Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wow, It's the Conservatives That Are the Victims!

Throughout the two years from 2010 that comprised the election cycle culminating on Nov. 6th 2012 with the re-election of Barack Obama -- plus, let's face it, the non-stop birtherism and opposition politics that began pretty much right after Obama's first inauguration in 2009 -- there has been a steady increasing drumbeat of slurs, insults, lies, accusations, and downright misinformation thrown at the collection of liberals, progressives, socialists, Kenyans, and jihadists that inhabit the Democratic Party. Oh, I might have forgotten Ted Cruz's commies.

Now, after the election victories that left Obama in the White House, an increased Democratic majority in the Senate, as well as improved Democratic numbers in the House, it seems that it's the conservatives that are portraying themselves as victims, whether they even notice it or not. It's stunning, actually.

You see, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the host of familiars, toads, and monkeys who support them on Fox and talk radio have devolved into a bunch of whiners. Even Rush Limbaugh reached a crescendo last week with his confession that he was "ashamed of America."

Then he doubled down a day or two later, saying, "I realize that many of you tuned in today wanting to hear more of this. You wanted to hear what this is all about. You wanted to hear more about it, and I haven’t really discussed it yet and you’re probably angry, and I want to tell you why.”

“[T]he left has beaten us. They have created far more low-information, unaware, uneducated people than we’ve been able to keep up with.” He decried that liberals control “pop culture, movies, TVs, books, music” and confessed that “We’ve just been outnumbered.”

Here he is on his show with the full rant, which is utter nonsense, but very revealing, of what I'm not sure, but I have an idea he's trying to justify why his message fell on deaf ears so much this election cycle. Listen:

Now, if you want to get a sense of just how much whining, just how much the conservatives have switched over to identify as the victims of this "libtard onslaught," you should lurk on any Yahoo! News page on Washington politics and read the comments. You'll also see a similarly vivid whiner/victim portrait when checking comments after a Washington Post political story. I spent the better part of the day yesterday sifting through the endless whines, rants, and protests at how the lyin', thievin' Dems who'll say anything to protect "Odumba" or "Obummer" following Bob Woodward's inaccurate story of Obama's "goal-post shifting" on the sequester.

Yep, the dynamic has changed, from what was bandied about during the election by Paul Ryan with his nation of "makers and takers," with the makers deeply embedded in the conservative cause and the takers the crude spawn of the multicultural mongrels that are the liberals and progressives of this world. This meme culminated in the great and awe-inspiring video that revealed Mitt Romney and his railing against the 47 percent, who thought of themselves as the victims that were entitled to everything for free, who never paid taxes, who would follow Barack Obama off a cliff into the sea.

Now the other shoe has dropped, and the conservatives have changed their tune. They now come off everywhere at the whiners, the angry victims. "That evil Barack Obama, who refuses to lead, who refuses to negotiate, who forced taxes down our throats and made us look impotent! We hates him, yes, we hates him, who stole our precious, precious Norquist pledge, and drowns it in a bathtub, does he!!"

Sorry to go all Gollum on you, but these days the GOP are turning into newts and toads who've lost their collective mojos. Can't say I'm not enjoying it.

This sense on the right of victimhood began even before Obama won reelection. It was first heard when Bill O'Reilly offered his analysis on election night of why Obama won, even before Ohio had been called:

Decrying that "the white establishment is now the minority" and that "it's not a traditional America anymore" sounds very much like an expression of victimhood. Bill O'Reilly, like Rush Limbaugh, has had his America stolen from him, and neither of them know when they'll get it back. But they're pretty sure it happened because Barack Obama promised "stuff" to blacks, Hispanics, and women.

Here's a frightening, extreme example of how out there conservative thought can get. Alex Jones, now infamous for his hyper-rant against Piers Morgan, threatening to "go all 1776 on you!!!!", is caught on tape chatting up "they're coming to take our weapons" with Ted Nugent, who himself is a poster child for guns, rock 'n' roll, and victimhood. Because, folks, that's what this NRA gun fury is at the moment: It's a huge OMG, we gun owners, we heavily armed citizens, are the victims of Obama's criminal conspiracy against God and all that is right and true in Merca. If you don't believe me, watch as much as you can stand of this twenty-minute snippet of humanity:

If this is what it means to be a conservative in today's USA, where we've been overrun by socialists ready to steal our money and confiscate our guns and make us listen to real science and drive in fairy cars instead of our F-350's, then I don't want to be a conservative anymore. I just want to move to Texas and wait for secession. Rick Perry maybe has it right when he offered Californians a place to come and pay low taxes. All of the conservatives who hate public services like disaster relief can all move to, I don't know, maybe Galveston, set up a bunch of whiners self-help groups and sit around talking about their big guns and big trucks and big oil and wait for the next hurricane, and then refuse all federal aid. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Or, dudes, you could just chill. Your choice.

Laura Ingram visited with Fox and Friends the other morning and complained that Obama knocks the press corps around so much that they suffer from "battered press syndrome." Catch, please, right at the end where Ingram suggests that the president leaves money on the table and then is gone, as Fox friend Brian Kilmeade concludes with "Love, Obama-style."

