News Roundup for 1/31/12

Stephen Colbert in a tank

-Headline of the Day-
"Stephen Colbert’s FEC report: Big money!"

Stephen Colbert's Super PAC is super-loaded. According to the report, "Between July 1 and Dec. 31, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow collected more than $825,400, ending the year with nearly $674,000 cash on hand, according to disclosures filed over night with the Federal Election Commission." To date, treasurer Shauna Polk says the super PAC has raised $1,023,121 total.

"Stephen Colbert, President of ABTT, has asked that I quote him as saying, 'Yeah! How you like me now, F.E.C? I’m rolling seven digits deep! I got 99 problems but a non-connected independent-expenditure only committee ain’t one!'" Polk wrote in a statement, adding, "I would like it noted for the record that I advised Mr. Colbert against including that quote."

So how's that measure up against other celebrity Super PACs? Let's look, shall we?

Sarah Palin’s political action committee raised $756,000 in the second half of last year – a steep drop off from the first half, when she as flirting with a presidential bid.

Palin’s relatively meager second half haul came despite heavy spending on fundraising and a bus tour that fanned speculation she might seek the GOP presidential nomination.

Colbert's PAC is (mostly) a joke and he's clobbering Sarah Palin in fundraising.

So, yeah... (Politico)

-Noodles v. Mittens-

Gingrich v. Romney political cartoon

It may be unending, but it's still fun to watch. (Washington Post)

-Bonus HotD-
"Robocall of the Year."

Mitt Romney forced holocaust survivors to eat pork chops!

This message brought to you by Newt's robot. (Political Animal)

Republicans' Jobless 'Jobs Agenda'

Republican press conference
If you want a great example of how the Republican Party's reduced itself to empty talking points, consider their argument that government doesn't create jobs. It's obviously untrue on so many levels, but they keep saying it because the chumps keep buying it. They almost always immediately contradict themselves by talking about all the ways they think government could create jobs. Pet projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, cutting taxes, reducing regulations, etc. will all create a great big jobs avalanche, we're told, if only government would get around to creating all those jobs that they also argue government couldn't possibly create. And lets not forget that all of these people are either drawing a government paycheck or competing for a government job.

But the idea that government can't create jobs becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy with Republicans. They get into government and block measures that would increase employment. And that's when they aren't calling the shots. When they are calling the shots, all that stuff they talked about on the campaign trail and Fox News goes out the window. When Republicans are in power, it becomes time to pay off narrow constituencies that helped get them elected. These payoffs have absolutely nothing to do with jobs, mind you, but good governance was never really the point. The point is a corporate anarchy they wrongly refer to as "free market capitalism" -- and a Republican majority to protect that anarchy.

Since you don't achieve anarchy by passing laws, Republicans become obsessed with trivial busy work. You repeal what you can, hamstring this or that agency when the opportunity arises, but mostly you dick around with inconsequential BS that throws a bone to those narrow constituencies.

[Steve Benen:]

With Congress' approval rating reaching depths unseen since the dawn of modern polling, self-interested lawmakers should probably focus at least some of their attention on addressing actual problems.

House Republicans apparently disagree. In 2010, the GOP majority invested considerable energy in tackling imaginary threats (killing farm-dust regulations, protecting the "In God We Trust" motto); picking unnecessary culture-war fights (restricting abortion rights, going after NPR); and pursing right-wing measures that couldn't become law (replacing Medicare with a voucher scheme).

Benen goes on to point to a piece of English-only legislation introduced by the always disappointing Rep. Steve King. House Republicans promised a "jobs agenda." In September of last year, Eric Cantor told us, "We have got to be focused like a laser on growth." Today, we're dicking around with nativist legislation that has no hope in hell of ever becoming law. And everyone doing that dicking around knows it.

In case you think this is a species of Republican native only to Washington, here's another example from the wild:

[Associated Press:]

Wisconsin Republicans say they're focusing squarely on jobs this year, but numerous proposals that advocates say are part of an anti-reproductive rights agenda are working their way through the Legislature and could soon head to Gov. Scott Walker for approval.

Those measures range from changes in the state's sex-education curriculum to weighing in on the national debate over when life begins.

Democratic opponents and others say the bills speak to an anti-woman agenda that will only sidetrack lawmakers at a time when they're trying to improve an economy where jobs have been lost for six-straight months.

That's right, six consecutive months of job losses -- the worst job creation record in the nation -- and the Wisconsin legislature is focused on the unspeakable evil of women making their own health choices and of high school kids knowing that condoms exist.

The bottom line here is that Republicans don't care about anyone other than the 1%. And the 1% is doing just fine. So why would you change anything? A bad jobs market for workers is an awesome jobs market for employers, because the laws of supply and demand drive wages down when there's this much competition for every position. Profits are high, wages are low, positions are filled in a heart beat -- why on earth would you want to change anything?

You wouldn't. So you screw around with official mottos and politically-correct languages and sex ed in schools. Busy work that throws a bone to the single-issue chumps who keep voting for you. Citizens United may have made corporation into people, my friend, but they aren't people who vote. Throw the dopes an ultrasound requirement or a measure to fight the encroaching evil of the Non-English Menace and they'll come back for more. You don't ever want to solve these perceived "problems," because the single-issue voter goes away when their single issue has been resolved. You string them along with "steps in the right direction," to give them the impression that their issue is about to become a major legislative focus -- unless those evil Democrats get back into power.

It'd be a shame if you didn't vote GOP when they're so close to solving abortion/gays/people-who-aren't-white-or-Christian. And once they get all that squared away, Republicans will get right to work on all those jobs we argue that government can't create.



How Many Rounds Can the GOP Primary Fight Last?

The big day in Florida is tomorrow and polling is all over the place. While pretty much all of it shows Mitt Romney winning, the question is by how much -- and in that, polls are in wild disagreement. Of three of the most recent polls, two show the race tightening drastically, while one shows Mittens maintaining a big lead. Already, Gingrich is lowering expectations, talking about a strong showing, rather than a win.

There's a reason why polling results are all over the place in Florida -- it's a blood-soaked battlefield. "Estimates vary on exactly how much more Romney has spent in Florida, but the enormous gap is hard to miss," writes Steve Benen. "TPM's figures say pro-Romney spending outpaced pro-Gingrich spending, $15.3 million to $3.4 million. NBC News totals put it closer to $16.9 million to $4 million. As of Friday, the New York Times pointed to a $15 million to $2.5 million gap."

So Mitt has the financial advantage and that's pretty much the only thing that turned it back around for him. But deep pockets can only take you so far. "In a general election against a well-financed incumbent president," Benen says, "this financial edge will largely disappear."

OK, so Romney probably takes Florida. What happens next?

That depends on Newt Gingrich. Gingrich is almost visibly livid at the negative ad assault in Florida, calling it "carpet-bombing." According to him, Romney is a "pro-abortion, pro-gun-control, pro-tax-increase moderate from Massachusetts" using "money from Wall Street" to take him down.

And remember, this is Newt Gingrich we're talking about here. To say he's an egotist would be an understatement -- he's a megalomaniac, convinced that he's Lincoln, Jefferson, Churchill, and Moses all rolled up into one garden-gnomish package. The modern world's Greatest American.

