Rightwing Media's Distant Relationship with Truth

Birther protest signs
If you take a swing through the rightwing news media, one thing jumps out at you immediately -- what you find there is virtually indistinguishable from what you find on talk radio. It's a collection of scandal pimps, outrage manufacturers, spinmeisters, and out-and-out propagandists. What you won't find is a lot of factual reporting.

And this leaves conservative news consumers open to a lot of big surprises. Conor Friedersdorf uses the Hagel confirmation to illustrate the problem.

[The Atlantic:]

...Americans who get their news from anti-Hagel conservatives discovered Tuesday that much of the analysis they've long been fed on this subject left them as misinformed about the likely course of events as they were about Mitt Romney's prospects for victory during Election 2012. Of course, a single nomination battle isn't nearly so consequential as a presidential election. This is nevertheless another reminder for the rank-and-file on the right: Demand better from the journalists whose work you patronize, or remain at an information disadvantage relative to consumers of a "mainstream media" that is regularly outperforming conservative journalists.

Rightwing punditry and blogs lost it when Hagel was confirmed and twitter lit up with condemnations of Sen. Rand Paul, who cast a surprise vote for Hagel. But Hagel didn't win by one vote. He cruised to easy confirmation with eight votes to spare. The small, hundred vote electorate that is the Senate makes the math very easy -- Hagel was confirmed in an 58% landslide. Instead of blaming the media sources that had steered them so wrong, conservative news consumers blamed Paul.

Friedersdorf singles out rightwing Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin for criticism, but she's really just one example out of many. Anyone reading Rubin's posts would assume that Hagel would not only be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans alike, but was practically facing execution for the crime of being the Worst Nominee Ever. He offers a very thorough list of examples and I recommend it highly, if only for the chance to see the world as conservatives see it and marvel at just how wrong it all is. Rubin has always been a laughably bad pundit, but to see it all right out there makes you wonder how she keeps the WaPo gig. This isn't analysis, this is a fantasy porn of wishful thinking presented as granite-solid fact; a version of Fifty Shades of Grey, where the truth is the one that gets the spankings.

But if you want another example of a wingnut pundit steering the faithful wrong, head over to Politico, for an op-ed by Keith Koffler titled, "Republicans need to go negative." Right away you spot three problems with the argument:

  1. The word he's looking for is "negativer."
  2. Negativer is not a word.
  3. It's impossible, in any case.
Basically, he argues that President Obama has been on an attack campaign as soon as he got into office, that Mitt Romney failed because he wasn't a "true conservative," and that if people just hear conservative principles articulated plainly, they'll flock to the GOP in droves. The problem with that last is, of course, that conservative principles have been articulated plainly -- and it's driven everyone but white Christian males screaming away from the GOP.

But people read these things and they wag their heads up and down, despite all recent evidence that shows it's all happy horsecrap. Not because it's believable, but because they want to believe it -- whether or not it's true. And here's where Friedersdorf goes wrong. Well, half-wrong. He argues that conservative news consumers should rise up and demand some real goddam factual reporting for a change -- and they should.

But the underlying assumption is that they're the victims in this whole thing. They aren't. There's a lot of supply and demand going on here, with the bloggers, radio hosts, and TV networks with reports most favorable to Republicans and least favorable to Democrats being in the greatest demand. The conservative media serves the consumer who wants to be lied to. And if this leads to heartbreak down the road, you cares? They asked for it.

Want to get boatloads of web traffic? Report that all the polls are wrong and that Romney's a shoe-in, report than Chuck Hagel's about to be horsewhipped in the Senate, report that Barack Obama is totally going to take all the blame if the sequester is triggered. The conservative audience doesn't want the facts, they want spin. That's why they keep "falling for" these ridiculous ideas. A poll taken in October found that 71% of Republican voters believed all the polls were wrong and that Romney was going to win. 71%. They can't possibly all be that gullible. They believed what they wanted to believe -- just as they do with everything else, from economics to science to history. That's why tax-borrow-and-spend Reagan is their symbol of cutting taxes, cutting spending, and reducing the deficit. It doesn't make any difference what's real. All that matters is what they want to be real -- and they'll reward any charlatan who comforts them and tells them what they want to hear.

How do you fix this? I don't think you can. At this point, it's a death spiral -- conservative media can't start truthtelling or they'll go broke, because media consumers will just move on to another comforting liar. Brietbart.com can steer them wrong again and again, with hoax after hoax, and they'll keep coming back for more. Don't get me wrong, conservative news consumers are, by and large, chumps. But it's not because they're especially dumb, it's because they want to be chumps.

Like die-hard Soviets, they think that believing all the propaganda with all your little heart is the definition of patriotism.


[photo via Fibonacci Blue]


A Serious Blow to the GOP's Rebranding Effort

NJ Gov. Christie
After months of soul-searching and wandering the wilderness, the Republican Party has decided it needs to change. Well, not change really, so much as rebrand. After losing every minority group -- plus women as a whole -- to the Democratic Party inn their quest to unseat Barack Obama, it's become clear that the infamous, racist "southern strategy" is finally dead, dead, dead. No longer is the vote of white Christian males enough to elect anyone to national office. It's now clear that "angry white guy vs. the world" is a fight in which the world will now come out on top, every time. Unfortunately for the GOP, that rebranding effort is scheduled to unravel in the middle of March. Then it will become clear (probably to everyone but the Republican faithful) that rebranding is a hopeless effort -- as is real change. In fact, the great unraveling has already begun.


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was not invited to speak at the annual CPAC conference this year because he broke with conservatives on key issues over the past year, according to American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas.

Cardenas, whose group organizes the conference, wrote in an e-mail to National Journal that while CPAC was “proud” to invite Christie last year based on his record of balancing the budget and taking on teachers unions, Christie’s record over the past year is far less conservative.

“CPAC is like the all-star game for professional athletes; you get invited when you have had an outstanding year,” Cardenas said. “Hopefully he will have another all-star year in the future, at which time we will be happy to extend an invitation. This is a conservative conference, not a Republican Party event.”

For those new to all this, CPAC is the Conservative Political Action Conference, a yearly convention that basically serves as the rightwing crackpot prom. It's a big, boiling pot of extremists of every stripe -- racists, anti-abortion zealots, homophobes, talk radio hosts, birthers, people who see Communists behind every potted palm, gun nuts, Islamophobes, etc. For obvious reasons, I tend to refer to it as the Crazy People's Action Conference -- and it is poised to set the effort to paint a kinder, friendlier face on the GOP back to square one, if not into negative territory.

If you need any evidence of that, look at the Christie story. Chris Christie, deservedly or undeservedly, is hands down the most popular Republican in America. There is no question. If you want to drag the GOP back into national relevance, you sit down, you shut up, and you listen to Christie. Yet CPAC believes he's not worth listening to, because he hasn't had "an outstanding year." 70% approval is not an "all-star year." He lambasted House Republicans for blocking disaster aid after Hurricane Sandy and now he's embracing the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. The very things that make him popular with the general public make him unpopular with the hothouse lunatics at CPAC.

And the people who've had a great year, by CPAC's rigid and totally reality-proof standards? People like Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Allen West. Oh, and Mitt Romney. According to CPAC, Mitt Romney just had an excellent, all-star year.

Bashing the one remaining popular Republican in America is just the start. CPAC speakers will return to immigrant bashing, gay bashing, Muslim bashing, science bashing, Todd Akin-like War on Women frootloopery, accusations of Marxism toward Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular, painting the middle class as "freeloaders," Christian supremacism, etc. Seriously, just skim CPAC's history -- I'm not exaggerating in the least. And this year you can add gun control fearmongering. Believe me, it's just going to be worse. For Republicans looking to change the party's image in the public's eye, no good can come of CPAC. None at all.