Yet again, Barack Obama claims more victims of his tyrannical reign, when really what it is is Laura Ingram declaring another example of "establishment" victimhood. The whining never ends.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Michelle Obama Is the Coolest First Lady Ever

So says Digby at Hullabaloo (one of the best blogs ever) where I caught this video of FLOTUS on Jimmy Fallon:

Yes, way cool and promoting exercise and fun. As George Takei would say: Oh myyy!

Friday, February 22, 2013

David Brooks Lies, Repents, Then Says Meh

I like New York Times columnist David Brooks, in the sense that if I sat next to him on a train bound for somewhere I'd probably engage him in reasonable conversation without smacking him up side the head yelling, "What the fuck's the matter with you?!?" Even if that's actually what I'd like to do.

He gets away with a lot because he says stuff that seems so reasonable, or at least he says stuff couched in language that appears genteel. The fact that it's usually utter crap, full of sophist tricks, straw dogs, red herrings, and ridiculous contentions like "most Americans believe...", plus the fact that Brooks is one of the laziest writers I've ever read, makes it hard to take him seriously, both at his lofty perch at the Times and at his regular pundit chair on the PBS NewsHour.

That's why this morning when I read his "DC Dubstep" column and he claimed that Barack Obama hadn't put forward any serious plan to deal with the sequestration -- because it fit into his neat "a pox on both your houses" frame -- I just cursed under my breath, shook my head, and went to read a rational non-liar like WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson, if only as a palette cleanser.

Brooks' offensive paragraphs read:
Under the Permanent Campaign Shimmy, the president identifies a problem. Then he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. Then he comes up with a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn’t address the problem (let’s raise taxes on the rich). Then he goes around the country blasting the opposition for not having as politically popular a concept. Then he returns to Washington and congratulates himself for being the only serious and substantive person in town.
Sequestration allows the White House to do this all over again. The president hasn’t actually come up with a proposal to avert sequestration, let alone one that is politically plausible.

So, a couple hours later, I was offered a cup of schadenfreude when Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine flagged Brook's appended postscript to his column:
Postscript: February 22, 2013
The above column was written in a mood of justified frustration over the fiscal idiocy that is about to envelop the nation. But in at least one respect I let my frustration get the better of me. It is true, as the director of the Congressional Budget Office has testified, that the administration has not proposed a specific anti-sequester proposal that can be scored or passed into law. It is not fair to suggest, as I did, that tax hikes for the rich is the sole content of the president’s approach. The White House has proposed various constructive changes to spending levels and entitlement programs. These changes are not nearly adequate in my view, but they do exist, and I should have acknowledged the balanced and tough-minded elements in the president’s approach.
So he lies, repents, and then offers a "yeah, but, meh," ("These changes are not nearly adequate in my view, but...") by which he hopes to skate outta here without explaining why they're not adequate. No thanks, Brooks, nice try. Could have done some homework before the usual tricks instead of being your usual lazy self.

Wait, I've got it. When politicians or pundits lie, the usual gut check by reality-based observers is: stupid or evil? Maybe it should be stupid or evil or lazy. Great. David Brooks has given us more choices! Well, maybe not. We know he's not stupid.

How long can I get away with this? I've been worried about that myself...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

GOP Solution (To Its Problems): Help the Middle Class!

We are the change we believe in. Will the middle class buy it? Uh, well, hmm...

I just watched a Republican, a former Rick Santorum advisor, tell Rachel Maddow that the GOP needs to stop being viewed as the party of rich people and corporations and begin to be viewed as the party that wants to help the middle class. It's a great sentiment and ostensibly good advice, though it's hardly new. It's what Marco Rubio, Eric Cantor, and others have been saying, but not doing, for the past few weeks.

Which made me think: How would the Republican Party change from the party of rich people and business and instead help the middle class? What would that switch look like? Let's look at it.

The middle class needs jobs. The GOP solution? None, except to declare every Obama move a "job killer."

The lower class, aspiring to become middle class, needs higher wages. The GOP solution? Raising the minimum wage is DOA.

Consumer protection would help the middle class. The GOP solution? Leave the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without a director, on purpose.

Affordable health care would help the middle class. The GOP solution? Fight Obamacare tooth and nail, to this day. Also, have absolutely no plan themselves. Also, advocate for "free market health care solutions," which have been proven to raise health-care costs.

Infrastructure spending leads to more jobs, and a better economy, and more jobs. The GOP solution? In the middle of a slow, painful economic recovery, call for deficit reduction and economic policies that mirror the UK and EU's austerity programs, which have mired their economies in double- and even triple-dip recessions.

Businesses, among them mega-farmers and oil producers, benefit from a bunch of corporate tax breaks and subsidies. The GOP solution? During a time when the federal government needs more revenue to bring down the debt, Republicans fight tooth and nail against tax reform targeting these sweetheart deals for oil companies and big agribusiness. Great for the middle class.

At a time when retirement is a fading option for near-retirees and 401(k)s no longer work, the lower and middle classes gets hurt the most. The GOP solution? Fights pensions tooth and nail, as well as urge cuts to Social Security and Medicare, even going so far as recommending a voucher program for Medicare, which is a form of privatization leading to severely reduced benefits.

For more than thirty years, real wages have stagnated or even declined, driving the middle class into the lower class, and the lower class to a life below the poverty line. The GOP solution? Fight to the last ditch for cuts to food stamps, unemployment insurance, WIC, SCHIP, and any other federal domestic-spending program that the GOP regards as helping the takers instead of the makers.

