Saturday, February 25, 2012

The right wing's ancient evil

Guest post by Infidel753 

Infidel753 was born in New York state, grew up in California, and now lives in Oregon. His area of academic specialization was the Middle East. He is a life-long atheist and long-time liberal with a special interest in social issues and technology.

(Ed. note: This is Infidel's fourth guest post for us. You can find his first, on the ignorant fundamentalism of the Republican Party, here; his second, on the incoherence of the Occupy Wall Street movement, here; and his third, on the parasitism of Romney and Bain, here. -- MJWS)


I suppose this proposed Virginia law, which I first heard about via Progressive Eruptions, was the final straw -- but I've known for a long time that there's far more at stake this year than in an ordinary election. We're facing a bizarre, atavistic evil here. It does not control the whole Republican Party -- yet -- but wherever they attain power, so does it.

It's not enough that our country has become a land where a few people who have learned to game the system accumulate obscene wealth by destroying jobs and producing nothing of value, while the incomes of the workers who produce everything of value stagnate. It's not enough that taxes on the wealthiest have been cut relentlessly for half a century until, we are told, the government can no longer afford to provide even the threadbare safety net we've come to know. It's not enough that the opposition elite's hand-picked candidate for the presidency is a man whose career exemplifies these nation-wrecking trends. No, there's something even more dark and horrible looming behind all that.

This is a war against modernity and modernity's central premise, the value system based on the individual's right to self-determination so long as his or her actions do not interfere with the self-determination of others, in favor of the older value system based on arbitrary taboos and edicts recorded in ancient religious texts, where our lives should be shaped not by our own desires but by the plans supposedly drawn for us by an imaginary deity. I could fill paragraphs with examples of the sophistry and obfuscation I've seen Republicans use to re-frame opposition to abortion and birth control so as to avoid mentioning the issue of women's self-determination -- to make the question about anything other than individual choice. That's the basic clash of world-views here: is your life your own, to be run based on your own wishes, or are you created as a utensil for some divine plan?

Theirs is clearly a religious world-view, even if the divine plan was replaced by the will of the state in earlier, semi-secularized variants of it (Fascism and Communism). Hence, too, the sin-and-punishment model exemplified by the Virginia law. Any supposed medical purpose is window dressing; the point is to humiliate a person who (must have) violated a sexual taboo and is now trying to evade the divinely-ordained punishment. If the Old Testament's dietary laws were still taken seriously by fundamentalists, they might be proposing laws to require similar degrading treatment for people who seek medical help for food poisoning after eating shellfish.

The sin/punishment model suffuses all their thinking. Republican rhetoric about the poor and unemployed is laced with a penalizing stance. Drug-test them, take away their benefits, impose this or that rule -- punish, degrade, humiliate. In the religious model, suffering is redemptive, so the more of it the better. It's sadism and deliberate cruelty, puffed up with a stance of moral superiority.

One sees the same in the conservative austerity policies being forced on southern Europe by the EU bureaucracy, privileging deficit reduction over jobs at a time of brutal unemployment. Never mind that the economic contraction caused by austerity is destroying the basis of future growth which would actually reduce the deficits. Solving the problem is not the point. The bureaucrats ignore the terrible suffering austerity creates -- if anything, they seem to relish it. Sin must be punished. The moral superiority of the north over the south must be asserted. And of course Republican deficit hawks in the U.S. are eager to impose the same sick model here.

It's no wonder that gays are such a target of choice. Their very existence is not allowed by the taboo system. In the fundamentalist world-view, there are no gay people, just a special case of sinful temptation and the necessity of resisting it. Even if gay sex can't be criminalized any more (and don't doubt for a moment that these people would still do that if they could), gays must be excluded from marriage, excluded from the military, excluded from teaching, excluded, excluded, excluded. The casting-out of the taboo-breaker, the branding with the scarlet letter, the public verdict "there is something wrong with you, you are not fit to be among us" -- that is the point.

Everywhere where they took power in 2010, they've been showing their true colors. Attack gays, attack women's self-determination, attack the poor.

It's always mostly about sex, of course. Repressed people are always fixated on it. There was never any real-world possibility that shellfish would be an issue. 95% of the Christian Right's obsessions are about other people's sexual self-determination and how to stop them from transgressing taboos. And like other psycho-sexual criminals, they escalate over time. So they have now reached the point of decreeing that women in Virginia who seek abortions be subjected by law to a procedure that meets the legal definition of rape. And make no mistake, if they get away with that, the next thing they come up with will be worse. It won't stop until somebody stops it.

The opposition today no longer embodies the spirit of Eisenhower and Goldwater, but that of the robber baron and the Grand Inquisitor of centuries past. Its face is no longer Reagan's sunny optimism, but the rapist's triumphant snigger.

There is one other matter which is seldom raised, but which is desperately important for the future of our country.

The world is entering an era in which proficiency in science and technology will outweigh everything else. The pace of technological change has accelerated beyond what seemed possible even a decade or two ago. In the world of the near future, it is the nations with the best brains that will lead. A nation that bets on cheap labor will not lead. A nation whose science classes teach that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that solid scientific fact must be rejected if it contradicts primitive dogma, will not lead. A nation where every proposal for major government investment in public education is met with whining about the burden on the taxpayers, will not lead. The right wing is setting up our children to be the hewers of wood and drawers of water for the Germans and Japanese.

We've got to win this thing. Re-electing Obama is necessary (think Supreme Court picks) but not sufficient. We must take back the House from Boehner and the teabagging lunatics who are so extreme even he can barely cope with them. We must restore a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, plus a margin of error to allow for a few Blue Dogs. We must make sure Elizabeth Warren gets in this year, so she'll be in position to run for President in 2016 and finish the work Obama started. We must get Walker and the other union-busting Kochroaches out. But beyond that, we must smash the troglodytes and bullies on the other side so hard and bury them so deep that they can never, ever dig themselves out to torment and destroy the decent people of this country again.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Mitt Romney gets blown out at Ford Field

"Mitt Romney's Ford Field Fumble?" asks ABC News.