The party can't change if the base doesn't change; since somewhere along the line, Republicans decided to lead by following. And the base is ready to listen to Frenzy McCrackpot tell them all about the coming dystopia, where gay atheists force Christians to have abortions in compliance with Sharia law, but they aren't interested in having Chris Christie tell them how to become popular and become a competitive party again.

Maybe Chris Christie could lead the GOP out of the wilderness and maybe he couldn't (personally, I think he's still leading by following, but at least he's following more people than just the 'bagger base). In any case one thing's for sure: the nuts at the Crazy People's Action Conference are dead set on leading the party deeper and deeper back into those dark woods.


[image via Bob Jagendorf]


Rep. Steve Stockman and the Attack of the Imaginary Robots

Cardboard robot costume
Louie Gohmert has been getting a run for his money recently. In the realm of stupid statements and clumsy demagoguery, Gohmert was once the undisputed king. Sure, Michele Bachmann mounted an impressive challenge, but when it comes to being congress's most clownish member, Louie always managed to stay one step ahead of Shelly. After being very nearly defeated in her last reelection bid, Bachmann's been kind of quiet lately, leaving Gohmert the crown of Top House GOP Buffoon.

But a new threat to Rep. Gohmert's dominance is rising. From his own Texas, another crazy/stupid Republican with a penchant for headline-grabbing is coming to America's attention. Steve Stockman clearly wants to be the Rep. who most sounds like any unhinged rightwing talk radio host -- and that might just unseat Gohmert from the jester's throne.

After all, it was Stockman who suggested the completely unconstitutional -- not to mention politically impossible -- idea of impeaching President Obama for advocating gun regulation. Granted, I've always argued that the term "high crimes and misdemeanors" was so broad it could mean almost anything congress wants it to mean, but there has to be something illegal to impeach over. You don't just kick a president out because you disagree with him.

And, of course, it was Stockman who invited celebrity rabies patient Ted Nugent to the State of the Union, actually hurting his cause by creating a side show that only made anti-regulation people look like gun nuts and distracted from other advocates who likely had much better arguments than Nugent's gratuitous strings of insults.

Now Stockman has reached a new low by accusing the president of lying about support for his gun regulation push. And his argument is both ridiculously stupid and transparently dishonest.

[The Hill:]

A Texas Republican on Monday said President Obama's gun control campaign is a fraud based on fake messages over Twitter.

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) accused Obama of trying to make support for his position look stronger than it really is by flooding Twitter with messages from people who don't exist.

"Obama's anti-gun campaign is a fraud," Stockman said. "Obama's supporters are panicking and willing to do anything to create the appearance of popular support, even if it means trying to defraud Congress," he added. "I call upon the president to denounce this phony spam campaign."

Stockman said that in response to Obama's call for people to tweet their congressman in support of gun control legislation, he received just 16 tweets. But he said all of these messages were identical, and that a closer look at them revealed that only six were from real people.

He can't even keep his story straight; first, the President is flooding Twitter with a massive spam campaign, then it's a pathetic attempt resulting in only sixteen tweets to Stockman. Which is it?

But what I'm finding most idiotic hear is the assertion that messages with the same wording mean the message-senders aren't real. Here's a fun experiment you can try at home; go to the White House's gun control page, scroll down toward the bottom, click the button that reads, "Share on Twitter," then marvel as a new page magically opens, with the message "#NowIsTheTime to work together to reduce gun violence. RT if you agree. wh.gov/nowisthetime" all set to send. All you need to do is add "@SteveStockmanTX" to send it directly to him. Go ahead and click send to end the experiment.

Congrats, according to Steve Stockman, you've just turned into some kind of fake robot thing. Of course, Stockman doesn't seem to be releasing the actual wording of the robot tweets he's getting "spammed" with, meaning the press can't check his story -- which means he may not have anything at all.

But one thing I can guarantee with absolute certainty: if the White House bought Twitter accounts to launch a viral marketing campaign, they wouldn't buy just six twitter accounts to send spam ads from. In the grand scheme of things, that's nothing.

What may give Stockman the edge in his stupidity contest with Louie Gohmert may be his tremendous ego. Everything he's done so far has been a "look at me!" sort of thing. Gohmert makes up stupid reason to look at problems he wants to address (e.g., "terror babies"), but none of Stockman's stunts can accomplish anything -- other than getting his name in the papers.

Where Gohmert is dumb and clumsy, Stockman seems stupid and vain. It may be that the Dimmer Twins from the Lone Star State will have to share the crown of Congress's Biggest Boob until Steve comes up with a spectacularly idiotic stunt to knock it out of the park. It's hard to beat "terror babies," but that doesn't mean Stockman won't try.


[image source]


Note to GOP: When You Cheer on Sequestration, You Own It

Orrin Hatch
I'd imagine that one of the many problems with being a Republican is that lying wears on your conscience. And even if you're a conscienceless sociopath, it rubs at your psyche. After all, you believe your views are correct, but you also know they're unpopular. You'd just feel so much better if everyone agreed with you. So every once in a while, you tell the truth -- just to test the waters. This almost never works out well for them. In the political world, a Republican telling the plain, unvarnished truth almost always comes across as a gaffe. When you're punished for telling the truth, you don't do it often.

So take a lookie here. It's a rare thing:

[Salt Lake Tribune:]

..."I’m for sequestration," [Sen. Orrin] Hatch said, if Congress can’t cut spending. "We’ve got to face the music now, or it will be much tougher later."

With across-the-board spending cuts set to kick in next week, Hatch said sequestration would lead to an economic disaster in Utah as two-thirds of civilians working at Hill Air Force Base would be furloughed. He said it would be "devastating to our nation’s readiness."

It's not a lot of work to unpack the argument here; it's pretty plain. Sequestration will be "devastating to our nation’s readiness" and "lead to an economic disaster" -- so hell yeah, let's do it! And he's not the only one. There's a pretty good list of examples of GOP truth-telling over at PoliticusUSA, but few are as clear about the consequences as Hatch's "we have to burn the village to save it" argument.

Republican leadership may be trying to wash their hands of sequestration by arguing it was the president's idea, but what the party members say shows that this sort of blame-laying is as irrelevant as it is dishonest -- the sequester will happen because a lot of Republicans want it to happen. When you say things like, "I'm for sequestration," while the president's saying we need to avoid it, you own it. It's yours.

Republicans are fixated on cutting spending in order to avoid raising taxes on the top 1%. But at this point any pretense of sound economic stewardship is out the window. Republicans like Hatch are arguing -- quite plainly and without shame -- that they're not just willing to see the economy go down in flames, but that they want it to go down in flames. Then they get the deep cuts they want and avoid raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires.

Follow their logic here: they've argued that raising taxes on the very wealthy would be bad for the economy. So their argument now is that they have to wreck the economy or raise taxes, which will wreck the economy. There is no continuity in their reasoning, which means that the things they say about taxes and the economy are an ever-evolving rationalization, not fact-based arguments. If they weren't, Republicans wouldn't wind up with contradictions like this. They aren't interested in the economy, they're interested in protecting the wealthy from taxation. The party that shrieks about elitism is firmly in the pocket of the actual elites.

