Saturday, April 4, 2009

Weekly Address and Accountability

... with comments by Joe Sudbay: Your President's weekly address from Europe.
The President gives us an update from his trip to Europe this morning, recorded it on Air Force One. He can tell us about the meetings and summits and policy accomplishments. But, he can't really convey the way he and Michelle rocked the continent. It's good to be back in the world's good graces.

Here's an excerpt:
As we have worked this week to find common ground and strengthen our alliances, we have not solved all of our problems. And we have not agreed on every point or every issue in every meeting. But we have made real and unprecedented progress – and will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead.

Because in the end, we recognize that no corner of the globe can wall itself off from the threats of the twenty-first century, or from the needs and concerns of fellow nations. The only way forward is through shared and persistent efforts to combat fear and want wherever they exist. That is the challenge of our time. And if we move forward with courage and resolve, I am confident that we will meet this challenge.
I never felt confident about meeting challenges when Bush was president. Never ever.

Rachel makes connections that need making!

Why Guantanamo accountability matters April 3: Rachel Re: Current TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee are still in North Korean custody after being arrested near the border. They could face up to 10 years in prison for what the North Korea government calls "hostile acts." Does the U.S. have enough credibility in the wake of Guantanamo and torture revelations to get them back?

Stoopid Scary Repuglicans

Oliver Willis: Black Helicopter Watch

The right is quickly slipping back into its conspiratorial nutjob posture that it had during the Clinton presidency, seeing black helicopters and one world UN government under their beds at every turn. As a friend of mine noted they were lunatics when the object of their ire was a white southerner. One can only wonder what someone they perceive as a black muslim intent on installing Sharia law will prompt them to do. And because these psychos form the activist base of the Republican party, congress will just encourage them.

Until they hurt somebody. Although that might not even stop them.


Blow
(NYT):
Pitchforks and Pistols

Lately I’ve been consuming as much conservative media as possible (interspersed with shots of Pepto-Bismol) to get a better sense of the mind and mood of the right. My read: They’re apocalyptic. They feel isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged. And some of their “leaders” seem to be trying to mold them into militias.

At first, it was entertaining — just harmless, hotheaded expostulation. Of course, there were the garbled facts, twisted logic and veiled hate speech. But what did I expect, fair and balanced? It was like walking through an ideological house of mirrors. The distortions can be mildly amusing at first, but if I stay too long it makes me sick.

But, it’s not all just harmless talk. For some, their disaffection has hardened into something more dark and dangerous. They’re talking about a revolution.

Some simply lace their unscrupulous screeds with loaded language about the fall of the Republic. We have to “rise up” and “take back our country.” Others have been much more explicit.

For example, Chuck Norris, the preeminent black belt and prospective Red Shirt, wrote earlier this month on the conservative blog WorldNetDaily: “How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?”

Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, imagining herself as some sort of Delacroixian Liberty from the Land of the Lakes, urged her fellow Minnesotans to be “armed and dangerous,” ready to bust caps over cap-and-trade, I presume.

And between his tears, Glenn Beck, the self-professed “rodeo clown,” keeps warning of an impending insurrection by saying that he believes that we are heading for “depression” and “revolution” and then gaming out that revolution on his show last month. “Think the unthinkable” he said. Indeed.

All this talk of revolution is revolting, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

As the comedian Bill Maher pointed out, strong language can poison weak minds, as it did in the case of Timothy McVeigh. (We sometimes forget that not all dangerous men are trained by Al Qaeda.)

At the same time, the unrelenting meme being pushed by the right that Obama will mount an assault on the Second Amendment has helped fuel the panic buying of firearms. According to the F.B.I., there have been 1.2 million more requests for background checks of potential gun buyers from November to February than there were in the same four months last year. That’s 5.5 million requests altogether over that period; more than the number of people living in Bachmann’s Minnesota.

Coincidence? Maybe. Just posturing? Hopefully. But it all gives me a really bad feeling. (Where’s that Pepto-Bismol?!)

Benen: THE VOICE OF REASON?....
How far around the bend are conservatives enraged by Obama's presidency? They're so far gone, David Horowitz is urging them to calm down and stop using over-the-top rhetoric.

I have been watching an interesting phenomenon on the right, which is beginning to cause me concern. I am referring to the over-the-top hysteria in response to the first months in office of our new president, which distinctly reminds me of the "Bush is Hitler" crowd on the left. [...]

Conservatives, please. Let's not duplicate the manias of the left as we figure out how to deal with Mr. Obama. He is not exactly the antichrist, although a disturbing number of people on the right are convinced he is. [...]

As we move forward, Obama faces increasingly tough choices in the wars against Islamic fascism in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gaza and Iran. Hopefully, he will make the right choices, and should he do so conservatives will need to be there to support him. If he makes the wrong choices, conservatives will need to be there to oppose him. But neither our support nor our opposition should be based on hysterical responses to policies that we just don't like.

When David Horowitz is the voice of reason, telling the right to tone down the apocalyptic nonsense, you know conservative leaders have gone a little too far.

As Brendan Nyhan added the other day:

It's either cause for celebration or a sign of the apocalypse that Horowitz thinks Obama haters have gone too far. This is the man who created a website that purports to link mainstream Democrats to terrorists and anti-American dictators and who published an article written by an employee encouraging censorship of dissent after 9/11. Let's just say he's not known for rhetorical restraint.

We've reached the point at which Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity make David Horowitz look reasonable by comparison.

I never thought I'd see the day.

  • From the comments:
    Listening to the guys who pay attention to the NRA around here, it is possible to make inferences about the topics and tone of political discussions among the far right fringe. We should be alarmed. They have concluded that neither the demographics nor their institutional strength make a return to power likely within their lifetimes. They believe that they are the true Americans, and that the rest of us have usurped their authority (while somewhat racist, the hatred for "liberals" is central to their argument). They therefore reject the democratic choices we have made and are exploring concepts and language about their assertion of "rights" and the acceptable role of violence. It is not hard to see how terrorist cells could emerge. Posted by: Eric on April 4, 2009 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK
  • more:

    The NRA stuff for internal consumption is a lot more deranged than the sound bites that make the evening news:
    www.boingboing.net/images/NR-F8_PERILFINAL.pdf

    And that was BEFORE the election. The gun shops out here are doing land office business with people buying up guns before Obama bans them all. There are a lot of people making a lot of money off this. Glenn Beck is simply the latest--but if the Colbert clipmontage is anything to judge by, he'll be the poster boy when the next free-lance militia outrage takes place.

    Posted by: Steve Paradis on April 4, 2009 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Benen: TOO FAR FOR O'REILLY....
As extreme as Bill O'Reilly is, I'm starting to think even he has trouble tolerating Glenn Beck.

A few weeks ago, Beck suggested "political correctness" pushed a madman to go on a shooting rampage in Alabama and kill 10 people. O'Reilly, listening to this deranged nonsense, actually began pushing back, saying he didn't buy it.

Yesterday, O'Reilly and Beck were chatting once again, and this time, O'Reilly seemed to be openly mocking Beck's notion of the government "slowly drifting into fascism."


When, on Fox News, Bill O'Reilly serves as the voice of reason, it's safe to say the network has reached a scary place.

