Friday, April 2, 2010

Thank You Democrats!

Thank You Democrats!

Just before noon, on Tuesday March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law the first comprehensive reform of health care in America’s history -- the Affordable Care Act. Ever since Teddy Roosevelt first proposed national health care in 1912, millions of Americans have hoped and worked for this day. After a hundred years of trying, the Democratic Party and President Obama have delivered.

This year, in West Virginia and across America, the Affordable Care Act will make a big difference in the lives of:

Seniors The Affordable Care Act lowers seniors' prescription drug prices by beginning to close the donut hole (it closes completely by 2020). The Act: (a) eliminates co-payments for preventive services and exempts preventive services from deductibles under the Medicare program; (b) creates a temporary re-insurance program to help early retirees get insurance; and (c) extends the life of the Medicare Program from 2017 to 2027.

Children and Young Adults Children (and all Americans by 2014) with pre-existing conditions will now be able to get health insurance. Young adults will be able to stay on their parents' insurance policies until they're 26 years old.

Small Businesses The Affordable Care Act extends tax credits to about 4 million small businesses to help them provide health insurance to their employees. <<--

Everyone The Affordable Care Act keeps insurance companies from dropping coverage when you get sick or injured and eliminates lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all insurance plans. The Act readies Community Health Centers in preparation for a doubling of the number of patients over the next 5 years, and invests in training programs to increase the number of primary care doctors.

And that is just in the first year. When the Insurance Exchanges are up and running in 2014, everyone who now buys health insurance on the expensive individual market, and tens of millions of people who are uninsured, will buy their insurance as part of the Exchanges' “insurance pool” - right alongside every member of Congress. You heard that right; congressmen and women will get their insurance on the exchanges.

In 10 Years, no American will go bankrupt because they got sick or had an accident. No American will lose his or her health insurance just when they need it most. No American will be denied insurance because they have a pre-existing condition. And our deficit will be $300 billion less than it would have been without the bill.

In 20 Years, no one will remember it was ever any other way. And our deficit will be $1.3 trillion less than it would have been without this bill.

Thank You Democrats! You made us proud!

"operating in a vacuum"

Marshall: Only Simple Addition Will Do

It's not enough that folks from the Birther & Death Panel set have convinced many good folks that the Census is a secret plot to steal their lawn furniture. There's another irony waiting. Historically, the real problem with underreporting has been in underprivileged communities -- particularly African-Americans and Latinos and especially in large urban areas. To that end, conservatives have worked for the better part of two decades to stop the Census from taking any steps to correct numbers in the face of widespread non-response: namely, statistical sampling. And in the face of that pressure, the current Census Director has ruled out using sampling in the 2010 Census.

Now, it's hard not to appreciate some of the irony in right-wing lies about the Census coming back to bite them. But it's really a loss for everyone if everyone in the country, irrespective of race, creed, ideological persuasion, region and whatever else, doesn't get counted.

But if there really is widespread undercounting because of the antics of folks like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), it'll just be tough luck. There won't be any solution.

David Brooks:

Let’s say you’re a political consultant. You’re sitting there in your West Hollywood bondage-themed strip club with party donors picking up the tab, and, of course, you’re thinking about what a great country this is. Swept up in the spirit of gratitude, you decide you’d like to give back. You’d like to solve the country’s looming fiscal catastrophe.

It's been an unpleasant week at the Republican National Committee, and party staffers no doubt hoped they could ride out the recent embarrassments surrounding Voyeur West Hollywood, and move on to less salacious matters.

Not quite yet.

The Republican National Committee inadvertently sent a fundraising mail piece earlier this month with a return number that leads to a phone sex line offering to connect callers with "hot horny girls ... students, housewives, and working girls from all over the country."

"We love nasty talk as much as you do," says a woman's voice on the sex-line's audio recording.

Doug Heye, the RNC's communications director, said ... the mix-up happened when the direct mail firm replaced the RNC's "202" area code with an "800" area code.

To be sure, it's an honest mistake that could have happened to anyone. At least, I assume it was a mistake -- if the party uses bondage clubs to impress donors, I suppose anything's possible.

But what I find especially amusing about this is that the fundraising piece in question was made to look like a census form, as part of an RNC scheme to sucker their donors into opening the mailed appeal.

A voter in Minnesota received the mailer and called the number intending to complain about the attempt to raise money with a form that looks like a government document.

But the Minnesotan was instead directed to a second toll-free number that greets callers as "sexy guy" before offering them the chance to talk with "real local students, housewives and working girls from all over the country."

In other words, the Republican National Committee's deceitful fundraising tactic accidentally encouraged its donors to call "hot horny girls." It's a great example of sleaze being compounded by additional sleaze.

For the record, the RNC's fake-census letters were so sordid, Congress changed federal law to make such fundraising letters illegal. And that was before lawmakers realized the RNC was inadvertently promoting a phone sex line.


In the late-March poll, the "angry" population overlapped generally with those who identified as Republicans. They were overwhelming white (94 percent) and conservative (73 percent).

Many of those who listed themselves as "angry" said they felt Congress was operating in a vacuum, removed from the problems encountered by average people struggling against a tepid job market, sagging home values and dwindling retirement funds. About 85 percent strongly disapproved of the way Congress is doing its job.

Much of the language echoed that of the vocal, conservative "tea party" movement, as well as conservative talk radio and blogs...

