Friday, January 31, 2014

The Not-Unexpected, Big-Ass Other Shoe Drops in Bridgegate

(Updated below)

David Wildstein: You fire me, Christie, I fire you back!

Who didn't see this one coming a mile away?
The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening, and that he had the evidence to prove it.
In a letter released by his lawyer, the official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago.
“Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some,” the letter added.
The letter marked the first signal that Mr. Christie may have been aware of the closings, something he repeatedly denied during a two-hour press conference earlier this month.
David Wildstein took the Fifth on all Bridgegate-related questions earlier this month, for which he received a contempt citation. His attorney then began to signal a deal could be had. Today's disclosure likely cinches that deal.

Chris Christie may not be the Good-bye Guy yet, but he's in real chump territory now, and Bridgegate is no longer hyperbole. It's Father Time breathing down Christie's neck.

Schadenfreude, anyone?

Update. A second Christie aide, Bill Stepien, has taken the 5th and the 4th, actually, this time in refusing to turn over incriminating documents that had been subpoenaed. Shit's getting deep.

George Will Explains Why Obamacare Will Triumph, by Saying It's Doomed

George Will thinks he's found a way to wreck Obamacare and throw millions off their
health insurance. Here he's pictured calling his conscience and getting no answer.

Okay, I haven't completely thought this through or found corroborating opinion, but when George Will revealed in his latest op-ed why Obamacare was doomed by its very own language, I drew a completely different conclusion.

In a nutshell, Will said that the PPACA's own language contained a poison pill that the IRS conveniently misinterpreted in order to let the Act proceed:
The four words that threaten disaster for the ACA say the subsidies shall be available to persons who purchase health insurance in an exchange “established by the state.” But 34 states have chosen not to establish exchanges.
So the IRS, which is charged with enforcing the ACA, has ridden to the rescue of Barack Obama’s pride and joy. Taking time off from writing regulations to restrict the political speech of Obama’s critics, the IRS has said, with its breezy indifference to legality, that subsidies shall also be dispensed to those who purchase insurance through federal exchanges the government has established in those 34 states. Pruitt is challenging the IRS in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, and there are similar challenges in Indiana, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Now, I've read his column, and I've read the National Journal that explains why the Pruitt lawsuit has problems but that it doesn't mean it can't prevail before a conservative Supreme Court discovering it's got another Bush v. Gore moment on its hands. (in Bush v. Gore the Court famously said here's our ruling, but it's not a precedent! It's a one-time freebie for W.!) A Court that can do that can do anything, literally.

I'm not worried. First, the case might not prevail, and Obamacare lives on in its current form. But actually, Pruitt could prevail, and the Supreme Court could effectively dictate that subsidies can't be offered in the states that don't run their own exchanges. George Will expects this outcome and high-fives his heartlessness in advance. Good on ya, George.

But, second, that's not as good an outcome as Georgie boy thinks it is. Imagine this scenario: Subsidies are then denied in the 34 states that opted not to set up their own exchanges. Those that did, however, get to keep the subsidies and the many of their citizens who finally could afford insurance get to keep their subsidized insurance.

What do the 34 states that lose the subsidies do after the ruling? Will there be dancing in the streets, with throngs of people singing "ding dong, Obamacare is dead!" and commuters honking their horns and complete strangers high-fiving each other on kissing in the town square like it was V-J Day all over again?

No, that won't happen. Many states will cry "Hey, we want what California, New York, Kentucky, Washington, etc. have! No fair!" That's what will happen, and one by one Republican governors and Republican state legislatures are going to be dragged kicking and screaming into passing laws to build their own exchanges.

That's what will happen. And, as Martha Stewart used to say, it's a good thing.

Sorry, George. If the ruling goes the way you hope it will, Obamacare will not be scrapped, it'll be strengthened and will shrink almost over night. Either that, or an awful lot of Republican politicians are going to be out of work.

Note. There is another possible scenario, I have to admit: The states without subsidies -- many of which also didn't accept the Medicaid expansion -- will slowly, each after the other, craft health-insurances bills of their own that work either better or worse than Obamacare. Then, as they notice problems in their new healthcare systems, they'll tweak their laws to fix them. Slowly, things get better. Still, the whole process will probably weaken the Republican hold on state legislatures and state houses.

There is one other scenario, and that's that Congress hastens to fix the wording problem. Don't hold your breath on that one.

Republicans Cancel Their Own Obamacare Alternative

The plan's authors -- in happier times, three days ago on Fox --
before they, and the world, discovered that they're idiots.

I'm not sure it's canceled so much as on-hold until they figure out how to un-screw it up:
The Congressional Budget Office recently analyzed a similar, though not identical, proposal and estimated that it would raise $613 billion in revenue over nine years, while six million people would lose their employer coverage in the five years after it took effect.
The initial reporting on the GOP's new proposal, by the Washington Post and National Journal as well as TPM, highlighted that the plan would likely lead to many Americans paying more for their insurance. National Journal observed that, under the GOP's plan as originally proposed, if you had an average health plan, you'd pay taxes on 35 percent of its costs.
It seems the Senate Republicans noticed this problem -- a significant tax increase on average Americans isn't likely to be a winner when the GOP has spent years decrying Obamacare's impact on the middle class -- and changed the proposal's specifics accordingly. Or they realized how poorly they worded the original proposal and sought to clarify their intentions. It's impossible to say, and their offices declined to explain.
It's hilarious that Republicans are trying their hardest to claim that Obamacare -- which was based on a conservative healthcare proposal developed by the Heritage Foundation as an alternative to "Hillarycare" -- would destroy the middle class, but they end up with an alternative plan that amounts to a hefty increase in healthcare costs and would throw millions of Americans off their newly found health insurance.

A key problem for the GOP is that, flawed though it is, Obamcare is working. That is, of course, why the party tried so hard to scuttle it, hoping to kill it before people realized it helped to have the government step in to control a confiscatory health-insurance market.

Soon, to the dismay of the GOP, people are going to start yelling, "Get your hands off my Obamacare!" They'll do that if they look too deeply at Republican alternatives. Apparently the Republican plan's crafters -- Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and Richard Burr of North Carolina -- decided to read their plan and pulled it from the shelves.