It's a rhetorical question. Of course he fumbled. And what an embarrassing fumble it was:

Standing on the 30-yard line of Detroit's Ford Field, Mitt Romney delivered what was billed as a major economic speech before a crowd of about 1,200 supporters on Friday.

In his crucial home state of Michigan,  Romney reiterated his new tax plan to applause from an audience dwarfed by the scope of the stadium that seats up to 80,000 spectators.

The Romney campaign promised an economic policy speech on filled with major new policy initiatives, but as it turned out, the venue may have been too big for his message. The supporters, sitting in folding chairs on the field of the indoor football stadium that is home to the NFL's Detroit Lions, were surrounded by tens of thousands of empty seats.

"I want to thank the folks at the Ford Field for making this space available for us," Romney said. "I guess we had a hard time finding a large enough place to meet and this certainly is."

The speech itself was typical Romney. If you've been paying attention, you've heard it all before. He said that Detroit should be "the motor city of the world," though of course he was against the auto bailout -- which has proven to be a huge success.

As The Hill notes:

Television cameras showed rows of empty chairs as Romney rehashed many of the policies and quips he'd used in previous speeches, made a few jokes that appeared to fall flat with the audience and said that his wife, Ann, drives "a couple of Cadillacs," which will likely give Democrats more ammunition for their depiction of him as rich and out of touch.


Most of Romney's speech was focused on rehashing the tax policies he'd released earlier this week, and repeating attacks he’d made previously on President Obama. Romney promised to lower taxes and repeal Obama’s healthcare overhaul, comments he makes during nearly all of his speeches.

And those in attendance were not terribly impressed, it would seem:

After an audience member asked Romney if he thought he'd have the best chance to beat Obama, Romney dismissed the other GOP candidates.

"I not only think I have the best chance, I think I have the only chance — maybe I'm overstating it a bit," he said, chuckling awkwardly.

"That's my family leading the applause," he said quickly, although no one was clapping, then laughed again. No one appeared to laugh with him.

Awk... ward. And this from the Republican frontrunner and likely nominee? Yes. And this is what it's come to: Romney bullshitting, the media calling him on his bullshit, and whatever appeal he has left draining away. It's like no one's even taking him seriously anymore as he runs as far as he can to the right while keeping an eye on the center he must head to should he win the nomination, promoting a far-right agenda on everything from the economy to immigration to same-sex marriage to unions to Iran, but doing so without even a shred of credibility, so obvious does it seem that he'll do and say anything for votes, and blaming Obama for everything under the sun, so much so that it's all become quite ridiculous, his act so laughable, his inability to connect so blatant, his desperation so palpable that the negative media narrative is writing itself, and deepening, every time he opens his mouth or even just appears in public.

Even his key surrogates, the Chris Christies and Ann Coulters of the world, must find it hard to summon any enthusiasm. Imagine how the party faithful will react when he walks out to give his acceptance speech at the convention later this year. They'll back him because he's the Republican and because they hate the president, but will there be any genuine love for Romney himself?

A speech full of the usual banality to some unimpressed supporters in the middle of a mostly empty stadium in a state that he calls his own pretty much says it all.

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Too many Mormons

By Mustang Bobby.

It's posted as an "exclusive" on Buzzfeed:

In the compelling personal narrative that has helped propel Florida Senator Marco Rubio to national political stardom, one chapter has gone completely untold: Rubio spent his childhood as a faithful Mormon.

Rubio was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with his family at around the age of eight, and remained active in the faith for a number of years during his early youth, family members told BuzzFeed.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant confirmed the story to BuzzFeed, and said Rubio returned to the Catholic church a few years later with his family, receiving his first communion on Christmas day in 1984 at the age of 13.

And...?  So what?

Well, apparently it complicates matters in his path to being the vice presidential candidate with Mitt Romney because according to the GOP prophets of fear, loathing, and bigotry, you can't have two people of the same faith on the ticket unless they belong to the right church.  Mr. Rubio states he is a Roman Catholic, which is now acceptable in the GOP, although to hedge his bets he's also attended the megachurch here in Palmetto Bay.  (Ironically, the Constitution only prohibits two people from the same state from being president and vice president.  Mitt Romney has lived in a lot of places, but Florida isn't one of them, so Mr. Rubio is good to go on that count.)

Mr. Rubio has enough baggage, including his somewhat interesting financial history here in Florida as well as his embellished story about his family's emigration from Cuba, that he doesn't need a revelation about his faith to make him problematic in the eyes of some political strategists.  On the other hand, playing fast and loose with other peoples' money and fudging his history to make him more appealing to hard-liners gets high marks on the GOP hypocrisy meter.  All he needs is an ex-wife that he dumped when she was in the hospital to hit the trifecta.

Personally (and to paraphrase the immortal Hawkeye Pierce), the instrument has yet to be invented that could measure my indifference as to what church a candidate does or doesn't go to in terms of deciding whom to vote for.  It shouldn't even enter the picture.  That said, any candidate who declares that his or her religious beliefs would be a deciding factor in the matters of state, be it economics, foreign policy, defense, or social issues such as reproductive choice or marriage equality is instantly disqualified in my book.  If they want to keep it private -- like silent prayer -- that's a different matter, but to use their faith and practice as their defense is a cop-out because it relieves them of the responsibility of standing up for their own views.  "I'm against gays getting married because my imaginary friend Jesus H. Reagan Christ said so" gets them off the hook instead of telling the truth: "I'm against gays getting married because the idea of two men in bed makes me all tingly with ... um, moral outrage."

It is kind of funny, though, to see the Republicans hoisted on their own petard of religious bigotry.  They've gotten enough mileage out of Barack Obama's secret Muslim tropes, and they're on the verge of nominating a man who, according to Franklin Graham, isn't even a Christian.  Now they're about to disqualify one of their rising stars because at the age of eight he and his family joined the Mormons for a few years.