And what does this say about the party of "patriots," wrapped in the flag, outraged that the Pledge of Allegiance isn't recited everywhere, every ten minutes, and shocked that the nation isn't covered in flag lapel pins? It says that their patriotism is as phony as you've always known. When you're arguing that we have to destroy the economy and hurt military readiness in order to protect a handful of very rich Americans from paying their fair share, you get to STFU about how patriotic you are. I mean, for chrissakes, Hatch admitted he was for harming America.

How much more clear do you need this to be? Republicans are not operating in the nation's interest, but in the interest of the elites. Who cares if you lose your job or your community cuts back on police and fire? What's really important is that a tiny cluster of very rich people don't see an increase in taxes -- an increase, by the way, that would affect their lifestyles not at all. They'd still have penthouse pools and private jets and watches that cost more than you make in a month. The very rich would still be very rich.

But serving the nation is not what that tiny gaggle of tycoons are paying the GOP to do. So that's not what the GOP is doing. They're actively crashing the economy, while shouting from the rooftops that they want to do it.

And they still say it'll all be President Obama's fault? That little pack of American aristocrats must've bought their pet party a huge, golden pair of balls.


[image sources Michael Jolley, benwatts ]


America's Current Mass-Murder Prevention Method -- Luck

As so often happens with mass killings in America, time moves on and a horrible crime is forgotten. Maybe it's that there are just so many that it's impossible to keep track of them all, maybe we mentally block it out to keep ourselves from realizing the entire country's a war zone, or maybe we're just so damned tired of it all that we just want to stop thinking about. For whatever reason, a racist 2012 shooting spree in Tulsa, Oklahoma that left three black men dead and two wounded doesn't come up when we talk about mass killings in America. And that's a pity -- not only because the victims deserve to be remembered, but because the case is just so damned instructive. Especially when we look at what set off the gunmen -- Jake England and Alvin Watts -- on their rampage.

The Tulsa shooting spree took place around the second anniversary of England's father's shooting death. The man who shot his father is Pernell Demond Jefferson, who is black. England and Watts are described by authorities as white. England has Cherokee ancestry.

Jefferson is expected to stand trial for charges of attempted first-degree burglary and illegal possession of a firearm in connection with the incident. But he will not face murder charges because England's death was ruled a justifiable homicide by prosecutors under Oklahoma's "stand your ground" law.

So the "shoot first" legalized murder law is what started this whole thing. A "tough on crime" measure that -- like most "tough on crime" measures -- is simpleminded and poorly thought out and designed only to bring votes to fearmongers and demagogues, while selling guns for the special interests they represent. No one should be able to deliberately shoot and kill someone else, only to avoid trial in that killing. That's not how the justice system works. Self-defense is a legitimate and legal reason to commit homicide. If you killed someone because you had to, that should stand up in court. Instead, Oklahoma -- like too many states -- has this idiotic law that allows killers to just walk away, never resolving the issue or airing out the evidence. It just allows grudges to fester, fueled by the complete ignorance that comes from being denied a public hearing of the facts. I'm not excusing England or Watts, I'm just pointing out that Oklahoma's idiotic "stand your ground" law is more likely to make sick jerks like them even sicker. And it obviously made the community of Tulsa more dangerous, not safer.

But if "stand your ground" laws make people less safe, then a more recent case in Michigan proves that universal background checks increase public safety.

[NBC News:]

Federal agents are trying to determine how a suspected Ohio white supremacist with a felony conviction for manslaughter acquired a cache of 18 assault weapons and other firearms, along with high-capacity magazines and more than 40,000 rounds of ammunition, according to federal law enforcement officials and court documents reviewed by NBC News.

The storehouse of weapons was discovered late last month when FBI agents arrested Richard Schmidt, 47, the owner of a Bowling Green sporting goods store called Spindletop Sports Zone, on charges of marketing counterfeit goods -- such as football jerseys with NFL logos -- from China.

Although initially portrayed as a probe into the thriving international market for counterfeit clothing, the case took a surprising turn this week when the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland unsealed search warrants and an indictment also charging Schmidt with illegal possession of firearms.

So the FBI discovered a felon white supremacist with an arsenal of assault weapons through the rigorous law enforcement technique known by the highly technical term, "sh*t luck." If Schmidt hadn't been stupid enough to sell counterfeit goods from a storefront, he'd still be out walking around and he'd still be in possession of a private arsenal.

And what would did he want with all those guns anyway? A followup story tells us Schmidt "was tracking African American and Jewish leaders in the Detroit area" and that agents found "a notebook in which Schmidt had listed the names, addresses and other personal information of Detroit area community leaders."

"The FBI averted a catastrophe in this case, there’s no doubt about it," Steven M. Dettelbach, the U.S. attorney in Cleveland, told NBC news.

The evidence points to another Tulsa was in the making -- or another Oak Creek, a recent racist shooting spree quickly fading from public memory. Schmidt's previous conviction was for "homicide after being convicted of killing a man and wounding two others in a shooting during a traffic stop," so he's not squeamish about using firearms to take lives. And he was in possession of "18 weapons that included AR-15 assault rifles, 9 mm Ruger and Sig Sauer pistols, shotguns, high-capacity magazines and more than 40,000 rounds of ammunition." He was also in possession of body armor. The man was clearly planning on going to war.

Federal law does not require such checks for private sales or gun show purchases. Seventeen states have mandated them for handgun purchases at gun shows, though Ohio is not among them. Only six states require background checks for all firearms purchases.

A new study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research has found that 80 percent of those convicted of gun crimes acquire their weapons through private sales – making it virtually impossible for federal agents to trace where they come from or who is providing them.

“There’s no documentation required for private transactions. So whatever occurs in that zone is invisible to us,” Charles Houser, the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., said in an interview.

"Our current set of laws for how guns get out [in] the community has a lot of holes," Dettelbach told NBC. "It’s almost like Swiss cheese."

How long do you want to rely on "sh*t luck" and feel-good, but boneheaded and ineffective "shoot first" laws to prevent massacres? Because that was the only thing standing between Schmidt and the racist massacre he so clearly wanted to pull off. And what we're doing didn't work to prevent the other ones.

We need real prevention, not BS laws meant to frighten people into voting for charlatans.


[image sources Dept. of Justice, Flickr, Flickr]


Once Again, Republicans Face Reality's Liberal Bias

Poll graphic from Pew numbers
There's an old saying: some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you -- and some days news organizations poll the bears and find out they think you suck. Today is that last type of day for Republicans, who woke up this morning, shook open their papers, and promptly sprayed coffee all over them in a spit-take of shock. The numbers are not good and the party is definitely not on the path to making them any better.

First off, a Bloomberg poll. In that poll, Barack Obama holds his highest approval ratings since Bloomberg started polling the question in 2009. Conversely, Republicans have their lowest approval ratings for the same period. Further, more think the President's ideas for the economy are better than the GOP's. The party's problem here is that people perceive the GOP's priorities accurately:

“The Republicans are not offering any new solutions,” said poll respondent Cynthia Synos, 62, a political independent who lives in the St. Louis suburb of Greendale, Missouri. “Their answer is always tax cuts and incentives for business. I’ve never heard them say anything innovative to spark the economy that would help the other 85, 90 percent of people that have to deal with the economy as it is.”

The shine is definitely off the trickle-down rose.

When it comes to our current economic situation, respondents seemed to have a pretty good grasp of what the root of the problem; "Public views of congressional Republicans’ record places an added burden on them in the standoff over automatic spending cuts. Americans by 43 percent to 34 percent say they are more to blame than Obama and Democrats for 'what’s gone wrong' in Washington," Bloomberg reports. That means that if the GOP lets the sequester happen -- and all indications are that they will -- their little "blame Obama for the sequester" strategy is probably doomed to failure.

