In the Wisconsin Recall, It's the GOP Who Are Acting Worried

Wisconsin recall protester
Embattled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker knows something that the pundits don't. While everyone else is looking at Walker's single-digit lead in the polls (within the margin of error for most and closing, by the way) and declaring Walker the winner of a contest still a week away, King Scotty is hidden away in his castle. The rabble are much closer to storming the gates than the court seers are willing to admit. His grip on power is as fragile as an egg and must be handled very, very gently.


With a slim lead in the polls and just a week to go until the June 5 recall election, Scott Walker isn’t taking any chances.

The Wisconsin governor is running under the radar in an attempt to freeze the race where it stands and limit the chances of a momentum-shifting mistake.

His engagements in public venues have tailed off. Retail events have given way to rallies with supporters at campaign offices. Walker’s passive debate performance Friday, where he seemed more comfortable withstanding rhetorical blows from Democrat Tom Barrett than landing many of his own, offered more signs of his play-it-safe homestretch approach. The governor even passed on asking Barrett a direct question — usually a ripe opportunity to place an opponent on defense for a perceived weakness.

Reading that does not bring to mind the word "confidence."

This is a man who's spending about 170% of what his opponent is spending on advertising. That's not figuring in millions in super PAC advertising, which is not a direct contribution to Walker's campaign. And the best he can do is barely hold his head above water -- if he's even managing to do that. This is a man who has the Koch brothers busing in adoring crowds from out of state to create the illusion of widespread support. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

And that polling that shows Walker clinging on to his slim lead? Well, that may not actually be worth all that much.

[Chris Cillizza, Washington Post:]

Democrats caution, rightly, not to put too much stock in any of the polling due to the uniqueness of the circumstances; Wisconsin has never had a gubernatorial recall election before and therefore predicting turnout in a poll is even more difficult than it is is a more traditional contest.

Democrats also believe that if they can keep Walker’s margin to low single-digits heading into the vote next Tuesday they can win it on the ground thanks to their superior organizational efforts — much of which is being spearheaded by labor unions. As evidence of their organizational edge, Democrats note that early voting is running higher than expected — a good sign for them, they believe.

While Democrats continue to insist that the race remains a toss-up, Republicans are privately growing more and more confident — insisting that they have shown the incumbent with a solid single-digit lead in internal polling for some time.

Keep in mind that when Republicans tell a journalist something "privately," it means the opposite -- they know it's going to wind up in print. While Democrats and recall supporters have been happy to release their internal polling, Republicans are less inclined to prove their claims. And by "less inclined," I mean "not at all inclined." They'll tell someone like Cillizza that things look good -- and you'll just have to take their word for that.

And that "organizational edge" has the right terrified. Over at Zombie Breitbart, Mike Flynn tells wingnuts the shocking, horrifying, outrageous truth: early voting is easy, recall supporters are helping early voters cast ballots, canvassers are going door to door, and unions have vans to drive people to the polls. The propaganda arm of the GOP doesn't have a lot to work with here, but they're trying to cook up some sort of recall dirty-tricks to be freaked out about. They aren't very sanguine about this and they don't want their voters to be either.

If Barrett's the winner after all the smoke clears, the punditry will declare it a "stunning upset" -- which is what they always do when their laziness doesn't pay off. But recall supporters won't be surprised at all.

And, considering all the evidence, neither will Walker or the Republicans.


[Photo credit: Sue Peacock, via Flickr]


Walker Sitting on Job Numbers That Almost Certainly Prove He's Lying

Recall Scott WalkerGov. Scott Walker has a secret. And he's not sharing it with you. At least, not immediately. He'll have to sometime, but there's this whole big recall thing going on here in Wisconsin and now would be a bad time. After the election he'll break the bad news.

See, Walker was getting a lot of flack for sucking at job creation. His numbers were the worst in the nation. Then, he dug up different numbers -- mostly meaningless and almost certainly inaccurate numbers no one else uses -- and everything was great. Wisconsin had added 23,000 jobs since he took office, Walker declared, despite the fact that the number was an estimate based on a very slim handful of data. Needless to say, a lot of people were unconvinced.

For example, PolitiFact rated Walker's claim mostly false. Here they explain the problem:

The 2011 numbers are based on the jobs census, which covers about 95% of employers. They are deemed more accurate than the monthly numbers, which are based on a survey sample of about 3.5% of employers, then extrapolated to get a state number...

The BLS itself recognizes the census method as more accurate. Indeed, it uses those numbers to update the monthly numbers. Think of it as a picture that over time comes into sharper focus.

If only there were some solid numbers Walker could use to back up his claim. Oh wait, here they are!

[The Capital Times:]

Each quarter, more than 150,000 employers across the state are required to report on how many workers they have. This information is then gathered by the Department of Workforce Development to calculate UI taxes owed.

For example, [business blogger John] Torinus says, his company, Serigraph Corp., reported to DWD it had 418 employees on its payroll last quarter.

“In short, the UI numbers are hard core numbers,” says Torinus, who is chairman of Serigraph. “It's bedrock data.”

Great, so let's see them.

Oops! Looks like the Walker administration is sitting on those numbers. It's the big secret I referred to earlier. "Of course, the timing for the Q4 numbers was political," Torinus writes. "But it is also good policy to have the the freshest, cleanest numbers to work with. So, again, why haven't the Q1 2012 numbers been made public? DWD has had them for two weeks. Someone should get fired if they aren't released in the next week or so."

I agree. And that someone should be Scott Walker. Walker has "bedrock data" that can prove or disprove claims he's currently making in political ads and he's not releasing them. If those numbers show that Wisconsin is still losing jobs -- as most honest observers suspect -- then those political ads Walker is running have just become a deliberate lie.

And if those numbers back him up? Obviously, they don't. If they did, they'd be splattered all over the front page of every newspaper in Wisconsin, next to the governor's grinning face. I'm not inclined to give Scott Walker the benefit of the doubt in the best of circumstances, but in this case it's nearly impossible. There is no doubt for Walker to benefit from. He's sitting on solid job numbers because they contradict what he's saying. I can't think of any other reasonable explanation.

Walker is clearly running a campaign of lies and he'll do whatever he can to suppress information that contradicts those lies.


[image credit: nwbtcw, via Flickr]


News Roundup for 5/24/12

From a world all its own

-Headline of the Day-
"Poll: Elizabeth Warren unscathed by Cherokee flap."

One thing that's fun to watch in the wingnut blogosphere is the sight of bloggers buying into their own spin. It's kind of easy for them to do, since they only seem to read each other and stuff they find on Fox News, so they really have no idea what the hell's going on outside their little echo chamber.

And so it was with a trumped up "scandal" about Elizabeth Warren claiming Cherokee ancestry. Seems that the wingnut blogosphere measures ethnicity differently than the Cherokees do (Liz is as Cherokee as the leader of the nation) and they'd worked themselves up into a tizzy over it. Warren was doomed, they said, DOOMED!

Turns out that, as earth-shattering a revelation as the nutjobs thought this was, no one else cares. A new Suffolk University poll finds that 69% don't think the half-baked "scandal's" even a story and only 28% believe Warren lied about being a native American.

