Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just Another Crazy Wednesday

via Huff Post:Rachel Maddow gave her long-awaited speech to graduates of Smith College this weekend.

John Cole: So Much for the Pelosi Hate

So the Democrat won the race in Pennsylvania 12, defeating the surefire strategy of attacking a grandmotherly figure who looks like damned near every other yinzer grandma in Pittsburgh.

Good thinking, Republicans. You might want to try to run on an issue in the fall, rather than just trashing Pelosi. Those who haven’t heard of her don’t care, and those who have heard of her are either wondering how throwing eggs at her will get them a job or why you are picking on the Italian grandmother who smiles nervously when she is on camera.

I swear, the GOP believes their own teabag/Limbaugh nonsense. Was the Burns campaign theme Barack the Magic Negro? Idiots.

*** Update ***

From the comments, as good a description of the myopic Republican feedback loop as you will see:

The Republicans have a problem of miking the supporter’s section and thinking there is a full house. If you watch MLS, especially during mid-week games, you’ll notice sparse crowds except for the supporter’s section behind one of the goals. If a field mic is aimed at the section it sounds like a full house of singing fans even though you can clearly see empty seats along either sideline.

Republicans do the same thing. The hardcore Republicans hate Nancy Pelosi with a passion (because she’s a woman and a Democrat) and they just assume from the din of their hater’s section that everyone else in the stadium hates Pelosi. But they’re just miking their own noise.

What do you expect from the party that excludes 75% of the country in their definition of “real American?”

Republican leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former Vice President Dick Cheney were embarrassed a bit last night. Their preferred Senate hopeful in Kentucky was trounced by right-wing ophthalmologist Rand Paul, who reveled in his "outsider" status.

But down ballot, the GOP establishment suffered another key setback in Kentucky yesterday.

UPS pilot Todd Lally ran away with the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth in Kentucky's 3rd Congressional District, which centers on Louisville. He beat three candidates, including Jeff Reetz, a Pizza Hut franchise owner who was the favorite of the House Republican campaign committee.

Lally is strongly pro-gun rights and anti-abortion rights. The Louisville Courier-Journal's editorial page said that during his endorsement interview, he said President Obama wouldn't be able to get a security clearance if he wasn't president and said health care reform was for the benefit of "freeloaders."

The National Republican Congressional Committee has a "Young Guns" program, backing select Republican challengers in competitive district, and included Reetz as a rising star in the party.

Despite the party's enthusiastic backing -- or perhaps because of it -- Reetz finished a distant third.

As Rachel Slajda summarized, "In Kentucky, the national Republican Party backed the wrong candidate in not one but two primaries."

NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) conceded that the results were "undoubtedly disappointing."

Funny, between this and the special election in Pennsylvani's 12th, I don't imagine the DCCC is thinking anything of the sort this morning.

Drum: Glenn Beck's Gold Fetish
When Glenn Beck tells you that Barack Obama is going to crater the economy and you should buy gold to protect yourself, he recommends that you buy your gold from Goldline. And what kind of gold should you buy? Well, the government might just up and decide to confiscate gold bullion someday, so he says your best bet is collectors' coins. And as Stephanie Mencimer reports, that suits Goldline just fine:

What Goldline doesn't say upfront is that for its own bottom line, collector coins are a lot more lucrative than mere bullion. Profits in the coin business are based on "spread," the difference between the price at which a coin is sold and the price at which the dealer will buy it back. Most coin dealers, including Goldline, will sell a one-ounce bullion coin for about 5 percent more than they'll buy it back for, a figure that closely tracks the price of an ounce of gold on the commodities markets. That 5 percent spread doesn't leave a lot of room for profits, much less running dozens of ads a week on national radio and cable programs, with endorsements by everyone from Beck to Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, and Dennis Miller. So, Goldline rewards its salespeople for persuading would-be bullion buyers to purchase something with a bigger markup.

Twenty-franc Swiss coins are a little smaller than a nickel and contain a little less than two-tenths of an ounce of gold. The coins are about 60 to 110 years old and not especially hard to find (though Goldline describes them as "rare"). They are not fully considered collectors' items nor commodities, making their value more subjective than bullion's. Goldline sets a 30 to 35 percent "spread" on the coins, meaning that it will pay $375 to buy back coins it's currently selling for $500. At that rate, gold prices would have to jump by a third just for customers to recoup their investment, never mind making a profit. Investing in Goldline's 20 francs would be like buying a blue chip stock that lost a third of its value the minute it's purchased. It's difficult to think of any other investment that loses so much value almost instantly. So what persuades people to buy anyway?