That's their cross to bear.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Another memo to Obama: Focus on Romney, play up Santorum

Ignoring my sage advice, it seems that the Obama campaign has indeed begun to turn some of its attention to Rick Santorum:

Last week, the Obama campaign made what seemed, on its surface, like a startling announcement: They were steering some of their opposition researchers, who had been mostly trained on Mitt Romney, to a rocketing Rick Santorum.

The announcement was factual — the campaign is, indeed, busy beefing up its dossier on the former Pennsylvania senator, thanks to his recent trio of wins and surprising strength in Michigan. It was also a bit of classic campaign jujitsu designed to further degrade the standing of an already wounded Romney, the man Team Obama still thinks will be the eventual GOP nominee.

"Circumstances have changed," said Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, referring to Santorum's sudden relevance.

But more than anything, the shift revealed a genuine sense of befuddlement within Democratic circles over how to deal with the once-unthinkable possibility that Rick Santorum — you know, the guy who lost his last Senate race by 18 points — could actually be their opponent in November.

That's the Santorum paradox, Democrats say: He's too dangerous to ignore — yet impossible to take seriously.

As usual, Politico is overstating the case. Democrats aren't befuddled as much as they are bemused -- and for good reason. Santorum would be a disaster of a candidate in the general election, and Republicans would be even stupider than we thought they were to nominate him.

Furthermore, while circumstances may indeed have changed, insofar as Santorum has indeed emerged as an apparently credible anti-Romney, and hence as a relevant possibility, there's no way the Obama campaign is actually taking him, or the likelihood of his nomination, all that seriously. If anything, it's playing a game here, appearing to take Santorum seriously as a way of further weakening Romney -- this point Politico gets right.

Is there a Santorum paradox? Maybe, for the media. But surely not for anyone with any sense. The Obama campaign would be wise to continue playing up Santorum as a viable alternative to Romney, just as many of us have been doing, those of us on the left openly rooting for Santorum (as we rooted for Gingrich before), but there's certainly no good reason to consider him much of a threat. Romney's still the one to beat (and he seems to be back in the race in Michigan, as expected, meaning he could get back the momentum with wins both there and in Arizona next week), and Santorum will implode. It's just a matter of when.


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Dear Allen West, how about not driving a fucking Hummer?

There are so many good reasons to dislike Republican idiot extraordinaire Allen West.

His whining about having to pay $70 to fill up his gas-guzzling, environment-raping Hummer, a completely unnecessary vehicle unless you have to navigate the chaos of a war zone, is certainly one of them.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Maryland, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland was approved by the state Senate, which advanced a measure that narrowly cleared the House of Delegates last week.

The final vote by the state Senate ended a yearlong drama in Annapolis over the legislation, and marked the first time an East Coast state south of the Mason-Dixon line has supported gay nuptials.

With the vote, the measure moves to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who has said he will sign it.

Maryland would join the District and seven states in allowing same-sex marriages. Supporters have cast the bill as a major advance in equal rights. Opponents have called it a misguided attempt to redefine the institution of marriage.

Opponents, of course, are bigots. Period.

(And, yes, that includes the bullying blowhard known as Gov. Chris Christie of my former home state of New Jersey. He's better than most Republicans on this issue, to be sure, but separate but equal isn't good enough.)

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oh please

By Capt, Fogg

Marvelous Mitt must be desperate to have something scary to say to distract Republicans from the religious wedge issues the public is getting tired of. He'd rather not talk about religion anyway and he needs of course, to distract from the dumb things he keeps saying. So he's had to come up with something dumber, if not quite original.

Remember when Darth Cheney told us in solemn tones that "Obama will be tested" and that there would be an onslaught of terrorist attacks should we be so foolish as to elect that candy-ass, ultra-liberal crypto-pacifist, watermelon stealing coward? Well Republicans may not remember, but we all know the result - more terrorists killed than ever and that includes Osama bin Laden. I think he's passed the test.

No, he didn't take our guns, he didn't make capitalism or Christianity illegal, he didn't appoint Jesse Jackson as Secretary of State and he didn't give us a huge middle class tax increase or a confiscatory corporate tax rate. He didn't institute Sharia law. In fact he's usually done the opposite of what the Chicken Littles have been squawking about for 4 years now.

So a return to objective reality not being possible when your entire platform and your strongest base are pickled in delusion and ignorance, what option does he have but to go nuclear? That's right, if we re-elect the president, the world will be blown up in a nuclear holocaust says Mr. Bluster of the plastic face.
" If I’m president, that will not happen. If we re-elect Barack Obama it will.”

I couldn't make this shit up, but then, I couldn't make this Mitt up. I couldn't vote for him either.

“Ahmadinejad having fissile material that he can give to Hezbollah, Hamas, and that they can bring into Latin America, and that they can potentially bring across the border into the United States to let off dirty bombs here — or more sophisticated bombs here.”

Sure Mitt, Just like Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons were potentially going to be smuggled into Peoria in a briefcase even though he had none, nor the means to make them, and we had to blow a few trillion and kill nearly a million to wipe him out -- and why is Obama going to get us into a nuclear war? Why, says make it up as you go along Mitt, because he hasn't been threatening to blow Iran off the surface of the planet for even thinking about it and possibly because according to the Secretary of Defense, Iran hasn't been doing much more than thinking and blustering about building one.

"Potentially." It's such a great word to weave a plot around. Potentially I'm an NBA linebacker who writes music like Mozart and travels the world in his magic submarine fighting for justice. Is Romney potentially a President? Oh please.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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This day in music - February 23, 1925: "Tea for Two" is at #1 on the charts

Marion Harris in 1924
I am not exactly sure what charts were being used in 1925, but I found this on the web, so it must be true.

"Tea for Two" is a song from the 1925 musical No, No, Nanette with music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Irving Ceasar.

I did know, even without looking, that the song also later became a jazz standard pretty much played by everyone at one point or another, people like Art Tatum, Django Reinhardt, and Tommy Dorsey.