Wait, did I say "probably?" I should've said "definitely," since that's what the second poll shows.

[Pew Research:]

[Our survey] finds that, as with previous conflicts over the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff, Obama holds the upper hand politically over congressional Republicans. If there is no deficit deal by March 1, 49% say congressional Republicans would be more to blame while just 31% would mostly blame President Obama.

Moreover, 76% say that the president and Congress should focus on a combination of spending cuts and tax increases to reduce the budget deficit. Just 19% agree with the current Republican position that tax increases should be off the table.

The graphic with this post is from the Pew numbers, via Steve Benen, by the way, This poll also finds Obama's approvals and support for his economic policies high -- even most Republicans support his call to raise the minimum wage. GOP approvals are likewise very low. Obama also wins the gun debate.

"What's the good news for Republicans in these new national polls?" Benen asks. "There is no good news for Republicans in these new national polls." Republicans stand on the edge of a cliff, about to make a very dire mistake.

Unfortunately for everyone, Republicans are such pigheaded fools that they'll have to actually make that mistake to appreciate just how stupid and avoidable the whole fiasco actually was.



The NRA Way: If at First You Don't Succeed, Try Again. Fail Better

People protesting the NRA
This ought to turn out well for them. Roll Call reports that the National Rifle Association plans to spend big to bring down Democratic senators up for reelection in 2014.

The National Rifle Association will launch a print advertising campaign targeting mostly Democratic senators up for re-election in 2014, according to sources close to the group.

On Thursday, full-page ads are scheduled to run in local newspapers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina and West Virginia. They will be supplemented by digital advertising in these states and 10 others, including Alaska, Colorado, Montana, New Hampshire and South Dakota.

Additionally, the group has scheduled full-page ads to run Feb. 25 in regional editions of USA Today, reaching parts of 15 states.

The NRA is planning to spend more than $375,000 on the campaign. But the NRA's clout with voters has eroded over the years. In fact, things have gotten so bad that if the NRA really wants to hurt Democrats' chances, they might do more damage by endorsing them.

A recent Public Policy Polling survey found that an NRA endorsement does more harm than good. "39% say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who had the NRA's support to just 26% who say they'd be more likely to, with 32% saying it wouldn't influence them one way or the other," PPP reported. "Among independents 41% consider an NRA endorsement to be a turn off to 27% who say it's a plus."

Since these are Senate races, indies make all the difference in the world. It would stand to reason that if an NRA endorsement is a negative, NRA condemnation of your opponent would likewise cause you harm. After all, it's a de facto endorsement.

In fact, the blood lobby's recent record with Senate races in particular suggests Democrats should welcome that condemnation.

[Media Matters:]

The presidential election was not the only race where the NRA failed to elect their candidate. They spent more than $100,000 on seven general election Senate races: Ohio (more than $1 million), Virginia ($688,802), Florida ($629,553), Wisconsin ($571,811), Missouri ($343,299), Arizona ($323,474), and Maine ($117,612). They lost all but Arizona, often by healthy margins, with their candidates going down by more than ten points in Florida, Missouri, and Maine.

(The NRA also spent more than $100,000 to back the Republican primary campaigns of Sen. Orin Hatch in Utah and Richard Mourdoch in Indiana. Both won their primaries, but Mourdoch was defeated on Election Day.)

If I were a Senate Democrat running for reelection, I'd be prank calling NRA headquarters every day, hoping to make enemies. Their record is just that terrible. In any case, I doubt this new campaign is making anyone other than Republicans break a sweat.


[image source]


No, It's Not Just About Golf. It's Much Worse Than That

I firmly believe that one of the big -- if not the biggest -- reasons that our political environment is so completely effed up is because our media is so completely effed up. If the press covered things that actually mattered and bothered to inform people, it would be very hard for charlatans to gain political purchase. But they don't. What we get instead is not substantially different from celebrity "news" shows; the coverage is about personalities, not issues. We get plenty of stories about who's fighting who, but very little information on what they're fighting about.

For example...


White House Correspondents Association president Ed Henry is standing by his complaints about the lack of press access to President Obama, pushing back against critics who say he and his fellow White House correspondents are just "whining" and don't respect the president's privacy.

"This is a fight for more access, period," Henry told POLITICO late Monday night. "I've heard all kinds of critics saying the White House press corps is whining about a golf game and violating the president's privacy. Nothing could be further from the truth."

"We're not interested in violating the president's privacy. He's entitled to vacations like everyone else. All we're asking for is a brief exception, quick access, a quick photo-op on the 18th green," Henry continued. "It's not about golf -- it's about transparency and access in a broader sense."

No, it's not about golf. At least that much is true. But it's also not about journalism. It's about the President hanging out with Tiger Woods. Celebrity meets celebrity -- big news. Ed Henry is just whining. And he's whining about not being able to cover the not-news.

In this assessment, I'm joined by none other than Charles Krauthammer -- who proves conclusively that it's as impossible to always be wrong as it is to always be right. Politico reports Krauthammer's take on all this: it's all unbelievably stupid.

Charles Krauthammer is blasting the media for complaining about a lack of access to President Barack Obama over the weekend while he golfed with Tiger Woods, calling it “the biggest non-story” since the Kardashian weddings.

“If the guy wants to play golf, the guy deserves a couple of days off. He wants privacy — big deal. This is the biggest non-story that the media have created since the Kardashian weddings,” Krauthammer said on Fox News on Monday. “I don’t understand what the story is and what the outrage is."

Of course, this is the same Charles Krauthammer who thinks the press should be wall-to-wall Benghazi coverage, 24/7. He's hardly a credible voice on the subject of proper media focus. He's more an example of a busted clock being right twice a day. But when even Charles Krauthammer passes up an opportunity to criticize this president on any subject, that tells you something about the validity of Ed Henry's complaint.

If the White House press corps wants better access to celebrity gossip, they should get a gig with Entertainment Tonight.


[image source]


McCain Holds Nation Hostage to a Grudge

John McCain
As anyone who tries to remember will remember, "Benghazi-gate" was a trumped up scandal designed to deny President Obama reelection. Obviously, it failed. The story was that the White House covered up certain facts that would hurt Obama on the campaign trail. So a narrative was cooked up to explain why this was all a big scandal that the media should give wall-to-wall coverage.

The way the narrative was supposed to go was that the President saw electoral doom in a terrorist attack on a consulate in Benghazi. Why this was supposed to sink his chances isn't clear nor was it ever explained. It just would, OK?

So anyway, the White House colluded with the State Department to hide the terrorist attack and blame it on anti-American rioters -- as if there's any substantial difference here. The scandal's narrative arc had it that a terrorist attack would mean the president would have trouble being reelected, but a riot would mean he wouldn't. Why? Because stop asking so many sensible questions, that's why.

Of course, the president won reelection fairly easily and decisively, despite the fact that this whole terrorist/riot thing was cleared up long before election day. Despite Republicans' best efforts to churn up a big, scary scandal, young "Benghazi-gate" had died. It now exists solely as a zombie. It has to. The problem with made up scandals is that they have to be played out to the bitter end, lest the scandal-mongers be exposed as con artists, charlatans, and liars. The problem with "Benghazi-gate" is that it's shambled along in undead pointlessness far beyond even that end stage -- which, for all practical purposes, it entered when Barack Obama was reelected back in November. It continues to lurch around only because the GOP refuses to bury it, as John McCain demonstrated so well this weekend. Steve Benen has the skinny:

..."Meet the Press" host David Gregory pressed the Republican senator on the unsubstantiated charge that the Obama administration has engaged in a "massive cover-up." Gregory asked a simple question: "A cover-up of what?"

