Of Food Assistance and Rightwing Lunatics

Food stamps accepted
I was going to write about the Supreme Court and "Obamacare," but I have to agree with Ezra Klein -- we don't know jack and we won't until the ruling comes down. "Wait and see" isn't a very satisfying bit of punditry, but it is responsible. So wait and see.

Instead of some crystal ball gazing, let's look at an issue that has the rightwing blogosphere up in arms; the fact that the government wants to make sure you get what you're entitled to.


More than one in seven Americans are on food stamps, but the federal government wants even more people to sign up for the safety net program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been running radio ads for the past four months encouraging those eligible to enroll. The campaign is targeted at the elderly, working poor, the unemployed and Hispanics.

The department is spending between $2.5 million and $3 million on paid spots, and free public service announcements are also airing. The campaign can be heard in California, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, and the New York metro area.

"Research has shown that many people -- particularly underserved seniors, working poor, and legal immigrants -- do not understand the requirements of the program," said Kevin Concannon, a USDA under secretary.

Of course, this is the worst thing ever!

It occurs to me that this is the best demonstration of the difference between liberals and conservatives these days; liberals worry that someone, somewhere isn't getting along very well, while conservatives worry that someone, somewhere is getting away with something. Better that a innocent person be executed than a guilty one go free, better that thousands be disenfranchised rather than one commit voter fraud, better that millions of families starve rather than one get a "free ride." Conservatives believe the very worst of their fellow citizens, which in turn makes them the very worst of Americans.

And of course, there's that whole stimulative nature of food assistance. When the economy is bad and a lot of people are in need, food stamps are an automatic stimulus program. No congressional action is needed, no endless debates and hostage negotiations with clowns like Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell. More people need, so more people get -- like unemployment benefits -- and when the crisis has passed, the stimulus automatically ends. Consumer demand is propped up in an incredibly efficient manner. A study by Moody's in 2008 found that for every dollar spent on food stamps, "$1.73 is generated throughout the economy."

So here's the rightwing blogosphere, booing the White House for making an investment with a historic return of 173%. What a waste of taxpayer money, huh? Boo socialism! Boo!

But it all goes back to the fear -- seemingly a deep, deep dread almost like a phobia -- that someone, somewhere is getting away with something. For them, one bad apple does spoil the whole bushel and if someone is getting a dime fraudulently, the whole program should be shut down forever. It's not enough that fraud be illegal, it has to be made impossible to commit.

I lost all respect for the wingnut blogosphere and rightwing talk radio a long, long time ago. If the bloggers and radio hosts on the right are serious and not just shameless demagogues, they are quite literally mentally ill. I know their audience is. You can't take any of this stuff seriously without being deeply paranoid. For them, helping other Americans is something to sneer at, because maybe a dozen of those millions being helped might possibly be getting something they don't deserve.

For them, shipwrecks are just excuses to hand out free life preservers to shiftless bums too lazy to dog paddle. Sink or swim, comrades. And if you sink, at least some crook didn't get a life raft to sell on eBay.



Mitt Romney, Candidate of Mystery

Question Mark
It's kind of ironic that the candidate whose primary opponents ran as his antithesis is running as the antithesis of his opponent. After facing down various Not-Romney candidates for his party's nomination, Mitt's running as the Not-Obama. And that's pretty much the gist of it. The seems to have no ideas and stands for nothing other than the idea that Barack Obama should not be the president.

This has been obvious for a while now, but the media is just starting to notice it.


...Vague, general or downright evasive policy prescriptions on some of the most important issues facing the country are becoming the rule for Romney. Hoping to make the campaign strictly a referendum on the incumbent, the hyper-cautious challenger is open about his determination to not give any fodder to Obama aides hungry to make the race as much about Romney as the president.

Romney is remarkably candid, almost as though he’s reading the stage directions, about why he won’t offer up details: he thinks it will undermine his chances to win.

“The media kept saying to Chris, ‘Come on, give us the details, give us the details,’’’ Romney has said about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s 2009 gubernatorial race. ‘’We want to hang you with them.’”

It's this brand of political courage that's marked the Romney campaign from the gitgo; he'll tell you what you want to hear and if he's not sure what you want to hear (or can't tell you that), he won't tell you anything at all. The result is a candidate who's kind of a Mystery Date. For example, Politico cites Romney's response to Obama's new immigration policy -- i.e., Mitt doesn't have one.

Mitt Romney’s aides suggested that when the Republican appeared before a Hispanic advocacy group on Thursday he’d address immigration.

But when Romney spoke to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), he only reiterated what he had said earlier in the week about the citizenship status of children of illegal immigrants.

“I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure,” he told the group about President Barack Obama’s hotly debated directive regarding the DREAM Act.

But on the question of what exactly such a long-term solution would be, the GOP nominee isn’t saying.

Let's be clear here, it's not the press Romney's worried about, it's the voters. The press can't "hang you" with "the details" if the details are brilliant, can they? What Mitt's really saying is that he's unwilling to reveal a plan's flaws -- and all plans are flawed -- be revealing too much about any given policy.

And "too much" is apparently defined as "almost anything." To go back to his immigration response, the very most he seems to be willing to share is that he has a "long-term solution." Is it a particularly good solution? Well, you're just going to have to buy the unlabeled can to find out what's in it. For all we know, Romney wants to shoot the children of undocumented parents over the Mexican border out of a cannon. His response is so lacking in anything even resembling detail that we really can't rule that out based on all the evidence.

Here's hoping the debates force Mitt to come out with some actual positions on actual issues -- if Mitt even agrees to participate. And here's hoping the media keeps reporting the fact that Mitt Romney is touring the country saying nothing of substance and offering no solutions on anything.