"I grew up in the '50s," said Hugh Pearson, 63, a retired builder from Bakersfield, Calif. "That was a wonderful time. Nobody was getting rich, nobody was doing everything big. But it was 'Ozzie and Harriet' days, 'Leave It to Beaver'-type stuff. Now we have all this MTV, expose-yourself stuff, and we have no morality left, not even by the legislators."

When it comes to the constitutionally-mandated national census, all Americans will receive a pretty basic form to fill out, and it's important that they do. But there's also something called the American Community Survey (ACS), which supplements the census with more detailed information on demographic, social, economic, and housing trends.

Yesterday, right-wing blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson announced he would refuse to answer ACS questions if asked, regardless of legal obligations to cooperate with the Census Bureau. "I dare them to try and come throw me in jail," Erickson declared on a radio show. "I dare them to. Pull out my wife's shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door. They're not going on my property."

Remember, CNN pays this man to offer on-air political analysis. Indeed, the network has boasted of Erickson's "exceptional knowledge" and his "important voice."

Jon Stewart reflected on CNN's bizarre decision with a great segment last night.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
CNN Hires Erick Erickson
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform

Be sure to watch to the end, when Stewart suggests the Erickson hire explains CNN's new slogan: "CNN: We Have No Idea What The F@#k We Are Doing."

Kurtz (TPM): Beyond Weird

As we were digging in to find out more about this Christian militia in Michigan called the Hutaree, we came across a bizarre 20-minute video on YouTube in which one of the defendants "stars." The creators seemed to fancy it as a low-budget movie, complete with what is supposed to be acting. But it's exceedingly amateurish and disturbing (our Zack Roth calls it "shockingly puerile"). To give you an idea, the opening scene includes accused militia member Kris Sickles, who sometimes goes by the name "Pale Horse," nearly nude with a George W. Bush mask stuck to his genitals.

Within a few hours of us stumbling across it, the video was yanked from YouTube, but TPM Reader AS had grabbed the file. We've posted a 5-minute excerpt here (NSFW).

It's difficult to describe the video. Think Jackass meets The Birth of a Nation. It leaves you wondering how these immature, crude, stunted personalities end up as radicalized militants. Or maybe that explains it.

Everyone, even shameless right-wing hypocrites, deserve the presumption of innocence. That said, Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, facing an ongoing FBI investigation, sure does look guilty.

Senator John Ensign sought financial backing for a troubled Nevada energy company in 2008, and at the same time he urged the company to hire his mistress's husband, according to people involved in the matter.

At the request of the company, P2SA Equity, Mr. Ensign had two senior aides contact one of the nation's largest oil pipeline businesses, Kinder Morgan, about forming a partnership, two executives associated with the project said.

Mr. Ensign's dealings with P2SA are at the center of a federal criminal inquiry into his efforts to line up lobbying work for Doug Hampton, a former top aide whose wife had an affair with the senator.

Investigators appear to be looking into whether Mr. Ensign sought to ingratiate himself with P2SA so that he could ease Mr. Hampton out of his office in Washington. Former Capitol Hill staff members like Mr. Hampton are barred from lobbying for a year after leaving their jobs, and if Mr. Ensign knowingly helped him evade that restriction, he could face ethics or criminal charges.

Two years ago, Ensign attended a breakfast meeting with top executives at P2SA, and a related company, BioDiesel. The Republican senator, desperate to find a job for his mistress's husband, urged the executives from both companies to hire Hampton as a lobbyist. At the same meeting, the executives said they were looking for money to build a new processing plant, and urged Ensign to reach out to a third company about arranging a financing agreement.

Ensign's office said last month that the senator had provided any assistance to P2SA. That now appears to be untrue -- the senator's office did as the executives asked and helped try to find a financing partnership for the company. At the same time, Ensign's team continued to press the companies to hire the senator's mistress's husband.

One senior Ensign aide reportedly told BioDiesel officials, "If you want John Ensign to work with you, you have got to hire Doug Hampton."

Let's not forget the larger context. Douglas and Cynthia Hampton couldn't work for Ensign anymore -- because, you know, the senator was sleeping with Cynthia -- so Ensign was apparently trying to help them make up the lost income. The allegations for months have been that Ensign leaned on corporate connections to hire Douglas as a lobbyist. Those allegations look more and more credible all the time.

Also note, there are laws prohibiting aides from lobbying for a year after leaving the Hill, but Ensign and the aggrieved husband seemed prepared to simple ignore the rule. For that matter, the senator used his office to cater to the needs of those who hired -- or were even thinking about hiring -- his mistress's spouse.

I'm well aware of the IOKIYAR rule, but I nevertheless have a hard time imagining how Ensign survives this scandal politically. Having sex with an aide, after running on a family-values platform, is merely humiliating. But the far-right Nevadan, as part of an apparent effort to clean up a personal scandal, seems to have broken a few laws -- and left a paper trail to prove it.

I know political reporters tend to care about these scandals only when a Democrat is involved, but we're talking about a controversy featuring a sitting senator's adulterous affair, plus alleged ethics violations, hush money, and official corruption. An ongoing FBI investigation appears to be heating up, and by some accounts, expanding.

Still waiting for that media frenzy to force Ensign to resign in disgrace.