McCain, just a few days after explaining how important it is not to be "disagreeable," became unusually belligerent, asking the host whether he cares about the deaths of four Americans.

Gregory tried to get an answer anyway, responding, "You said there is a cover-up. A cover-up of what?" McCain, unable to think of anything substantive, said, "Of the information concerning the deaths of four brave Americans."

Even for McCain, whose capacity has deteriorated sharply in recent years, this was a pathetic display.

"Remember, McCain has had several months to think about this," Benen says. "He's sat through classified and unclassified briefings. He's participated in a series of congressional hearings. He's (presumably) read the results of independent investigations, and had his own questions answered, verbally and in writing."

John McCain should (and in all honesty probably is) be one of the most informed people in America about what went down at that consulate. Yet he claims some sort of cover up and, when pressed as to what exactly is being covered up, gives an answer pretty much equivalent to "bad stuff, OK?" The man clearly has nothing.

"The exchange on 'Meet the Press' wasn't awkward; it wasn't bizarre; it was alarming," Benen says. That it is.

The other main whipster flogging this long deceased horse is Sen. Lindsey Graham. But Graham at least has a reason -- he's up for reelection and he faces some pretty unfair charges of being a RiNO. The best way to avoid being seen as the dreaded "moderate Republican" is to be Tea Party insane about one big, headline-grabbing issue. The base loves conspiracy theories, so Graham's propping this one up and pretending it's still alive.

As dishonest and deliberately partisan as Graham's reason for perpetuating this "scandal" may be, McCain doesn't even have that excuse. He's just out there having some sort of old man tantrum because he's John McCain and that's what John McCain does. There is no scandal here, no cover up, just John McCain dealing out political payback for a grudge that should've grown cold a long, long time ago. McCain himself spilled the beans on that point.

"But to be honest with you, Neil, it goes back to there’s a lot of ill will towards Senator Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly and say he was the worst President since Herbert Hoover and said the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which was nonsense," McCain told Fox News' Neil Cavuto last week. "He was anti-his own party and people — people don’t forget that. You can disagree but if you’re disagreeable, then people don’t forget that."

So Benghazi is just a way for McCain to hold up Chuck Hagel's confirmation (both McCain and Graham concede that Hagel's all but officially in, by the way). We're into the Obama administration's second term and McCain's still fighting the battles of the Bush administration's first term. That's not politics, that's personal. And if playing politics with the nominee for Defense Secretary is bad, then giving him the run around because you're just pissy and a jerk is even worse. McCain is holding up the nation's business because of a grudge that began roughly a decade ago. He's not serving the nation's interest. In fact, it could hardly be said he's serving his own, since no one -- himself included -- is going to get anything out of this. He's just nursing a grudge in his shrunken, cobweb-filled heart.

Want a scandal? Here's one: Sen John McCain's blatant abuse of power to punish a man for disagreeing with the neocons. And to make matters worse, McCain is basically punishing Hagel for being right about Iraq.

There's your scandal. It's a shameful one. And it's one the media will completely ignore.


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Wayne LaPierre: Liar, Fearmonger

Wayne LaPierre
Yesterday, I argued that the NRA's Wayne LaPierre's arguments were almost literally insane. In an op-ed at The Daily Caller, he painted a picture of America as a post-apocalyptic landscape straight out of The Road Warrior or The Walking Dead. It was seriously demented. People who actually believe this should never have access to a firearm, because whatever gland it is that pumps pure, animal fear into your body, they've got a really big one and that makes them dangerous. Fearful people are jumpy people. Jumpy people have itchy trigger fingers. It's not the courageous man who shoots his wife in the night because he thought he heard a burglar. We shouldn't worry about the people LaPierre was fearmongering over, we should worry about the gun-happy nutbars who bought it.

But the NRA, with LaPierre at the front, has been leading an all-out assault on any gun regulation at all, meaningful or not. So Wayne's nightmarish op-ed wasn't the only PR piece he's put out there lately. He also felt the need to respond to the President's State of the Union address, because I guess he's the second most important man in America -- or something. If you need more evidence that he's a crackpot, there ya go. He thinks you watched the State of the Union and thought, "I wonder what Wayne LaPierre thinks? I simply must know!"

But crackpot or not, what we did learn from his SOTU response yesterday is that he's a shameless liar. Take a look at this lede from the L.A. Times:

Wayne LaPierre, a top official of the National Rifle Assn., lobbed a blistering attack on President Obama's gun proposals Thursday, accusing him of exploiting the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting to roll back gun rights.

"It was only a few weeks ago when they were marketing their anti-gun agenda as a way of protecting schoolchildren from harm. That charade ended at the State of the Union when the president himself exposed their fraudulent intentions," said LaPierre, addressing the National Wild Turkey Federation convention in Nashville. He criticized Obama for not mentioning school safety Tuesday.

"It's not about keeping kids safe in school. That wasn't even mentioned in the president's speech," he said. "They only care about their decades-long, decades-old gun control agenda: Ban every gun they can, tax every gun sold and register every American gun owner."

First, when an argument involves mindreading, you know it's crap. LaPierre knows liberals want to "ban every gun they can," not because anyone's said so, but because of Wayne's amazing ESP powers. But that's not the big lie. The big lie is that Obama didn't mention keeping kids safe in schools during the SOTU. Let's do something crazy, like look at the transcript and check:

Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource: our children. It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans -- Americans who believe in the Second Amendment -- have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. (Applause.) Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. (Applause.) Now, if you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun -- more than a thousand.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote. (Applause.) Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. (Applause.) The families of Newtown deserve a vote. (Applause.) The families of Aurora deserve a vote. (Applause.) The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence –- they deserve a simple vote. (Applause.) They deserve a simple vote.

Hey Wayne, I kind of think you're wrong about that one. And I kind of think it's deliberate. That makes you a liar.

Wow, a dishonest Washington lobbyist. Imagine that.


[original image courtesy of Gage Skidmore]


Wayne LaPierre's Horror Show Vision for America

Grim sculpture built with skull
Why do people need access to an unlimited number of assault weapons, endless crates of ammo, and magazines of every imaginable capacity, while being able to dodge a background check by buying it all at a gun show? According to the NRA's Wayne LaPierre, it's because the United States is a blasted hellscape, soon to become even worse. "Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals," writes La Pierre in an op-ed at the reliably loopy Daily Caller. "These are perils we are sure to face—not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival. It’s responsible behavior, and it’s time we encourage law-abiding Americans to do just that."

Hey Wayne, you forgot the Zombie Apocalypse.

I can boil this all down for you pretty easily; we all need guns, because people are pouring over our open southern border and setting up gangs and being al Qaeda (because Obama's not doing anything about them lawless mezkins, you know. He wants to give them amnesty). Pretty soon, the entire country will be like Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy, with looting and killing and who knows what all, because Obama's bankrupting 'murika so bad that we won't be able to afford any police and criminals will run wild, seeking out the unarmed to prey on and that could be your family and do you want that? Well, do you? For the sweet love of God, you need a gun OR WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!