One thing I did not know, and perhaps didn't need to know, is that "Tea for Two" was the most played song on the Lawrence Welk Show, having been performed 67 times in the more than 1000 show run. Wow, who was counting?

One thing that a lot of people think they know is that No, No, Nanette was financed by selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, though, apparently, it was in fact a show called My Lady Friends, produced in 1919, that had been directly financed by the Ruth sale. But even with this there appears to be some confusion because, it seems, My Lady Friends was in fact a non-musical stage play, which later became No, No, Nanette. Okay.

Whatever show was involved, this sale of Ruth by the Red Sox to the Yankees was called the "Curse of the Bambino," which, according to legend, was the reason the Red Sox didn't win a World Series for 86 years. Then the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and that was that.

According to the aforementioned website, "Tea for Two" was a hit in 1925 for someone by the name of Marion Harris (1896-1944). To be sure, I mean no disrespect to Ms. Harris, who appears to have been quite a star in her day on vaudeville, the theatre and on records.

For the sake of authenticity, the recording below is from 1925, but it is a duet performed, in this case, by Helen Clark and Lewis James, likely as preformed in the production of the musical.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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How lucky is Barack Obama? Very lucky

We have been so busy pointing to the utter incompetence of the GOP presidential field or marvelling at the radical social conservatism coming from some of them and how toxic that would be in the general election that we may not have sufficiently considered the other side of the equation. By that I mean the fact that President Barack Obama must consider himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth, to borrow a phrase.

I mean, the economy is still weak and, even though Obama didn't start the fire, he could easily be blamed for not putting it out fast enough, as unfair as that may be. But that's politics. You play the hand you're dealt and are judged accordingly.

While I would never have necessarily said Obama was going to be the underdog in 2012, the only way he might have been favoured, in my view, would be if the economy moved off centre stage either because it was improving or because the other guys foolishly decided to focus on something else or even because opposition candidates so lacked basic political skill that the focus of the campaign would be on each of them, and the eventual nominee, instead of the economy.

Well, guess what? The economy may be improving slightly but, perhaps more importantly, the other guys are talking about restricting the accessibility of birth control or whether or not women should be in the workplace or the extent to which the devil has infiltrated American institutions among other crazy things. Okay, only Rick Santorum is talking about these things, but it's pretty much blocking out the stuff Republicans should be talking about and setting the agenda in a very destructive way for them.

The other piece, of course, is that the GOP field is so weak that even with the economy in the shape it's in, they don't have a credible delivery system to carry the message. So, they're off message, and even when they're on message they're screwing up because the supposed front-runner is a rich guy so out of touch with the lives of most Americans that he's a walking, talking billboard for the Democrats' key message, i.e., Republicans are the party of privilege, who want to keep the middle class down.

Democratic strategist, James Carville, always good for a quote, was being interviewed on the Imus in the Morning radio program recently, and told Don Imus, apropos of all this, that though it was possible Obama could lose the election because of an event, he would not lose it because of a Republican candidate. Carville, an experienced political hand, knows that in politics things can go wrong, but he doesn't think there is a Republican strong enough to beat Obama on merit.

As he said:

Right now, things are starting to perk up a little bit. Who knows? This is the — no Republican can beat Obama. Events can beat Obama. He’s not going to get beat by a Republican. Now events could come in and cause him to lose the election. But that’s it right now. That was not the case three months ago.

And the quotable quote?

You know what, he is — if this president, if I had anything in the world I would love to do? I would love to go to Las Vegas and stand by him at a craps table. ‘Mr. President, you just throw the dice. I’ve got my money on every roll.' He’s a lucky, lucky, lucky guy.

You can find the full clip here.

James Carville is no fool and he is clearly hedging his bets because anything can happen in politics. But who saw the GOP screwing up this much when this all started?

The worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and, as Carville taught us all in 1992, "It's the economy, stupid."

It's hard to believe anyone could fail to grasp that these days.

Yes, Barack Obama is a very lucky man.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

End of the world or just the Republican Party?

Guest post by tmcbpatriot 

Ed. note: His first guest post, on how it's about the vagina, stupid, was on Monday, and two days later we're running his second. I'm a big fan of his blog and we're happy to have him on board. -- MJWS


tmcbpatriot's informative and always entertaining blog, Take My Country Back, emanates from somewhere out in the Midwest. He writes passionately and as often as possible about a confused, mindless right wing hopelessly lost in the abyss of endless lies and misdirection.

End Of The World Or Just The Republican Party? takemycountrybackSo I'm reading the news the other day and I see this: "Dick Cheney lobbied for Maryland gay marriage bill." I stared at it for a while in disbelief. Is the world ending? Did that pastor finally get it right? Then I did a Google search to find out just what the hell was going on.

We know from his Bush days that Cheney has a gay daughter. But as it turns out The Evil Emperor is also a huge supporter of gay rights! Yes, it's true! While it's hard to believe, and while Cheney has said he would never have gone against a Bush push for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, Cheney did publicly voice his disagreement with the idea back in the day. You can read about it herehere, and here.

The recent story has it that the Dark Lord lobbied GOP legislators in Maryland to "urge their support for the same-sex marriage bill that squeaked through the state's House of Delegates Friday." This was all too much for me to take in and it made me wonder, why are we reading about this now? News like this does not just happen by coincidence. This is really a big deal. How did this story make it into the current news cycle, a news cycle filled with anti-gay, anti-contraception, anti-women headlines? A news cycle that saw Rick Santorum become the frontrunner in the neverending campaign for the Republican nomination.

After giving it a think, I came up with three possible scenarios, laid out in random order... or are they? 

Scenario #1: Cheney is at death's door.

End Of The World Or Just The Republican Party? takemycountrybackDarth Cheney has not been looking well recently. He looks gaunt, thin, a shadow of his shadowy self. And this is a man who has survived five heart attacks! Perhaps the time is nigh for him to return to the crossroads and pay the devil his due.

It got me thinking that maybe this Maryland gay lobbying thing is perhaps Cheney's last attempt to right all the wrongs in his gay daughter's eyes and to prove to her that he does in fact have a heart and a soul. I know, it's a long shot, but nevertheless...

