Saturday, March 28, 2009

Come Saturday Morning: Ponies Edition

Come Saturday Morning

That song always makes me think of the coming-of-age film The Sterile Cuckoo, which appeared as I was coming of age. Which rather dates me, doesn't it.

Toles - Small Enough to Fail

Tom Toles of the Washington Post. What part of this does AIG not understand? Do they really want to have a public debate about morals? Really?

I know I sound like a broken record, but this Maddow segment and the following one with Juan Cole (really the entire show last night) is terrific. Strategy vs. Strategery March 27: President Obama unveiled his new plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which will send thousands more troops to the region. Is this plan a step in the right direction? Rachel Maddow is joined by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The drone wars
March 27: During President Obama's speech Friday about his plan in Afghanistan, Pakistan was mentioned, too. Should Pakistan be treated like a war with no ground troops? Rachel Maddow is joined by author Juan Cole.

Sully sees A Reckoning?

A reader writes:

One of the most powerful lessons of history was certainly played out in the 43 year period between the end of Word War II and 1988. By the end of that time, it was completely obvious that people living under communism were not doing as well as most people living under some form of capitalism (at least in Europe). This became well known to the folks living in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and contributed greatly to the downfall of communism, among other factors.

For the last 21 years, we have been following a similar social experiment between different styles of capitalism: more regulated and less regulated. Several western countries including Ireland and Iceland, as well as some of the Baltic countries, got rid of many regulations, particularly regulations regarding finance. For a while, their economies were shining stars, but now they are a mess. The US and Britain, the least regulated large economies, are now suffering greatly as well from the financial bubble. While Old Europe (to steal a phrase from Don Rumsfeld) is not nearly as affected by the recent debacle.

Are we beginning to learn another one of history’s lessons?

On the repuglican budget follies, Hilzoy says:

Maybe next week they'll present their budget using interpretive dance or little animated jelly beans."

Daily Kos' BarbinMD: About That GOP Budget?

This story just gets better and better - from The Washington Independent:

While reporters hooted at the comically simplistic charts and lack of details in the House Republican leadership’s budget plan, the green eyeshade types at Citizen’s for Tax Justice crunched the numbers (PDF). They conclude that a quarter of all households, most of them poor, would pay more taxes under the GOP plan, while the richest one percent would pay $100,000 less.

See the CTJ report here (pdf) - but be warned: there are numbers in it.

Tim F. piles on:

... Naturally I couldn’t resist piling on. Then I found out that my entry looks a lot like this one at Fark (scroll about 2/3 down the page), which proves that someone else grew up at about the same time that I did*.

Strangely, after I looked at it for a while I realized that my plan beats theirs on every possible level. This is not even a concern troll comment. The GOP would honestly be better off if they listened to my inane plan instead of theirs. My plan even contains a practical plan of action.

In other words in five minutes, inspired by one of the greatest embarrassments to either white people or hip hop, I came up with a superior strategy document. So did some dude at Fark. The scary thing is this might well be the very best they can do.

Republican Budget:

Daily Kos' Hunter on the Republican World Peace Plan

Fresh off the heels of their successful super-awesome mega budget rollout, we've now gotten a look at the Senate Republican's new foreign policy plan:

Not bad, not bad at all. Sure, it's no "we will be greeted as liberators," but it's at least three times as complex as the last Republican president's foreign policy agenda. And this one has ponies!

Think Progress: Rep. Issa pushing to limit first lady’s power to ‘protect’ her ‘historic role.’

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and his conservative allies are pushing for legislation that would limit the first lady’s ability to do substantive policy work. Issa had originally proposed the bill last year, in fear of Bill Clinton moving back in to the White House. But he insists the bill is only about ensuring “transparency” for the work of first ladies, adding, “We are trying actually to protect the historic role of the first lady.” Or, as Gawker summed up Issa’s proposal in its headline, “Congressman Wants Michelle Obama To Shut Up And Look Pretty.”

Packer: More Paranoia

A few days ago, I wrote that the “paranoid style” has been a continual temptation and danger for modern conservatives (whom Hofstadter called “pseudo-conservatives,” owing to their radicalism in wanting to overturn existing laws and institutions). Several readers expressed disbelief that I didn’t mention their left-wing counterparts, and Jonah Goldberg criticized me on The Corner for the same reason. Goldberg accurately brings up various recent left-wing conspiracy theorists, from Naomi Klein to Spike Lee (he might have mentioned Michael Moore as well), and concludes, “By all means, dust off your dog-eared copies of “The Paranoid Style.” But spare me the lectures if you can only find things to worry about to your right.”

There’s plenty of criticism of Klein, Moore, Nicholson Baker, and other paranoid stylists of the left in my book on Iraq, “The Assassins’ Gate.” I didn’t mention them in discussing Hofstadter and the current reaction to Obama for this reason: Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck have far more power in the Republican Party (it sometimes seems to include veto power) than Klein, Lee, and Moore have in the Democratic Party. The views of right-wing commentators in the grip of the paranoid style (Obama is a stealth radical, the Democrats are imposing socialism) are much closer to mainstream conservative and Republican belief than the views of their counterparts on the left (the levees in New Orleans were blown up by the government, the White House had something to do with 9/11) are to mainstream liberal and Democratic belief. The reasons are complex, but I would list these: the evangelical and occasionally messianic fervor that animates a part of the Republican base; the atmosphere of siege and the self-identification of conservatives as insurgents even when they monopolized political power; the influence of ideology over movement conservatives, and their deep hostility to compromise; the fact that modern conservatism has been a movement, which modern liberalism has not.

This is not to say that the more destructive forms of populism and outright paranoia can’t appear on the left. They have, they do, and they will, especially in times of extreme distress like these. It’s only to say that the infection has been more organic to the modern right.

Goldberg would have even more basis for his complaint if I were the author of a book called “Conservative Fascism” and he were not the author of a book called “Liberal Fascism.”

Speaking of the paranoid style, Sully notes that Michelle Bachmann Is Insane: It's official now, along with Glenn Beck's derangement. Is no one on the right prepared to take this stuff on?

Josh, Big PhARMA: Larry Sabato suggests Rep. Michele Bachmann bone up on what Marxism actually is or maybe just take a tranquilizer.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Evening Reading: Freaks and Rants Edition

That was quick:

Aravosis AmBlog Headline:
BREAKING: UPS stops advertising on O'Reilly after he had ThinkProgress blogger stalked, and talked about assassinating MSNBC employees

TPM Headline:How Al Franken's Absence Hampers The Obama Agenda

Josh Marshall:
A Slo-Mo Cover Up?

We're trying to pull together the many moving parts of the AIG story. And here's some more on one issue that seems particularly important. Yesterday we mentioned that the chief risk officer at AIG, strange as it may seem, still has his job. But now we find that like AIG's in-house auditors and its outside accountancy, the risk assessing team itself was not given full access to the book of AIG Financial Products.

The next step will be to get some read on just when it was that AIGFP Chief Joe Cassano started shutting everyone out. And what didn't he want them to see?

atrios sees Freaks
As I wrote before, I think Obama has a mix of press working for him and against him. On the one hand you have the deferential access journalism, and on the other hand you have the daily freak show which almost always works against Democrats as it's often directed by America's Assignment Editor, Matt Drudge.

Occasionally the freak show is so stupid that one begins to doubt if these journalists are sentient.
  • Media Matters: Gibbs ridicules media's teleprompter obsession

    Washington Post reporter Lois Romano interviews White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:

    MS. ROMANO: The teleprompter changed last night.

    MR. GIBBS: Mm-hmm.

    MS. ROMANO: What was that about that? It's a big jumbotron now.

    MR. GIBBS: You know can I tell you this?

    MS. ROMANO: Yes.

    MR. GIBBS: I am absolutely amazed that anybody in America cares about who the President picks at a news conference or the mechanism by which he reads his prepared remarks. You know, I guess America is a wonderful country.

    MS. ROMANO: You're saying this is all Washington Beltway stuff?

    MR. GIBBS: I don't even know if it's that. I don't think I should implicate the many people that live in Washington.

    MR. GIBBS: No, I you know, I don't think the President let me just say this: My historical research has demonstrated that the President is not the first to use prepared remarks nor the first to use a teleprompter.