Meanwhile, Warren's surging ahead in the poll, closing a nine-point gap in February to a statistical tie today.

Yeah, wingnut blogosphere, that sure was a damaging little scandal you cooked up. Maybe -- if you try real hard -- you can convince yourself it's working. (Politico)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, did you know that war is (kinda-sorta-not-really) a thing of the past? It's true, thanks to...

Click for animation

You know, maybe making war easier wasn't the best idea... (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"New U.S. unemployment claims down this week."

As always, good news for America is bad news for the GOP. (Raw Story)

Why Republicans Suck at Outreach

I try not to make political predictions. There are just too many variables most of the time to be able to see all that far ahead. When you're this far out from an election, it's a little soon to start thinking you're seeing anything with any amount of clarity. When you're even farther out, it's an exercise in futility, as Ed Kilgore points out today:

A year ago, one of the most commonly discussed scenarios for an Obama defeat in 2012 was his potential weakness among Hispanic voters, an important part of his 2008 coalition (and crucial in several battleground states) that had suffered disproportionately from bad economic times and whose leaders were tangibly unhappy with the president for failing to pursue comprehensive immigration reform.

Today an oversample of Hispanic voters in a NBC-Wall Street Journal survey supplies the latest evidence that Obama may be on track to match his 2008 performance among Hispanic voters: he currently leads Romney by a 61-27 margin, within range of his 67-31 margin over McCain in 2008. Romney’s famously hard-line position on immigration, which he used to great effect in the primaries to validate himself among conservatives (and to dispatch Rick Perry), is presumably a factor in his poor standing among Hispanics (outside the Cuban-American and Puerto Rican communities where there is relatively little concern about immigration policy).

Ironically, the punditry failure on this prediction was utterly predictable. Seriously, was there any chance in hell that today's Republican Party would nominate a candidate who was more progressive on immigration than Obama? The ad above -- run by PAC+, a lefty Super PAC -- could've been made no matter who won the primaries. But it fits Romney especially well, since -- as Kilgore noted -- he engaged in anti-immigrant demagoguery during the primary campaign.

Of course, when you've alienated such a large demographic group, you have to at least try to get them back. And Mittens tried. Well, not really "tried" so much as "lazily acknowledged their existence."

Mitt addressed an event hosted by the Latino Coalition yesterday and, instead of trying to rebuild bridges, pretended he hadn't burn any at all. In fact, to abuse the metaphor, he pretended fire doesn't even exist. According to Talking Points Memo's Benjy Sarlin, "Immigration was not mentioned once, either in the address or in a pre-screened Q&A session."

This is less surprising than it would at first appear. It's part of a pattern; not only within Team Romney, but the wider GOP as well. When dealing with a group of alienated voters, Republicans approach the problem the same way they approach economics -- bass-ackward. They don't try to connect with those voters and address their concerns. Instead, they try to get those voters to connect with them and get those voters to worry about Republican concerns. They don't try to represent them, they try to indoctrinate and convert them.

This has been working about as well as you'd think.

For example, check out this outreach effort by House Republicans to reconnect with women voters. They get a bunch of female GOPers to get on camera and talk about taxes and how awful Obama is. What they don't talk about is this whole War on Women thing that alienated all the women voters in the first place. I haven't quoted myself in a while, so I figure I'm due. Here was my take at the time:

It’s like someone walked up to them and said, “What’s all this crazy stuff about trans-vaginal ultrasounds?” and they answer, “Yes, I too am concerned about the economy.”

And Mitt's doing the exact same thing with Latinos. They're asking, "What's with all this crazy anti-immigration stuff?" and he says, "I agree that unemployment is a big problem." He may be in the same room with them physically, but he is nowhere near them when it comes to addressing their concerns -- or even listening to them. The GOP is a top-down organization. They don't listen to you, you listen to them.

And if you don't agree with them on an issue, they literally have nothing to say to you.



News Roundup for 5/22/12

Prospective buyer

-Headline of the Day-
"Presidential foundation threatens legal action over Reagan blood vial auction."

When you raise someone to sainthood, people are going to want relics. That's what conservatives are learning today as a go-getter capitalist says he'll sell a vial of Ronald Reagan's blood online.

Apparently, the blood was drawn after the attempted assassination of Reagan and somehow wound up in the hands of a private collector. Is it really Ron's? Who knows? That's the beauty of unregulated capitalism -- you never know when you're getting screwed.

"If indeed this story is true, it’s a craven act and we will use every legal means to stop its sale or purchase," said Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation executive director John Heubusch, who's clearly a commie who hates the free market.

"Any individual, including a president of the United States, should feel confident that once they enter into the care of a medical system their privacy and rights are held inviolable," he added -- assuming, of course, they don't enter that system as a lady looking for an abortion.

So far, the sale -- which is being held by an "auction house based on Guernsey, in the British Channel Islands" -- is going ahead as planned and things are looking bright for our entrepreneurial hero. According to the report, "As of late Tuesday, the highest bid for the vial was 7,587 pounds."

Seems cheap to me. With the right technology, you could clone the guy. Imagine what that would go for. (Agence France-Presse)

-Selective GOP outrage-

For the record, we're currently in "so what?" mode. (Political Cartoons)

-Bonus HotD-
"Bill O'Reilly Unsure Why People With Less Money Don't Give As Much to Charity."

This has been the latest episode of "conservatives sucking at math." (Weigel)

Hey Mitt, Why's Your AZ Co-Chair Trying to Kick Obama Off the Ballot?

State level Republicans are crazier than outhouse rats. That's not even a matter of opinion, that's pretty much provable fact. Take, for instance, today's news from the Iowa GOP.

[Radio Iowa:]

The chairman of the Iowa Republican Party’s platform committee says the group is intentionally questioning President Obama’s citizenship with the wording in one section of the document. It calls for presidential candidates to “show proof of being a ‘natural born citizen’ of the United States.”

Don Racheter, chairman of the Iowa GOP’s 2012 platform committee, spoke with Radio Iowa by phone this afternoon.

“There are many Republicans who feel that Barack Obama is not a ‘natural born citizen’ because his father was not an American when he was born and, therefore, feel that according to the Constitution he’s not qualified to be president, should not have been allowed to be elected by the Electoral College or even nominated by the Democratic Party in 2008, so this is an election year. It’s a shot at him,” Racheter said.

You don't get much crazier than birtherism -- although I suppose you'd have to call this neo-birtherism. Of course, neo-birtherism is probably worse, since it means you accept that the original birther argument was horsecrap, but you're sticking with the broader premise anyway. It's practically an admission of playing politics with paranoia.

