News Roundup for 4/30/12

Don't you dare accuse him of telling the truth

-Headline of the Day-
"Inside the Mitt Laden Smackdown."

Last week, the Obama campaign put out a video suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn't have dropped the hammer on Osama Bin Laden. Obviously, this was terrible. Mittens is not happy with it.

The problem, of course, it's Mitt's kneejerk messaging strategy -- i.e., everything Obama does is wrong. This puts him in the situation of having criticized the president for doing the sort of thing that eventually got Osama.

"In line with the late Bush administration policy and messaging on OBL, Romney repeatedly said that the US shouldn’t focus on hunting him down," writes Josh Marshall. "The point wasn’t that OBL was off the hook but that we shouldn’t be focusing on this one guy. Romney followed by attacking Obama in 2008 for suggesting that he would unilaterally send American troops into Pakistan to kill bin Laden. In both cases, Romney was doing little more than repeating the strategic or political orthodoxy of the GOP leader of the moment, in the first case George W. Bush in 2007 and then John McCain in 2008."

If Mittens says he wouldn't send troops into Pakistan to kill Bin Laden, how is he supposed to get into the situation where he gives the order for troops to kill Bin Laden in Pakistan? Romney specifically ruled out doing exactly what it took to get the guy. So when the President said Romney wouldn't have killed OBL, he was just taking the man at his word.

In other words, Mitt's getting bent out of shape because President Obama is not calling him a liar. That might be a first. (Talking Points Memo)

-I'm a terrible person-

I thought this was hilarious. (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

-Bonus HotD-
"Depressed Bin Laden thought about ‘al-Qaida' name change, White House says."

Unfortunately, "The Apple Dumpling Gang" was already taken. (Yahoo! News)
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Logically Speaking, the War on Women Must Be a War Without End

I think I've narrowed down the reason for the War on Women -- this whole childbirth thing freaks conservatives right out. Watching the video above, I can't come up with a better explanation. In it, Republican consultant Alex Castellanos denies that women are paid less than men, despite the plain, indisputable fact that they are. As always, Republicans hate math and math hates them right back.

But Castellanos backs up his assertion with creative accounting -- women run off and do crazy things like have babies, so if you count that time off, the pay gap disappears. Therefore, women should take the hit for their frivolous hobby of, you know, perpetuating the human race. You don't see men running off and having babies. Because men are serious and grown up.

This is all about as silly as it gets and it demonstrates how weak the conservative arguments are in defense (and denial) of their War on Women. But consider this argument in relation to the other fronts in the war -- abortion and contraception. In Conservative World, women should be punished by law for avoiding childbirth and punished economically for engaging in it. Republicans are busy reinforcing a no-win situation for women, where both pregnancy at its avoidance have negative -- but in their minds, completely justified -- consequences. We've already established that women who use birth control are sluts. The less said about women who seek abortions the better. And women who get pregnant are bad workers. I guess the logical conclusion to all this is that women are just naturally bad people.

Inconsistency in conservative reasoning is nothing new. But the belief that half the American adult population needs to suffer the consequences for merely existing is another thing entirely. And, like Castellanos, they're all denying this is happening at all. Of the War on Women, John Boehner said, "Give me a break!" and claimed the whole thing was a fiction created by Democrats for "political gain."

John McCain made a floor speech in the Senate last week where he said, "My friends, this supposed 'War on Women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television."

To see women's rights being reversed around the nation and then see these clowns deny it's happening should insult any voter and women especially. Their opinion of you is very, very low. They obviously believe you're brainless. And the people who buy these arguments are.

But the broader implication of all this is that the War on Women will never end because, as a War on Reality, it can never be won. Women will always be both having and not having babies. When they aren't pregnant, they're terrible. When they are, they're terrible. And, if conservatives have their way, they'll forever be paying the price for the inexcusable condition that is female existence.



News Roundup for 4/27/12

It's a nice portrait anyway...

-Headline of the day-
"New Mexico Politician Frolicked In Philippines Sex District."

Bonus fun; his name is Michael Weiner, so we can use a lot of those jokes again.

Ok, so here's the deal; this guy who's New Mexico's Bernalillo County commissioner got his picture taken with prostitutes in the Philippines. You probably have no idea who the hell this guy is and you're wondering why you should care. You should care because it's funny, that's why.

See, according to the report, "Wiener was spending time in the Angeles City red light district when he apparently stopped a photographer on the street to take a picture of him posing with a quartet of scantily clad women in an area well known as a hub of prostitution." The above artwork was the product of that request.

But here's the fun part, the photographer -- John Keatley -- was in town "documenting the sex tourism industry." Turns out he wasn't a tourist, he was working. And he's not extremely supportive of men who engage in sex tourism. In fact, he's kid of against it.

"You can’t assume anyone there on the street is there for sex,” Keatley said. “But my encounter with Michael Wiener was very different... It was very obvious to me that he was not respectful to women. He was there to have a good time."

So when Weiner got home, the photo followed him. "Albuquerque, N.M., television station KOB-TV confronted the Republican commissioner with the photograph this week and gave him a chance to respond," the report tells us. "Wiener acknowledged he was the person shown in the picture but denied he was there to pay for sex. He said he was in the area with his girlfriend and that the two of them were waiting to catch a plane to visit his daughter in a nearby city." Oddly, his girlfriend accounts for exactly none of the nice ladies pictured in the photo.

And this isn't the first time Weiner's awesomr decision-making skills have got him into trouble. He was cleared in an investigation involving dirty jokes and female employees and in 2010 "forced to apologize in 2010 after sending out an email with a joke that 'makes reference to President Barack Obama, African-Americans, showers and prisons.'"

Way to go Bernalillo County, New Mexico. You've chosen a real winner. (Talking Points Memo)

-Wal-Mart bribery scandal in a nutshell-


-Bonus HotD-
"Regular Guy Scott Brown Has Twice As Many Houses As Mitt Romney."

But he drives a truck, so he's automatically just like you. (Wonkette)

"I'm Not Racist, But ___"

One thing I think we can learn from the Trayvon Martin shooting and its aftermath is that there are one helluva lot of rightwing racists in America. As revelations go, it's not much of one. All you have to do is tune in Rush Limbaugh to have that one confirmed.

But another thing we can learn about rightwing racists is that they don't seem to understand what racism actually is. And we get no better demonstration of this fact than this story from The Grio:

A letter, sent via the City of Sanford's official letter, and addressed to the city manager, decries the treatment afforded the currently suspended police chief, Bill Lee. It faults the now familiar villains, according to Lee's defenders: Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the country's African-American attorney general, Eric Holder.

"Dear City Manager Bonaparte," it begins. "The racist travesty that took place in Sanford should not be laid to rest and the city should not move on until there is a thorough condemnation of the Rabid Racist Ni**ers and their organizations, along with the irresponsible media, that formed a treasoneous [sic], anti-American, vigelante [sic] feeding frenzy race riot. Ni**ers like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Eric Holder, and that dancing baboon of the New Black Pu***es should be in jail, preferably shot."

Mr. Bonaparte is black. And letters sent to city officials via the Sanford website are public record.