That's some fancy legislatin' there, boys!

And if Forbes doesn't like it, how's it going to play in the Heartland, fellas?
As expected, lots of coverage in many different directions for this new plan which was dubbed the Patient CARE Act (PCA). Some have already elected to rename it so as not to be confused with the official name for Obamacare – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). One quick summary from Ezekiel J. Emanuel (NYT paywall here) framed the key differences to Obamacare this way:
1) “Pre-existing conditions would be rolled back” [loosely based on any lapse in health coverage]
2) Shrink Medicaid expansion by giving states a fixed amount per enrollee
3) Add a new income tax on employees for at least 35% of their employer-sponsored health insurance
This last one is the real shock-and-awe bombshell – and one that Forbes colleague Matthew Herper captured succinctly with his headline: The Proposed Republican Replacement For ObamaCare Is A Big Tax Hike (here).
It’s still early in the trajectory for “PCA,” but one thing it does highlight is how we may have reached a kind of healthcare cost saturation. There are simply no legislative gimmicks, games or alternatives left to avoid the last and final wallet – all of us as consumers. For some die-hard GOP faithful, this alone is an historic event – a sizable and transparent tax on working Americans.
There were other ideas as well, but some were hard to see as remotely viable technically or remotely successful with crucial swing voters. Two of these were:
“However, under our plan, every American will be able to access a health plan, but no American is forced to have health insurance they do not want. So, if an individual did not like the initial default plan selected for them, they would be able to switch plans, or affirmatively opt-out of coverage altogether.”
Welcome back junk health plans. With no minimum or Essential Health Benefits, it’s back to the gamification of healthcare plans, options and costs. It simply defies any actuarial science or logic for individuals to be able to pick and choose a health plan “that best meets their individual health care needs.” Under what conditions and criteria – and when? Using my smartphone strapped to a gurney in the ambulance? 
The second was targeted directly at non-Americans.
  Individuals with annual income above 300 percent FPL would not be    eligible for a credit, and only American citizens would be eligible for a credit.”
That doesn’t mean that non-Americans can’t buy health coverage, but that they simply wouldn’t qualify for any subsidy if their income was below 300% of FPL.
At least none of those nasty illegal immigrants working on minimum wage will get subsidized healthcare. At least part of the law is "Real American" Republicanism. The rest of it? Who knows? It'll be gone and forgotten by next Monday.

But keep at it, boys. You're bound to happen on something that makes sense eventually. But do read it next time before you release it to the hounds. This plan's already been torn to shreds.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Oh Dear, GOP, Your Slip Is Showing

You know the Republicans are in trouble when the smoke clears from the Christie implosion, the Huckabee re-declaration of a War on Women, the Rand Paul "I'm going to win by talking about Bill Clinton's sex life twenty-plus years ago," and assorted slip-slip-slip trip-trip-trip drip-drip-drip events by Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, and any other once-and-future occupants of the clown car:
Following the controversy over his 'Uncle Sugar' speech Mike Huckabee has...taken the lead in the Republican primary race for 2016. He's at 16% to 14% for Jeb Bush, 13% for Chris Christie, 11% for Rand Paul, 8% each for Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Paul Ryan, 6% for Scott Walker, and 5% for Bobby Jindal.
Jeb Bush -- you go, guy! -- is back in the pack at second. Who knew? (Me.)

(h/t Daily Kos)

Jeb Bush embraces his ball and chain: Run, Jeb, run!

On a serious note: We're three years out, but I'm starting to get the feeling that the GOP is looking for another sacrificial lamb -- which McCain and Romney were, to be frank -- to throw to the lions in 2016. Their chances will be so much better in 2024...

Clemency for Low-Level Drug Offenders Is a Good Start

Lest we forget: This triumvirate of Republicans began the law-and-order
movement that many have come to regret, as the U.S. began to lead the world
in imprisonment. Democrats, fearful of being labeled "soft on crime," got tough
and stayed tough to get elected. But it started with Goldwater, Reagan, and Nixon.

Unwinding years of law-and-order mania -- some of which was racist in its implications -- is a good start for an Obama Justice Department that's been good and evil by fits and starts. Today, with its initiative to solicit candidates for clemency, they make a move in the right direction:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, in its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases, is taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early.
Speaking at a New York State Bar Association event Thursday, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said the Justice Department wanted to send more names to White House for clemency consideration.
“This is where you can help,” he said, in remarks the Justice Department circulated in advance.
Prison officials will also spread the word among inmates that low-level, nonviolent drug offenders might be eligible to apply for clemency.
The clemency drive is part of the administration’s effort to undo sentencing discrepancies that began during the crack epidemic decades ago. Offenses involving crack, which was disproportionately used in black communities, carried more severe penalties than crimes involving powder cocaine, which was usually favored by affluent white users.
Let's hope this is imitated at the state level. Years of mismanagement and misjudgement, coupled with sheer cruelty and injustice under the guise of "tough on crime," have left scars not just on Americans but most especially on African-Americans.

More like this, Obama.

Low-level, non-violent drug offenders don't belong here. (And we can't afford it.)

Is the Republican Party Relevant?

Of course it is. It has the ability -- one that it's been using for quite a while -- to do serious damage to our economy and to the health of our republic. But are their policy ideas relevant?

Today, on the cover of the Washinton Post, we find that the GOP is most decidedly no longer relevant. Here's the headline:

GOP races to prove it has plan to help the middle class

Here's the article. Here's the key graph:
The challenge for Republicans is convincing voters that their newfound concern is sincere. After three years of budget cuts and fiscal crises that badly damaged the GOP brand, voters not only rejected presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 but also have told pollsters that they view Republicans generally as indifferent to middle-class interests.
So, when the Republican Party, with its four separate responses to Barack Obama's SOTU address, said it had plans, what they were really saying was, "We don't have plans. Our plans don't make sense. In fact, they stink. But give us a pig and give us some lipstick and give us a little time, godammit, and we'll have a plan, okay? Is that too much to ask?

Clown car, packed to the brim.

Spycraft vs. Journalism: It's the Information, Stupid.

"How much information should you have? Oh, this much. Maybe."

