Saturday, May 21, 2011

Victoria Day 2011

May 2-4!

Happy long weekend, fellow Canadians. This is one time when I'll thank the British Monarchy for doing some good.

Not that this is really their doing, of course, just Queen Victoria's birthday, but I'll happily take the day off anyway (while continuing to advocate the abolition of the monarchy here in Canada).

Keep checking in, though. While it's the unofficial start of summer, and while the weather here in Toronto is, at long last, beautiful today, I'll be posting from time to time over the long weekend, and I'm sure we'll have some new content up from my great co-bloggers as well.

-- Michael


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Friday, May 20, 2011

This day in history - May 20, 1902: Cuba gains its independence from the United States

I'm told by so many of my friends that I really must get there one of these days. Maybe next year.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)


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No 50-state strategy for Obama in 2012

Interesting piece up at Roll Call yesterday on Obama's likely strategy for 2012:

Democrats evaluating the 2012 map are confident President Barack Obama can win enough battleground states to earn a second term, but via a far less aggressive path than what he forged in 2008.

Party strategists, Obama aides and top Democrats see multiple routes for the president to reach the 270 Electoral College votes that he needs on Nov. 6, 2012. But some Democrats splash cold water on the big talk of outreach in all 50 states, saying it is obvious the president will focus on traditional swing territory.


A Democratic official familiar with the still-forming re-election campaign told Roll Call that the focus will be on holding the 2008 pickups of Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina, winning over Latino voters in the West and flooding the traditional swing states of Ohio and Florida with resources. The Democrats feel good about winning New Mexico and Nevada, especially given the population growth among Hispanics.

Makes sense.

It won't be the all-out offence we saw from Obama in 2008, but, then, he can afford to play a bit of defence now, particularly if he's able to win independents and women, if there's significant turnout among blacks and younger voters (as in 2008), and if he's able to secure the growing Latino vote -- all of which appears likely given where things stand today. (I'm trying not to be delusionally optimistic about not just Obama's chances but the Democrats' generally, but who am I to doubt the apparent genius of David Plouffe?)

And of course if the Republicans nominate someone utterly unelectable...

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Et tu, Mitch? (or, how Mitch Daniels has a health-care problem)

I noted yesterday that Republican desperation is driving the Draft Mitch Daniels movement.

Faced with an embarrassingly bad presidential field, Republicans are doing what they often do, which is look for a savior to rescue them from the abyss, and that savior, it seems, or so they seem to think, is Daniels.

The problem, I also noted, isn't just that Daniels lacks a dynamic personality and engaging charisma but that he's got some blemishes on his record that just won't fly with the Tea Party grassroots base of the GOP, nor perhaps with the social conservatives who continue to wield influence in the party.

He called for a truce on social issues in Indiana, for example, and, even more damaging, once proposed raising taxes. He might as well have been Osama bin Laden's accountant.

Well, there's more -- and it just gets worse. As The Huffington Post is reporting, Daniels has accepted Affordable Care Act money and has supported universal health coverage and... (pause for effect)... an individual mandate. He might as well have set fire to the flag, urinated on its ashes, and defecated upon the very idea of freedom.

But wait. There's still more:

Back in 2003, mandates were very much a conservative idea, making support for them by Daniels -- let alone fellow 2012 Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich -- either mundane or expected.

But there are other similarities between the health care policies Daniel's passed as governor and those that constitute President Obama's signature legislation. Both, for instance, require insurance companies to allow children to remain on their parents' accounts past traditional ages for college graduation -- Daniels allows dependent coverage up to age 24, Obama up to 26. Both required Medicaid programs to expand eligibility to individuals and families above the poverty level.

Like Obama, Daniels also put a premium on updating hospital records and information sharing. According to a February 21, 2005, Indianapolis Business Journal article, he "ordered the state Department of Health to come up with a regulation that requires every hospital to implement an error reporting system and provide data to the department, which will post it on the Internet." Separately, both Daniels and Obama increased taxes on cigarettes as a means of generating revenue for health care coverage elsewhere (and discouraging smoking).

So there you have it. Daniels, like Romney, has a huge health-care problem that he simply won't be able to overcome.

He hasn't even entered the race yet, but I think it's fairly safe to say he's toast. So much for the Great Republican Savior of 2012.

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Newt Gingrich vs. reality

As The Newt tries more and more to distance himself from his anti-Ryan remarks, he's just making himself look worse and worse -- more and more desperate, more and more pathetic, more and more like a loser who won't be in the race much longer.

He's already lashed out at the media, the standard Republican refrain, but now he's actually denying that he said anything controversial:

Newt Gingrich said today that he wasn't referring to Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) Medicare plan when he uttered the words "right-wing social engineering" last Sunday -- a comment that has earned the former House speaker a barrage of criticism that ultimately let him to call Ryan and apologize.