The letter was sent by Gary K. Keats, "a 71-year-old retired urologist from nearby Clearwater, Florida, [who] stands by every word." We know Keats is a wingnut, because the report tells us, "During the late 1990s, Keats posted frequent comments on a website belonging to the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, an ultra-right wing non-profit founded in 1943 to fight the Social Security Act." More on them here.

But here's the clincher; "Asked if he considered himself a racist, Keats replied, 'no, not really.'"

We've all heard it -- "I'm not a racist, but [insert incredibly racist comment here]." And that's pretty much what we're seeing with Gary K. Keats. The fact is that the vast majority of racists don't know that they're racists. You've got a few neo-Nazi, white power types who take the label proudly, but the average racist is a racist in denial.

I think the good news here is that we've managed as a society to association the word "racist" with "wrong." It's wrong to be a racist and even the racists seem to agree with that. But an average racist sees themselves as right. If they're right, then they obviously aren't wrong, and therefore just as obviously can't be racist -- no matter how racist the things they say sound. They think they're telling "hard truths." They know it's confrontational, but it "needs to be said."

In fact, as Keats demonstrates, it's the people who complain about racism who are seen as the real racists. Everything was fine until them uppity northern blacks come down and start raising trouble -- well, fine except that whole dead-kid, cops-let-the-shooter-walk-away thing. It's people who bring up race who are the racists. And if they bring up race, then the wingnut gets to too. It's only right. In his mind, Keats isn't at fault for throwing the n-word around -- blame Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Eric Holder for that. They started it with their focus on the victim's skin color. He probably thinks he's just fighting fire with fire.

If you want an insight into racist commenters on blog posts and news stories, there you go. They don't know they're racists. The good news is that if you call them out on their racism, they'll be offended -- because they know racism is shameful.

The bad news is that they have no earthly idea what the hell the word "racism" actually means.



News Roundup for 4/26/12

GOP's perception of young voters

-Headline of the Day-
"Crossroads ad attacks Obama's 'celebrity' presidency."

Never let it be said that Republicans are saddled with the burden of new ideas. And for anyone daring to make such a scurrilous accusation, I offer the latest from Karl Rove's PAC. In it, President Obama is attacked for being just so gosh-darned famous and "cool."

Seems familiar, somehow. Like someone had tried it before. I wonder how that turned out?

Anyway, this time it's different. There's that whole "he's cool" thing, too. The ad is aimed at young people and you know how they hate cool. As Steve M. from No More Mister Nice Blog puts it, "No! Don't listen to the part of your brain that responds to coolness! Coolness is not good! Coolness is bad! Bad! Romney is boring! Boring is good!"

Hey young people! Put down your video game controllers and your meme generators and your phone apps and join us in a nice game of whist!

I guess Republicans have to at least try to attract young voters. But you'd think that in trying, they'd actually try. (The Hill)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, have you heard about CISPA? Don't worry, it's just to keep you safe!

Click for animation

President Obama says he'll veto it, but you know how he hates America... (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Romney Campaign Again Warns Of ‘Soviet’ Threat."

First, Romney's foreign policy adviser complains about our policy with "Czechoslovakia," now this.

I think Mittens is trying to convince Republican voters that he literally is Reagan -- and that it's 1984. (Talking Points Memo)

The Media's Daily Search for a 'Game Changer'

It's generally the case that presidential campaign coverage is dominated by brainless non-issues. This is of course largely the fault of the candidates, but the media share some of the blame. Because of networks' ratings-bias, there is no such thing as a minor controversy -- everything is of earth-shattering importance and any little slip could destroy a candidate's chances at the presidency.

As a result, the media portrayal the campaign news of the day and reality are two entirely different things. Minor issues and trivial embarrassments get blown entirely out of proportion -- not because the media misunderstands what constitutes "big news," but because they hope to inflate fumbles into flaming wrecks.

In a piece for FiveThirtyEight on spring polling and their ability to predict nothing, Micah Cohen brings up exactly this problem:

Already, partisans and pundits are criticizing individual polling samples and pollster methodologies. Entire “-gates” – Rosen-gate and dog-gate, for example – have erupted, been fought over and then forgotten in mere days, and each poll is scrutinized to see how the latest controversy has affected the race.

Oops, guess we're not supposed to notice that the big, all-consuming stories-of-the-day tend to go absolutely nowhere. Hilary Rosen disses Ann Romney and everyone's supposed to be outraged. It totally shifted the "War on Women" dynamic -- except it didn't. The needle on the public outcry meter didn't so much as quiver. Mitt's big counter-offensive in the War on Women was a bust and Republicans in general find themselves just as unpopular with women as they were before -- if not worse off.

The trick is finding some "game changer" that has a shelflife longer than a couple of days. Maybe this will be the one:

President Barack Obama isn't just playing politics - he may be committing fraud on the taxpayer's dime, the Republican National Committee charged on Wednesday.

In a letter to the Government Accountability Office from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, the committee requested an investigation into Obama's recent travel - including trips this week to Iowa and North Carolina - alleging those trips were more political than official.

...Obama's recent speeches, the RNC said in the letter, were "events widely reported to be equivalent to campaign rallies." The committee's case sees supporting evidence in a list of the states Obama has visited this month, including the general election battlegrounds of Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio.

As Hart Williams points out, "Gee. Less than two weeks ago, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan committed a felony on camera in Wisconsin. How come nobody seems concerned about that, if 'abusing the system' is such a big deal?" It's a rhetorical question, but I'll answer it: because both stories are trivial.

So, after that fails to take off, we can start freaking out over this Breitbart revelation:

Last night, President Obama appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s unwatchable show to “slow-jam the news.” By this, Fallon meant that Obama would read a campaign speech about student loans, Fallon would utter a few lines to back him up every so often, and his lead band singer would warble in support of Obama’s propaganda.

Only one problem, aside from the fact that this was possibly the worst “comedy” segment in the history of mankind: it violated campaign finance law.

Except of course, it's not.

The desire for campaigns to see these non-stories become huge scandals is obvious. And the media wants them to drive ratings. But the big scandal in this campaign season so far is that in 21st century America, women's rights are an issue. The media may find the War on Women old and stale and Team Romney hopes you forget all about it.

But so far, it's the biggest issue of the year. Barring disaster, I don't see that changing. The game stubbornly refuses to be changed.



News Roundup for 4/25/12

Rightwing domestic violence expert

-Headline of the Day-
"Religious right lobbies against VAWA."

OK, so what's the VAWA? That's the Violence Against Women Act. Why would so-called religious leaders be against that? "[B]ecause of new provisions that ensure that LGBT victims of domestic violence do not encounter discrimination while seeking help," the report tells us.

You know, because Jesus said you ought to be able to smack lesbians around if you want.

Actually, the idea is that anything that recognizes or protects LGBT people "normalizes" them. So it's better to pretend they don't exist because... Well, that's not extremely clear.

However, unlike the other War on Women fiascos the right has staged lately, this one includes at least one honest-to-goodness expert on the subject of violence against women. According to the report, a letter to the Judiciary Committee on the subject "was also signed by conservative activist Timothy Johnson, who was convicted of a felony domestic violence charge and was arrested a second time for putting his wife in a wrist lock and choking his son."