Scenario #2: The GOP establishment REALLY wants Romney.

End Of The World Or Just The Republican Party? takemycountrybackLet's be real for a moment. I don't care what the polls say or how few caucus voters actually vote for Mitt Romney. At the end of the day the GOP establishment is not as dumb as the people who vote for them. They live to see Obama voted out and they know that Rick Santorum has no chance of beating Obama in a general election.

Perhaps the Cheney gay lobbying story was leaked last week as a way to prove to the general voting public that conservatives are not as extreme as Santorum has been suggesting. If Santorum were to become the nominee, it would prove to so-called "independents" and especially to women that the GOP has in fact been taken over by the Tea Party.

While in most elections Republicans count on white, old, racist men and dimwitted suburban housewives at the polls, this past week we heard things like this: 

-- Rick Santorum on rape: "I believe and I think that the right approach is to accept this horribly created, in the sense of rape, but nevertheless, in a very broken way, a gift of human life, and accept what God is giving to you. As you know, in lots of different aspects of our life we have horrible things happening. I can't think of anything more horrible, but nevertheless we have to make the best out of a bad situation. And that is making the best of a bad situation."

-- Rick Santorum on states outlawing contraception: "The state has a right to do that, I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a constitutional right, the state has the right to pass whatever statues they have."

-- Rick Santorum on sex in general: "I think the dangers of contraception in this country... It's not okay because it's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."
This type of rhetoric plays great to the religious nuts, but telling women that your candidate thinks rape is God's gift to you? That is not a good plan for the Republicans to go with in any year. That said, Romney is still the only candidate who can compete over the long term. Sure, he is a horrible candidate, but as Grover Norquist said recently: "We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go." And when Romney is compared to Santorum he still has an ace in the hole with his choice for VP. My money has always been on Chris Christie, and Romney is the only candidate who could pull that off.

As John McCain said recently: “We’re dumb, but we’re not stupid.” So true, John, so true. 

Scenario #3: The GOP has seen its future, and it doesn't wear shades.

End Of The World Or Just The Republican Party? takemycountrybackIf you have been following this Republican nomination circus or just been paying attention to the last few years, you might be wondering if the Republicans plan for November is to simply hope for a landslide victory of white, male, rich, middle-aged, senior citizen, racist votes.

Let's also review what the GOP has taught us it hates this election season. The answers that quickly come to mind are health care, illegals (aka Mexicans, or anyone with dark skin in general), gays, abortions, environmental protections, the unemployed, the poor, anyone having sex, black people, Muslims, and, of course, black presidents. Did I miss anything/anyone?

Following this train of thought, what will the GOP look like in the next twenty years when the majority of our citizens are Latino, black, and/or Muslim? Or perhaps when all three are married to their same-sex partners? And provided global warming doesn't make New England into a tropical region, all those young hip northerners will eventually age and move southward for warmer climates. Goodbye, Southern Strategy. It is already happening.

In our world of political correctness, Occupy movements, and information from multiple sources 24/7, the GOP's go-to base of racist ignoramuses is inevitably going to give way to acceptance by a more tolerant and more skeptical society. When that happens, the GOP will be a quaint memory, like smoking on airplanes. And what about Latinos? You think illegal immigrants are all going to be kicked out of this country? Ha! Call me when an American citizen is willing to do the work that these poor people do for their pittance. We will scream and shout about illegals until the moment our food is not at the supermarket, our lawns are not mowed, or we decide that washing dishes for less than minimum wage is a respectable career. By then many of them will have either found a path to citizenship, or have had so many children while in this country who will grow up to not only vote but also be staunchly anti-Republican. Finally, last I checked we have a black president who is going to have a second term. Unless the GOP succeeds in its current effort of voter suppression, they will be, and are already, outnumbered. So you see, it's hopeless.

What, then, is the correct scenario? Who knows? It could be a little of all three. What is certain is that what we are now seeing within the Republican Party are baby steps. With the Dick Cheney revelation, the GOP is trying ever so slightly to get on board with an already unstoppable movement. It is a tiny chance for them to say they are not as hateful and intolerant as someone like Rick Santorum. It is a chance for them to say that one of their most beloved, and one of our most hated, Republicans supports gay marriage. In other words, "please stop supporting Rick Santorum... please!" Once that problem is solved, over the next twenty years they can get the gays to hate some other group, at least until they find a way to include the Mexicans, too. That may take a bit more time, though. Hell, it worked with the Irish and the Jews. Why should this be any different?

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Mitt Romney... union-loving Keynesian?

Mitt Romney is a rich privileged douchebag willing to do or say anything in his relentless effort to pander to the Republican Party's far-right base, but occasionally, just occasionally, he shows us a glimpse, intentionally or not, of whatever is left of the real Mitt beneath the robotic, soul-less facade.

Sure, that real Mitt is still a douchebag, most likely, with a plutocratic sense of entitlement, but it's still a Mitt that isn't quite as extreme as the one we're witnessing on the campaign trail.

Spending cuts

As he said in Michigan yesterday: "If you just cut, if all you're thinking about doing is cutting spending, why as you cut spending you’ll slow down the economy."

This is certainly a lot more than you hear from most cut-and-cut-more Republicans these days, but of course Romney's not suddenly espousing a Keynesian, demand-side approach to the economy. He wasn't arguing against spending cuts, after all, let alone for stimulus spending, he was just saying that spending cuts alone, in his view (and the near-universal Republican view), aren't enough.

"So you have to at the same time create pro-growth tax policies," he quickly added. Which is to say, you have to have tax cuts for the wealthy, a core plank of all things Republican.


As he also said in Michigan yesterday: "Now labor unions play an important role in our society. There are some like the carpenters' union that compete on a fair basis and train their members to have greater skills, and so they're an important part of America's economy."

Wait, what? Did Romney not get the anti-union message? Is he departing from the anti-union activism of the likes of John Kasich in Ohio and Scott Walker in Wisconsin? Uh, no.