John Cole on Glenn Beck’s America

I’m afraid we are going to see a lot more of this:

A man opened fire on officers during a domestic disturbance call Saturday morning, killing three of them, a police official said. Friends said he feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.

Three officers were killed, said a police official at the scene who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Police spokeswoman Diane Richard would only say that at least five officers were wounded, but wouldn’t give any other details.

***

One friend, Edward Perkovic, said the gunman feared “the Obama gun ban that’s on the way” and “didn’t like our rights being infringed upon.” Another longtime friend, Aaron Vire, said he feared that President Obama was going to take away his rights, though he said he “wasn’t violently against Obama.”

Perkovic, a 22-year-old who said he was the gunman’s best friend, said he got a call at work from him in which he said, “Eddie, I am going to die today. ... Tell your family I love them and I love you.”

Perkovic said: “I heard gunshots and he hung up. ... He sounded like he was in pain, like he got shot.”

Vire, 23, said the gunman once had an Internet talk show but that it wasn’t successful. Vire said his friend had an AK-47 rifle and several powerful handguns, including a .357 Magnum.

And, of course, when you point out that certain individuals with all their talk about “revolution” and “armed insurrection” are inciting this kind of behavior in unstable people, you will get howls of protest about the 1st Amendment and what not. Sure, crazy people do crazy things. But that doesn’t make it responsible to encourage them, which is what a lot of really foolish people are doing right now for purely political reasons.

If nothing else, the next few years is going to mean full employment for Dave Neiwert.


Benen: BAUER DENOUNCES MUSLIM STAFFERS....
It's one thing to criticize specific members of the Obama administration because of ideology or policy differences. It's another to criticize would-be administration official who haven't even identified yet because of religious differences.

Yesterday, Gary Bauer, a religious right leader and former Republican presidential candidate, wrote a column criticizing the mere possibility that the White House might hire aides who are Muslim. (via RWW).

During the presidential campaign, one of the stickiest rumors surrounding Barack Obama was that if he was elected, America could look forward to having a Muslim in the White House. Now that Obama is president, that rumor may prove correct.

President Obama says he's a Christian, but that doesn't mean he won't appoint Muslims to key positions in his administration in return for Muslim support during the election. Muslim groups are fretting that none have been appointed yet, and they want that to change. Polls showed about nine in 10 American Muslims voted for Obama last fall, and they want something to show for it. Don't be surprised if Obama gives them what they want.

Now, Bauer isn't complaining about specific Muslim officials in the administration. In fact, he didn't even say if there are any Muslim officials in the administration. He's all worked up, though, because the program coordinator for the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association bundled some resumes for White House consideration.

Bauer went on to argue that this is part of a preferred quota system -- which exists solely in Bauer's active imagination -- and that the left should be complaining about the separation of mosque and state.

This is so absurd, it's hard to even know where to start, but let's just quickly note that there is no quota system in place for administration officials, and hiring staffers for government jobs who happen to be religious is not a violation of the First Amendment. What's more, there's no evidence of any political "payback," rewarding Muslim groups for their support with Muslim staffers.

No, this is just ugly narrow-mindedness from a right-wing leader engaged in the most obnoxious kind of identity politics.




Bayhing at the Moon.

JedL noticed the Best chyrons ever

So how’s that conservadem “caucus” working out for you, Evan?


Atrios: The Bayh Dogs

But of course it's a "a crude power bloc looking to shake down the administration and the congressional leadership for personal, ideological, and special-interest favors." Bayh already announced that he and the rest of the Bayh Dogs have no agenda, which means he gathered a bunch of people together and said, "Here's my plan to make us more powerful and give us more leverage." Maybe they'll figure out an actual agenda eventually, but for the moment the agenda is whatever Bayh says it is. Whether his yapping puppies follow along on a regular basis remains to be seen...

(via my)


Yglesias: A Bayh-less Bayh Bunch?

Ed Kilgore offers the provocative suggestion that perhaps the “practical caucus” would be better off without its fearless leader:

Best as I can tell, Bayh’s vote was motivated by a sincere horror of deficits and debt, which is so strong that he doesn’t mind abandoning his party and indeed, his fellow “centrists” on what was, after all, the most epochal budget vote since at least 1993 and probably since 1981. For that very reason, he ought to step back from his leadership role in the Senate “centrist” group, in favor of senators whose agreement with and loyalty to the Obama agenda is much less in question. If this group remains the “Bayh group,” it will struggle to achieve the credibility it needs to become anything other than a crude power bloc looking to shake down the administration and the congressional leadership for personal, ideological, and special-interest favors.

Still not sure about this explanation of Bayh’s “no” vote. After all, someone horrified by the prospect of increased deficits wouldn’t be pushing for estate tax cuts. More broadly, someone specifically horrified by deficits would be concerned not only about reducing spending but about increasing revenues. I, for one, am inclined to agree that the long-term deficits envisioned in the Obama administration’s budget plan are too high. I would advocate lower spending on the defense side than Obama’s envisioning, and more revenue through any of a number of possible mechanisms. Bayh, by contrast, seems to have a rather one-sided aversion to spending on domestic programs.

That’s not a unique sentiment in the United States congress, but it’s a curious belief set for a Democrat.


Bayh-partisan April 3: When all was said and done, only two Democratic moderates voted against President Obama's budget plan. What happened to the group of "Conservadems" Sen. Evan Bayh was getting together? Rachel Maddow is joined by Daily Beast contributor Ana Marie Cox.


Summers

I think a strong case can be made that picking Summers was a huge mistake.

Josh Marshall - Money Porn According to disclosure documents filed today, Lawrence Summers made almost three million dollars in speaking fees from major commercial banks and investment banks and another $5.2 million as a managing director of D.E. Shaw Group, a large hedge fund.
  • DougJ adds:
    Summers, a leading architect of the administration’s economic policies and response to the global recession, appears to have collected the most income. Financial institutions including JP Morgan, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch paid Summers for speaking appearances in 2008. Fees ranged from $45,000 for a Nov. 12 Merrill Lynch appearance to $135,000 for an April 16 visit to Goldman Sachs, according to his disclosure form.

    The Geithner-Summers plan to continue with TARP-buying (as opposed to nationalizing) is very popular with the firms that paid Summers all that money over the past year. Maybe it’s the right plan anyway. But these kinds of things sure look like de facto bribes to me.


ChrisinParis - Is Obama for or against pay restrictions for TARP recipients?
Say it ain't so. If this story is accurate, there is a lot of explaining to do. Obama has publicly supported executive compensation for TARP recipients yet according to today's Washington Post, the administration is planning to circumvent Congress and relax these policies or push the money through other organizations in order to avoid restrictions. If anything, this sounds like yet another Larry Summers plan to help Wall Street but hopefully there's a mistake or something was misunderstood. If true, expect all hell to break loose, rightly so.
The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials.

Administration officials have concluded that this approach is vital for persuading firms to participate in programs funded by the $700 billion financial rescue package.

