On Immigration, Will the GOP Cave to Racists?

Anti-immigration protesters
In a piece for The Daily Beast, Patricia Murphy writes that a new front is about to open up in the GOP Civil War. At this very moment, House Republicans are locked away at a "retreat," where they're trying to knock together some sort of immigration reform bill. So far, John Boehner has put forth two principles -- one vague and one specific -- that would be required to get House leadership's support. The first is the vague one: that any law would go into effect only after so far undefined "specific enforcement triggers have been implemented." The second is that there be no pathway to citizenship.

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that there would be no automatic pathway to citizenship -- people covered by the reforms would have nothing standing in the way of citizenship, other than the fact that they'd have to officially declare that desire. This is pretty much a fig leaf for the GOP, whose messaging had until recently argued that a pathway to citizenship was "amnesty" and the worst thing ever! By saying there's "no pathway to citizenship," House leaders hope to avoid charges of "caving" to Democrats on the issue. But it would be much more accurate to say there would no longer be any glide path to citizenship, since the path is cleared of any obstacles, should you wish to follow it. You've just got to land the thing yourself.

Whether that fig leaf is enough to get enough Republicans on board is still an open question. Greg Sargent has argued that we'll know when they define the "specific enforcement triggers." If the triggers are unreasonable and unattainable, like a giant wall closing off a ridiculous percentage of the southern border or 100% use of and compliance with e-Verify, then that means Republicans have failed to agree among themselves and they're trying to blame the failure of reform on Democrats.

But what would really be responsible for that failure? In a remarkable moment of candor, some Republicans say racism would be to blame.

Buzzfeed: “Part of it, I think — and I hate to say this, because these are my people — but I hate to say it, but it’s racial,” said the Southern Republican lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If you go to town halls people say things like, ‘These people have different cultural customs than we do.’ And that’s code for race.”

There are a range of policy reasons for opposing plans to liberalize immigration or to regularize undocumented immigrants in the country, ones revolving around law-and-order concerns and the labor market. But that perceived thread of xenophobia, occasionally expressed bluntly on the fringes of the Republican Party and on the talk radio airwaves, has driven many Hispanic voters away from a Republican leadership that courts them avidly. And some Republicans who back an immigration overhaul, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and one of the Republican Party’s most vocal champions of a pathway to citizenship, acknowledge that race remains a reality in the immigration debate.

“There will always be people [who have] different reasons for opposing the change. We have a history in this country of demagoguery when it comes [to immigration]. You know, ‘Irish Need Not Apply.’ There’s nothing new going on today that’s gone on before. This isn’t the first time that there’s been some ugliness around the issue of immigration,” Graham said.
It's the nativist base that cheered on Arizona's racist anti-immigration law -- one that requires anyone who police suspect might be undocumented to produce the proper papers on demand, like a "papers please" scene from Hogan's Heroes. It's the same base that had John McCain star in a presidential campaign commercial with a somewhat problematic Arizona sheriff. And it's that same base that dragged Sen. Marco Rubio from 2016 frontrunner to conservative has-been after he took the lead on an earlier reform effort.

In all but the last example, the base was encouraged by the party -- or, at least, by the party mouthpieces in rightwing media. No one spoke out when the base made Joe Arpaio -- who should've been nothing more than a racist, birther embarrassment -- a party hero. No one spoke out on any of this stuff. And now party leadership expects them to turn on a dime, because it's politically expedient.

Maybe Boehner's more of a leader than I suspected. Maybe he can twist enough arms and promise enough campaign financing to actually get a working version of this out of the House. At this point, there is some reason for optimism.

But the base will not follow. At this point, they've been trained to respond to anything less than driving all undocumented people out of the country with pitchforks as a form of "amnesty." If Republicans agree to any substantive reforms, the base -- driven by what even many Republicans admit is bigotry -- will be extremely displeased at best. And in revolt, at worst.

We could see a Second Wave of Tea Party sentiment after this, an angry denouncement of the "RiNOs" who let the liberals pull one over on them. A rabid, raw, nakedly racist backlash against GOP leadership and party establishment.

But it has to happen sometime. The party has to shed the racists to make some progress. It may hurt them in the short term, but there is no other moral choice. The only alternative is to go back to pandering to bigots -- a position the party has taken far too often on far too many issues.

It has to stop some time. Now would be as good a time as any.


[photo by Mike Schinkel]


Rand Paul's Answer to Poverty: Wage More War on Women

Rand Paul
I've never been extremely impressed with Kentucky's freshman Senator
Rand Paul. He seems keenly proud of his own brilliance -- despite the
fact that few people other than himself can manage to find any evidence
of it. His desire to be a Senator seems to stem more from his need to be
a Very Important Person than his desire to serve his country. And you
don't take it upon yourself to respond to the President's State of the Union Address
-- in no official capacity whatsoever -- unless you think people need
to appreciate the beneficent fruits of your towering intellect.

In short, Rand Paul is an incredible egotist, made even more insufferable by the fact that he's not actually all that smart
He's five gallons of smart in a 50 gallon drum -- and the rest of the
barrel is filled up by bullcrap. That's my impression. And it's an
impression he recently did very little to dispell.

ThinkProgress: At a luncheon for the Chamber of Commerce in Lexington, KY, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) floated the idea of capping government benefits for women who have children out of wedlock, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

While he said that preventing unplanned pregnancies should be in the
hands of communities and families, he added, “Maybe we have to say
‘enough’s enough, you shouldn’t be having kids after a certain amount.”‘
He went on to say, “I don’t know how you do all that because then it’s
tough to tell a woman with four kids that she’s got a fifth kid we’re
not going to give her any more money. But we have to figure out how to
get that message through because that is part of the answer.”