In a live interview with Rush Limbaugh Thursday afternoon, Gingrich said he hadn't actually criticized Ryan's plan in his Sunday appearance on "Meet the Press," and that he wasn't referring to the Wisconsin congressman when he said those words.

"It was not a reference to Paul Ryan. There was no reference to Paul Ryan in that answer," Gingrich told Limbaugh, who was in the process of gently grilling him about why he used those words in the NBC interview.

Limbaugh asked Gingrich why, then, did he call Ryan to apologize for the remark, if it wasn't made in reference to Ryan.

"It was interpreted in a way which was causing trouble which he doesn't need or deserve," Gingrich said. "My answer wasn't about the budget, and I promptly went back to say publicly that I would have voted for the Ryan budget."

Oh, but The Newt was clearly referring to Ryan's anti-Medicare plan. It's right there in the transcript, or you can just watch it

In other words, he's lying to us -- to you. And he must think you're incredibly stupid if he thinks this nonsense will work, that you'll actually take him at his word despite all the evidence against him.

So he's a man of ideas, huh? Really, he's just an egomaniacal buffoon who will say anything, no matter how utterly ridiculous, to save his political ass. Sometimes he's right, like when he calls Ryan's plan "radical" and "right-wing social engineering." But most of the time he's just spewing shit.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

This day in history - May 19, 1962: Marilyn Monroe sings "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to Jack Kennedy

Considering recent charges of sexual assault against former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, allegations against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of sexual misconduct and the abuse of power, and, what the hell, whatever Arnold Schwarzenegger was up to, it seemed like a good day to point out that some things never change. Powerful men too often take advantage of their position for the sake of sexual gratification. Yes, shocking, I know.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Organizing to beat Republicans, one freshman at a time

One of my favourite political stories of the year thus far has been about the letter that House GOP freshmen sent to President Obama encouraging him to reject "playing politics with key issues facing the country." This was code language for asking that the President not draw attention to the fact that Paul Ryan's budget plan will destroy Medicare as we know it -- that he not "use it" against Republicans in a partisan way.

The fact is that House Republicans voted almost unanimously last month in favour of the Ryan budget that would reform entitlement programs, including creating a voucher program for Medicare recipients to buy private insurance. As we know, all hell broke loose from there. Public opinion polls are showing that most Americans are not impressed with this approach to the point that Democrats may steal a special election in New York's 26th Congressional District at the end of the month, an otherwise strong Republican seat, mostly on the strength of voter concerns about this proposed 'restructuring' of Medicare.

In other words, House GOP freshmen, many of whom owe their seats to wild misrepresentations of Obama's own health care plan, are begging the president not to make partisan hay out of the precise and undisputed meaning of this unpopular Republican plan.

Are they out of their fucking minds?

I must say that I was pleased to see that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been targeting Republican members of Congress, who are back in their home districts this week, on this very point.

According to The New York Times, the Committee:

has 20 Republican-held Congressional districts in its sights this week, hitting voters with automated phone calls denouncing the House Republican plan to revamp the nation's Medicare program and arming those who want with signs to protest at town hall meetings across the country. 

A web site sponsored by the campaign committee lists town hall meetings scheduled to be held by Republicans, mostly freshman, during the week. The group encourages voters to show up -- as many did during the Easter recess -- to protest or ask pointed questions of the members about their plan for Medicare, which would convert the program into one that subsidizes future retirees in private insurance plans.

This is in fact my favourite kind of politics -- organizing people to show up and ask questions of the other side in a good-faith exercise intended to elicit only the truth. If forcing new Republican members of Congress to speak the truth to their own constituents on their plans for Medicare reform is what this new class thinks of as "playing politics," I am at a loss for words.

Good on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. More of this please.

(By the way, the picture above is of newly-elected Republican Representative Nan Hayworth from NY-19, the district where I was born and raised. Democrat John Hall lost the seat to Hayworth in November. I'd like to get it back.)

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Mitch Daniels: Feel the excitement!

Republicans, and specifically those in the party establishment, are understandably concerned. So far the GOP has thrown up a pretty pathetic field of potential presidential nominees.

You've got Romney, who's still trying to prove he's actually a conservative; Pawlenty, who's dull and uninspiring; Santorum, who's best-known for this; (Ron) Paul, who's such a crazy libertarian extremist he scares the god-fearin' crap out of 'em; and Gingrich, who stuck his foot so far in his mouth criticizing Republican wunderkind Paul Ryan's anti-Medicare plan he's been spending the past few days trying to extract it from his ass. Not to mention various forgettables, like Roemer, Cain, and Johnson.