DougJ: The long goodbye

Dan Quayle, of all people, has a piece in Kaplan about how woefully the tea baggers are being treated by the media:

Since the very first tea party gatherings, the national news media has covered this movement in the only way it knows how—as something grubby, impertinent and possibly dangerous. Of course, in any movement, violence and unlawful behavior are always to be condemned without reservation. But attempts to portray the tea partiers as a surly mob have the contrived feel of a political strategy.

That seems to be the theme du jour for conservatives, whether it’s Ann Althouse saying that Teabonics is a product of photoshopping or Lew Rockwell blaming Tea Party excesses on federal agents or Charles Lane favorably comparing baggery with pre-Civil War “extremism”.

It’s all a clear sign that Republicans will double down on the tea in 2010 in 2012 (you probably knew this already, but I’ve only become convinced in the last few days). None of this makes any sense as a long-term political strategy for Republicans, but it’s what they’re doing.


Not quite two weeks ago, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared on Fox News with a new warning for those concerned about health care reform:

"Ten billion dollars and 16,000 new IRS agents to make sure that everyone buys the health insurance that the government decides you have to have."

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) went a little further, saying there will be 16,500 new IRS agents, each of whom will be "armed."

Boehner and Paul were blatantly and shamelessly lying. looked into this and concluded that it's a "wildly inaccurate claim." The Affordable Care Act, the researchers concluded, "requires the IRS mostly to hand out tax credits, not collect penalties. The claim of 16,500 new agents stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation."

The IRS' main job under the new law isn't to enforce penalties. Its first task is to inform many small-business owners of a new tax credit that the new law grants them -- starting this year -- which will pay up to 35 percent of the employer's contribution toward their workers' health insurance. And in 2014 the IRS will also be administering additional subsidies -- in the form of refundable tax credits -- to help millions of low- and middle-income individuals buy health insurance.

The law does make individuals subject to a tax, starting in 2014, if they fail to obtain health insurance coverage. But IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified before a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee March 25 that the IRS won't be auditing individuals to certify that they have obtained health insurance. He said insurance companies will issue forms certifying that individuals have coverage that meets the federal mandate, similar to a form that lenders use to verify the amount of interest someone has paid on their home mortgage. "We expect to get a simple form, that we won't look behind, that says this person has acceptable health coverage," Shulman said. "So there's not going to be any discussions about health coverage with an IRS employee." In any case, the bill signed into law (on page 131) specifically prohibits the IRS from using the liens and levies commonly used to collect money owed by delinquent taxpayers, and rules out any criminal penalties for individuals who refuse to pay the tax or those who don't obtain coverage. That doesn't leave a lot for IRS enforcers to do.

How'd this nonsense get started? Apparently, some Republican staffers on the Hill concluded that it may "may" be necessary for the IRS to add "as many as 16,500" additional employees to enforce the law. The GOP staffers apparently made up the number, based on bizarre assumptions.

From there, Boehner, Paul, and other assorted Republican voices on the Hill and on Fox News' payroll (that means you, Brian Kilmeade) began presenting this foolish claim -- and adding ridiculous details -- to Americans as if it were fact.

Is it any wonder the public is confused about the policy when professional liars have been spreading garbage like this?

Yglesias: De Rugy Responds

To recap a controversy I didn’t have time to fully explore yesterday, Veronique de Rugy, a veteran of various right-of-center think tanks, produced a study purporting to show that an overwhelming preponderance of stimulus funds were being allocated to Democratic congressional districts. Nate Silver retorted with an effective counterargument:

The three districts receiving the largest amount of stimulus funds are home to the capitals of the three largest states — New York, California, and Texas. Let’s pause for a moment and make a bold prediction. I’ll bet you that the district that ranks 4th on the list will contain the capital of the 4th largest state, Florida.

Bingo. Up 4th on the list is Florida’s 2nd Congressional, home to Tallahassee.

Fifth is Pennsylvania’s 17th, which hosts the state capital, Harrisburg.

The sixth through tenth districts contain the capital cities of other large states: Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, Illinois and New Jersey, respectively. They are followed by districts that include the state capitals of Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia — then another part of Austin, Texas — then Arizona, Missouri, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Finally, in 19th place is South Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, which does not host a state capital.

Which is to say that clearly the stimulus reporting is done in such a way that all grants to state government are coded as grants that are “in” the state capitals even though in reality the beneficiaries of state fiscal aid (people who don’t have their sales and property taxes raised) are distributed throughout the state.

This would have been a good time for De Rugy to say “ooops!” but instead she offers a lengthy reply that barely acknowledges the weight of the evidence against her. Here’s her discussion of the issue:

I will also check for state capitals. While is no doubt that since the reporting only includes primary and sub recipients, it might be the case that money is being disbursed from the capitals. However, after skimming government documents about how the money is allocated there is no clear evidence that this is the case. I will look into it with Mr. Silver’s comments in mind.

Obviously opinions about what is and isn’t “clear evidence” can differ. But Silver has shown both that the eighteen largest recipient districts include state capitals, and also that the very largest recipients are specifically the capitals of the states with the largest population. That’s pretty clear evidence if you ask me. I would further add that though these are largely Democratic districts, they’re largely not districts represented by the most senior Democrats. Representatives from Sacramento and Albany and Tallahassee and Austin aren’t in the leadership and don’t chair important committees.


Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, spoke to Detroit Public Radio yesterday, and acknowledged a fact conservatives are generally inclined to deny. WDET's Craig Fahle brought up a variety of recent instances involving U.S. extremists, and it led to this exchange. (thanks to M.D. for the tip)

FAHLE: We've had a few incidents in the last year. You had the police officers in Pittsburgh killed by a gentleman who said he was concerned that the Obama administration was going to take away his guns. You have the recent incident where the anti-tax person flew a plane into the IRS building in Texas, killing a Vietnam veteran by the way.... So there have been instances of violence, and stuff that was based on anti- government feelings. Is this something we need to keep better track of, because many would consider these acts of domestic terrorism.

HOEKSTRA: They would, and they would be right. Those are acts of domestic terrorism. You know they've resulted in the death of Americans and they resulted, they came about because certain people were just very, very frustrated and angry with government and sure, we do have to keep an eye on that.

At first blush, this may not seem like much of a concession, but I'm actually quite pleased to hear it. For many on the right, an act of deadly, politically-motivated violence doesn't qualify for the "terrorism" label unless the perpetrator is (a) a non-American; (b) a Muslim; or (c) both.

Indeed, in the case of the deranged Texas man who flew a plane into a building, not only were conservatives reluctant to label this terrorism, but prominent conservative voices joked about the incident, expressed sympathy for the suicide bomber, and in Scott Brown's case, suggested the terrorist's motivations reminded him of his own Senate campaign.

Violent incidents from domestic extremists have been common enough of late that it's become difficult to keep track of them all. It's politically inconvenient for the right to label anti-government nuts as terrorists, which is why it was all the more heartening to hear Hoekstra acknowledge what is plainly true.

Of course, thinking about all the recent incidents of domestic terrorism, it's hard not to think back to one year ago. It was last April when the Department of Homeland Security published reports on the threats of potential violence posed by radical extremists. As I recall, conservative Republicans were apoplectic about the reports -- which were, by the way, originally requested by the Bush administration -- and some GOP lawmakers called for Janet Napolitano's resignation.

If these same Republicans who whined incessantly at the time wanted to apologize, I'm sure the administration would be gracious about it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Getting Warm

Climate change denial, brought to you by Koch Maddow - March 31: Jim Hoggan, Co-Founder of the DeSmog Blog, discusses how the oil and gas industry's massive efforts to direct the climate change debate have "poisoned" public discussion of the issue.

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

John Cole: Sadly, Al Gore is Still Fat, So I’m Not Sure Anyone Will Care

I’m sure the media and right wing blogs will give this the same amount of attention they gave the climate change denialists will ignore this completely:

The UK scientist at the center of the “Climategate” controversy over leaked e-mails has been cleared of hiding or manipulating data by a parliamentary committee.

But lawmakers who had been investigating the row over global warming science said in a report published Wednesday that climate scientists must publish all their raw data and methods to ensure the research is “irreproachable.”


The Commons report said the leaked emails suggested a “blunt refusal” by Jones to share scientific data but its chairman Phil Willis said there was no evidence that Jones hid or manipulated data to back up his own science.

If the NY Times behavior in the ACORN case is any example, I’m pretty sure they will get around to clarifying their part in the climate change denialist binge around the time Manhattan is submerged by ten feet of sea water. And, in fairness, if they continue to employ Douthat, Brooks, and Friedman, I’m ok with that outcome.

GOP not taking yes for an answer Maddow -March 31: President Obama adopted yet another Republican idea on Wednesday, clearing the way for more offshore drilling, raising the question of whether his policy concessions will produce any Republican votes for his energy bill. Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation, weighs in on President Obama's decision to open the door on offshore drilling.

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

We talked earlier about the Obama administration's apparent intention to allow new oil and natural gas drilling along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the north coast of Alaska. Given that this move could be used as a bargaining chip with Republicans during negotiations on energy policy, I questioned what the White House would get in exchange for the president's concession. If the president has already effectively given Republicans what they wanted on energy, what will he get in return?

A Hill staffer I know emails with an alternative look at the same dynamic, suggesting President Obama is playing a game we've seen before. I'm republishing the staffer's email with permission.

Obama preempts the other side's most resonant arguments, which forces them to come up with more and more extreme claims in order to differentiate themselves. In the end, he occupies the reasonable middle ground and his opponents are Palinized. It doesn't always work -- on the national security/gitmo/Miranda stuff, for example, it turns out the utter extreme positions the right is left with given the centrist ground Obama has staked out turns out to be fairly popular. But even there, the Administration has had reasonable success pushing back on the Miranda nonsense and, because they effectively occupy the tough, pragmatic middle ground, they routinely get cover from non-crazy Republican national security voices, which has helped blunt the force of these issues. (I understand that the term "middle ground" is very slippery and dangerous here, but I basically use it to mean policies that, before the great crazy of 2009 had broad consensus support from large portions of both parties and the Broder/Friedman/Brooks axis.)

At the same time, the policy is a tailored, measured version of what the Republicans have urged -- so, yes, the headline is, 'Obama Allows New Offshore Drilling/Presses For Energy Independence,' but at the same time, California/Oregon/Washington where opposition is strongest isn't included, and there are environmentally-friendly changes to Alaska leasing policy announced at the same time. And again, as we've seen before, Republicans are sort of forced to twist and parse, and even to oppose things they have long supported, just because the Administration hasn't gone far enough.