James Clapper, National Intelligence Director, and those who work with him and for him want all the information in the world but want it to be secret. Glenn Greenwald and other journalists want you to have most of the information in the world and wants it to be free and widely known.

This difference is extremely important.

Clapper believes the State should have access to everything, and it's his desire that this everything reside in government storage.

Greenwald: We don't need to know everything. We respect your privacy. But
we do need to know what the State knows about us and how they know. We
most certainly should also know what the State doesn't want us to know.

Glenn Greenwald and other journalists working with him have been very judicious in releasing information that was gleaned from files and data released to them by Edward Snowden. And journalists, in general, have absolutely no interest in your personal information, e.g. social security numbers, credit card data, or Internet viewing habits.

(I'm not talking about Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, or Wikileaks. Their motives might have been heartfelt, but they certainly weren't judicious with their information.)

There is a limit to what journalists -- those that follow the well-established code -- will make public.

There is a limit to what James Clapper thinks citizens should know. He thinks that you should know nothing. How do we know this? He's been caught, in sworn Congressional testimony, lying through his teeth. He lied because he contemptuously believes we have no right to know.

We have a right to know.

I want to live in Greenwald's world, not Clapper's.

Which world do we live in now?

Guess what? We live in both worlds. The interplay is fascinating, and we don't yet know who'll win. My money -- and the money of those who really believe in freedom -- is and should be on Greenwald.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snowden's Accomplices?

You know this man is not lying, whenever you see his lips aren't moving.

I heard James Clapper -- one of many unindicted felons in the government -- call the journalists who have Edward Snowden as a source "accomplices." It was on the CBS Evening News, who, whether they know it or not, by reporting Clapper's comments without comment are themselves accomplices in the state-sponsored deception that is James Clapper whenever he opens his mouth.

For shame, CBS. I watch you to know how shabby you are, not to be enlightened.

Slate's Josh Voorhees caught Clapper's claptrap, too. Money graph:
Wonder What Glenn Has to Say About That: Greenwald: "Is it now the official view of the Obama administration that these journalists and media outlets are "accomplices" in what they regard as Snowden's crimes? If so, that is a rather stunning and extremist statement. Is there any other possible interpretation of Clapper's remarks?"
Now, I tend to give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt because he's at the mercy of entrenched bureaucracies. But if the president lets this shit go on much longer, it doesn't matter what I think. The world at large and America at small will judge him harshly.

We voted Barack Obama in as president in 2008 because he was the anti-Bush, in more ways than one. I'd now say his presidency can be -- and will be, by historians -- described as the incredibly shrinking anti-Bush presidency.

Just scouting around, I didn't see many reactions to Clapper's high-tonnage tongue wagging. His is a dense kind of deception. His world is spy craft, where you steal the truth and sell the lie. If you can get people to buy your bullshit, it's effective misinformation. When you do that to the American people -- from his position -- it's treason. What he's done by such reckless rhetoric is only make Edward Snowden appear that much more heroic. Even Clapper's colleagues should tell him to shut his trap. He's not helping anyone, especially the spy service, and most definitely not himself.

Mr. President, get rid of this jerk, he's not good for you -- or anyone.

Chris Christie's Heart of Darkness

Or his Vietnam, if you will.

The New York Times today published an article -- about the inner workings of the Christie operation -- that reads like Apocalypse Now feels on screen.

I love the smell of traffic jams in the morning -- or I used to.

I don't know if this is the end game, but it certainly doesn't resemble the beginning of anyone's political career.

Note. When reading the article, be sure to look at the photo array called "The Governor's Inner Circle." I don't know about you, but as I was viewing the faces, I felt the hot breath of a police detective on the back of my neck as he said, "Do you recognize anyone in this picture? Take your time."

The State of the Union Is Disunion

I liked it, Joe liked it. Ha ha, made John stand.

Barack Obama's SOTU address was a good one. The president has always crafted fine speeches and delivered them well. His ideas were generally rational, forward-looking, and mostly small ball, which is fine. In that sense, it was Clintonesque, but without middle-school uniforms. Rather, it was a checklist of the small things we can't do because we don't have a functioning Congress -- which he wisely decided not to rile -- and small things that he is going to do because he has the power to do it by executive order. I didn't hear him suggest doing anything I would have a problem with. Many Republican congresspeople declared him "lawless," probably because they were hoarding all the laws and not giving the president any.

Rodgers: GOP response or PTA response?
The Republicans had a problem with the SOTU address. In fact, they had four problems with it: A GOP congresswoman -- Yay, they have one! -- gave the mainstream GOP response (it's all Obama's fault), a congressman gave the tea party response (it's all Obama's fault but with tea all over it), philosopher king Rand Paul gave his tea tea party response with libertarianism all over it (it's all Obama's fault even though the Paul family women are dong just fine), and a Latina GOP congresswoman -- Yay, they have one! -- delivered la respuesta de la corriente principal del Partido Republicano (¡Todo es culpa de Obama!). I'd say the four represented a Republican Party response if I could figure out what they said. Oh, they said they had "plans." That's a start! Did I say it was all Obama's fault?

Lee: The tea party knows what it's
for, and that's being against Obama.
I agree that it won't be a memorable night. There were no grand pronouncements -- the Era of Big Government is over, or the axis of evil is scary -- or huge policy shifts. If anything can be gleaned from the whole affair, it might be that "the Government of Big Parties is over," or something. It's nice to think that the Republican Party is so great they decided to have four of them, so in that sense it was a Republican night. We have more parties than you! Not something to run on, but the messaging this election year is going to be fun to watch. Unravel, anyone?

Paul: I'm responding because I'm
politically ambitious, I guess.
I've got to hand it to Barack Obama: He's one unflappable dude. Whether he gets anything done for the rest of his final term (on a serious note, watch for foreign-policy breakthroughs) is anybody's guess, but he has done one thing for sure: He's overseen the fragmentation of the opposition party and left them in a state where the only GOP frontrunner left at this point is Senator Rand Paul.

Anyone want to bet how long it'll take for his run to unravel? Anyone? Hillary Clinton, thank Obama Derangement Syndrome for getting you into the catbird seat.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

When People Leave the Cap Off the Stupid Tube...