  • DougJ adds:
    From a chat with Chris Cillizza today:

    In the first few months of the Obama Administration conservatives—spurred on by Matt Drudge—have mocked the president for using a teleprompter at nearly every public speech.


    But, look how much time we have spent discussing the prompter in this chat. And, there’s no question that Drudge has been the prime driver of that story.

    I’m not criticizing Cillizza here. To the contrary, he deserves credit for admitting where the story comes from. But why the hell is Romano pushing what she must also know is a Drudge meme?

One should never excerpt genius.
Follow the link for another edition of what
digby said.

A Push for Prison Reform

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) will launch an effort to reform the nation's prison system today at noon, his staff says, introducing a bill--the National Criminal Justice Act of 2009--that would create a bipartisan commission no reform. The commission would undertake an 18-month review of the U.S. prison system, offering recommendations at the end.

Prison reform is a difficult thing to achieve, politically. Nearly every politician wants to be perceived as "tough on crime," and suggesting that too many Americans are being incarcerated can seem to run against that. (Webb has, in fact, pointed out that the U.S. has attained the highest incarceration rate in the world.) Add tough discussions of prison conditions, inmate crime, and abuse, and it's not an easy task for a politician to undertake.

Webb has succeeded in pushing major legislation through Congress before, as his 21st Century GI Bill passed last year. And it's hard for anyone to accuse the former Navy secretary of not being "tough" enough. Reported support from Democratic leaders, President Obama, and interest from Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Arlen Specter could help him in this latest endeavor.

  • Yglesias: Senator Jim Webb Calls for Prison Reform
    Jim Webb’s talked about prison reform before, and now is prepared to take action on the issue with a new bill. The introductory document notes that “with 5% of the world’s population, our country now houses 25% of the world’s reported prisoners” and “four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals.” This fact, in particular, seems unlikely to be an effective or humane way of dealing with the issue. The legislation’s specific mandate is for not much more than the creation of a national commission on the issue. But I think that’s a good idea. The politics of trying to turn this around are treacherous, but my impression is that there’s actually a lot of common ground that people who’ve analyzed this issue seriously find themselves reaching.

    A few favorite points on the issue:

    – Obviously, mentally ill people should be getting treatment for their mental illness; it’s quite possible that with treatment many of these people would be no danger to anyone.

    – An effective parole system could keep criminals who are also drug addicts off drugs, and thus sharply reduce their proclivity to commit crimes, without the financial or human costs involved in keeping them incarcerated over the long term.

    – At the margin, it’s better to fight crime by having police officers patrolling the streets than by expanding the number of people in prison.

    – Insofar as drug use is criminalized, it’s still possible to target actual law enforcement in the first instance at people involved in violent criminal enterprises.

    – Overcrowded prisons are unsafe, which encourages people to join gangs which, since the prisoners get out eventually, makes the crime problem worse.

    – Sentence lengths should be better-calibrated to reflect actual research on preventing crime rather than pure moralistic outrage. Keeping a person who’s likely to commit violent crimes in prison is an effective crime-control tactic, but we need to focus on people who are actually likely to commit violent crimes. Many people in prison have already aged out of the period at which violent crime is likely.

    There seems to be some interest on the Hill in this bill so hopefully something will happen.

atrios sees Clowns: I'm sure some of them are very nice and very smart, but I generally feel more than a little bit embarrassed for them when I see senators talk, on CSPAN or elsewhere. The lack of awareness that their odd little rhetorical stylings and absurd self-regard make them look like buffoons to just about everyone is frightening.

Daily Kos' BarbinMD: Democratic Leader Tells Democrats To Shut Up


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday that liberal groups targeting moderate Democrats with ads should back off, saying pressure from the left wing of his party won't be helpful to enacting legislation.

"I think it's very unwise and not helpful," Reid said Friday morning. "These groups should leave them alone. It’s not helpful to me. It’s not helpful to the Democratic Caucus.”

Reid, who said he hadn’t seen or heard the ads, added that "most of [the groups] run very few ads — they only to do it to get a little press on it."

Also not helpful? The Democratic Leader going to a newspaper to complain about Democrats exercising a benefit of living in a democracy."

  • Steve Benen adds:
    Now, in fairness, I haven't seen a complete transcript of Reid's remarks, so maybe he added some details and context to this. But given the report, I still have no idea why Reid would find progressive pressure to be "very unwise and not helpful."

    Take the budget fight, for example. The White House presented Congress with a progressive and ambitious plan. Reid likes the plan, as do MoveOn and Americans United for Change. Some members of Reid's caucus want to water down the budget and make it worse, so MoveOn and Americans United for Change are encouraging them not to.

    What's unhelpful about that?

    Reid added, "Legislation is the art of compromise. Consensus-building." Fair enough. But legislating is also about responding to public pressure. Democratic lawmakers are already facing plenty of pressure -- some from within the caucus itself -- to move away from the popular and progressive agenda proposed by the administration. MoveOn and Americans United for Change are helping to add some balance to the equation.

    Reid should be sending them "thank you" notes.

DNC Web Ad: "Pot. Kettle. Black."

publius: Hilarious, But Dishonest Too

Like hilzoy, I found the GOP budget bubbles adorably cute. I was hoping to see more underpants gnomes though. That's honestly the only real critique I have of this fine product -- the underpants gnomishness is left implicit. (If any graphically-inclined readers want to take a stab at "gnoming" the bubbles, I'd be happy to post your handiwork).
On a more substantive note, I do think it's fairly revealing that the only specific policy proposal in the entire budget with numbers is a massive tax cut for the rich. The "plan" proposes establishing two marginal tax rates -- 25% for those who make more than $100,000; 10% for everyone else. As I'm sure you know, that's a huge benefit for those who are doing pretty well. Clearly, this is not a party whose sole mission in life is to redistribute income up the ladder.

It's also worth noting that, hilarity aside, it's full of misleading and downright false assertions. A few of the biggies that I saw was the continuing attempt to pin the market meltdown on the Community Reinvestment Act (of 1977), and Fannie and Freddie. This article provides probably the best summary I found on why these are simply demonstrably false claims. (More - here, here, and here).

And there are other goodies too -- like this one (p.5):

Who are the recipients of such largesse? International organizations and foreign aid recipients, including millions for reconstruction in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Labor union bosses participating in a new “green jobs” program. The National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Americorps, Title X Family Planning, and a host of spending programs that will do nothing to help our economy recover. And even community organizers, such as ACORN, performing “neighborhood stabilization.”

Hamas and NPR -- both are recipients of Obama's largesse.

Amato: Joe the Plumber gets another gig

This is not a joke. Americans for Prosperity, an anti-Employee Free Choice Act group, is hiring Joe the Plumber to speak at rallies against the average working class in America.

Joe the Plumber is hitting the campaign trail again! He’s been pressed into service to do a series of events throughout Pennsylvania rallying opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, the organizer of the events confirms.

Mr. Plumber will speak at rallies against the measure in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia on March 30th and 31st, according to a spokesperson for the anti-EFCA group Americans for Prosperity.

“The public loves Joe the Plumber,” the spokesperson, Mary Ellen Burke, claimed to me. “They see him as a role model.”

Asked whether Joe the Plumber had any particular knowledge or expertise about EFCA that might explain the decision to enlist him, Burke said that he was being enlisted to provide a “grassroots perspective” and “the working perspective” on the measure.

Pressed on whether Joe the Plumber has any particular claim to being a spokesperson on the issue, Burke replied that “he represents the American worker.” Burke couldn’t immediately say whether Joe the Plumber was being paid for his appearances.

Wonder if he'll tell the anti-EFCA crowds they make him horny, too. Sounds like a sure recipe for success.

The public doesn't love Joe the Plumber, insane conservatives do. This only makes things look so much worse for Republicans in this country. How weak and foolish Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe must feel seeing that Joe the Plumber is being billed as a celebrity in the GOP. It's so pathetic.

I guarantee you that after his run dies -- well, OK, it may never die, because they are a leaderless party, and he's about as qualified as any of them -- but when it does and if a union job opens up for him, he'll take it in a second.