But the Iowa GOP's nuttiness doesn't end with this neo-birtherism. Oh no, there's plenty more crazy in there, as Ed Kilgore points out:

[I]f you take a look at the document as a whole, the birth certificate requirement is far from the crankiest of provisions. It calls for the abolition of the federal Departments of Agriculture, Education, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Energy, Interior, Labor, and Commerce. It demands a phase-out of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and immediate provisions to make Social Security voluntary. Though it’s a bit confusing on this point, it seems to call for the abolition of public education, or, as it often refers to them, “government schools.” It calls for U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations and the repeal of all hate crimes and non-discrimination legislation. It endorses a Fetal Personhood Amendment. It demands permanent restriction of total federal spending to 10% of GDP (the draconian right-wing Cut, Cap and Balance Act would limit it to 19.9% of GDP), and reversal of the Supreme Court precedents that made possible the New Deal and civil rights laws.

Outside the GOP base, none of this stuff would be popular. It's a big steaming pile of John Birch Society nonsense and the craziest of Ron Paul "libertarian" ideas. If Republicans ran on this nationally, it would be a slaughter. Which makes me think of another thing Kilgore writes.

"[Y]ou better believe if any group of two or more Democrats wrote up anything remotely this extreme, alarms would go up from coast to coast," he says. "I wish at a minimum Republican candidates for major offices in Iowa had to comment on this document one way or another. Walking those planks would do them a world of good in coming to grips with what’s happened to their party."

It doesn't seem to me to be all that difficult a task to get national Republicans to take a stand on these issues -- just ask them if they agree with their biggest supporters.

For example, Steve Benen looks at Arizona's birther Secretary of State Ken Bennett, currently in a clownish battle with the state of Hawaii to obtain a certain species of birth certificate that just plain doesn't exist. Bennett demands his nonexistent documents be magically made to exist or he threatens to keep President Obama off the ballot in his state. And here's where things start looking pretty goddam corrupt.

"Did I mention that Bennett is the co-chair of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in Arizona?" Benen asks. "Well, he is -- Romney's top ally in a battleground state is also the man responsible for overseeing the state's elections, and the official threatening to keep Romney's opponent's name off the Arizona ballot."

Hey, Mr. Romney, do you agree or disagree with your squirrelly Arizona co-chair that the president ought to be kept off the ballot because he doesn't have a kind of birth certificate that doesn't actually exist? Do you think that the fact that the president and yourself are tied in that state has anything to do with this (because that sure looks dirty, dirty, dirty)? And will you be asking Mr. Bennett to step down from your election committee?

There. Was that so hard?

And this is going to be true for every one of these "wingnuts gone wild" stories. Some clown involved is going to be a Romney co-chair. It's practically guaranteed. And every time, Team Obama should find out who that co-chair is and start beating Mittens over the head with them.

Why are all your supporters either lunatics or dirty tricksters, Mitt? What's that say about you?


[Image credit: Jeremy Vandel, via Flickr]


News Roundup for 5/21/12

How Mitt Romney sees America

-Headline of the Day-
"GOP Governors Contradict Romney, Tout Job Growth And Improving Economy."

To hear Mitt Romney tell it, the United States is in a deep, deep crisis. Packs of wild dogs roam the streets, chasing down old ladies, while packs of starving immigrant anchor babies hunt down the packs of wild dogs. Society and civilization are crumbling, poverty spreads out across the land, and two of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse -- Famine and Pestilence -- ride scout for the others to follow. It's freakin' Road Warrior out there -- and only a hero named Mittens can save us.

The problems with Romney's message is that a) it's not even remotely true and b) it really screws over Republican governors.

See the fortunes of govs are like the fortunes of presidents; the economy is a big chunk of what they're judged on. So, while local governors are trying to tell everyone that everything's coming along nicely, Mitt's out there running around telling those same voters, "WE'RE ALL GOING TO FREAKIN' DIE!" In fact, at least one governor who isn't doing so awfully well is busy trying to lie about how well his state's economy is doing. So Mitt's not really helping here.

According to the report, "Across the country, in fact, unemployment rates are falling and jobs are returning to state economies, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest jobs report detailed last week. As Romney continues to ignore the fact that the economy is recovering, facts -- and the Republican governors who have endorsed him -- are telling a different story."

Well see, right there's your problem: facts. Every good conservative knows that facts hate America. Now if we could just figure out why Republican governors do as well... (ThinkProgress)

-Wall Street zoo-

That seems a little unfair to hyenas. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Grover Norquist: Trying To Stop Billionaires From Dodging Taxes Makes You A Nazi."

And being Grover Norquist makes you a fucking idiot. (ThinkProgress)

Hitting Walker for the John Doe Investigation and Abuse of Office

Yesterday, I went to a street fair. A block party fundraiser for the local community radio station. Bands played, much beer was imbibed, and -- of course -- talk turned to the recall election.

Walker's involved in a John Doe investigation where people around him are dropping like flies. Walker claims he's not the target of the investigation, but he's set up a legal defense fund -- something that, by law, someone not under investigation is not allowed to do. In other words, his actions belie his words. I was asked what I thought Tom Barrett should do next and I said compare Walker to Rod Blagojevich -- make it a choice between getting rid of Walker now or spending months in a media circus trying to get rid of him later.

So I woke up today, dialed up the superfeed, and saw the video above from the Barret campaign. It wasn't exactly what I'd described -- but it was close.

[Partial transcript from Talking Points Memo:]

“Scott Walker’s playing tricks with job numbers — because he didn’t like the real ones,” the announcer says. “Just like the tricks he’s playing with the John Doe scandal.

“Felonies, guilty pleas and over a thousand emails showing taxpayer dollars used for Walker’s campaign. If Walker received or sent any of these emails, he’s in deep trouble.

“He’s hired criminal attorneys. And Walker refuses to tell us what he said to the prosecutors. Doesn’t Wisconsin deserve the truth — before the election?”

Scott Walker's already in hot water over illegal campaigning -- and here he is again, coordinating the release of better (but highly questionable) job numbers with a big ad buy bragging about those numbers.

This is falling right back to the old habit of dirty campaigning that has him under investigation in the first place.

[John Nichols:]

In his rush to promote what he thought would be more favorable figures, Walker announced the “revised” numbers in press statements, social media and public appearances — organized and announced by the governor’s taxpayer-funded staff. At the same time, his campaign produced slick commercials with the governor announcing the news.

The commercials appeared at the same time as all the official promotion. And they raise a question: Did the governor and his official appointees and aides share the “news” with his campaign before it was announced to the people of Wisconsin?

In other words: Did Walker and his aides blur the lines of official duties and political campaigning?

The governor says “no,” just as he says questions about the John Doe inquiry and his criminal-defense fund are “bogus.”

Nichols goes on to quote recall group One Wisconsin Now, who worry about "the suspicious timing of a new television ad from Gov. Walker’s campaign, containing previously undisclosed information from an administration jobs report, and denials of consultation between the agency producing the report and the governor." If the timing of the job numbers and the ad are what they look like, this may not be so awfully legal.

Is Scott Walker Wisconsin's version of Rod Blagojevich? It's too soon to answer that definitely. But Walker's pattern of abuse of his office stands out -- even as he fights off a recall.