Right now, that's the most important thing about the Romney campaign; that what their candidate would do with the Oval Office is -- by design -- a complete mystery.



McConnell Puts Romney on the Spot

There's really not much going on out there, so it's immigration again. Don't worry, this will be a fairly short one. In this one, we look at Sen. Mitch McConnell -- Republican Senate minority leader -- and his curious lack of a position on the issue.

[Washington Post:]

[O]n Tuesday, McConnell said he wouldn’t take a firm position on President Obama’s decision to stop deporting illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.

McConnell said he would wait — until presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had taken a position first.

“I think we’re going to wait and see what governor Romney has to say, and we’re going to be discussing his views on this,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday. “I think many of us may have similar views. Others may not.”

McConnell said he was deferring to Romney because the former Massachusetts governor is “the leader of our party from now until November — and, we hope, beyond.”

Post reporters David A. Fahrenthold and Rosalind S. Helderman go on to hold this up as an example of how Obama's move has thrown the GOP into disarray, writing that McConnell's non-answer "reflects broader confusion and division within the GOP over how to react to Obama’s move." But there's actually more going on here.

[Steve Benen:]

Three times McConnell was asked for his position, and three times he said he would wait for guidance from Romney.

At the surface, it's rather amusing to see Mitch McConnell refuse to take a position on a controversial issue, waiting for his party's inexperienced, flip-flopping nominee to tell McConnell what to think.

But just below the surface, there's another problem that Romney needs to acknowledge and address: as McConnell made clear, without saying so explicitly, leading the Republican Party at the national level comes with responsibilities. In GOP politics, members tend to get in line, and take specific cues from the man out front. Romney may not hold office right now, but there's an expectation that he'll giving marching orders and...

In other words, McConnell is not inclined to come up with a position for Romney to agree with and provide him the (arguably minimal) cover of the "party line." The ever-vacillating candidate is going to have to make a goddam decision for once in his life -- and defend it if it turns out to be an unpopular one.

"As McConnell's comments yesterday helped remind us, Romney may prefer to stick to vague positions, while ducking controversial positions on controversial issues, but there are limits to this strategy," Benen explains. "Namely, Romney's party wants to reflect his beliefs, and if he displays 'a great allergy to specifics and details,' as Rich Lowry put it, Republican officials are paralyzed."

The Republican Party seems to have an obstructionist to their goals in Mitt Romney. When a decision is to be made, the man is as paralyzed as a character from Joyce's Dubliners. Mitt leads by following, his finger in the wind and his eyes on the polls, and that's beginning to have his party marching around in ineffectual circles.


(image credit: from a photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr)


News Roundup for 6/19/12

Maze from Time Bandits
Romney's conception of the post office

-Headline of the Day-
"That's not 'how government works.'"

Yesterday, MSNBC aired a some footage of Mitt Romney praising the WaWa chain. "I was at WaWas, I went in to order a sandwich. You press a little touchtone keypad -- you touch this, touch this, go pay the cashier -- there’s your sandwich," Mitt said. "It’s amazing. People in the private sector have learned how to compete. It's time to bring some competition to the federal government." Unfortunately, the clip was a tad bit out of context, but not much. Yes, Mittens was praising a system that replaced a worker with a machine (because we all know how much he enjoys firing people), but there was more to it than that. And that's why the right thinks this is the worst thing ever.

Except there's a problem with the outrage. It seems that MSNBC was actually doing Mitt a favor. See, he was using Wawas to illustrate the problem with government. At the chain, you go and tell the robot what you want and you're done. At the post office, things are a living hell.

"I met an optometrist this morning and ... this optometrist wanted to change his billing address," Mitt said. "He moved his office from one side of town to the other, same Zip code, same post office. But he wanted to change his address. He got a form from the federal government. This is so he could get reimbursement from the federal government for the services he provides for the poor and seniors.

"The form he gets to change address is 33 pages long -- 33 pages long. He calls someone to ask how to fill it out. He calls someone in government. They tell him what to do. He sends it in. They sent it back. It wasn't done right, got to do it again, another 33 pages. He calls another person. They tell him what to do. Doesn't get it right the second time. The third time's the charm, though. This takes several months during which time he's not getting the checks for the work he's doing for people who need his care. That's how government works."

You've filled out a change of address form before. Mitt's slinging 100% pure horseshit. None of this is true -- and that's the context the right DEMANDS MSNBC provide. They DEMAND that everyone in America see the true context of Mittens' fascination with a sandwich shop with a stupid name -- a BS story involving a whopper of such extreme proportions that only the most stupid, gullible, or ideologically blinded could possibly believe it.

Asks Steve Benen, "If government is so awful, and the public bureaucracy is such a Brazil-like nightmare, why can't Romney point to real examples instead of passing along nonsense?" The question answers itself, doesn't it?

There's only one thing MSNBC can do to make up for this terrible misrepresentation of Mitt's story -- play it non-stop for 24 hours on all of MSNBC's channels, so everyone gets a real good dose of how stupid Mitt Romney thinks you really are. I'm sure the wingnuts would DEMAND no less. (Maddow Blog)

-No more pencils, no more books-

No more voters' dirty looks... (Truthdig)

-Bonus HotD-
"Millionaire Ann Romney thinks the Obamas are too much the jet-setters."

Ann will be swimming to the London to watch her horse compete in Olympic Horse Ballet, thank you very much. (AMERICAblog)

Once Again, GOP Find Themselves Way Outside the Mainstream

Graduate holds sign reading 'DREAM Act Now!'
We are in for the political slow season, news-wise. It's hard to get substantive stories, but air time must be filled, column inches must be printed, so dumb stories are inflated to "big" stories. It is during this time that the media sucks the hardest and sensationalism rules the day. We call it the "silly season," but it would be more accurate to call it the "stupid season."