The Republican National Committee emailed a survey to its supporters this morning. The questions are broken up into two categories: "Domestic and Social Issues" and "Homeland Security and Defense Issues."

Of course, the wording a survey uses can have some influence on the results. Consider how the RNC worded some of their more notable questions. (thanks to readers GB and CR for the tip)

* A recent national poll reported that nearly 25% of Americans want the government to pass more socialism. Do you agree or disagree?

* Which do you believe creates more jobs for the American economy: Government Programs and Spending or The American Free Enterprise System?

* Should Republicans unite to block new federal government bureaucracy and red tape that will crush future economic growth?

* Should we do everything we can to block Democrats who are trying to shut down conservative talk radio with the so-called "fairness doctrine"?

* Should we resist Barack Obama's proposal to spend billions of federal taxpayer dollars to pay "volunteers" who perform his chosen tasks?

* Should bureaucrats in Washington, DC be in charge of making your health care choices instead of you and your doctor?

* Do you think U.S. troops should have to serve under United Nations' commanders?

These are actual questions from the survey, not paraphrases intended to make the RNC appear silly.

Chances are, the RNC just sends out a survey like this to encourage supporters to send in a donation, and maybe to help bolster the mailing list. I suspect the party doesn't even bother to tally the data.

But I'm trying to imagine the loyal Republican activist who got an email this morning from Michael Steele, and proceeded to sit down and answer all of the many questions in this obviously-bogus "survey." Scary thought.

Post Script: Before getting into these specific issue areas, the survey asks respondents, "What are the weaknesses of the Republican Party?" There are five choices: "Bad Messaging," "Poor Response to Democrats, "Republicans who don't vote like Republicans," "Standing Up for Principles," and "Need to Lead in Congress."

Respondents are encouraged to check all that apply, but there isn't a field for "other."


Paul Krugman's column today begins with a shot at Larry Summers but quickly turns into one of Krugman's best. In it, he gracefully tracks the recent growth of the financial sector, tracing its transformation from "a staid, even boring business" that accounted for less than four percent of GDP in the 1960s to a monstrously lucrative and risky industry that was more than eight percent of the GDP of the world's largest economy. How you understand the regulatory implications of that growth, Krugman says, is crucial to how you understand Geithner's plan:

Much discussion of the toxic-asset plan has focused on the details and the arithmetic, and rightly so. Beyond that, however, what’s striking is the vision expressed both in the content of the financial plan and in statements by administration officials. In essence, the administration seems to believe that once investors calm down, securitization — and the business of finance — can resume where it left off a year or two ago.

To be fair, officials are calling for more regulation. Indeed, on Thursday Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, laid out plans for enhanced regulation that would have been considered radical not long ago.

But the underlying vision remains that of a financial system more or less the same as it was two years ago, albeit somewhat tamed by new rules.

That's exactly right. I've been thinking about this in more radical terms. To be more specific, I've been thinking about this in terms of antitrust law.

In its simplest terms, antitrust law addresses the dangers of size. In general, the danger it addresses is anticompetitive behavior, which usually takes the form of monopoly power, but can also take the form of collusion. In both cases, the effect is fairly simple: An economic threat to a functioning market.

The "too big to fail" problem, which is a problem unique to the massive financial sector that has emerged in modern times, is also, fundamentally, a problem of size. A firm grows too large and the simple fact of its size poses a threat to the continued health and survival of the market. The dangerous mechanism here is not, to be sure, anticompetitive behavior so much as dangerous levels of interconnection. In that way, it's harder to speak of it in the moral terms that undergird antitrust law. But it is no less dangerous, and no less intrinsic to size.

Which is all to say that I fall with Krugman on this: The financial sector should be smaller and regulated more tightly to curb the incentives that encourage wild risk. And more to the point, the individual actors should be smaller. There is no solution to the "too big to fail" problem save for breaking up firms that cant be allowed to fail, or preventing them from reaching that size in the first place.

  • Josh agrees they are Part of the Problem: We're listening to the bank CEO press conference after their meeting with the president at the White House. And among other comments Jim Rohr, chairman and chief executive of Pittsburgh's PNC Financial Services Group, has just noted that the financial services industry is the "biggest industry we have in the United States." I take it that some of that metric may be tied to just how one defines and delimits what constitutes an 'industry'. But this points up a basic structural problem. The point of the financial services 'industry' is to efficiently allocate capital throughout the economy or to put it a bit more cheekily to actual 'industries'. Now, that's a critical function. But when it becomes the biggest 'industry', and in many ways clearly the most powerful, that's a problem.

This needs a maximum of attention

The extent to which the crazies are stirring up the wingnut base is increasing, and is going to end in tragedy. Like Bachmann, Beck, and Hannity.

Key Quote, Matt Yglesias: Keep in mind that these aren’t just two weirdos hiding out in a cabin somewhere. Beck has a show on a major cable news network and Bachmann has a seat in Congress.


Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) -- who is, by the way, mad as a hatter -- appeared on a radio show earlier this week, describing elected Democratic officials as the "enemy" and encouraging her constituents to be "armed and dangerous." Soon after, appearing on Sean Hannity's radio show, Bachmann went even further.

"We are headed down the lane of economic Marxism. More quickly, Sean, than anyone could have possibly imagined. It's difficult for us to even keep up with it day to day....

"[I]t's like Thomas Jefferson said, a revolution every now and then is a good thing. We are at the point, Sean, of revolution. And by that, what I mean, an orderly revolution -- where the people of this country wake up get up and make a decision that this is not going to happen on their watch. It won't be our children and grandchildren that are in debt. It is we who are in debt, we who will be bankrupting this country, inside of 10 years, if we don't get a grip. And we can't let the Democrats achieve their ends any longer.

"If Tim Geithner is successful under President Obama, and they move us to an international currency. Then we have no hope of standing on our own as a sovereign nation with our own economic system. It's over. We can't do that."

She went on to decry "tyranny" being "enforced upon the people," adding that "our very freedom" is at stake.

Now, Bachmann simply isn't well. Were she not an elected member of the U.S. Congress, she'd probably be shouting conspiracy theories and holding cardboard signs on some sidewalk somewhere. But what I find especially interesting is that her paranoid delusions are so detached from obvious truths. If Bachmann wanted to complain that a 39.6% top rate was the epitome of Marxism, she'd be just another conservative. But she's convinced herself that the Obama administration will "move us to an international currency," due entirely to her breathtaking stupidity.

My fear, at this point, is that lunacy from deranged politicians and their media allies is going to end up getting someone hurt. Republican officials believe they should emulate the insurgency tactics of the Taliban. They see themselves as "freedom fighters" taking on the "slide toward socialism." They want a "revolution" because Americans "can't let" Democrats succeed in taking away "our very freedom."

This is obviously madness, not from some right-wing blog, but from elected federal officials. But I worry it's more than that. Incendiary rhetoric like this leads strange people to do strange things.

Republicans, it's time to lower the temperature. In the midst of multiple crises, America deserves more than hollow, partisan rage.

  • TPM's Eric Kleefeld adds this exchange:
    Bachmann: Right now I'm a member of Congress. And I believe that my job here is to be a foreign correspondent, reporting from enemy lines. And people need to understand, this isn't a game. this isn't just a political talk show that's happening right now. This is our very freedom, and we have 230 years, a continuous link of freedom that every generation has ceded to the next generation. This may be the time when that link breaks. And I'm going to do everything I can, I know you are, to make sure that we keep that link secure. We cannot allow that link to break, because as Reagan said, America is the last great hope of mankind. where do we go--

    Hannity: The last great hope of man on this Earth.

    Bachmann: Do we get into an inner tube and float 90 miles to some free country? There is no free country for us to repair to. That's why it's up to us now. The founders gave everything they had to give us this freedom. Now it's up to us to give everything we can to make sure that our kids are free, too. It's that serious. I hate to be dramatic, but--

    Hannity: It's not -- you are not overstating this case, Congresswoman, and you don't need to apologize for it. And as a matter of fact, it's refreshing. And I can tell you, all around this country, on 535 of the best radio stations in this country, people are saying "Amen," "Hallelujah", "where have you been?"