...all kinds of crazy shit's gonna get squeezed out. Examples:

Mike Huckabee sabotages the RNC's rollout of its brilliant shortened 2016 campaign strategy best described as "Now you see 'em, now you don't!" But to the tape:

Speaking of stupid tubes, David Gregory uses Meet the Press to gin up a controversy by asking Rand Paul about Bill Clinton's well-known tryst with Monica Lewinsky as if it's a valid topic for today's politics or an issue for 2016:

Rand Paul, philosopher king and our watchman of la morale moderne. Lead on, King Rand!

And now for something completely not different: I had forgotten what a central figure Bristol Palin was in our political monologue dialogue until she weighed in on the made-up bullshit burgeoning controversy about the blurring of facts in Wendy Davis' biography. Read Bristol's blog here to see how to embroil yourself in a non-controversy. Surely there's a fact-checker out there putting Wendy Davis through her paces. Honestly and not to rise to Davis' defense, but this "blurring" of the facts is thin gruel; Davis didn't lie, she just made herself out to be more heroic in her rags-to-riches story. The "came from humble origins to single mom to Harvard law to Texas state senator" story basically holds up. Bristol Palin's "my boyfriend banged me in high school and knocked me up so we got engaged and then broke up after Mom lost the 2008 election for McCain because I couldn't have a baby without ruining Mom's chances look how much money my Mom made anyway so screw Levi Johnston oops I already did who cares I have a TV show and a new boyfriend" narrative isn't so heroic either. I'll take Wendy Davis, thank you.

Beautiful family brief shack-up, and now great father ex-boyfriend Levi
loses custody last week of Tripp. (And he doesn't even have a reality show!)

Others who have a stake in taking Wendy Davis down have also weighed in, but Bristol is the perfect criticizer, so I went with her. Bristol for the win! BTW, Bristol blogs on patheos, which claims to be "Hosting the Conversation on Faith." Let us pray: Dear Jesus, make these people shut up. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Final note on the Wendy Davis bio controversy: The article in the Dallas Morning News that spawned it tells a pretty straight-up story. Read the whole thing. Davis had a hard life, which got harder as a teen parent, but she pulled herself up with help from others. She has succeeded so far, and if she were a man, none of this, NONE OF THIS, would amount to a hill of beans, as a Texan might say.

On another note: Sean Hannity decides to double-down on Mike Huckabee's insane-o-gram to women by beating up on one on his radio show yesterday. He pointedly didn't allow his guest to make the point that some women can afford birth control, and some can't. The "free" birth control is preventive health care that insurance companies are happy to provide. Obamacare simply makes it official government policy to mandate something that insurance companies -- and most women and men in the U.S. -- totally support. Insurance companies love when you don't smoke; they love when you don't get pregnant. Both behaviors cost insurance companies money.

Slate's Amanda Marcotte points out quite brilliantly that it's just a question of terms. Hannity offers, snidely, an "adopt-a-woman" program to provide women their contraception. Sure, why not, suggests Marcotte. We could call it health insurance or, if you will, Obamacare. Sure, Hannity, why the hell not?

More, More Pete Seeger

Just not enough Pete Seeger, once he's gone.

No, not forgotten.

Pete Seeger, RIP

Pete was huge, larger than life, and he seemed to be so effortlessly. His was as gentle a charisma as I think I've ever seen. A good way to understand where his impact begins is to see the documentary Wasn't That a Time? In fact, here it is:

And for good measure, here's Guantanamera:

See? Effortless.

I Like Religiosity, Just Not Religion

Hey, come back already. Seriously.
I mean, if you're really going to.
Yeah, there's a contradiction there, that being religious is okay but religions aren't. What it's come down to for me is two things: One, what's with the idea that God decided that the Middle East was where He was going to talk to all his prophets, and, two, why two or three thousand years ago and then He shuts the fuck up. What's with that?

(I'm discounting the notion of speaking in tongues or attending any church whose minister says anything like "I was speaking with God the other day, and he reminded me of the glory and the power of Ch. x, Verse y...")

I remember hearing somewhere that Mother Teresa had a vision when young, that God had come to her, spoke to her. And then He shut up and never came back. That haunted her all her days, that abandonment. It was a form of cruelty, almost torture. Think about it: God comes, says serve Me, then takes a hike. Seriously, Dude, what the fuck?

I'm sorry for Mother Teresa, I am. For me, I don't buy it. Comes two thousand years ago, drops his Son on us, we crucify Him, and then He splits. Pretty rude for a God "who so loved the world..."

Will these people allow religion to ban contraceptives
in the public sphere? What's frightening is that they might.
I read David Brooks again today (I never learn), and I didn't hate him. He wrote about religion, about how it should be deep and very inner. I get that. I don't mind that. Spirituality is often more deeply felt the more towards the core we find it.

What I didn't like -- he is entitled to his opinion -- was his saying that "There is a strong vein of hostility against orthodox religious believers in America today, especially among the young." There may be, I don't know. I, as a teacher, spent a good deal of time around young people and really didn't feel the young -- from 16 to, say, 35 -- showed a hostility toward religion so much as a simple "meh."

It just doesn't float their boats. Something out there might, but not this stuff foisted on us as religion. I say us because I identify more with them that the grumps who want us off their lawns and into their churches. Sorry. Lawns and churches, maybe.

It isn't the youth that are hostile to religion but rather that religion as practiced these days is hostile toward youth. The whole organized-religion fight against contraception is a case in point. Young people today -- and wisely, I'd add -- want to get their lives together before "starting a family." They might even want to finish college or make a dent in their student loans without worrying about how to finance their six-month-old's education. Conservatives recommend abstinence, essentially on religious grounds. I quit religion over sex in 1965; I'm not surprised that the youth today might react the same way, only more so.

Hyper-religious Governor Brownback:
"Teaching critical thinking in schools
undermines parental authority." Sheesh.
Religion doesn't have to be that way. Seriously. I've more than once said that a decent, moral humanism could be built on a foundation of Christ's teachings. I really believe it. But in order to do it, one would have to peal off an awful lot of old varnish covering the Christianity that passes as the Word today.