On the bright side, when there's a real story out there, it tends to be covered better than it otherwise would be.

And the real story out there remains President Obama's new policy on undocumented immigrants. There is no shortage of substantive reporting and instructive analysis. And now polling.

[Bloomberg News:]

President Barack Obama is winning the opening round in the battle over immigration, according to a Bloomberg poll released today, putting Republicans on the defensive with his decision to end the deportations of some illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

Sixty-four percent of likely voters surveyed after Obama’s June 15 announcement said they agreed with the policy, while 30 percent said they disagreed. Independents backed the decision by better than a two-to-one margin.

The results underscore the challenge facing Mitt Romney and Republicans as they try to woo Hispanic voters, who are the nation’s largest ethnic minority and made up 9 percent of the 2008 electorate, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of exit polls. Obama won the Hispanic vote 67 to 31 percent over Republican John McCain in 2008, according to exit polls.

If the good news for Democrats and supporters of the move is that it's overwhelmingly popular, the not-so-good news (it's not really bad) is that it's not an issue that's really a priority for most people. "The poll showed that relatively few respondents surveyed consider immigration their top issue amid continued economic anxiety, with 4 percent of voters naming it as their leading concern," Bloomberg reports.

But it shows a continuing trend in poll after poll and issue after issue; Republicans are hopelessly out-of-touch with the mainstream.

The decision left Republicans struggling to respond, trapped between alienating their political base and sending a negative signal to the Hispanic community and independent voters. A majority -- 56 percent -- of likely Republican voters opposed the decision, while almost nine in 10, or 86 percent, of Democrats supported it. Sixty-five percent of independents backed the policy change, while 26 percent disagreed.

Romney, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, has refused to say whether he would reverse the decision if he’s elected.

Of Democrats, Republicans, and Indies, only a Republican majority disagrees with the president. On the bright side, 56% is also the weakest majority for any group. But on any given issue, it's Republicans who seem most out of step with the mainstream.

For example, a recent CNN poll (pdf) showed that while 70% of Democrats and 60% of Independents support marriage equality for same-sex couples, only 23% of Republicans agreed. Drop the party labels and go with self-identified ideology and the results aren't extremely different: 83% liberal, 61% moderate, and 27% conservative. They're the fringe nuts in any poll.

Which is why the stupid season serves them so well. The only way they can really gain traction is through personal attacks on another candidate's character. This is why so many attack ads include the phrases "President Obama believes," "Barack Obama thinks," or "Obama doesn't understand." Some day I'll put together a list of flags to look for when detecting political BS; statements that involve mindreading will be way up toward the top.

Which is why the timing was so good for announcing this shift in policy. The stupid season is the result of a news drought, so gaffes become scandals in the headlines. A substantive story about an actual policy debate is going to get a lot of coverage. Republicans would rather not have that debate, because it's one more chance for the mainstream to notice that the GOP is always on the wrong side of an issue.


(image credit: from a photo by paulinaclemente, via Flickr)


News Roundup for 6/18/12

Ed Rollins
When this guy say you're being too much of a wingnut, you really ought to listen-

-Headline of the Day-
"GOP strategist: Republicans were `caught with their pants down’ on immigration."

Fox talking head and longtime GOP strategist Ed Rollins says the Republican Party is sinking fast and they need to get their act together. After Obama's immigration bombshell, the party's in deep trouble with a large and growing segment of the population. You're probably thinking Ed's one of the fake Republicans liberals run to when they want someone to say things they want to hear, but no. Rollins is a 100%, dyed-in-the-wool, rightwing lunatic. How do I know? Well, he was Shelly Bachmann's campaign manager -- and Huckabee's and Reagan's -- so there's your conservative nutjob bona fides right there. You just don't get any wingnuttier than that.

Anyway, Greg Sargent reports Ed told him, "Republicans need to be very careful about how they respond to Obama’s new immigration announcement, because Americans view the issue as one about fundamental fairness. If the GOP loses the Latino vote in the same way it has lost blacks, it won’t be able to win future presidential elections."

And by losing the Latino vote the way they've lost black voters, he means approximately all of them -- give or take the occasional Herman Cain. If that happens, it's game over for GOP presidents.

Meanwhile, George Will argued that if Mittens gets below 31% of the Latino vote come November, "he’s going to lose."

Couldn't happen to a nicer anti-immigration extremist. (Plum Line)

-Let's play a game-

Answer here. (Cagle Post)

-Bonus HotD-
"Russell Pearce, Ousted Arizona Immigration Law Architect, Denied Fundraiser At Mexican Restaurants."

Wait, you come as close as anyone in American history has to making it illegal to be Latino -- and now you want some burritos?

This hombre's got some huevos, amigos. (Huffington Post)

Obama and Immigration: Why the Right Thing to do Was Also the Smart Thing

Obama 'Si Se Puede' campaign button
President Obama's announcement that he will end deportation of undocumented people who came here as children was seen as a gamble. After all, it may get Latino voters more enthusiastic, but what about those who are freaked out about illegal immigration? The president was obviously throwing those votes away. For example, an analysis by the Associated Press:

There's not much President Barack Obama can do to boost the economy in the next five months, and that alone might cost him the November election. But on a range of social issues, Obama is bypassing Congress and aggressively using his executive powers to make it easier for gays to marry, women to obtain birth control, and, now, young illegal immigrants to avoid deportation.

It's a political gamble that might fire up conservatives, many of whom remain cool to Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Democrats think it's more likely to inspire enthusiasm among groups that were crucial to Obama's 2008 victory — young voters, women and Hispanics.