  • Joe Sudbay (DC) adds:
    Oh, now the Republicans are worried about the debt -- like George Bush had nothing to do with it. And, this:
    Right now I'm a member of Congress. And I believe that my job here is to be a foreign correspondent, reporting from enemy lines. And people need to understand, this isn't a game. this isn't just a political talk show that's happening right now. This is our very freedom, and we have 230 years, a continuous link of freedom that every generation has ceded to the next generation. This may be the time when that link breaks. And I'm going to do everything I can, I know you are, to make sure that we keep that link secure.
    This is very incendiary talk for a member of Congress. She's calling the elected government of the U.S. her "enemy." It sounds like the rantings of one of the hard-core militia nuts. Those guys are willing to take up arms against their country. Sounds like Bachmann is willing to join them. I think there are laws against this kind of behavior.

    The traditional media doesn't hold Bachmann accountable for her rantings. They think she's crazy. But, Bachmann means it and she speaks for her party. You don't see any Republicans reining her in. It's the same subtle call to violence that Palin used during the campaign. This shouldn't be dismissed.

    And, yes, there is a law: 18 U.S.C. § 2385. Advocating overthrow of Government. Here's how it starts:
    Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

    Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

    Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—

    Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.
    You know damn well that if a Democrat had called for a revolution during the Bush years, we'd never hear the end of it. There would be press conferences and floor speeches and editorials. There would probably be an indictment. You know it. But, Bachmann just foments revolution without being held accountable.
  • TPM's Eric Kleefeld: I asked DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan for a response to Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) call for an "orderly revolution" to save freedom from President Obama's Marxism. And here's what he said to me: "I think I'll pass. Michele Bachmann's rants serve to discredit her more than anything I could say."

Think Progress: Touting Her Currency Conspiracy, Bachmann Insists: ‘This Is Not Michele Bachmann Being A Kook’
Earlier this week, right-wing fanatic Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) started peddling false conspiracy theories that the world was moving toward a unified global currency — and that the U.S. might join in as early as next week’s G-20 conference. The myth was started when China’s central bank governor suggested replacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Though the suggestion has nothing to do with a unified global currency, Fox News’ Major Garrett decided to ask President Obama whether he supported the fictional prospect of such a move. (Obama, for the record, does not.)

Today on Glenn Beck’s radio show, Bachmann declared that the U.S. will soon be moving to “give up the dollar as our currency and we would just go with a One World currency.” Such action, she warned, would mean the U.S. as a country would be “no more”:

BACHMANN: As you know, Russia, China, Brazil, India, South Africa, many nations have lined up now and have called for an international global currency, a One World currency and they want to get off of the dollar as the reserve currency.

BECK: Most people don’t understand, Michele, what that means.

BACHMANN: What that means is all of the countries in the world would have a single currency. We would give up the dollar as our currency and we would just go with a One World currency. … If we give up the dollar as our standard, and co-mingle the value of the dollar with the value of coinage in Zimbabwe, that dilutes our money supply. We lose control over our economy. And economic liberty is inextricably entwined with political liberty. Once you lose your economic freedom, you lose your political freedom. And then we are no more, as an exceptional nation, as we always have been. So this is imperative.

Bachmann claimed that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he was “open” to the One World currency. (In reality, he only said he was open to changes in the IMF special drawing rights, and reaffirmed his commitment to the dollar.) Beck warned that speaking out about the global currency gets one labeled a “kook,” but Bachmann brushed off such concerns, saying she’s been called that “throughout [her] political career”:

BACHMANN: Well, Glenn, I have experienced that throughout my political career, being labeled a kook. It just happened again in a big story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. But all we have to do is point to the treasury secretary on tape, on camera. This is not Michele Bachmann being a kook. This is our treasury secretary on tape and on camera.

Listen to it:


BACHMANN: But let me tell you, there’s something that’s happening this week in congress that could be the eventual unraveling for our freedom and it was this. I have also asked the treasury secretary and Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chair, if they would categorically denounce taking the United States off of the dollar and putting us on an international global currency because as you know, Russia, China, Brazil, India, South Africa, many nations have lined up now and have called for an international global currency, a one world currency and they want to get off of the dollar as the reserve currency.

BECK: Most people don’t understand, Michele, what that means.

BACHMANN: What that means is all of the countries in the world would have a single currency. We would give up the dollar as our currency and we would just go with a one world currency and now for the first time we’re seeing major countries like China, India, Russia, countries like that calling for a one world currency and they want this discussion to occur at the G20. So I asked both the treasury secretary and the Federal Reserve chair if they would categorically denounce this. The reason why is because if we give up the dollar as our standard and commingle the value of a dollar with the value of coinage in Zimbabwe, that dilutes our money supply. We lose control over our economy and economic liberty is inextricably entwined with political liberty. Once you lose your economic freedom, you’ve lost your political freedom and then we are no more as an exceptional nation as we always have been. So this is imperative. Well, what happened, the day after I asked that question for the treasury secretary, secretary Geithner went before the council on foreign relations and the same subject came up. After that meeting after he categorically denounced it to me, he said to the council on foreign relations he would be open to this proposal of a single currency, of expanding the international monetary funds’ special drawing down rates. That’s what they’re called. And this created a huge firestorm which the value of the dollar literally tumbled upon his words when he said that.

BECK: Right. And then somebody said, “I think you want to revisit that again.” And he did and he said, “Well, no, I don’t mean…”


BECK: And what’s going to happen is if you start to talk about a global currency which I’m telling you there’s no way out of what we’re doing now besides devaluing the dollar to pay off our debt and then have a new currency. There’s just no other way.

BACHMANN: But we can stop that.

BECK: Wait a minute. Congresswoman, what happens is when you stand up and when you say those things, then you’re deemed a kook. Then you’re deemed a militia member. And there are too many people in America that will still listen to the mainstream media. They will still listen to, you know, to those in Washington on both sides of the aisle that say, “Oh, no, well, that’s never going to happen.” And so they sit there and do nothing. And those who do want to do something are afraid because they don’t want to be deemed a kook. And they also are tired of being played by politicians in Washington.

BACHMANN: Well, Glenn, I have experienced that throughout my political career being labeled a kook. It just happened again in a big story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. But all we have to do is point to the treasury secretary on tape, on camera. This is not Michele Bachmann being a kook. This is our treasury secretary on tape and on camera. And also we now have countries across the world asking for this. That’s why I went to my fellow colleagues and I dropped a bill day before yesterday that would bind the president’s hands, that wouldn’t allow him to enter into a treaty or an international agreement to take us off the dollar and put us on an international currency.

UpdateBachmann has introduced legislation to prevent the hypothetical adaptation of a fictional global currency.
Update"This falsehoods here are coming so fast and loose that it’s hard to know where to start," Matthew Yglesias writes, beginning a thorough debunk of the conspiracy theory:
Keep in mind that these aren’t just two weirdos hiding out in a cabin somewhere. Beck has a show on a major cable news network and Bachmann has a seat in Congress.

Lunchtime video: South Park edition

South Park on the Fed decision making process (h/t sully)

" they're building a budget molecule,"

Today is a good day.

Ezra Klein's: QUOTE OF THE DAY.

John Rogers:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
If you're having a bad day, I highly encourage you to spend some quality time with the Republican budget proposal. It's reads like what would happen if The Onion put together a budget. "Area Man Releases Proposal for 2010 Federal Spending Priorities." (Though, to paraphrase William F. Buckley, it turns out that I'd prefer a federal budget written by an area man than the first six names on the House Republican Leadership roster.)

Bush, famously, described his first budget by saying, "It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it." Indeed it was, and did. This isn't. There are no numbers. Let me repeat that: The Republican budget proposal does not say how much money they would raise, or spend. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a "budget" as "an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time." This is not a budget. It talks about balancing the budget but doesn't explain how. It advocates tax cuts but doesn't estimate their costs. It promises to cut programs but doesn't name them. The threat going around the Capitol is that some impish Democratic chairman will ask the CBO to try and score the Republican proposal.