Yes, I could live a moral life based on an inner Christian code, one of my own engineering, back to the original specs, you could say. But I could do that with the Dalai Lama, or Gandhi, or Lao Tsu, or Buddha, and yes, a lot of that is backward looking from an historical perspective. Yet there's a difference.

All of the great thinkers of the past three thousand years have orbited around Truth, Beauty, Love, Charity, Knowledge, and Honor -- I could go on -- and whatever the mass is that keeps that orbit intact is timeless and devoid of doctrine, unencumbered by restraint or coercion.

I'd say a little more Buddha
and a lot less Limbaugh, Right?
I should go back and read Augustine and Aquinas, I really should. It would please David Brooks. I liked the Augustine quote in his column yesterday. There wasn't an ounce, not a milliliter, of Washington DC in it. More like that, Mr. Brooks, more like that, without accusing the young of hostility toward antiquated ideas. They were born to hate the old shit and yearn for the new. Let them. They just might create a new spirituality, one that doesn't resemble the chloroformed piety mixed with hate speech that organized religion has become today, a religious canon quite at home in DC, it's fair to add.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Taking a Too Long Look at Ross Douthat (Well, Not Too Long)

Douthat: Love can buy you money?
To be fair to Ross Douthat, he's not the only conservative pundit (how can someone still in short pants as a writer be a "pundit?") suggesting that marriage is what will save our woebegotten culture in these desolate times. Brooks has tossed that cookie; Marco Rubio thinks marriage is a cure for poverty (okay, Rubio is not a pundit, he's an opinionator); our dear Kathleen Parker looks to marriage to keep the old man too busy working to wreck his life with drink and drugs.

Then, Echidne of the Snakes went and dug up a study that demonstrates both statistically and convincingly that marriage fails at a higher rate relative to how Protestant and Southern you are or relative to how surrounded you are by Protestants and the South.You don't even have to be religious, you just have to be around people who believe that marriage and marriage at a younger age, with children a major goal and with a stay-at-home mom the norm, for you to fall into the trap and do as they do.

We can't keep living like this. Wait, We still live like this?

This leads to all kinds of problems: One, the South is poor in relative terms compared to the Sodom and Gomorrah of the liberal Northeastern states where, counter-intuitively, divorce rates are much lower, and, two, the prospects for a young family dim when the young father gets a substandard job and the young mother is busy raising kids when she should be finishing her education to be ready for a solid career when she stops popping babies. And, three, Southern society believes this is the model, with the dominant father figure bringing home the bacon, which the little wifey then cooks and serves. Yes, you guessed it, this may sound like the Heartland Marriage, but it is also the leading cause of divorce in the divorcin'-crazy Bible Belt.

Read Echidne of the Snakes' take. She covers a lot of ground, and sound ground it is. I wish the pundits did their homework before opening their yaps, to paraphrase my long departed Pop.

Weighing in on Thomas Perkins

Stupid dick.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Night Music

Since I just posted about Scandinavia, and I don't know of any Swedish talent other than ABBA -- and talent might not be the right word for them -- I'm picking Tina Dico from Denmark. I learned of her from Lauren O'Connell, who toured with her a couple years back. Anyway, I've never met anyone who's heard of Tina Dico, but that might say more about me than the rest of the world. Hope you like her.

Hey, Conservatives: Visit This Swedish Website and Have Your Heads Explode

Paternity leave in Sweden: It's up to 260 days at 80% pay, with money bonuses
if the total leave ( approximately 500 days) is split equally between parents.

I visited Sweden for the first time last fall and found a progressive, modern country with what appears on the surface to be a very contented society. My ex-pat friends that hosted me found the Swedes a bit too taciturn, to put it mildly. They're not alone. While I was there I read The Xenophobe's Guide to the Swedes, which was funny as hell and, I'm told, spot on, if a bit dated. It described the Swedes as dedicated to undfallenhet, or, in English, appeasement. Yes, they want to get along with the least amount of friction. Neville Chamberlain tried it in 1938. See how well that worked out. It's been 66 years, and every demagogue in the world still cries "Munich!" at the drop of a hat.

In any event, I liked Sweden and if I lived there I suspect that I'd find the twelve people in the entire country who are really fun, open, and a little bit crazy within a few weeks and be completely content, or I like to think I would.

But I drift. What prompted me to post about the Swedes is this link I found on a Matthew Yglesias Tweet called The Swedish Part Model. Though I didn't get the "Part" part -- I googled the term and only found the Swedish Labour Model or Nordic Model as related terms -- I found it to be a quick primer on Swedish labor relations. Read this FT article to get an historical perspective. Visit this website on Swedish gender equality and this website about maternity and paternity leave.

Yes, Sweden, as with all of the Scandinavian countries, is highly progressive. I like the way they do business, though I prefer Denmark as a society (I was able to visit it for the second time this past fall, as well). Still, I suspect -- or even hope! -- that conservatives or libertarians who happened by the Swedish Part Model website would experience a decided spike in blood pressure, which is as it should be.

Rand Paul might benefit if someone kidnapped him and made him live in Copenhagen for a while.

"And if elected president, I would introduce a bill in the
first 100 days making both Sweden and Denmark illegal."

GOP Reforms Its 2016 Schedule: Less Exposure Is Better!

Plenty of room in the clown car. Hey Scott, jump in! Please!

Realizing that the long primary season in 2012, with its many debates, allowed the Republican candidates to be seen and heard possibly a little too much and very much to their detriment, the Brahmins at the Republican National Committee have decided to shorten the party's primary season by months and months. In a nutshell, the GOP has decided that letting the clowns drive the clown car around for very long is bad for business. Solution? Same clowns, same car, shorter track. Now the people will love us!

As part of the reform the GOP will also hold their national convention as much as two months earlier, not only to contract the primary season but also to allow their winning candidate to begin to spend their general-election campaign funds, which under federal law can't be tapped before the convention.

Unless I'm mistaken, these steps are being taken because the Republican base, more influential during primary season, is out of whack with the traditional, more moderate electorate. Reducing the time candidates' policy positions are at the mercy of the radical right will somehow make them more appealing, essentially giving them an earlier Etch-a-Sketch time horizon. Tack to the center for the win!