Apparently Bluebeard was unavailable. (
Maddow Blog)

-Ladies man-

Of course, it's easy to be a ladies man when the only alternative to you is a pack of misogynistic psychopaths. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Tennessee Rep.: Bullied Gay Children Who Killed Themselves Didn’t Have ‘Proper Principles.’"

And so we hit the conservatives-are-just-dicks trifecta. (Wonkette)

Romney Can't Buy Love

Politico has the story of Mitt Romney triumphant five-state sweep of primary elections last night:

Mitt Romney swept all five Republican primary elections Tuesday night, putting an end once and for all to any hopes for a comeback by his beleaguered GOP primary opponents.

The last state to be called was New York, where voting ended at 9 p.m.; Romney was previously projected the winner in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

There was little suspense in tonight’s elections. Only in Delaware, where Newt Gingrich camped out in recent days and collected endorsements from top local officials, was Romney at any risk of losing. Even a Gingrich victory there would have been unlikely to complicate Romney’s glide to the Republican convention in Tampa.

Yes, nothing but smooth sailing from here on out. Just a non-stop express train to the Oval Office. There's only one hitch: Mitt's actual showing was more than a little weak.

Over at Smart Politics, the blog for the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, Eric Ostermeier is a lot less impressed by Romney's sweep than the folks at Politico. In historical context, Romney's wins were weak.

While there was no doubt Mitt Romney would rack up another five victories in northeastern presidential primaries on Tuesday, the former Massachusetts governor failed to change the lingering narrative that has plagued his campaign throughout the 2012 cycle - that conservatives and the party's base may not coalesce around his candidacy.

For while Romney swept the primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, he did so in a historically underwhelming fashion.

And he did so twice.

"A Smart Politics review of Republican primary election data since 1972 finds that Mitt Romney's performances in Delaware and Pennsylvania mark the first time a GOP frontrunner has failed to reach the 60 percent mark in a contest conducted after his last major challenger dropped out of the race," Ostermeier continues.

And that's not a good sign.

It's worth noting that history isn't destiny here. That presidents haven't been elected after this sort of showing in the primaries doesn't mean it will never happen. But stumbling off the general election starting block is not the way Team Romney would've like to launch this thing. And it's a sign of just how weak a candidate the presumptive Republican nominee actually is.

Last night, Romney won Delaware with 56% and Pennsylvania with 58%. The average for a primary race after all credible rivals have left the field is 78%. Go ahead and let that sink in. Mittens isn't just below average in these two states, he's below average by 20 points or worse.

"[N]ever has a presumptive nominee won a primary contest with such a low level of support at this stage of the race with his chief challenger no longer actively campaigning," Ostermeier writes.

It strikes me that Republicans really only have themselves to blame for this fix. After all, they the lone defenders of the Citizens United ruling, which made it possible for candidates and their Super PACs to buy elections. Now a candidate has bought the GOP nomination and -- since it was exactly a democratic process -- no one's excited about the result. If voters had chosen Romney on their own, rather than because of an ad campaign designed to promote him as inevitable and the least bad of a bad lot, they'd obviously be a lot more stoked up over his candidacy. But they didn't and they're not. It should strike anyone as an entirely predictable result.

The nomination may have been for sale, but the affections of the voters are not.



News Roundup for 4/24/12

The world's least honest person, this side of James O'Keefe

-Headline of the Day-
"Planned Parenthood Worried It's The Target Of New Undercover Sting."

Something hinky's up at Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation, as women are walking in and asking weird questions that no one's ever asked before. According to the report, "clinics in at least 11 states have reported two dozen or more 'hoax visits' over the past several weeks, in which a woman walks into a clinic, claims to be pregnant and asks a particular pattern of provocative questions about sex-selective abortions, such as how soon she can find out the gender of the fetus, by what means and whether she can schedule an abortion if she's having a girl."

The hoax is probably being carried out by Live Action, an anti-choice group headed up by James O'Keefe cult-member Lila Rose. In the past, Rose and Live Action tried to prove that Planned Parenthood was involved in sex trafficking -- no, really. They didn't have a lot of luck on that front, for obvious reasons. But that didn't stop them from stitching together a lying video from out-of-context takes anyway, because that's just what O'Keefe cultists do.

How worried should you be about all this? Not very, if you ask me. This is probably the first you've heard of the sex trafficking thing, so Live Action's influence is close to zero. Nice to see a group of liars getting all the attention they deserve. (Huffington Post)

-Speaking of unwanted pregnancies...

Click for full strip

If Sarah Palin ever sees this, somebody's getting buried under a stack of victim cards. (GoComics)

-Bonus HotD-
"Governor Rick Scott Vetoes Funds For Rape Crisis Centers During Sexual Assault Awareness Month."

If there's one thing that sets the generals on the front lines in the War on Women apart from everyone else, it's their general lack of brains. (Huffington Post)

A GOP Economic Myth Bites the Dust

It's one of the most enduring myths in American politics; that if you increase taxes for the wealthy (or, in the right's favorite BS term, "job creators"), the rate of employment will take a nosedive. Nothing about this makes any sense at all, but with a media environment that values a false "balance" above truthtelling, it's much easier to gloss over that fact. What the right is saying when they make this argument is that it would be too expensive to make profit -- a ridiculous claim that ignores simple math, not to mention logic.

So, in our current political and media environment, even obviously bogus claims need to be debunked. And two top economists -- Nobel Prize winner Peter Diamond and John Bates Clark award winner Emmanuel Saez -- probably felt more than up to the task when they took it upon themselves to bust this rightwing myth. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Diamond and Saez set the record straight.

The share of pre-tax income accruing to the top 1% of earners in the U.S. has more than doubled to about 20% in 2010 from less than 10% in the 1970s. At the same time, the average federal income tax rate on top earners has declined significantly. Given the large current and projected deficits, should the top 1% be taxed more? Because U.S. income concentration is now so high, the potential tax revenue at stake is large.


According to our analysis of current tax rates and their elasticity, the revenue-maximizing top federal marginal income tax rate would be in or near the range of 50%-70% (taking into account that individuals face additional taxes from Medicare and state and local taxes). Thus we conclude that raising the top tax rate is very likely to result in revenue increases at least until we reach the 50% rate that held during the first Reagan administration, and possibly until the 70% rate of the 1970s. To reduce tax avoidance opportunities, tax rates on capital gains and dividends should increase along with the basic rate. Closing loopholes and stepping up enforcement would further limit tax avoidance and evasion.

But will raising top tax rates significantly lower economic growth? But will raising top tax rates significantly lower economic growth? In the postwar U.S., higher top tax rates tend to go with higher economic growth—not lower. Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis, GDP annual growth per capita (to adjust for population growth) averaged 1.68% between 1980 and 2010 when top tax rates were relatively low, while growth averaged 2.23% between 1950 and 1980 when top tax rates were at or above 70%.

So no, raising taxes on the wealthy won't harm job creation -- mostly because the "job creators" aren't the wealthy, they're consumers as a whole.