Finally, by announcing the drilling policy without seeking to extract concessions, the Administration makes clear that it is their policy and they are the centrist/flexible/pragmatic ones -- making it harder for Republicans to argue that they accomplished this or that they forced Obama to do it. [...]

[O]f course, if there was any reason to believe that Republicans would engage in normal negotiation/compromise, then I see why holding this back and trading it for support of a broader package would make sense. But does anyone really think there are Republicans to negotiate with on this stuff? And if Republicans do come to the table, Obama still has plenty of room to give, including by simply agreeing to sign a law that makes proposals like this a matter of statute, not executive discretion.

That's an interesting take. Something to keep in mind.

And by the way, right on cue, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) denounced the administration's drilling plan, despite its similarity to GOP demands, with Boehner expressing his outrage that the president didn't go further. What a shock.

Booman: Humoring Armando
I guess Armando is desperate for attention. He doesn't have an opinion on the president's announcement today on Energy Security, but he's pretty sure that the "progressive position" on off-shore drilling is to oppose it. I, and certainly Steven, am willing to grant that. I'd also agree that the "progressive position" is to oppose clean-coal technology as a farce and nuclear energy because of the problem with waste. Increasing production of coal, nuclear, and offshore oil is not part of the progressive vision for America. And it's not part of Obama's agenda, either.

The president wants to pass a bill that addresses climate change. The House Cap & Trade bill is dead-on-arrival in the Senate. The Kerry/Boxer bill (pdf) forms the template for passing something in the upper chamber. The question before us is not whether or not we should be for offshore drilling. It is whether we are willing to make a compromise on offshore drilling to get most of the positive elements of the House and Senate bills enacted into law.

I can say that I am open to the idea without endorsing such a tradeoff. Without seeing the deal on the table, I can't say whether I agree with it. What I do know is that no climate change bill worth shit is going to pass thru this Congress without making some major concessions to the energy industries and the states and politicians who protect those industries. Obama's announcment begins to give a clear picture of what those concessions will be. But his announcement isn't triangulation. His agenda is passing the climate change elements of the bill, not the carbon producing elements. This isn't school uniforms, and Armando knows it.

Think Progress: Bush Official Dan Bartlett Admits Authorizing Offshore Oil Drilling Will Be Unlikely To Win Over Any GOP Votes

The Obama administration announced today that it will be approving “significant oil and gas exploration off America’s coasts.” One possible reason for the administration’s policy shift may be that it is seeking Republican votes for comprehensive energy reform. In the summer of 2008, then-candidate Obama explained that he saw allowing offshore oil drilling as a compromise necessary to “get something done“:

“The Republicans and the oil companies have been really beating the drums on drilling,” Obama said in the Post interview. “And so we don’t want gridlock. We want to get something done.” The freshman Illinois senator and presidential nominee-to-be added: “If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage — I don’t want to be so rigid that we can’t get something done.”

During an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, former Bush official Dan Bartlett said that the move is unlikely to get any Republican votes for an energy bill. While saying that he thinks it is a “shrewd move” that will “demonstrate…that the Democratic Party doesn’t just cater to the extreme aspects of their base,” Bartlett conceded that it will likely not win any Republican votes because “Republicans have made a calculation that cooperating with this administration at this time is not necessary for them to pick up seats“:

BARTLETT: This is a shrewd move by the White House this announcment they’re doing on energy and offshore oil drilling. … These are the things they need to demonstrate to their constituents that the Democratic Party does not just cater to the extreme aspects of their base … Now, do I think that this measure here will help grease the path for a climate change bill and bring Republicans on board? No. Republicans in the Congress have made a calculation that cooperating with this administration at this time is not necessary for them to pick up seats. So if this is more of a legislative maneuever in order to get a broader bill on climate change, unfortunately this is going to come up short.

Watch it:

Indeed, Republicans have thus far indicated that they are unwilling to compromise in exchange for the administration’s lifting of offshore oil drilling bans. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) immediately “dismissed the president’s plan as not going far enough in opening up U.S. waters for exploration,” even going so far as to accuse Obama of defying “the will of the American people” because he didn’t open up even more territory for offshore drilling. Meanwhile, Chairman of the House Republican Conference and the American Energy Solutions Group Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) derided the plan as a “smokescreen” and a “feeble attempt to gain votes” for comprehensive energy legislation.

Update Matt Yglesias writes, "I don’t understand this at all. Increased coastal drilling would be a small price to pay in exchange for actual congressional votes for an overall energy package that shifts us to a low-carbon economy over time. But any price is too high a price to pay in exchange for nothing at all. This isn’t the greatest environmental crime in human history, but it sure does seem like poor legislative strategy."
Update Sarah Palin responds with a pair of tweets. In the first, she writes, "Drill, baby, drill." In the second, she praises Boehner's response and admonishes Obama for trying to win over conservative votes for an energy overhaul:
Update Newt Gingrich told the St. Petersburg Times that while he likes the idea of drilling, he thinks Obama is doing it too late. "If he's going to announce he's for drilling, he should announce that we're drilling now. I don't think the people want a party of manana," Gingrich said.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Racist? Me? and other Stoopid RW Tricks.

Sully: Waterboard The Christianist Terrorists!
Oh, wait ...
Think Progress: Beck guest host: Vice President Biden is ‘turning Japanese’ and ‘turning into Joe Biden-son.’