Scott Walker, RINO

"Republican In Name Only" or "RINO." As far as I can tell, it's a term coined by anti-tax fanatic Grover Norquist. It describes a Republican who's insufficiently ideologically pure. Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was considered a RINO, despite being a darling of the right immediately after winning his office. Likewise, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown was a Tea Party hero for a bit -- before revealing himself to be less insane than they'd all hoped he would be. Republicans like to talk about the power of the individual and individualism, but the truth is that they hate individualism with a passion. If you're not 100% ideologically pure right down the line, you're a RINO -- these "individuals" must be ideological clones of one another. No independent thought or actual individuality is allowed.

If the right weren't so enamored of embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker right now, they'd notice he's talking like a RINO.

[Associated Press:]

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday he's not afraid to lose the historic recall election he faces in less than three weeks, but if he wins he intends to govern in a more inclusive, consensus-building way.

Walker, the 44-year-old son of a preacher, hasn't wavered during his tumultuous 16 months in office, refusing to back down on an anti-union bill that sparked massive demonstrations, made Wisconsin the center of a national debate over worker rights and spurred the recall.

But more than a year after he signed the law eliminating most public workers' collective bargaining rights, the Republican governor told The Associated Press he doesn't want to go through that acrimony again and intends to govern in a way that includes winning buy-in from more people at the outset. He cited as an example education reforms he got passed last year with support from the state superintendent and other educators who opposed him on the union rights bill.

"Defiant" isn't the word I'd use to describe this. I'd go with "chastened." Walker's centrist tone may reflect political reality; his overreach has cost his party the state senate through recalls and attrition, so shift to the center or accomplish nothing. Either way, this is most definitely RINO talk. Compromise? Consensus? Burn the witch!

Good thing the base only reads Breitbart, Drudge, and Hot Air -- or they'd find out about this heresy to wingnut doctrine.

But there may be more to it than acceptance of reality. Last night, state Democratic chairman Mike Tate said that the party's internal polling shows a race much closer to a tie than the public polling released recently. And at least one of the public polls seems to be somewhat flawed in their sampling method.

Many in Wisconsin are shocked that Tom Barrett somehow went from being up by a point to being down by six points in a span of only two weeks. Have voters suddenly taken a sharp disliking to Tom Barrett? No.

The poll numbers have changed because they significantly changed the sample of who they polled. In this poll there are more conservatives and fewer moderates and liberals:

Latest Poll: Conservatives 48%, Moderates: 30%, Liberals: 20%

Poll Two Weeks Ago: Conservatives 43%, Moderates: 32%, Liberals: 22%

According to Marquette's numbers, conservatives favor Walker 72% to 21%, moderates favor Barrett 50% to 43% and liberals favor Barrett 83% to 15%.

So, if we take the fact that Walker's talking all RINO all of a sudden and add the fact that he's getting slaughtered with everyone but conservatives, we start to wonder if maybe Scott's internal polling doesn't look a lot like the state dems'.


[Image credit: Jeff Johnson at toastyaroma.com, via Flickr]


News Roundup for 5/17/12

Rep. Mike Coffman, Colorado's Republican birther idiot
Claims not to mean the stupid things he says

-Headline of the Day-
"Mike Coffman didn't 'misspeak.'"

Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman made some waves when he got a little fumbletongued and said something he totally didn't mean to say. At a GOP fundraiser, Mike tried to ask someone what time it was, but it came out all wrong. "I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America," he said. "I don't know that. But I do know this, that in his heart, he's not an American. He's just not an American."

I know how he feels. Last Christmas, I asked my aunt to pass the butter and it came out, "9/11 was an inside job and Dick Cheney is a cyborg!" Boy, was I embarrassed.

Anyway, Mike cleared everything all up by releasing a statement. "I misspoke and I apologize," he said. What a wonderful man.

"I don't believe the president shares my belief in American Exceptionalism," he went on. "His policies reflect a philosophy that America is but one nation among many equals."

That's not really clearing things up, Mike. You say he doesn't believe in your idea of Manifest Destiny American Exceptionalism, but -- while I find his embrace of this empty rightwing buzzphrase an annoying flaw -- he says he does believe in it. Emphatically.

But I'm sure that was just another slip. What you really meant to say was, "I'm a freakin' idiot. Sorry." (Maddow Blog)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, Dogboy and Mr. Dan are back and they're going to teach us all about the Bible and marriage equality! Yay!

Click for animation

Sometime it seems like the people who talk about the Bible most are the people who know it the least. (MarkFiore.com)

-Quote of the Day-
"I'm not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was." -Willard "Mittens" T.G.I.Fridays Romney, esq. (Political Wire)

Lighting Money on Fire and Romney's Idea of 'Over-Regulation'

It was one of the dumber things the Romney campaign said this week and it's getting almost no coverage. On NBC's Today show, campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said that the JPMorgan trading debacle was no reason to go and start regulating Wall Street banks. "The leadership of that company will be held accountable for this trading loss, but we don't want to punish companies," he said. "There was no taxpayer money at risk. All of the losses went to investors, which is how it works in a public market."

Fehrnstrom apparently has no earthly idea "how it works in a public market." Plenty of people who weren't investors in JPMorgan are harmed by this -- most notably you.

First, let's let NPR's Planet Money explain what happened:

The trade came to light earlier this year, when reports surfaced of a "London Whale" — a trader at JPMorgan who had accumulated a position so big it was affecting the whole market.

The trade involved an index of corporate credit default swaps. These are essentially insurance policies that pay off if a company can't make payments on its debts. (Credit default swaps became a household name during the financial crisis, when they were central to the blowup of AIG, a giant insurance company.)

JPMorgan took the big hit when it tried to back off from the trade and had to sell at a loss.

Here's what I want to make extremely clear here: JPMorgan didn't get screwed on some deal by someone who outsmarted them. No one out there is $2 billion dollars richer because of this. The bank might as well have stacked up $2 billion in American wealth -- that's two and nine zeros -- and put a match to it. It's just gone. $2 billion taken out of the US economy and nothing to show for it.

Except it's not $2 billion. JPMorgan lowballed how much they lost. It's more along the lines of $3 billion.

Any of this sounding familiar? Yeah, we've been down this road before. Everyone mocked Wall Street for the absolute idiocy that is credit default swaps -- and here's JPMorgan again, having learned nothing at all, throwing money at dangerous get-rich-quick schemes. The titans of finance are titanically stupid.

Is any of this legal? Well, technically no. And technically yes. And either way, not yet. Planet Money again:

The Volcker Rule, adopted after the financial crisis, will ban commercial banks from "proprietary trading" — using their own money to make speculative bets.

But the rule allows banks to make trades to hedge their risks. JPMorgan, not surprisingly, argues that this trade was a hedge gone wrong, not a speculative bet.

So the Volcker Rule could be so weak that by engaging in semantics, you can completely sidestep it. What's the difference between a hedge and a bet? Well, that's very complicated; see one's called a "hedge" and one's called a "bet" and that's that. And remember that bit about the "London Whale?" Yeah, "whale" is a gambling term for someone who bets huge amounts of money. It wasn't a hedge. Whales don't do that.