"With the 'taxes harm growth' and Laffer curve arguments undercut by research such as this, Republicans have fallen back on the argument that it's unfair to take income away from those who earn it," comments economist Mark Thoma (link mine). "But that presumes that the system allocates income fairly, a claim that is hard to swallow given how much financial executives are paid relative to their contribution to the productive process (to name just one example). There's nothing unfair about using taxes to 'clawback' misdirected income, and it won't harm growth to send income where it should have gone in the first place."

In other words, the dreaded "redistribution of wealth" -- although it would be more accurately described as the "re-redistribution of wealth." Insanely low tax rates and a corporate culture that rewards even failure with tremendous bonuses represent "Robin Hood in reverse" economics, where those least able to afford it take the hit, in order to take the burden off the wealthy.

Does this create jobs? We've already established that the answer is no. And the reason is simple -- producers will only offer the goods and service that people will pay for. The less money consumers have to spend, the fewer employees will be needed at any given workplace. By taking money from consumers to cover tax breaks for the wealthy, you do the opposite of creating jobs. Take a look at that chart at the top of the page -- tax rates for the top earners are the lowest since 1950 and jobs follow that downward arc. Money in the hands of consumers, not employers, creates jobs. This is not a hypothesis, this is as solid a fact as gravity.

It's really very easy to explain all of this: employers don't hire people any time they can afford to -- they only hire people when they can't afford not to. Anyone who argues otherwise is either a liar or someone who doesn't understand economics, business, or math at all.


(chart courtesy of the Center for American Progress)


News Roundup for 4/23/12

Can't play it this round, Mittens

-Headline of the Day-
"So much for the vast left-wing conspiracy."

Last week Mitt Romney told Breitbart TV that there was going to be a "vast left-wing conspiracy" in the media to wreck his chances of being elected. At least, we think that's what Mittens said -- but it's a Breitbart site, it's video... So who knows? Could be horseshit, because most of what comes out of there is. The best that can be said is that Team Romney hasn't denied it.

Anyway, it turns out that if a conspiracy exists then -- in the word of Steven Benen -- "the conspirators are wildly incompetent."

Pew came out with a study today showing the media "has consistently given more positive coverage to likely Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney compared to President Barack Obama."

Adam Serwer explains, "During the early weeks of 2012, Romney's media coverage was slightly negative -- between January 2 and February 26, 33 percent of the stories about the ex-Massachusetts governor were positive and 37 percent were negative, according to Pew's analysis. But Romney has received mostly positive coverage since then (47 percent positive to 24 percent negative). By contrast, according to the report, President Barack Obama 'did not have a single week in 2012 when positive coverage exceeded negative coverage.'"

Sorry Mittens, but you can't play the victim card this hand. Any failures to connect with voters are your own damned fault. (Maddow Blog)

-NRA to the rescue-

The NRA protects the rights of all Americans*.

*By "all Americans," we mean corporations who sell guns. The rest of you commies are on your own. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-The Taliban) Gets No Respect From Afghanistan."

Dana's banned from the whole damned country. I think because he's dumb or something. (Wonkette)

ALEC: Lobbyists Who Aren't Lobbyists?

Among the most crazy claims I've seen lately is the claim that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) doesn't engage in lobbying. The whole point of the group is to get legislation passed -- legislation with such specific wording that at least one Florida bill still included ALEC language when it was introduced. They're responsible for state-level War on Women laws, anti-voter laws, anti-labor laws, and liberal gun laws like Florida's disastrous "Stand Your Ground" law. You can't introduce all this legislation and get it passed, then still pretend you're not lobbying.

Yet that's exactly what ALEC is trying to do.

[Associated Press:]

Open government advocates accused a conservative legislative group Monday of falsely claiming tax-exempt status while doing widespread lobbying.

Advocacy group Common Cause said Monday it had filed an IRS complaint accusing ALEC of masquerading as a public charity. ALEC is formed as a nonprofit that brings together lawmakers and private sector organizations to develop legislation and policy.

ALEC says its work is not lobbying.

Common Cause disagrees. "It tells the IRS in its tax returns that it does no lobbying, yet it exists to pass profit-driven legislation in statehouses all over the country that benefits its corporate members," said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, in a statement. "ALEC is not entitled to abuse its charitable tax status to lobby for private corporate interests, and stick the bill to the American taxpayer."

Common Cause wants an IRS audit of ALEC's work, penalties and the payment of back taxes.

Things haven't been going well for ALEC lately and this is just the latest blow. The Trayvon Martin shooting has highlighted "Stand Your Ground" laws and ALEC's involvement in its passage, but many already had a problem with them -- as I said, they're the ones behind the War on Women, the War on Voting, and the War on Labor. So the pressure was already there. But the Martin incident is the one that finally blew the gasket.

The group is losing corporate members at a pretty good clip -- the latest being Kraft Foods. That loss may cost them in Wisconsin, where Kraft -- through subsidiary Oscar Mayer -- is a major employer. Bowing out of ALEC may mean bowing out of the recall fight. The timing couldn't be worse for ALEC there.

If courts rule against ALEC and declare them a lobbying organization, they'd probably still exists. But they'd have to come out of the shadows, register as lobbyists, and be much more open about what they do.

I can't think of a better outcome.



News Roundup for 4/19/12

Mitt's latest criticism is a little wide of the target

-Headline of the Day-
"Lorain officials question use of gypsum plant as Romney backdrop."

President Obama is terrible. Just the worst ever. And Mitt Romney wanted to drive that point home.

So he plans to set up a photo-op in front of the National Gypsum drywall plant in Lorain, Ohio. The plant is shuttered. Weeds probably come up through cracks in the parking lot. Raccoons run wild in the breakroom. It's just terrible.

"What we're saying is, he has been given three years to turn the economy around and bring back jobs," says Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. "He has had time and hundreds of billions of dollars to turn around the economy and he has not done that." Actually, he has -- but let's not muddy the waters with facts here.

Another fact that muddies Romney's argument -- Barack Obama wasn't the president when the plant shut down. According to the report, "City officials in Lorain question whether the drywall factory – which closed during the George W. Bush administration because of a construction industry slump -- could appropriately be used to illustrate that message."

"When you have to clean up a mess that was created over eight years, you will not get it done in four," Lorain City Council President Joel Arredondo told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "After four years, we are better off than we were before."

Oh crap, there go the facts again. (Plain Dealer)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, it looks like Republicans finally have the budget they've been waiting for! It's...

The Jesus Budget
Click for animation

Just between you and me, I don't think that's really Jesus. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Wisconsin loses 4300 private sector jobs in March."

Huzzah for Gov. Walker, who "saved" Wisconsin! (CBS News)

For GOP, Blocking Buffett Rule as Easy as Taking Lunch from a Baby

A few days ago, this happened:

[New York Times:]

Senate Republicans on Monday blocked a move to open debate on the so-called Buffett Rule, ensuring that a measure pressed for months by President Obama and Senate Democrats to ensure that the superrich pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent will not come to a decisive vote.