The idea of withholding benefits from women who have more than a certain
number of children is actually current policy in many states. While
most programs through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, or welfare) give families more money if they have more children, 16 states cap the assistance and don’t give any extra money for new children if someone in the household is already receiving aid.

Want to take a guess at how good this policy is at eliminating poverty? ThinkProgress
goes on to report that it doesn't make a dent in poverty at all,
because duh. In fact, many of the states that had implemented such a cap
are in the process of undoing it.

But worse than Paul's ignorance of the consequence of his proposal is
his complete unawareness that Republican policies could possibly be
contributing to any of this. Your party reduces the number of abortion
clinics by regulating them out of business and fights to keep women from
getting contraceptive coverage in their health insurance -- both of
which affect women in poverty to a far greater degree than anyone else
-- and then you complain that poor women have too many children?

Seriously, how stupid do you actually have to be? And Tea Party darling Rand Paul can STFU
about "individual liberty" now, because you know who else thinks having
the government limit the size of families is a good idea? China.
For someone who claims to be on the side of freedom, Rand Paul -- like
pretty much ever Republican official out there -- sure spends a lot of
time thinking up new ways to micromanage women's lives. The word these guys are looking for here isn't "liberty," it's "totalitarianism."

The whole thing is idiotic beyond words and Sen. Poodlehair
here seems to be convinced that it's the most common sense thing in the
world. Why? Because he's a Republican, that's why. For Republicans, the
solution to every problem is to find the right person to punish, then
you punish them hard and punish them long -- unless they're wealthy.
That's why they don't believe in global warming; they can't figure out
how beating poor people, women, and minorities with ax handles would
solve the problem. So it must not exist.

For them, it's create a problem, then complain about the people the problem affects. That's how geniuses like Rand Paul operate.

You really wish those geniuses were rare.


[photo by Gage Skidmore]


Economics, the State of the Union, and the Ever-Dimming Appeal of the GOP

Protester holds sign reading, 'NO LONGER REPUBLICAN'
As State of the Union speeches go, President Obama's 2014 appearance
before the joint chambers of congress went well. Of the people who
watched the speech, 53% had a "very positive reaction to his speech."
Conservatives will no doubt point out that the sample is skewed left,
but the poll can hardly be blamed for not including people who refused
to watch the speech. The audience was largely Democrat and indie, so the
sample is largely Democrat and indie.

Still, there's some nasty news for Republicans here. The CNN flash poll's
respondents were "44% Democratic and 17% Republican." Yet, when asked
if "the president's policies will move the country in the right
direction," 71% said they would -- a number way too high to be
explained by Democratic boosterism. That number has to include a lot of
indies and even some Republicans. CNN reports that the number of dems in
the sample is "about 12 points more Democratic than the population as a
whole," so 71-12=59.

But let's not get all teabagger about things and start "unskewing" polls
to advantage Republicans. Let's look at numbers that need no

A Pew Research/USA Today poll
released a few days ago polled several of the central themes of the
State of the Union. From income inequality to reducing poverty to
increasing the minimum wage to extending jobless benefits. The public is
with the president and Democrats. And on the question of how to deal
with most of these issues, Republicans are pretty far outside the

On only one issue do Republican voters agree with the majority of
Americans -- that the minimum wage should be raised to $10.10 an hour.
And it's hardly a landslide; 53% think Americans should get at least a
living wage. But it shows that even the party's voters are at odds with
the party's elected officials.

But part of the problem is that Republicans don't seem to understand the
issues surrounding poverty. 57% of Republicans say that people get rich
by working harder than everyone else -- a silly argument that would
make the guy who works on a loading dock a billionaire and the guy who
sits at a desk trading money a pauper. Not surprisingly, this view is
not shared by the majority. Only 35% agree with this explanation of
wealth creation. People are far more likely to explain wealth as a
matter of luck and privilege. 63% of Democrats and 52% of Independents
believe that someone become wealthy "because he or she has had more

Only 36% say the economic system is "fair to most Americans," 60% say
the economy is rigged to favor the wealthy, and 60% say most people are
willing to work hard to get ahead. 54% would like to see taxes raised on
the rich to expand programs to fight poverty, only 44% believe that
government aid results in dependency, and a measly 35% believe that
"lowering taxes on the wealthy to encourage more investment and economic
growth" -- i.e., the GOP's core economic message or
"trickle-down/supply side economics" -- would help to reduce poverty.

The President walked in to that congressional chamber last night with a
deck of winning cards. No wonder his speech was well-received outside
Republican circles.

And no wonder those Republican circles keep shrinking.


[photo by Matt Baran]


Motionless, Broken GOP Complains About Being Left Behind

Photoshop image of GOP behind sign asking, '#WhatUsGovern'?
Tonight's the President's State of the Union address and the big news on the right is that the president plans to use the lawful power of the presidency to get some stuff done. Needless to say, conservatives think this is the worst thing ever! For the rest of America, however, this is seen as a good idea. Greg Sargent points to a Washington Post/ABC News poll that includes this relevant response:

Presidents have the power in some cases to bypass Congress and take
action by executive order to accomplish their administration’s goals. Is
this approach something you…

Support: 52

Oppose: 46

 "In other words, despite the inevitable screams about Obama 'tyranny,'
this approach will politically be at worst a wash (independents are
split on it 49-49) and at best a net positive (in addition to majority
support for it, moderates favor it by 56-43," Sargent reports, "only
Republicans and conservatives oppose it in large numbers)."

And you don't have to look far for other data to explain that result. To return to a Pew poll
I wrote about yesterday, a majority of Americans see the Republican
Party for what it is: extremist, hyper-partisan, enthralled to
lobbyists, unethical, dishonest, and not concerned with "the needs of
people like me." If that's the way Americans see Republicans, why on
Earth would they want GOP input on anything? The more you could get done
without people like that, the better off everyone would be.