The short answer is: a hard sell from the Goldline sales force. For the long answer, click the link and read Stephanie's investigation into the tangled and abusive web between Beck, Goldline, conservative talk radio, and their all-too-credulous customers. It's not a pretty story.

tristero: Rand Paul: Gracious In Victory
This will surely play well to Rand Paul's proto-fascist base as will this. But, as the incidents of Paul's obnoxious, self-righteous behavior start to pile up, as they surely will, the question is whether Kentucky voters will think such an arrogant, immature, vindictive little twerp is ready for prime time.

If I were Jack Conway, I would do everything I could to encourage Paul to get deeper in touch with his inner churl.
Arguably the most important election yesterday wasn't a primary race, but rather, the congressional special election in Pennsylvania's 12th -- a contest to fill the vacancy left by the late Rep. Jack Murtha (D).

Observers in both parties considered the race something of a bellwether. Democrats ran Mark Critz, a former Murtha staffer, against businessman Tim Burns, who touted his "outsider" status and association with the right-wing Tea Party "movement."

It was the race Republicans felt like they had to win, and the RNC boasted repeatedly that a victory in Pennsylvania's 12th would foretell significant gains in the midterms. It didn't work out the way they'd hoped.

[T]he special election in Southwestern Pennsylvania suggested that Democrats were able to score victories in this challenging political environment. Mark Critz, a former aide to Mr. Murtha, defeated Tim Burns, a Republican businessman. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Critz had 53 percent, compared with 45 percent for Mr. Burns.

Though Democrats dominate in the district, its voters are blue-collar conservatives and it is exactly the type of swing district carried by Senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential race that Republicans must win if they are to reach their goal of taking control of the House in November. The loss dealt a blow to Republicans, who have been raising expectations for the fall.

"If you can't win a seat that is trending Republican in a year like this, then where is the wave?" asked Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia, who said Republicans will need to examine what went wrong.

That's hardly an unreasonable question.

This is the only district in the country that backed Kerry in 2004, but McCain in 2008, suggesting it was trending heavily in the GOP's direction. If there's going to be a backlash against Dems right now, this should be the place to find it. Indeed, it was the bulk of Burns' platform -- he specifically ran against Washington, Speaker Pelosi, and the Obama presidency, a pitch Republicans intend to duplicate in other competitive districts through the fall.

And while polls showed Burns with a slight edge going into the election, Critz nevertheless won fairly easily.

Marc Ambinder noted yesterday, long before the polls even closed, "If the Republican doesn't [win], I think us pundits in Washington are going to have to revise our thinking about whether this is a wave election year for Republicans."

Once the results were in, Politico added that "Republicans failed spectacularly, losing on a level playing field where, in this favorable environment, they should have run roughshod over the opposition.... The district itself couldn't have been more primed for a Republican victory."

In fairness, there are some relevant caveats here. There was a Democratic Senate primary, which may have boosted turnout a bit in Critz's favor. For that matter, Critz didn't exactly run as a bold progressive -- he touted his opposition, for example, to the Affordable Care Act and cap-and-trade.

But Republicans decided weeks ago that this is the kind of district that they'll have to win this year. RNC Political Director Gentry Collins conceded yesterday that this is "exactly the kind of seat that we have to win." Last week, Newt Gingrich said, "This year, we have mobilized millions of people from all over the country, and they are ready to take back this country. It's going to start right here, right now in" Pennsylvania's 12th.

They lost by eight points. It raises uncomfortable questions for Republican strategists, who've done nothing but raise expectations about what's possible in November.

For those keeping score, there have been seven special elections for U.S. House seats since the president's inauguration 16 months ago: NY20, IL5, CA32, CA10, NY23, FL19, and PA12. Democrats have won all seven.

Yglesias: Resultsblogging II: PA-12

Former John Murtha staffer Mark Critz’s win in the PA-12 House election is just straight-up embarrassing for Republicans. The Democratic strategy was straight out of the 2006/2008 playbook. Find a moderately conservative House district and run a somewhat heterodox Democrat. You don’t win every race, but you win a bunch. You can’t count on those guys’ votes on all the key issues, but each of them is with you sometimes. Add up a shifting coalition of such members to the big block of solid House liberals, and Nancy Pelosi can put an effective governing agenda together.