Good luck with that. The problem, though, for the GOP is that the clown car is going to fill up no matter how short the primary season, for 2016 at least. If Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and heaven knows who else jump in, the party will have already jumped the policy shark whether so-called moderates like Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, or John Kasich have been in the car with them. Chris Christie isn't worth talking about, poor man. He's toast.

Talk of other, more acceptable GOP candidates is, frankly hilarious. Why? For the above reason. Even in a shortened primary campaign, how many candidates will break with the radical right on taxes, abortion, birth control, immigration, the deficit, entitlements, minimum wage, education, war mongering, Fed policy, job creation, the debt ceiling, Obamacare, and the concept that government isn't evil? How many moderates in the campaign are going to stand up and say that Rush Limbaugh is a big, fat, stupid idiot?

In fact, some of them will actually do that. I can see Jeb Bush doing it. I can also see him doing it and losing Iowa -- winning New Hampshire -- then losing South Carolina and Nevada before squeaking by in Florida. No moderate frontrunner by mid-March and the clown car bumps along. What has the GOP accomplished?

Maybe a campaign facelift can help in 2020 when a real candidate with real chances can emerge in a post-tea-party world. But 2016 will have the usual suspects kicked around by the still-vigorous, knee-jerk, hotheaded radical right. It won't be pretty.

Of course, maybe the Republicans will get lucky and end up with a Jeb Bush/Condoleezza Rice ticket. That won't remind anyone of the bad old days, would it?

The GOP Dream Team. Please, please, please.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Democrats, Carpe Diem on the Popular Issues!

Paul Krugman has a timely blog post on income inequality and looks at it in ways I hadn't thought of:
And I think we also have to face up to an awkward political reality: moderate populism has a broad popular constituency, Keynesian macroeconomics doesn’t.
Sadly, Krugman is right. It's hard to get Americans to grasp Keynesian ideas, let alone slip them past the Cyclops at the gates of Congress. Ain't gonna happen. But Obama can and should -- as all Democrats should -- sell the nation on the ideas they can grasp, such as income inequality, the need for jobs programs, raising the minimum wage, fairness for women in the workplace, etc. These are popular, not simply populist.

I took special interest in the poll results on income inequality:

Democrats and independents are similarly dissatisfied. Only Republicans lean toward acceptance of the status quo, and even there 54 percent are dissatisfied. That's funny because there's no clear polling to indicate that people at higher income levels skew that much Republican.

One study in the Atlantic indicates that white males at higher income levels skew decidedly toward voting Republican, while that trend is quite muted among women. The same study points out that college-educated men are trending Democratic, while working-class white men have deserted the Democrats, especially in the South. This leads to the obvious conclusion that working-class white men are voting against their self-interest. Those who suffer most from income inequality have a political blind spot, but we knew that already.

Another poll, this time from the Pew Research Center, from 2012 (most recent data on this I can find) shows that white working-class voters are turning to the GOP. The graph here paints an interesting picture:

Whites began to flee the Democratic party just about the time a black man and a white woman became the favorites to win the White House, starting back in 2007. After 2008 when the black man won, that disaffection accelerated. I wonder why that was?

(No, I'm not playing the race card. I'm pointing out trends that are hard to mistake. After all, who didn't notice the reaction to Barack Obama becoming president?)

The bottom line is that while some voters are out of reach on popular issues that might make Barack Obama look good, there are a variety of constituencies that can be tapped for support of so-called populist issues. So the Democrats should champion them!

A little hard to tell who these guys would vote for,
but I wouldn't waste time chasing their votes.

Ted Nugent, STFU!

Let's parse this picture: Nugent wears Army-like camouflage clothes, loves
guns of all kinds, loves the American flag, which makes him very patriotic.
Oh, and he got unbelievably high and smeared feces all over his body before
 his Vietnam-era draft physical. He's that patriotic. He didn't get drafted, didn't serve.

In his own words, in 1977, about how he got out of serving in the U.S. Army:
High Times:
How did you get out of the draft?
Ted was a young boy, appearing to be a hippie but quite opposite in fact, working hard and playing hard, playing rock and roll like a deviant. People would question my sanity, I played so much. So I got my notice to be in the draft. Do you think I was gonna lay down my guitar and go play army? Give me a break! I was busy doin’ it to it. I had a career Jack. If I was walkin’ around, hippying down, getting’ loaded and pickin’ my ass like your common curs, I’d say “Hey yeah, go in the army. Beats the poop out of scuffin’ around in the gutters.” But I wasn’t a gutter dog. I was a hard workin’, mother****in’ rock and roll musician.
I got my physical notice 30 days prior to. Well, on that day I ceased cleansing my body. No more brushing my teeth, no more washing my hair, no baths, no soap, no water. Thirty days of debris build. I stopped shavin’ and I was 18, had a little scraggly beard, really looked like a hippie. I had long hair, and it started gettin’ kinky, matted up. Then two weeks before, I stopped eating any food with nutritional value. I just had chips, Pepsi, beer-stuff I never touched-buttered poop, little jars of Polish sausages, and I’d drink the syrup, I was this side of death, Then a week before, I stopped going to the bathroom. I did it in my pants. poop, piss the whole shot. My pants got crusted up.
See, I approached the whole thing like, Ted Nugent, cool hard-workin’ dude, is gonna wreak havoc on these imbeciles in the armed forces. I’m gonna play their own game, and I’m gonna destroy ‘em. Now my whole body is crusted in poop and piss. I was ill. And three or four days before, I started stayin’ awake. I was close to death, but I was in control. I was extremely antidrug as I’ve always been, but I snorted some crystal methedrine. Talk about one wounded mother *****. A guy put up four lines, and it was for all four of us, but I didn’t know and I’m vacuuming that poop right up. I was a walking, talking hunk of human poop. I was six-foot-three of sin. So the guys took me down to the physical, and my nerves, my emotions were distraught. I was not a good person. I was wounded. But as painful and nauseous as it was — ’cause I was really into bein’ clean and on the ball — I made gutter swine hippies look like football players. I was deviano.
So I went in, and those guys in uniform couldn’t believe the smell. They were ridiculin’ me and pushin’ me around and I was cryin’, but all the time I was laughin’ to myself. When they stuck the needle in my arm for the blood test I passed out, and when I came to they were kicking me into the wall. Then they made everybody take off their pants, and I did, and this sergeant says, “Oh my God, put those back on! You *****’ swine you!” Then they had a urine test and I couldn’t piss, But my poop was just like ooze, man, so I poop in the cup and put it on the counter. I had poop on my hand and my arm. The guy almost puked. I was so proud. I knew I had these chumps beat. The last thing I remember was wakin’ up in the ear test booth and they were sweepin’ up. So I went home and cleaned up.
They took a putty knife to me. I got the street rats out of my hair, ate some good steaks, beans, potatoes, cottage cheese, milk. A couple of days and I was ready to kick ass. And in the mail I got this big juicy 4-F. They’d call dead people before they’d call my ass. But you know the funny thing about it? I’d make an incredible army man. I’d be a colonel before you knew what hit you, and I’d have the baddest bunch of mother****in’ killers you’d ever seen in my platoon. But I just wasn’t into it. I was too busy doin’ my own thing, you know?