And if you think congress has been dysfunctional before, imagine what it
will be like with a fractured GOP that can't even agree amongst
themselves -- which seems to be the direction that the GOP Civil War is
dragging everything.

Whenever presidents give State of the Union addresses, the opposition
party chooses one person to deliver the official response. In recent
years, an additional tea party response was added. This year, there will
be three––count ‘em, THREE––separate State of the Union rebuttals from
three different Republicans. The official Republican party response will be delivered by Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, giving her a brief moment in the spotlight to make a name for herself nationally.

However, last week the group Tea Party Express announced that Senator Mike Lee, who played a major part in Ted Cruz‘s big 21-hour Obamacare filibuster, would be delivering the official tea party response to the State of the Union. Previous tea party post-SOTU speakers have been Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rand Paul.

And speaking of Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator will be… yep, you guessed it!… delivering his own rebuttal to the State of the Union. Paul’s speech appears not to be in connection with any group, just something he decided to do.

Wow. What a show of party unity, huh? Three separate responses are a
pretty good sign that none of these people are on the same page and that
none of these groups trust the others to speak to their concerns. A
party being pulled in three separate directions isn't a party that's
going to be able to function very well. This explains why all the
"accomplishments" of the GOP have been the negative consequences of
doing nothing -- i..e., the government shutdown, the debt limit fiasco,
the sequester kicking in, etc. When you want people to fight over how
and when to pull the brake lever on a runaway train -- and in the
process, fail to throw the lever at all -- you go ahead and call the
GOP. It's what they're good at. It's hard to imagine why you'd want
someone to do that, though.

And so the American people don't. They want the President to use his
executive authority as an end run around a broken and nonfunctional
Republican Party. You can't count on the GOP to get things done, so we
don't. If we rely on Republican cooperation -- with the president, with
Democrats, and even with themselves -- we'll never see anything
accomplished. If we want government to work, we'll have to do our best
to get it to work without them.

Luckily, there's a way to do that.


[image by DonkeyHotey]


How Not to Deny You're Waging a War on Women

You may need a refresher on Virginia state Sen. Dick Black, a far-right
Republican who just doesn't get how marital rape can be a thing. If so,
here's Mother Jones' Molly Redden's reporting on the subject from January 15.

After taking a drubbing in last year's state elections, Virginia
Republicans are debating whether their party has come to be defined by
its extremists. But in a congressional district in Northern Virginia,
one of the state's main instigators of culture warfare, state Sen.
Richard H. "Dick" Black, is running in the Republican primary to replace
longtime GOP moderate Rep. Frank Wolf, who is retiring. And he's
guaranteed to ignite wedge-issue passion. Exhibit A: As a state
legislator, Black opposed making spousal rape a crime, citing
the impossibility of convicting a husband accused of raping his wife
"when they're living together, sleeping in the same bed, she's in a
nightie, and so forth."

Black has referred to emergency contraception, which does not cause abortions, as "baby pesticide."
Black also fought to block a statue of Abraham Lincoln at a former
Confederate site in Richmond. He wasn't sure, he explained at the time,
that statues of Lincoln belonged in Virginia. He has argued that
abortion is a worse evil than slavery. And once, to demonstrate why
libraries should block pornography on their computers, Black invited a
TV reporter to film him using a library terminal to watch violent rape porn.

Last week, we got the not-unwelcome news that Black was dropping out of that race.
Black said he was staying in the state Senate to "maintain our 20/20
split," but there's good reason to believe that he was pushed out. Black
is exactly the kind of candidate establishment Republicans don't want running in November -- the kind who uses hard-ass conservativism
to be a jerk and troll everyone who isn't a true believer. Maybe he
could've won the district or maybe he couldn't have. But he would've
been guaranteed to engage in jackass antics that would make national
waves and make the party look bad as a whole. And, as I pointed out last week, Black's not the only candidate that Republicans have who's making trouble for the GOP as a whole.

But a bigger problem for the party might just come from non-candidates who they can't force out of the spotlight; Brainiacs
who think they've mastered the art of spin and think that they can fix
the party's problems freelance. You know, masterminds like Mike Huckabee, whose attempt to spin away the the GOP's "War on Women" label only managed to confirm it.

And then there's serial headline-grabber/foot-in-mouth inserter Rand Paul, who decided -- like Huckabee -- that it's Democrats who are waging a war on women because Bill and Hillary:

Political Wire: Said
Paul: "One of the workplace laws and rules that I think are good is
that bosses shouldn't prey on young interns in their office. And I think
really the media seems to have given President Clinton a pass on this.
He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his
office. There is no excuse for that, and it is predatory behavior."

He noted that "sometimes it's hard to separate" Bill and Hillary Clinton
and then added, "And then they have the gall to stand up and say
Republicans are having a war on women? So yes, I think it's a factor.
It's not Hillary's fault, but it is a factor in judging Bill Clinton and

The best response I've come across to this insane false equivalence comes from DPM at Balloon Juice; "Clearly, one instance of sexual harassment almost twenty years ago requires, as I’m sure any serious Burkean
would agree, that women pay for their own contraception for the rest of
recorded time without further comment." And of course, there's the
invasive and unnecessary ultrasound laws and the voter suppression and
the candidates like Black who think it's impossible to rape your wife
and your talk show hosts who think women who use birth control are sluts
and you get the idea.

And of course, since the most recent example of a dem War on Women that Sen. Poodlehair
could come up with was two decades ago, you kind of get the idea that
evidence of said WoW is laughably slim. And one guy engaging in office
shenanigans with one intern is not at all the same as an entire
political party wanting to invade women's bodies with ultrasound wands
to punish them for daring to exercise their right to an abortion. That
it's the same as chasing them away from the polls. That it's equal to
not allowing health insurance to cover contraception, because forcing
employees to abide by their employers' religious beliefs is somehow some
bass-ackard kind of "religious freedom."