But the fierce debate preceding the 51-45 vote — the Democrats were nine votes short of the 60 they needed — set off a week of political wrangling over taxes that both parties insist they are already winning.

It seems the GOP believes that the Buffet Rule is a gimmick. It's would account for a fraction of the federal deficit -- so why even bother? They argue President Obama and Democrats are just engaging in more class warfare for cheap political points.

So how much would the Buffet Rule bring in? According to the Ezra Klein, "The Joint Committee on Taxation says the proposal will bring in $47 billion over 10 years. Chuck Schumer, assuming the extension of the Bush tax cuts, says it will bring in $160 billion." Call it $47 bil. to be safe. That's the conservative estimate.

"The White House’s opponents... have largely attacked the Buffett Rule for being too small," Klein says. "The Washington Examiner’s David Freddoso tweets, 'I’m sorry, but if the Buffett Rule is your solution to the deficit problem, you’re not even on the same continent as serious.' His colleague, Phil Klein, produced a chart comparing the Buffett Rule to 'Obama’s deficits': As you might expect, the Buffett Rule is considerably smaller. Tiny, even."

And now we come to all the hypocrisy and evil. When you're dealing with Republican arguments, you can always count on hypocrisy and evil.

[Associated Press:]

The White House weighed in sharply Wednesday against a House GOP move to break last summer's budget pact by cutting the annual budgets for nondefense programs funded through annual appropriations bills.

Republicans are cutting such programs $28 billion below levels agreed to last summer in the bipartisan budget and debt deal, prompting acting White House budget chief Jeffrey Zients to warn lawmakers in a letter that President Barack Obama will not sign any appropriations bills until GOP leaders promise to abide by last summer's budget pact.

The budget deal last summer set caps for the annual spending bills but House Republicans rewrote them when passing a new budget last month. That set the stage for the annual appropriations process to get under way this week, but a situation is emerging in which House bills funding Obama priorities like education and transportation are likely to bear a disproportionate share of the new cuts.

First off, this proves that House Republicans are nothing bt a pack of liars. As part of a budget deal, they promised not to make cuts this deep. And now here they are. John Boehner's word ain't worth spit.

But that's not the evil part. That's just the dishonorable part. Here's the evil part:

A measure approved Wednesday by the Agriculture panel would reduce the food stamp monthly benefit for a family of four by almost $60, repealing increases that were enacted three years ago as part of Obama's economic stimulus. The changes would also force up to 3 million people out of the program by tightening eligibility rules, the administration estimates.

The food stamp cuts would total $8 billion over the coming year and $34 billion over a decade. The program has been expanded greatly over the past few years — enrollment tops 46 million nationwide, up from about 33 million in 2009 — and now costs about $80 billion a year. The average monthly benefit for a family of four is about $500, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal research and advocacy group.

That's right, the food stamp cuts would actually save less than the so-measly-it's-not-even-worth-it Buffet Rule. Just in case you're still missing the evil here; Republicans would rather literally take the food out of families' mouths than see to it that a bazillionaire pays more in taxes than his secretary.

Now that's evil. Yes, one is a tax and the other is a spending cut. But remember your Benjamin Franklin: a penny saved is a penny earned. In terms of deficit reduction, that's absolutely true. It doesn't make any difference how you do it.

But it terms of economics, it makes a big difference. Contrary to what Republicans argue, no one's going broke with the being-rich business. The idea that billionaires can't afford to hire people is as stupid as it is wrong. They are, after all, billionaires.

On the other hand, if you cut food stamps for families, those families will spend less money. And it's spending that spurs employment, not the size of the pot of money the employer's sitting on. People hire because of demand. Want to slow growth in employment? Start bleeding off demand by cutting things like food stamps.

And even worse -- at least from the GOP standpoint -- you undercut your efforts to shrink the deficit. High unemployment and increased homelessness (if your choice is food or rent, food's going to win) reduce tax revenues. If you want to reduce the deficit, you don't undercut consumer demand.

But how brainless and hypocritical and evil is all this? We can't touch the income of the 1% -- who've never missed a meal in their lives -- so we have to cut aid to struggling Americans. The poor can go hungry, so the rich can continue to pay insanely low tax rates.

As is so often the case, we can plainly see who the Republican Party really is. They'd rather hurt the economy and America than slip the leash of the 1%. You Republicans can knock off all that flag waving now. It's never been so obviously phony.



News Roundup for 4/18/12

Possibly more popular than the Ryan plan

-Headline of the Day-
"Democrats Gaining in Battleground and Ryan Budget Could Finish the Job."

It seems that voters in swing states aren't big fans of crazy. At least, that's one way of looking at a new Democracy Corps poll. According to the report, in a "survey of 1000 likely voters in the 56 most competitive Republican-held districts, the climate has shifted in favor of the Democrats. Voters view the Democratic Party more favorably than the Republican Party, the President is viewed far more favorably than Mitt Romney, and both the President and congressional Democrats have made gains on the ballot since last September."

While GOP loopiness on things like women's rights and tax cuts for the rich forever probably has a lot to do with it, the Super-Important and Serious Ryan Budget Plan isn't helping any. "The Ryan budget is in trouble. Just 41 percent support it in these Republican districts with no description other than the fact that it cuts spending," we're told. "When described, including using Ryan’s own language, support collapses to 34 percent."

I'm sure that everyone in the Republican Party is completely shocked to learn that the Ryan Plan is unpopular. After all, the previous version was toxic -- so how could opinions not improve?

Of course, this is really only a problem for Republicans who voted for it. All the rest can probably escape the voters' ire. So how many voted for it again?

DC reports, "virtually all House Republicans voted for Paul Ryan’s latest budget plan."

Oh well, live and learn. Except, these are Republicans, so the moral for them is "live and keep making the same boneheaded mistake over and over and over." (Democracy Corps)

-Maybe if you pawned some of that Tiffany's stuff...-

Keep pluggin' away, Newt. It's going to work out great! (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Library Of Congress Employee Fired After Liking ‘Two Dads’ Facebook Page."

Bush administration hold-overs are as stupid, crazy, and hate-filled as ever. Some things never change. (Wonkette)

Confronted With His Secrecy, Romney Plays the Victim Card

A few days ago, I wondered if anyone actually knew who Mitt Romney really was. Was he the moderate governor of Massachusetts? Or was the centrism an act to win in a blue state? Is he the far-right Tea Party type he seems to be now -- or is that an act to win the GOP primaries? We have no way of knowing, other than to take Mitt's word for things. And that'd be a lot easier if Mitt's presentation of himself weren't constantly changing.

As the DNC video above demonstrates, these questions have occurred to more people than just myself. Not only does Mittens have secret plans for after the elections, he has a secret ideology, a secret past, and secret wealth.

[Steve Benen:]

Mitt Romney appears rather desperate to shield his tax returns from public scrutiny. He
has the materials -- when Romney was considered for John McCain's 2008 ticket, the former governor turned over 23 years worth of returns -- he just doesn't want to share the materials.

