Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I see crazy people

Barbara Morrill (DKos): FL-08: How to respond to Republican attacks

Just how low is Rep. Alan Grayson's Republican opponent willing to go?

Florida Republican Kurt Kelly is slamming Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, suggesting that his absence during a war-funding vote might mean the freshman lawmaker actually wants American troops to die. [...]

“He missed the vote. He took a walk on the vote to provide supplemental funding for our soldiers,” Kelly said in the interview, which Kelly’s campaign advertised on its YouTube page Monday. “He put our soldiers, our men and women in the military, in harm’s way and, in fact, maybe he wants them to die.”

Pretty low. But instead of pearl clutching outrage and demands for an apology from the Grayson campaign, Grayson's spokesman simply said:

Kurt Kelly thinks the stupider he sounds, the more Republican votes he'll get.

A perfect response. No taking their crap and no attempt to pander to voters who will never vote for him.

Scaring white people for fun and profit Rachel Maddow talks with Sheriff Antonio Estrada of Santa Cruz County, Arizona, to debunk some of the lies and distortions perpetuated by politicians hoping to capitalize on anti-immigrant fears for extra votes.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

DougJ: Just a number

This is funny, defeated Republican Congressman Bob Inglis talking about his meeting with teatards:

I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there’s a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life’s earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, ‘What the heck are you talking about?’ I’m trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, ‘You don’t know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don’t know this?!’ And I said, ‘Please forgive me. I’m just ignorant of these things.’ And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.

I may try this stuff out in my local Tea Party mailing list, see what people have to say.


Sharron Angle (R), the extremist Senate candidate in Nevada, has a habit of saying some pretty remarkable things, including vague advocacy of the violent overthrow of the United States government.

In recent weeks, under strict orders, Angle has tried to improve her public image and make fewer crazy remarks, in part by avoiding the media. Confronted by reporters anxious to press the Senate hopeful on her own comments, Angle has even taken to literally fleeing from journalists.

And yet, the year's nuttiest statewide candidate continues to surprise. Over the weekend, Angle sat down with Fox News' Carl Cameron, who noted her tendency to avoid reporters' scrutiny. Angle replied, "We needed to have the press be our friend."

When Cameron said that "sounds lame," the right-wing candidate replied, "Well, no, no, we wanted [journalists] to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported. And when I get on a show and I say send me money to SharronAngle.com, so that your listeners will know that if they want to support me they need to go to SharronAngle.com."

Angle recently conceded she only wants to talk to media that will let her beg for cash on the air, and notice that Fox News didn't edit out her shameless plug.

But that's clearly not the interesting part here. Sharron Angle said, on the record and on camera, that her campaign's media strategy is built around the notion of manipulating news organizations, getting the questions Angle wants, so she can give the answers she wants, so the public will hear the news the way Angle wants it to be heard.

I expect Angle to say insane things, but this is truly remarkable. I'm trying to imagine what the response on the right would be if President Obama said he needs independent news organizations to be his "friend," which is why he demands that reporters ask the questions he wants to answer "so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported."

Even Fox News noted that Angle was "too honest" with her remarks. National Review added, "Did She Just Say That Out Loud?"

I'll look forward to conservatives' defense of this. They're a creative bunch, and I can hardly wait to see what they come up with.

DougJ: Ryan’s hope

In some ways, the most horrible thing about teatardism is that it makes people like Paul Ryan look like intellectual giants by comparison.

Bobo and Andrew Sullivan and Ross Douthat and the other economic illiterates who populate the serious intellectual conservative pundit class are so happy to see a Republican whose calculator goes into the billions that they don’t bother to ask how the fuck raising interest rates would increase lending or what the fuck “vouchering Social Security” could possibly mean.

You can bet that they’ll portray John Thune as a serious policy wonk if he gets the nomination in 2012, too. And the evidence that will be provided is that he’s not as ignorant as Sarah Palin.

Kurtz: McCain: Let's Hold Hearings!

Reporters chased a dodgy John McCain into the bowels of the Capitol a short time ago to get him to answer whether he supports the GOP's new push on "birthright citizenship."

All McCain would say is that he supports Mitch McConnell's call for hearings on the issue.

But with this new-found issue percolating up from the tea party right and only suddenly enjoying any "mainstream" attention of any kind, supporting hearings is tantamount to supporting a constitutional amendment that would deny citizenship to children born on U.S. soil whose parents live here illegally. There's no halfway point on this issue.

Can John McCain really get away with this?

We talked a few weeks ago about the right's approach to the U.S. Constitution, specifically, its desire to fiddle with it, adding more amendments while scrapping some old ones. As the GOP's interest in giving the 14th amendment a touch-up intensifies, let's take stock of where we are.