Note that Romney only said "some" unions (and he mentioned only one) are "important." And while this, too, is more than you hear from most Republicans these days, he quickly shifted his point, as he always does, into an attack on President Obama, in this case for supposedly sucking up to union bosses, and then advocated so-called "right to work" (i.e., right to get screwed) legislation.

This is what anti-union Republicans do. They draw a distinction between unionized workers and union bosses -- though of course what is a union without people running it? It's a way of being anti-union without seeming to be anti-worker. No matter that unionized workers vote for their bosses and are overwhelmingly pro-union. And they advocate legislation that is decidedly pro-employer and that would result in lower wages and fewer benefits for workers, another way of being anti-union while seemingly wanting to give workers "rights."

Sorry, what was I saying about Romney?

Whatever was there before, whatever once was real, appears to have been crushed. It may be his shameless opportunism or he may now believe this right-wing extremism, but it hardly matters.

This is the only Mitt left.


Watch the clips:

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Mitt Romney vs. Rick Santorum: Choosing between a fraud and a relic

As we liberals watch Rick Santorum's perhaps unexpected rise in national polls among Republican voters, we are in many ways thrilled that this is happening. His ridiculous ideas, which we politely call "social conservatism," would surely make him a sitting duck in the general election against President Obama. Polls tell us this much, as does common sense.

But many of us, who share nothing of his politics, have been, in a sense, charmed by the man.

Up to this point, it has been easy to give him his due as a relatively competent performer particularly because so many of the other GOP contenders are so incompetent at the craft of politics. It has been possible almost to respect Santorum's charm and abilities as a political force, particularly when we contrast him to Mitt Romney, an absolute disaster of a candidate. Yes, he got to be governor of Massachusetts. I have no idea how that happened.

We have been complementing Santorum for at least appearing to believe what he says, in contrast to Romney, who clearly has no center, no core beliefs that define him. It's now official. The only thing for sure we know about Mitt Romney is that he wants to be president. Everything else about him could be and likely will be redefined at a moment's notice depending on the circumstances.

Rather than focusing our attention on Santorum's radicalism, we have been giving him a bit of a free pass because it is at least easier to respect someone who has some ability as a politician, and who seems not to be lying every time he stands in front of a microphone.

Okay, Romney is a fraud, and Santorum is some kind of "real thing." It is now past time to understand better what kind of real thing we are dealing with.

Significantly, it is the right who are beginning to be most insistent on smoking Santorum out on his radicalism because they know what a problem his candidacy would be should he win the nomination.

In that vein, I turn it over to Jennifer Rubin
(ed. note: GOP establishment mouthpiece and long-time Romney enthusiast -- MJWS) of The Washington Post, who writes this:

A number of social conservatives, sensing that Rick Santorum has hit a trip wire, are complaining that he's being skewered for being a social conservative. That's demonstrably wrong. The nonstop flaps (some of which concern past episodes that now have come to light) over the last couple of weeks have nothing to do with Santorum's pro-life views or even his opposition to gay marriage. They have to do with his desire to uproot decades-old trends (e.g. women in the workplace, women in combat, use of contraception) and to use religious terminology and judgments to cast aspersions on his opponents (e.g. "phony theology," the devil has infiltrated American institutions). In short, Santorum on social issues is not a conservative but a reactionary, seeking to obliterate the national consensus on a range of issues beyond gay marriage and abortion.

A reactionary is one who seeks to return to a previous state of affairs. It is not a conservative outlook, which in the Burkean sense looks to people as they are, prefers modest over the radical solutions and builds on the existing morals and habits of the society. It is conservative to argue the president should respect and accommodate religious institutions; It is reactionary to go on a quest against contraception and pre-natal testing, both of which the vast majority of Americans utilize or approve of.

Santorum is reactionary in his discomfort with women working outside the home (other than his own working mother, presumably), who he claims were bamboozled by greed or "radical feminists" into seeking fulfillment and equality in the workplace. He is reactionary in declaring that women in the military are fit only to "fly small planes" but not take on the duties they have been assuming under battlefield conditions for years. He is reactionary in telling women (married ones, even!) that contraception is harmful to them.

Whatever one thinks of the nuances of Rubin's case, she captures something essential about consistent conservatism and the fear that many Republicans have of Santorum's recent success.

I haven't changed my mind that Mitt Romney will be his party's nominee. I think, to use that over-used term, Rick Santorum is just about ready to jump the shark. There was very little doubt in my mind that this would happen eventually, and recent events are surely setting the table for that.

My best guess is that, in the long battle that is the GOP nomination process, Santorum's reactionary perspective on social issues will bury him. I know that there are those in the party who will applaud much of what he says, but I don't think it will carry the day.

I don't know if this counts as irony, but Rick Santorum's need to be true to himself, to be true to his radical, reactionary social conservatism is as much his Achilles' heel as is Mitt Romney's inability to be true to anything.

I am glad that, as a Democrat, I don't have to make a choice between a fraud and a relic.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Franklin Graham is a devil-worshipping man-whore who likes to bugger himself with root vegetables

The ever-repugnant Son of Billy went on Morning Joe this morning and, while taking Newt and Rick at their words with respect to their Christian faith, said that President Obama may very well be a Muslim, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding:

Rev. Franklin Graham — son of Billy Graham — would not say if President Obama is a Christian during an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Tuesday, insisting that "I cannot answer that question for anybody." Franklin claimed that the President began attending Church to bolster his political career and is a Muslim under Islamic law. "Islam sees him as a son of Islam because his father was a Muslim, his grandfather was a Muslim, great grandfather was a Mulsim and so under Islamic law, the Muslim world sees Barack Obama as a Muslim," Graham said, before explaining that he could not rule out the possibility that Obama may secretly be Muslim. "I can't say categorically [that Obama is not a Muslim] because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama," he said.

First, there's nothing necessarily wrong with being Muslim, though of course this unabashed bigot means it as the worst sort of insult. (For the record, he doesn't like Mormons either. Sorry, Mitt.)