[Jon Heileman:]

[W]hat of Gingrich's pledge to carry on his crusade all the way to [the GOP convention]?... Pledges to continue the fight unabated in the face of harsh and/or humiliating outcomes are staples of presidential campaigns. And they are also patently meaningless. (Please recall Jon Huntsman's feigned brio on the night of the New Hampshire primary — and his departure from the race a few days later.) But in Gingrich's case, he might be serious, so much has he come to despise Romney and the Republican Establishment that has brought down on him a twenty-ton shithammer in Florida, and so convinced is he of his own Churchillian greatness and world-historical destiny. The same antic, manic, lunatic bloody-mindedness that has made him such a rotten candidate in the Sunshine State may be enough to keep him the race a good long time.

Waging a protracted battle would likely be an act of futility for Gingrich, but it could turn out to be something much worse for Romney. That is why it's so important for the latter not just to win on Tuesday but to win big — very big. And that, in turn, is why the matter of margins will be the topic of tomorrow's column.

And, if it continues, that's when it gets really nasty. Noodles may be offended by the impunity of a mere Romney's attacks on The Great Gingrich -- and that may drive him forward -- but Romney may want to be president more than anyone in his lifetime. Consider that he spent huge amounts of her personal fortune the last time around with nothing to show for it. And now here he is again, spending more. Mitt may be loaded, but you still don't do something like that without wanting it really badly. It's already well-established that he'll say anything to get the nomination and Florida's making it clear that "anything" includes seriously nasty things.

Some will remember the drawn-out primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. There was a lot of worry there that it would hurt the nominee's chances in the general. That turned out not to be the case. But Newt and Mitt are different people -- nastier people. And the odds that Obama will choose a Palin-like running mate to replace Joe Biden -- driving away independents with a hyper-partisan tone, while displaying a mind like a ten-watt bulb -- are slim to none.

If this goes on beyond Florida -- and there's good reason to believe it will -- it's going to hurt.



News Roundup for 1/27/12

Two boys fighting
Scene from the GOP primaries

-Headline of the Day-
"NBC/WSJ poll: Gingrich leads Romney, but badly trails Obama."

Barack Obama's wisest strategy may involve butt-sitting. Just grab a chair and watch Mittens and Noodles go after each other with ax handles. Then, when the primaries wrap up, the winner will be perfectly tenderized.

Right now, that approach seems to be a winner. Newt's moving out in front nationally, leaving Mitt in the dust. According to the report, "Gingrich leads Romney 37 percent to 28 percent nationally among registered Republicans likely to vote in the primaries; Rick Santorum is in third with 18 percent, and Ron Paul is fourth with 12 percent."

The problem: in this poll at least, Gingrich is the very least likely to beat Obama -- and that includes the entirely unelectable Rick Santorum. Where Romney is within 6 points of Obama, Newt's down three times that number -- 18 points. Newt's problem is that only Republicans like him, while everyone else hates his guts.

But Gingrich had to do a lot of pounding to get where he is. And he's driven Romney's approvals through the floor. Romney's approved of by 31%, while 36% disapprove. The last party nominee whose disapprovals were higher than his approvals was John Kerry. And you know how that worked out.

Keep whacking away at each other, guys. Knock yourselves out. (MSNBC)

-And while we're on the subject-

Obama singing Al Green

He might even have time for an encore. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Palin Defends ‘Angry Little Muffin’ Newt Against Right-Wing Conspiracy."

Yeah, let's get Sarah Palin in there too. Everyone just loves her! (Wonkette)


News Roundup for 1/26/12

Garden gnome drops pants, moons
Pictured: Gingrich responds to question on CNN

-Headline of the Day-
"Gingrich campaign admits error."

And "error" is media-speak for "bald-faced lie."

Remember when Newt's ex-wife Marianne went on the teevee to say that Newt had wanted an open marriage? Yeah, well after that happened, he went on the offensive. And Noodles did it by doing what Noodles does in pretty much every situation -- he attacked the media messenger.

It was a terrible thing to have Marianne on ABC News, yacking about how her husband wanted to keep seeing his mistress (who is now his wife). It wasn't true and ABC knew it!

"The story was false," Newt said in the last debate. "Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story is false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren't interested."

Turns out that ABC News wasn't interested because they have some sort of discriminatory policy against nonexistent sources. Newt didn't offer the network any buddies from his old marriage, but "only recommended Gingrich's two daughters from his first marriage." Because, if there's anyone who knows all about a couple's wild, swinging sex life, it's the kids.

Then, during an interview on CNN, Newt said it again. ABC News ignored Newt's phantom sources and that was just the worst thing ever. When CNN's John King told Gingrich that ABC said they were offered no corroborating sources, Newt became indignant.

"If they're saying that, then they're not being honest," Gingrich said. "We had several people prepared to be very clear and very aggressive in their dispute about that, and [ABC News] wasn't interested."

Newt's story died today, when his own campaign finally admitted that the whole thing was BS. Newt was lying -- which, as we've established, gets called an "error" when you're running for president. As if he accidentally said he did something -- at least twice -- which he didn't actually do.

The moral of this story, boys and girls, is that if you're going to play the victim card, you kind of want to actually have it. (CNN)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, have you heard about our Marxist president's terrible State of the Union speech? It was just one long string of commie statement after commie statement. It was almost unAmerican!

Here's a clip. Prepare to get really, really mad!

Mark Fiore SOTU cartoon
Click for animation

Well, OK then. Never mind. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Romney Would Like You to Believe His Tax Rate Is 'Closer to 40 or 50 Percent.'"

See, it's all very complicated. First off, Mittens gave money to charity, which is exactly the same thing as paying taxes -- even if you can write some of it off on your taxes. Then of course, there's that whole corporate tax rate -- which he didn't actually pay, because he's not a corporation.

You know, I'm kind of thinking Mittens might not be entirely honest here. (Wonkette)

Scott Walker's Alternate-Reality Version of Wisconsin

Scott Walker delivers the 2012 State of the State address
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker scheduled his annual State of the State address the night after President Obama delivered the State of the Union. It says a lot about how little press he hoped to get with his speech. He probably would've scheduled it for the same night, so it wouldn't have even been broadcast, but at a certain point the attempt to hide something becomes attention-worthy in itself, and I suppose that would've been a national news story. So the night after would have to do. In any case, the truth was not invited.

[Wisconsin State Journal:]

Facing a recall and speaking over a loud and angry crowd outside the Assembly chamber, an unbowed Gov. Scott Walker delivered a State of the State address Wednesday that touted the successes of a difficult year and promised better days ahead.

“During the past year, we added thousands of new jobs,” Walker said. “And we balanced the state budget. We balanced it without raising taxes, without massive layoffs and without budget tricks.”

How much of that is true? Well, pretty much none of it.

Did we add "thousands of new jobs?" Probably. But the impression Walkers obviously wants to leave you with is that unemployment is improving. The opposite is true. Sure, new positions are opening here and there, but the new jobs aren't keeping pace with the job losses. Wisconsin is the only state in the nation to suffer six consecutive months of net job losses. There are far fewer jobs than when Scott Walker was sworn in.

And this shouldn't be surprising. Walker's bought into a certain flavor of mumbo jumbo economics favored by rightwing politicians -- i.e., if you cut taxes for the top wage earners and businesses, companies will flock to your state as a tax haven. The problem is that these tax cuts have to be paid for, so you cut benefits for public workers, slash programs that take the weight off families, and generally undercut consumer demand at every turn. The resulting "Come to Wisconsin, where the taxes are low but the customers don't have any money" sales pitch is not as enticing to businesses as the aforementioned rightwing politicians seem to believe.

I'm going to take the next point out of order -- that Walker didn't raise taxes. This ties in with my previous point. You can say that Walker didn't raise taxes only if you accept Walker's definition of what taxes actually are. In my book, if you pay more taxes, you're taxes have gone up.

