's recall voting in Republican districts across the state.

But the final tallies from a summer of recall elections confirm that the governor and his allies have suffered not just defeats in districts located in the north, south, east and west of the state but also a serious blow to their authority inside the state Capitol.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, "The narrower majority would make it tougher to win approval of controversial legislation, such as stricter abortion restrictions or tougher penalties for illegal immigrants."

A few more GOP "wins" like this and Walker won't have any allies left in the Senate. And, if reports from Holperin's election headquarters last night are any indication, this is far from over.

[Katie Rosenberg, via Twitter:]

During Holperin's speech, the crowd was not chanting for him. They were chanting "Recall Walker."

We definitely need the GOP to "win" like this more often.



News Roundup for 8/16/11

Nuclear explosion
Rick Perry's presidential campaign

-Headline of the Day-
"Rick Perry will self-destruct within 30 days."

Liberal pundit Brent Budowsky predicts that the wide-open spaces between Rick Perry's ears will bring that candidate down within a month. I'm not willing to bet the farm on that, but if today is any indication, Rick's not going to have an easy time. First he suggests that Ben Bernanke should be shot or hung or beheaded or something (how do the execute traitors these days?), then he won't say whether or not he believes President Obama loves America.

This stuff may fly to the teabag crowd, but 14% support isn't going to win anybody any elections.

"I can think of several nations Rick Perry is fit to lead, but the United States of America is not one of them," Budowsky says. "With his latest comments, perhaps Rick Perry wants to be the running mate of Vladimir Putin in the coming Russian election."

Nice thought, but I doubt Putin would put up with him. (The Hill)

-Michele Bachmann, rhetorical genius-
Michele Bachmann celebrates Elvis Presley's birthday today. Yay!

There's one tiny little detail that sort of throws a monkeywrench into the whole celebration though -- it's not Elvis's birthday, it's the 34th anniversary of his death.

Party on! (Politico)

-Bonus HotD-
"Whole Foods Tangled In Anti-Islam Flap Over Ramadan Promotion."

The grocer acknowledges that a holiday exists, which is the first step toward totalitarian Sharia law!

Freak out! FREAK OUT!! (Talking Points Memo)

Rep. Paul Ryan Hides Behind a Paywall

What is that I smell; is it fear or blood in the water?


RyanIt will cost $15 to ask Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) a question in person during the August congressional recess.

The House Budget Committee chairman isn’t holding any face-to-face open-to-the-public town hall meetings during the recess, but like several of his colleagues he will speak only for residents willing to open their wallets.

Ryan, who took substantial criticism from his southeast Wisconsin constituents in April after he introduced the Republicans’ budget proposal, isn’t the only member of congress whose August recess town hall-style meetings are strictly pay-per-view.

That's right, Paul Ryan is hiding behind a paywall -- along with Reps. Ben Quayle of Arizona and Chip Cravaack of Minnesota. Basically, the idea is this; the events are fundraisers, so it costs you a ticket price to get in. Obviously, the hope is that this will be a disincentive to critics, since they have to throw money in the Reps campaign war chests to voice their concerns.

"And what about those voters who don't want to pony up just to talk to their member of Congress or can't afford a ticket? They’re out of luck," explains Steve Benen. "Try sending a letter that will be read by an office assistant who will gladly send you a nice form letter in response."

When Democrats began cancelling their town halls in 2009, because of disruptive protesters from the nascent Tea Party -- then known only as "town hall mobs" -- then-Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele accused Democrats of "hiding from the American people." So we should expect that Ryan, Quayle, and Cravaack will receive criticism just as sharp from GOP leadership, right?


Ok, probably not. Republicans do not adore the hobgoblin of a foolish consistency. In fact, a Ryan spokesperson has washed his boss's hands of the whole thing. It's not his fault. Nothing he can do. According to the report, the spokesperson said Ryan had absolutely nothing to do with "the Whitnall Park Rotary Club's decision to charge $15 for admission-- a fee that will pay for the catered lunch of meat and potatoes the group will provide."

Nothing, that is, except not really scheduling any other public events. HAnd, given the way the market tanked after Ryan and company's default-denialism, he probably owes his constituents a free ham sandwich at least. Or at least an explanation.

But they'll have a tough time getting it. Ryan says he'll still be taking "business tours" -- presumably of friendly businesses for photo ops. He'll also still be having office hours, where I'm absolutely sure he'll be happy to meet with an angry unemployed autoworker in between corporate lobbyists. And, as Benen pointed out, you can always write and get a canned response that almost certainly won't answer your questions or concerns. What's important isn't that Rep. Paul Ryan face his constituents and explain his actions, what's important is that there aren't any YouTube videos of angry voters telling Ryan exactly what they think. There's reelection next November to think about, after all.