So what are "depressed" Republicans to do? Why, pray for a savior, of course! And look to Indiana:

Top Republicans are increasingly convinced that President Barack Obama will be easily reelected if stronger GOP contenders do not emerge, and some are virtually begging Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to add some excitement to the slow-starting nomination race.

It's a sign of the GOP's straits that the party is depending on the bland, wonkish Daniels for an adrenaline boost.

Mitch Daniels? Excitement? Adrenaline?


Such is the state of things these days that, yes, Daniels is the GOP's knight in shining armor. Which, let's be honest, isn't much of an endorsement, given the competition. Actually, it's a sign of just how bad things really are.

I've written about Daniels a few times already -- see here, here, and here -- and won't repeat myself here. Suffice it to say that he's not without some serious flaws that desperate establishment Republicans are apparently overlooking. He isn't much of social conservative (he even called a truce on social issues in Indiana) and, while he's certainly got some conservative cred on economic/budget policy, he's shown far too much flexibility in the past, including backing a tax increase -- that just won't fly with the GOP's Tea Party grassroots base, not to mention with the Grover Norquists among the party's anti-tax elite. (And let's not get into his, er, marriage problems.)

So, sure, maybe Daniels can come in and fire things up a bit. But likely not. And I just don't see him pulling it off over the long haul.

But don't despair, Republicans! There's always Michele Bachmann!


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Well, Now Here's A Pleasant Surprise (not)!

By Carl
Benjamin Netanyahu has taken the Arab Spring to heart

May 19 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been preparing to greet President Barack Obama at the White House tomorrow with a proposal to resurrect Middle East peace talks, advisers said.

That was until Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas this month signed a reconciliation accord with Hamas -- classified as a terrorist group by Israel and the U.S. -- and dozens of Palestinians from Syria breached a border May 15, with similar efforts on three other fronts.

Netanyahu decided, his advisers said, that peace talks can wait.

This is neither pleasant nor a surprise. Netanyahu is a complete idiot when it comes to bringing peace the Middle East and my suspicion is the proposal he had neatly packaged together would have been not much more than a slap in the face to both the Palestinians and America.

I'm tired of my country being treated as a second class citizen by Israel. If any other Middle Eastern nation had done to us what Israel has, including planting spies on our very soil, we would have bombed them back to the Stone Age and then sat down to breakfast.

But I digress...

Netanyahu has made small but important steps towards settling the Palestinian question: he's recognized the idea of a state of Palestine...gee, Israelis and a Middle Eastern state, go fig...and made overtures toward the Arab world, notably Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

That last is interesting, considering that the Israelis and The Saudis have had peaceful dealings over the past few decades, and so you'd think they'd already have some backwater channels open.

It's not enough, and Netanyahu is blowing a major opportunity here to send a subtle signal to the Arab Spring that he would stand by the creation of regional democracies.

We all know about Hamas and his edginess is understandable, but every so often in the poker game that is global politics, you have to bet on the hand you think you see and not the one you're afraid of.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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When Newt fucks up...

The Newt is a real piece o' work. Getting slammed by many of his fellow Republicans for criticizing Paul Ryan's anti-Medicare plan, which has become a cornerstone of Republican orthodoxy, the various stages of Gingrich's response to the criticism has provided us with an open glimpse into the mind of a shameless political opportunist who fucked up badly and is trying desperately to right the ship.

Apologizing to Ryan, and to Republicans generally, on his knees begging for forgiveness, was the partisan price he had to pay.

But a simple mea culpa isn't good enough. Now he's taken to lashing out at the most obvious target, a target the GOP loves to abuse, namely, the media. (Stewart and Colbert both tackled this last night, hilariously. The funniest part may be that Gingrich, claiming it was all a mistake, says that quoting (accurately) what he said, say, in an ad, would be "a falsehood" -- see clip below. Of course, Democrats would be stupid not to quote Gingrich, and it looks like they'll do just that.)

It's not just that he now says he never should have answered the question, it's that he's blaming the media for what happened, that, for the shitstorm of his own making. He accuses Meet the Press host David Gregory, hardly a gotcha sort of guy, of setting him up, as if he'd never ever ever been on that show or anywhere else on TV, as if he was just some innocent victim who had no idea how Washington works. Meanwhile, his press secretary, Rick Tyler, accuses the media more broadly:

The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding. Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment's cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won't be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.

It's hard to cram that much incomprehensible bullshit into a single paragraph, but there you go. (Honestly, do you have any idea what any of that means? The "literati" and their "minions"? And the violent metaphors? An "onslaught"? The guy's apparently insane.)