The administration believes it can sidestep the rules because, in many cases, it has decided not to provide federal aid directly to financial companies, the sources said. Instead, the government has set up special entities that act as middlemen, channeling the bailout funds to the firms and, via this two-step process, stripping away the requirement that the restrictions be imposed, according to officials.
If this turns out to be another Summers stunt it should be the end of his reign in Washington. Obama is going to have to start reaching out to economists that are not so closely tied to this economic crisis. This is serious mistake, if true, so we should be hearing some clarification about this story this week.
Atrios: Hopey Changey
Ah well.
The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials.
...

The administration believes it can sidestep the rules because, in many cases, it has decided not to provide federal aid directly to financial companies, the sources said. Instead, the government has set up special entities that act as middlemen, channeling the bailout funds to the firms and, via this two-step process, stripping away the requirement that the restrictions be imposed, according to officials.
It's the banksters' country. We just live in it.

UPDATE: Moyers 1/3: Sharing the Blame for the Economic Crisis?



Friday, April 3, 2009

Possibly the best graph . . .

. . . I've ever seen.

tremayne: Things I Learned About Senator Blanche Lincoln With My 'Puter

Via RandomNonviolence in Quick Hits I learned about a budget amendment being cosponsored by Senators Blanche Lincoln and Jon Kyl which would provide a deep cut in estate taxes.

I learned, after a digging around awhile and finding this chart, that the rich people in this country are very very very rich and, well, most of us aren't.

Hard to see it, but those with annual incomes in the millions are represented by the vertical red line on the left and those making less than a million (i.e., almost everyone) are the horizontal red line on the bottom. Lincoln and Kyle are concerned about the people on the vertical red line. Actually, as the OpEd piece linked above points out, the concern is not for everyone on the vertical red line but only the wealthiest of those wealthy.

Why would Lincoln, a Democrat, be so concerned about that tiny and very wealthy segment of the population I wondered.

I did some more digging and learned some interesting things.


Arkansas has never struck me as a wealthy state. I checked. Nope, not wealthy at all. In fact, it is the 3rd poorest state, per capita, in the U.S. edged out for last place by only West Virginia and Mississippi. The amendment she and Kyl are proposing would have no affect at all on 99% of the residents of her state.

But, are there any rich people at all in Arkansas? Turns out there are. Here are the richest 5 families there:

1. Sam Walton Family (Wal-Mart, inheritance)

2. Witt and Jack Stephens Family (finance)

3. Charles Murphy Family (oil, etc.)

4. Winthrop Paul Rockefeller Family (inheritance money, ha ha)

5. Don Tyson Family (chicken)

I wonder, does Blanche Lincoln have any connections to these rich families? Is that why she is so concerned about them she is cosponsoring an amendment that won't help hardly anyone else? Hmmm.

A little more Googling around and I found this, the list of the top 5 contributors to Blanche Lincoln's reelection campaign:

Stephens Group$34,200
DaVita Inc$32,000
Wal-Mart Stores$25,800
Tyson Foods$24,750
Goldman Sachs$24,000

Very interesting. Let's see if there is any overlap with the above list of rich families. Hey, lookie there: 3 of the top four contributors are also on the top five wealthiest families in Arkansas. How about that?

The stuff you can learn with Teh Google.

Brooks takes on the Old South

This is really, really something. From Think Progress.

IOWA!

Boy, is Iowa looking progressive today!

Aravosis: Joint statement from the Iowa legislative leadership on today's same-gender marriage decision
Wow. Apparently all Dems are NOT spineless wonders.News Release
For Immediate Release: April 3, 2008
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal
House Speaker Pat Murphy

Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing civil rights

This is a joint statement from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy on today's Supreme Court decision:

"Thanks to today's decision, Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing all of our citizens' equal rights.

"The court has ruled today that when two Iowans promise to share their lives together, state law will respect that commitment, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight.

"When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today's events will be why it took us so long. It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency.

"Today, the Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed those Iowa values by ruling that gay and lesbian Iowans have all the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship as any other Iowan.

"Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights.

"In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.

"In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated "separate but equal" schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

"In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

"In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.

"In the case of recognizing loving relationships between two adults, the Iowa Supreme Court is once again taking a leadership position on civil rights.

"Today, we congratulate the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws."


Benen:
'GAY MARRIAGE MECCA'....
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), easily a #1 seed in my brackets for Congress' Most Embarrassing Members, is not at all pleased that the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously that consenting adults can get married in his home state. From his press release:

This is an unconstitutional ruling and another example of activist judges molding the Constitution to achieve their personal political ends. [...]

Now it is the Iowa legislature's responsibility to pass the Marriage Amendment to the Iowa Constitution, clarifying that marriage is between one man and one woman, to give the power that the Supreme Court has arrogated to itself back to the people of Iowa. Along with a constitutional amendment, the legislature must also enact marriage license residency requirements so that Iowa does not become the gay marriage Mecca due to the Supreme Court's latest experiment in social engineering.

Hmm, "gay marriage Mecca." I can see how Iowa might become a regional "gay marriage Mecca," but the truth is Massachusetts and Connecticut already permit same-sex marriage, so it's not as if Iowa would suddenly have some kind of lock.

I should add that I haven't the foggiest idea what a "gay marriage Mecca" even is, or what it might look like, but Alex Koppelman noted that it might not be such a bad thing for Iowa: "The state can use all the help it can get in attracting new people to the state, especially young people, and it needs to work on retaining them as well. Iowa has a very serious brain drain problem; only North Dakota's is worse."

I'd add, by the way, that Iowa's new system of allowing consenting adults to get married is going to be around for at least a few years. While California was only able to allow marriage equality for a few months, Iowa makes it difficult to get constitutional amendments onto the ballot: "Iowa's unusual system requires that constitutional amendments have to be approved by two different legislatures (which meet for two years) before going to voters for approval. The 2009 session is nearly over, and no one believes a constitutional gay marriage can be acted upon until 2010. So that means 2012 is the earliest point at which Iowa voters could be considering a ban. And if nothing happens in next year's state legislative session, a vote to overturn today's decision couldn't happen until 2014."

Plenty of time to set up that "mecca."

Update: Ali Frick raises a good point: "King is so upset that heĆ¢€™s using rhetoric that combines what may be his two worst fears: gay people and Muslims."

I do like the idea of combining different aspects of King's paranoia. I wonder what would happen if, say, King heard about two gay Muslims who wanted to get married in Iowa. And what if the two gay Muslims were also immigrants! The poor schmo would probably have some kind of breakdown.

  • More Benen: WHAT THE 'JUDICIAL ACTIVISTS' HAVE IN COMMON...
    In recent years, four state Supreme Courts have ruled in support of same sex-marriage.

    In Massachusetts, the ruling was written by Justice Margaret Marshall.

    In California, the ruling was written by Justice Ronald George.

    In Connecticut, the ruling was written by Justice Richard Palmer.

    And in Iowa, the ruling was written by Justice Mark Cady.

    And what do all four have in common? Each was appointed to their respective state Supreme Court by a Republican governor.

    Given this, I suspect many far-right activists will interpret this as evidence that the Republican Party isn't nearly right-wing enough. GOP governors must find more rigid ideologues for state judiciaries!

    The fact that "equal protection" doesn't mean what they think it means, and that even GOP-appointed judges can't rationalize the legal position of anti-gay activists, continues to elude them.