The Romney campaign, however, has a new line it hopes will put a stop to the questions. Ed Gillespie told Fox News the other day, "In 2004, John Kerry as a Democratic presidential nominee, released two years of tax returns. In 2012, Governor Romney will release two years." Romney himself repeated this on CNBC yesterday, saying, "John Kerry released two years of taxes."

The problem, of course, is that the talking point isn't true. Judd Legum explained that Kerry, by the time of his 2004 presidential campaign, had actually released
20 years of tax returns.

Romney was only off by a factor of 10.

So let's not pretend Romney's any more honest than he is open. But secretiveness is today's subject.

"If it were just the tax returns, it'd be problematic enough," Benen goes on, "but Romney appears to have established a pattern that leaves him vulnerable: he bought the hard drives from his term as governor so he could hide emails from the public; he's hiding the names of his fundraising bundlers from the public; he's keeping details of his policy agenda hidden from the public until after the election, etc."

The short version here is that Mitt Romney's trying to sell you a product he's unwilling to demonstrate for you -- or even show you. He's hiding everything about that product, so you can use your own imagination. The less he reveals, the more you can imagine he's exactly what you want him to be.

Since the criticisms of Romney's secrecy inarguably have merit, the candidate and his surrogates have to be creative in his defense. Although "creative" isn't exactly the right word here. Romney's defense is anything but. "Old and stale and threadworn" is probably a better description of the conservative's favorite go-to: the victim card.

Alec MacGillis finds Mitt's victimhood on display in a Politico piece:

WHAT REPUBLICANS ARE SAYING about the “penchant for secrecy” attack line against Romney: “These are exactly the kind of questions we asked about Obama in 2008 and were accused of race baiting, or suggesting he was somehow un-American. Now they ask it: What’s his secret? It does seem like they are going after the Mormonism, right? I’d do the same thing if I was them. But we were never up on our high horse about better angels and hope and change and all that B.S..”

—From an LDS member: “[T]his is a way to talk about Romney’s Mormonism without appearing to be attacking his religion. … Because, isn’t Mormonism some mysterious cult involving secret temple rites and strange undergarments? And it just happens to dovetail with some minor points on offshore accounts, but I think the message between the lines is clear.”

I don't remember Obama being accused of hiding his agenda back in 2008, but then again, accuracy isn't a requirement in a Republican talking point.

But is this really the best they can come up with; that calling out Mitt on his stealth agenda and his secret wealth is an attack on Mormonism? Really?

If this really is the best defense Team Romney and Friends could cook up to defend the candidate from (accurate) charges that he's hiding pretty much everything he can from voters, then that tells us one thing: it's indefensible.



News Roundup for 4/17/12

Not a smart man

-Headline of the Day-
"Mitthusiasm: House Conservative Edition."

One of the great pleasures of an all-but certain Republican nomination of Mitt Romney is watching all the wingnuts who'd attacked him as a RINO on the campaign trail squirm uncomfortably as they try to pretend to be happy about their nominee. The excruciatingly forced smiles, the staged excitement -- it's all really entertaining. Especially as you consider the look in their eyes; like they'd just swallowed an entire peeled lemon dipped in vinegar. The crazies are clearly not happy. And when they're unhappy, I'm overjoyed.

This unease with Romney was apparent when the rightest of the right in the House staged a press conference. No reason, just "conversations with conservatives" and an excuse for the election-minded to chase cameras around. It turns out that reporters actually show up to these things, on the off-chance that someone may say something worth repeating. The fact that you hardly ever hear about these common pressers tells you all you need to know about what they're usually worth.

According to Dave Weigel, whose unenviable task it is to sit through these timewasters, "the first question that tripped anybody up, from The Hill's Russ Berman, was whether members were 'excited' about incoming Republican nominee Mitt Romney."

Sure they were, they all said. Because Mittens is gonna beat Barack HUSSEIN Obama and that automatically makes him a freakin' hero. They all took turns agreeing on how important that was -- until it was Louie Gohmert's turn.

"If you're not sure about whether to support Mitt Romney," the dumbest member in the history of congress said, "whether you're liberal, or whether you're very conservative, you ought to be excited, because he's been on your side at one time or another."

OK, so that wasn't the message they were going for. It's probably not a good idea to bring up what a flipflopper Mitt is when you're trying to praise him. "You could tell, in the room, that Gohmert had just created a 'narrative' against Romney," Weigel reports.

Gohmert finally realized that he'd screwed everything up. But luckily he has experience in dealing with that particular problem since -- as I've mentioned -- he's the dumbest member in the history of congress.

"So I'm not completely understood," he said, "I'm not as excited as I am desparate."

Romney 2012. Feel the excitement! (Weigel)

-Desperate housewife-

Click for full comic

And that's not even counting all the doubloons she has to polish. (GoComics)

-Bonus HotD-
"The 'secrecy' card."

Team Romney's latest defense: if you criticize Mitt Romney for admitting to hiding his agenda, it means you hate Mormons. (War Room)

Omens, Augurs, and Polling

Let's talk about superstition. If you wanted an unconventional -- but still accurate -- definition of superstition, you could say that it's the belief that unscientific methods can yield scientific results. Walking under a ladder predicts misfortune, while a rabbit's foot can skew results in your favor. Given this definition, a very short post at Buzzfeed may qualify as superstitious.

"Modern presidents who got re-elected were all leading in the polls at this point in their presidencies — as were some who lost anyway," wrote Zeke Miller yesterday. "Obama is in a statistical tie with Romney in the first Gallup daily tracking poll of the general election, and that might not be enough." The post goes on to spell out Obama's obvious electoral doom with a graphic.

But Nate Silver has a must-read post up about reading polling that pretty much blows this thinking out of the water. And when I say must-read, I mean go read it. In fact, bookmark it and check it later, when some partisan starts waving around some favorable finding or the media starts running wild with their close race narrative.

Silver's post consists of twelve rules to apply when reading about polling and it's the final rule that knocks out Buzzfeed's pseudo-scientific reading of history and the Gallup poll.

Don’t over-learn the lessons of history. A final and more general point is that there have been only 16 presidential elections since World War II. That simply isn’t a lot of data, and overly specific conclusions from them, like “no recent president has been re-elected with an unemployment rate over 8.0 percent” or “no recent incumbent has lost when he did not face a primary challenge,” are often not very meaningful in practice and will generally not carry much predictive weight.

I don't bring this up to criticize Miller or Buzzfeed specifically, but to point out that we see way too much of this crap in the media. If we take history as predictive, then we have to assume that Barack Obama could not possibly have won either the nomination or the presidency, because history shows that an African-American had never won either.

This is what the media does. Sometimes because of carelessness and other times intentionally. They pretend that all information is useful, even when it's not, and that every crystal ball works. And if it promotes the tight race narrative, even better. In this case, Obama's ahead in most polling but -- oops! Lookie here; history offers another way of looking at them. In this case, a way that allows them to discount the results of most polling -- e.i., a way of looking at them that's not scientific at all.

"This race is way tighter than the polling would suggest," a talking head might say. "Make sure to check in later -- things can change in a heartbeat!"