Not so with Scooter. He cut the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps low-income working families. Walker redefines the tax break as a "redistribution program... taking money from other taxpayers and giving it to individuals who have a limited tax liability." But the truth is that it's a refund on payroll taxes like Medicare and Social Security. The people receiving the credit actually did pay those taxes. No one's getting someone else's refund.

So did Walker increase taxes? If you take the plain, spinless fact that many Wisconsin families' taxes will go up, then yeah. When Al Franken had his radio show, he used to say, "Words mean things," and "increase" means "go up." Walker is just plain lying here. He raised taxes.

Did he balance the budget? Depends on who you ask. If you asked Gov. Walker last night, he'd say yes. But if you asked earlier in the week, he'd say no.

[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:]

Gov. Scott Walker's administration has touted for months its efforts to balance the state budget, but now it also has acknowledged a significant way in which the budget isn't balanced.

To keep the possibility alive of making further cuts to state health programs, the Walker administration quietly certified to the federal government on Dec. 29 that the state had a deficit.

Federal law allows the state to drop tens of thousands of adults to save money on health care costs if the state can show it has a deficit. Walker has said he wants to cut health care spending in other ways, but hasn't ruled out dropping those 53,000 adults if the other methods aren't approved by the federal government.

While we're at it, I think both having and not having a deficit -- depending on what works out best for you at the moment -- qualifies as a "budget trick." That only leaves the "no layoffs" claim.

Yes, there were no "massive" layoffs (note that he couldn't claim no layoffs). But that was always a false choice. It was Walker who said -- in a typical Republican hostage-taking political move -- "pass my budget or the teachers get it." What he's really saying is that he didn't carry out a threat he made to get Democrats to come back from Illinois. His argument boils down to, "Yeah, I took 12,000 hostages, but I didn't have to shoot them. That makes me a hero!"

Not surprisingly, I disagree.

"[S]ome 200 protesters gathered in the Capitol rotunda during Walker’s remarks," WSJ reports. "They loudly sang anti-Walker 'solidarity' songs before his address. Once the speech started, the crowd grew louder, their chants bleeding into the chamber. A constant drumbeat could be heard throughout his 37-minute speech."

There's a metaphor there for truth bleeding into Walker's carefully crafted fiction. It's hard to lie to people about the things they're living, to get them to believe that their personal reality isn't real. Things are bad in Wisconsin and everyone knows it.

So that drumbeat keeps pounding, no matter how vigorously Walker works to convince us of it's silence.



New Poll has Wisconsin Recall Effort at Slight Disadvantage

Recall supporters in Wisconsin state capitol rotunda
Wisconsin is generally considered a swing state, despite the fact that it only seems to swing one way. In presidential races, it's usually a close race between the Democrat and the Republican, but when election day comes, the Democrat wins. In fact, the last time a Republican won the state was during the Reagan landslide against Walter Mondale. Wisconsin always seems tantalizingly within the grasp of the GOP candidate, before it slips away. Maybe Republican strategists have a different nickname for the Badger state -- perhaps one involving the word "heartbreak." Applying the "red/blue" measurement the media likes to use, Wisconsin is a purple state. But generally a bluish purple.

A new Marquette Law School poll shows a race shaping up to be like most other years -- the Democrat leads, but not yet with a majority.

The poll only measured an Obama/Romney race, which -- despite Mitt's recent polling decline -- still seems the most likely. If that race were held today, 48% would vote for Obama, while 40% would vote for Romney. Eight points is a decent lead and much better than the national average, which puts the president just 1.9% ahead -- a squeaker. But since Obama hasn't cracked 50% here, Team Mittens has to think there's some ground to be taken. It's not neck and neck now -- but it could be.

On the recall front, the situation is different. The best number for dems comes from a rematch with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett -- the opponent Gov. Scott Walker eventually beat in 2010. Walker wins that 50%-44%. This may seem like good news for Walker, until you consider that he's already running a campaign to keep his office. He's been running ads statewide, trying to convince everyone he's just the best governor ever, and the best he can do is a six-point lead over a man who not only isn't running any ads at all, but isn't even a candidate yet. He hasn't officially declared. Scooter's been trying his little heart out and Barrett's within six without even raising a finger -- and that's within the poll's margin for error. In fact, of all the possible Democratic contenders in the poll, only one has numbers below the margin for error.

"The old line ‘you don’t beat somebody with nobody’ is true. Other polls have asked only if Governor Walker should be recalled and have found closer races," says Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll and Wisconsin journalists' political go-to wonk. "But in the end, some specific Democrat will face Governor Walker. This poll is the first of the year to match specific potential Democratic challengers against the governor. The results show a competitive race but one in which Governor Walker starts with an advantage."

But when you consider his other advantages -- the previously mentioned campaign head start, incumbency, fundraising, etc. -- that polling advantage doesn't really add up to much. My take here is that it shows that Walker is both vulnerable and eminently beatable.

And the thing is, you really have to view these races independently of each other. The recall and the presidential won't happen on the same day. That means that presidential coattail effects -- or anti-coattail effects -- won't really apply. It might be more helpful to think of the presidential election and the gubernatorial recall as two separate election cycles -- one right after the other.

But that doesn't mean that one can't be predictive or instructive of the other. The recall will almost certainly happen first. If Walker wins, his campaign machine keeps churning until the presidential election. If the democrat wins, the same will happen. The groundwork being laid by the recall will have a lot to do with who wins the state in the presidential. Two separate cycles, but one feeds the next. Reverse coattails, where the race for lesser office helps the candidate for the higher one.

Publicly, Walker and Republicans will take these numbers and do a media tour with them. Privately though, they've got to be worried. If this is what weeks of TV and radio ads gets them, it may not be enough. And one thing the poll didn't measure is enthusiasm -- one million signatures say recall supporters have that on their side.

Wisconsin the swing state may be swinging away from its own governor.



News Roundup for 1/24/12

Garden gnome giving the finger
Gingrich to debate moderators

-Headline of the Day-
"Gingrich won't 'allow' moderators to silence crowd at future debates."

Noodles isn't very good at bluffing. See, in case you haven't noticed, Gingrich's debate strategy has been to say something incredibly dickish to the moderators. This becomes a big applause line, because Republican audiences really like assholes. Then Newt basks in the love for him (which is really just hatred for the media) as waves of hoots and the sound of clapping hands washes over him.

That didn't work in the last debate in Florida, because NBC moderator Brian Williams decided that this debate would be less like a gladiatorial event and more like... well, a debate. You know, logical arguments, well thought-out points, appeals to reason rather than emotion. The whole shebang. Real furrowed-brow, cocked-eyebrow, Aristotle stuff. Newt's specialty is the red-faced, throbbing-forehead-vein, Bill O'Reilly stuff.

So you can see the fix he's in.

"We’re going to serve notice on future debates that we won’t tolerate -- we’re just not going to allow that to happen," Gingrich said of NBC's "be nice and polite" policy. "That’s wrong -- the media doesn’t control free speech. People ought to be able to applaud if they want to. It was almost silly."

Yes, Newt is "just not going to allow" any more moderators to drag the tenor of a GOP free media event all the way up to an actual debate, in much the same way that boxing coaches don't allow refs to stop fighters from hitting below the belt. (The Hill)


Newt Gingrich cartoon
Click for full comic

Ew. (Bad Reporter)

-Bonus HotD-
"Rich Republicans sure love Mitt."