Second, if Islamic law were to condemn Graham as the infidel, would that be just as valid? What matters here is Obama's personal faith, not how he would be judged under Islamic law, which, last time I checked, has no jurisdiction in the U.S. (Perhaps Frankie G. thinks it supercedes American civil law?)

Third, the Muslim world doesn't see Obama as a Muslim. This is blatant ignorance. Then again, what the hell does Frankie G. know about the Muslim world? He's a Christianist bigot.

Fourth, how exactly has Islam gotten a free pass under Obama? What does that even mean? Has Obama been tough on Judaism by not going along with Likudnik aggression and Netanyahu's refusal to compromise? No, he's just opposed militant Israeli extremism. With respect to Islam, he hasn't given it anything except respect, which apparently is too much for Frankie G. But if you think he's given all Muslims a free pass, well, I'm not sure Osama bin Laden or the targets of his many drone attacks would agree.

Fifth, I can neither confirm nor deny that Frankie G. is a devil-worshipping man-whore who likes to bugger himself with root vegetables. It's just not a question I can answer for anybody.


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Trump! Or, another great reason to root for Santorum

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Via twitter: 

Donald Trump says he might consider running for president if Santorum wins the GOP nomination. (link)

-- Taegan Goddard (@politicalwire)

Oh, please, make it so. If for no other reason than the comedy alone -- and not just because it would guarantee an Obama landslide.

(Of course, it's not going to happen. Trump is, as usual, full of shit -- and just trying to hog some limelight. There's a better chance he ends up as President Romney's secretary of state. Or that the GOP picks Palin at a brokered convention this summer.)

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Rediscovering Jean Shepherd

Jean Shepherd
A lot of people know who Jean Shepherd was or at least know about his best known work, A Christmas Story, which is by now a seasonal classic. The film features the exploits of a little boy in the Midwest, Ralph Parker, during the Depression, who wants nothing more than to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

Jean Shepherd (1921-1999) wrote this feature film and provided the voice of the adult Ralph. It's one of my favourite holiday movies, something I won't miss at that time of year.

Fewer people are likely aware of other works by Shepherd, who worked in radio, television, and film, wrote books, and did his own version of stand-up.

In fact, when A Christmas Story first aired in 1983, I was very proud to tell anyone within earshot that I had been a fan of Shepherd's since at least the early 1970s when I began listening to his nightly radio program on WOR Radio in New York City.

Obviously by then television was the thing, and though I was barely in my teens, my father suggested I actually turn on a radio to listen to Shepherd's quasi-factual tales of growing up in Indiana in the '30s and '40s. Much to my surprise, I loved it. He just talked. In a lot of ways the stories were really about nothing, so I wasn't surprised to read that Jerry Seinfeld credits Shepherd as one of his most significant influences. You know, Seinfeld's sitcom focused on, as the Wiki entry states, "minutiae, such as waiting in line at the movies, going out to dinner, buying a suit or dealing with the petty injustices of life." I suppose one could say Shepherd did much the same. I even recall one radio program from years ago in which he talks about how much his father loved traffic jams or at least loved to brag about the longest ones he had been in.

I guess you'd call them "slice-of-life" vignettes. I don't know. But he was so good at painting a picture of that time and place that it grabbed me.

I mention this only because this past weekend I happened to take a book off my own shelf, something by Shepherd given to me by a friend probably twenty years ago that I read at that time but hadn't looked at since. It's a collection called In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, which was originally published in 1966.

Some of the short stories from this book like "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid" and "My Old Man and the Lascivious Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop" provide source material for The Christmas Story. And, if I am not mistaken, Grover Dill in the book morphs into Scott Farkas in the movie. No matter.

It was some of the best time I have spent on the couch with a book in a while.

I don't know if the old radio programs are still available, but if they are they would be well worth finding. I remember the theme song that introduced each show and while I'd like to tell you I didn't have to look up the title, that would not be true (it's "The Bahn Frei Polka" by Eduard Strauss). When that song began, played by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, it was time to settle in for 45 minutes of radio bliss. Great stories about growing up with his friends Flick and Schwartz and his brother Randy and his old man and mother with her Chinese red chenille robe. Hard to explain, but it really is great stuff.

Other books by Shepherd, which still seem to be in print, are Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories, and Other Disasters; The Ferrari in the Bedroom; and A Fist Full of Fig Newtons.

I also came across a reference to a biography by Eugene B. Bergman called: Excelsior, You Fathead: The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd, which was published in 2005. I may have to pick that one up.

If you are not familiar with Shepherd's work, I think it's pretty clear I'm recommending it. If A Christmas Story is all you know, there is so much more to enjoy.

Here's a clip of him doing some stand-up work at a 1972 concert, just to give you a flavor, though there is something about the radio experience that I actually prefer. 

(Just a little footnote and a question: I notice the short story about the Red Ryder BB gun takes place during the Depression, though the movie about the same episode is supposed to take place in the '40s. I'm not sure why that was changed, but it seems to have been. If anyone can enlighten me, please do).

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Plan B From Outer Space

By Capt. Fogg

It's hard to observe the growing and comical chaos in the GOP without thinking of B movie icon Ed Wood and his Plan 9 From Outer Space, wherein space aliens resurrect dead humans as zombies and vampires to stop evil men from creating the 'Solaranite' bomb. With the Republican circus trying to breathe life into mouldering, uncouth candidates reciting ancient and eldritch formulae to fight the evil Bill of Rights, secularism and the Obama Bomb, it's harder and harder to avoid the suspicion that this is only a movie.

With the economy showing signs of recovery and the ability to substantiate the hysterical portraits of Obama as a Kenyan Communist, Indonesian Socialist ally of big banks, Wall Street and the World Caliphate fading, the GOP must feel like Ed Wood trying to piece together a movie with $273.50 left in the checking account and an unwritten plot. The rising star candidate and the great white hope is making such a fuss about the need for a gospel-based theocracy with sex by permission only that any platform they can cobble together at this point would be so far beyond city limits and so rickety it can't support itself much less a coherent and discernable political position.