Solutions to immigration and gun safety are readily available -- and timely -- and would stabilize our economy. Fact: green cards for undocumented workers eliminates illegally low wages and leads to higher tax revenues and Social Security and Medicare taxes as workers come onto the books and out of the shadows. Another fact: Gun violence has extremely high health-care costs, most of which is paid by taxpayer dollars, as a majority of gunshot victims have no health insurance. We pay, not the gun manufacturers and sellers. The GOP solution? Fight and delay these reforms, in hopes that they eventually don't happen at all. (Update.  Robert Reich has written about the benefits to SS and Medicare that immigrants could provide.)

The sequestration, if allowed to occur, will cost middle-class federal workers millions of dollars in lost wages, just this year alone (and more each year for a decade). The GOP solution? Let the sequestration cuts happen. And we're not talking about two other deadlines we face, including the delayed debt-ceiling rise.

Okay. I'll grant that the Republicans and their core conservative base have their ideologies and their philosophy of governance, and they have a right to them. The trouble is, where are the policy alternatives that would change in order to meet their new "commitment" to the middle class? What are these real proposals, these real solutions, that are different from the policies that have, heretofore, earned the Republicans the reputation as the party of the rich, the party of business, the party of the NRA, and the party that wants all the Latinos to go home even though we don't have enough farm workers, even now?

They are nowhere to be found. And until they are, all the rhetoric in the world won't change a thing. The Republicans will be seen as a party bankrupt of ideas, whose only true policy prescription is to put their fingers in their ears and say NO as loud and as often as possible.

Where am I wrong?

This middle class barely exists anymore, and the GOP is going to fix it?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This Is Our Democracy

David Keene, president of the NRA, was the subject of a report by AP via the Huffington Post this evening. This will go good with your morning coffee:
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- National Rifle Association President David Keene said Wednesday he doesn't expect a filibuster from gun rights supporters as the Senate prepares to vote on potential gun control issues.
Keene spoke at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum in a one-hour event moderated by CNN chief national correspondent John King, who asked him if the NRA would support efforts to filibuster and block the votes.
"The president wants votes on these issues. We want votes. There will be votes," Keene said.
King also asked him if the NRA would punish members of Congress who support universal background checks on gun purchases, which he said recent polls show most Americans support, and which the NRA at one time supported but now opposes.
Keene responded: "The answer is yes."
Okay, so that's how it works. Now, gun owners, besides the fact that you can kill people -- or have your gun taken away from you and used to kill or wound you, which is more likely -- it's also the fact that you have absolutely no power in your civic life.

That's all been taken away by David Keene, who, last time I noticed wasn't elected to fucking anything.


Citizens: How many of you like the status quo on guns?

Golf Instead of Politics!

Today, let's check out my Achilles' Heel, chipping. I found this Hank Haney video that explains the shot quite well:

Another thing I was struggling with was longer chip shots. My mistake, according to Haney, is that these are pitches, not chips, and they're handled a little differently. (Man, I can be a knucklehead...):

These are related, but different, strokes. I'm headed out today to play a good long course. Hope this helps. I'll let you know.

BTW, I found a great page that also explains chipping, both from short and long grass. These are helpful, too. There's no easy way to embed these videos so visit this page for chipping and this page for pitching. They offer a little more insight.

Happy chipping and putting.

Update. I chipped and pitched all day Wednesday and, although I made progress, I'm still very inconsistent. I'm sure of several things -- one, that I almost always come up short -- the most important of which is to commit to the shot, and that implies the right amount of force and the right amount of follow-through. That and the ability to hit under the ball, which is a form of commitment, too. Worrying about burying the shot in the grass leads to blading it over the green, which really sucks. Anyway, those are my thoughts, which I'll take to the links next time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When Magazines Have Zero Impact

Paul Krugman flagged this cover of Barron's that Joe Wiesenthal called preposterous, and it is:

I, at first, found this deeply disturbing, in spite of the reassurances of Krugman and Weisenthal. Then I remembered this from last August at the height of the campaign:

Niall Ferguson is a professor at Harvard University, a senior research fellow at Oxford, and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His specialty is economic history. I don't have to characterize his analytical skills, but I could critique his clout.

He has none. Last time I looked Barack hasn't hit the road, except to promote the ideas and policy goals of his second term. As for Barron's, if wishes were Trojan horses, blah, blah, blah.

The GOP Suicide Watch

The title of this post begs the question: Does the GOP have a death wish? but you likely knew the answer.

Yes, there is mounting evidence that the Republican Party is out of ideas, out of gas, and may, increasingly, be out of supporters, and if they have anything to do with it, then it is a form of slow, rolling suicide. Let's point you to sources of the evidence.