And so Gingrich goes from being Republican heretic to hero in the span of just a few days. But will anyone buy it? I suspect not. His campaign may not be over yet, but he's gotten off to a terrible start and this whole ridiculous episode -- which, remember, started with him actually saying something that made sense and that many of us could applaud -- will stay with him as long as he stays in the race. Even if Ryan and others in the party accept him back, the base won't be so ready to forgive. 

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DSK resigns (in criminal shame)


Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned Wednesday as head of the International Monetary Fund after explosive allegations that he had sexually attacked a cleaning lady in a midtown Manhattan hotel room.

"It is with infinite sadness that I feel compelled today to present to the Executive Board my resignation from my post of Managing Director of the IMF," he said in a statement issued Wednesday. "I think at this time first of my wife -- whom I love more than anything -- of my children, of my family, of my friends."


In issuing his resignation Wednesday, Mr. Strauss-Kahn said, "I want to say that I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me."

Innocent until proven guilty. Yes, yes, yes.

But I still call bullshit.

The guy's got a history, after all, and, much like Berlusconi, he probably thought he could use (and abuse) women (and especially young, vulnerable women) at will.

(Am I unfairly jumping to conclusions? Please.)

(By the way, I suspect he'll either get off, pun intended, or be convicted on reduced charges given a lack of evidence. He'll still have his apologists in France, but there's no way he recovers from this.)

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Apocalypse fer sure

Well folks, here it is again. The doomsday circus is back in town and guess what's happening in the big top in less than three days - that's right, it's the rapture and we're all gonna die screaming! OK, maybe some of y'all are actually Holy Smoke Church members and won't have to sit here through the tectonic shimmy, the lakes of fire and all the other rides while Jesus, like some Mexican wrestler with a gruesome mask is gonna kick some infidel ass, but not yours, Mr. camo pants. You get to go to the magic kingdom. You'll have to leave the truck behind, of course.

Yes, May 21, 2011 is right around the corner and Doomsday, as it has been countless times before, is almost here. For perhaps the first time however, these prophets have recognized that there are a dozen time zones and so Saturday at 6:00 PM, starting at the International Date Line out in the pacific, the apocalypse will march across the planet at a thousand miles per hour - boy can those horses move! That means we'll get to watch it all on TV as that Titanium robot, or whatever Jesus comes dressed as these days. kicks hell out of Asia and moves on toward Europe. That will give a lot of people her in God's own US of A enough time to convert and yes, you can do it on line through Paypal.

Not me though, It's going to be months before the planet is cleansed of disbelief and animal life and since the righteous will no longer be here, I get to grab their trailers and second hand pickup trucks and ATVs and firearms and stuff and me and the other heretics can shoot guns and barbeque like Ted Nugent. It's gonna be a hell of a party -- as long as the beer don't run out before that lake of fire thing.

Anyway, the Rapture should hit the fan at my house at 7:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time according to God's infallible plan and I'll be watching it all unfold from poolside and I'll have plenty of ice on hand. Perhaps I'll live-blog the whole thing. Stay tuned.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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This day in history - May 18, 1896: the Supreme Court rules in Plessy v. Ferguson that the "separate but equal" doctrine is constitutional

In Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Louisiana law mandating separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites on intrastate railroads was constitutional. This provided the legal framework to justify many other actions by state and local governments to socially separate blacks and whites. Aside from the obvious affront of mandating separate facilities, the suggestion that these would in fact be equal was, of course, absurd.

This case was overturned by Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas, the 1954 Supreme Court case that declared that separate public schools for black and white students was unconstitutional, stating that "separate but equal educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Pictured above is Homer Plessy, plaintiff in Plessy v. Ferguson.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Cities of the plain

There are people who give free speech a bad name, people who use any freedom the government protects to undermine and destabilize and overthrow that government and exploit the population -- and all for personal (and corporate) gain.

Such are the shadowy entities behind the multi-headed beast pumped into a frenzy by unaccountable and uncountable millions they get for the purpose: entities like SOCYBERTY.COM, whose recent post was sent to me by a breathless Republican eager to impart the secret knowledge that, no, President Obama did not give the order to enter Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan because he is a dithering, indecisive coward and the reins of government have been pried from his trembling, black hands. You see, Leon Panetta had to "override" Obama with the help of Cabinet members and that eye-rolling minstrel show clown is too afraid now to tell the truth. Holdouts like Valerie Jarfett aren't telling us either because of the "investigation back in Chicago," but there was a silent coup and Obama is no longer in control:

What Valerie Jarrett, and the president, did not know is that Leon Panetta had already initiated a program that reported to him –and only him, involving a covert on the ground attack against the compound.