By my count, Republican leaders, including George W. Bush, endorsed six different new amendments to the Constitution over the last decade: (1) prohibiting flag burning; (2) victims' rights; (3) banning abortion; (4) requiring a balanced budget; (5) prohibiting same-sex marriage; and (6) allowing state-endorsed prayer in public schools. Jon Chait runs a similar list today, and notes a few I missed, including amendments to require legislative supermajorities to raise taxes, a "parental rights" amendment, a term-limits amendment, and in one instance, an amendment to give Washington, D.C., a single voting representative.

Taken together, that's 10 constitutional amendments proposed, endorsed, and/or introduced by leading Republicans over the last decade.

I'd call this many things, but "constitutional conservatism" -- a phrase repeated ad nauseum by Bachmann and the Tea Party crowd -- it isn't.

On top of the new amendments the right has requested, there's also the existing amendments the right wants to "fix." That means scrapping the 17th Amendment, repealing the 16th Amendment, getting rid of at least one part of the 14th Amendment, and "restoring" the "original" 13th Amendment.

It's as if the right has begun to look at the entire Constitution as little more than a rough draft, in desperate need of deft conservative editing. (What could possibly go wrong?)

The Constitutional Accountability Center's Elizabeth Wydra recently noted:

It is encouraging that so many Americans are now discussing and debating the Constitution. It is, after all, the People's document. But before Tea Party repeal efforts gather steam, 'We the People' should take a sober look at the text, history, and principles behind the amendments the Tea Party would like to do away with. Amending the Constitution is not an easy task, and generations of Americans poured blood, sweat, and treasure into adopting the amendments that Tea Party activists would now like to repeal.

Of course, if this were limited to right-wing activists, it'd be easier to dismiss. Alas, Republican officeholders and several statewide candidates are echoing the same ridiculous demands. In recent weeks, both Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) both called for the partial repeal of the 14th Amendment, for crying out loud.

Given the alleged reverence for the Constitution in far-right circles, the irony is rich.

Sully: Drones Over Iceland? Ctd

Michael Scherer takes the time to rebut Thiessen:

To be clear, Assange's crime, according to Thiessen, is intentionally receiving and republishing classified information, something that is done with some regularity in the United States by respectable and responsible reporters working for top flight news organizations. To adopt Thiessen's view, one would effectively have to reject the Supreme Court's opinion in New York Times Co. v. United States, the so-called Pentagon Papers case from 1971.

Kentucky's Rand Paul (R), the extremist Senate candidate, explained recently that he rejects the notion that the government should establish safety regulations to protect mine workers. This week, he's starting take some heat for it.

As Paul explained, he doesn't understand mine safety rules, "so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules." He added that, by honoring the free market above all, "no one will apply for those jobs" if a mine doesn't do a good job protecting worker safety.

In Kentucky's mining areas, Paul's remarks didn't go over especially well.

Members of the United Mine Workers from Kentucky have scheduled a news conference via phone Tuesday to take Paul to task for the remarks.

Tony Oppegard, a Lexington attorney who is a mine-safety advocate, called Paul's statement "idiotic."

He said it shows a lack of understanding of Eastern Kentucky, the region's economy and of the history of underground coal mining in the region, where for generations coal operators strongly opposed efforts by workers to form unions. In Harlan County, deadly battles over union organizing helped earned the county the nickname "Bloody Harlan."

Working conditions in underground mines are dangerous enough with federal and state rules, Oppegard said. If the industry were unregulated by government, "there would be a bloodbath," he said.

Paul is misinformed when he says no one would take jobs in mines that weren't safe, Oppegard said. Miners would take jobs even in unsafe mines because they need work, he said.

"There's no other job opportunities," Oppegard said.

This touches on what I like most about this story. Rand Paul has a nice little worldview, shaped by a bizarre, inflexible libertarianism. And in this little world Paul has created in his mind, everything should work as he envisions -- the free market can and should dictate safety regulations at coal mines. If employers don't look out for their workers, those employers won't have applicants for job openings, which means less business, less profit, etc.

And while Rand Paul's nice little vision is just delightful in an Ayn Rand novel, it's contradicted by everything we know and have seen about reality. Indeed, how does the Republican Senate hopeful explain the nightmarish conditions miners faced before federal safety regulations? Shouldn't the free market have prevented such a disastrous set of circumstances and prevented the dangerous exploitation of desperate workers?

It's not uncommon for conservatives to suggest that "liberal elites" don't understand the "real world" because their political ideals are rooted in an "ivory tower." This, of course, is backwards -- it's the far-right worldview that crumbles when subjected to real-world conditions.