This was supposed to stop working in 2010. The end of the Bush backlash and the rise of anti-Obama sentiment, combined with the reality of the legislation coming out of the Pelosi-era House is supposed to get Republicans back to baseline at least. To see a Democrat win an open seat in a district that went for John McCain will be a welcome sign to a large number of House Democrat incumbents from red districts.

When Republicans talk about the 2010 midterms, they invariably use 1994 as a benchmark, and hope to duplicate that level of success.

Electorally, that makes sense; '94 was the cycle Republicans took the majority in both chambers. But in terms of quality, the GOP should probably aim higher. After all, in hindsight, the historic, "revolutionary" Class of '94 looks a little ... sleazy.

Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), for example, announced his resignation this morning, in light of the "family-values" conservative's new sex scandal. Dave Weigel takes stock of his cohorts from the same class:

Rep. Jim Bunn (R-Ore.) divorced his wife and married his chief of staff in 1995; he lost reelection in 1996.

Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) resigned in 2006 after pleading guilty to corruption charges.

Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) resigned in 2006 after former pages accused him of sexually harassing them.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) admitted an affair with a former campaign aide in 2009 -- he lost a leadership post but stayed in the Senate.

Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), elected to the House in 1994, admitted an affair with an Argentine journalist in 2009 but retained his job.

And now, Souder.

But why stop there? Rep. Enid Greene (R-Utah ) was elected in 1994, but didn't seek re-election after authorities learned her campaign was financed in part by funds embezzled by her husband. Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho) was elected in 1994, and was perhaps best known for having carried on a six-year extra-marital affair. And then there was Rep. Wes Cooley (R-Ore.), who became something of a national joke for wild fabrications on his resume, and who was later indicted on "federal money laundering and tax charges in connection with his role in an alleged scheme that prosecutors said bilked more than $10 million from investors."

It was quite a class, wasn't it?


The political circumstances would seem to benefit the "Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act." Under existing law, there's a $75 million liability cap for oil spills. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) want to increase it to $10 billion.

The impetus for approving the measure should be obvious -- the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf keeps getting worse, and may soon no longer be limited to the Gulf. It's hardly a good time for a politician to take a shameless stand to limit industry liability costs.

And yet, it keeps happening. Last week, it was Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Today, it was Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) stopped Democrats' efforts on Tuesday of passing a measure to increase oil companies' liability for accidents resulting from offshore drilling.

Inhofe objected to a unanimous consent request by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who took a second stab Tuesday at passing the bill in an expedited way.

Menendez and his partners on this intend to keep trying -- and the DSCC intends to use Republican opposition as a campaign issue.

Seeking justice for Gulf oil disaster May 18: Senator Barbara Boxer talks with Rachel Maddow about a demand by Senate Democrats that BP be investigated for criminal liability in the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Slajda (TPM: Alabama Teacher Gives Geometry Lesson Using Assassination As Example

The Secret Service investigated an Alabama high school teacher for using the example of shooting President Obama while teaching a geometry lesson.

The Secret Service spoke with the man, a teacher at Corner High School in Jefferson County, but decided not to arrest him.

"We did not find a credible threat," Roy Sex­ton, of Birmingham's Secret Service office, told the Birmingham News. "As far as the Secret Service is concerned, we looked into it, we talked to the gentleman and we have closed our investigation."

A student in the class described the lesson: "He was talking about angles and said, 'If you're in this building, you would need to take this angle to shoot the president.'"

The district superintendent told the News that the unnamed teacher will not be disciplined.

"We are going to have a long conversation with him about what's appropriate," he said. "It was extremely poor judgment on his part, and a poor choice of words."

The superintendent, Phil Hammonds, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Late update: The teacher has been placed on paid leave and may be fired.

Yglesias: Journalism Today

It’s very to summarize this Moe Tkacik article but I really liked this one paragraph she wrote:

So I wrote what I know, or rather what I’ve learned, which could be summed up this way: when the Internet forced journalism to compete economically after years of monopoly, journalism panicked and adopted some of the worst examples of the nothing-based economy, in which success depends on the continued infantilization of both supply and demand. At the same time, journalism clung to its myths of objectivity and detachment, using them to dismiss the emerging blogger threat as something unserious and fundamentally parasitic, even as it produced a steady stream of obsessive but sneering trend stories on the blogosphere.

Too good to check.

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