First, here's Matthew Yglesias, a center-left economics writer at Slate:
If you want to get a sense of how profoundly doomed the Republican Party is in terms of efforts to appeal to mainstream American economic interests, you just need to look at the debate over raising the minimum wage. We know two things about this issue. One is that minimum wage hikes are super popular...
...One thing Republicans could do in response to President Obama's popular plan to help economically struggling Americans is say "yes" and vote for it. But obviously they won't do that...
...They're just going to offer nothing, until at some point Democrats have enough seats to pass the minimum wage hike or a handful of Republicans defect and join them.
This isn't because there are no conservative thinkers with better ideas than a minimum wage hike, but because none of those ideas will be embraced in practice by Republican politicians or deployed by the conservative movement in any way other than as a smokescreen.
Yglesias said a mouthful. And he ain't the only one. Ed Kilgore of Political Animal flags an essay written by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner that suggests the GOP needs "a serious rethinking of conservative ideology in the [sic] light of adverse political and demographic trends and also a changing issue landscape." Kilgore goes on to say:
To abbreviate considerably, their five-part agenda for change involves: (1) a systematic attack on corporate welfare and on mega-banks to reduce the impression Republicans are engaged in class warfare for the wealthy and to signal acceptance that government has a positive role in the economy; (2) an abandonment of both rhetoric and policies inhospitable to immigrants; (3) a recommitment to the Burkean tradition of caring about “the common good,” which means a lot less hyper-individualism; (4) an inclusive rather than an exclusive approach to cultural issues, mainly by focusing on efforts to strengthen the economic viability of families; and (5) acceptance of science, including the reality and the significance of climate change...
...It’s a separate question, of course, whether any of these arguments can find traction in today’s Republican Party. The answer, I think, is a resounding “no,” or perhaps “hell, no!” Accepting climate change as a serious public challenge, and admitting there is a positive role for government in creating equal opportunity, are both wildly provocative ideas among conservatives these days. But if Republicans suffer another couple of serious electoral beatings in the near future, then the balance of power in the GOP between those who keep finding reasons not to change (or reasons to become even more radical) and those sounding like Gerson and Wehner will inevitably shift just enough to make a real “struggle for the soul of the GOP” possible. Since it would be nice to have not just one but two major political parties trying to make government work for the public interest, it’s worth separating the constructive sheep from the nihilist goats in observing the talk on the Right. [Emphasis mine.]
We let the sequester happen, and Obama did it, right?
A really good look by Gerson and Wehner at what needs to change, and an equally good look by Ed Kilgore at why it won't happen. Where doe that leave the Republican Party? Just what are their policy ideas?

I'll warrant that they don't have any per se. "It's Obama's fault" isn't a policy idea in the slightest. Here's The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky pointing out the obvious about the sequester and the GOP's claims that it's "the president's sequester:"
The Republicans’ ace card is that they know, or they hope they know, they are not equally affected. Austere cuts will harm the economy, and the blame will fall on the president.
Normally yes. But the majority of the people are onto them. And it sure isn’t going to be looking very responsible to people, as the March 1 sequestration deadline approaches, for Republicans to be going before the cameras and saying that the cuts are unfortunate but necessary medicine, or whatever formulation they come up with. They’ve wanted these spending reductions for two years. It hardly matters much who invented the mechanism for the cuts. What matters, as the Republicans will find out, is that the people don’t want them.
...and will blame the Republicans for all the attendant grief, including layoffs, cancelled contracts, government-worker furloughs, and whatnot, including a likely tanking economy. How are those for policy ideas, Republicans?

Ronnie, come back, we need you.
Remesh Ponnuru worked his way into a New York Times op-ed yesterday in which he urges Republicans to abandon the details of Reagonomics and embrace the spirit instead. In this way, the fact that the Reagan years weren't much of a party for the middle class can be subsumed into the muck that is today's conservative vision. Says Jonathan Bernstein in review:
The problem with Republicans today on public policy isn’t that they’re stuck in the 1980s; it’s that they’ve given up entirely. More often than not, what passes for Republican “policy” is just symbolic, not substantive. Think, for example, about the big GOP rollout of the spring, a balanced budget amendment — which wouldn’t be much in terms of substantive policy even if it had a chance to pass, which it obviously doesn’t. Or think of their inability (still!) to come up with an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Again, it’s not that Republican health policy is stuck in the 1980s; it’s that there is nothing that could really be called Republican health policy. Or, to move away from Ponnuru’s topics to national security, there’s the frenzy over Benghazi, Libya, that (as Kevin Drum points out) somehow never quite is about anything, or what seems to be purely symbolic attacks on Chuck Hagel.
The first step out of the policy wilderness for Republicans, then, is for them to decide that developing substantive public policy ideas is a good idea at all. If the way to do that is to attribute it to Ronald Reagan, well, if it works then there’s nothing wrong with it. I hope so; the nation could really use a political party that advances well thought out conservative policy options. There hasn’t been one of those in years.
Amen. If you feel the need read Ponnuru's article, do so. I did, and, uh, okay, sure, whatever. Here's a nugget to be savored from his wisdom:
When Reagan cut rates for everyone, the top tax rate was 70 percent and the income tax was the biggest tax most people paid. Now neither of those things is true: For most of the last decade the top rate has been 35 percent, and the payroll tax is larger than the income tax for most people. Yet Republicans have treated the income tax as the same impediment to economic growth and middle-class millstone that it was in Reagan’s day. House Republicans have repeatedly voted to bring the top rate down still further, to 25 percent.
A Republican Party attentive to today’s problems rather than yesterday’s would work to lighten the burden of the payroll tax, not just the income tax. An expanded child tax credit that offset the burden of both taxes would be the kind of broad-based middle-class tax relief that Reagan delivered. Republicans should make room for this idea in their budgets, even if it means giving up on the idea of a 25 percent top tax rate.
Just in case you didn't catch it, Ponnuru is recommending we honor the spirit of Ronald Reagan by stopping our attack on the income tax, already, because it's been done. It's over. Instead, Republicans should be "attentive to today's problems" by cutting the payroll tax. Good grief. That's how we pay for Social Security and Medicare, you know, the entitlements the Republicans claim they want to save by cutting benefits. If you also cut their funding, you'll have to double down on cutting benefits. That's a surefire way back into the hearts and minds of the middle class.