That's the worst part of all this; that Huckabee
or Paul don't get -- or pretend not to get -- what's wrong with all of
this. That they don't get why women might not be all that pleased with
middle aged Republican men micromanaging their lives. That they think that women are dumb enough to fall for these idiotic arguments.

In trying to deny there's a Republican War on Women, these people are waging one. They're doing it badly. And it hurts.

Republicans may be able to scare off candidates like Dick Black with
backroom talks about funding and donors, but the guys like Rand Paul and
Mike Huckabee,
who aren't running for anything at the moment, they're going to be a
trickier problem. They think they're smart enough to straighten this
whole War on Women thing out on their own -- and they're so not.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


Freedom vs. the Cult of the GOP

Protester with sign declaring voting a human right
Let's face it, there are really two reasons why Republicans want to put
up significant obstacles to voting, The first is the obvious one that
everyone knows: faced with an ever-shrinking demographic base,
Republicans want to even the playing field by keeping Democratic voters
away from the polls. If you ever doubted that one, then consider Texas' onerous voter ID law, which recognizes gun licenses as valid voter identification, but not a college ID card.

The second is similar, but more cultish.
It's the Tea Party's rationalization for voter suppression. Like the
first, this reasoning has it that too many Democrats vote, but this one
tries to argue that making it harder to vote is a good thing, since then
only the people who really want to vote will make it to the ballot box. These people worry about the "low information voter" (LIV), who -- if they only took the time to listen to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity
on the Blessed Electronic Gospel Box -- would understand all and see
the Starry Wisdom of the Tea Party Way. It's ironic, since the people
who think this way are actually the LIVs they worry about. They're factually wrong about pretty much everything, but reject any disagreement as heresy and even as some sort of mental defect.
In any case, the result of this cult-thinking is the same as that of
the more reality-based suppressors' thinking -- weeding out Democratic
voters. Only the reasoning behind the suppression effort is different.

But whichever the reasoning, the cause of the panic is the same: the reliably Republican voter is disappearing into the mist.

Brian Buetler, Salon:
When it became clear about a year ago that Republican leaders would
have a much harder time advancing immigration reform than they realized —
that GOP activists and conservatives were livid about the idea
that Republicans were going to help illegal immigrants gain citizenship —
it started to look like the party had an insoluble problem on its
hands. Watching Republicans attempt to broaden their appeal to growing,
traditionally Democratic constituencies has been like watching someone
try to cover a bedroom floor with a poorly cut carpet, fastening it into
one corner but pulling it out of the others in the process.

They can’t connect with traditionally Democratic constituencies without
breaking connection with their reliable supporters. They can tug in
every possible direction, but at some point they need to acknowledge
that the carpet’s too small.

And here's where the Tea Party's reasoning for voter suppression
actually approaches sense -- eve if it doesn't actually get anywhere
near there.

The problem with the GOP is that they've been at the same messaging for
so long that the people who began telling it have been replaced by the
people who fell for it. In other words, Republicans are all people
who've bought into Republican BS -- it's now a party that's fallen for
it's own propaganda. They don't want to change to appeal to a broader
base of voters -- and why would they? They believe they're 100% correct.
If you change your argument to appeal to more voters, then you're
moving away from a position of absolute truth. Compromise is the
rejection of truth for the convenience of half-truths or even lies. This
is why true believers reject moderation -- and why people who actually are right reject it as well.

So if Republicans can't change, then voters have to. The voting public
must become more Republican. But here's where the Tea Party true
believers run into trouble -- short of reeducation camps where hippies
are made to listen to Limbaugh 24/7, there's no way to force voters to
become enlightened in the ways of trickle-down, free market, fem'nist hatin', minority-bashing, Homosexual Menace-fightin' hoodoo.

So you chase liberals away from the polls. Instead of converting voters
to Republicanism, you reduce the voting population until Republicans
dominate. Which is why I don't hold out a lot of hope for the recommendations of a bipartisan panel
on voting in America. Conservatives don't care about democracy,
conservatives care about conservatism. So recommendations to improve
voting in America will be fought tooth and nail, with lies about how
they're all just an excuse to make voter fraud easier.

Ironically, the only way to beat voter suppression is to ruin
Republicans at the polls. Thankfully, their voter suppression methods aren't nearly as effective as the GOP had hoped.

As much as they make a big show of "standing for liberty," Republicans
don't believe in it. Not for everyone, anyway; only for the members of
their orthodoxy. They believe in freedom in the same way that a dictator
does -- plenty of freedom for themselves, not so much for everyone
else. You see, the plebeians don't really know what's good for them, so
it's the burden of the Enlightened to make their decisions for them. Too
much freedom and you'll only hurt yourself with bad decisions about
income inequality, the minimum wage, and "lifestyle choices" like
homosexuality, contraception, and abortion.

The enemies of democracy are the enemies of freedom, since democracy is our most basic freedom. The right to vote is the right on which all other freedoms depend.

Use it or lose it, people.


[photo by Michael Fleshman]


Even Republican Voters Concerned about Income Inequality

Click to Enlarge
[Click to Enlarge]
67% of Americans are godless commies who hate capitalism and freedom.
That is, if you use the metrics offered by rightwing media. If you tend
to be more in line with mainstream thought, then the better take is that
Americans are concerned about equality and fairness -- just as we
always have been. And the bad news for Republicans is that all those
capitalism-hatin' Marxists include a majority of their own voters.