There is, of course, a glaring flaw in this thinking. Conservatives are already fired up by nearly four years of rightwing BS from Fox News and talk radio. When 51% of Republican voters are birthers and believe that Obama's a Socialist, Communist, Muslim terrorist, and atheist at once, it's a pretty clear indication that they don't like the man very much. Conservatives have worked hard to keep the outrage meter pegged on the right, so anything Obama does comes without consequence on that front.

Meanwhile, this:

Latino Decisions:

A new poll released June 17, 2012 by Latino Decisions and America’s Voice finds that Latino registered voters are very enthusiastic about President Obama’s recent announcement and action on immigration policy that will halt deportations and provide temporary work permits to some young undocumented immigrants. This new finding stands in clear contrast to the low levels of enthusiasm among Latino voters towards the previous deportation policies under the Obama administration. The joint survey between Latino Decisions and America’s Voice polled Latino registered voters in five key battleground states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia, and is part of a larger survey on Latino battleground states to be released later in June.


When asked how they felt about Obama’s action that would halt deportations and provide work permits to undocumented immigrant youth who attend college or serve in the military 49% of Latino voters said it would make them more enthusiastic about Obama, compared to 14% who were less enthusiastic, a net enthusiasm advantage of +35 points. We should be clear that these two questions were not meant to gauge overall support levels for policy, but rather how policy statements on their own, could change a potential voters degree of enthusiasm for or against the President. Last week we released a poll that found 87% of Latinos and 62% of non-Latinos, supported the DREAM Act.

This is huge. And it's brilliant politics. What Obama has done here is take the Republican hostage-taking strategy and stand it on its head. The current policy is entirely dependent on who's in the White House and Mitt Romney, who during the primaries ran as the most insanely anti-immigrant candidate, doesn't inspire a lot of confidence among Latino voters. Instead of taking a hostage himself, Obama's said to Romney, "Here, hold this."

Now Romney finds he's holding Latino voters hostage -- to his political disadvantage. This was the man that said his plan was to make life suck so much for undocumented people that they'd "self-deport" -- i.e., flee the oppression of America. This is a man who called Arizona's draconian immigration law a "model" for the nation (he later "clarified" that statement when it became clear it was hurting him in Florida).

This is the man Obama's put in the position of trying to reassure Latinos that he's not as insane as he pretended to be in the primaries -- while reassuring the GOP base that he is.

Good luck with that.



News Roundup for 6/14/12

Fred Karger campaign button
Not conseritave enough for Utah

-Headline of the Day-
"Gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger gets a rough welcome in southern Utah."

Did you know there's still a not-Romney out there running? There is! His name is Fred Karger and he doesn't have a prayer because he's so gay. According to the report, Karger's "running an issues-based campaign to change attitudes within the GOP about same-sex marriage." So far, so bad.

See he went to Utah to see about getting on the ballot. The guy he met, Washington County Republican Party Chairman Willie Billings, was OK and all, but hooboy his wife...

Karger sent Willie home with some campaign gear -- a t-shirt and frisbee -- and got an email from Willie's wife Nanette that was as illiterate as it was nasty.

"you are an idiot," she wrote. "You met with my husband Willie Billings today about you being on the Utah ballot. He brought your tshirt, and frisby home and it is now out in the trash. I never want to hear from such a radical idiot again. You think you are conseritave? conseritave means you beleive in the values of founding fathers and God. Do you know you cant procreate right? Well thank goodness for that. Nanette Billings."

I'm glad she bothered to explain what "conseritave" means, because otherwise I'd have no idea.

So Fred Karger's campaign to "change attitudes within the GOP about same-sex marriage?" Yeah, not going real well. (The Ticket)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, you know that austerity stuff you keep hearing about? We're going to find out how it works!

Click for animation

It doesn't work very well. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Romney Campaign Bus Circling, Honking At Obama Speech Site."

It's becoming clearer all the time; Mitt Romney's a real dick. (Talking Points Memo)

George W. Bush, Mitt Romney's Running Mate

Gallup poll graphic
Recently, I titled a post, "We’ll stop blaming Bush when it stops being Bush’s fault." That is, when we finally get dug out from under the wreckage of mismanagement of the economy, whatever happens afterward will no longer be Bush's fault. The economic craphole we're in now? Bush's fault. Obama may not be fixing it faster enough for you, but he's not the guy who crashed it.

Americans agree.


Americans continue to place more blame for the nation's economic problems on George W. Bush than on Barack Obama, even though Bush left office more than three years ago. The relative economic blame given to Bush versus Obama today is virtually the same as it was last September.

Gallup first asked this "blame assessment" question in July 2009, six months after Obama became president. At that point, 80% of Americans gave Bush a great deal or a moderate amount of blame, compared with 32% who ascribed the same level of blame for the bad economy to Obama. The percentage blaming Bush dropped to about 70% in August 2010, and has stayed roughly in that range since. Meanwhile, about half of Americans have blamed Obama since March 2010, with little substantive change from then to the present.


The relative amount of blame Americans give to Obama and to Bush has largely stabilized over the last two years. It remains to be seen whether Americans are open to further discussion of those issues in the months remaining before the Nov. 6 election, or whether their minds are made up.

Even half of Republicans say Bush deserves a "great deal or moderate amount" of the blame. Democrats obviously blame Bush in large numbers (90%), but the most important number comes from Independents -- who include swing voters. "Independents are substantially more likely to blame Bush (67%) than to blame Obama (51%) for the nation's economic problems, a finding that no doubt provides some comfort to the Obama re-election campaign," Gallup reports. "And fewer independents blame Obama now than did so last September (60%)."

Yet there are still some on the left who argue that Obama shouldn't run against Bush's economic failure.

This is profoundly foolish.