Oh, and it's a stab to the heart of their one last constituency: seniors! Well done, Ramesh, well done. The Los Angeles Times puts a cap on it:
It's hard to argue with the demographic dimensions of Obama's victory. He won in almost every category of voters except senior citizens and white men.
 Yep. Republicans, surrender your belts and shoelaces at the door. Your guns? Oh, never mind.

Republicans like guns? We still won't vote for 'em, dawg.

Update. Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post has jumped into the fray with her "RINOs need to take back the Republican Party." Fun stuff, watching them squirm.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

2016: What Does Each Side Bring to the Party?

It's early, yes, but it's germane, this examination of 2016, because the Republicans are in the midst of reimagining themselves for the next big fight. 2014 is only the next skirmish. The big guns have got to be assembled by 2016.

It's worth examining the possible match-ups, but it may be a welcome shortcut to just move on to the inevitable Hillary Clinton-Marco Rubio contest, if only because how much different would, say a Joe Biden-Jeb Bush battle, be?

Besides, if Joe Biden somehow ended up the Democratic candidate, fine. It would be the same face of the party, by and large. And, let's face it, Jeb Bush is not going to win the nomination for a whole host of reasons not worth dwelling on here (See George W. Bush).

For the GOP, there are a few different roads to travel down, but there's only one where an actual reinvention likely takes place. Sure, if Ari Fleischer, Karl Rove, and the Koch brothers manage to dominate the game, so be it. And if Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity continue as dominant mouthpieces for the party, okay. But down that road lies electoral disaster. Can the GOP avert it?

Of course, there's a host of potential GOP candidates, from Mitch Daniels to Bob McDonnell to Chris Christie among others. But they're all white with various albatrosses around their necks. And don't even think Jon Huntsman. You know why. No, the Latino problem alone will drive the party toward Marco Rubio.  (Bobby Jindal's national career is still in the crapper.)

Thus examining the Hillary-Marco match-up is the one worth pursuing. Here's Hillary:
  • An mature lioness, battle-tested and proven.
  • A liberal/progressive with centrist cred.
  • A proponent of government-regulated, affordable health care.
  • A supporter of maintaining Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid at current, or better, levels.
  • Strong international experience, with a negative hangover from the Iraq War, making her a chastened statesperson with anti-interventionalist leanings (my assumption, I admit).
  • A proponent of government regulation of markets.
  • Likely falls on the Keynesian side economically, believing there is a role for an activist Fed and an involved government, including public spending on infrastructure and other stimulative programs.
  • Favors gun control, is pro-choice, pro-birth control, pro-stem-cell research, and pro-union. Is pro-gay marriage.
  • Is pro-science and centrist in her education goals and policies.
Okay, now Marco Rubio:
  • A young gun, though inexperienced.
  • Brought to prominence (and the Senate) by the Tea Party but now being offered as a centrist, more inclusive, more pleasant face of the GOP.
  • Believes strongly in limited government ("the government is the problem").
  • Has little foreign policy experience; typical saber-rattling, as in should have gone into Libya sooner, might need to use force in Iran, need a larger involvement in Syria; doesn't like to rely on institutions like the United Nations.
  • Believes in free markets on all levels, is anti-Keynesian economically speaking, believes that government should get out of the way when it comes to business, finance, and monetary policy.
  • Opposes Obamacare.
  • Social Security and Medicare have to be drastically cut to save it, including turning Medicare into a voucher program.
  • Holds -- based on his SOTU response -- the same old views, values, and policies of the Republican Party, not including immigration (except that on Rush Limbaugh's show he said he'd shoot it down it it went too far to the left). Marco Rubio remains a conventional and, in many ways, a Tea-Party Republican.
  • Anti-abortion, anti-birth control, pro-gun, anti-science, anti-stem-cell research. Is against gay marriage.
  • Favors school vouchers and is anti-teachers union (anti-union in general).

In case you wondered, it's Hillary Clinton's. If that means you think the GOP should choose another candidate, then please pick the one that's really different from Marco Rubio? I'm waiting...

Mitch Daniels: W.'s budget director: How'd that work out?

Chris Christie: More likely than Romney to get elected nationally?

Governor "vaginal ultrasound" Bob McDonnell: Win without the ladies? Nah...

Jeb Bush: No ghosts in his closet...

John Kasich: Pushing anti-union bill in union-strong Ohio. Bad move, Gov. 40%.

Kelly Ayotte: anti-choice, anti-free birth control, anti-gay. Run her against Hillary!

The rest of the GOP presidential field.