In all, 54% of Republican voters told Gallup
that they were either very or somewhat dissatisfied with "the way
income and wealth is distributed in the US." While this is way lower
than the 67% of all Americans who answered likewise, there's still a
majority of Republican voters echoing these Occupy movement sentiments.
And if you remove Republicans from the equation to keep them from
dragging down the curve, roughly three-quarters of respondents would
agree that income inequality is not good for America.

Gallup analysis shows an opportunity for leadership by the president:

Obama will almost certainly touch on inequality in his State of the
Union address on Jan. 28. This will certainly resonate in a general
sense with the majority of Americans who are dissatisfied with income
and wealth distribution in the U.S. today. Members of the president's
party agree most strongly with the president that this is an issue, but
majorities of Republicans and independents are at least somewhat
dissatisfied as well.

Although Americans are more likely to be satisfied with the opportunity
for people to get ahead through hard work, their satisfaction is well
below where it was before the economic downturn. Accordingly,
improvement in the U.S. economy could bring Americans' views back to
pre-recession levels.

Everyone knows that Democrats plan to make income inequality an
election-year issue and this has already put Republicans on the
defensive. Paul Ryan, for his part, is hoping people forget the "takers
v. makers" messaging of the Romney-Ryan campaign, which basically argued
that poverty in America is way too sweet a deal,
and see him instead as completely and miraculously transformed into St.
Paul Ryan, Blessed Defender of the Downtrodden and Acolyte to Pope

The problem of course is that Ryan's merely repackaging the old
"trickle-down" BS that Republicans can't seem to pull themselves away
from, despite the fact that it's failed over and over again. The past
three GOP presidents have tried it and it didn't work for any of them --
including the guy who introduced it to voters.
So Ryan's problem -- and the Republican Party's -- is that all this new
"friends of the poor" messaging sounds great, until you get into the
mechanics. Then it sounds stupid.

So the only real effort to address poverty, income inequality, and
unfair distribution of wealth is the old, tried-and-true, tested and
proven progressive approach. Raise minimum wage, increase protections
for workers, get the very wealthy to finally pay their fair share.
Republicans will hate it, but they have nothing else to offer.

And that's why income inequality will be a big issue for Democrats in
the 2014 midterms -- because Republicans' only defense is BS that's so
worn out that only that gullible 45% of Republican voters will fall for
it. You know, the same ones who think every word from Rush Limbaugh is
Gospel; the dopes, the eternal chumps, the reliable pigeons always
begging to be plucked. The ones who, for whatever reason, want to be fooled.

Whether the issue can turn an election remains to be seen. But if it
isn't a winner, it'll be because Republicans successfully changed the
subject. Which is why Democrats need to stick to their guns and stay on

This is a debate Republicans cannot win. So they'll most likely try to avoid having it at all.



How the Gun Industry Profits Off the Carnage its Product Creates

NRA's Wayne LaPierre
It's one of the gun lobby's and firearms industry's most successful scams; the "fear buying" marketing campaign. The way it works is this, you convince a certain cowardly subset of the population that there's some imminent threat to their safety or that the government is minutes away from scooping up all their guns and said cowardly subset will run out in a fit of panic buying, like people who get into fights over water before a big storm.

And how do we know it's the same subset every time? Because the numbers are too contradictory any other way. After a string of high profile and extremely shocking killings in 2013, it started to look like some real action was about to take place in the arena of gun safety. That this didn't happen is a matter of national shame, but the panic buying set in, making 2013 a banner year for firearms sales.

So, did everyone run out and buy a lot of guns and ammunition? Actually, no. Hardly anyone did. A study launched by the General Social Survey showed that gun ownership was actually at a 40-year low. Logic dictates that these are the same panicky grandmas out buying guns in a Pavlovian response to perceived danger -- danger that the guns would become illegal, danger that some other unhinged shooter would attack them, or both. And the gun-buying was in no way rational. If you're extremely skilled, you might be able to use two firearms at once, but record sales after record sales, combined with the number of gun-owning households in free fall, suggests these people have a lot more guns than two, which means a lot more guns than they can use at any given time.

So the "safety" conferred by gun ownership starts to look a lot more talismanic than utilitarian. In other words, the "guns keep you safe" argument basically becomes superstition.

And, of course, the gun industry is looking to go back to the well yet again, using their favorite marketing firm -- the gun lobby.

ThinkProgress: On Thursday, Businessweek’s Paul Barrett declared it the “the year of the woman,” at the 2014 Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade show, as the industry turns its attention on marketing to women. Reporting from the annual gun show, Feldman told Barrett that gun retailers look forward to reaping profits from “fear-buying” ahead of the 2016 presidential election:

The mood is upbeat, but the crazed buying frenzy of last year is over. Demand for ammunition is still unbelievably strong, but the gun makers know it’s time to market and sell product, not simply write orders that can’t possibly be filled. The next ramp-up in sales may not occur until the 2016 presidential campaign gets going in earnest. The more likely a Hillary Clinton victory looks, the more advance ‘fear buying’ will recur. While most may vote Republican, manufacturers and retailers secretly hope for a repeat of the ‘Obama surge’ that has boosted sales since 2009.

The gun lobby’s use of paranoid theories to boost gun sales has been a common tactic during the Obama administration. In both 2008 and 2012, the National Rifle Association told its members that Obama secretly planned to confiscate firearms, despite Obama’s conspicuous silence on the issue of gun violence throughout the election.

So they'll fire up the old "gun-grabber" myth machine and watch the chumps flock to by more guns than they can possibly use. At this point, it pays to consider those two trend lines -- gun ownership declining while gun purchases increase. There's a certain distillation going on here. All those guns are in fewer and fewer people's hands, meaning that ever-shrinking group of pigeons is responsible for an ever-growing number of firearms purchases. And that in turn at least suggests that many of the remaining gun purchasers probably don't have it all on the ball. After all, you don't amass more weapons than you could possibly use -- and do it in the name of safety -- if things are running like clockwork upstairs.