    In the not-too-distant future, Americans are going to look back at this era and wonder why on earth there was even a debate about allowing consenting adults to get married. It no doubt makes conservatives uncomfortable, but the right, historically, has consistently been on the wrong side of social justice issues of the day -- equality for African Americans, equality for women, equality regardless of religious belief -- and in every instance, their hostility for basic fairness looks absurd in hindsight.

    The fight for marriage equality will, I suspect, be no different.

Anonymous Liberal on Marriage Equality in Iowa

Today the Iowa Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling recognizing the right of gay couples to marry. The court held that the Iowa statute prohibiting same sex marriage violated the state's equal protection clause.

When you take a step back and look at the basic legal argument behind these cases, the correct answer is remarkably clear. So clear, in fact, that I'm quite certain that future generations of lawyers and law students will look at these cases and wonder why it took so long for the courts to reach such an obvious conclusion, particularly in light of the extensive (and directly analogous) case law dealing with miscegenation laws and segregation. Once you accept the premise that there is nothing wrong with being gay (a premise which, I think, the vast majority of people--especially educated people like judges--accept), it becomes nearly impossible to make a principled legal argument in defense of laws that prohibit gay people from being married. It's just such an obvious and straightforward violation of equal protection.

I'll go out on a limb and predict that--within 10 years--the U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Kennedy, will issue a landmark ruling striking down prohibitions on gay marriage. I also believe that the next Democratic presidential nominee will be unapologetically pro gay marriage, and it's not inconceivable that at some point during his time in office, President Obama himself will publicly reverse his position on this issue. The political and legal trajectory of this issue is pretty easy to chart out at this point. And when it reaches its logical endpoint, with full marriage equality across the country, we're all going to look back and wonder why it took so damn long to recognize something so obvious.






Stoopid Repuglicans - like totally stoopid edition

Kurtz: Cry Me a River The Alaska GOP is making the incredible claim that Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) should resign so that a new election can be held free from any taint by the Bush-era Justice Department.

Sully: Meanwhile, In Texas

Thoreau isn't buying the creationists new line of attack:

They’re like a creature evolving to escape a predator’s notice, becoming smaller and smaller and fitting into ever-narrower cracks. Whatever you may think about their Trojan Horse language, it’s a hell of a lot more modest than the old flood geology. Evolution in action!

From a commenter at Balloon Juice, on Palin wanting a new election in Alaska after Steven's conviction was overturned, via John Cole: The guy she said should resign before the election ended up losing. Now she wants the guy who won to resign so that the guy she originally said should resign can get a fair election. What a maverick!

Sargent: GOP Rep Blasts Rush As Not “Serious” And An “Entertainer”

In comments that passed unnoticed, Rep Zach Wamp of Tennessee, who’s running for Governor, blasted Rush Limbaugh twice on CNN as a mere “entertainer,” and suggested that rather than listen to Rush, we should listen to “serious” people on how solve our economic crisis.

RNC chair Michael Steele, you’ll recall, was forced to offer an abject apology for similar comments.

CNN’s Rick Sanchez asked Wamp whether he agreed with Rush or with Mitt Romney, who’s taken issue with Rush’s desire for Obama to fail. From Wamp’s reply, via Nexis:

“Frankly, we need to listen more to the people back home, and not so much just the voices out there. There’s not much difference between entertainment and journalism on some fronts.”

After a bit more back and forth, Wamp continued:

“Listen, I don’t want to get in the crossfire here. But the fact is entertainers sometimes say things. We really need serious-minded policy people to help chart this ship of state out of these rocky waters right now. And so we shouldn’t spend so much time caught in what others are saying.”

So Wamp believes Rush = An Entertainer Who Isn’t Serious And Shouldn’t Be listened To About The Crisis.

And he thinks he’s running to be a Republican Governor! Not to stretch the Bataan Death March comparison too far, but those prison camps are beckoning…

  • from the comments,
  • sgwhiteinfla | April 3rd, 2009 at 04:07 pm

    Being that I am from Memphis TN and know how wingnutty especially the Eastern part of Tennessee is I can tell you that Wamp has two choices. One he can kiss the ring like the rest of his buddies and apologize, or he can get ready for life in the private sector. Of course there is another possibility. The GOP (if they were smart this would be what they actually did instead of just a possibility) might be sending him out to oppose Rush just to see whether his approval ratings go down. It would make sense being as how he isn’t going to run for reelection but instead for Gov. And if his numbers don’t fall it might embolden more in their ranks to step away from Rush.
    .
    Of course you know my money is on him kissing the ring though.



Ezra Klein: AMATEUR HOUR FOR THE HOUSE GOP.

I cant quite decide whether to characterize Ross Douthat's post on the GOP budget as a defense or a different sort of attack, but in any case, he thinks I'm wrong to allege cynicism in the document. "Rather," he says, "there's a kind of deep innocence about it: The purity of its small-government vision is more detached from the grubby realities of American politics than any similar document I can remember."

I find this a bit weird. I think you could plausibly argue that the GOP budget represents a political misjudgment: Intended cynicism perverted by poor judgment. But naivete is trickier. The House Republicans are not a longtime minority party. They are not far removed from the realities of governance. Three years ago, they held power and wrote budgets. One year ago, it was a Republican administration signing the document. Unlike Gingrich's hordes, who hadn't written legislation in over 40 years, this isn't a group that lacks the memory of power and a familiarity with its attendant compromises. If they were confused about how to build a budget, they could have asked one of their colleagues who'd actually done it.

I'd say, rather, that this budget demonstrates the difficulty of building a minority platform. Serious players who might introduce moderating pressures are not, after all, interested in expending resources to better a piece of off-year messaging. AARP would probably have a lot to say to John Boehner if he proposed voucherizing Medicare from the majority but will probably ignore the fact that it was in Paul Ryan's fake budget. The Chamber of Commerce would have a few concerns about the repeal of the stimulus package if they thought it might happen. But with all those groups ignoring it, the GOP's budget was influenced mainly by the party faithful even as it was delivered straight to the media.

Which gets to the real import of the budget: Something has really gone awry in the House GOP's political operation. They should not have released this document. They certainly shouldn't have released its inane predecessor. And they certainly shouldn't have scheduled their press conference for April Fool's Day. It's really been amateur hour over there, and this budget debacle was simply what happened when they were suddenly challenged to play against the pros.

Benen: CONTEXT MATTERS....

The House Republican budget, unveiled yesterday -- new motto: Now, with numbers and stuff! -- quoted Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat:

If this moment has any parallel in American history, it is the height of the Cold War, around 1957, when the Soviet Union leaped ahead of America in the space race by putting up the Sputnik satellite. Yes, there are many differences between that age and our own. The main challenge then came from those who wanted to put up walls; the main challenge to America today comes from the fact that all the walls are being taken down, and other countries can now compete with us much more directly. The main challenge in that world was from those practicing extreme communism -- namely, Russia, China, and North Korea. The main challenge to America today is from those practicing extreme capitalism -- namely, China, India, and South Korea. The main objective in that era was building a strong state; the main objective in this era is building strong individuals.

Apparently, for Boehner, Cantor, Ryan, and other GOP leaders, Friedman's quote is a summary of Republican principles. Democrats, the argument goes, hope to build a strong government, while Republicans are looking out for individuals. Friedman, Republicans argue, gets it.