Yesterday, the guest host of Glenn Beck’s radio show, Doc Thompson, talked himself into an absurd racial discussion when he declared that a tax on tanning salons makes health care reform “racist” because “most tanning sessions are from light-skinned Americans.” Today, another Beck guest host, Chris Baker, launched into racially questionable commentary, declaring that Vice President Joe Biden is “turning Japanese.” “Look at that cat’s eyes, man, he’s turning into Joe Biden-son,” said Baker. Listen here:

Soon after making the comment, Baker responded to someone off-air, saying, “What do you mean racist? That’s not racist, it’s an observation. He’s the guy changing himself. Not me.”

Amato (C&L): Elisabeth Hasselbeck calls Sarah Palin's "Target Map" Despicable

Elisabeth Hasselbeck was one of Sarah Palin's biggest fans during the 2008 election so it surprising to see her bash Sarah Palin over her over the top "Re-Load" Face Book chart and called it despicable.

In never-thought-you'd-see-the-day news, staunch conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck went off on The View yesterday, railing against none other than Sarah Palin.

Why? Because Palin, for whom she campaigned during the '08 election, released an ad that put 20 Democratic members of Congress literally in the crosshairs.


The former Alaska Governor's Facebook page features her political action committee's ad targeting the 20 Democratic incumbents, with a SarahPac map marking districts where Democrats voted "yes" for health care reform with guns.


Hasselbeck also opposes health reform, but she's actually far more upset about how people on her own side of the political spectrum are handling themselves.

"I think the way some Republicans are handling this is nothing more than despicable," she said in response to Palin's tasteless ad. "It's disappointing to see this coming from the Party, and I would hope that leaders like Sarah Palin would end this."

The violence that we predicted is taking place and it's even scaring the likes of Hasselbeck.

Ezra Klein: Shelby Steele cannot imagine that other people think health-care reform is important

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed attempting to explain why Obama stuck to "health-care reform when jobs are a far more pressing problem," Shelby Steele uses the word "grandiosity" four times. He uses some variant of "narcissistic" four times. But the word "uninsured" does not appear even once. Nor does the word "deficit." No mention is made of the stimulus, which is a massive jobs bill that passed before health-care reform was even started, nor of the $154 billion follow-up jobs bill that passed the House in December, nor of the smaller jobs bills the Senate has considered in recent months.

For Steele, it is not even worth considering the possibility that Obama pursued health-care reform -- like a half-dozen or so presidents before him -- because it was important, or even because there was not that much more he could do on jobs. In fact, that is such an absurd suggestion that he does not even feel the need to reject it in his op-ed. He just ignores its possible existence. That makes for a model that has a lot of trouble accounting for Nancy Pelosi and Drew Altman and Atul Gawande and Jonathan Cohn and everyone else who fought for this reform but wasn't named "Barack Obama."

Steele also says that "agree with him or not, you knew what kind of society [Reagan] wanted," but that Obama's vision remains "undefined," forgetting (or not knowing?) that the health-care reform Obama signed into law looks very much like the health-care reform Obama proposed during the campaign. Steele further predicts that "Obama is likely to be the most liberal president in American history," a history that includes both Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who signed a socialized pension system into law, and Lyndon Johnson, who created two separate single-payer health-care systems.

I have trouble imagining how someone can be interested enough in American politics to want to write an op-ed on the subject, but so unaware -- or uninterested -- in even basic facts about policy that this is the op-ed they'd write.

Amato (C&L): Unreal Americans

Teabaggers must really believe they are the majority in America and John McCain won the election, but Obama is just keeping the Oval office warm because McCain has to win his Senate race against JD Hayworth first before he can be sworn in. It's just a formality. That's teabagger logic.

Amanda's post rocks!.

Digby is amused/disgusted at conservatives who simply will not accept that having a majority in both houses of Congress and having the Presidency means that Democrats get to pass legislation.

Well, it’s simple, really. They assume, if they don’t state it outright, that large numbers of American voters shouldn’t have the right to vote. That’s the implicit argument when Sarah Palin praises white rural voters as “Real Americans”, when Birthers obsess over the idea that the first black President simply can’t be eligible for office, when tea baggers yell racist and homophobic slurs at politicians, and when they insist that you eliminate black voters from the count if you want to find out how popular a politician “really” is. When Bart Stupak laughed out loud at the very idea that nuns have opinions worth listening to---and listed a bunch of men whose opinions were the ones that counted---you had a similar sentiment being expressed. Universal suffrage seems like a fundamental part of democracy to liberals, but it appears that conservatives think it de-legitimizes the results of elections. And that if you do something without Republicans on board, you’re eliminating those who represent the only people who count.

The irony here is that Republicans are already way overrepresented in Congress. Because of the constitutional rules that give every state two Senators, no matter how underpopulated the state, you see rural, white-dominated areas having way more representation than they deserve. For instance, South Dakota has a little over 800,000 residents, but New York has almost 20 million. New York City has over 8 million people alone, which means that if the Senate had a representational system like the House, just the city of New York would be owed 20 Senators to compete with South Dakota’s two. Think about how irrelevant the Republican party would be---at least the current wingnutty Republican party, since it’s obvious New York can elect Republicans---if representation was actually on

I've been meaning to post this for a few days.