News Roundup for 8/15/11

A mosquito bites
The Issa approach to governance

-Headline of the Day-
"A Businessman in Congress Helps His District and Himself."

While other stories are getting a lot of attention, one NYT story that deserves more is getting little. And that story is that fabulously well-to-do Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is using his chairmanship of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to make himself fabulously well-to-doer. The committee is in a position to hand out pork and Issa's more than happy to hand it out to himself. And I don't mean his district, I mean himself.

"He has secured millions of dollars in Congressional earmarks for road work and public works projects that promise improved traffic and other benefits to the many commercial properties he owns here north of San Diego," the report tells us. "In one case, more than $800,000 in earmarks he arranged will help widen a busy thoroughfare in front of a medical plaza he bought for $10.3 million." From Wall Street oversight to automobile regulations, Issa has always taken positions that -- completely coincidentally, mind you -- seem to funnel money into his pocket.

Here's the first fun part; Issa's office says the report is "riddled with factual errors and careless assertions" -- except they don't bother to point out what those errors or careless assertions are. Here's Wisco's First Rule of Spotting Bullshit: look for declarations without facts. If Issa's office really had facts contrary to the article, they'd put them out there. Instead, they declare the whole thing BS without bothering to even try to prove anything.

Now here's the second fun part; Darrell Issa now gets to STFU about how federal spending is bad for the private sector. (New York Times)

-This is how you do it-
Looting in the UK?

Click to embiggen

Pfft! Go big or go home. (TruthDig)

-Bonus HotD-
"Bill Clinton: Rick Perry is a 'Good-Looking Rascal,' But His Platform 'Is Crazy.'"

Geez Bill, you make him sound like Bugs Bunny. (PolitickerNY)

An Unsustainable Free Ride for the Wealthy

Let's start out by talking about a flat tax. At one point, a flat tax was all the rage among conservatives. For many, it's still a fave. When someone on the right talks about "simplifying the tax code," what they really mean is flattening the tax rate. If everyone paid the same percentage and there were very few deductions, everything would be "fairer," they argue. People making a lot of money are "punished for success" by being pushed into a higher tax bracket. Never mind that this "punishment" doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent, since the total number of US millionaires is expected to double by 2020, as the income inequality between the wealthy and everyone else grows at an astonishing clip. The wealthy are gluttons for this particular punishment, apparently.

Now, keep a flat tax -- the conservative favorite -- in mind while you read this quote from an op-ed by Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world.

BuffettLast year my federal tax bill -- the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf -- was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income -- and that's actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine -- most likely by a lot.

That's right, a flat tax would actually be better than what we're paying now. We now live in an upside-down world where an office worker is taxed at a higher percentage than the CEO of the same company. Do the wealthy still pay more in total than everyone else? Of course they do. But if we take the flat tax as a serious argument, we have to conclude that even conservatives believe the rich should pay more than everyone. They may not say so outright, but it's the only logical conclusion to the sets of facts. Even Republicans believe that the wealthy should send more total to Washington than the average citizen.

I don't bring this up as an endorsement of a flat tax -- which I believe is fiscal insanity -- but to point out just how insane our current tax rates are. If a flat tax is idiotic, then our current system is worse, by virtue of being not-flat in the wrong direction.

"I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people," Buffett goes on. "They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn't mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering." He calls on Washington to "stop coddling the super-rich."

And he's right for several reasons, not the least of which is that if we increase taxation rather than cut spending, the wealthy will actually be better off. Republicans have tried to repeal the law of supply and demand, but reality is a stubborn thing and will not be dismissed by wishful thinking -- no matter how earnest all that wishing may be. If the government spends more, this has the effect of increasing demand -- including demand for labor -- and the increased employment and consumer spending will send money all the way to the top (money gushes up, it doesn't "trickle down"). In the meantime, tax revenues for the lower brackets will also increase as people become better off. Wealth isn't created by tax cuts, wealth is created by working and spending and borrowing. In fact, borrowing probably makes up the biggest chunk of wealth creation, since it's the source of all interest. If you want a quick explanation of this, check out the "run on the bank" scene in It's a Wonderful Life -- "The money's not here. Why, your money's in Joe's house..." If we increase demand to the point where people spend, that's great. If we increase it to the point where people feel safe enough to borrow, that's even better. And maintaining a stupidly bass-ackward rate of taxation just isn't doing the job.

Would raising taxes on the wealthy be political suicide? Not at all. Polling shows it's only slightly less popular than free beer. And, despite the claims of Republicans that these tax hikes would hit the upper middle class, the fact is that just 3% would see their taxes go up if the increase were set at households earning $200,000 or more, as President Obama has proposed in the past. And the increased revenue from the tax hikes, combined with the increased tax revenues from higher wages and employment spurred by government spending, would go a long way toward reducing our deficit. Republicans want to run government like a business? Fine. Just remember the old business dictum; "It takes money to make money."