So what the firearms industry and gun lobby are doing is basically the same as a vodka company launching a marketing campaign aimed straight at alcoholics. There's a reason why distilleries don't do that, despite the fact that it would be tremendously profitable -- it's irresponsible to the point of soullessness. And this is actually worse, because a vodka company can't use a alcohol-fueled car wreck as an opportunity to sell booze. But gun companies can use gun massacres as an opportunity to sell guns -- and they do. Over and over and over again, to the same group of paranoid gun-aholics.

In terms of pure, raw evil, the gun industry makes the tobacco industry look like Little Bo Peep. Yes, cigarette companies sell a product they know kills people. And yes, they lied in denying the danger of their product for decades. But no tobacco exec ever launched a "cigarettes cure cancer" campaign, turning the deaths caused by their product into a reason to buy it.

That's basically what the firearms industry is doing. An ouroboros campaign where you need guns to protect yourself from all the guns and the more guns you have, the better off you are, because the number of guns out there keeps growing. A big magical circle, where you buy the cause to protect yourself from the effect.

Guns cure guns. So buy a handful today.


[photo by Gage Skidmore]


Republicans Mugging Republicans

Vintage photo of people staging a mugging
It's been said that a Republican is just a liberal who's been mugged. Of course, it tends to be Republicans who say this, since it makes very little sense. Being the victim of a crime may change your opinions about law enforcement or gun control, but why would being mugged make you oppose abortion or women's rights or same sex marriage. Why would being mugged make you more accepting of the Wall Street corporate crime wave? Why would being mugged make you think that labor unions must be broken and the minimum wage left at a pittance? And why would being mugged make you decide that giving everything to the rich and nothing to the poor is a good idea? Is the argument that being mugged makes you stupid?

A truer take on that cliche might be that being mugged turns you Democrat -- at least, when those muggers are Republicans.

ThinkProgress: On Tuesday, a potential agreement to extend benefits for those who have been out of work for six months or more fell apart over squabbling about procedural disagreements in the Senate. That fight came two and a half weeks after those checks stopped going out to millions of Americans, and it doesn’t look like it will be resolved in the next two weeks. Congress let the program lapse at the end of the year, which offered support to the jobless after their state benefits ran out, drying up a lifeline for those who are struggling to find a new job.

The people who have been left without that support are incensed, and the anger reaches across party lines. In an email to ThinkProgress, Peter LeClair, an out of work investment manager from New York, said he has been a lifelong Republican. But he “will never vote for a Republican, as long as I live” after watching them say that relying on unemployment benefits makes people dependent. “I am incensed with this Rand Paul,” he said, who has said extending the benefits would “do a disservice” to those who were relying on them. “He says I am lazy... I am not lazy, how dare he. He doesn’t even know me.”

LeClair says he has sent out over 2,000 resumes and been “rejected on a daily basis.” The benefits, which he pointed out he paid into while he worked for more than 20 years, were the only think keeping him “glued together financially.” He said he is “absolutely shocked and dismayed” with Republicans, reiterating, “I will never, so help me god, vote for a Republican again, period.”

Of course, LeClair's not the only one. "I read these politicians’ opinions of the unemployed and am furious at the implication as it correlates to my situation," says another. Yet another says she "was barely making ends meet with what little bit of benefits I was receiving. Now that they have expired, my children and I are literally homeless."

Once you see what Republicans' economic babble actually means to real people, once you become one of the many, many groups of Americans they tell lies about, the GOP doesn't seem like a party with such great ideas anymore. Once Republicanism meets your personal reality, you find they just don't mix.

Of course, the first clue should've been the glaring inconsistencies in GOP messaging; a rocky recovery and high unemployment are the fault of economic policies one minute, then they're the fault of lazy, work-rejecting "takers" the next. It would be helpful if they made up their minds before they opened their mouths. Never mind that there are roughly three jobseekers for every job, if everyone just hunkers down and looks really, really hard and wishes with all their little heart, everyone can find work -- because math is science and science is of the devil. In Republican World, three is not greater than one, three is equal to one; mostly because anything else would screw up their messaging on unemployment benefits.

As I wrote yesterday, the best Democratic recruiting tool is probably Republicans.

Here's the problem with the conservative approach to problem-solving: when a Republican sees a problem, they immediately look for someone to punish. Oddly, that someone is usually the person suffering from the problem. So if you're hungry, no food stamps. If you're poor, no assistance. If you're unemployed, no benefits. It's like seeing someone on the side of the road with a flat, pulling over, and beating them with the tire iron -- then driving away assuming you fixed their flat.

The only thing Republicans seem to think people in struggling families should get from anyone is bullets from Second Amendment Heroes standing their ground against them. Free rein for Wall Street; free bullets in the chest for working people.

You almost wish you could make everyone who votes Republican live the lives of the people Republicans attack, if only for a few days. But of course, this is a cruel wish. Just because a Republican who's been mugged by their party becomes a Democrat, it's no good reason to wish them a beating.

We're better than that. After all, we aren't Republicans.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


Ironically, As Long As There Are Gay Republicans, The GOP Will Think It's OK To Bash Gays

Demotivational poster - 'The Gay Republican - WHY?'
The Republican Party just lost a voter. Or, at least, a member. In a post to his blog, GOProud co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia announces that while the "Proud" part still applies, he is no longer GOP.

Jimmy LaSalvia: Today, I joined the ranks of unaffiliated voters. I am every bit as conservative as I’ve always been, but I just can’t bring myself to carry the Republican label any longer. You see, I just don’t agree with the big-government ‘conservatives’ who run the party now.

The other reason I am leaving is the tolerance of bigotry in the GOP. The current leadership lacks the courage to stand up to it – I’m not sure they ever will.