Whispers are being heard, writes today, about coming up with a new candidate for the GOP ticket and ditching the Chameleon, the Worm and the cut-rate Rasputin. Finding any brand new candidate with any potential of being passed of as sane or decent (if not quite qualified) is remote, as the Tea Party element and the Holy Rollers simply won't accept him any more than they did Huntsman. The rest of the black-hearted Plutocrats aren't going to support Ron Paul and even if they could bring back Reagan from the dead, he wouldn't pass muster as a Conservative in today's party. Who ya gonna call?

The prospect of an open convention with desperate delegates acting like football hooligans in Tampa this August must have Republican strategists doubled over with cramps trying to come up with a plan B before the Grand Old Barrel goes over the falls in November.

With an inability to field a credible candidate so late in the game, the voters are going to have to reconsider a blind allegiance to a party that can't run itself much less a complex 21st century superpower.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)


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Don't mess with Santorum in Texas or Arizona or Michigan or anywhere else

Romney may be narrowing the gap in Michigan, predictably enough, but he continues to struggle around the country.

He's up on Santorum by just three in Arizona. I expected a fairly easy win there, not least because he's shifted way to the right on immigration, but also because Santorum just hasn't campaigned nearly as much there, but it now looks like the race will be tight right up to the primary on February 28, a week from today. Santorum is actually better liked than Romney among Arizona Republicans. As PPP notes, a lot may hinge on a couple of high-profile endorsements: Gov. Jan Brewer and anti-immigrant Maricopa Co. Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (McCain's endorsement of Romney doesn't appear to have made much of a difference.) It's still "still an extremely volatile race," but by making it so close Santorum is forcing Romney to divert some of his attention (and money) away from Michigan.

Meanwhile, Santorum is running away with it in Texas, where he leads the GOP pack with 45% support, way ahead of Gingrich at 18, Romney at 16, and Paul at 14. A win in Texas would be huge, of course, not least in terms of delegates (we should all be counting delegates, not states won). The problem is that the scheduled April 3 primary, already rescheduled from Super Tuesday (March 6), may be delayed once more, perhaps into May. It would be premature to suggest that the race will be over by then, given the craziness we've seen so far, but that's awfully late in the game for it to mean much. Just imagine how a huge win in Texas on Super Tuesday would have boosted Santorum's prospects.

Last Friday, I responded to a report that the Obama campaign was thinking about going after Santorum with outright dismissal. Romney would pull even in Michigan and perhaps even win, I reasoned, win Arizona, and continue to outspend Santorum into oblivion. Plus, Santorum would eventually implode under the scrutiny of the national spotlight as the conservative alternative to Romney -- already his crazily insistent focus on issues like abortion and birth control was exposing him as the out-of-touch extremist many of us knew he was, and eventually at least some semblance of common sense would prevail among Republicans.

I still think the race is Romney's to lose, but we now have to take seriously the possibility that he loses both Michigan and Arizona next week and continues to slide. The fact is, Romney, as many of us have been saying all along, is an incredibly weak frontrunner, and an incredibly weak candidate generally for all the money he's spent and for all the national name recognition he has. It would be a mistake to think that Romney can't blow this, just as it would be a mistake to think Republicans have enough common sense not to go with Santorum.

And it would be a mistake to think you know what will happen here.

The historically crazy Republican race goes on, and many of us, even as it defies easy prognostication, just can't get enough of it.

Keep showing us what you're made of, Republicans.


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You Really Want To Go There, Ricky?

By Carl
Because there are many more Protestants in America than there are Catholics.

Santorum, a conservative Catholic, is fairly strict when it comes to religion. You might want to check out his 2008 speech at Ave Maria College — just do the Google — in which he said that "mainline Protestantism in this country ... is in shambles (and) is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it." Which may come as a surprise to many of the millions of mainline Protestants.

Indeed. Not content with sticking his foot in his mouth, Santorum proceeded Sunday to shove his kneecap in there, as well:

But on "Face the Nation" Sunday, Santorum insisted he wasn't talking about Obama's Christianity or religion at all, but, rather, about the theology of "radical environmentalism," which he explained this way:

"But we're not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. And I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside-down."

You know who else believes in global climate change?

While some lawmakers and ideologues blithely challenge the world's leading scientists, along with a growing number of military leaders concerned about this issue as a global security risk, they also part company with the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI. The Green Pope, as some have called Benedict, has frequently addressed climate change and care for the environment as profound moral issues. The pope has touted solar energy, the benefits of local agriculture, sustainable development and the perils of hyper-consumerism. He has spoken boldly about the shameful reality of "environmental refugees" and recognizes the link between war and ecological exploitation. The Vatican has even taken steps to become the world's first "carbon-neutral state."[...]

For Catholics, caring for creation and being prudent stewards of our rivers, mountains and forests is not a trendy cause. It's a Biblical mandate, and a necessity to promote the sacred dignity of life. The Catholic Church has been in the forefront of these efforts long before rock stars and Hollywood celebrities made it cool to be "green." In particular, faith communities have a unique role to address the ways the poor and vulnerable around the world are most impacted by climate change.

(Emphases added for contrast)

Yea, that world leader who Santorum suggests we should model our own laws and customs on. One wonders if the Pope is now mainstream Protestant or if Santorum has decided to convert to Evangelicalism.

The right wing of this country will spend the next several months playing "Wack-A-Mole" with President Obama, trying to find any weakness in his armor that can be summed up in a soundbite. You see, it's hard to say he's been horrible with the economy since people intuitively grasp that the economy was bad, got worse, but is now better.

It's hard to say he's been on the wrong side of social issues, since the grand majority of people agree with his centrist, principled stances.

And it's hard to paint him as corrupt because, hello, not a whole lot of "there" there.

So the hammer keeps bashing, and the President keeps ducking back into his hole until all that's left for conservatives is to hit themselves in the head with the hammer and cry foul.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)


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