The problem, though, is that the Republican staffers who put together the party's alternative budget neglected to keep reading Friedman's book.

What this era has in common with the Cold War era, though, is that meeting the challenges of flatism requires as comprehensive, energetic, and focused a response as did meeting the challenge of communism. It requires our own version of the New Frontier and Great Society adapted to the age of flatness. It requires a president who can summon the nation to get smarter and study harder in science, math, and engineering in order to reach the new frontiers of knowledge that the flat world is rapidly opening up and pushing out. And it requires a Great Society that commits our government to building the infrastructure, safety nets, and institutions that will help every American become more employable in an age when no one can be guaranteed lifetime employment.

Now, these aren't just two random excerpts from a book; the paragraph in which Friedman talks about the need for ambitious government action, infrastructure investment, and a hearty safety net is the next paragraph, right after the one House Republicans included in their budget plan.

As Steve M. put it, "In other words, [Rep. Paul Ryan] quotes Friedman even though Friedman is advocating precisely the sort of government intervention Ryan thinks is destructive to individual initiative -- and, therefore, to America (and civilization) as we know it."

How embarrassing.


Benen: MAYBE THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE WATER....

If I didn't know better, I might wonder if the powers that be are distributing crazy pills in the House Republican cloakroom.

I was just talking to Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), who's leaving Congress to run for governor of Michigan, about his proposed Parental Rights Amendment -- a constitutional change that would, among other things, prevent "any source of international law" to override parents' rights. He gave me an example of how open some Democrats were to handing over American rights.

"I'm watching Neil Cavuto," said Hoesktra, "and I see [Treasury Secretary] Tim Geithner is talking about how he might be OK with a world currency. I don't think Americans are going to be comfortable with that. You're going to see things that people perceive as eroding American sovereignty -- this is something that's clearly un-American. I mean, here's the secretary of the Treasury, and instead of defending the United States and defending our currency, he's saying he might be open to a world currency. What does that mean? It means turning our currency over to the UN."

Hoesktra isn't some random, no-name backbencher. He's been in Congress for 16 years, he's the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and next year, he expects to be the governor of one of the nation's largest states.

And yet, here's Hoekstra spouting ridiculous gibberish about global currencies, American sovereignty, and turning our currency over to the U.N.

What's wrong with these people? Geithner never said he'd accept "a world currency" -- he actually has vowed the opposite -- the Treasury Secretary simply addressed the notion of a global reserve currency. There's nothing "un-American" about it. That doesn't even make any sense.

Either Hoekstra knows this, and he's just riling up uninformed right-wing voters for partisan gain (in which case he's a hack), or he's popping off on a subject he knows nothing about after catching a segment on Fox News (in which case he's both irresponsible and foolish).

On a related note, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) chatted yesterday with a right-wing blog called Atlas Shrugs -- the same blog that argued in a 12,000-word post last year, in all seriousness, that Barack Obama is Malcolm X's illegitimate son -- about her conspiracy theories regarding global currencies and modern economics. Bachmann said, "And so we need to once again decide, do we want to be free, or do we want to be slaves?"

First, why would any group of people "want to be slaves"? Second, slaves to whom? Bachmann didn't say.

Benen: 'CHICAGO POLITICS' DOESN'T SOUND SO BAD....

Karl Rove, who has more first-hand knowledge of sleazy political tactics than anyone breathing, devoted his new Wall Street Journal column to denouncing President Obama's "Chicago politics."

As Rove sees it, policymakers should be "worried" about the White House's hardball tactics, which Rove believes are shaped by Obama's "training in the methods once used by Saul Alinsky, the radical Chicago community organizer."

Given that the president's strategies thus far have struck me as rather conciliatory and reasonable, I was curious to see what kind of indictment Rove could put together.

"Don't think we're not keeping score, brother." That's what President Barack Obama said to Rep. Peter DeFazio in a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic Caucus last week, according to the Associated Press.

A few weeks ago, Mr. DeFazio voted against the administration's stimulus bill. The comment from Mr. Obama was a presidential rebuke and part of a new, hard-nosed push by the White House to pressure Congress to adopt the president's budget. He has mobilized outside groups and enlisted forces still in place from the Obama campaign.

Senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and her chief of staff, Michael Strautmanis, are in regular contact with MoveOn.Org, Americans United for Change and other liberal interest groups. Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina has collaborated with Americans United for Change on strategy and even ad copy. Ms. Jarrett invited leaders of the liberal interest groups to a White House social event with the president and first lady to kick off the lobbying campaign.

Its targets were initially Republicans, as team Obama ran ads depicting the GOP as the "party of no." But now the fire is being trained on Democrats worried about runaway spending.

Americans United is going after Democrats who are skeptical of Mr. Obama's plans to double the national debt in five years and nearly triple it in 10. The White House is taking aim at lawmakers in 12 states, including Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor. MoveOn.Org is running ads aimed at 10 moderate Senate and House Democrats. And robocalls are urging voters in key districts to pressure their congressman to get in line.

Hmm. The president is encouraging lawmakers to support his legislative agenda; White House aides are occasionally in communication with their political allies; and liberal groups are urging members of Congress to support bills they agree with. The horror!

Seriously, are we supposed to find this scary? If these are the "Chicago" tactics the political world should be wary of, I think our democracy will survive.



"There are boundaries you cannot cross ...."

Sully: "Hold Her Legs Tightly"

The Guardian has posted a grueling video of a young girl being flogged in public by the Taliban in Pakistan. I found it very hard to watch, and I have a strong stomach. The description is rough enough:

Two men hold her arms and feet while a third, a black-turbaned fighter with a flowing beard, whips her repeatedly. "Please stop it," she begs, alternately whimpering or screaming in pain with each blow to the backside. "Either kill me or stop it now." A crowd of men stands by, watching silently. Off camera a voice issues instructions.

"Hold her legs tightly," he says as she squirms and yelps. After 34 lashes the punishment stops and the wailing woman is led into a stone building, trailed by a Kalashnikov-carrying militant. Reached by phone, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan claimed responsibility for the flogging. "She came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her. There are boundaries you cannot cross," he said.

It is rare to see the essence of violent Islamist patriarchy in a single clip.

Venal Repuglicans - lying liars edition

Benen: THE EVOLUTION OF A LIE....
John Reilly, the M.I.T. scientist whose cap-and-trade analysis has generated the #1 Republican talking point on the issue, is no doubt frustrated. GOP lawmakers have twisted his work beyond all recognition, and try as he might, Reilly, the source of the Republican lie, can't stop the lie from spreading.

Brian Beutler wrote up this helpful timeline:

* April, 2007: Reilly and several coauthors release a paper titled "Assessment of U.S. Cap-and-Trade Proposals," which estimates early annual revenues from such legislation would run $366 billion

* Sometime between April, 2007 and March, 2009: House Republicans get a hold of his paper, divide $366 billion by the number of households in America, and conclude, erroneously, that the quotient ($3,128) will be the average cost per home.

* March, 2009: Republicans begin using this number in press releases, citing Reilly's study

* Shortly thereafter: The Obama administration gets in touch with Dr. Reilly and asks him to explain his study and the number -- he corrects the record.