Mitt's winning the 1% demo. The problem: the 1% demo is only 1%. (Salon's War Room)

Mitt's Poverty Level Tax Rate

Nothing on Earth invites speculation from the punditry more than ignorance. Pundits get paid to do two things; to make predictions and to know things you don't. "I don't know" is probably written on some stone tablet of Forbidden Phrases somewhere. As a result, people take blind stabs at issues they couldn't possibly know anything about. One of those issues has been Mitt Romney's tax returns. Why was he reluctant to release them?

One of the blind stabs was that maybe Mittens didn't pay the required 10% tithe to the Church of Latter Day Saints. Score one for blind stabs -- he probably hasn't. "Mr. Romney reported $21.7 million in income [for 2010]," Wall Street Journal reports. "He paid $3 million in federal taxes, slightly more than the $2.98 million he made in charitable donations. At least $1.5 million of his charitable donations went to the Mormon Church." $21.7 million, $1.5 million tithe. You do the math. Mitt's shorting his church a bit.

But while that figure might get the attention of a certain Tabernacle in a certain Utah city, it's not what's drawing everyone else's. Our attention is drawn to the fact that Romney's tax bill adds up to somewhat less than even the absurdly low 15% estimate Romney gave in South Carolina. Specifically, 13.9%. You could argue that a little more than one percent difference amounts to splitting hairs, but when it's a percentage of a number like $21.7 million, we're talking about some pretty big and split-worthy hairs. It's the difference between the $3,016,300 Romney assumedly paid and $3,255,000 15% would've had him paying. You could feed and house a family on his rounding error.

And there's the question of timing. Romney released the records -- for two years only -- after the debate in Florida last night. Not only did he make sure the numbers weren't an issue in the debate, but he clearly hoped the story would be buried by post-debate coverage. It hasn't been. At least, not as completely as Team Romney probably would've liked. Mittens is probably taxed at a lower rate than you are and this is something he'd really rather you didn't know.

Why? Because his own tax plan takes this disparity and just makes it worse.

[Associated Press:]

Republican Mitt Romney's tax plan would increase taxes on low-income families while cutting taxes for the middle-class and the rich, according to an independent study released Thursday.

On average, households making less than $20,000 would see their taxes increase by more than 60 percent, said the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group that studied the Romney plan.

Households making between $50,000 and $75,000 would get small tax cuts, averaging 2.2 percent, or about $250, the study said. People making more than $1 million would get tax cuts averaging 15 percent, or about $146,000.

That 13.9% Mitt pays? It's too much. That's got to be shaved down a bit. And what the poor pay? Way too little. That's got to be bumped up a whole lot. Never mind that what Romney pays now is comparable to the rate a person at or near the poverty line might pay without deductions -- in his world, sound and fair tax policy has him paying less and the poor paying more. Like Gingrich's, Romney's contempt for people in poverty is palpable. He's just quieter about it.

And that contempt is odd. Generally when you wage class warfare like this, you don't do it against your own tax bracket. You'd think he'd feel more kinship with his fellow fifteen-percenters, many of whom are struggling along with food stamps.



News Roundup for 1/23/12

Life preserver
Sorry GOP. Not happening

-Headline of the Day-
"No GOP Cavalry Coming — It’s Too Late For Last Minute Presidential Candidates To Get On The Ballots."

Newt Gingrich's lopsided win in South Carolina has some Republicans nervous. Not helping any is the fact that polls show Newt actually winning Florida right now. All this has super-informed conservative pundits like Bill Kristol and Jennifer Rubin begging for some other Republican to jump into the race and save everyone from their party's awful candidates.

But reality has a message for them: you are screwed.

"In every primary state up through early April, the filing deadlines have passed," according to the report. "That includes the very delegate-rich Super Tuesday of March 6, when a total of 329 delegates will be at stake in primary states, compared to 104 in caucuses." Altogether, a new candidate would have to be able to win the nomination despite sitting out 21 primaries. This is unlikely.

The report goes on, "[F]or a Republican hero to ride in on a white horse, it would take a scenario that verges on political science fiction: A combination of write-in voting where applicable — and for Romney to fully drop out and endorse this new savior candidate, to essentially bequeath his place on the ballot by telling his pledged delegates elected in this manner to go along with it."

So you guys are just going to have to make do with what you've got. I'm sure that'll work out great for you guys. (Talking Points Memo)

-Newt on family values-

Gingrich political cartoon

Say what you will, but he's got experience. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Tennessee Tea Party Don’t Want No Talk o’ Slavery In Them Schoolbooks."

Bravely fighting back against reality's liberal bias. (Wonkette)

Big Labor for Newt

In Florida at least, the strategy of labor is clear -- nominate Newt Gingrich. Labor giant AFSCME has made what Greg Sargent calls a "major ad buy in the state," drawing parallels between a past Bain Medicare scandal and a crime committed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott's former company.

The ad doesn't specifically endorse Gingrich, but at this point it looks like a two man race -- if Mitt loses voters, the lion's share run to Newt.

And it's not like Romney needs much of a push to send him over the edge. "Before South Carolina, Mitt Romney was some 20 points ahead in Florida," notes Josh Marshall. "Two new polls have come out in the last twelve hours. Both have Gingrich up by 9 points." Newt's post Carolina bounce is stratospheric. And Rick Scott isn't very popular in his own state. In all, only 38% approve of the job he's doing as governor and even one in five Republicans disapprove. Even among Scott supporters, accusations of Medicare fraud aren't likely to be a plus for a candidate. You have to believe they support Scott despite it, not because of it. It's something they're willing to overlook.

At New York magazine, John Heilemann has a blog post up explaining what happens if Gingrich wins Florida. While it was written before AFSCME's ad buy, it goes a long way toward explaining it:

If Gingrich wins Florida, the Republican Establishment is going to have a meltdown that makes Three Mile Island look like a marshmallow roast. Why? Because the Establishment will be staring down the barrel of two utterly unpalatable choices. On the one hand, Gingrich's national favorable-unfavorable ratings of 26.5 and 58.6 percent, respectively make him not just unelectable against Obama but also mean that he would likely be a ten-ton millstone around the necks of down-ballot Republican candidates across the country. And on the other, Romney will have shown in two successive contests—one in a bellwether Republican state, the other in a key swing state—an inability to beat his deeply unpopular rival. If this scenario unfolds, the sound of GOP grandees whispering calls for a white knight, be it Indiana governor Mitch Daniels (who, conveniently, is delivering the Republican response to Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night) or Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan or even Jeb Bush, will be deafening.

Clearly, a Gingrich win in this scenario is best outcome, since he's likely to have an anti-coattails effect on congressional and gubernatorial races.

And of course, the contrast between Gingrich and Romney helps. Mitt Romney seems hopelessly out of touch -- at times almost robotic -- while Gingrich is just a jerk. The GOP base has been trained to like jerks. They think dickishness is a positive character trait. Look at talk radio; it's all loudmouths and bullies and liars and... Well, jerks. And check out wingnut comments on blog posts and news stories -- they think being creative with an insult constitutes a well-reasoned, logical argument. Who do you think a Rush Limbaugh fan hears "real" Republicanism from -- Gingrich or Romney?