Yglesias: Paul Ryan’s Strange New Respect

To just agree with Kevin Drum for a bit there’s something bizarre about the recent Beltway fad of praising Paul Ryan. I think that when progressives do this they’re mostly being ironic, holding up Ryan—who’s basically a fraud—and saying this guy is the honest and intelligent one! And it’s true that he beats the Mike Pence standard for idiocy in that he can sort of maintain a back-and-forth with a well-informed policy writer as long as the writer doesn’t press him on anything. But coverage of the Super-Honest Ryan Plan to Balance the Budget While Cutting Taxes Through Draconian Spending Cuts tends to overlook the fact that most people would pay higher taxes, and the plan wouldn’t actually balance the budget if you calculate revenue figures based on a real model rather than Ryan’s ad hoc stipulations:


On top of all that, as Drum says, his “plan” for draconian cuts in spending isn’t really a plan at all he just rattles off arbitrary numerical caps without saying what kinds of reduced levels of services he thinks this would entail. Are we letting people out of federal prisons? Selling national parks? And of course he doesn’t seem to know what the Federal Funds Rate is. So I’m not particularly impressed. I’m pretty sure we could have random congressional interns throw together a balanced budget plan as long as it was allowed to (a) raise taxes on 90 percent of Americans and (b) not balance the budget, but I doubt the authors would become the toast of the town for their rigorous thinking if they did.

Ezra Klein posits that statements like “Rationing happens today! The question is who will do it? The government? Or you, your doctor and your family?” at least raise the honesty level of the debate. I’m not sure they do. Or at least I don’t think this is a very honest description of Ryan’s plan. Voucherizing Medicare puts rationing decisions into the hands of the executives of health insurance companies. Refusing to keep Medicare expenditures in line with the growth of health care costs means the rich will get treatment and the poor won’t. Putting decisions into the hands of patients and doctors rather than the government has no relationship to his proposals.

Sargent: Still more proof Sarah Palin is toxic outside her bubble

Okay, here's still more evidence, as if you needed it, that Sarah Palin is increasingly toxic to voters who reside outside the Palin Nation bubble.

Pew Research just released a new poll finding that more than twice as many Americans see a Palin endorsement as a negative for a Congressional candidate than view it as a positive.

The numbers: Thirty eight percent say they are less likely to back a Congressional candidate if Palin "campaigns on their behalf." Less than half that amount, 18 percent, say they are more likely to do so. Forty two percent say it would make no difference, only slightly more than see it as a downer.

No one is contesting the fact that Palin is a major draw among GOP primary voters. But the larger story here -- one that goes directly to the heart of her presidential aspirations -- is that she's successfully tightening her emotional grip on her devoted legions of supporters at the expense of just about everyone else. Far more see her as a turn-off than as a turn-on.

Palin supporters get very, very angry when you point this out. But the evidence is overwhelming at this point:

* A recent NBC/WSJ poll reached the same conclusion as today's Pew poll: It found that a majority of adults nationwide would look negatively on candidates endorsed by Palin.

* A recent Gallup poll noted a striking disconnect in public attitudes towards Palin: While her favorability rating is far higher among Republicans than that of all the other 2012 GOP contenders, she's also far and away the least liked of all the 2012 hopefuls among Americans overall.

* A recent poll of New Hampshire voters from the Dem firm Public Policy Polling found that 51 percent say they're less likely to back a Palin-endorsed candidate. Tellingly, among moderates that number jumped to 65 percent.

* Multiple other polls have found her negatives on the rise with the broader electorate.

This all supports what I've argued here before: That Palin is better off staying in her current role of celebrity quasi-candidate. This has allowed her to insulate herself from direct media cross-examination and to communicate directly to the Palin Nation mob, which is growing more transfixed. But the rest of the world continues to sour on her. It's hard to see how she'll succeed if she ever steps outside the bubble she's crafted for herself.

There's a tremendous amount of media discussion about whether Palin will run for president and about how much of a political "rock star" she has become. It's odd that the larger and arguably more important story about what she has wrought for herself never enters into the conversation.
DougJ: Hyper-obstruction

I’ve stayed away from the topic of judicial confirmation because I didn’t know if Republicans were truly being obstructionist about this from a historical perspective. Well, they are:

It is part of a trend, but the jump from Bush to Obama is quite striking, given that Democrats have a large majority under Obama, whereas Republicans had no majority during the first year of Bush:

Similarly, the Alliance for Justice found that in Obama’s first year in office, the Senate confirmed a mere 23 percent of his judicial nominees. By contrast, presidents Carter and Reagan had 91 percent of their nominees confirmed in their first year. That number dropped to 65 percent for George H.W. Bush, 57 percent for Bill Clinton, and 44 percent for George W. Bush.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this issue gets resolved. There’s no penalty to be paid, politically, for failing to confirm judges. So expect more of this.

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