Yes, it really is that racist and paranoid and partisan and cowardly. If this is what's going on in the average NRA member's head, they totally shouldn't be allowed to have firearms. They would be quite literally insane. If there are any NRA members out there reading this, is this really the way you want to be portrayed to everyone else? Because this is the stereotype: a nut who's so afraid of the dark that he needs lots and lots of guns to shoot all the monsters. "Lapierre sounds more every day like a parody of himself: a hysterical old man who started out yelling at kids to get off his lawn and now has barricaded himself indoors with five years worth of canned food and shooting irons," Ed Kilgore comments.

If you're disinclined to read Wayne's apocalyptic fear porn (and who could blame you?), you can get the skinny version at ThinkProgress, where Zack Beauchamp and Ian Millhiser have helpfully boiled it all down to "The Nine Most Insane Quotes From The NRA’s New Apocalyptic Op-Ed." And they are insane.

If this is the best argument against gun control, then I say control away. LaPierre's problems -- and those of people who think like him -- can't be solved by piles and piles of firearms. They'd benefit more from psychiatric outpatient care, with a regimen of powerful anti-psychotic pharmaceuticals. Another note to the NRA members reading this -- other people don't think this way. Fear is not the theme music of our existence. Most people actually enjoy their lives and don't spend a minute preparing for all the people they think they'll inevitably have to kill.

And LaPierre does argue that this is all nearly inevitable. "President Obama is leading this country to financial ruin, borrowing over a trillion dollars a year for phony 'stimulus' spending and other payoffs for his political cronies," he writes. "Nobody knows if or when the fiscal collapse will come, but if the country is broke, there likely won’t be enough money to pay for police protection. And the American people know it."

This is crazypants survivalist nutjob stuff, believed in so strongly by the mother of Adam Lanza that she stocked up on guns and ammmo, building a nice little private arsenal -- just like Wayne LaPierre recommends. That collection of "protective" weapons was used to kill her, then twenty-six human beings at Sandy Hook Elementary -- twenty of whom were children. In other words, far from preventing crime and protecting people, it was exactly this kind of thinking that turned an elementary school into a bloody crime scene.

That's the world LaPierre thinks we should prepare to defend ourselves in; a world where gun nuts need guns to protect themselves from other gun nuts who need guns to protect themselves other guns nuts who... lather, rinse, repeat. It's a prophecy that can only become self-fulfilling if enough people really believe. If enough people share Wayne LaPierre's vision, we really can live in that world where you will need a gun to protect yourself and your family from other people with guns.

That's Wayne La Pierre's America -- and it is sick.


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Mitt Rubio

It looks like Greg Sargent was right. Marco Rubio didn't offer any real alternatives to ideas laid out by President Obama last night. The Gulp Heard 'Round the World is getting a lot of coverage today and Rubio can be thankful of that. It's not really all that embarrassing and it probably won't affect his political future, while his response might've otherwise.

What Rubio did lay out was a perfect imitation of the Mitt Romney campaign platform -- and a perfect example of what's really wrong with the GOP. It was all tax cuts and small government and abortion and drill baby, drill. Americans didn't like this record the last time it was played, it's not likely they're going to like it any better now. Set the biographical introduction aside and the rest was just complaining.

It's convincing evidence that Republicans think their problems are all cosmetic. Prior to the election, Republicans defended attacks on minorities as proof that they weren't willing to "pander" to them -- as if not ignoring someone's concerns is some sort of a kiss-up and not responsive government. Choosing Rubio to deliver the Republican response shows that Republicans are now ready to pander, but that this whole "responsive government" thing is just going a step too far for them. Pandering is all you're going to get. It represents an apparent belief that Mitt Romney lost because he wasn't a somber-faced Latino in a serious dark suit, not because Americans rejected his proposals. Republicans continue to make the mistake of thinking that Americans rejected the packaging, not the same tired, old, unappetizing slop inside it. Marco Rubio is just the latest "new and improved!" sticker slapped on the party, without any attempt whatsoever to change the party in any substantial way at all. The sticker is the only change -- and it is, of course, a lie.

"Republicans face a choice," wrote Greg Sargent this morning. "Either they can accept the realities of public opinion and become a functional opposition party, by working with Obama and Democrats to get some of what they want while allowing Obama to claim some victories of his own, as unbearable a prospect as that might seem. This is what Newt Gingrich eventually did in the 1990s. Or they can continue to reflexively obstruct everything, with an eye towards — well, it’s not clear what this would accomplish, except kicking the can down the road in hopes of taking back the Senate in 2014, making it even easier to tie up Obama’s agenda in advance of another grab at the White House in 2016."

And the latter won't be as easy as they may want to believe. President Obama delivered a remarkably combative State of the Union last night. For example, on he subject of climate change, he told Republicans directly, "[I]f Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will."

I think you can sum up the GOP's problem pretty simply: they continually set themselves up as the villain. The GOP's strategy to win elections is to oppose and block everything, then blame Democrats and Obama for not getting anything done. The problem here is that they have to do all this obstruction right out there in the open and people are starting to notice. And that means that when they block very popular things, the public doesn't take it as a favor.

Meanwhile, their relentless obsession with entitlements villainizes them further. They might as well all wear top hats and caps, twirling their mustaches as they demand that grandma's Medicare and Social Security be cut, that families lose food stamps, that the jobless lose their unemployment benefits. On gun violence they side with the gun fetishists and they've even managed to side with rapists on an alarmingly regular basis. They side with Wall Street every chance they can get, protecting the ability of the wealthy to jam their hands in your pockets pretty much at will. When their idea of ideal income equality is raising taxes on the poor, in order to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, they really can't expect people to start seeing them as a heroes. You're putting on that black top hat and cape willingly guys, no one's forcing it on you.

If Republicans believe their problem is that Mitt Romney doesn't look enough like Marco Rubio, the coming months will give them plenty of opportunities to realize their mistake. If they don't come around and realize that a lack of Rubios isn't their problem, they very well may be ineducable.


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Nugent SOTU Invite Not Helping the Gun Lobby's Cause

It probably won't surprise anyone too much to learn that Republicans in congress own more guns than their Democratic counterparts. More than twice as many GOP congress critters own firearms than dems -- 119 to 46. This probably has as much, if not more, to do with demographics than ideology. Republicans tend to be elected from more rural districts, where hunting and fishing are common pastimes. Democrats tend to come from more urban districts, where they really don't have a lot of use for a firearm.

Still, Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman might want to tread a little lightly for a bit, because I doubt his heavily-armed colleagues are too awfully happy with him right now. At a time when polling shows a vast majority in support of gun control, Stockman has invited a Motor City motormouth who vehemently opposes regulation to be his guest at tonight's State of the Union Address. And said motormouth is promising to run his mouth.

[Raw Story:]

Conservative rocker Ted Nugent says that the media underestimates him so he will “dominate” them and the “lies of the left” following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday.

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) on Monday announced that he had invited Nugent to attend the annual speech, even though the pro-gun activist had been investigated by the Secret Service for threatening the life of the president.

Speaking to KFYI talk radio host Mike Broomhead on Monday, Nugent said that he would attend the speech “knowing that everything President Obama ever said has been a masterful scam – a masterful smoke-and-mirrors deceit, fraud, scam from hell.”

That ought to go well.

You might remember the last time Nugent decided to share his wisdom with the world. He caught the attention of the secret service. Previously, he threatened to shoot both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with an assault rifle -- not privately and off-the-record, but on stage. Like many on the right, Nugent seems to confuse debate for something like a celebrity roast, where the most unfair, unfounded, and insulting comment scores the most points. They don't think calling you a "libtard" is an insult, so much as a slamdunk argument.