Note. Some voices are already pointing out that Marco Rubio has peaked. called it over a year ago, and Josh Barro of Bloomberg asks "This is the Republican Party's Savior?" A sample:
He [Rubio] repeated broad anti-government themes, saying, “More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.” As an alternative he offered the Republican formula of lower taxes, less spending and less regulation, saying that would raise incomes and create middle-class prosperity.
This is the case that Mitt Romney made against Obama in the 2012 election. It’s the case that Republican Senate candidates made all over the country. It is a case for trickle-down economics. And it is a case that Americans have rejected. 
Republicans think putting up a spokesman like Rubio, who is Hispanic and in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, will help them make inroads with minorities. But all of the large minority groups -- blacks, Hispanics and Asians -- look much more favorably on government than whites do, seeing it as an entity that can and should help people get ahead rather than just getting out of the way.
In 2012, the Republican Party’s anti-government message left these groups cold, leading Romney to lose Hispanics by more than 2 to 1 and Asians by nearly 3 to 1. Immigration reform can’t overcome this message problem. As the country gets less and less white, reflexive “I Built It”-ism is only going to become more electorally costly to Republicans.
 So, what do I know? If Marco Rubio has crashed and burned this fast, what's in store for the GOP? Maybe not much in 2016. Jeesh.

Update. I just realized that I forgot to include Paul Ryan in the list of 2016 GOP hopefuls. Wonder how that happened? Oh yeah, he was a fraud before he was defeated, and he's a fraud now that he's, uh, not even a major voice in his party. Or am I missing something? Nevertheless, run, Paul, run! Love to see you debate Hillary (Joe's already bested you).

Update 2. Just thought of something on the plus side for Hillary. She can run with the announced intention of naming Joe Biden Secretary of State. There'd be no argument in the Democratic Party against that choice, and it would bring an added energy to the campaign, as Joe Biden could actively campaign. Imagine the Clintons, the Obamas, and the Bidens all out on the stump for Hillary. Be pretty wild, almost unstoppable. Very ahead of myself here, but fun.

Republican Party's Very Bad Year(s)

Conceding the election: shell-shocked.

I often harp on the GOP and criticize it for even existing (I don't like their policies). I'm not the only one. Here's an excerpt from an article about the party's current state:
But the problem for the G.O.P. extends well beyond its flawed candidate and his flawed operation. The unnerving truth, which the Red Edge team and other younger conservatives worry that their leaders have yet to appreciate, is that the Republican Party’s technological deficiencies barely begin to explain why the G.O.P. has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The party brand — which is to say, its message and its messengers — has become practically abhorrent to emerging demographic groups like Latinos and African-Americans, not to mention an entire generation of young voters. As one of the party’s most highly respected strategists told me: “It ought to concern people that the most Republican part of the electorate under Ronald Reagan were 18-to-29-year-olds. And today, people I know who are under 40 are embarrassed to say they’re Republicans. They’re embarrassed! They get harassed for it, the same way we used to give liberals a hard time.”
Double ouch.

Read the whole thing by Robert Draper in the New York Times.

Minnesota Romney supporters view his concession speech. Time to rethink, maybe?

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Face of the GOP: It Ain't Pretty or Accurate

New messenger, old message.
Okay, Marco Rubio might be pretty, but his repackaged malarkey is the same old ugly GOP claptrap.

I paid avid attention to Barack Obama's State of the Union speech last Tuesday and naturally viewed Marco Rubio's somewhat halting response. I haven't written about either of them until now because I wanted to offer not a spur-of-the-moment critique but one that had a while to ferment.

Oh, and I might have heard a couple of Rand Paul's remarks quoted here or there, but no one outside of his posse really paid attention to him. What a tool.

Barack Obama gave a fine speech, even if it was too wonkish at the beginning while it worked its way through the different economic offerings:

  • The sequester sucks. We need to replace it with something other than across-the-board cuts in defense and discretionary spending.
  • My idea instead is to close tax loopholes that affect mostly the wealthy and business interests. I'll match these tax revenue increases with an equal number of targeted spending cuts.
  • I'll even nibble at the edges of Medicare and Social Security (to show that they aren't sacred cows), but I won't nibble very much. (See Simpson-Bowles.)
  • I want to change the way we do health care from a fee-for-services model to one that is based on outcomes. We need health care panels to do this (they're not death panels).
  • The rest of my economic plan is about jobs, mostly employing programs to increase manufacturing. I also want to spend some money on our infrastructure that will mean more jobs, but I'm mostly offering proposals that won't make it through the House, so I'm not recommending a WPA or a "Marshall Plan for America."
  • I recommend we deal with income inequality by raising the minimum wage (and by the aforementioned tax increases on the wealthy).

Hey Boehner, need a Pepto?

President Obama may yet win on the sequester, and he may get his balanced approach of pairing tax increases with spending cuts, but I wouldn't hold your breath if I were you. I suspect that the Republicans with hold out to the last minute and, because of the move, they'll actually not be able to extract from Obama the cuts in Medicare and Social Security he's already offered. In fact, I suspect that's why the president made such an offer. He appears ready to make "hard choices" if the Republicans would compromise. Since they won't, he doesn't get to (or have to).

The best the Republicans can probably get out of the opportunity is the ritual kicking the can down the road, hoping in a few months the math will change in their favor. Fat chance, but we'll see.

I did like what Obama said about immigration reform and was moved by his rousing conclusion on gun control and how "they deserve a vote," "they" meaning the assembled victims of gun violence in the gallery and across the country. Both issues have a chance of passage, likely watered down by the GOP if not outright destroyed. Again, we'll see.

Marco Rubio's response -- with its flop sweat and hasty grab for the water bottle toward the end -- was questionable on several levels. First, as theater, he somewhat choked. He appeared rushed and anxious. Why his nerves were frayed is anybody's guess. Perhaps he felt the pressure of being the "Republican's Savior," which culminated in the water-bottle lunge. All politics isn't necessarily optics, but in the optics game Rubio struck out.