The health care section, for instance, says that Democrats propose "nearly $1 trillion" in health care spending as a "downpayment" on reform. The actual number is $634 billion, which someone who's more familiar with, you know, numbers, might have characterized as "more than $600 billion," or, alternately, "$634 billion." The Republicans say that "the prime focus of [the Democrats] agenda is the establishment of a government-run health insurance plan," a policy idea that doesn't appear in the President's budget. They say that the Lewin Group has analyzed this policy that doesn't exist and found that it will force three out of four Americans onto government-run health care (the Lewin Group analyzed the Economic Policy Institute's proposal, which is not the President's budget). And so on, and so forth.

The Republican proposal, as you might expect, doesn't actually have a health care plan. But it does have this: "Republicans will be on the side of quality versus mediocrity, affordability versus unsustainable debt, and freedom of care versus bureaucrats in control. And we will be on the side of patients, doctors, and the American people." They are also in favor of good things rather than bad things, moving forward rather than going backwards, the hobbits rather than the orcs, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom. That said, the GOP does understand that some voters might be looking for specificity on their health plan. So they included this graphic:


It's like someone showed them a flowchart. Once. And only for a few seconds. And refused to explain it. My editor Ann Friedman just walked into the room. "It looks like they're building a budget molecule," she said.

A budget molecule. Maybe that's what they were doing.

And, of course, Rachel had a blast with the Repuglican budget.

They make bubble charts

Ridiculing the Repuglican budget could become a growth industry.

Weigel: Behold, Charts!

An anonymous official quoted in Politico’s story on the House GOP budget plans said, “We need to hold something up and say, ‘Here are our charts. Here are our graphs. It’s real.” Here’s one of the charts (after the jump):


Indeed, this chart exists.

There are a few of these charts but only three graphs in the plan, all of them CBO estimates about Democratic budget proposals — none of them scoring Republican proposals, which is what a lot of us expected today.

hilzoy: The Republican "Budget"

I've been trying to figure out what to say about the House Republicans' new "budget". I think it's pretty neat that they decided to use those cute bubbles instead of numbers. Maybe next week they'll present their budget using interpretive dance or little animated jelly beans.

I also like the way they say serious-sounding things like this:

"Republicans believe that future generations should not be burdened by mountains of debt for the misguided choices made by Democrats today. Instead, working families should be able to keep more of what they earn and pass those savings to future generations." (p. 10)

-- and then go on to propose a whole raft of new tax cuts and only one specific spending cut, "ending the bailouts". The whole thing has a sort of Dada quality to it that's almost endearing. But I wasn't sure what level of ridicule could possibly be adequate to it.

Luckily, Nate Silver has the answer:

Via John Cole, a Fark thread has some interesting suggestions:

There are lots more where that came from. Enjoy!

John Cole:

*** Update ***

The kids at Fark are having fun with the Republican “budget”:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Evening Reading: Pressuring ConservaDems Edition

POTD, tristero: All Hail Joe The Plumber on Kristoff's column:
Gail Collins. David Brooks. William Kristol. Thomas Friedman. With stiff competition like that, it's hard to believe, but I think that Nick Kristof may get the prize for having typed the stupidest thing ever written by a Times columnist. It starts off almost reasonably, but it isn't:
Ever wonder how financial experts could lead the world over the economic cliff?

One explanation is that so-called experts turn out to be, in many situations, a stunningly poor source of expertise. There’s evidence that what matters in making a sound forecast or decision isn’t so much knowledge or experience as good judgment — or, to be more precise, the way a person’s mind works.
Uh, no. That can't be right. Kristof has started to set up a false dichotomy between knowledge/experience and judgment. As the column goes on, that false dichotomy morphs into an accepted fact. And so, after discussing some studies, Kristof is led to this (with apologies to Somerby) spectacular howler:
Other studies have confirmed the general sense that expertise is overrated.
Well, I'm gonna remember that the next time I'm looking for a string quartet to play my music. Or the next time I need to have surgery on my abdomen. Or hey! when I need to call a plumber, why I'll just call the most famous plumber in the land! Who cares if he's not even a licensed plumber?

This is one of the silliest pseudo-American myths, pure Norman Rockwell, that the average Joe (never a Jane) can perceive The Bigger Truth that somehow eludes the so-called pointy-headed experts. No one really believes it about anything really important in a personal sense. Kristof isn't gonna let me fix his car if it breaks down, despite the fact that, if I say so myself, I usually have darn good judgment, generally. (Note: sarcasm). But the myth persists about the Big Stuff, the notion that anyone with the right attitude can make the right decision when it comes to "solving" the financial crisis, invading Iraq, or running a country.

It's dangerous bullshit. Of course, judgment matters. But judgment without expertise and knowledge is suspiciously close to what is meant by...I believe the technical term is " wild guess." If judgment is mostly what matters, generally - which is exactly what Kristof is saying - then everyone's opinion is worth the same. The brain surgeon who looks at Terri Schiavo's brain images is no more qualified to determine whether she is in a persistent vegetative state than the ignorant television anchor who tries to tell the doctor that she may recover. (This actually happened. Anyone have the link?)

And it's a simple step from this kind of flattening of authority to the construction of totally bogus experts. For example, take the case of Middle Eastern "expert" Laurie Mylroie. According to Peter Bergen (in a private email), despite her Harvard degree, Mylroie has never bothered to learn Arabic. Nevermind, that this clueless paranoid was doing analytical work for the US government as late as 2007: after all, Bush was in power so the hiring of long-discredited neocon nuts was common. No, the real problem is that for the longest time, no one - and I mean no one, including prominent liberals I discussed this with - believed that an "expert's" failure to learn Arabic meant s/he could not actually be an expert on the Middle East.

Indeed, it takes good judgment to make a sound decision. It also takes knowledge and expertise. Real knowledge and expertise. And exactly what is meant by these concepts - judgment, knowledge, expertise - is very fuzzy. But from what I can tell, Kristof completely misunderstood the point of Tetlock's book. It's not that expertise generally doesn't matter as much as judgment. Rather, it's that certain cognitive styles provide more accurate analyses than others of expert knowledge, including the evaluation of who is an expert.

I have no doubt that is true and that future studies will further refine not only the notion of good judgment, but also what is meant by genuine expertise. But to create a dichotomy, as Kristof does, between expertise and judgment is simply idiotic. It leads to a decadent, brain-dead populism. It gives us, in all his glory, Joe the Plumber. And folks, that's the last thing this country needs.

WSJ Says Bayh Wants to Shake Up Status Quo By Protecting Business Interests

Here’s a curious report from The Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid and Greg Hitt:

Mr. Bayh and his group are well positioned to force changes in the president’s budget and on other contentious issues such as health care and climate change. Their stated goal is to rein in deficits and to protect business interests.

Without their votes, Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders don’t have a majority in the Senate, let alone the 60 votes needed to break Republican filibusters. That gives Mr. Bayh and his group an opportunity to assert themselves.

“We really do need to change business as usual,” Mr. Bayh said in an interview Monday. “People want results.”

The presumption here being that over the past eight years, the political powerhouses in Washington were insufficiently solicitous of business interests, so now we need to change things up by—at last!—paying attention to what executives want? That seems like a strange idea to me. But the Journal has on-the-record quotes from Bayh calling for “change” and “results” whereas the thing about business interests is just the reporter’s characterization. So perhaps Bendavid and Hitt have this wrong, and Bayh doesn’t actually think that the change we need is greater protection for business. Meanwhile, Bayh tells Politico that progressives have nothing to worry about:

“We literally have no agenda,” Bayh shot back. “How can they be threatened by a group that has taken no policy positions?”

This is a pretty good question.

  • atrios says it's Because Kicking Around Joe Lieberman Isn't As Fun As It Used To Be
    I was going to ask what exactly the point of a congressional group which has taken no positions on anything was, but then I realized the answer was "getting on the teevee and having David Broder say nice things about me."

    Still, if Evan Bayh wants to walk around town with a "Kick Me" sign on his back I guess he's free to do so.
  • BarbinMD says: Leave Evan Bayh Alone!
    Poor, put-upon, Evan Bayh. After going on Morning Joe last week to announce that he had formed a Senate version of the Blue Dogs, with a goal of determining:

    ... how centrists in that chamber can assert more leverage on the major policy debates that will dominate this Congress.