Gallup isn't the only organization polling Bush in contrast with Obama. CNN recently ran a study that found that people were more likely to take a brighter view of their current economic situation if they were reminded of Dubya.

"Don’t be surprised if the Obama campaign mentions the name of George W. Bush at every opportunity, and don’t be surprised if that strategy works," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "And the mention of Bush’s name appears to prompt at least a few people to take a more positive view of their current financial situation." He has the lowest approval rating of any living ex-president. It's easy to see why conservatives wouldn't want Obama to talk about Bush, but it's hard to see why lefties would feel the same way.

Basically, it's the old Reagan question; "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" In answer to that question, the numbers changed in the CNN poll when Bush is mentioned.

"When asked in the survey whether they are better or worse off than they were four years ago, Americans are split, 44% to 43%," CNN said. "But when asked whether they are better or worse off than they were four years ago 'when Bush was president,' a small gap opens - 47% say they are better off compared to 41% who say they are worse off." We can argue whether six points constitutes a "small gap" or not, but if the presidential race is going to be a close as it's expected to be, it's large enough to drive a truck through.

I suppose the reasoning is that if Obama runs against Bush's disaster, he'll be seen as a crybaby making excuses. But the facts are what the facts are; it is Bush's fault and Americans do agree with that assessment. If you blame Bush, you're just reflecting people's own thoughts back at them -- it's hard to see how people would view that negatively.

And, for chrissakes, Romney is Bush. He'd deregulate Wall Street and continue on with ever-failing trickle down economics. He's signed on with the Ryan Plan, which is really just Bush economic policies rewrapped -- including privatizing Medicare. How do you point out that all this stuff didn't work so well the last time if you don't mention George W. Bush?

This is Bush's economy. Make Republicans own it.



News Roundup for 6/12/12

Commie death from above

-Headline of the Day-
"Koch-Fueled Americans For Prosperity Plans Protest Against ‘Extremist’ Kids Flying Kites In Support Of Wind."

Commies will be flying kites and the Koch brother's front group Americans for Prosperity will be there! Because liberty.

See, the pinkos will be gathering at Asbury Park and Ocean City, New Jersey this Friday to use kites to prove that this so-called "wind" actually exists. According to AFP, "You heard that right! Friday is “Global Wind Day” and environmental extremists throughout New Jersey will be celebrating by flying kites at beaches along the Jersey Shore and calling for more and more of our tax dollars to be used to subsidize their crazy offshore wind pipe dreams!

"AFP will be going toe to toe with the environmental extremists to combat their radical agenda and tell the truth about the costs of offshore wind."

Utilizing free energy that's flying around us all the time? EXTREMISM!! If it doesn't belch smoke, the Founding Fathers would've hated it. Everyone knows that.

The hippies are spinning this another way, of course. "We’ll be gathering at a beach near you for a kite-flying rally and celebration of NJ’s offshore wind potential. Bring your family, friends and kites," says the Sierra Club. It's a good thing that this is just spin or "going toe-to-toe" with kids flying kites would seem a tad bit dickish and bullying.

But someone needs to stand up to these nuts who insist that wind exists. After all, everyone knows that only communists love kites. (ThinkProgress)

-OK, I think I see the Koch bros' problem here-

Not really the fault of kids with kites, though guys... (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Burger King to introduce 'bacon sundae.'"

See, they were going to shoot customers through the heart from the drive-through window, but studies showed this was a healthier alternative. (The Sideshow)

GOP Harming America for Political Gain

Tea Party Republicans
It's something that's completely obvious to any close observer of politics and now it's clear that it's pretty apparent to even casual observers -- Republicans are sabotaging America.

[Talking Points Memo:]

Nearly half of voters believe that Republicans are deliberately hamstringing efforts to resuscitate the economy in order to bolster their chances of defeating President Barack Obama, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling (PPP), conducted in conjunction with Daily Kos and SEIU, shows that 49 percent of registered voters nationwide think Republicans are “intentionally stalling efforts to jumpstart the economy” to ensure Obama’s defeat in November. Half of all independents surveyed feel the same way.

And it's not just the DC subspecies of the Republican animal who's guilty of this; the state level variety is also playing along, attacking the problem of rising employment and consumer demand by laying off public workers by the truckload. At the federal level, Republicans block any attempt further stimulate the economy (because, contrary to their talking points, the stimulus worked). At the local level, they lay off workers, cut wages and benefits, and do whatever else they can to make sure demand remains weak and unemployment remains high. Then they all join together and complain about poor economic performance and high unemployment. They're making your life suck, so that they can enjoy political gain by complaining that life sucks. And for that, the most charitable assessment I can make of an average elected GOP official is that they're one sick individual. The least charitable is that, by actively working against the best interests of their nation and its people, they're damned close to committing treason. As always, one doesn't necessarily rule out the other.

And the worst part of all this is that Republicans may not pay any penalty for actively working to harm America, as Steve Benen explains:

The level of national cynicism is so intense, many Americans may simply assume Republicans are undermining the national economy deliberately, but take their frustrations out on the president anyway.

Voters' understanding of the political process is quite limited, and many Americans may very well fail to appreciate the role Congress must play in policymaking -- no matter how hard the president fights for job-creation proposals, he needs the approval of lawmakers who are eager, if not desperate, to see him fail.

As a result, there are no doubt plenty of voters thinking, "Sure, Republicans are sabotaging the economy, but why can't Obama just go around them?" unaware of the fact that, on a grand scale, this isn't an option.