And that's what all this misreading of polling and the search for signs and portents is all about; eyes on the page, eyes on the screen. Often times, the media is biased. But it's not a left/right bias. It's a bias in favor of ratings or hits or circulation. A tight race is an exciting race and an exciting race draws eyes. So -- no matter what the reality of the contest might be -- a tight and exciting race it's going to be for as long as they can keep that story going. If that means disemboweling birds to read their entrails, then bring out the knife.

Maybe the best way of looking at this is by using an old truism -- there's a first time for everything. Basically, this means that historical trends are always true right up to the point that they're not anymore. An African-American never won the Democratic nomination, until one did. An Irish Catholic never became president, until one did. This is all as silly as telling the Wright brothers that since humans had never flown in heavier than air flyers before, it was impossible that they ever would.

Polls are factual data (most of the time). It's those who interpret polling you should look out for. When it comes to history and the desire for ratings, they become a very superstitious lot.



News Roundup for 4/16/12

Order now and get this special commemorative gift

-Headline of the Day-
"Romney Sells Inauguration Access, Nine Months Early."

Hey, want a front row seat to Mitt Romney's "presidential inaugural retreat?" That'll be a cool $50,000, please.

According to the report, "The offer, in a fundraising email circulated by a top Georgia supporter to fellow Republicans and obtained by BuzzFeed, is one of several goodies offered to those who contribute more than $50,000 to the joint fundraising committee known as 'Romney Victory,' a program whose outlines were first reported by POLITICO."

Donors at this level will also get "yet to be determined access at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August."

OK, so that whole Tampa convention thing that Mittens has totally nailed down -- that's all up in the air and who knows what. But the Mitt Romney inaugural? Totally in the bag, no question about it.

No word on what'll it'll cost to get a seat at the absolutely guaranteed 2016 reelection celebration, but that'll be after Mittens cures cancer and eliminates poverty, so count on it to be plenty. (Buzzfeed)

-On the other hand...-

Got to be in it to win it. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Policy ignorance at the Supreme Court."

Conservative justices clearly have no idea what the hell is in the law they're expected to rule on.

File under "Unsurprising shit that should scare the crap out of you anyway." (Maddow Blog)

Does Anyone Know Who Mitt Romney Actually Is?

Mitt Romney is terribly concerned that President Obama is harboring secrets. And in speaking to the American Society of News Editors earlier this month, he told reporters to get off their butts and do their jobs.

[Washington Times:]

Mitt Romney urged the country’s news editors on Wednesday to delve more deeply into what he said were President Obama’s secret second-term plans, telling them they have a duty to “do the seeking” to expose what the White House has in store.


Mr. Romney also called on the press to take a closer look at what Mr. Obama has planned for a second term and said the exchange last week between Mr. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, caught by a hidden microphone, was telling.

Mr. Obama was heard, when he thought no open microphones were nearby, asking the Russian government not to pressure him before the election on missile defense, and he signaled he will have more “flexibility” to negotiate afterward, when he won’t need to vet those positions with voters.

“He does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press,” Mr. Romney told the editors. “By flexibility, he means that ‘what the American public doesn’t know won’t hurt him.’ He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking.”

Of course, Obama was merely telling Medvedev what everyone in the world already knows -- that the power of the presidency is diminished during an election year. But Romney and the rest of the right are always on the lookout for something to be outraged over and an unexpected moment of candor would have to do.

But what really leaves a sour taste in many mouths is Romney's hypocrisy here. While complaining about the President's alleged secret agenda for a second term (one that apparently involves stripping every citizen of their guns, despite the lack of any evidence at all that Obama plans to do this), Romney is running around telling everyone that his big plans for a Romney presidency are a secret.

"One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education," Romney told the Weekly Standard in March. "So I think it’s important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies. So for instance, I anticipate that housing vouchers will be turned over to the states rather than be administered at the federal level, and so at this point I think of the programs to be eliminated or to be returned to the states, and we’ll see what consolidation opportunities exist as a result of those program eliminations. So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you a list right now."

Then, just this weekend, Romney repeated his desire for secrecy. "I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go," he told a group of donors this weekend. "Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I’m not going to actually go through these one by one. What I can tell you is, we’ve got far too many bureaucrats. I will send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states."

Greg Sargent gets to the heart of Mitt's secretiveness, I think; behind the distasteful hypocrisy is an even more unpalatable political cowardice.

There’s no mystery here: People routinely tell pollsters they favor cutting government spending in the abstract, but when talk turns to specifics, they suddenly realize they don’t hate goverment so much, after all. And so, Romney’s comments last night sounded like a pretty straightforward assertion to a friendly audience that he will deliberately remain vague throughout the election about which government agencies he’ll either consolidate or eliminate wholesale.

However ambiguous, the vow to massively cut government is necessary to plug the big whole in his vision: He continues to promise huge tax cuts for the rich, even as he
also continues to promise that he'll solve our deficit problem. The money has to come from somewhere. But Romney won’t say where. You’d think news orgs might want to get on this one of these days.

So, since people like the idea of cutting government, but don't like the idea of cutting specific programs, Romney has decided he'll campaign on cutting government, without putting his neck out with any specifics. People like their spending cuts vague, so Romney -- as he does over and over and over -- has found a way to tell people exactly what they want to hear. And he rationalizes his vagueness by warning that if he makes his secret plans public, the "liberal media" will attack him for it.

Meanwhile, we need to be terrified of President Obama's own secret plans -- plans Romney received first hand from the Investigative Wing of Mitt Romney's Butt. This is practically the definition of incoherent.

But all of this gets back to a question I've touched on from time to time -- who the hell is Mitt Romney, anyway? We know the he ran and that he governed as a moderate in Massachusetts, despite now claiming to be a "severely conservative" governor. But in the Republican primaries, he ran as far to the right as he could. Now that that's over, he's shaking the Etch A Sketch and trying to reinvent himself once again. After all these costume changes, how are we supposed to know which one is real?

If the press is going to look into anyone's secret plans, then those plans should be Romney's. While Obama's secrets are purely speculation on Mitt's part, his own desire to keep secrets is plainly stated. And we can't speculate on what those secret plans might be, because we have zero insight into his true character. In fact, Romney seems so intent on becoming president that I don't think we'd have a much clearer picture after his election. He'd just start running for reelection the moment he took his hand off the Bible. Still telling everyone what they wanted to hear, governing with an eye on polling and a finger to the wind.

All we know about Mitt Romney is that he's politically spineless, that he's a complete hypocrite, and that he probably wants the power of the presidency more than anyone else on the planet. We may not actually know much about Mitt Romney, but what we do know should be enough to disqualify him.



Romney Will Tell Whatever Lie He Thinks You Want to Hear

It's a trap they've set for themselves before. In 2009, the Obama administration released visitor logs to promote greater transparency at the White House. Predictably, the obsessive rightwing blogosphere pored over the names, looking for commies and Nazis and Black Panthers and general ne'er-do-wells. They found Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. So they took to Twitter and their blogs to announce the terrible news; Barack HUSSEIN Obama was still palling around with terrorists and preachers of the dreaded black liberation theology.