Of course, no news agency, not ABC or NBC or FOX or CNN or BBC or Deutsche Welle or al freakin' Jazeera knows about this, only SOCYBERTY.COM and all the other PAC-funded heads of the same hydra who are cutting and pasting and posting these stories. Google it and you'll see. They have secret sources in the Cabinet, you know, who will commit treason only for them.

Sure, we can see it as the desperate death throes of a humiliated racist party, a wicked witch melting and hissing on the floor, but I can't forgive it and I can't forgive the people who e-mail it around the country like some titillating photo of some stoned starlet getting out of a limousine in a short skirt. I can't forgive, I can't forget, and while old Yahweh was willing to spare Sodom for the sake of ten good citizens, no God worth his scriptures would forgive a country that contained ten such unpunished liars as these.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Photo of the Day: Exploding Chinese watermelons

The flying pips, shattered shells and wet shrapnel still haunt farmer Liu Mingsuo after an effort to chemically boost his fruit crop went spectacularly wrong.

Um, yeah.

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Newt Gingrich makes Allen West look good

It really does take a lot to make right-wing Tea Party Rep. Allen West (R-FL) look good, but The Newt did just that by calling for the return of so-called "poll tests" and thereby allowing West, a black man, to point out, rightly, that such tests were used to deny the vote to blacks during the Jim Crow era:

THINK PROGRESS: Over the weekend, presidential contender Newt Gingrich came out and said he'd like to see some sort of poll test, throwing out the idea that maybe voters ought to have a certain standard knowledge of American history in order to be able to vote. What are your thoughts on that?

WEST: That's going back to some times that my parents had to contend with... I think that we need to do a better job educating our young men and women in school, but we don't need to have a litmus test, no.

West may be an anti-Muslim bigot, but he's certainly not a self-hating racist. Give him that at least.

And as for Gingrich, well, his utterly appalling proposal speaks for itself. He's supposedly an historian. And apparently he'd like to return to an ugly time in American history to make sure that "undesirables" (to him and the GOP) can't vote.

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CBO says GOP's negotiating skills MIA on budget deal

The Republicans' hard-fought battle to curb the "ballooning deficit" and "reign in excessive government spending" backfired in the worst kind of way this week.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office delivered the knockout blow to the party of fiscal conservatism on Monday morning, when it published an updated estimate of the actual savings agreed to in the bi-partisan budget deal that avoided a government shutdown in early April.

Republicans were already sour over the deal, which both parties claimed would cut $38.5 billion in spending from this fiscal year's budget (or approximately $78 billion compared to the president's budget request, which was never enacted). A quarter of the most conservative Republicans in the House voted against the measure on the basis that the cuts didn't come close to the $61 billion (or approximately $100 billion) they promised their constituency during the midterm election campaigns. Since the agreement was reached, the news has only grown more disappointing.

On the eve of Congress' vote to enact the "budget compromise," the CBO issued a report estimating that the actual savings from the alleged $38.5 billion in cuts would come out to more like $352 million (not billion). The discrepancy was due to lawmakers increasing spending for certain defense programs and including both unspent budget allocations and rescissions (programs whose funds were already cancelled by Congress) in their budget savings calculations.

Most recently, the CBO issued a revised report projecting that spending reductions actually would result in a net increase in government spending – to the tune of $3.2 billion. According to the report, the estimated cuts to non-military spending totaled only $4.4 billion, or approximately 90 percent below the $38.5 billion Republicans believed they were agreeing to, as a compromise, in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Rather than decreasing the deficit and cutting wasteful government spending, Republicans passed a bill that actually increased spending and added to the deficit.

So much for fiscal conservatism.

So much for campaign promises.

And so much for the ol' reliable campaign tactic of labeling Democrats as spend-thrift socialists bent on turning American into a broken and bankrupted welfare state. It will be painfully amusing to watch the GOP try to justify how they managed to fight for three months over a budget they claimed didn't do enough to address the country's apocalyptically high deficit, only to settle on a deal that actually increased the deficit.

On the other hand, if it's true that nothing in politics happens accidentally, then it's entirely possible that Republicans are gearing up for another massive swipe of Democratic seats in Congress, this time by appealing to the left-wingers who believe, with good reason, that government spending during a time of nominal growth is the best remedy for an ailing economy.

I wouldn't count on it, but that's a better justification for achieving the opposite of the party's stated intentions than walking up to the podium at a press conference and explaining in congratulatory prose how President Obama's negotiating skills are so monumentally superior to those of the GOP.

"We were as shocked as you were" isn't exactly a campaign motto that will rile the base in 2012.