Already, Gingrich's negatives are being spun into positives. Newt -- despite being an astonishingly poor choice as the candidate who can beat Obama -- is now being put across by some as the most electable candidate. The reasoning has it that Gingrich is "tough enough" to fight back. Completely lost on the people making this argument is whether general election voters are willing to blur the distinction between "tough" and "insufferable" the way Republican voters do. So far, there's absolutely no evidence that they will. If Gingrich catches fire with the GOP electorate, it'll be Sarah Palin all over again -- a divisive figure that divides the public unequally and not in that figure's favor. And, as they were with Palin, Republican voters will be completely blind the fact that their candidate is driving voters away, trapped as they are in their insular rightwing media echo chamber.

No wonder he's labor's candidate of choice. He's a GOP disaster waiting to happen -- and he can't happen soon enough.



News Roundup for 1/19/12

Limbaugh looks like a real prick
Every bit the prick he appears to be

-Headline of the Day-
"Limbaugh On Gingrich Cheating On His Ex-Wife: 'Newt's A Victim.'"

Poor Newt Gingrich. All he wanted to do was get little extra love on the side and all of a sudden he's the bad guy. It's so unfair.

See, Newt's ex-wife sat down with ABC News for an as-yet unaired interview. But what we know about what she said is not good for Newt. Basically, after she was diagnosed with MS, Newt decided it was time to look elsewhere for the lovin' -- because he's great like that. That "elsewhere" is now his wife. You know, the weird-eyed robot lady Callista.

Anyway, the ex -- Marianne -- says that Newt wanted to have his cake and eat it too (sorry about that image, it's just a figure of speech). She says he approached her about having an "open marriage" and she shot him down.

According to Rush Limbaugh, Newt is awesome. So he took to the airwaves to defend the honor of America's Greatest Living Hero the only way a conservative seems to know how these days -- with a quick flip of the victim card. "I got a great note from a friend of mine," Rush told his breathless audience of shut-ins, mental patients, and people whose radios only get that one station. "'So Newt wanted an open marriage. BFD. At least he asked his wife for permission instead of cheating on her. That’s a mark of character, in my book. Newt’s a victim."

Slight problem with the phrase "instead of," though. Rush must've confused it with "while." Because the sentence, "At least he asked his wife for permission while cheating on her," is more in line with reality. According to the report, "It’s worth noting that Gingrich had been having an affair for several years before he asked 'permission' to cheat on his wife."

Then again, being a master of spin has nothing to do with mastery of the facts. (ThinkProgress)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, Snuggly the Security Bear is back and he's here to talk about piracy! Arrr!!

Mark Fiore cartoon
Click for animation

So remember, when you burn a CD, you're being exactly like those pirates in Somalia. Die, buccaneer scum! (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Walker turning down $37 million for health care."

I'll be so glad when we recall this moron. (Associated Press)

Senate Dems Make Up Most of Remaining PIPA Support

The headline at Gizmodo reads, "PIPA Support Collapses, and Here’s a Full List of the Senators Who Newly Oppose It." It turns out that yesterday's internet blackout scared off eighteen Senators from supporting the senate's version of the draconian anti-piracy legislation -- it may not seem like many, but in a chamber with only one hundred seats, it represents a nearly 20% drop of support in a single day.

That's what you call a wildly successful protest.

But looking through the names, it's hard not to notice a certain fact. Only two Democrats -- Maryland's Ben Cardin (originally a co-sponsor) and Jeff Merkley of Oregon -- have changed positions. The bill originally enjoyed bipartisan support, but the rush to abandon it was not bipartisan at all.

[Raw Story:]

While Silicon Valley may have found their voice echos on Capitol Hill more loudly than expected, what remains after Wednesday’s protest is even more telling that what provoked it: Senate Democrats are, by and large, the core pillars of support for the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), which has not otherwise engendered a strict partisan divide among lawmakers.

Far and away, the top beneficiary in the Senate from interest groups that support PIPA is Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who’s taken in just short of a million dollars from those groups, according to data from OpenSecrets.org. She’s also the most recent Senator to co-sponsor PIPA, adding her name to the list on Dec. 12. The runner-up is Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who’s taken $777,383 from PIPA-supporting interest groups, and has co-sponsored the bill since May 2011.

In fact, a list of the top 20 beneficiaries of special interest money in favor of PIPA reads like a list of the Senate’s most influential Democrats: Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) in third; Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in fourth; Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in fifth; Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill’s primary sponsor, in sixth; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in seventh; Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in eighth; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in ninth; and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in tenth.

In fact, you don't hit a Republican until you get way down to fifteenth place -- Sen. Mitch McConnell, the senate minority leader.

This isn't extremely surprising. The Democratic Party has been awful at consumer protection from the entertainment industry since Clinton. It was under Clinton that media consolidation began in earnest, thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which he signed into law. There are now fewer media voices because of it. The bill was sold as a way to increase competition. The opposite happened -- fewer media companies, a shift toward monopolism, and higher costs to consumers. Right wing talk radio boomed, for example, as Clear Channel took over station after station.

Needless to say, entertainment conglomerates and media companies thought this was wonderful. And Democrats reaped the rewards.

This is the corrupting influence of money in politics. PIPA is almost certainly doomed, since it's house sibling SOPA is pretty much done for. You could argue that, given this fact, there's no downside for Democratic Senators still supporting PIPA -- it's not going to happen, but they still get the Big Media largesse. But that doesn't explain why so many were for it in the first place. The $7,319,983 given to the top eighteen Democratic supporters of PIPA does.

There are a couple of lessons to be learned here; first, Democrats can't be counted on to be the good guys. A two party system is often characterized as a choice between the lesser of two evils. Never forget that the lesser is still an evil.

Second, that as long as votes are for sale in Washington, you can't count on anyone to watch your back. We're going to have to do that ourselves.



News Roundup for 1/18/12

Sarah Palin endorsed Newt Gingrich
"I'm ba-ack!"

-Headline of the Day-
"Newt: Palin Will 'Play A Major Role' In My Administration."

Newt Gingrich envisions a role for Sarah Palin in his administration. Maybe as Secretary of... Ummm... Well, it's hard to think of anything she'd be qualified for and Newt probably hasn't given it a lot of thought. Maybe VP again. Who knows?

See, this is all about bumping up his numbers enough to get past Mitt Romney in the South Carolina primary. Sarah Palin endorsed Gingrich (But not really. We'll get to that. Keep your pants on) and Newt wants to capitalize on that.

What happened was that Sarah was on Fox News, which is the only network that still gives a crap about her, and she said that if she were in South Carolina, she'd vote for Gingrich. Not because Newt's such an awesome candidate, mind you, but "in order to keep it going" and -- I'm assuming here -- weaken Mittens. Yeah, this is about the weakest "endorsement" you could probably ever get, but when you're within shouting distance of the frontrunner in a state primary, you take what you can get.

So how do you make a backhanded endorsement seem stronger? You amplify your relationship with the endorser. Newt and Ol' Sarah go way back, he's always planned on making her the Secretary of Boy Howdy or whatever, and a vote for Newt is a vote for his old pal Sarah Palin.

Never mind that Palin was basically saying she'd vote for a cinderblock if she thought it would keep the primaries going. (Talking Points Memo)

-Mittens' argument catches on-

Mitt Romney political cartoon

Remember, Romney worked hard to get way up to the 15% tax bracket. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Did Rick Santorum Win the Iowa Caucuses, Not Mitt Romney?"

The answer is "probably yes."

The real question is "will it matter?" (Daily Beast)

A Blackout is Working to Stop SOPA and PIPA

As you're probably aware, several major websites have blacked out in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its senate sibling, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Wikipedia is still usable, but it takes some futzing to get it to work. Otherwise, Reddit, Craigslist, Boing-Boing, Mozilla, SMBC, and other popular sites are effectively down for the day.