    ... he became one of several targets of an ad campaign by Americans United for Change that urges all Democrats to support the president's budget. And Bayh doesn't like it:

    Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) is also unhappy with the friendly fire ...

    “We literally have no agenda,” Bayh shot back. “How can they be threatened by a group that has taken no policy positions?”

    His group has no agenda? Then why is it that last week you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting Bayh as he appeared on one cable news show after another, talking about his group's agenda?

    Bottom line, Senator Bayh? Don't complain about the reaction you get after you litter the airways with vague, smiling threats about getting your own way.

  • Move On sent me an email:
    Dear MoveOn member,

    President Obama only needs 50 votes in the Senate to pass his visionary, progressive budget. There are 58 Democrats and Independents in the Senate, so it should be gliding through no problem, right?

    Wrong. While most Democrats are supporting the president's agenda, some are wavering. They're backing away from key reforms—like making polluters pay to address global warming1 and rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans.2 They're even asking for compromises on major health care reform.3

    They've been getting tons and tons of pressure from lobbyists for the big corporate interests—and key Democrats may buckle, right when we need them most. If too many Democrats defect, it will be nearly impossible to fix our broken health care system or create the millions of good, green jobs that will get our economy back on track.

    So we're launching a huge new ad campaign to counter the influence of these entrenched special interests. The ads offer a clear choice—vote with American families, or vote with Wall Street. And they ask voters to contact these key members of Congress and make their voices heard. Can you chip in $50 to get our ads on the air?

    Barack Obama promised to bring sweeping change to Washington during the campaign, and his budget delivers on that promise. Paul Krugman said it will set America on "a fundamentally new course."4

    But the battle to get the budget through Congress is intense. Right now, the people paying the most attention to it are the ones who are working to gut it. They're aiming to quietly kill the provisions that they don't like, and if they get their way, the budget won't make the fundamental changes we need to overcome the challenges facing us.

    The plan's fate will be decided by just a few members of Congress. But wherever you live, you can help by funding this emergency ad campaign.

Stoopid Repuglicans: Those Pesky Details Edition

Repuglican stoopidity is rampant. It's everywhere. So much stoopid, so little time. But take the time, cause this is a post to savor.

DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan: "I'm all for changing the way we do business in Washington, but proposing a 'budget' that doesn't use numbers may be too much for me. After 27 days, the best House Republicans could come up with is a 19-page pamphlet that does not include a single real budget proposal or estimate. There are more numbers in my last sentence than there are in the entire House GOP 'budget.'" h/t Benen

Sully: How The GOP Intends To Save

A risible set of spending cuts proposed in an alternative budget:

International organizations and foreign aid recipients, including millions for reconstruction in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Labor union bosses participating in a new “green jobs” program. The National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Americorps, Title X Family Planning, and a host of spending programs that will do nothing to help our economy recover. And even community organizers, such as ACORN, performing “neighborhood stabilization.”

Because Hamas and condoms are breaking the budget. Then: a spending freeze. Er, that's it. Yeah: it seems to be that lame. The full version will come out later.

  • Matthew Yglesias adds: So taking a first glance at the Republicans’ alternative budget proposal, the striking thing is the total lack of real budget numbers. It’s full of complaints that the CBO score of Obama’s budget leaves the deficit too high—they have charts and graphs and everything—but no charts and graphs about the deficits that would be created by their own proposals. After all, as best I can tell they’re not proposing drastic cuts to Social Security or to Medicare or to defense but they are promising lower taxes. This should leave them with spending that’s not all that much lower than Obama’s spending, but revenues that are wildly lower.
  • TPM: Boehner: We'll Have to Get Back to You With Those Pesky Details. The House GOP set today for the rollout of its own budget proposal. You know, instead of just being the "Party of No" they'd actually show the public which hard decisions they would make. Well, not so much. Elana Schor just attended their press conference and let's just say it was a glossy, but detail-free, rollout.
  • Steve Benen:
    Republican leaders posted their "Road to Recovery" report online, and it's more or less a joke. Apparently -- I hope you're sitting down -- the minority party believes the nation will thrive if we cut taxes, stick with Bush's energy policies, and pursue more deregulation. How much would this cost? They don't say. How would this affect the deficit? They don't say.

    All of this, as we discussed earlier, plays into the Democrats' hands. Republicans are not only playing by the White House's rules, they're doing it badly.

    DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan, not surprisingly, took a swing at the ball that Republicans set on a tee: "I'm all for changing the way we do business in Washington, but proposing a 'budget' that doesn't use numbers may be too much for me. After 27 days, the best House Republicans could come up with is a 19-page pamphlet that does not include a single real budget proposal or estimate. There are more numbers in my last sentence than there are in the entire House GOP 'budget.'"

    The GOP was on the offensive, pointing to vulnerable points in the Obama administration's agenda and pressuring center-right Democrats to break with their party. Now, they're on the defensive, pretending to have credible ideas and presenting a bizarre "budget" with no numbers in it.

    Republicans really didn't think this one through.

  • More Steve Benen:
    Ryan Grim noticed one key proposal from the document: "a huge tax cut for the wealthy."

    House Republican leaders called a press conference Thursday to unveil their "alternative budget." While it was thin on specifics, it does include one major policy proposal: a huge tax cut for the wealthy.

    Under the Republican plan, the top marginal tax rate would be slashed from 35 to 25 percent, facilitating a dramatic transfer of wealth up the economic scale. Anyone making more than a $100,000 would pay the top rate; those under would pay 10 percent.

    No, seriously, that's the plan. It's right there on page 10: "Republicans propose a simple and fair tax code with a marginal tax rate for income up to $100,000 of 10 percent and 25 percent for any income thereafter."

    So, Bush/Cheney lowered the top rate from 39.6% to 35%, which cost hundreds of billions of dollars and helped create the largest budget deficits in American history. Now, the very same GOP lawmakers want to send the top rate from 35% to 25%, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, all in the name of deficit reduction.

    How much would this cost? The "detailed budget" doesn't say. What it would do to the deficit? The "detailed budget" doesn't say. What would Republicans cut to pay for this massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans? The "detailed budget" doesn't say. How much would Republicans raise or spend over all? The "detailed budget" doesn't say.

    When might GOP leaders flesh out the details in their "detailed budget"? Boehner told reporters today that some numbers will probably be available sometime next week. So, right around the time House lawmakers are voting on the budget, the minority party will offer an alternative budget that no one's seen.

  • TPM'S Elana Schor:
    Late Update: As Democrats (along with Contessa Brewer) have a ball playing up the GOP plan's lack of detail, Politico reports that House Republican aides are already squabbling over whose boss thought it was a good idea to unveil a budget that lacked nearly all the essential qualities of budget-ness.

    The whole post is worth reading, but this quote from "a GOP aide heavily involved in budget strategy" stands well on its own:

    In his egocentric rush to get on camera, Mike Pence threw the rest of the Conference under the bus, specifically Paul Ryan, whose staff has been working night and day for weeks to develop a substantive budget plan ... I hope his camera time was gratifying enough to justify erasing the weeks of hard work by dozens of Republicans to put forth serious ideas.

    If only the House Republican Conference were a reality show. Pence and Ryan's aides would have to hash all this out on camera while wielding Nerf bats on a giant log suspended over the ocean, and then sing with Dionne Warwick.

Daily Kos' JedL has the video. Brutally funny:

Yglesias: Mike Pence Doesn’t Know What the Deficit Would Be if Mike Pence’s Budget Were Implemented I’ve been saying this for a while now, but something people need to understand about the current state of American politics is that Rep Mike Pence (R-IN) is not a smart man. He lacks intelligence. He’s been able to rise into the House leadership and even somehow require a reputation as a policy thinker of the right larger because it’s extraordinarily rare for the media to ask a politician to answer a question about a policy issue. But when Pence is asked to do this—as Norah O’Donnell did below—he’s completely unable to deal with it.

Basically, Pence is very upset that Obama’s budget proposal would lead to high deficits. Pence is also the author of an alternative “budget” “plan.” O’Donnell, sensibly, asks him what the deficit would be under his plan. It’s not a tough question, it’s not a gotcha question, it’s not an ideological question. Indeed, if Pence knew the answer to the question, and if the answer made sense, it would actually count as an absurd softball. But Pence doesn’t know!