* A week or so ago: Independently, a woman who says she's with the House Republicans calls Reilly -- aware of the number, she invites him to come testify against cap and trade legislation. Reilly informs her that her number is probably wrong, and that he supports cap and trade legislation.

At that point, the story should end. But it just keeps going.

Of course, the method Republicans used to get the $3,128 was itself absurd. Brad Plumer noted that the GOP's arithmetic "brushes off the fact that most carbon revenue would be rebated back to consumers, and that certain conservation measures could help reduce energy bills. But the actual MIT study implies that the welfare cost would be around $31 per person in 2015, rising to an average of $85 per person per year -- not including the benefits of cleaner air and a habitable planet."

But what's especially frustrating isn't just the bogus claim or the ridiculous policy analysis, it's that John Reilly told Republicans that they were wrong, and they kept lying anyway.

They relied on Reilly's scholarship, but when Reilly implored the GOP to tell the truth, they couldn't be bothered. As a result they've lied in press releases, they've lied in op-eds, and they've lied, over and over again, in speeches.

Saying something that's not true is a policy problem. Repeating the false claim after having been told it's not true is a character problem.


Yglesias: George Will Doesn’t Understand What a Trend Is

Another doozy from George Will on climate change:

Reducing carbon emissions supposedly will reverse warming, which is allegedly occurring even though, according to statistics published by the World Meteorological Organization, there has not been a warmer year on record than 1998.

I really think anyone working at The Washington Post or in conservative journalism who has a shred of intellectual conscience has a duty to stand up to this kind of nonsense. As the Secretary General of the World Metereological Organization wrote in The Washington Post two weeks ago:

Data collected over the past 150 years by the 188 members of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) through observing networks of tens of thousands of stations on land, at sea, in the air and from constellations of weather and climate satellites lead to an unequivocal conclusion: The observed increase in global surface temperatures is a manifestation of global warming. Warming has accelerated particularly in the past 20 years.

It is a misinterpretation of the data and of scientific knowledge to point to one year as the warmest on record — as was done in a recent Post column [”Dark Green Doomsayers,” George F. Will, op-ed, Feb. 15] — and then to extrapolate that cooler subsequent years invalidate the reality of global warming and its effects.

I’m beyond caring what Will is thinking or doing here. But what on earth are the Post’s editors doing? This is an obvious fallacy, and the Post itself has run a thorough debunking of this talking point. Why did they do that if they intend to keep using their brand to enhance the credibility of Will’s misrepresentations? It’s unfathomable. Why would you expect anyone to pay money to read a newspaper that publishes willfully misleading information?


Benen: OBAMA'S CENSUS DIRECTOR....

Given the recent Republican uproar over the Obama administration and the census -- Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) believes the president will use the census as part of an elaborate conspiracy to keep Democrats in power for up to "40 years" -- there's been more interest than usual in the president's choice as census director.

Now that Obama has chosen an expert in statistics and sampling, the GOP is even more upset.

Robert M. Groves, a former census official and now a sociology professor at the University of Michigan, was nominated Thursday by President Obama to run the Census Bureau, a choice that instantly made Republicans nervous. [...]

Republicans expressed alarm because of one of Mr. Groves's specialties, statistical sampling -- roughly speaking, the process of extrapolating from the numbers of people actually counted to arrive at estimates of those uncounted and, presumably, arriving at a realistic total.

If minorities, immigrants, the poor and the homeless are those most likely to be missed in an actual head count, and if political stereotypes hold true, then statistical sampling would presumably benefit the Democrats.

And what matters more than an accurate, reliable count is a census that undercounts those who might be inclined to vote for Democrats. Adam Serwer summarized the matter nicely: "Republicans are mad about the census choice because his ability to do his job correctly might benefit Democrats."

Groves, by any reasonable measure, is uniquely qualified for the post, and was associate director of statistical design at the Census Bureau in the H.W. Bush administration. Mark Blumenthal explained, "It is something of an understatement to describe Robert Groves as 'an expert in survey methodology.' He is one of our nations' most respected survey methodologists and arguably the leading authority on the subject of non-response in surveys."

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and of the institutions more embarrassing members, described this nomination as "incredibly troubling" and evidence that the administration wants to use the census to "advance an ulterior political agenda."

Blumenthal responded to these complaints, noting, "The notion of Bob Groves yielding to partisanship is laughable. As in rolling on the floor laughing out loud laughable. Groves is well known and universally respected among survey researchers and Census Bureau professionals alike. He is an ideal choice for this appointment."


Jobs?

Ezra Klein: JOB LOSSES, AND LOTS OF THEM.

The latest job numbers are out. Hint: They're bad. Unemployment at 8.5 percent. Around 663,000 jobs lost in March. Upward revisions of about 84,000 more lost jobs than were originally reported in January and February. Justin Fox updates his chart.

jobloss32009.jpg

"Okay," he says, "now job losses are a LOT worse than 1981-1982."

The problem I always have with this sort of data is its bloodlessness. It's hard to keep in mind, but losing 663,000 jobs is the equivalent of every single human being in North Dakota losing their job. Moreover, our losses have averaged 684,000 jobs per month since November. So add the whole state of Iowa to the total. This is a lot of people experiencing a lot of misery, fear, and insecurity.


Lunchtime: Our President, my President, Edition

Dessert at the bottom of the post.

Toles: Friday, April 03, 2009


Think Progress:
Fox News poll asks if increasing taxes for the wealthy means ‘nobody gets to be too rich.’

Fox News/Opinion Dynamics polls are known for often including a few loaded and misleading questions. In their latest survey out today, Fox’s pollsters asked a question that assumed that raising taxes would mean that “nobody gets to be too rich“:

fox-taxes1.jpg

Another question asked respondents whether they believed that President Obama “wants the financial crisis to continue so government can take over more businesses and grow the federal government.” Twenty-three percent said they thought Obama wanted it to continue while 68 percent said they think Obama wants the crisis to end.

  • Drum on the CEO Blues

    The Wall Street Journal reports that CEO pay was down a whopping 3.4% last year. But wait!

    CEO compensation decreased more sharply at banks and brokerages, long the source of some of the biggest paychecks. Median annual cash compensation for CEOs in the financial industry fell 43%, to $976,000. Total direct compensation fell 14.2%, to a median $7.6 million.

    So that's what happens when you destroy the global financial system: your pay goes down 14% to a mere $7.6 million per year. I guess we showed them, didn't we?

  • Fernholz on ESTATE WACKS.
    The senate voted yesterday to pass, 51-48, the Lincoln-Kyl amendment to lower the estate tax. It's essentially a $250 billion giveaway to people whose estates are worth more than $7 million. The various mid-western Democrats who supported it will undoubtedly claim this about all those small family farmers who amass large fortunes, but only .02 percent of the bills costs will actually go to those fortunate agrifamilies. Most just goes to the massively wealthy. You know, like investment bankers. Every single senate Republican voted for the amendment, along with nine Democrats, most in the "moderate" caucus of no policy positions: Bayh, Baucus, Cantwell, Landrieu, Lincoln, Murray, the Nelsons, and Tester.