DIGBY: Shoot the Looters

Eric Boehlert asks the right question: what if the right wing media want mob violence?

And yes, it's been the rationalizing that's been so disturbing to watch -- the way the GOP Noise Machine fervently excused last week's violent behavior and eagerly tried to shift the blame onto the victims of the intimidation, and then demanded to know what the big deal was.

I mean, who hasn't had the line on a propane tank outside his house slashed by vandals? This stuff happens all the time, right? Didn't scores of members of Congress, immediately following the vote in 2002 to authorize the invasion of Iraq, find their office windows shattered by flying bricks hurled under the cover of darkness by nasty anti-war libs? Didn't they receive a steady stream of specific death threats and watch as relatives (and even their children) came under attack? Doesn't this kind of harassment and intimidation come with the territory, and hasn't it always been pushed out and legitimized by mainstream media outlets?

Um, not in America. But that may be changing as Fox News fuels the hate and does its best to provide cover and refuge for those supporting the intimidation campaign, as Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media rationalize the wave of political violence and do their best to shift the blame onto the targets -- onto the victims -- while always avoiding responsibility. (Did anyone on the left suggest Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) was to blame when a YouTube nut job posted a threat against his life?)

Note how so many embraced the frightening notion that because conservatives didn't like health care reform, the violence was expected and nobody should have been surprised because Democrats, by passing the bill (i.e. desecrating the Constitution), pushed people too far. "So why are people angry?" asked Fox News' Steve Doocy last week. "Maybe because they didn't want this bill?"

Talk about the rise of tyranny and the minority-rule mob.

And that's where the fear of the perpetual angry mob comes in, and perhaps why Fox News, rather than lamenting the ugly and cowardly eruptions, seems to be encouraging it, or at least rationalizing it. Perhaps Fox News wants that threat of mob intimidation on the table, and Fox News, the de facto Opposition Party, wants Democrats to be thinking about the political consequences of further upsetting that unhinged mob.
This cannot be emphasized too much. Just because you don't like a bill doesn't mean that the government has been undemocratically seized by illegitimate usurpers. It's the way our system works. I certainly understand the frustration when it happens, having just come through the Bush years, but this reaction is simply another manifestation of the right's fundamental problem with democracy itself. They are, frankly, trying to intimidate the majority into "thinking twice" about what might happen if they pass legislation the other side disapproves of. That's obscene.

It's also reminiscent of something I hadn't quite put my finger on. Until I read Boehlert's piece I hadn't seen the echoes of the early aftermath of Katrina, when the right ginned up paranoia and fear of a non-existent rampaging mob to justify their desire to shoot first and ask questions later. Here we had people who were victimized by a once in a century natural disaster and yet the voice of the right were, in effect, blaming them for their misfortune and warning them that if they "misbehaved" they would have to be killed.

I'm sure you recall this from Peggy Noonan:

After the Storm
Hurricane Katrina: The good, the bad, the let's-shoot-them-now.

As for the tragic piggism that is taking place on the streets of New Orleans, it is not unbelievable but it is unforgivable, and I hope the looters are shot. A hurricane cannot rob a great city of its spirit, but a vicious citizenry can. A bad time with Mother Nature can leave you digging out for a long time, but a bad turn in human behavior frays and tears all the ties that truly bind human beings--trust, confidence, mutual regard, belief in the essential goodness of one's fellow citizens.
Of course, there were no pictures of rampaging mobs. There were rumors, many of them propagated by right wingers warning of violence And as it turned out, it was the authorities who were shooting people down in the streets for no reason. There were quite a few incidents, and in the end, it seems the "angry mob" was not the citizens, but the people patrolling the streets living under the misapprehension that they were under siege. And it was once again the right wingers who were claiming then and for a long time thereafter that the victims had been asking for it.

This fear and threat of mob violence is a very useful excuse and tool. There's nothing terribly original about it --- it's the law of the jungle --- but I suspect it would come a quite a surprise to the founders to see that the constitution was being used to justify it.

Read Boehlert's whole post. It's right on the money.

Sargent: Gallup: Majority Says Dem Health Reform Tactics Were “Abuse Of Power”

Yesterday I noted the seemingly odd finding by Gallup that more Americans blame Democrats than Republicans or conservatives for the rash of violence that greeted the passage of the reform law.

Now Gallup has released some new numbers that shed a bit of light on this:

Regardless of whether you favored or opposed the health care legislation passed this week, do you think the methods the Democratic leaders in Congress used to get enough legislation — were [they] an abuse of power, or were [they] an appropriate use of power by the party that controls the majority in Congress?

Abuse of power 53%

Appropriate use of power 40%

No opinion 7%

A surprising 58% of independents, too, said Dem tactics constituted an abuse of power.

This suggests, I think, that the claim by Republicans and conservatives that Dems were going to “ram” the bill through Congress via dictatorial fiat really succeeded in riling up people up a great deal — even though Republicans repeatedly used the reconcilation tactic themselves to pass ambitious legislation.

Never mind government takeovers and death panels. What really scared the bejesus out of folks is…”reconciliation.”

Moral of the story: Message discipline works. The concerted effort by Republicans to paint the Dem move as an unprecedented abuse of power may not have stopped the bill from passing. But it seems to have persuaded a majority that there was something seriously untoward about what Dems did to get reform passed.