(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

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West of the moon, east of common sense

By Zandar

(Ed. note: I'd like to welcome a new contributor to The Reaction, Zandar of Zandar Versus The Stupid. I came across his blog a while back, during one of my stints doing the round-up at Crooks and Liars, and instantly became a huge fan. He's a fantastic writer who provides incisive analysis, and he'll now be bringing his formidable blogging talent to our team -- and it's an honour to have him here with us. So I hope you keep checking back for his posts, along with all of our posts (of course), but, if you aren't already familiar with him, so check out his blog and become a regular reader. You'll love it. And now read on and enjoy his first post here, on Hedges, West, and Obama. -- MJWS)

Via Jon Pitts-Wiley at Jack and Jill Politics, a not-so-gentle reminder than not everybody who suffers from Obama Derangement Syndrome is A) a Republican or B) white. 

No one grasps this tragic descent better than West, who did 65 campaign events for Obama, believed in the potential for change and was encouraged by the populist rhetoric of the Obama campaign. He now nurses, like many others who placed their faith in Obama, the anguish of the deceived, manipulated and betrayed. He bitterly describes Obama as “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”

That's Truthdig's Chris Hedges -- not President Obama's biggest fan by a long shot -- covering Princeton professor Cornel West there, in one of the nastiest pieces of firebagging I've read in some time. The piece is mainly about Cornel West's phone calls not being returned and his hurt feelings, but with Chris Hedges driving the narrative it becomes a massive airing of the grievances at Festivus.

Take this passage:

"I was thinking maybe he has at least some progressive populist instincts that could become more manifest after the cautious policies of being a senator and working with [Sen. Joe] Lieberman as his mentor," he says. "But it became very clear when I looked at the neoliberal economic team. The first announcement of Summers and Geithner I went ballistic. I said, 'Oh, my God, I have really been misled at a very deep level.' And the same is true for Dennis Ross and the other neo-imperial elites. I said, 'I have been thoroughly misled, all this populist language is just a facade.' I was under the impression that he might bring in the voices of brother Joseph Stiglitz and brother Paul Krugman. I figured, OK, given the structure of constraints of the capitalist democratic procedure that’s probably the best he could do. But at least he would have some voices concerned about working people, dealing with issues of jobs and downsizing and banks, some semblance of democratic accountability for Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats who are just running amuck. I was completely wrong."

Now I've made the exact same point about Geithner. I do not, however, find it to be a deeply personal betrayal. I also pointed out that the kind of folks that Republicans put forth to replace Geithner were a lot worse.  It is in fact possible to criticize the President. I did so on many of his economic, civil liberties, and military policies. I still have a number of issues with the President.

But what West and Hedges are doing is making it personal, and that's just not objective. Melissa Harris-Perry has even less tolerance for this nonsense than I do.

I have many criticisms of the Obama administration. I wrote angrily about his choice of Rick Warren to deliver a prayer at the inauguration. I have spoken on television about my disagreement with drone attacks in Pakistan and been critical of the administration's initial choice to prosecute DADT cases. I worked for more progressive health care reform legislation and supported organizations that resisted the reproductive rights "compromises" in the bill. I've been scathing in public remarks and writings about the President’s education policy. My husband leads a non-profit that is suing HUD for its implementation of a discriminatory formula in the post-Katrina Road Home program. The president has never called me. I got my ticket to the inauguration from Canada! (Because Canadian Broadcast Television who gave me a chance to narrate the day's events.) But I can tell the difference between a substantive criticism and a personal attack. It is clear to me that West's ego, not the health of American democracy, is the wounded creature in this story.

And I have to agree with that wholeheartedly. The real issue is how the "principled opposition" to Obama from the left always seems to devolve from pointed criticism of the President to hysterical pyramids of straw men set on fire to glorify and justify the people attacking him from the left. It becomes the raison d'être rather than the objective viewpoint, and much of that comes from the fact the Village exists to feed on things like this. Best way to get attention as a liberal? Attack Obama from the left. A whole number of folks have staked out this territory in the last two years or so. Cornel West is just the latest but by no means is he the sole offender here.

When the "valid criticism" of the President becomes a vehicle for your own self-advancement, it ceases being valid and starts being dangerous and detrimental. If you're going to come at Obama because of policy differences, that's one thing. If you're doing it to get shiny views and TV time in order to remain relevant, then it's your problem, not Obama's.

Some folks need to do some serious soul searching, and do it quickly. The alternative to Obama is far, far worse. But I'd be remiss if I let this passage go without a fight:

"I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men," West says. "It's understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he's always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening."

As a mixed-race person here, West's accusation involving Obama being afraid of being viewed as a "white man in black skin" is so far beneath both rational discourse as a tenured Ivy League professor and beneath contempt in pretty much any other context that I'm actually somewhat horrified that anyone would actually say that outside of David Duke. Trying to make your bones off of painting Obama as "not black enough" is just as repugnant as having a problem with him being black, and in many ways it's worse. How is that in any way germane to the discussions of his policy or the realpolitik of Washington in 2011?