But to go back to Romney, "regulation" is a bullshit term Wall Street and corporations have gotten everyone to use. It's a synonym for "law." Saying that a Volcker Rule that's less of a joke means "regulating" commerce is a lot like someone complaining about how Big Government "regulates" theft or rape. There are things that should be against the law. It's just common sense. "Free market" does not mean an anarchistic market, where everyone can do whatever they damned well please and you get to shut up about it. What we've come to call "regulation" means laws against doing things that needlessly harm others.

And that's the point here. When Team Romney says no one but investors were hurt by JPMorgan's idiot gamble, they're just plain wrong. There's a smoking $3 billion hole in the economy and, bad as that is, this time we got lucky.

The last time something like this happened it dragged the entire US economy into recession. If you want a measure of how serious Mitt Romney is about economics, you've got one. He's not very serious at all.


[Image credit: adapted from a photo by Images_of_money, via Flickr]


News Roundup for 5/16/12

Potentially the world's worst lifeguard

-Headline of the Day-
"Poll: Walker Leads Barrett By 6 Points In Wisconsin Recall."

The Wisconsin recall election is just around he corner and Gov. Scott Walker has the lead -- 50%-44%. It's a Marquette University poll, which is pretty solid. "Three polls out in the last few days show a very consistent picture," writes Josh Marshall. "Gov. Scott Walker has a small but solid lead over Democrat Tom Barrett in the Wisconsin recall election. The TPM Poll Average has it at Walker 50.5% to Barrett 44.2%."

But don't worry, the Democratic National Committee is going to help -- yay! According to Buzzfeed, "DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will visit Wisconsin this month to campaign with Walker's challenger — but there's still no indication that the Wisconsinites can expect more help than that."

Basically, Debbie's going to come to Wisconsin to hold a fundraiser for Democratic challenger Tom Barrett. Which is just real sharp thinking. We've been at this for months -- we're tapped out. We're kind of the ones who need the help here. This is like Sarah McLachlan asking the sad dogs in her sad dogs ad to please help the sad dogs in her sad dogs ad. A little out of state money wouldn't be out of order here. I'm not sure Schultz understands what "help" actually means.

It's a good thing Debbie's not a lifeguard. If she saw someone drowning, she'd just holler, "Swim!" (Talking Points Memo)

-The logic behind licensing-

Don't worry, if that were really true, North Korea would have a rogue gay marriage program. (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

-Bonus HotD-
"The Joke Jimmy Kimmel Didn't Tell."

Kimmel to Howard Stern: "I had some jokes about -- like Rick Santorum. I said something like -- well, I didn't say it, but: Newt Gingrich's campaign is so dead Mitt Romney wants to baptize it and Rick Santorum wants to put it in a jar and show it to his kids." (Political Wire)

'Divide and Conquer' May be Good Politics, But it's a Lousy Way to Govern

The battle of the Wisconsin recall race is a battle over the independents. A new Public Policy Polling survey finds that recall target Gov. Scott Walker leads opponent Tom Barrett 49%-45%. With a margin for error of plus or minus 3.4% that's not so awfully bad for Barrett, but obviously not where he wants to be.

The partisan breakdown is strikingly mirror-like -- 85% of Democrats support Barrett, 88% of Republicans support Walker -- so it's in that narrow middle that the game will be won or lost.

On that count, Barrett leads with independents, 49%-42%. And he slaughters among self-described moderates, 59%-33%. I suppose it's a sign of how stark our political divisions are that the dominance among middle-of-the-roaders makes absolutely no difference at all.

But it does demonstrate just how partisan the support for Walker has become. In ideological terms, he leads only among conservatives and Republicans (mostly redundant, I know).

And it's numbers like those that explain stories like this, from The Capital Times:

Walker’s official calendars from his first 13 months in office chronicle these and scores more hours he spent building credentials with conservatives in Wisconsin and across the nation. A detailed analysis of the 4,400 entries in Walker’s calendar by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism paints a portrait of a public relations-minded governor who focuses his message on receptive, conservative audiences and who, as the effort to recall him has intensified, has spent a sharply decreasing amount of time on official state business.

Regarding the news media, Walker granted more time to the national, conservative-leaning Fox News cable channel than any other media outlet -- nearly two times as much as to the state’s largest newspaper, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which had endorsed him in 2010.

Walker's spokesperson Cullen Werwie says the governor "has multiple media availabilities every week where he is available to answer questions from any legitimate news organization who chooses to attend, liberal or conservative," but the fact that non-conservatives aren't actually barred from press conferences is setting the bar fornonpartisan availability awfully low. Walker is clearly chasing around conservative media, in order to speak only to conservative voters.

When I said that battle of the Wisconsin recall race is a battle over the independents, I deliberately chose the word "over" rather than "for." Walker isn't trying to win over the middle and his actions suggest he believes he may have lost it. When the battle over independents really gets under way, Democrats will try to get them to the polls and Republicans will try to get them to stay home. Walker's razor-thin lead among all Wisconsinites would be extremely uncomfortable. Take the indies and moderates out of the mix and you start to get a little more elbow room.

Which means Team Walker is going to get brutal. If that turns off the middle, so what? They're gone anyway. The trick is to get them to hate Barrett as much as they do Walker. If they start saying to themselves, "They're all a bunch of clowns -- screw it," Walker wins. Electoral math seems to be the only kind of math that Republicans actually get.

So strap in, because Walker's not going to run a dirty campaign (he's already doing that) -- he's going to run an absolutely filthy one. And, when the smoke clears, Wisconsin will be worse off for it no matter who wins. He's working to widen those divisions even further. Whoever the next governor is, they'll be governor of a hopeless mess of a state, divided by Walker's scorched-earth politics.

As the man said himself, "Divide and conquer."



News Roundup for 5/15/12

Johnny Depp as vampire Barnabas Collins from 'Dark Shadows'
Damned for sure

-Headline of the Day-
"Playing with Satan proves not to be funny."

Tim Burton's Dark Shadows is getting some bad reviews. And it should be no surprise; a lazy comedic take on a nearly forgotten TV soap opera and a transparent attempt to replicate the box office success of The Addams Family franchise -- what is there to love? The thing has suck written all over it; pun not intended.

But over at WingNutDaily, reviewer Drew Zahn hates it for entirely different reasons. Namely, it glorifies Satan -- or some such horseshit. I swear, when I read this stuff, I can barely make heads or tails of it. See, the logic works this way: if you make a joke out of Satan, then no one takes him seriously. Once you let your guard down like that, you are screwed.

"If you believe, as the Bible clearly teaches, there really is a prince of darkness who works in the shadows 'looking for someone to devour' (1 Peter 5:8) – a master deceiver who would tempt all people toward their own decay and destruction without ever tipping his hand to reveal his face – then reducing his presence to a mere joke would seem to play right into his plan, would it not?" he asks.

But, as always, the right doesn't seem to understand a basic fact about film making. See, movies aren't real! And that fact seems a little beyond Zahn. He notes, "Depp’s character... studies black magic, invokes 'Satan’s true name” (according to the film) Mephistopheles, calls the witch 'a whore of Beelzebub… succubus of Satan… harlot of the devil' and most significantly, shouts the lines, 'Show yourself to me, Satan!' and, 'Have at me Lucifer; my soul is prepared!'"