I have worked hard to help to create an atmosphere on the right where conservatives can openly support gay Americans and even support same-sex marriage. In that effort, we have won, but there is more work to do to root out the anti-gay and other forms of bigotry in the party.

So I changed my voter registration today – “No Party.”

For those who need to catch up here, GOProud is an organization of LGBT Republicans who seem to exist solely to demonstrate that there are LGBT Republicans. It's an offshoot of the Log Cabin Republicans, a similar group that LaSalvia and fellow GOProud co-founder Christopher R. Barron left because it was "too centrist."

There's a lot that's confusing about all this; not the least of which is that GOProud itself hasn't had the best record of standing up to Republican bigots. The group argues that marriage equality is a state's rights issue (meaning they've washed their hands of the issue). The group seems to have started off as a way for gay conservatives and other Republicans to find common ground -- while glossing over their more conspicuous differences -- but has more recently started showing signs of being gay conservatives standing up for themselves.

In the 2012 presidential campaign, LaSalvia outed Tony Fabrizio, Rick Perry's campaign pollster, over a homophobic campaign ad put out by the Perry campaign. "I've just about had it with faggots who line their pockets with checks from anti-gay homophobes while throwing the rest of us under the bus," LaSalvia said, outing Fabrizio on Twitter.

So the evolution of Jimmy LaSalvia from token apologist to change-from-within activist is pretty clear here. He started off as part of a group arguing that gay Republicans should just ignore all the homophobia and work together with bigots for the greater good. Now he's not interested in ignoring all the homophobia.

Leaving the GOP seems to be a no-brainer here, but you have to question the effectiveness of the example in bringing about change. He says he's now an "independent conservative," but who do you think indie conservatives vote for? If you're not registered as a Republican, why should anyone care? As long as you vote Republican, your official voter registration is basically just a technicality. There's a constitutional remedy to Republican bigots in office. You vote them out of office. The Republican Party isn't going to change until people who vote Republican begin to go away. Maybe that means voting Democrat, maybe that means not voting at all. But it does mean not voting Republican. Or at least, only voting for the highly endangered gay rights-supporting Republicans.

Jimmy LaSalvia's evolution has definitely been heading in the right direction, but it may still have a way to go. The only way to fix this party is to be willing to hurt it. Because as long as you're still willing to vote GOP, you're rewarding hate.


[image by Mario Piperni]


Leaving the Polar Vortex and the Climate Change 'Skepticism' Cult Behind

Somewhere between 11 AM to 2 PM today, I can expect to leave the dreaded polar vortex. We expect a balmy high temperature of 18 degrees Fahrenheit today. This would still seem frigid on any other day, but given the previous few days, it's a heat wave. What follows will be a more actual heat wave --  a January thaw, with above freezing temperatures through the weekend. Believe it or not, this is also dangerous weather, as melting ice and snow freeze at night and into the morning, creating hazardous driving conditions. A lot of salt is going to be sold to keep people's sidewalks clear of ice.

Meanwhile, the vortex drifts east. Meaning that Washington will still be very cold while Wisconsin is very warm. And the people up here in the normally frozen wastes will be treated to DC loudmouths saying that cold weather in the nation's capital means global warming is a hoax -- meanwhile, we'll be watching the snow melt off our roofs in the dead of January. The contrast will be stunning and the climate change deniers will once again look like morons. DC is not the entire world. The "global" in global warming means something; it's not a synonym for "local."

And of course, once the vortex moves on from DC, we won't hear a peep about how the current weather proves global warming wrong, since the east coast gets our weather systems eventually. The weather will seem very much like what you'd expect from global warming, at which point the moron chorus of deniers will fall silent -- just as they do during summer droughts and heat waves. For them, a cold few days proves global warming is a hoax, but a decades-long warming trend is just natural variation in global temperature that real scientists (i.e., Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly) are smart enough to ignore and "fake" scientists (AKA actual scientists) attach way too much significance to.

The White House video above explains the polar vortex and its connection to climate change. But we can't expect it to change deniers' minds. At this point, climate "skepticism" is religion, entirely divorced from any scientific method. If it wasn't, then they'd apply the same logic to summer heat waves that they do to winter cold snaps -- hot weather proves global warming and cold weather disproves it. It's still bad science and it would have them rushing back and forth from totally convinced in the summer to totally unconvinced in the winter. But at least it would represent a consistent approach to the evidence.

The fact that they don't approach all evidence the same way pretty much proves how insincere and unserious the deniers are. The trolling-based reasoning of conservative politics has bled over into science -- that is, if liberals believe it, it must be wrong. That's the basis of their denial and all this weather-based idiocy is merely rationalization and window dressing. If it had been George HW Bush with the An Inconvenient Truth presentation, rather than Al Gore, global warming might be a cornerstone of conservative thought. Teabaggers would be driving around using their Sacred Second Amendment Freedoms to shoot out inefficient lightbulbs and save America.

But that is not the case. It was Al Gore who made climate change an important issue, so it must be some sort of communist plot.

So we midwesterners need to make sure that while Republicans in Washington use their cold snap to "disprove" global warming, we're talking about how unseasonably warm it is, while pointing and laughing at the jerks spouting nonsense.

Global means global, not "only what I can see in front of me." When idiots say cold weather disproves global warming, those of us living where it's not cold need to speak up.



Boehner Demands That Someone Else Shoot a Hostage for Him

John Boehner will never be described as a Profile in Courage.

Yesterday, Boehner issued a statement following a senate cloture vote to advance an extension of unemployment benefits. "One month ago I personally told the White House that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work," a written statement reads. "To date, the president has offered no such plan. If he does, I’ll be happy to discuss it, but right now the House is going to remain focused on growing the economy and giving America’s unemployed the independence that only comes from finding a good job."