And Republicans know this. If they didn't, they wouldn't be using this strategy -- because it would make them the most hated people in America. In 2009, after a meeting between top Republicans and conservative propagandist Frank Luntz, Texas Rep. Pete Sessions screwed up and spilled the beans:

Insurgency we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban. And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person's entire processes. And these Taliban -- I'm not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban -- no, that's not what we're saying. I'm saying an example of how you go about is to change a person from their messaging to their operations to their front line message. And we need to understand that insurgency may be required when the other side, the House leadership, does not follow the same commands, which we entered the game with.

Republicans should be like the Taliban. This was the takeaway from the meeting with Luntz. In his book, Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, Robert Draper covers that meeting and what we learn isn't pretty -- or particularly patriotic. Luntz sat down with Rep. Paul Ryan, Rep. Eric Cantor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Pete Sessions, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, Rep. Dan Lungren, Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Jon Kyl, Sen. Tom Coburn, Sen. John Ensign, Sen. Bob Corker, and Newt Gingrich to discuss how to raise Republicans up -- by tearing Democrats down.

Keep in mind that Luntz isn't a policy wonk. What he does is marketing -- pure and simple, end of story. When you sit down with Frank Luntz, the question isn't "What can we do to help America?" it's "What can we do to help ourselves?" Always. He doesn't do anything else.

And the plan was hatched to ruin Obama by ruining America. Already in dire straits after the debacle that was the Bush presidency, all they really had to do was to make sure the new president got very little done. The abuse of the filibuster reached record levels, Republicans began passionately opposing ideas they'd championed in the past, and manufactured the Tea Party to create a bandwagon for chumps to jump onto.

When you use the word "conspiracy," people tend to laugh and point. But this is a conspiracy. A conspiracy to cripple the US economy merely to win elections. The good news is that the people are onto them.

But the bad news is that they may not fully understand just how destructive the whole thing has been or how disloyal to America the Republican Party has really become.


[image credit: from a photo by sobyrne99, via Flickr]


News Roundup for 5/11/12

Differently hydrated landscape

-Headline of the Day-
"Lawmakers avoid buzzwords on climate change bills."

Remember when being "politically correct" was all the rage? People weren't "handicapped," they were "physically challenged" or "differently abled" -- you know, crazy stuff like that. For everyone else it was just being polite, but to the right it was the worst thing ever!

That's all changed now and Republicans have their own version of being politically correct. Usually, it involves believing a whole passel of bullshit, but sometimes it just means avoiding certain words that suggest certain things that are happening are happening. Things like global warming.

Take the Virginia legislature, for example. According to the report, "State lawmakers ran into a problem this year when recommending a study on rising sea levels and their potential impacts on coastal Virginia.... It was not a scientific problem or a financial one. It was linguistic."

See, it turns out that if you describe rising sea levels as something obvious like "sea level rise," that's communism. So say the local Tea Party nutjobs. You can measure sea level rise, it's actually happening, and it's like super-important to a coastal state like Virginia, but admitting reality is politically inconvenient. So "sea level rise" becomes "recurrent flooding." See, that's so much better because it doesn't suggest a cause -- it's just this crazy thing that keeps happening and no one knows why. Other terms being thrown around by 'baggers are "increased flooding risk" and "coastal resiliency."

"Sea level challenged" apparently hasn't occurred to anyone. (Virginian-Pilot)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, Dogboy and Mr. Dan are back and they're going to explain why we keep taking out al Qaeda's number two. Yay!

Click for animation

OK, when Obama and Mr. Dan are on the same page, we've got real trouble. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Rove group jokes Obama official who had seizure was drunk."

Because Karl's classy like that. (Raw Story)

Neutering Money in Politics

sack of moneyI know, I've already written about the "money had nothing to do with the Wisconsin recall results" argument. First, I pointed out why the media would be biased toward the Citizens United ruling that allows unlimited money to be poured into elections; i.e., they stand to make a bazillion dollars selling advertising to Super PACs. Then later, I also pointed out the obvious -- that if spending ungodly amounts of money on candidates' election campaigns didn't make any difference, the marketing-savvy billionaires, corporations, and Wall Street firms wouldn't do it.

I think I've done a pretty good job of showing why the "money had nothing to do with it argument" doesn't even make sense and why people have a vested interest in pushing it. But I'll let Sen. Bernie Sanders, by way of John Nichols, explain what it means:

“There is,” the senator says, “an aggressiveness out there among the ruling class of this country, among the billionaires who are saying: ‘You know what? Ya, we got a whole lot now, but we want even more. And we don’t give a damn about the middle class. We don't care about working families. We want it all. And now we can buy it.’ ”

Referring to Wisconsin as a “testing ground” for the no-limits campaign spending that has been ushered in by the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, Sanders said, “I have a deep concern that what we saw in Wisconsin can happen in any state throughout this country and in the presidential election.”

“I think that people do not fully understand the disaster that Citizens United was,” Sanders said of the 5–4 US Supreme Court decision in radio conversation with Ed Schultz. “What that did is open the floodgates so that billionaires like the Koch brothers and others are now prepared to spend unbelievable sums of money to elect extreme right-wing candidates.”

"Right now, we are moving toward an oligarchic type of society where big money not only controls the economy—they’re going to have a very, very heavy say in who gets elected," Sanders said.

Already, conservatives openly dream of the day when government is just a shill for corporate interests -- the ultimate Super PAC. "In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks," Rep. Spencer Bacchus once infamously said. A depressing enough statement, even if you don't consider that he's the Chairman of the House Finance Committee.

Unfortunately, many see the post-Citizens United landscape as the new normal and believe the left merely needs to adapt. "I've long said that Republicans didn't beat Democrats in 2010, Karl Rove and [the] Koch brothers did after the Citizens United decision," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Chairman Steve Israel said after Walker's victory in Wisconsin. "Democratic allies and donors should not allow that to happen again this cycle. Democratic groups won't outspend Republican groups, but they can keep us in the fight." Israel said it was time for Democrats to wage "aggressive air campaigns" to compete in this new, rigged system.