This has turned out to be an effective form of protest.


An Internet blackout Wednesday by Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla and thousands of other sites against two anti-piracy bills in Congress has started to have its desired effect: Co-sponsors of the legislation have changed sides and other lawmakers have called for more debate before any vote.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — who was a co-sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act — became the latest lawmaker Wednesday to pull his support. In the House, Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), originally a co-sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act, pulled his name from the list of sponsors on Tuesday. A spokesman for Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), meanwhile, told the Omaha World-Herald on Wednesday that the congressman is also unable to support SOPA as written.

The widespread Internet protest is even bringing new Washington voices into the fray. Mostly silent in the debate, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) tweeted Wednesday he doesn’t back the bills.

"I support intellectual property rights, but I oppose SOPA & PIPA," DeMint tweeted. "They're misguided bills that will cause more harm than good."

But the fact was that these bills were all but dead before the blackout. "[S]ponsors of the House and Senate bills ran into fierce and unexpected opposition, largely derailing their legislative plans. The White House didn’t issue a veto threat, per se, but the administration’s chief technology officials concluded, 'We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.' The statement added that any proposed legislation 'must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet,'" writes Steve Benen. "The White House’s position left SOPA and PIPA, at least in their current form, effectively dead."

Part of the problem here is that members of congress are often asked to vote on legislation dealing with issues they don't really understand. The members of the specific committees generally get the bills they generate, but outside those committees they're about as well informed as you or I might be. Think about it; do you really believe your congress critter is an expert on issues like internet commerce, international trade, the health insurance industry, nuclear power, and national defense all at the same time? Pretty doubtful.

As a result, congress members rely on lobbyists and their own colleagues to educate them. There's nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but the problem is that there's often incentive for these educators to be a lot less than honest. And it's not just corporate lobbyists who present this problem, but citizen groups as well. Imagine being a member of a group committed to eliminating online porn -- giving congress the tools to shut down websites could be an inviting first step in realizing your goals. This is a precedent you want to set and you're obviously not going to give a presentation that includes a "here's the downside" PowerPoint slide (actually, small money lobbyists probably just write a letter or submit a study, but you get the idea).

It's hard to see how this can possibly be avoided. Even if we reduce the money influence of lobbyists, you could make a pretty damned good argument that the educational influence of lobbyists is almost necessary. You've seen congress. Some of these people are dumber than a sack of doorknobs. Their only actual skill seems to be in getting elected. I, for one, don't want Rep. Louie Gohmert trying to figure out NASA'a latest rocket science project or trying to figure out the math behind monetary policy. If you gave a monkey a shotgun, he'd do less damage.

So what's the answer? You're looking at it. Pressure from citizens and businesses that would be affected by SOPA and PIPA have severely hobbled the legislation's progress. Co-sponsors are jumping ship and the White House is suggesting it's heading for a dead end -- assuming it moves forward at all. It's not the blackout itself that's causing the problem for lawmakers, it's the message that websites are putting up instead of their usual content, a message they've been pushing for weeks now -- call your congress members, tell them to oppose these bills.

It's just like dealing with hate speech. If the answer to hate speech is more speech, not censorship, then the answer to misleading educational lobbying is more lobbying -- in this case, from actual voters. If you contact your representative or senator, it has an impact. If you tell them that you're going to do more than just vote against them -- that you're going to volunteer for and donate to their opponent in the next election -- it counts that much more.

If you doubt that your opinion matters, look at what's happening today and reassess that conclusion.



Wisconsin Budget Kabuki and a Regularly Scheduled 'Crisis'

It's my opinion that the words "budget crisis" should be banned from political conversation in Wisconsin. This state, like many states, has a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, so whenever it's time for a new budget, we're facing a "budget crisis." Every time, without fail. Both parties use the term to bludgeon the other party into submission -- "Gah! It's a budget crisis! Why aren't you helping us save Wisconsin?" -- and the media always plays into it. Face it, "Budget Crisis!" makes for better headlines than "Same Kabuki BS That Happens Every Two Years is Happening Again." If the biennial budget constitutes a "budget crisis," then Wisconsin has had over a century of incredible luck in resolving these crises. We're always on the verge of... I don't know, being a failed state I guess... and every time, we manage to be pulled back from the brink of certain doom.

This is why I don't give Gov. Scott Walker a lot of credit for solving the "budget crisis" with his union-busting and his attacks on the middle and lower classes. Walker has managed to do what every single governor before him has done (some of them less burdened by the weight of intelligence than even Scott, by the way), making this less of a towering achievement and more of just a routine. Scott Walker merely managed to avoid what every governor has managed to avoid. This isn't some singular triumph of leadership. In fact, it may be that in the history of this clockwork crisis, few governors have handled it as poorly.

And with that little rant, I herald in deadline day -- the day the petitions to recall Scott Walker must be turned in. The heroic Walker won't be there to watch them roll in.

[Chicago Tribune:]

Supporters of an unprecedented effort to oust Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker from office said they will turn in more than enough signatures Tuesday to force the Republican into a recall election barely a year into his first term.

Walker, however, has no plans to be anywhere near the Capitol when recall organizers turn in the signatures by Tuesday's deadline. The governor is scheduled to be in New York when organizers say they will be unloading the stacks of petitions, weighing a ton, from a truck and hauling them into the state election board's offices.

For their part, recall organizers say they've collected the roughly 540,000 signatures needed to trigger a recall and exceeded it by 200,000 more. This is going to happen. If I were Scott Walker, I wouldn't want to be around to watch the truck roll in either.

And why is Walker being recalled? Because his approach to the "budget crisis" consisted of unbelievable overreach. He used it as a hammer to ban collective bargaining for public employees -- and it didn't work. The other side wasn't cowed into accepting what was a blatantly false argument and that skepticism was later shown to be right. Walker testified to congress -- under oath -- that doing away with collective bargaining "doesn't save any" money. And the argument that it was a crucial step to solving our routine and scheduled "crisis" died right there.

But that's not the only reason. One factor that got me behind the recall was Walker's bass-ackward economics and his attacks on the working poor to the benefit of the rich.

[The Capital Times:]

Wisconsin residents with long-term capital gains will enjoy a new break while lower income filers could see less money under changes in 2011 state and federal income tax laws.

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) on Tuesday released its annual income tax guide and has noted a few minor adjustments.

At the state level, the biggest change includes a deferral for certain capital gains reinvested in qualified Wisconsin businesses and an exempting of health savings accounts (HSAs) from state income tax.

Walker's capital gains tax cut means that 30% of all income made from capital gains -- no matter how much that is -- isn't taxable income. Meanwhile, Walker's budget "also eliminates inflation indexing for the Homestead Credit. That program benefits lower-income tax filers." Walker's continuously claimed to address the "budget crisis" without raising taxes -- a claim that is nothing but a flat-out lie. He also cut the Earned Income Tax Credit, raising taxes further on the working poor.

At least the wealthy won't have to struggle to get by though, huh? Walker is literally taking money from the working poor and giving it to the wealthy. And again, this has nothing to do with balancing the budget.

I'm glad today is deadline day, because we can't get rid of this guy soon enough. And the next time you hear about a Wisconsin "budget crisis," go ahead and shrug it off.



News Roundup for 1/16/12

Robber barons and tycoons
Romney's peer group

-Headline of the Day-
"Big banks have picked their candidate, and it's Romney."