Ted Nugent, 1.0.

Now Ted Nugent thinks it's cool to call President Obama a "subhuman mongrel:"
"I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame, enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America,” Nugent said in the interview with
Stay classy, Ted.

Ted Nugent, 2.0.

In 2006, Ted Nugent disavowed his 1977 statement, saying he made it up. Various attempts to fact-check the truth of the matter have done little to establish just what happened. We only have Ted's word, which, it now seems, doesn't amount to much.

Ted Nugent, 3.0.

So, which is it, Ted? It hardly matters. Remember, though, Nugent endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012. But that, of course, is just what you'd expect a wild, crazy rocker to do, right?

If we can't verify what the truth is, then let's just examine, by using Nugent's own words, the depth of his character:

Okay, Ted, we totally believe you. You can shut up now.

Mike Huckabee Takes One for the Team, or...

First, let's go to the tape:

Okay, fair enough, Mike. Can I point out a few things to you, though? First, how many women are going to fall for this crap? Second, because, you know, it's crap. How so? The government is not giving women free birth control, the insurance companies are. Third, the insurance companies love doing this. It cuts down on pregnancies, so they save money. Fourth, that's what this is about in a nutshell.

Now, Huckabee's play here is to get women to stand up and say, "Yeah, I don't need birth control because I'm not going to have sex! And if I do have sex, then I'll have babies! And that's it, I want more babies because that's what I do! Especially if my husband or boyfriend wants to have sex, which I'm afraid is pretty often, doggone it."

See the problem here, Mike? Do you? The Republican message to women, as far as you personally have chosen to frame it, is have less sex, but if you do, have babies.

How that reverses the so-called Republican War on Women, I'm not sure. Maybe you're just taking one for the team, you know, being the whacko so a real Republican candidate doesn't have to.

Or, it's possible that you're just trying to raise money from the whacko community because what you really are, as so many retired governors seem to be, is a grifter, making a buck with what you think is a sure-fire method. But, of course, that can't be true.

One thing is for sure, Mike. You did say some weird things about a woman's libido, and some people will send you money because of it -- a dead giveaway was your fundraising email the next day -- and you will keep this money because you're not really running for president because no way in a million years are you going to become president because, among other reasons, the work is hard and the money sucks. You can maintain a much more sustainable money stream by saying whacky things. And the great part is, you don't actually have to do anything to earn it. You just need to say whacky things!

But you already knew that. Well played, sir.

Huckabee's women hate birth control and breaking nails.

Speaking of Spooks, This Is Really Spooky

In my last post I included a link to a WSJ article about why Edward Snowden, indeed any whistleblower, is in a really bad position these days. But this paragraph really jumped out at me, and I wanted to highlight it. The author, Jesselyn Radack, explains why Snowden can't expect a fair trial:
That's in part thanks to a dysfunctional classification system. Even government officials admit that over-classification has become rampant in government. J. William Leonard —director of the Information Security Oversight Office under President George W. Bush for seven years and an expert witness for Mr. Drake's defense—stated in an August 2011 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times: "The classified information Drake was charged with having possessed illegally never should have been classified in the first place. . . . It clearly does not meet even the minimal criteria for classification." That's because the "classified'" information at issue in the Drake case was unclassified documents—some even published on the NSA's intranet—that were retroactively stamped "classified" after being seized from his home.
Essentially what the government did was take an act that wasn't a crime and say, "Well, now it is!" And that's really, really spooky. Land of the Free? Really?

Sorry, Justice Department, Edward Snowden Makes Sense

Snowden's first mistake was telling the truth.

More than the Justice Dept. needs to be sorry. We should all be sorry that we live in a country in which 61 percent believe Edward Snowden should be tried in court for his crimes. Forget that he's being charged with a hundred-year-old law that wasn't meant to apply to his case. But that's the way we roll in wacky "real" Merka these days.

Let's hear from the criminal himself. He held a Twitter press conference yesterday. Here's one of the criminal's responses:
Not all spying is bad. The biggest problem we face right now is the new technique of indiscriminate mass surveillance, where governments are seizing billions and billions and billions of innocents’ communication every single day. This is done not because it’s necessary — after all, these programs are unprecedented in US history, and were begun in response to a threat that kills fewer Americans every year than bathtub falls and police officers — but because new technologies make it easy and cheap.
I think a person should be able to dial a number, make a purchase, send an SMS, write an email, or visit a website without having to think about what it’s going to look like on their permanent record. Particularly when we now have courts, reports from the federal government, and even statements from Congress making it clear these programs haven’t made us any more safe, we need to push back.
This is a global problem, and America needs to take the lead in fixing it. If our government decides our Constitution’s 4th Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizures no longer applies simply because that’s a more efficient means of snooping, we’re setting a precedent that immunizes the government of every two-bit dictator to perform the same kind of indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance of entire populations that the NSA is doing.
It’s not good for our country, it’s not good for the world, and I wasn’t going to stand by and watch it happen, no matter how much it cost me. The NSA and the rest of the US Intelligence Community is exceptionally well positioned to meet our intelligence requirements through targeted surveillance — the same way we’ve always done it — without resorting to the mass surveillance of entire populations.
When we’re sophisticated enough to be able to break into any device in the world we want to (up to and including Angela Merkel’s phone, if reports are to be believed), there’s no excuse to be wasting our time collecting the call records of grandmothers in Missouri.
Lock this madman up. Who cares if he's right or if he makes a lot of sense? We have to be safe!