Better would be the return to a level playing field. In the best case scenario, I believe that lying in campaign ads should be illegal -- with mandatory prison sentences, not fines. But of course it would be difficult to prove the difference between a lie and a mistake, so my best case scenario is probably a pipe dream.

But getting rid of elections for sale -- that can be done. People don't like it. If we can convince people that the candidate with the most money is the most likely to be corrupt, we can get somewhere. Instead of proudly trying to buy an election, a candidate should find it a source of shame. The one with all the money is probably the crook. Say it with me; the one with all the money is probably the crook. Democrat or Republican, the one with all the money is probably the crook.

Because that's the challenge. The problem with vast amounts of money in elections is that it works. And, since it works, the people elected that way have absolutely zero incentive to change anything. After all, they bought this one and they can just buy the next one. The people who want to buy elections will just buy candidates who support buying elections. What we need to do is to get people to realize that money is making democracy sick, that big money donors mean corruption, and that big money in politics is synonymous with corruption. Make money a handicap; the one with all the money is probably the crook.

"This is not the time to [throw your hands up in despair]. This is not the time to do that," Bernie Sanders said. "This is the time to organize for the taking on all of this money."


[image credit: from an image by 401k, via Flickr]


Walker's Not Even Close to Being Out of the Woods

Wisconsin recall protest sign
There aren't a lot of things to look forward to in the aftermath of the failed recall of Scott Walker. The state will muddle on with a governor who attacks working families -- and with them, consumer demand -- for political gain. This is at the heart of Walker's awful economic performance since he originally took office; he's much more willing to play to the fantasies of rightwing talk radio than the hard facts of the real world. By raising taxes on the poor and cutting income for state workers, Walker creates an atmosphere where the real job creators -- consumers -- don't have the means to create jobs. Businesses aren't flocking to Wisconsin for the bribes tax breaks, because the breaks aren't enough -- they aren't income. Low taxes don't mean jack when the customers don't have any money.

But to say there aren't a lot of things to look forward to isn't the same as saying there's nothing. For mere entertainment value, the Walker administration is promising. Scott Walker may seem like a slick politician now, but he's set a lot of traps for himself down the road. These come mostly in the form of lies. Stupid lies. Lies that can't possibly remain unchallenged by reality. Time and a lack of foresight conspire to make Walker's first -- and perhaps only -- term a PR disaster. Hopefully, he'll be too busy putting out fires to get anything done.

For example, in order to turn the recall polling around, Walker released some jobs numbers that showed that Wisconsin wasn't the worst in the nation for job creation, but merely one of the worst. The problem was that the numbers were iffy, they weren't a measurement anyone else uses, and therefore couldn't be compared to anyone else's performance. Worse, he claimed the numbers had been verified by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics -- a claim the BLS shot down.

BLS Communications Director Gary Steinberg said that the numbers weren't confirmed, only the statistical method was confirmed -- i.e., the methodology was sound, but the numbers may need some adjustment. He also stopped just short of saying Walker was a liar. "We can’t confirm fourth quarter or later data and would not have confirmed it to the governor’s office either," Steinberg said.


The problem here is that, if the numbers are BS, then it will come out. And the Walker administration is working furiously to make that happen later than sooner. They denied an open records request by The Capital Times for more fresher numbers (and more likely accurate). It was a request Walker's Department of Workforce Development refused. They can't sit on them forever. Sooner or later, the Walker administration is going to have to contradict the Walker administration on jobs figures.

But the big hand grenade without a pin is the John Doe investigation. He's told so many lies about this that he'll be spending as much time putting out PR fires as he will legal fires. Perhaps the biggest lie here is that Walker requested the investigation himself.

This is not so. "Milwaukee County prosecutors opened the secret John Doe criminal investigation more than two years ago after being stonewalled by Gov. Scott Walker's office when he was county executive, according to a newly released record," reported the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice last week. "The document appears to cast doubt on some of Walker's claims about his role in launching and cooperating with the investigation."

In filings, Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf wrote in 2010 that then-Milwaukee County Exec Walker's office was either "unwilling or unable" to provide documents to investigators. "It may be the County Executive's Office is reluctant to provide information to investigators due to a fear of political embarrassment," he wrote. All this information comes from a former top aide of Walker's, by the way.

Also problematic for Walker is his claim that he's not a target of the investigation. This one is just a no-possible-win claim. Walker has set up a legal defense fund and, according to Wisconsin law, you can't do that unless you are the target. So even if we take Walker at his word, we have to conclude that he's currently engaging in an illegal act.

But all indications are that the legal defense fund isn't the illegal part of all this.

[The Isthmus:]

With the recall election less than two days away, federal prosecutors are closing in on Governor Scott Walker, according to veteran political reporter David Shuster, former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, and former district attorney Bob Jambois.

In a conference call organized by state Democrats on Saturday evening, June 2, Shuster, Lautenschlager, and Jambois laid out evidence that Walker is a target of a federal investigation.


Based on conversations with a lawyer who has knowledge of the investigation, "We believe that Scott Walker set up a secret computer network in the governor's office and Department of Administration offices, and that the John Doe investigation is seeking evidence of crimes he committed in Madison," Zielinski said.

Now keep in mind that the John Doe probe is a state investigation. A federal investigation would mean that Walker's the target of two probes. And the signs are that these aren't going away any time soon.

As state attorney general, Lautenschlager said that she worked by a "rule of thumb" when investigating wrongdoing by politicians "not to say anything within two months of an election," unless prosecutors could clear the politician in question, to avoid the appearance of a politically motivated prosecution.