Gibbs priceless response:

Yglesias: Bachmann Introducing Bill to Ban Use of Made-Up Global Currency

The madness continues as Michelle Bachmann introduces legislation that “would bar the dollar from being replaced by any foreign currency.”

What the Chinese were proposing, of course, was to replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. I would take the view that a move away from near-exclusive reliance on the dollar is probably inevitable irrespective of what we do. But whether or not you agree with me about that, this isn’t something congress can ban—it’s a decision by foreign countries about what they do with their reserves.

UpdateIn response to an inquiry from Greg Sargent, a Bachmann spokesperson clarifies that Bachmann understands she can't legislate foreign countries' behavior and that "This legislation would ensure that the U.S. dollar remain the currency of the United States." But nobody -- not Russia not China not Tim Geithner -- has ever proposed changing this.

Over the last couple of years, it seemed like Barack Obama's conservative detractors had thrown just about every criticism imaginable at the guy. If recent commentary on far-right blogs is any indication, they've come up with a new one: they're convinced the president isn't very bright.

Just to be clear, they're talking about the current president.

Now, this always seemed like one of the few attacks the right would go out of its way to avoid. For one thing, they defended George W. Bush, despite his, shall we say, intellectual limitations. For another, I had assumed even die-hard Republicans would grudgingly acknowledge Obama's intelligence, much the same way a liberal lawyer might reluctantly respect Justice John Roberts' intellect, even while disagreeing with him on everything.

Apparently, though, that's not the case, and quite a few of the leading far-right bloggers have convinced themselves that the president, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, is a dim bulb. Take this item, for example, published yesterday by Powerline's John Hinderaker:

Everyone knows that Barack Obama is lost without his teleprompter, but his latest blunder, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, via the Corner, suggests that the teleprompter may not be enough unless it includes phonetic spellings. [Obama apparently mispronounced the name of the company "Orion"]

So evidently we have to add astronomy to history and economics as subjects of which Obama is remarkably ignorant. I'm beginning to fear that our President has below-average knowledge of the world. Not for a President, but for a middle-aged American.

Just in case there's any doubt, there was no indication that Hinderaker was kidding or being deliberately ironic. (With conservative blogs, it's often hard to tell.)

This is, of course, coming from the same blogger who was not only impressed by Sarah Palin's intellectual prowess, but also once lauded George W. Bush as "a man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius."

A.L. concluded, "The alternative universe that these folks manage to create for themselves is really quite something to behold.... What's really sad is that Hinderaker is not alone in this belief. If you read the right wing blogs, it's just an accepted fact that Obama is a moron. It's as if they think that if they say it over and over again, it will somehow catch on with the public at large. "

If that's the goal, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it fails. Call it a hunch.

  • More from Anonymous Liberal's: Dispatches from the Alternative Right Wing Universe
    If that alone isn't enough to make your head explode, here's what the very same John Hinderaker had to say about our previous president:
    It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.
    The alternative universe that these folks manage to create for themselves is really quite something to behold. In their world, a man who was the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review and a constitutional law professor at a top law school is some sort of empty suit who is incapable of thinking or expressing a coherent thought without a teleprompter. A man who spent much of his childhood in Indonesia, has travelled extensively overseas, and who, by all accounts, is an avid student of foreign policy is some kind of ignoramus who knows nothing about the world.

    But a man who was notorious for his struggles with the English language, who achieved everything in his life by virtue of his last name, a man who admittedly had no interest in foreign policy and had traveled nowhere prior to becoming president . . . that guy is worldly beyond measure, a "man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius."

    What's really sad is that Hinderaker is not alone in this belief. If you read the right wing blogs, it's just an accepted fact that Obama is a moron. It's as if they think that if they say it over and over again, it will somehow catch on with the public at large. The problem with this meme, of course, is that it's so easily disproven. No one who watched Obama give his hour long prime time press conference last month--where he gave lengthy professorial answers to every question asked--would entertain for even a moment the suggestion that he is stupid or unknowledgeable or incapable of speaking without a teleprompter. The right wing blogosphere might as well be trying to convince the public that Obama is white.

    But in the up-is-down world of the right wing echo chamber, anything goes, no matter how dumb.

Think Progress: Rep. Barton: Climate change is ‘natural,’ humans should just ‘get shade.’

In a hearing today on adapting to climate change, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) denied the consensus on man-made climate change, saying it is “natural.” His solution to the warming planet? Just get some “shade”:

BARTON: I believe that Earth’s climate is changing, but I think it’s changing for natural variation reasons. And I think man-kind has been adopting, or adapting, to climate as long as man has walked the Earth. When it rains we find shelter. When it’s hot, we get shade. When it’s cold, we find a warm place to stay. Adaptation is the practical, affordable, utterly natural reflex response to nature when the planet is heating or cooling, as it always is.

“Nature doesn’t seem to adjust to people as much as people adjust to nature,” he added. “Adaptation to shifts in temperature is not that difficult.” Watch it:

Last year, Barton — known as “Smokey Joe” for his efforts on behalf of big polluters — stalled congressional efforts to decrease power plant emissions.

  • Steve Benen adds: In recent months, Republican lawmakers, especially in the House, have made it practically impossible to have a serious bipartisan dialog on economic issues. If Barton's comments are in any way reflective of his caucus' approach to global warming, discussions with Republicans on environmental policy will be just as fruitful.

Aravosis: Jindal Spurns Obama’s Jobless Aid as Mayor Pleads ‘Help Me Now’
But Bubbah Bobby wants to president. And he can't do that by helping the little people. Though, remember how in his response to Obama's "State of the Union" Jindal criticized George Bush's non-response to the Katrina disaster? Wonder if Jindal's next speech will be criticizing his own non-response to the economic disaster in his own state? Remember, Republicans aren't in office to help people. They take office in order to take higher office, and then hold it. Everything is a stunt. Nothing is intended to make anything or anyone better.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, cited fiscal responsibility when he turned down about $98 million in unemployment aid that was part of President Barack Obama’s $787 billion federal stimulus package.

That doesn’t make sense to Clarence Hawkins, the mayor of Bastrop, Louisiana. An International Paper Co. mill closed in November as pulp demand fell worldwide, leaving the town without one of its biggest employers.

“Give me something now,” said Hawkins, a Democrat whose city of 12,500 lost more than 400 jobs. “Help me right now. I need to survive today.”
Last week, Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) became the latest Republican governor to resist accepting federal stimulus aid, specifically relating to unemployment funds. Though the move was opposed by lawmakers in both parties and the state's Chamber of Commerce, Gibbons said the unemployment aid was too generous, would help too many people, and undermine Nevada's sovereignty.

Gibbons, arguably the nation's least popular and most scandal-plagued governor, didn't stick to that position very long.

Mr. Gibbons -- who like several of his Republican counterparts in the nation's governors' mansions who are considering rejecting or have said no thanks to the unemployment funds -- found that the state's legislature was poised to override him, which they are statutorily permitted to do, to get the expansion of benefits.

After weeks of denouncing the extension, Governor Gibbons officially changed his mind Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement, he said: "As our economic crisis deepens, Nevadans are suffering because of layoffs, business closings and other cutbacks. We have the responsibility to do everything we can to help our unemployed workers get through these difficult times, even if that means passing legislation that we would not necessarily approve during prosperous times."

Of course, Nevadans were suffering because of layoffs, business closings, and other cutbacks last week, too, when Gibbons opposed the federal assistance.

In any case, it's good to see Nevada will get the help. The state's economy has been very hard hit, and rejecting unemployment funds would have made a bad situation considerably worse.

Here's hoping Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Mark Sanford follow Gibbons' lead and take the recovery money their constituents need.

Their ideas discredited, and their arguments left on the trash-heap of history, neoconservatives should, ideally, enjoy some quiet time right about now. Instead, some of the movement's leaders are getting together to form yet another organization to promote the same misguided agenda that's already failed.

It's called, innocuously enough, the Foreign Policy Initiative. It will spread its wings next week with a panel discussion on Afghanistan, led in part by John McCain. (President Obama is scheduled to explore his own Afghanistan policy in more detail around the same time. What a coincidence.)