So, are gun control advocates shaking in their shoes in advance of Nugent's promised media tsunami? A headline of Talking Points Memo answers that question: "Ted Nugent's SOTU Invite Is The Best News Gun Control Advocates Have Heard All Week":

[P]roponents of things like creating universal background checks and other gun regulations predicted on Monday that Nugent’s appearance will be a boon to their side and make it harder for gun rights advocates to make their case.

“If there’s better evidence that the NRA’s Washington lobbyists have lost their way, I can’t think of it,” Mark Glaze, director of New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told TPM Monday. “They keep finding new ways to alienate their own members, which is a strange way to run a membership organization.”

Glaze and other gun control proponents often point to surveys of gun owners that showed broad support for expanded background checks, the chief post-Newtown goal of gun control advocates and a measure the NRA leadership opposes.

Remember how I said that congressional gun numbers were probably demographic? Yeah, demographics aren't Republicans' friend right now. Getting some loudmouth fruitcake to shriek about how much he hates the position of most Americans isn't going to help any either. With his invitation, Stockman's taken everything that everyone thinks is wrong with the GOP, amped it up to eleven, and is set to broadcast it nationwide. Remember, Nugent's the type of wingnut who thinks cooking up a zinger of an insult is the same as sitting at the feet of Socrates. Unless someone wises up right quick, Ted's set to tell about 92% of Americans to suck his AR-15 and like it.

For the record, that's not really helpful to the GOP's efforts to fight gun control or gain more voters in national elections.

"You’re going to have a guy who recently threatened the life of the President opposite over 20 survivors from some of our nation’s most gruesome episodes of gun violence," Ladd Everitt, spokesperson for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence told Talking Points Memo. "It’s heartless, and emblematic of just how radical the Republican Party has become on this issue."

It's also idiotic. Rep. Stockman will probably make few friends among his armed-to-the-teeth colleagues tonight. Is it possible that listening to music too loud can render you politically tone deaf? If so, that would explain Steve Stockman's choice of SOTU guest.


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The GOP plan to preserve the job market status quo

Comic demonstrates folly of trickle-down
Steve Benen brings up a damned good point, as he so often does. In writing about Republicans and the sequestration fight, he points out the the GOP blaming Obama for the sequestration plan is BS and that a major party talking point makes no sense.

...Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who appears to spend more time on Sunday shows than in the Senate, said he's open to some revenues as a way to replace the sequester, but added, "[W]e have raised taxes. Why do we have to raise taxes again?"

Of course, by that logic, there's no reason not to ask, "We have cut spending. Why do we have to cut spending again?"

The question behind these questions is "what future are you preparing for?"

See, it works like this: right now, a major driver of our deficits is unemployment. Employment has been rising, but joblessness is still a major problem. If government is running higher than normal deficits, while cutting spending, it's because there's a revenue shortage caused by all these people out there without income. Contrary to what rightwing hacks tell you, we don't have a spending problem. The problem is that a large chunk the tax base has shrunk.

If you were to cut spending to match this shrunken tax base, that would mean you're preparing for a future where these levels of unemployment are the new normal. After all, cutting spending means cutting demand, which in turn means unemployment. Republicans like to say that it's a bad idea to raise taxes in a recovering economy, but the truth is that it's a much, much worse idea to cut spending when economic times are tight -- which is what Republicans always seem to want to do in their panicky, reactionary little hearts. The plane isn't actually crashing -- we've cleared that danger, it's just some turbulence now -- but Republicans in their reactionary fervor want to tear out seats, jettison luggage, and throw a few stewardesses out the hatch to lighten the load. What Republicans are doing here is literally cheerleading economic panic, in order to score some cheap political points with the few remaining nutjobs still willing to vote for them.

If you want to prepare for -- and ensure -- a brighter future than Republicans imagine, you raise taxes in a targeted way, to pay for normal levels of spending. Those who do most of the heavy lifting in our economy -- the consumers -- should get the lightest burden and those who merely profit off the money spent by consumers -- the suppliers -- should get the heavier burden. Progressive taxation works.

But the future Republicans would have us prepare for is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As I said, cutting spending is attacking demand. What Republicans want to do is make the economy fit the joblessness, rather than prepare the nation for growth. It's like taking a goldfish out of a big bowl and putting it into a much smaller one. The fish fits the fishbowl better now, but you've stunted its growth. It'll never get any bigger. Not only would they be preparing for a future without job growth, they'd be ensuring it.

Republicans have pinned all their political hopes on one simple strategy -- they used to pair it with a racist southern strategy, but that's dead now. And that one remaining strategy is to operate as if everything Democrats say is wrong. It's gotten so bad that they're rejecting science left and right, while lecturing everyone on the blessed gift of being impregnated by a rapist. They've become so contrarian that they've driven themselves quite insane and they're still charging ahead with it. But the first step on this road to fact-free madness was taken by Reagan himself, when he declared the laws of supply and demand repealed and introduced the world to the magical wonders of trickle-down economics. Left was right, up was down, day was night, and employers -- not consumers -- were suddenly the "job creators." It's a lie that's scarred American politics since.

And it's a lie that's become a religion. Republicans no longer see supply-side economics as a scam to get more money to political donors. They've fallen for their own flim-flammery. And they're busy preparing America for glorious second coming of trickle-down, where jobs are few -- and kept few by slashing spending every time the sun shines and again every time it rains. A wonderful new normal, which looks exactly like today and maybe -- just maybe if they're really good and really lucky -- even a little worse. Because high unemployment is good for employers. It makes workers plentiful and keeps wages low. And if Americans don't have a lot of money to spend on the goods and services they produce, then America is not the only country in the world.

Besides, liberals are against it, which means it must be fantastic, right?


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You Don't Change a Gun Culture Overnight

Graffiti showing chimp holding pistol
It's beginning to look like an assault weapons ban may be doomed. Of all the firearms regulation proposals, it probably had the least chance of surviving intact. It's a little bit of a pity, but not a tragedy. Universal background checks are beginning to look more and more like our future and, frankly, would do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and nuts with murder on their minds. As I've pointed out before, an assault weapons ban can be passed piecemeal. It already has public support, so a ban on, say, high-capacity magazines might be able to pass eventually. If it doesn't, votes against it may be used to unseat an NRA stooge or two and make it easier the next time around. It could be a long fight, but it's also a necessary one. I'm not a big fan of incrementalism, but if baby steps are what it takes to get there, then that's what we'll have to do.

Meanwhile, this...

[Washington Post:]

The second-ranking House Republican said Tuesday that he supports improving the federal background-check system for gun buyers but stopped short of endorsing universal checks on all weapon purchases.

The comments by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) came as two GOP lawmakers from suburban districts announced plans to co-sponsor legislation to make gun trafficking a federal crime for the first time. The moves signal potential openings for bipartisan compromise on gun control, a debate so far dominated by Democrats with little said or done by Republicans.

Cantor, giving the most specific comments on gun control by a GOP congressional leader since President Obama outlined his proposals in late January, told CNN in an interview that lawmakers could consider adopting a plan implemented by Virginia after the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. Since the shootings, the state has linked mental-health information to law enforcement databases used to conduct background checks for gun purchases.

"I think that we can take a lot of lessons from what Virginia did and put it in place at the federal level," Cantor said. "Because there’s a lot of states that aren’t doing what Virginia is doing to try to beef up the database for the background checks to make sure that we actually can do something that does have a chance at reducing the likelihood and hopefully eliminating that from happening again."