Mitt Romney has been trying to convince everyone that he's just a reg'lar Joe. He tries to strike up conversations with the riff-raff by guessing their ethnicity and discussing LEED certification of the local hotels. Rumor has it that he's instructed his valet to put his pants on him one leg at a time. He's done everything short of wearing an "I'm Not Out of Touch" t-shirt everywhere he goes.

Well thank God no one's buying it. If they did, Mittens wouldn't be getting that sweet, sweet campaign cash from the 1%. According to the report, "Employees at the five largest U.S. banks by assets, including Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co., had given Romney about $600,000 through the first three quarters of 2011, according to the most recent filings available from the Federal Election Commission... Romney received more from employees of those top five banks than all the other candidates combined."

That ought to keep him in spats and top hats for a while. And all that slash-and-burn, fire-all-the-employees-and-sell-off-the-company Bain stuff in Romney's past? Well, that's not a liability to the crème de la crème of the Wall Street world -- it's an asset. "As the former head of Bain Capital... he comes from their world," we're told.

The next time you see Mittens eating pies with the locals in a folksy, one-of-the-guys photo-op, keep that in mind. (McClatchy)

-The calendar is obviously rigged-
Science is made up of logical conclusions drawn from observable facts.

Matt Bors climate cartoon

Observable facts obviously have a liberal bias. (Matt Bors, via The American Bear)

-Bonus HotD-
"On MLK Day, Romney Campaigning With Anti-Immigrant Official Tied To Hate Groups."

I want to say that timing is everything, but there's really no time this would be OK. It's just especially un-OK today. (ThinkProgress)

Griper Blade: Walker's Legislative Steamroller Not Quite So Formidable Now

Walker's steamroller runs out of steam
Tomorrow's the big day. After months of signature collection, petitions to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker must be turned in by Tuesday. The call to wrap things up actually came last week, indicating the kind of comfortable buffer petitioners have achieved. There were no urgent pleas to keep signing until the very last second, no big final push, just the message that it was time to fold up shop, to make sure all your petitions are signed and dated, and to turn that paperwork in on time.

Of course, this is the second round of recalls in Wisconsin, sparked by Republican overreach and a union-busting law. The first was toward the end of summer last year, when Democrats took two seats in the state Senate. Republicans, after launching a counter-recall, gained no seats. Democrats had come within one seat of taking the Senate majority, while Republicans had fallen from one seat to three seats from taking a quorum-proof super-majority.

Somehow, this got spun into a win for Republicans. The Democratic goal, after all, had been to take the majority in the Senate. Democrats had gained two seats and lost no ground, Republicans had lost two seats and gained no ground, therefore Republicans had won. "Tonight’s results demonstrate that responsible budgeting measures and job creating policies can prevail over mountains of liberal special interest money from those fighting to maintain the unsustainable status quo," said Chris Jankowski, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee. "This tremendous victory is a significant step toward returning government to the people and protecting the hard-working American family and businessperson. By beating back countless liberal special interest dollars and paid supporters, the strength of responsible Republican ideals is obvious and foreshadows continued Republican victories in 2011, 2012 and beyond."

Only in the bass-ackward mind of a Republican is losing two seats winning. And not just winning, a "tremendous victory." Why, it was a landslide! A few more "victories" like that and there won't be any Republicans in the Senate at all.

And now we see what their "win" has brought them.

[Associated Press:]

Republicans who control the Legislature have their sights set on passing just four major bills and little else during the session that begins Tuesday and runs through mid-March.

They insist it's not due to inter-party gridlock, but instead the negative influence of recalls against four Republican senators and the ongoing bitter partisan atmosphere that hinders building coalitions across party lines.

The four bills Republican leaders say they are working to pass would clear the way for an iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin, ease laws related to developing on wetlands and environmental regulation, and create a venture capital fund to assist start-up businesses.

"Republicans last year feared Democrats might take control of the Senate after the recalls and block their proposals. Democrats did pick up two seats, leaving Republicans with a narrow one-vote majority," AP reports. "That slim majority and threat of more recalls leave lawmakers on edge."

"When a legislator is under recall and looking down the barrel of a recall election they're going to be more sensitive," said Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, himself the target of a recall election this time around.

And whether any of this agenda will actually get done is another question entirely. The venture capital fund probably stands the best chance, while the rest may face a rocky road. Of course, the recalls may still turn the Senate over to Democrats, which means that things could change drastically. Even Republicans are acknowledging this.

"Because of the fact that we have four senators under recall and uncertainty that surrounds the Capitol, that will mean that very few bills will pass," state Rep. Robin Vos, the GOP co-chair of the Legislature's budget committee, told the AP.

Previous to the recalls, the GOP was a legislative steamroller, passing bills nearly as quickly as the Governor could sign them. Now, not so much. The steamroller's out of steam. Republicans can't afford any more "wins" like they had last year. If they suffer through another "tremendous victory" like that, they'll be out of business for a while.



News Roundup for 1/13/12

Sometimes pronounced "four"

-Headline of the Day-
"Rick Perry Lists 3 Departments He’d Cut, But Adds One, Misses Another."

OK, so Rick Perry wants eliminate the departments of commerce, interior, and energy... or is it commerce, education, and energy?

Something like that anyway. All you need to know is that Rick Perry wants to eliminate federal agencies. Three to be specific and which three being too specific.

Referring back to Rick Perry's "Oops" moment at a Republican debate, an interviewer asked him which agencies he'd cut. Should be easy enough. The mistake that marked the beginning of his campaign's tailspin is not likely to be one repeated.

Or so you'd believe. "Three right off the bat, you know, commerce, interior and energy are three that you think," Rick answered.

And Rick answered wrong. On the campaign trail, he's been talking about eliminating the department of education, because -- let's face -- he's living proof that being dumber than a sack of doorknobs is no impediment to fabulous wealth, fame, and success.

What he hasn't been doing is saying word one about the Department of the Interior.

The interviewer caught the slip and asked him if he'd eliminate the Department of Education as well. Darn tootin', Rick said. Then the stupid continued. "They are blackmailing states with our own money, basically saying here is the national test, and here are the national standards you’re going to put into place, "One size fits all doesn’t work. Well maybe it does in gym socks but it sure doesn’t in how we educate our children."

Maybe, maybe not. But you want to take that up with President Bush and the bipartisan group of dim bulbs who passed No Child Left Behind. The Department of Education is doing this stuff because the last Texas Governor to be president made them do this stuff. You can repeal it and they'll stop doing it. You don't have to blow up the waterworks to turn off a faucet, you know.

But whatever. What's important to remember is that the list of agencies Rick Perry would cut grows every time someone asks him; mostly because he can't keep them squared in his mind and when he screws up, his line is "Oh yeah, that one too." (ABC News)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, the National Defense Authorization Act means that everyone's safe from terr'ists forever. Yay!

Click for animation

Whether you're safe from your government is another question entirely. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Romney's Rhetoric On Jobs Record At Bain Devolves."

First Mittens claimed 100,000 jobs had been created by Bain. No one bought that. Then it was "tens of thousands." No one bought that either. Now it's just "thousands."

By this time next week, it'll probably be "me and this other guy."

Don't believe it. (Talking Points Memo, with video)

And the Presidential Campaign Goes Straight to Stupid...

I watched Newt Gingrich's movie on Mitt Romney last night. When Mitt Romney Came to Town may be a stinging indictment of Romney's slash-and-burn style of capitalism, but it's not a very good movie. It's more of an attack ad than a documentary, filled with clichéd negative ad tropes -- slow motion clips, ominous and growly square wave tones, etc. No Oscar buzz here.