"Acting or not, I sincerely hope for Depp’s sake Lucifer doesn’t take him up on the invitation," Zahn writes.

Yeah, because no one's ever called on Satan in a dramatic work before. Satan is surely coming to drag Johnny Depp down to hell. (WorldNetDaily)

-Republican version of 'traditional family'-

And a mistress or two on the side. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Colorado women accused of spraying Lysol on dirty dancing ‘sluts and whores.’"

Worth a read just for the phrase "advertising butt sex." (Raw Story)

The Failure of Ignorance-Only Sex Ed

condoms, contraception, sex ed
I've always called "abstinence-only" sex ed "ignorance-only." After all, the idea is that if kids know about birth control, they'll inevitably go out and use it. In fact, the reasoning -- such as it is -- is that kids who know about birth control will be more likely to have sex. They think they're safe, so they'll engage in risky behavior. This is the same reason why giving a kid a bicycle helmet is a bad idea -- they'll immediately crash straight into a tree because they think they're safe. Because your kid is mentally helpless and stupid beyond all words.

That's the way it works, right? No matter how you raise your kids, they'll turn out dumber than a sack of hammers and irresponsible to boot. You simply can't tell kids the truth -- or, at least, the facts -- or they'll abuse it. 100% of the time. Never, ever trust your teen's maturity, their intelligence, their common sense. They are, in their raging hormonal hearts, the purest evil known to humanity.

Of course, this line of thinking often leads to disastrous consequences. Turns out that kids can figure out how to do this sex stuff without anyone telling them how. You'd think it was some sort of instinct or something, not a closely guarded secret revealed only to mature adults.

And if you try to keep it secret, disaster follows.


A new study from the Guttmacher Institute unsurprisingly finds that greater knowledge about contraceptive services is directly correlated to a decrease in young adults’ risky sexual behavior. However, after quizzing a nationally representative sample of 1,800 sexually active Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 on their basic knowledge of contraception methods, Guttmacher reports that “more than half of young men and a quarter of young women received low scores on contraceptive knowledge, and six in 10 underestimated the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.” The study ultimately concluded:

Programs to increase young adults’ knowledge about contraceptive methods and use are urgently needed. Given the demonstrated link between method knowledge and contraceptive behaviors, such programs may be useful in addressing risky behavior in this population.

Imagine that; if you keep your kids ignorant, they'll do stupid things. What a shock. I haven't been this stunned since I was informed the sun rose this morning. But this was the part that really got me:

The Guttmacher study highlights this very educational gap. Although a majority of respondents (69 percent of the women and almost half of the men) agreed that they were “committed to avoiding pregnancy,” they seem to doubt that birth control is an effective means to achieve this goal. 40 percent of respondents said that birth control doesn’t matter because “when it is your time to get pregnant, it will happen.”

"When it is your time to get pregnant, it will happen," because... because shut up, that's why. Because magic.

Yes, abstinence is the surest way to avoid pregnancy -- at least, this side of homosexual sex. But it's also the most likely to be abandoned. We're talking about a biological imperative here. Abstinence needs to be part of a set of comprehensive contraceptive strategies, not a strategy all its own. Why? Because evidence, that's why. Because science.

A previous Guttmacher study found that teen pregnancy rates were at a 30-year low. And they gave the credit for those numbers to increased access to contraceptives. We're in danger of backsliding here, because a bunch of bass-ackward, sex-phobic morons want to put ideology above evidence. The states most committed to ignorance-only are the ones with the worst outcomes. These are all facts.

I trust facts more than I trust anyone's ideology.



Global Warming: Which Future Do You Choose?

How urgent is global warming? This urgent, according to NASA scientist physicist and climatologist James E. Hansen:

Global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.”

If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.

Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.

Given that scenario, the statement "civilization would be at risk" seems an understatement. A better way to put it might be, "Civilization will be struggling to maintain itself -- if we're really, really lucky."

In the nearer term, things don't look any better. "Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding," Hansen writes. "Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels."

Hansen isn't pulling this out of his butt, as much as some would like to believe. His warning is based on a peer-reviewed statistical study showing that global warming is affecting weather -- not will affect the weather, is affecting the weather. We're seeing a process that's happening now.


Hansen’s reasoning has to do with math. Statisticians employ standard deviation to measure variability; it’s the calculation pollsters use to determine margin of error, and it’s especially valuable when looking at the weather. Perfect distribution of standard deviation is graphed as the familiar bell curve; about two-thirds of the time, data points fall in the middle of the bell — or within one standard deviation of the mean.


In the paper, which Time.com confirmed has been peer-reviewed, the authors show that extreme outliers of more than three standard deviations above the mean temperature covered between six and thirteen percent of the globe during the years 2003 to 2008. If they were normally distributed and similar to the climactic record, that should have been just a 0.1-to-0.2 percent frequency of an extreme heat event. (That’s about exactly as often as a perfect bell curve predicts they would occur.) Hansen dubs this difference a “three-sigma anomaly,” for the Greek-letter symbol for standard deviation. And in the world of statistics, these anomalies represent a stunning 10-fold increase in extreme weather events.

In other words, it's statistically impossible for this to be part of the "normal variation" that deniers claim it to be. To go back to the bell curve, think of throwing dice. "Imagine dice with two sides red (for hot), two sides blue (for cold) and two sides white (average temperatures)," Time explains. "If you roll the dice, you’re equally likely to get any result. With continued emissions of greenhouse gas, however, the authors predicted that by the early 21st century, four of the sides would be red."

"The climate dice are loaded now, just as we said back in the 1980s that they would be," Hansen told Time. "People should be able to recognize the change, especially the increasingly extreme events. Don’t be surprised if there are more examples this summer."

I know this whole climate change thing is scary, but it's long past time for people to put on their big kid pants and deal with it.



News Roundup for 5/11/12

Good news: these bozos aren't the majority

-Headline of the Day-
"Poll: 51% agree with Obama's endorsement of gay marriage."

American teeters on the verge of falling to the Homosexual Menace, after Pres. Barack HUSSEIN Obama expressed his respect for the rights of gays and lesbians -- just what you'd expect a secret radical Muslim to do!

A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds that support of Obama's position is just at the majority mark -- 51%. But there's good news for the Forces of Godliness. According to the report, "60% say that his shift in position will have no bearing on how they vote in the November election." Of course, that's also bad news for the Forces of Godliness.

So what are the demographics of those who oppose Obama's stand on marriage equality? "Younger respondents and respondents with a higher level of education are more likely to approve of Obama's position on the issue."

So clearly we must fight the scourge of education. (USA Today)

-Did someone say 'evolved?'-

This is just another assault by so-called 'science' on Jeebus. (GoComics)

-Bonus HotD-
"Catholic Church Investigating New Threat To Humanity: The Girl Scouts."