This is the kind of truly damaging idiocy that will end up doing more to deliver votes into the hands of the Republicans and depress turnout among blacks than anything Newt Gingrich or Tom Coburn or Ron Paul could utter, and it's this line-obliterating nonsense that goes well beyond the realm of valid criticism of Obama and straight into Obama Derangement Syndrome territory.

And that brings us to the most maddening, frustrating, and depressing part: West does have some valid points. Obama has made some bad decisions on his economic team and economic policy that favored the wealthy over the rest of us, on continuing many of the more heinous Bush-era legal and civil liberties policies, and by not prosecuting the Wall Street offenders who decimated out economy.  But those points are hopelessly lost in the storm of his own desire to go after Obama for sleights both real and imagined, and the further rush to justify his position as morally correct.

There is a categorical difference between what West set out to do here (and what Hedges tries to assist him with) and what they actually end up doing, and it's an empirical example of how you can go way too far in the quest for ideological perfection at the expense of common friggin' sense.

(Cross-posted at Zandar Versus The Stupid.)

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Gingrich vs. Ryan ends with a KO for Ryan

Gingrich slammed Ryan, calling his anti-Medicare plan "radical."

Ryan retaliated, suggesting that Gingrich is just like "the left."

Other right-wing Republicans, like Nikki Haley and Rick Santorum, sided with Ryan and piled on Gingrich.

And Gingrich, tail between his legs, humbled and humiliated, apologized to Ryan.

This is how it works in the GOP.


I can't say I ever admire Gingrich, but I understood, or thought I understood, why he took the risk of criticizing Ryan's plan (and, for all intents and purposes, the Republican plan). It was opportunistic, a transparent (or so I thought) attempt to situate himself between the party's right-wing mainstream and grassroots on one side and the somewhat more moderate (and rather more pragmatic) establishment on the other, recognizing that Ryan's plan is deeply unpopular, including among many Republicans, and a likely vote-loser in 2012.

But it was also a shot at the leading Republican wunderkind of the day as well as at what has become a key element of conservative orthodoxy, and for that The Newt got crushed.

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Reason Number One for Single Payer Healthcare

By Carl
We already have de facto death panels, led by bureaucrats and bean counters.
Note, this isn't a left issue or a right issue. This isn't a rich or poor issue. This one affects us all.
Emergency rooms are mandated to treat every patient who walks in the door, regardless of insurance coverage. This is to prevent the terminal condition known as "death".
What actually happens is two-fold: first, ERs become the primary care facility for people who are uninsured. That's just a given. A deep cut to the hand from broken glass becomes an emergency room visit (as it probably should, given the abhorrent lack of availability of general practitioners who work with the poor), in addition to the heart attack on the staircase at home.
One you can die from immediately, the other is unlikely unless it gets infected, yet the ER must treat both patients. What ends up happening, in the event that neither of these people has insurance, is you and I pay for their care in the form of inflated premiums and higher medical charges. And even if they do have insurance, you'll notice something else.
The patient with the heart attack by definition will receive inferior care because the hospital must devote at least a few moments to cleaning and stitching the wound. And if the patient with the cut has insurance and the patient with the heart attack does not, this increases greatly the risk of death.
Which brings me to point number two, and the more important one. When ERs become the primary care facility for fifty million uninsured people, that is going to impact the kind of medical care you and I will receive. It's going to suck, period.
Partially because of the simplistic scenario I outlined above, but more, ERs will be looking to cut costs and corners wherever possible and inflate prices wherever possible, in order to make up the shortfall they have from treating the uninsured.
In many cases, as the article demonstrates, it's just not enough. Which only starts a vicious cycle. And now the clock starts on your death.
See, if the local hospital shuts its ER down, you have to travel farther when you have that heart attack. Anyone who's taken a CPR course can tell you, even seconds can make a difference between living, living as a vegetable, or dying.
But let's say you're one of the lucky ones, and your ER remains open, somehow managing to remain profitable. Now it's getting the residue of the one that closed down the road, which means more crowding, more cases and as I pointed out, worse care.
Now, it's easy to poo-poo this: how many people visit an emergency room even once in their lives?
Well, 124 million visits occur annually. Even allowing for twenty percent of those to be repeat visitors, that's still nearly one-third of the population.
Still think it's a remote issue? Well, consider this: the time you visit the ER is the time you really NEED the ER. Seconds, milliseconds, matter.
Private health insurance is a casino game, and the patients are the marks.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Ryan's out, Thompson's in for the Wisconsin Senate race

Last week Herb Kohl (D-WI) announced that he would not seek re-election for his Senate seat, which has probably put it in the toss-up column, and I wrote about some of the people who might be looking to take a run at the thing. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan said that he would give it some thought and, after having done so, has decided that he will stay put.