Except he wasn't. Turns out that it's a big world, the White House is a big building, and people don't have unique names. The William Ayers in the White House logs was a different guy, as was Jeremiah Wright. So lesson learned; never jump to conclusions based solely on the fact that you prefer those conclusions to the likely reality.

Or, it would be lesson learned, if the right had any interest in learning lessons. But, as the past decade has demonstrated so well, they don't. And so it is that Hilary Rosen has visited the White House 35 times -- which is absolute, lead pipe cinch proof that she's one of President Obama's top advisers and is probably the person running his reelection campaign.

That's the vibe you get from Dave Weigel's account of a press conference call with Romney surrogates.

The most insane press conference call of the week took place at 11:30 a.m. today. It was billed as a "conference call on women in the Obama economy." Its surrogates (the term slung around for endorsers temporarily empowered to speak for a candidate) -- Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Rep. Cynthia Lummis, Concerned Women for America's Penny Nance, Virginia Del. Barbara Comstock, and a conservative "mommy blogger."

Within five seconds it was clear that the call would have almost nothing to do with the economy.

"I represent New Hampshire in the United States Senate," said Ayotte. "I also am the mother of two children. And I think it was very insulting for President Obama's adviser, and DNC strategist Hilary Rosen to make the comment she made about Ann Romney yesterday, that she never worked a day in her life. It's insulting that the president's adviser would dismiss the value of the hard work women do when raising children."

She was telling whoppers. Rosen is neither a presidential adviser nor a "DNC strategist." She's a CNN analyst and a strategist at SKD Knickerbocker. In her paid CNN role, she's prohibited from working for a campaign. There are, occasionally, work-arounds when it comes to these contracts. James Carville contributes to CNN; he also lends his name to DCCC fundraising emails.

"Several times they mentioned that Rosen had visited the White House 35 times, even though we don't know if every visit was made by this Hilary Rosen," he writes. To give you an idea of how Weigel feels about Team Romney's claims, I point you to the title of his post: "Romney Camp Will Keep Calling Hilary Rosen an Obama Adviser Because Shut Up That's Why."

So I'm kind of thinking he believes it's BS.

And that's been Mitt's favorite tactic for a while now -- lying his lying ass off, over and over and over. Steve Benen's done a great job of tracking this over time and Romney has been a relentless liar. Benen's weekly "Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity" post will be in its 13th edition today -- and every one of these posts are as long as your arm. Whether it's claiming that Obama's running around the world apologizing for America or the pretense that "Romneycare" is significantly different than "Obamacare" or that Obama ran up the first trillion dollar deficit in American history (Bush did that and stuck his successor with the task of cleaning it up), Mittens is the anti-George Washington; he cannot tell the truth. Cherry tree? What cherry tree? What's a hatchet?

But the interesting thing about Mitt's lies isn't that they're so unending, but that they aren't original. Most of the time, Romney's echoing the rightwing blogosphere. This is why the "Obama apology tour" lie seems so familiar, for example. Romney's strategy to win over the base seems to be to win over the lying, conspiracy-minded, no-time-to-check-facts wingnut blogosphere. In short, most of Romney's lies seem to ooze from the same strategy he uses to approach everyone else -- tell them what they want to hear. The crazies want to hear their lies validated, so channel the ghost of freakin' Breitbart for them.

Once again, I find myself wondering who Mitt Romney actually is. Is there anyone in there at all? Or is he just some Chauncey Gardener-type who got where he is by reflecting everyone's thoughts and desires back at them? He doesn't seem to have any original ideas -- even when he's lying, they aren't his lies. All we really know about him is that he really, really wants to be president.

That and the fact that he lies without breaking a sweat.



News Roundup for 4/12/12

Hilary Rosen, according to rightwing blogs

-Headline of the Day-
"Conservatives Attack Hilary Rosen For Raising Children As A Lesbian."

You might've heard about the rightwing outrage of the day. It's easy to miss one, since there's always a rightwing outrage of the day and they all sort of run together and who can even keep track of them all?

Anyhoo, it seems that some lady named Hilary Rosen went on the CNN and said that Ann Romney "hasn’t worked a day in her life." Team Romney went all mental over this, saying it was an attack on stay-at-home moms. No one bothered to point out Ann Romney's not your average SAHM, since her husband's a bazillionaire and it's unlikely she doesn't have a household staff. But hey, you take your outrages where you find them.

By the time Romney was done with Rosen, she was a White House adviser and a strategist for the DNC. It's about here that things started to go off the rails. See, she's not. This is a typical Romney "messaging" move -- otherwise known as "complete horseshit." Rosen's more of this kind of party strategist -- i.e., the kind that plays one on TV.

But of course, the rightwing blogosphere is never satisfied with just plain horseshit. They demand horseshit with frosting. So the right went and did some digging and found out that Rosen's a lesbian! A lesbian who's raising kids with another lesbian! It's at this point that I imagine many of them shit themselves.

By this time tomorrow, they'll have connected her to Bill Ayers, Saul Alinsky, and Skynet. (ThinkProgress)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, Dogboy and Mr. Dan are back and they're here to explain freedom, liberty, and the Supreme Court.

Click for animation

Well that wasn't very family-friendly at all... (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"House GOP Budget Cuts Taxes For The Rich, Raises Taxes On The Poor."

Least surprising headline ever. (ThinkProgress)

Romney Not Acting Like a Winner

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall makes a pretty on-the-money observation; that Mitt Romney's walking into the general election looking a lot like he expects to lose.

As noted this morning, Wednesday April 11th is day one of the general election. But there are things I’m seeing that tell me that Mitt Romney is kicking off the campaign in a telling defensive posture. What I mean is that on various fronts, Romney is kicking off within Obama’s campaign narrative. He’s living in Obama’s world, playing on his turf.

Example one is the Romney campaign’s push that it’s Obama’s economic policies that are the real “war on women.”

The effort to point to an “Obama Rule” over and against the “Buffett Rule” looks the same to me.

Right now, Romney's not a man with any real ideas of his own. And this isn't actually anything new. He's laid down a policy proposal or two, but after they failed to catch fire, he seems to have abandoned them. With his poor polling numbers, Romney is in a reactionary position -- and by that I don't mean like the typical Republican knee jerk reactionary, I mean like a boxer losing a fight. Mitt's too busy deflecting blows to land a good one of his own. He can only react and hope for a chance to counter the better fighter. Last night I described Romney's strategy as "I know you are, but what am I?" Marshall seems to agree.

"[F]undamentally, this is Obama’s turf," he writes. :It’s me-too. And you hope to keep up that way, not win."

I actually don't have a lot more to add to that and I'm running a little late, so I'll keep this one short. Mitt Romney is losing the confidence race. He's going to have to come up with some idea of his own -- something that actually solves a real-world problem and not some market-tested GOP buzz word. He needs to articulate some way in which Romney's America would be an improvement on Obama's. He needs to show a willingness to fight for Americans, not just against his election opponent.

It's put up or shut up time, Mittens. You've made it to the big leagues. Give us some reason to vote for you, other than "the other guys sucks." Americans have no earthly idea who you are or how you'd govern. And, as much as many dislike our president, only a chump chooses the Mystery Box.