    But there is some light at the end of the tunnel. For one, the provision isn't likely to make into the finally congressional budget resolution, since both House negotiators and Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad will oppose the provision. In case it does, Senator Dick Durbin offered an amendment, which also passed, 56-43, requiring that if any estate tax reduction is included in the bill, an "equal amount of aggregate tax relief is also provided to Americans earning less than $100,000 per year." And though it's good that working people would recieve proportional tax breaks under this plan, there really is no good reason to reduce the estate tax. As Ezra observed yesterday, all the folks freaking out about how the Obama administration's very reasonable plan to lower the tax deductions to Reagan-era levels would hurt charities haven't said a peep about how removing the estate tax would hurt charities much more.

    It's nice to see our conservative and moderate senators taking time to focus on the peopl ewho have been really hit hard by the economic crisis -- the heirs of estates ranging between $7 and $10 million.



Our President, my President, concluded a town hall meeting a few hours ago in France.
Standing room only crowd. He brought the same intelligence, grace and honesty to it as he did to the campaign in the U.S., and it was wonderful watching the faces of all those Europeans just lighting up as he talked. As he walked out, everyone in the stadium wanted a piece, wanted to touch him. And suddenly I had tears in my eyes. An American President, honored and trusted and pre-eminent in the world again. A black President to boot. Stunning.

Benen:
HOW'D HE DO?....
The world leaders who assembled at the G20 reached an agreement to address the global economic crisis, but whether their plan has merit depends a bit on who you ask. On the one hand, the agreement "was more than what experts expected," and was arguably "remarkable given the discord that preceded Thursday's meeting." The LA Times said the end product "surprised many observers with its unusually substantive achievements." At the same time, the WSJ and NYT were less impressed.

But how about President Obama's first turn on the global stage, just two months into his first term? He told reporters yesterday, "I think I did O.K." By some measures, Obama was selling himself short.

For example, there was a heated disagreement between France and China over tax havens and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. Obama personally intervened, took the opposing leaders aside, and brokered an agreement based on little more than a rhetorical shift. The process seemed a little silly, but it was the U.S. president's "first moment as a statesman."

TNR's John Judis said Obama's "performance at the G-20 has been flawless." TAP's Tim Fernholz added, "After the G-20, we can say that President Barack Obama had a successful entrance onto the world stage." The WaPo's Steven Pearlstein concluded, "All in all, a pretty successful opening-night performance for President Obama on the international economic stage. He achieved most of what he wanted while allowing others to claim victory and allowing the United States to shed its Bush-era reputation for inflexibility and heavy-handedness. And by the standards of past summits, this one was full of accomplishment."

And Slate's Fred Kaplan said the president "proved his mettle" at the summit, and "lived up to high expectations," which is good news for the United States "returning to diplomatic basics."

American leaders and diplomats have long struggled with the tension between their interests and ideals. Bush finessed the issue by pretending that the tension didn't exist. In his second inaugural address, he declared that our interests and ideals coincided, invoking an appealing but empty syllogism: Tyranny sires terrorism; terrorism threatens our security; therefore, promoting democracy enhances our security; hence, our interests and our ideals are one. The problem was that terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy, and democracy is not necessarily a cure for it in any case. (Hamas won fair and free elections in the Palestinian territories -- elections that Bush insisted on, over the advice of many, on the premise that Hamas couldn't win the election because terrorism and democracy were incompatible.)

Obama seems to be aware of the tension between interests and ideals without letting it paralyze policymaking. In this sense, he is like most presidents in American history -- and his foreign policy, or for the moment his approach to foreign policy, signals a restoration of what was once called statecraft: literally, the art of conducting the affairs of state. The term has always implied a meshing of interests and ideals with reality while navigating the shoals of a dangerous world. Leaders can try to reshape an agenda, but they can't toss away maps or ignore laws of physics to get there. They have to deal with the world as it is, and that's what Obama seems to be doing.

The final G20 agreement is far from perfect, but the White House is probably pleased with the president's first turn as an international leader.

Benen: CONGRESS ADVANCES FEDERAL BUDGET....
It's not identical to the budget President Obama sent to Congress, but it's close.

Congressional Democrats overwhelmingly embraced President Obama's ambitious and expensive agenda for the nation yesterday, endorsing a $3.5 trillion spending plan that sets the stage for the president to pursue his most far-reaching priorities.

Voting along party lines, the House and Senate approved budget blueprints that would trim Obama's spending proposals for the fiscal year that begins in October and curtail his plans to cut taxes. The blueprints, however, would permit work to begin on the central goals of Obama's presidency: an expansion of health-care coverage for the uninsured, more money for college loans and a cap-and-trade system to reduce gases that contribute to global warming.

The measures now move to a conference committee where negotiators must resolve differences between the two chambers, a prelude to the more difficult choices that will be required to implement Obama's initiatives. While Democrats back the president's vision for transforming huge sectors of the economy, they remain fiercely divided over the details.

To that extend, the real work -- on health care and cap-and-trade proposals, reconciliation, taxes -- will get underway after the two-week congressional recess. That said, Democrats have to be pleased with the major step forward the chambers took yesterday. The White House issued a statement last night hailing the budget(s) as having embraced "our most fundamental priorities: an energy plan that will end our dependence on foreign oil and spur a new clean energy economy; an education system that will ensure our children will be able to compete in the economy of the 21st century; and health care reform that finally confronts the back-breaking costs plaguing families, businesses and government alike."

A few highlights of note:

* The ridiculous House GOP alternative budget was brought up for a vote. Every Democrat voted against it, but among Republicans, it was 137 to 38. In other words, the proposal unveiled by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was so extreme, about one-fifth of the House GOP caucus voted against their own budget.

* John McCain's equally foolish budget alternative was also defeated. Every Democrat voted against it, but among Senate Republicans, it was 38 to 3. In other words, in the midst of an economic crisis, 93% of the Senate GOP caucus voted for an insane five-year spending freeze. Seriously.

* Arlen Specter voted for the stimulus package in February, and then voted for a five-year spending freeze last night. What a joke.

* The Democratic budget passed the Senate with 55 votes, but no Republicans. Two Democrats -- Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Evan Bayh of Indiana -- sided with the GOP. (Yes, Bayh is the new Lieberman.)

* The 233 votes in support of the budget in the House is the biggest majority for a budget in 12 years.

Yglesias: Republicans as Unpopular as Ever

How’s that backlash against Barack Obama’s agenda coming? Not so well according to the latest Democracy Corps poll:

brand_1.jpg

Note that this chart makes it difficult to understand the inclination of some Democratic members of the congress to buck the president and join forces with congressional Republicans as an act of political cowardice. The path of least resistance is for Democrats, who are relatively popular, to stick with the President, who’s very popular, and to stay far away from the very unpopular Republicans. Whatever’s driving them, it’s not timidity.

  • Benen: WHAT DRIVES BAYH?....
    Just last week, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) explained that he has no intention of "watering down" President Obama's agenda; he actually wants to "strengthen and sustain it." The goal, Bayh said, is make Democratic proposals more palatable to Senate Republicans, so that the GOP's filibusters will be easier to break.

    And yet, last night, the Senate voted on the budget, and there was no threat of a GOP filibuster. The majority could simply pass the plan they wanted to pass. Every Senate Republican voted against it, as did the Democratic caucus' most conservative member, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Evan Bayh, the one who has vowed to "strengthen and sustain" the president's agenda, joined with Nelson and the Republicans.