Galileo got off easy. (Wonkette)

Scott Walker Admits to Wanting to Divide Wisconsin

It should be a blockbuster of a revelation. As Wisconsin Gov. Walker prepares to launch his campaign of union-busting under the guise of a budget repair bill, he tells his biggest donor, Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, that it's his intention to divide Wisconsin. Hendricks, according to the report, has "given $510,000 to the governor's campaign," making her "Walker's single-largest donor and the largest known donor to a candidate in state history."

The exchange was caught on video by filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein, who was documenting the work being done to return jobs to Janesville, an area hard hit by a GM plant closure.

[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:]

In the video, Hendricks told Walker she wanted to discuss "controversial" subjects away from reporters, asking him:

"Any chance we'll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions -"

"Oh, yeah," Walker broke in.

"- and become a right-to-work?" Hendricks continued. "What can we do to help you?"

"Well, we're going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill," Walker said. "The first step is we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer."

As I say, it should be a blockbuster of a revelation -- whether it'll be received by the media as such is another question. Walker has been so successful at dividing Wisconsin that the local media is a little skittish about covering controversy. The John Doe investigation into Walker's staff, for example, is nowhere near the news dominator it should be -- and that involves a pedophile, for chrissake. Pedophiles are usually local TV news gold. Wingnuts have been trained to believe that any bad news about Republicans is "media bias" -- even when it's absolute provable fact. If they think your coverage is a result of your commie sympathies, they'll switch to another station.

For their part, Walker's office is telling us not to believe our lying eyes. "Governor Walker has made clear repeatedly that he does not have an interest in pushing right-to-work legislation," said Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews.

So does that mean Walker was lying to his top donor? Maybe. But his office's denial puts Walker into a position where logic dictates he must be lying to someone. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess the lie wasn't told to Diane Hendricks. That's not a well you want to poison.

No, Walker is lying to us. Walker's public argument is one of everyone "working together." His private argument -- told to those few he tells the truth to -- is the exact opposite.

"This is another colossal bait and switch that goes directly to his honesty," Walker's now-official recall opponent Tom Barrett said. "What he claims he is not in favor of publicly, to the person who has made the largest contribution in state history, he says exactly the opposite. You can't trust him."

Well, that's not entirely true. People like a billionaire donor can trust him, because that's who Walker really represents. It's only those who don't have giant pots of money who can't trust Walker.

You know, the vast majority of people in Wisconsin.



News Roundup for 5/10/12

Rep. Michele Bachmann

-Headline of the Day-
"Bachmann Withdraws Dual Swiss Citizenship."

After news that Rep. Bachmann had switched sides in the war between 'Murka and Yurp, Shelly beat a hasty retreat from her allegiance with the Schweizer Menace.

"I took this action because I want to make it perfectly clear," she said, "I was born in America and I am a proud American citizen." And it had nothing to do with the fact that her family would've been covered by that commie Swiss healthcare and the freedom-hating social safety net.

How do we know that? Well, because if Shelly's the only one pulling out, her family will still be covered by that commie Swiss healthcare and the freedom-hating social safety net, since they decided to go get their official Swiss Army knives "as a family."

So nice try, Comrade Bachmann. But no one's buying it. Your story has more holes in it than a certain type of cheese. (Talking Points Memo)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, have you heard about all this austerity stuff in Europe? Yeah, that didn't work out so well. Here's Uncle Mark to explain everything.

Click for animation

I guess it's true all over the world. When something's not working, a conservative thinks that just means you need to do more of it. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Bristol Palin Slams Obama For Listening To His Daughters On Gay Marriage."

Because no one brings the sanctity of marriage to mind like Bristol Freakin' Palin. (Business Insider)

In Recall Race, Wisconsinites Just Want to Win

Wisconsin recall
A lot of the commentary on the Wisconsin recall primary seems to be leading to a consensus; that this was a big loss for unions. "It was a very bad night for WEAC and AFSCME," Mark Graul, a GOP political consultant, said. "When a union-backed candidate loses by 20 points in a Democratic primary, you have to question what sway the unions now have, not only in politics, but with their own members."

And other, less partisan observers agree. That Tom Barrett, who didn't have major backing from labor, so soundly beat Kathleen Falk, who did, shows that labor's backing didn't have a lot of influence on voters. Or, if it did, that influence wasn't positive. "This was a major overreach by unions and, frankly, it makes organized labor as a political force look almost like an empty suit," said UW political scientist Mordecai Lee.

I think this overlooks what has become sort of a theme in this recall cycle -- money and ads don't really matter. For example, a recent Gannett investigation found that 78% of all political ad spending in Wisconsin this season has benefited Republicans, yet all this spending has had zero effect on polling numbers. Walker's numbers haven't budged. One explanation (the one I subscribe to) is that the state is so polarized that changing minds is a lost cause -- and that everyone's mind is made up. There are almost no undecideds. The fact that Walker's ad spending hasn't bumped up the needle suggests he may have reached a very uncomfortable ceiling of less than 50%. Or worse, his numbers seem to be declining.

John Nichols spells out the relation between ad spending and Walker's numbers:

What did $21 million in spending by the governor and millions more by his allies get Walker? According to the new Marquette University Law School Poll (which usually skews a bit conservative), Walker's approval ratings have ticked steadily downward as he recall has developed:

-- In January, he was at 51 percent

-- In March, he was at 50 percent.

-- In May, he was at 47 percent.

The Marquette polling also suggests a clear trend toward the Democrats -- particularly Tom Barrett -- who now leads the governor by a narrow 47-46 margin among registered voters.

Which also goes toward explaining why people chose Barrett over Falk. Polling shows Barrett winning, the same couldn't be said of Falk. Union spending didn't have anything to do with it, for the same reason that Walker's and his Super PAC buddies' money is being wasted -- on the left, everyone just wants to be rid of Walker.

We didn't vote for Barrett because we're against unions. That's silly. If we were against unions, we'd be for Walker, not the candidate most likely to defeat him. We voted for Barrett because we're against Walker.

And we didn't vote for Falk for the same reason. She's a fine Democrat and would've made a good governor, but winning is the only thing.



News Roundup for 5/9/12

Rush Babes for America

-Headline of the Day-
"Limbaugh launches ‘babe’ outreach effort."

Faced with an ongoing boycott that's reportedly costing his affiliates millions, Rush Limbaugh has launched a counter-offensive -- a Facebook group called "Rush Babes for America." I'm not real clear on why they aren't "Babes for Rush" or what being for Limbaugh has to do with being for America, but whatever. At least he's finally figured out that something like "Rush Sluts for America" isn't going to fly. "Babes" is so much more classy and respectful.

And, according to the report, the whole effort has Rush's own brand of class all over it; "The group’s logo features a woman’s outline similar to the frolicking nude female figures cast in chrome on a trucker’s mud flaps. She is provocatively straddling Limbaugh’s 'EIB' seal, which stands for 'Excellence in Broadcasting.' The 'Rush Babes' Facebook profile photo features the logo printed on a yellow plastic 'Baby on Board' sign, emblazoned with the slogan, 'Rush Babe on Board.'" This is Trump-level class, to say the least, and is totally not sexist at all.

The fact that Rush is even trying at all shows you how badly the boycott is hurting. But I think he's probably going to have to try harder.