In a statement, Ryan said the following:

I believe continuing to serve as Chairman of the House Budget Committee allows me to have a greater impact in averting this debt-fueled economic crisis than if I were to run for the United States Senate. House Republicans have taken bold steps forward in tackling our fiscal and economic challenges - we have led where others have not. I want to keep building on this progress.

Okay, so he believes he can have a greater impact in the House Budget Committee. Whatever. I speculated last week that having Ryan run for the Senate given how toxic his Medicare destroying budget plan is turning out to be would give this divisive issue even more profile -- as if it needed it.

Enter Tommy Thompson, former Republican Governor of Wisconsin and Health and Human Services Secretary, who has now indicated that he is going to run for the seat now that Ryan has taken himself out of it. Problem is that Thompson is something of a moderate, particularly on the issue of Medicare. So, even without Ryan, the Wisconsin Senate race is still going to help keep the issue top of mind.

As Jonathan Chait notes, Thompson not only supports a plan that might have similarities to the Affordable Care Act, as other Republicans have done, he has specifically endorsed Obama's plan itself.

In 2009, along with Richard Gephardt, fellow Board member of America's Agenda: Health Care for All, Thompson wrote:

The health-care bill in the Senate represents another milestone in achieving meaningful health-care reform for millions of Americans. It is now critical that members of Congress work together in a bi-partisan fashion to pass a common-sense, fiscally responsible solution to drive down health-care costs, ensure access to affordable and quality care, achieve efficiency and achieve real savings.

And if that isn't specific enough,
Thompson wrote at The Huffington Post in April, noting his opposition to Paul Ryan's Medicare plan, that:

Simply cutting Medicare isn't the answer by any means. Instead, let's focus on the most effective fiscal path forward with the least amount of impact on millions of seniors, their families and our broader economy. In other words, reform Medicare don't cut it.

As Chait states, "The question is whether Republicans want to take the trade-off of winning a Senate seat in return for accepting a high-profile defector from the Obama-care jihad. My guess is they won't."

My guess is that Chait is right, which can only mean a high-profile Tea Party-backed campaign to beat Thompson in a nomination fight -- a fight that will again keep the Ryan plan to cut Medicare front and center.

I still cannot believe that the Republican leadership in Washington didn't fully understand the electoral implications of Ryan's plan to eviscerate Medicare. Are they really that clueless?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Santorum says McCain doesn't get torture

Really, Rick Santorum? You don't think John McCain knows what torture is all about?

I get that you're a torture enthusiast like so many in your party, but are you really that much of a fucking idiot?

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Top Ten Cloves: Possible Disney "Navy Seal Team 6" movies to be released

Disney doesn't have to go far to exploit the killing of Osama bid Laden by the Navy Seal Team 6, it can just dip into the vast reservoir of its own film vault and rework storylines. 

10. 101 Navy Seal Team 6's (Navy Seal Team 6 disrupts Al Qaeda suicide dog attack)

9. Song of the Seal Team 6 (Human interest pic of first African-American in Seal Team 6)

8. Terrorists in the Outfield (Summer 2012 - Al Qaeda targets Game 7 of World Series, but Navy Seal Team 6 swoops in, foils plot, and saves all the baseball players and fans)

7. That Darn Osama! (Navy Seal Team 6 adopts stray Islamic cat that leads them to Osama bin Laden)

6. The Shaggy Seal Team 6 (Navy Seal Team 6 shape-shifts into old English sheep dogs and herds all the terrorists into jail)

5. Honey, I Shrunk Osama Bin Laden (After accidentally shrinking Osama bid Laden, Navy Seal Team 6 gets shrunk to hunt down and kill him)

4. Who Framed Osama Bin Laden? (First animated Navy Seal Team 6 pic - Bob Hoskins returns as the private detective and helps Navy Seal Team 6 work through an army of Disney and other cartoon characters to track down Osama bin Laden and kill him)

3. The Absent-Minded Jihadist (With nod to original pic, Navy Seal Team 6 discovers old Pentagon Flubber files and develops Flubber Airplanes and other weapons to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden)

2. 20,000 Terrorists Under The Sea (Water adventure, borrowing from Pirates of the Caribbean - Disney sees multiple sequels with this)

1. The Navy Seal 6 King (Another animated pic, staying close to original, telling tale of young Navy Seal 6 team member destined to become team leader but having to deal with disgruntled team member, overcoming numerous plots to kill him before youngster beats him back and emerges victorious, with other Team 6 members bowing to him)


(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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