I include this video because, though CBS has somewhat moved over to the dark side, I still watch its nightly news to see how the media powers that be view America and what they think "we" should know each evening. I was sure this segment was going to revel in the recent "Edward Snowden spied for Russia or China or somebody" nut-wing gabfest, but, surprisingly, it didn't. It's balanced.

It's beyond weird that the former deputy director of the CIA would move to his new job as senior security contributor to CBS, but let's just accept that in wacky "real" Merka for now. At least what the guy says makes sense. The funny part is that we can count on Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald to keep our "secrets" better than the surveillance establishment can. Bizarrely, Edward Snowden is living proof of that.

Bonus fun fact: Type "edw" into a Google search bar and the auto-complete shows "edward snowden" at the top. High profile dude.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Golf Tip Tuesday on Thursday (oh well): Why Learning the Chip Shot Is Hard

My chipping sucks, though it's getting better. While getting ready to do well today (I'm hitting the links soon), I went to review some YouTube advice. I revisited this Hank Haney vid:

Simple enough, right? Well, let's look at the Phil Mickleson approach I've been trying lately:

Thanks a lot, Phil. You don't do it like Haney at all, but you say the "only way to chip" is the hinge-and-hold. Great. How does Tiger do it?

Very much a hinge-and-holder. A little different from Mickleson, but not much. Finally, here's how Butch Harmon does it, explained by someone who isn't Butch Harmon:

Good clean shot. I like the form. It's hinge-and-hold, but more like Haney's in that there's more ball-time on the ground than in the air.

Still, it's hinge-and-hold 3, Hank Haney stiff wrist 1. I have more control with Haney's method but I often roll past the hole. Hinge-and-hold gives me a chance to flop-and-stop, but I too often blade the ball or drive the club into the turf. I can't control my elevation with the hinge-and-hold. But the Butch Harmon method looks promising. Its compactness looks more controllable. I'm trying it out today. The secret? Lean forward. Hey, that's MSNBC's slogan. It's a better golf tip than political slogan.

Wish me luck!

The GOP Debt-Ceiling Strategy: Will They Threaten and Cave Again?

GOP House leadership: marching to their own funeral?

I've been following this story with keen interest, at least for a story that's been back-burner until now. And I've been wondering with the rest of you just what shenanigans the House Republicans will pull to salvage something out of the coming debt-ceiling limit vote. John Boehner, as do other Republicans, says that there must be a price paid for raising the limit. It hasn't worked the last two times they tried it, but that doesn't mean they won't try again, even in an election year. Sheesh.

Now the threats begin to take form and seem to be coalescing around demanding the repeal of "risk corridors" in the Affordable Care Act. What the hell are they, you say? Funny you should ask.
The provision -- called "risk corridors," but dubbed the "Obamacare bailout" by the law's opponents -- seeks to stabilize costs by creating a pot of money that takes in funds from insurers who enroll healthier customers and uses it to pay out insurers who enroll sicker customers. It's a safety valve that sunsets after 2016. The repeal push is clever messaging in a sense because it lets conservatives snatch the mantle of populism from liberals against wealthy insurance companies. But it comes with its share of dangers, too.
 What are these risk corridors? Ed Kilgore at Political Animal explains:
But the ransom note they are thinking about is pretty interesting: an end to the “risk corridors” provisions of the Affordable Care Act that enables temporary cross-subsidies of insurers who have an unusually poor mix of healthy and unhealthy Obamacare enrollees.
As you probably know, Republicans have been denouncing these subsidies as an “insurance company bailout,” even though most of the money is likely to come from assessments of companies with better risk pools, and the whole thing is intended to stabilize markets temporarily. That’s understandable as a short-term political tactic and as a way to make the “repeal Obamacare” agenda both more indirect and more populist-sounding.
But as the centerpiece of an authentic debt limit fight? That’s hard to imagine. A sustained focus on the “risk corridor” issue will make it plain that the effect of ending the “bailout” will be to raise health insurance premiums—the very malady Republicans have been screaming about as the most important short-term problem with Obamacare. [...]
Right, House GOPers, threaten to not raise the debt ceiling unless you get to repeal a part of Obamacare that prevents health insurance premiums from rising. That's a winning strategy if I ever saw one. Aside from the fact that the Senate would never even take up such a bill and that the White House will chuckle and do cartwheels while you attempt this in an election year that was starting to go your way, there's that fact that you'll look limp and clueless when you cave in the end. High fives all around!

Steve Benen at the Rachel Maddow Blog gives the reasons why calling the risk-corridors provision an "Obamacare insurance-company bailout" is disingenuous, false, moronic, etc.:
Let’s be very clear: there’s no such thing as an “Obamacare bailout.” There’s no such thing as an “Obamacare bailout.” There’s no such thing as an “Obamacare bailout.” There’s no such thing as an “Obamacare bailout.” This is a talking point with all of the intellectual consistency of the “death panel” garbage.
Follow the links to hear the truth, something the GOP is counting on you not doing.

Sen. Marco Rubio has introduced a bill in the Senate to repeal the
risk-corridors provisions. He must be readying a presidential run!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hey, Palin, Quit Playing the Stupid Card

Sarah is so lame but gets to keep making news. So, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, she tells Barack Obama to stop playing the race card, something, of course, he's never done. He's been careful to be measured on race and extra careful never to show the slightest bit of anger, lest he be labeled an "angry black man." His grace under fire is akin to that of Jackie Robinson. The story goes that Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley said Robinson had to bear the racial indignities with grace or the experiment would fail.

One experiment that has failed is the attempt to make Sarah Palin anything except a reasonably successful grifter. Unfortunately, the media rarely says, "Oh, Sarah, that's just stupid!"

So I will.

Okay, Sarah, wave good-bye now. Please.