And maybe try being a little less of a sexist dick. (Raw Story)

-A somewhat less-than-proud moment in history-


-Bonus HotD-
"Texas school misspells own name for nine years."

These people set the standard for everyone else's textbooks.

Just sayin'. (Raw Story)

WI Recall Primary Shows Dems with Advantage, But No Room for Complacency

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barret wins the recall primary
One of the great joys of following election night on Twitter is watching low-information voters grab onto incomplete sets of data and run wild with them. It's not unusual to see a post declaring a candidate is "killing!" with only three or four percent of the vote in. It really is pretty funny to see.

Following the Wisconsin recall primary last night, I wasn't disappointed -- my favorite election night dumbness ran rampant. For the early part of the night, Gov. Walker had more votes than the entire Democratic field combined. Not extremely surprising, since small rural districts would get their numbers in faster and those districts would be more conservative on average. In the end, Walker did not beat the combined total of his Democratic rivals -- total 670,278 dems to 626,538 Walker -- but I checked before writing this and the "Walker's beating the combined dems!" tweets are still circulating among the wingnuts. As always, the right finds comforting untruths preferable to liberal reality -- and bothering to check your facts just leads to disappointment. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett took the night, but the big news on the right were old, stale, and no longer accurate numbers showing Walker "killing."

That said, the numbers as they are don't tell us a lot. If Walker had beaten the combined dems, then you'd have something to talk about. But the Republican primary was a race between the governor and an old-style La Follette/Roosevelt Republican who stood no chance at all (although he did slaughter the GOP's fake dem, 19,920 to 4,842), so who knows how representative that number will be of the final numbers in the Big Game. We can swap around protest candidate numbers if you like, but I don't think they make much difference -- who votes for those candidates? Does the confuse-the-voter tactic work or do voters cross party lines to cast mischief votes? Probably a little of both, making it impossible to tell where the votes would've gone if the protest candidates hadn't been in the race. Better to leave those numbers where they are and call it close enough.

That said, I think that GOP probably ran a fairly serious get out the vote effort for the primary. If Walker had beaten the combined dem numbers, he'd really have something to talk about going forward and I'm pretty sure that's what he was shooting for. Those low info Twitter righties wouldn't have thought to look at those numbers on their own. Someone was pointing it out to them.

As it is, the final tally is probably a moral victory for Walker -- he came fairly close to embarrassing the Democrats (but not close enough to crow about) and avoided being swamped by them at the same time. This is still a very serious and competitive race, although Democrats are probably feeling a fraction more comfortable than the governor's team right now.

And it doesn't look like ad money is going to make much difference. Falk outspent Barrett and Walker outspent everybody. Yet the final numbers are almost the exact opposite of what you'd expect. People's minds are made up here and it's all about getting people to the polls.

And it's there that Walker has good reason to worry. Turnout in the primary was big. AP reports that "Turnout for the recall primary election broke 30 percent, the highest for a partisan primary in Wisconsin in 60 years." But it could be bigger -- much bigger.

See, we know how many voters there are out there wanting to see Walker out of office -- and it's a lot more than voted in the primary last night.

[John Nichols, The Nation, Jan. 17 2012:]

Petitions with the names of 1 million Wisconsinites were submitted to state elections officials today, in a move that will jump-start the process of removing the nation’s most notorious antilabor governor from office.

A total of 540,208 valid signatures are required to recall Scott Walker, the Republican governor, who was elected in 2010. On Tuesday afternoon, the United Wisconsin movement that was organized to recall and remove the governor submitted almost twice that number.

The problem is that it's a lot easier to get someone to sign a petition when you show up at their house than it is to get someone to leave their house and go vote. That said, the general always has higher turnout than the primary, so we'll see more petition signers at the polls.

And we'll also see more Walker voters. The Republican primary, though not entirely uncontested, was a mostly empty vote of support for the governor. Maybe he stretched the possible primary turnout to the limit and maybe he didn't (I'm convinced he did), but we can probably also count on his vote total increasing. Vote totals now are about 52% dem, 48% Walker -- so it's pretty close.

Both sides have a fight on their hands. It's my opinion that Walker's is more uphill right now and he only has four weeks to close that gap. It's going to get ugly, because Walker has absolutely nothing positive to run on. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka puts it very well; "[Walker] is permanently unpopular because he took on and he attacked workers rather than creating jobs."

I'm feeling pretty good about Barrett's chances -- but not good enough to sit on my butt and wait. I'll be back out there knocking on doors. This is still a fight we could lose.



Mitt Romney's Desperation

Over at his blog at Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi writes that the presidential race is pretty much over, Obama's won, and everyone's pretending otherwise for their own reasons. The media takes the blame for wanting the ratings/newsstand sales/hits generated by the tight race narrative, according to Taibbi, but obviously the campaigns themselves benefit -- Team Obama is probably worried about complacent voters and Team Romney's motivation should be obvious. It's probably overstating the case by a few orders of magnitude, but at this point it feels pretty accurate -- especially when you think about the scattered reports of a Republican mood of doom and the fact that the phrase "Romney's narrow path to victory" is fast becoming a cliche.

But another cliche is "[insert period of time here] is a lifetime in politics" -- in this case, between now and November. This cliche is pretty much true. A lot could change between now and then. Unfortunately for Romney, a lot of those changes are in his positions. Romney's need to tell every voter exactly what they want to hear has him tying himself in knots and engaging in pretzel logic.

[Huffington Post:]

Despite his 2008 call to "let Detroit go bankrupt," presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said Monday that he would "take a lot of credit" for his impact on the U.S. automobile industry's comeback.

During an interview with WEWS-TV in Cleveland following a campaign stop, Romney said his views helped save the industry.

"I pushed the idea of a managed bankruptcy," Romney said. "And finally, when that was done, and help was given, the companies got back on their feet. So I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry's come back."

This is, of course, completely insane.

Steve Benen tears Romney up:

[E]ven by Romney standards, this is just laughable.

The former Massachusetts governor -- the guy who said we should "let Detroit go bankrupt" -- predicted that we could "kiss the American automotive industry goodbye" if Obama's policy moved forward in 2009. Indeed, at the time, Romney called the administration's plan "tragic" and "a very sad circumstance for this country." He wrote another piece in which he said Obama's plan "would make GM the living dead."

We now know that Obama was right and Romney was wrong. We now also know that Romney wants "a lot of credit" for the same Obama policy the Republican said wouldn't work.

And let's not even get into the claim that Mitt's so influential that he only needs to comment on an industry to save it.

This is just the Etch A Sketch stuff happening. Romney's staking out nearly every position possible on nearly every issue in an attempt to appeal to everyone. This isn't the strategy of a man confident in his chances; this is the strategy of someone who believes they're going to need every vote they can get. Let's not forget that this barely got him through his party's primaries -- or that all indications are that the Republican National Convention won't be the hitchless coronation Team Romney would like it to be.

So, if you happen over to Rolling Stone and you read Taibbi's piece, you're still probably going to want to consume it with a grain of salt. But it's still closer to reality than anything Mitt Romney has to say.