So basically, Boehner says he wants another hostage shot before he'll release this particular hostage. "There’s quite a bit wrong with this," says Steve Benen. "For example, Boehner knows jobless Americans need these benefits and knows cutting off aid will hurt the economy, but insists on spending cuts to offset the costs. Why? He didn’t say. What needs to get cut? He didn’t say. Why have Republicans supported previous extensions without offsetting cuts, only to change course now? He didn’t say."

He wants something cut. He knows there are no popular cuts to make. So he demands that someone else do the dirty work. Choose what gets cut for him or the long term unemployed get it. He wants an unpopular slashing of something or other -- simply for the sake of appearances -- and he wants to be able to walk away with the appearance of clean hands. He wants the extension paid for, but he wants someone else (preferably the White House) to take the blame for that offset.

As I said, no Profile in Courage here.

It'd be a lot easier to take Boehner seriously if he could actually articulate what it is exactly that he wants, but I doubt even he knows. This is more a case of opportunism than anything. The Speaker thinks he can maybe, possibly squeeze a little something-something out of this situation; even if he isn't extremely clear on what that something might be.

"The larger takeaway from the statement is that the Speaker of the House sees the Senate moving on unemployment benefits and wants to make it perfectly clear that he has certain expectations," Benen explains. "While some see this as an emergency for struggling families and a key economic issue, Boehner senses an opportunity --  the plight of jobless Americans can be exploited to advance Republican priorities." Which priorities? Well, we'll leave that up to the President to decide.

Add "leadership" to the list of those admirable qualities John of Orange most sorely lacks.

The question here is whether Boehner is bluffing. I haven't seen a whip count yet, but it's entirely plausible that an extension could pass the House on mainly Democratic votes. All Weepy John needs to do is bring it up for a vote. So the thing that would prevent this very popular extension from happening is good old fashioned Republican obstructionism -- in an election year.

Boehner might possibly be able to walk away from his unspecified offset with clean hands, but not so with shooting the hostage if he doesn't get his way. If the extension dies in the House, everyone will know why. And everyone will know whodunit.

It's hard to see how he can shoot the hostage, when he so clearly wants someone else to take the blame for everything. It would be a bit of a suicide mission and, as I've already pointed out, John Boehner doesn't have the courage for that sort of thing.


[photo by Gage Skidmore]


The Marketers of Fear

Big pile of firearms
Maybe it got lost in the annual post-Holiday news outage, but Yahoo! News reported on the second day of the new year that a study by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University shows a definite uptick in the occurrence of mass shootings in the United States. According to the report, investigators counted only those sorts of crimes that immediately come to mind when you hear the term "mass shooting." These are a separate sort of crime, distinguished by more than the death tolls.

"Researchers considered only active shootings in public settings where the primary motive appeared to be mass murder and at least one of the victims was unrelated to the suspect. Shootings during crimes such as bank robberies, drug deals, and gang violence were excluded," Yahoo reported -- i.e., crimes where the sole purpose was to kill people. Incidences rose from five a year in 2000-2008 to sixteen a year in the period of 2009-2012.

Of course, this undercuts the gunners' claims that the opposite is true. And even those claims are cherrypicked. They cite the work of Northeastern University Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy James Alan Fox. Fox does not weed out the "bank robberies, drug deals, and gang violence" that ALERRT did. He does, however, recommend gun control policies -- a fact the gun apologists conveniently skip over.

James Alan Fox: The lack of any upward trend should not stop us, of course, from trying to find causes and solutions for extreme violence. A fitting the legacy to this summer's tragedies [this was after Aurora and the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, but before Newtown] would be the expansion of mental health services. We should also have a serious debate about sensible restrictions on gun sales but absent the politics. And perhaps we should all try harder to reach out to those around us who seem to be struggling financially, socially or psychologically.

Unfortunately and realistically, these and other initiatives may not prevent or deter the next mass murderer living amongst us. But in the process of trying, we may actually enhance the safety and well-being of thousands, if not millions, of Americans.

In other words, Fox's reasoning when it comes to law and crime is the same as humanity's has been since the dawn of civilization; just because someone may not obey a law does not mean it's completely unenforceable or ineffective. The gun lobby argues the opposite; that since some criminals will disobey laws limiting firearms, these laws shouldn't be passed at all. Of course, this makes as much sense as saying that since some criminals ignore laws against rape, there should be no laws against rape at all.

This all boils down to what the gun lobby really stands for -- and that is gun sales. They don't represent gun owners, as much as they insist otherwise. They represent gun manufacturers. They aren't interested in the safety of gun owners. In fact, they have every incentive to undermine that safety. Nothing sells guns like fear. And nothing promotes fear like frequent mass murder in the headlines. More guns = more murder = more gun sales. The best marketing campaign for guns is high-profile gun violence, hands down.

Would that be particularly evil of the gun lobby and firearms manufacturers? Yes it would. But it would hardly be an unprecedented level of corporate evil. Think Big Tobacco denying the link between smoking and cancer, while sitting on research that proved that link existed. Think Big Oil, who undermine efforts to fight global warming in order to sell five minutes more worth of fossil fuels. If the choice is between money or lives, corporate America will choose money every time. And they'll launch a big PR campaign to confuse the whole issue and blow smoke over that whole loss of life thing.

So you could say that an increase in mass shootings represents everything going the gun lobby's way. They're selling more guns than ever, because people are more afraid of gunmen than ever -- with good reason. The gun lobby exists to offer the exact wrong solution to a problem its own industry creates. Can you imagine how much more profitable Big Tobacco could've been if they'd figured out a way to use smoking deaths to create more smokers?

That's what you're seeing here. Every new gravestone represents new sales. Don't fool yourself. This may just be the way they like it.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]