    Nelson's vote wasn't too big a surprise; he represents a pretty conservative "red" state. Bayh's motivation is a little tougher to understand. As Matt Yglesias noted this morning:

    I've heard some see this as an act of political cowardice on Bayh's part, but I think that's wrong. Obama carried Indiana. There are many Senate Democrats in more vulnerable states who voted "yes." Bayh just made a decision of conscience and principle to stand with Mitch McConnell and Jim DeMint on the most important domestic policy vote of his career.

    I think that's right, and I'd add one key detail. Just yesterday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, effectively conceded that Republicans won't go after Bayh next year. "We have a sort of priority list," Cornyn said. "He's down on that."

    Bayh, in other words, represents a state that supported Obama in November and he knew that no matter how he voted of Obama's budget, his re-election is all but assured in his home state.

    Bayh didn't have to worry about impressing conservative voters back home; he didn't have to worry about fundraising; he didn't have to worry about a Republican opponent back home using this budget vote against him. Bayh was free to vote however he pleased.

    And given all of this, Bayh still sided with a right-wing Republican caucus against the Obama White House.

  • Ezra Klein: THE UNDENIABLE LOGIC OF EVAN BAYH AND BEN NELSON.
    The President's budget also passed the Senate last night. Zero Republican votes. Two Democratic defectors. Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson. Interestingly, other senators you might associate with their precise position on the ideological spectrum -- Lincoln and Landrieu and Pryor and Carper -- voted for the budget.

    In other words, if you had run an algorithm using past voting records to predict last night's roll call, you wouldn't have ended with Nelson and Bayh on their lonesome. But if you had run an algorithm using the amount of press a given Democratic senator has received for being willing to buck the President, you would have. Some wags are noting that none of Bayh's much-heralded Caucus voted with him. But that's precisely why Bayh voted against -- because no one else was.

    This was, in a strange sense, the safe play. Because the budget only requires 50 votes, their opposition didn't seriously imperil the President's budget. If eight more Democrats had signed on, it would have, and there would have been consequences. But the consequences of ineffectual opposition are all positive. Bayh and Nelson have elevated their status as the Democrats willing to imperil the President's priorities. They've assured that the media will say the names "Bayh and Nelson" a lot. They've secured themselves a steady stream of requests to appear on news shows and many calls begging for a quote. They have further cemented their status as power brokers in a closely divided Senate and media stars in a conflict-hungry news environment. It's really a very good day for them.

Benen: MARRIAGE EQUALITY ADVANCES IN IOWA, VERMONT....
In Iowa, consenting adults can now get legally married, regardless of their sexual orientation.

The Iowa Supreme Court this morning struck down a 1998 state law that limits marriage to one man and one woman.

The ruling is viewed as a victory for the gay rights movement in Iowa and elsewhere, and a setback for social conservatives who wanted to protect traditional families.

The decision makes Iowa the first Midwestern state, and the fourth nationwide, to allow same-sex marriages. Lawyers for Lambda Legal, a gay rights group that financed the court battle and represented the couples, had hoped to use a court victory to demonstrate acceptance of same-sex marriage in heartland America.

The server is a little overwhelmed this morning, but the state Supreme Court's ruling, which was unanimous, is online.

The change won't be immediate, and county and state governments in Iowa will reportedly get a few months to put procedural changes in place. In the meantime, opponents of marriage equality will begin a renewed push for an amendment to the state constitution, though that's likely to take a while.

What's more, about 12 hours before the ruling in Iowa, Vermont's state House joined the state Senate in passing legislation to allow gay marriage in the Green Mountain State. The final vote was 95 to 52.

The Vermont measure will be vetoed by the state's Republican governor, Jim Douglas, though proponents remain cautiously optimistic that the legislature can override the veto.

All in all, it's an encouraging day for social justice in America.

  • Joe Sudbay (DC) adds: That noise you hear in the background is heads exploding at Mormon headquarters and the American Family Association. The Mormons are probably already trying to figure out how to overturn it -- and how much it will cost. But, the times are changing -- and changing fast. More and more Americans support marriage equality and it's only going to increase. The haters know that and it's driving them crazy. Today, in Iowa, equality means equality.
  • Speaking of the haters, via Think Progress:
    Update Iowa Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley released a statement calling on the Iowa legislature to "immediately act to pass a Constitutional Amendment that protects traditional marriage, keeps it as a sacred bond only between one man and one woman."

    Update Politico's Ben Smith writes of the ruling: "It's really a sweeping, total win for the gay-rights side, rejecting any claim that objections to same-sex marriage can be seen as "rational," rejecting a parallel civil union remedy, and pronouncing same-sex marriages and gay and lesbian couples essentially normal."


And the msm remains the msm. dday's Lugubrious Tales Of Woe
Zack Roth catches Chris Matthews mistaking Eric Holder's dismissal of charges in the Ted Stevens case, due to prosecutorial misconduct, with the notion that Stevens was completely innocent and the charges should have never been filed.



It's no surprise that Matthews has no idea how the criminal justice system works. And of course, the rest of the Village establishment has taken up for their pal Ted as well, deliberately misreading yesterday's events and intoning gravely how this honorable man has been "besmirched."

George Stephanopoulos of ABC News (via Twitter): "Whatever your politics, hard not to feel for Ted Stevens."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL): "This incredible man, he served his country well, he was a power player ... he took care of Alaska."

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT): "We're delighted that it's been demonstrated that Ted was telling us the truth all along. (Ed: Needless to say, nothing of the sort was demonstrated.) Obviously, we're a little disappointed that this didn't come out before the election....I think he can get his reputation back. I don't know where he goes to get his legal fees back."

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT): "Here's a guy who gave 60 years of service to this country, and he was screwed [by federal prosecutors] ... How does he get his reputation back?"

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ): "That's why we have the presumption of innocence ... I never called for him to step down or resign or anything like that. I think those who did might regret it now."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): "[I am] deeply disturbed that the government can ruin a man's career and then say, 'Never mind.'"

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI): "I didn't tell him this, but, you know, he's really suffered ... I don't want to use the word 'angry,' but I'm just disappointed that prosecutors were involved in that type of misbehavior ... Lawyers' fees are not cheap. He'll have to work the rest of his life."


As Roth notes, the bulk of these quotes appeared in "responsible Beltway publications," without being challenged or balanced with a statement of the plain fact that nothing in the dismissal of the suits admits Stevens' innocence.

For the record I think Holder did the right thing. The prosecutors clearly committed misconduct and that shouldn't go by without consequences. I also hope this is just the beginning of restoring the assault on the rule of law committed at the highest levels of the Justice Department, and Don Siegeleman's phone should be getting a ring shortly.

But this is classic Village behavior. Their friend, the guy they see shopping at the Safeway all the time, gets off on a technicality, and the collective water works come out, and these encomiums, these tales of woe. Meanwhile thousands of people are railroaded all the time in the criminal justice system, a key piece of our failed prison policy. But of course the Village doesn't KNOW those folks.

...and the Alaska GOP thinks we should rerun Stevens' Senate election. Can't wait to see that in Ruth Marcus' column shortly.