When your tax burden is so weighted toward people at the bottom of the economic ladder that a flat tax would actually be an improvement, then something is really out of whack. This needs to be fixed, because the current system heads no place but down and everything we're seeing happen to the economy today will only get worse. It's clearly unsustainable.



News Roundup for 8/12/11

WI State Fair logo
Actually had less bullshit than the GOP debate last night

-Headline of the Day-
"Ten-to-one isn't good enough for the GOP."

I missed the GOP debate last night because I went to the Wisconsin State Fair. I figured that, this being the Dairy State, I'd see enough bullshit at the stock pavilion to make up for missing the debate. Added bonus; fancypants elitist cuisine of the "on a stick" variety, which I wouldn't have had sitting in front of my teevee watching C-Span. I believe I made the right choice.

And here's the weird thing; while there were eight candidates on that stage, there was really only one flavor of bullshit -- Tea Party Kool-Aid flavored, with chunks of the purest crazy. Asked, "Say you had a deal, a real spending cuts deal, 10-to-1... spending cuts to tax increases... Who on this stage would walk away from that deal? Can you raise your hand if you feel so strongly about not raising taxes, you'd walk away on the 10-to-1 deal?" All raised their hands.

10-to-1 spending cuts to tax increases wouldn't be enough. All cuts, no taxes, or no deal. Keep in mind, that's tax money you paid in and spending cuts mean you don't get anything back -- it's just used to pay for someone else's tax cut. Taking your tax money from you and using it to finance continued tax breaks for people who don't need tax breaks? That's freedom! That's liberty! That's fiscal sanity!

And, if you believe that, you're a chump.

The bullshit at the Wisconsin State Fair was of a much higher quality. And I'm pretty sure you could get it on a stick. (Political Animal)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, have you heard something about an "Essenpee Downgrade?" Mom and Dad pulling their hair out? Want to know what it's all about? Well, here ya go!

S&P Numbers and Stuff
Click to view animation

Seem dumb? It is! But you'll understand it all when you're older...

Actually, no. You won't. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Indiana GOP Lawmaker Trolls Craigslist Ads For... (You Can Guess)."

Indiana state Rep. Phillip Hinkle proves that the more insanely anti-gay your voting record, the more gay and the less ethical about it you probably are. (Wonkette)


News Roundup for 8/10/11

Zombies with Ron Paul signs
Ron Paul supporters arrive in Iowa

-Headline of the Day-
"Ron Paul busing 30 family members in to Iowa."

One of the more entertaining aspects of watching Paulistas is their habit of creating realities that they later celebrate. You'll check in on a messageboard or a comment thread on Reddit and you'll see a link to an online poll or something about who's gonna win what race in what state sometime maybe. All the Paulistas will rush off to totally skew the poll in their direction, then they'll later point to the poll as proof that RON PAUL IS DEFINITELY GONNA WIN!! They have as good a grasp on the concepts of logic, evidence, and cause and effect as their creationist, global-warming-denier hero. Seriously, when you look at it objectively [ED: get it?], it's freakin' hilarious.

Anyway, the latest adventure in manipulating reality so that RON PAUL IS DEFINITELY GONNA WIN comes from the Great Man Himself, Ron Paul. In order to make sure that he comes out near the top in the Iowa straw poll, Ron's packing up 30 "sons, daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and more" to the Hawkeye State to wander around "wearing their Ron Paul T-shirts" and "their Ron Paul dresses" and probably hats and pants and buttons and tattoos on their foreheads. Then all the Iowans are going to look around and say, "Wow, this Ron Paul guy is just super-popular -- I'm gonna hop on that bandwagon! All these people who coincidentally look like Ron Paul can't be wrong!"

And then Paul wins the Iowa straw poll, which automatically makes him the President of the United States. After that, we all live in a Libertarian paradise -- like Somalia.

You ever hear that phrase, "That's so crazy it just might work?"

Yeah, that's always bullshit. (Politico)

-Speaking of logic and evidence-
Some miracles just cannot be explained.

Click to embiggen

Clearly, this young man is a prophet. (SMBC)

-Bonus HotD-
"Wis. Dems: The Recalls Were A Win For Us!"

Wisconsin dem chairman Mike Tate: "[How can Walker] claim this is a real victory for him and his agenda, when his party lost two senators on his watch to recall elections? How can that be a win for Scott Walker when he lost two seats?"

Math always seems to hate Republicans as much as Republicans hate math. (Talking Points Memo)