Cantor's actually scapegoating the mentally ill to take the focus off guns, but it's a start. A person can only change the subject if you let them. He wouldn't say he'd support universal background checks -- but he just as carefully avoided saying he wouldn't. When CNN followed up with his office, Cantor's aides refused to clarify his position on universal background checks as well. Conclusion: he doesn't want to say yes, but he's terribly, terribly afraid of the bad PR and backlash that would come from saying no. He's on the ropes. Give him a face-saving measure and he'll probably take it.

And it may very well be that the assault weapons ban was always meant to be the gecko's tail here, designed to break off easily, while leaving the rest of the gun control package intact. Give Cantor the assault weapons ban, let him do a victory lap around wingnut media, and get the most effective regulations passed -- universal background checks and a stricter gun trafficking law that makes straw purchases much more difficult. Getting those two would be a big win.

There is no doubt that whatever happens here won't end the gun control debate. And whatever happens won't end the push for stricter and saner controls. Already, polling shows that an NRA endorsement is seen as a negative by most voters -- the momentum is clearly not on the side of those opposed to seeing our incredibly loose gun laws tightened up. In a lot of districts, ads telling voters a candidate took money from the NRA or scores high on NRA "report cards" might be enough to get rid of a few speed bumps to reform in coming elections. What George H.W. Bush did for the word "liberal," we may be able to do for "NRA supporter."

If we get the background checks and the gun trafficking law, we score a big win. We can get the assault weapons ban later -- in one big chunk or a bit at a time. This won't be over. Not by a long shot.


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Defending Our Most Basic Freedom

Long line at polling place

It's one of the most sacred rights you have. They should make it as painless as possible.
-Miami-Dade resident Jonathan Piccolo.

It's not the "right" to own a military assault-style weapon that Piccolo is talking about here, but rather the right from which all our other rights spring. It's our most basic freedom and our most powerful form of liberty. It's the ability to bloodlessly change government and to influence the course of our nation's history. The right to vote is the great equalizer -- no one, no matter how rich or powerful -- has a vote any more powerful than yours. Since the Supreme Court determined that money is speech, they may be able to speak louder than you can, but your vote is still equal to theirs. If you're in line behind an ex-president or a Wall Street tycoon, they get one and you get one. Democracy is the freedom we should guard the most fiercely, because democracy is the way we keep all the other ones and even earn new freedoms. There is no free nation that doesn't allow its citizens to vote. There is no free nation that's a sham democracy with a rigged vote. People without democracy are -- by definition -- not free people. Which is why I always say that the enemies of democracy are the enemies of freedom. There aren't many facts I'm as sure of as that.

Which means there's a right side and a wrong side to a battle shaping up in this country -- and one party is staking out the "enemies of democracy" position. Which would make the other the good guys.

[New York Times:]

With studies suggesting that long lines at the polls cost Democrats hundreds of thousands of votes in November, party leaders are beginning a push to make voting and voter registration easier, setting up a likely new conflict with Republicans over a deeply polarizing issue.

White House officials have told Congressional leaders that the president plans to press for action on Capitol Hill, and Democrats say they expect him to highlight the issue in his State of the Union address next week. Democrats in the House and Senate have already introduced bills that would require states to provide online voter registration and allow at least 15 days of early voting, among other things.

Fourteen states are also considering whether to expand early voting, including the battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Virginia, according to FairVote, a nonprofit group that advocates electoral change. Florida, New York, Texas and Washington are looking at whether to ease registration and establish preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

According to the report, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that in the most recent election cycle, "18 percent of Democrats said they waited at least a half-hour to vote, compared with 11 percent of independents and 9 percent of Republicans." When twice as many Democrats as Republicans face long lines, then we're looking at a rigged vote. And it's easy to dismiss Republican attempts to steal the election as a failure -- after all, Obama won -- but that ignores the fact that more people voted Democrat than Republican in congressional races, yet Republicans still held on to the House of Representatives. In that case, the vote was rigged through gerrymandering -- a fact Republicans actually bragged about -- but a rigged vote still makes for a sham democracy. And a sham democracy means a people who are not entirely free.

While Republican attempts to build a sham democracy through voter ID laws and electoral vote rigging have gotten a lot of attention, these other methods of undermining our most basic freedom seem to have been getting little attention -- despite being more effective in the real world. The GOP may not have been able to steal the presidency, but they managed to steal the House.

"Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote," Barack Obama said in his second inaugural address. And he's right in the way that Jonathan Piccolo is right; it should be as easy as possible. Lines so long that people give up are intentional and every person who has to leave those lines to go back to work or return to their families represents a deliberate erosion of democracy.

The enemies of democracy are the enemies of freedom. We have to fight back against those enemies now, because if they enjoy much more success, they'll make it impossible to fight back later.


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Rove's Plan to Win Elections: Start a GOP Civil War

Karl Rove
It's a problem that Republicans simply cannot ignore. In order to win a Republican primary, a candidate has to be acceptably insane. But, come general election time, what Republican voters think is acceptable everyone else finds unacceptable. And even when the nuts manage to get elected, people get sick of them in a big hurry. If the 2010 election was a big win for Tea Party Republicans, 2012 saw to it that many of those big winners turned out to be one-termers. So even when the nuts manage to eke out an election win, their political careers don't have legs.

One man has a plan to reverse this trend. But the problem with his plan is that he plans to replace the nuts with a different class of nuts.

[Raw Story:]

The organizers of American Crossroads hope to bring electoral victory to the Republican Party by defeating unelectable tea party candidates in GOP primary races. The new super PAC, called the Conservative Victory Project, will be run by American Crossroads president Steven Law and is supported by former Bush political adviser Karl Rove.

“There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” Law told the New York Times on Saturday. “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.”

The Victory Project plans to oppose candidates like Christine O’Donnell, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Though running in places where Republicans were favored, the tea party-backed candidates lost the general election after defeating moderate Republicans in the primary. Many tea party candidates who were victorious in 2010, such as Allen West and Joe Walsh, also ended up being defeated by Democratic challengers in 2012.

The problem for Rove here is that he sucks. Not only did his Crossroads GPS PAC spend buttloads on the 2012 elections with nothing to show for it, but his history as a political strategist is awful. This is a guy who thought nominating Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, invading Iraq in search of phantom WMD, and outing Valerie Plame were all good ideas. Because of Karl Rove's masterful political strategizing, George W. Bush left office as one of the least popular presidents of recent times, with low approvals rivaling -- and occasionally worse than -- those of Richard Nixon.

This is the guy who thinks he can pick winners.

And the first sign that Rove's completely screwing this all up is the fact that we even know about it. Rove decided it would be super-smart to shout his election strategy from the rooftops, ensuring that the 'bagger base would be good and pissed off and ready to fight a Republican civil war. The smart thing to do would be to keep it to yourself and work quietly behind the scenes.

Democrats can be thankful that Rove didn't do that smart thing. Now Republicans will blow insane amounts of cash winning their primaries, only to go into the general election pretty broke. This is what happened this cycle in Wisconsin, where former governor and Bush administration official Tommy Thompson had to waste his war chest fighting off Tea Party frootloops -- as well as make seriously unwise statements to prove he was crazy enough to win a Republican primary. It's one of the reasons we now have Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the first openly lesbian senator elected to that chamber and one of the most liberal politicians in Washington. The primary battle of Tea Party purity vs. electability ensured that the winner would not be electable. It's hard to see how it would turn out any different any place else.

If a seat's so competitive that electability is a factor, then Rove's strategy to win it has already been proven a failure.


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