Still, the message is pretty clear and pretty accurate; when Romney claims to be a "job creator," he's not being 100% honest. But this is Newt Gingrich, which means there has to be at least one completely insane note in the movie. When I saw that Steve Benen wrote about "oblique xenophobic slights" in the movie, I'd expected to see jobs moving to China or undocumented workers stealing American jobs.

What I saw instead was Mittens speaking French.

And apparently Team Newt thinks that speaking French is a horrible, horrible thing. Because I woke up this morning, turned on the news, and saw this:

Hating the French seems like a fad of rightwing nutjobbery of a certain vintage -- say, 2001. It doesn't seem to be a big thing today. Newt's hot button issue is a little less hot and a little more dusty than he seems to believe. Still, the ad was cut for South Carolina -- a state with a much larger Tea Party influence than the previous primaries -- so maybe someone, somewhere will be completely outraged at Mittens' francophonic talents.

But really, are we here already? Are we at the point where all the other issues have been completely exhausted and we have to dig up stupid crap to be critical of? The fact that Newt's ad brings up John Kerry's windsurfing forces us to compare it to idiot issues of the past -- and, I hope, makes us all wonder how these idiot issues ever became issues in the first place.

Part of the reason is that the presidential campaign is too long by far. Do we really need an entire year to make up our minds? I don't think so. Idiot issues prove that we run out of reasons to change our votes long before we even get a chance to vote.

I'm going to go ahead and cut Newt some slack, though. The primary in South Carolina is a much shorter campaign than the national one. So, if you want to get your gratuitous, stupid, intolerant, lowest-common-denominator attacks in, you're not going to want to waste a lot of time. Mitt knows how to do something you probably don't -- and that's terrible. For some reason.

And it's not just the candidates who go running to these idiot issues, it's the media as well. I remember John Kerry making a huge campaign "gaffe" by ordering a philly cheeseteak with swiss cheese instead of Cheez Whiz. Why this matters at all is beyond me. It's not like it proved his trade policy wouldn't work -- it was something that just didn't matter at all. Besides, as a Wisconsinite I feel a duty to break the bad news to Philadelphians: Cheez Whiz is a crime. It's awful. Stop doing that or face human rights abuse charges at The Hague.

Can we get some debate of the issues here? Please? Or are we going to more or less instantly go straight to the stupid? Because I'd rather we didn't.

But I know we will.



News Roundup for 1/11/12

Rick Perry

-Headline of the Day-
"CNN Apparently Waives Its Own Debate Rules To Let Rick Perry In."

The endless series of GOP debates marches on, this time in South Carolina, and Rick Perry will be there.

Whether he should be there is another question entirely. According to the report, in "CNN’s criteria for inclusion, a candidate must get at least 4th place in either Iowa or New Hampshire, or get 7% support in at least three national Republican or three South Carolina primary polls released in January. The requirements were posted online last Tuesday afternoon, several hours before before the Iowa caucuses began later that night."

The problem: Rick has done almost none of that. "Perry came in fifth place in Iowa, and sixth in New Hampshire," the report says. "And currently, his national and South Carolina poll numbers do not show him meeting that threshold, either."

Worse, the only poll that shows Perry reaching the crucial 7% is from Reuters -- CNN's own polling has Rick at 5% in South Carolina (pdf).

Asked what the hell the deal was, Edie Emery, director of public relations for Turner Broadcasting Systems, said, "Yes, Gov. Perry will be invited to next week’s CNN debate. He has met the criteria."

Fair enough. Except he hasn't. (Talking Points Memo)

-Mittens clarifies-

Surprisingly accurate. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"C-SPAN caller asks if 'Romney has a big penis.'"

I think I see what's happening here. The caller overheard a conversation.

Let me straighten this out: what you heard someone say is that Romney is a big dick.

Hope you find this helpful. (Raw Story)

The Bain of the GOP's Existence

The next time someone tells you, "I'm a capitalist," go ahead and answer, "No, you're not." You'd just be playing the odds. A capitalist is defined as "A wealthy person who uses money to invest in trade and industry for profit in accordance with the principles of capitalism." In other words, probably not you or the person you're talking to. "Capitalist" is synonymous with "financier."

Also, notice the term "job creation" isn't anywhere in the definition. People don't invest to create jobs, they invest to make money. In fact, whether any jobs are created by the investment is entirely beside the point. In many cases, jobs are lost. The people Republicans hold up as the high-minded "job creators" not only aren't interested in creating jobs, but they'd really rather not. When you're maximizing profits, you want as few employees as possible. After all, you're in the business of writing your own paycheck, not someone else's.

When it comes to what Republicans call "job creation," they'd rather you didn't see how the sausage is made. Because when you get right down to it, it looks pretty heartless. If hiring someone means you'll make money, you'll hire someone -- and if firing someone means you'll make money, they're out. The "job creators" have been doing one helluva lot more firing than hiring lately, which makes the GOP's favored term for capitalists a lie. After all, one would assume that a "job creator" actually would get around to creating some jobs. Lately, they've been acting as "job destroyers."

Which brings us to a guy named Willard "Mitt" Romney, son of wealth, former vulture capitalist and professional job destroyer. Remember the villain in all those movies -- you know, the ones where there's a hostile takeover and rich corporate-type wants to sell off all the company's assets and fire everyone? Yeah, those movies. That's Mitt Romney, CEO of Bain Capital. He's that guy.

Even if you're a Republican who worships at the altar of the Free Market, it's hard to look at Romney's past and not see it as a liability. If you're that Republican and you're running against him, it becomes almost impossible not to see a target. And that has his opponents moving to the left of the party. Establishment Republicans are finding themselves at odds with most of their candidates and it's kind of putting them on the spot.

And this in itself is a problem; how do you defend Mitt Romney and Bain Capital without confirming every negative stereotype people have about the GOP and their relationship to the wealthy? If you're conservative spinmeister Frank Luntz, you don't. You change throw up a smokescreen.

Conservatives should not be defending capitalism. They should be defending economic freedom. And there is a difference. The word capitalism was created by Karl Marx to demonize those people who make a profit. We’ve always talked about the free enterprise system or economic freedom. Suddenly, they’re trying to defend something that has only 18 percent support.

The problem here is that "economic freedom" doesn't mean freedom from criticism, any more than freedom of speech means you get to say whatever you want and everyone else gets to shut up about it. And if "economic freedom" means doing what Bain did under Romney, I think the average person would like to see a little less of that particular brand of freedom. After all, you don't become a cookie-cutter movie villain by being widely respected and admired.

My point in all this is a simple one; in order to be more in tune with the average person and criticize Romney and Bain, GOP candidates are running to the left. They can't possibly run to the right with it. The best they'd be able to do is follow Luntz's lead and try to camouflage the issue with pretty words that poll better.

And what does this all prove? That the public is to the left of Republicans on issues of corporate responsibility and business ethics. Most of the candidates know this, that's forcing the GOP establishment to defend Romney, and that in turn putting them in the spotlight. There's a reason why it's mostly private citizens who are rushing to Mitt's defense, not elected Republicans; defending Bain is a Democratic "candidate X is so out of touch" attack ad waiting to happen.

Republican candidates are setting up a narrative that President Obama can carry into the general election. I'm not as convinced of Romney's "inevitability" as everyone else seems to be, but I will agree that the odds are heavily in his favor. What this means is that there will be a continuity of criticism, a bipartisan assault on Romney's past as a movie villain.

Willard has some rough sledding ahead.