And, in a way, that's a shame because the optics became the story when the real story should be the fact that he trotted out a whole series of tired, threadbare GOP talking points that simply failed to set him apart from the rest of the bums. A couple of samples:
This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.
Made-up GOP meme, very stale. And here:
Every dollar our government borrows is money that isn’t being invested to create jobs. And the uncertainty created by the debt is one reason why many businesses aren’t hiring.
Also baloney, as explained well by Matt O'Brien of the Atlantic.

For a conventional, mostly accurate, though incomplete take on Rubio's response, see this Politico fact-checking review.

Jon Stewart, as usual, nailed Rubio's speech with humor and deadly accuracy:

Advice to Republicans (that they won't take): Do yourselves a favor by shutting up for a while. I suppose that's a bridge too far at this point.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Pope Goes and the World Turns

Now you decide it's time to go...
Back before Pope John Paul II died, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- the current Pope Benedict XVI -- had been the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1981 and as such was in charge of much of Church doctrine. He was quite harsh and conservative in his approach and earned the nickname "God's Rottweiler." If you want to get to the core of what made Ratzinger controversial -- and understand his legacy as pope as well -- read this from Wikipedia:
Ratzinger's 2001 letter De delictis gravioribus clarified the confidentiality of internal church investigations, as defined in the 1962 document Crimen Sollicitationis, into accusations made against priests of certain crimes, including sexual abuse. This became a target of controversy during the sex abuse scandal. As a Cardinal, Raztinger had been for twenty years the man in charge of enforcing the document. While bishops hold the secrecy pertained only internally, and did not preclude investigation by civil law enforcement, the letter was often seen as promoting a coverup. Later, as Pope, he was accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to cover up the molestation of three boys in Texas, but sought and obtained diplomatic immunity from prosecution.
 There you have it. As God's Rottweiler, Cardinal Ratzinger was a major player in the worldwide coverup of the Roman Catholic Church's pedophilia scandal, which has continued in one form or another until this day. As Pope Benedict XVI, he oversaw, at least from a distance, a continuing coverup.

The irony, if you want to call it that, is that as the man in charge of Church doctrine before becoming pope in 2005 and in his role as infallible head of the Church since then, Benedict XVI inveighed against birth control, homosexuality, and inter-religious dialogue, all the while protecting those in the Church who committed the most heinous of crimes, child sexual abuse.

I'm not a theologian, but as a former member of the Church, I understand the "sanctity of the confessional," that sins confessed to during the sacrament of confession are by practice allowed to remain private between sinner and confessor. In this way, asking for forgiveness from God is encouraged. The problem lies in what to do with priests who confess their sins -- as well as Irish nuns who brutalized girls and women in the Magdalene scandal and who no doubt confessed theirs. Throw them to the dogs, to the vagaries of the police and the courts? God forbid.

Victims of pedophilia barred from seeing the Pope: They knew who to blame.

Unmarried Irish women, who got pregnant, languished in church-operated laundries run by nuns, sometimes for life. The practice continued into the 1990s.

So now Benedict XVI steps down -- the first to do so in six centuries -- claiming ill-health. True, he is and was ill-suited to lead his Church, at any time.

I'm an atheist and as such have no use for religions of all kinds, but most especially for those that are essentially fundamentalist ones. Under Benedict, the Roman Catholic Church had grown increasingly just that, when historically the Church had been closer to a true church of Christ, meaning its doctrine followed Christ's New Testament teaching of mercy and love in ways that the stricter and, yes, more hateful, evangelical, fundamentalist Christians never did.

God's Rottweiler is perhaps now permanently defanged and declawed. The Roman Catholic Church remains a powerful force in the world and so for that reason I hope a more conciliatory and inclusive new pope will be named. He won't be my leader, but still it wouldn't hurt.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Stupid Party: If Not Now, When?

Jindal: a rising star until his SOTU response.
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal gained a lot of ears recently when he called the Republicans the "stupid party" in a speech aimed at revitalizing his fractious, moribund posse, as in "we've got to stop being the stupid party."

Since then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor gave a speech -- which also garnered a bit of attention -- in which he said that his party needs to appeal more to the middle class by (?), by which he meant stay the same but sound nicer.

A little bit of real change was offered by the Republican half of the Gang of Eight who put forth a framework for an immigration bill that included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. Florida senator Marco Rubio, part of said Gang, has been anointed the shining "Latino" star of the Republicans and slated to give the official Republican Party response to Barack Obama's State of the Union address next Tuesday.

Oddly, though Marco Rubio is considered a tea-party darling, Rand Paul is being offered up to give the unofficial tea-party response to Obama's SOTU because the tea partiers got their feathers ruffled by Karl Rove's Conservative Victory Project in which Rove will leverage establishment Republican angst into another of his famous grifts: Give me money to fight off tea-party primary challengers so we don't have loopy candidates in 2014. That went over like a lead crumpet for the Rand Pauls and Rush Limbaughs of the world, whose collective underwear are now hopelessly in a bunch. Hence R-Paul's alt speechifying.

Rising star Marco Rubio: He's a tea-party Latino. What could go wrong?

And now comes out of the House that a pathway to citizenship for undocumented Hispanics will pass when they pry it out of the tea-party caucus's cold, dead hands. Good luck, stupid party.