I don't remember Walker being cleared of anything before the election, do you?

In fact, this same thinking may also explain President Obama's avoidance of Wisconsin during the recall fight. When I first joined in on the recall effort, I was told that Democrats thought "it would look bad" if Obama got involved -- i.e., like a partisan election-year witchhunt. I'm not sure I agree with that (in fact, I'm pretty sure I don't), but if Obama knows a federal indictment is in the pipe for Walker, then the same reasoning would've kept him away from Wisconsin until after the recall -- or even until the indictment comes down. After all, the Justice Department is part of the executive branch.

For the near future, I don't see Scott Walker getting a lot done. He's going to be too busy trying to spin away all his lies to do any real damage. But it will be fun to watch.


[image credit: Sue Peacock, via Flickr]


A Heroic Effort Falls Short

Well that didn't go well. In last night's recall elections in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker scored a pretty decisive win -- 52% went for Walker, while 46% went to challenger Tom Barrett. Democrats take the consolation prize of the state senate, with former state Sen. John Lehman eking out a win over incumbent Sen. Van Wanggaard. The days of Walker's rubber-stamp legislature are over, so not a total loss. At least, for now.

Looking at the results, it seems that the national polling was correct. Barrett's and Democrats' internals were not so correct. Milwaukee didn't turn out as much as had been hoped (but Dane County, you are awesome), so perhaps that was the problem there -- the projections were off.

So what happened? The Wisconsinites who did turn out simply had no taste for a recall.

[Wisconsin State Journal:]

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said the overriding message from Tuesday's election was that many Wisconsin voters are sick of the "recall madness," which has led to recall elections against 13 state senators, Walker and Kleefisch.

"People are tired of recalls, and they don't think a recall was justified," he said.

Exit polling (which, admittedly, was shown last night to be flawed) backs that up. 60% of voters polled believed that recalls "are legitimate only for official misconduct."

So it's less of a case of loving Walker and more of a case of recall fatigue. We'll get him next time -- if the John Doe probe doesn't get him first.

Other than that, I'm still sorting through the wreckage here. One thing that's become very clear is that big money has to be purged from our electoral process. Walker outraised Barrett 7:1 and that may have made the difference for him -- if Barrett's vote total was proportionate to his war chest, he would've taken a mere 14% of the vote. Given what the two candidates spent per vote, Barrett might've buried Walker had the playing field been more level -- his spending was more than three times as effective as his opponent's. But Walker wallpapered Wisconsin with out of state, special interest money and it paid off.

"I think it's another lesson for all of us that money has an extraordinarily strong influence in campaigns," said state Rep. Mark Pocan. "When you don't have a balance in campaign spending, all too often money speaks the loudest."

It sure did here.


[image credit: adapted from a photo by marctasman, via Flickr]


Recall Turnout Matters. Where Voters Turn Out Matters More

Here we go. These are likely the final independent polling numbers we'll see for the gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin tomorrow.


Two public opinion polls released on Sunday show Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker with a lead of three and six percentage points two days before the election to recall him because of a new law reducing the power of public sector unions.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm, said Walker was leading 50 percent to 47 percent over Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in its final survey. Angus Reid polling had Walker ahead 53 percent to 47 percent. Both findings were within the margin of error so the results could be even tighter.

The PPP margin of three percentage points compared with a five-point Walker lead in their survey three weeks ago.

"If the folks who turn out on Tuesday actually matched the 2008 electorate, Barrett would be ahead of Walker by a 50-49 margin," says PPP's Tom Jensen. "It's cliche but this is a race that really is going to completely come down to turnout... This is a close race, closer than it was a couple weeks ago. Scott Walker's still the favorite but Barrett's prospects for an upset look better than they have in a long time."

Meanwhile, Democratic internal numbers look much closer. Prior to the release of the much-anticipated PPP findings, dems announced their numbers showed about as close to an actual tie as you're ever going to see: 47.8% Walker to 47.7% Barrett.

Throughout this race, Democratic numbers have been much better for Barrett than independent ones. It's easy to write off dem internals as spin, but the truth is that these are the numbers they're relying on to track the progress of their work. If the numbers are bad, then they're no help at all. Democrats have every incentive to create the most accurate and predictive polling results out there. So why the difference between their numbers and independent numbers?

To explain that, allow me to tell you a brief story. In 1998, Russ Feingold was in a tight reelection race against Republican Mark Neumann, who was favored to win. Come election day, Russ eked out a 2% margin of victory over Neumann, thanks to massive turnout in Milwaukee and Dane Counties. "It looks like Dane County's chosen their senator," Republican then-Gov. Tommy Thompson said of the result. It's not a lesson that state Democrats are likely to have forgotten.

Democrats and unions have been targeting Milwaukee and Dane especially. That's where the big organization advantage they have comes from -- huge crowds of blue state voters, all bundled together for easy access. Phone banking in rural areas is one thing, but door-to-door canvassing in urban centers is another. Recall supporters have had much more face-to-face talks with voters and aggressive organizing in Milwaukee and Dane are the explanation for that.

So, if you knew turnout was going to be higher in the areas you've been targeting, wouldn't you want your polling sample to reflect that? If dem polling disagrees with indie polling because the Democrats are oversampling Milwaukee and Dane, then I'd put my money on dem polling as the most predictive. Behind the scenes talk right now is turnout in Dane of 70-80% (based on early voting numbers) and I don't know what they're expecting in Milwaukee -- but I do know that the organizational effort there is of heroic proportions. They'll have vans running all day tomorrow, taking voters to the polls.

In the end, the cliche is true -- what matters here is turnout. But just as true is that it matters a great deal where that turnout is heaviest.


[image credit: adapted from a photo by ra_hurd, via Flickr]