Matt Duss strikes the right note in dismissing the latest neocon endeavor.

The Foreign Policy Initiative lists Robert Kagan, Bill Kristol, and Dan Senor on its board of directors, so no prizes for guessing what they're about (more power, less appeasement, stronger wills.) Kagan and Kristol need no introduction, they're the Tick and Arthur of disastrously counterproductive military adventurism. Given the staggering costs in American blood, treasure, security, and reputation incurred by their boundless enthusiasm for blowing stuff up, you might think they'd have had the decency to retreat to a Tibetan monastery by now, but sadly no. The way it works in Washington is, if you're willing to argue for more defense spending, you'll always find someone willing to fund your think tank. [...]

On March 31, FPI holds its first public event, Afghanistan: Planning For Success, though, given the heavy representation of Iraq war advocates, I think a far better title would be Afghanistan: Dealing With The Huge Problems Created By Many Of The People On This Very Stage. The broad consensus among national security analysts and aid officials is that the diversion of troops and resources toward Iraq beginning in 2002 was one of the main reasons the Taliban and Al Qaeda were able to to re-establish themselves in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas, facilitating the collapse of the country back into insurgent warfare. Having failed to complete the mission in Afghanistan, Bush and the Iraq hawks handed the Obama administration a war that promises to be as difficult and costly as Iraq has been -- if not more. It's deeply absurd that some of the people most responsible for the crisis in Afghanistan would now presume to tell us how to deal with it.

At this point, I shouldn't be surprised by the shamelessness of Kristol, Kagan, et al. But I'd hoped they'd feel a little more chastened by their failures that this.

Once in a while, we can watch a conservative talking point follow a predictable trajectory. What may start as a strange and obscure claim will soon work its way to more conservative blogs. Soon after, Drudge will pick up on it, which usually leads to Limbaugh. From there, it's a Fox News story, and then accepted conventional wisdom by the Republican Party.

We saw this clearly in February the bizarre fight over the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology. Around the same time, the infamous (and non-existent) high-speed rail between Disneyland and Las Vegas offered another case study.

Ali Frick reports on the latest theory, which actually managed to make its way into the White House last night.

Earlier this week, China's Central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan suggested the need for a "super-sovereign reserve currency," a move most passed off as China trying to "flex some muscle." And yet, within days, Fox News' Major Garrett was demanding whether President Obama supported a "global currency."

So how did a story that has effectively no basis in reality -- and has nothing to do with a global currency -- end up as one of the few questions posed to President Obama last night? It started with a blaring banner on the instigator of conservative and media memes, the Drudge Report.

Within hours, right-wing fanatic Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was demanding that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke pledge to never adopt a "global currency." Soon, Fox News' resident conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck was ranting that a U.N.-imposed global currency was the first step toward world government.

Last night, Fox News' Major Garrett raised the profile of this nonsense by asking the president directly whether he supports a move to a "global currency."

The president responded, "I don't believe that there's a need for a global currency."

Will this put far-right minds at ease? I doubt it. Obama's response was probably all part of an elaborate ruse, quite possibly involving the U.N. The president just wants us to think he opposes a global currency as part of an effort to lure us into a false sense of security.

Don't worry, Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann know what's really going on.

John Cole: Always Picking The Losing Battle

I really don’t get these guys:

It’s OK for Republicans to want President Obama to fail if they think he’s jeopardizing the country, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told members of his political party Tuesday night.

Jindal described the premise of the question—“Do you want the president to fail?”—as the “latest gotcha game” being perpetrated by Democrats against Republicans.

“Make no mistake: Anything other than an immediate and compliant, ‘Why no sir, I don’t want the president to fail,’ is treated as some sort of act of treason, civil disobedience or political obstructionism,” Jindal said at a political fundraiser attended by 1,200 people. “This is political correctness run amok.”

They just seem so dead set on picking battles that have no upside for them whatsoever. Is it honestly their number one priority to fight for their right to hope the President fails? And anything less is political correctness? How tone deaf and offkey can these guys get? Even if you win the argument about it being acceptable to want the President to fail, you are now on record HOPING THE PRESIDENT FAILS. Why? And that isn’t even going into the last couple of years in which any objection to Bush’s policies was met with catcalls regarding treason and whatnot.

Chris in Paris (AmBlog): Texas reaches for the dark ages, again

Looking at this latest "debate" in Texas reminds me again why we need Obama to be successful. The GOP has nothing to offer other than backwards ideas, when they even have that. It's always good to see the Republicans remind everyone why they are the wrong choice and controlled by religious lunatics.

The Texas Board of Education this week will vote on science standards that critics say seek to cast doubt on the theory of evolution.

The board -- considering amendments passed in January -- will hear from the public on Wednesday. It will then take votes -- an initial one Thursday and the final vote Friday.

"This specific attack on well-established science ignores mountains of evidence and years of research done by experts in a variety of fields," said Steven Newton, project director at the Oakland California-based National Center for Science Education, a proponent of evolution.

C&L's Amato: Michael Steele's buffoonery: The Limbaugh feud was all strategic and it's up to GOD if he'll run for President

Steele finally came out of the basement and was interviewed by CNN. Michael Steele is just so smart. I don't mean you and me smart, I mean Chess smart. Man, he's got us all fooled. Every silly comment and action he's made since he narrowly won an election to be the head of the RNC is really a cold calculated step that he's got down to a Boris Spassky---Bobby Fischer,---Garry Kasparov type chess master science.

Steele: I'm a cause and effect kind of guy, so if I do something there's a reason for it. Even, it may look like a mistake, a gaffe. There is a rationale, a logic behind it.

Q: Even with the current news and events there's a rational behind Rush, all of that stuff?

Steele: Yep.

Q: You wanna share with us?

Steele: I want to see where the landscape looks like,. I want to see who yells the loudest. I want to know who says they're with me , but really isn't....

Q: How does that help you?

Steele: It helps me understand my position on the chess board. It helps me understand you know, where the enemy camp is and where those who inside the tent are, ahhh

Q: It's all strategic.

Steele: It's all strategic.

He's been fooling us all. When he called Limbaugh "ugly," that was all a clever ruse to weed out his enemies. His apology to Rush was all part of the master plan. How ingenious. I myself like to open up a chess game using the Sicilian Defense, which starts with a e4 c5 move, but he's using strategies never before seen in the history of chess. What a true master! Michael 'Spassky' Steele.

And I'm a spiritual person so his belief in GOD is his own, but it's just offensive when he uses the GOD word to talk about possibly running for President on the second clip. He repeats the word "ugly" again---to describe politics now, but it's "ugly" to watch him speak like that. He knows its' not an option for a man who already is being asked to quit the RNC job he just got. What an utter embarrassment this man is to the GOP, but I'm certainly entertained keeping an eye on a true master of Pawns and Knights.


I don't get to talk much about my adopted home state, but Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas' (R) misguided announcement yesterday warrants all kinds of attention.

Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont said Wednesday that he would veto a same-sex marriage bill if it reached his desk, setting a new hurdle for a measure that had been moving swiftly through the legislature.

But Mr. Douglas, a Republican, also said that "legislative leaders would not have advanced this bill if they did not have the votes to override a veto."

The issue of marriage equality, the governor said, "diverts attention from our most pressing issues," which is why he announced his intention to veto the bill.

The argument doesn't stand up well to scrutiny. Douglas tends to avoid blatant bigotry and culture-war crusades -- he is, after all, the Republican governor of one of the nation's "bluest" states -- so he can't very well reject the pending legislation on homophobic grounds. But the "distraction" argument is a cheap cop-out -- the sooner this common-sense legislation becomes law, the sooner it moves off the Vermont political world's radar.

By announcing his intention to veto, Douglas puts the issue of two consenting adults getting married at the forefront of the state's political debate. By daring state lawmakers to override his veto, the governor is prolonging the process. If the goal were to end the "distraction," Douglas would be moving in the opposite direction.

For what it's worth, the veto override remains a real possibility. The marriage bill passed the state Senate 26 to 4. It will pass the state House fairly soon, but the margin remains unclear.

I'll let you know what happens.