House tea-party caucus: Let's let them craft the immigration bill!
That malarkey comes on top of the recent Republican talking point that the sequester, which was crafted as the ultimate poison pill back in the summer of 2011 and is due to kick in March 1st, isn't so bad after all because it'll cut spending without giving the Democrats a chance to add new revenues to the stew. This strategy, which is actually more like a suicide note, is limping along on two cylinders as more and more Republican congresscritters realize that it will not only tank the economy, which they're certain to be blamed for, but also cut the crap out of their beloved defense spending.

Oh, what's a stupid party supposed to do? (Hint: stop being the stupid party.)

But this they cannot do. Although sensible gun safety reforms are quite popular among the populace, the Republicans are likely set on trying to shoot down all of the reforms, which won't look good on their résumés. Why doesn't this worry them?

Karl Rove: One last grift? At least.
It does worry Karl Rove. Well, no it doesn't. He just wants to grift money from those conservatives who are worried about it. No, the reason it doesn't worry the tea-party radicals in the Republican Party is because the famous 28% of conservative dead-enders live in enough gerrymandered safe districts that it actually pays to be the stupid party and work to kill gun reform, immigration reform, Obamacare, and so forth. For these radicals in the safe districts of the South, Midwest, and Plains states, being stupid is a feature and not a bug.

Thus, in spite of the admonishments of  Republican "guiding lights," such as Jindal, Rubio, Cantor, and Paul Ryan, the beleaguered, fractured, dissolute, disloyal opposition is not going to stop being stupid anytime soon. For them, stupid is yesterday, today, and a good deal of tomorrow.

Stay tuned if you dare. And if the networks decided to carry the Rand Paul unofficial tea-party SOTU response -- wanna bet it's ALL of the networks?? -- then tune in to that. It should be a real doozy. If it isn't, well, that would be really stupid.

Kentucky senator-for-life Rand Paul: couldn't be dogcatcher in a blue state. Go Rand!

Serious, non-sarcastic, depressing note. The combination of this messed-up rump Republican Party and the Very Serious People in the DC beltway mind-trap has the ability to screw this country up for a good while longer. But you didn't need me to remind you of that, did you?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Endangered Species, Boy Scouts Edition

Cool thing about the illustration to the left: the Boy Scouts have carefully included a Latino, an Asian, an African (American?), and a couple of random white kids, all assembled on a field of red, white, and blue, holding the Scout Law in one hand and making the Scout sign with the other.

This is America and American Values, and, until now, without The Gay.

Today, BSA was going to announce whether, as far as I could tell from the pre-releases, it was going to make Gay discrimination optional, with the choice left up to sponsors. Ostensibly, a Mormon or a Roman Catholic chapter might choose to continue to discriminate, whereas Fresno Auto Body or the Kensington Unitarian Church might say what the hell let's go Gay.

Instead, BSA decided they couldn't decide today.  Okay, great. Let's check out the Boy Scout Pledge:
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
 Next, let's look at the Scout Law:
A Scout is:
Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful,
Friendly, Courteous, Kind,
Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty,
Brave, Clean, Reverent
There you go. I draw from this a few points:
  • The Boy Scouts of America is both a religious and patriotic group that likes to camp and do camp stuff.
  • The Boy Scouts of America is "morally straight," which I imagine prevents them from being morally gay.
  • They're not Brave, despite the Law -- they can't deal with gays, so they choke in front of the world -- but they are Clean.
  • Until now they think gays can't be -- or shouldn't be allowed to be -- Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind,  Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, or Reverent.
  • The BSA is, as of now, hopelessly out of touch with America as it's currently constituted, and will be even more so as our American culture evolves.
Therefore, the Boy Scouts of America are irrelevant and should be treated as such. Maybe they can cast their lot with the NRA. America is better off without either of them. I'd throw in the Republican Party, but that would be piling on.

Wait, why not pile on? We could call them the National Republican Boy Scouts and Rifle Association Party of America. Hey, if their particular chapter decides to go gay, we can then call them the National Log Cabin Republican Boy Scouts and Rifle Association Party of America. Perfect! (They'd be still increasingly irrelevant, sorry to say.)

Rick Perry, Eagle Scout (I shit you not.)

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Cause I Can Believe In: Increase Social Security Benefits

We're sixty, and we're listening.
I've followed Atrios (blogger Duncan Black at Eschaton) for years, even attending his EschaCon conference in Philadelphia in 2006, and he's really on to something: increase Social Security. His semi-official announcement on his blog today says in part:
I, of course, was there [at the conference] to deliver the truth bomb - we need to increase Social Security benefits.

My new modest goal in life is to get this going. Liberal groups, people recruiting candidates, rich benevolent's time to turn the tide. This needs to be a key liberal position.
He had me at truth bomb. Seriously, Atrios is right. This is and must be the go-to liberal position. Reducing an already skimpy benefit is Beltway Stupid. Raising a benefit that is key to improving the Boomers' lives, hell, is a total no-brainer.

Ask a Boomer: Should we raise taxes to increase Social Security? Go ahead, ask them. You know the answer.

Atrios for Social Security prom king! Seriously, it's an idea whose time has come. Repeat it until everyone says yes. Here's a truth bomb: It's good for the economy.

"That Atrios? Tell him he's a helluva guy!"