C&L: Bill Donohue: Child Molesting Priests Weren’t Pedophiles Because Most Boys Were Post Pubescent

John Amato:

Bill Donohue seemed very proud of the fact that most child molesting priests weren't actually pedophiles in his words, but only guilty of abusing children who had achieved puberty. Doesn't that make you feel better about the Catholic Church scandals? Facts are facts. And he was very concerned that the Pope had been libeled because he said there was no proof in the case in Wisconsin that the Pope knew anything. Here's a good story about the case.

You be the judge. Either Cardinal Bertrone is covering up for the Pope or Ratzinger just couldn't be bothered knowing the what was going on around him. That seems to be the story the Vatican is sticking with. Everywhere the Pope served he really didn't like to be bothered by the small stuff.

As archbishop, Benedict expended more energy pursuing theological dissidents than sexual predators. Already in the early 1980s, one could catch a glimpse of a future pope preoccupied with combating any movement away from church tradition. Vatican experts say there is little evidence that Benedict spent much time investigating more than 200 cases of “problem priests” in the diocese, with issues including alcohol abuse, adultery and, now under the microscope, pedophilia.

Earlier in the show Donohue proclaimed that everybody could learn something good from the Catholic Church now that they are all cleaned up. Hey, they look like all those handsome priests from the Legion of Christ now. Nice and young with their hair parted just right. Larry King's panel was dumbfounded by Donohue's statements as any normal person would be.

Roberts: Bill is good but you cannot link homosexuality to a pedophilia crisis in the Catholic Church.

Bill Donohue: It’s not a pedophilia… most of the victims were post pubescent…

Roberts: You know…

Donohue: You’ve got to get your facts straight. I’m sorry. If I’m the only one that’s going to deal with facts tonight so be it. The vast majority of the victims are post pubescent. That’s not pedophilia buddy. That’s homosexuality.

Roberts: Bill, I don’t think as a person of faith that you really know what you’re talking about when it comes to a victim and a survivor. (crosstalk)

Donohue: It’s not of my opinion. Take a look at the social science data. I never said that most homosexuals are that way.

Roberts: No you just said that cut down homosexuals… (crosstalk).

Donohue: Yes! Practicing homosexuals.
O’Conner: Sorry Larry, at what age does somebody become, you know, post pubescent in America as a matter of ages?

King: What is the age?

Thomas: Ah… I don’t know. Let’s ask Bill. He seems to be the authority on post pubescency.

Donohue: 12, 13 years of age. Look, all I’m saying (crosstalk).

King: We’re out of time. We’ve just touched the surface. Now we’ve got Anderson Cooper coming on.

Heather: Good grief. Larry King really has been a worse wasteland than usual these last couple of nights. Tonight's show ended with Larry King allowing Bill Donohue to get away with saying this to a man who was molested by a priest as a teenager.

King: You want to get in? Sinead, go ahead quickly.

O’Conner: Can I just ask very quickly if that gentleman, sir I don’t know your name… just, I’m not quite sure what post pubescent means. You mind explaining that to me?

Donohue: Explain what?

O’Conner: What does post pubescent mean?

Thomas: Post pubescent…

O’Conner: What does post pubescent…

Donohue: Post pubescent means beyond puberty, okay? In other words you’re an adolescent and that’s what homosexuals do and most of them the molesters have been homosexuals in the Catholic Church (crosstalk).

Thomas: So the boys deserved it because they were post pubescent?

Donohue: Now if you want to take that conclusion, I think that’s scurrilous. I never said that. Why would you say that about homosexuals?

O’Conner: Sorry Larry, at what age does somebody become, you know, post pubescent in America as a matter of ages?

King: What is the age?

Thomas: Ah… I don’t know. Let’s ask Bill. He seems to be the authority on post pubescency.

Donohue: 12, 13 years of age. Look, all I’m saying (crosstalk).

King: We’re out of time. We’ve just touched the surface. Now we’ve got Anderson Cooper coming on.

Unbelievable. Bill Donohue is so desperate to bash gays and defend the Catholic Church that's he's willing to pretend that people who are attracted to 13 year old boys aren't really child predators. They're just gay. And King let him say it unchallenged as though it was no big deal.

In a nutshell

Getting things done in Washington

Maddow -March 30: It was a big week for President Obama and Republicans are still saying "no" to everything. Rep. John Boehner is even fundraising on claims that they can repeal health care reform.

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bagging Baggers: "the black one" Edition

There is direct correlation between level of homophobia and likelihood of being gay.

A psychiatrist known as Dr. Shock for his notorious attempts to "cure" gay military recruits through electroshock therapy has been charged with sexually assaulting a male patient. Dr. Aubrey Levin, who was arrested in Calgary, Alberta, after he was secretly filmed sexually abusing a male patient, had previously been accused of gross human rights abuses for his treatment of gay soldiers and conscientious objectors in apartheid-era South Africa.

Think Progress: Tea party leaders say they would ‘absolutely’ abolish Social Security.

Last night on CNN, Larry King discussed the rise of the tea parties with a variety of guests and featured footage from last weekend’s lobbyist-organized Tea Party Express rally in Searchlight, NV. Dana Loesch, a tea party organizer from Missouri, and another tea party organizer, Wayne Allyn Root, joined King for the discussion. Root and Loesch decried the “unprecedented” and “unconstitutional” reach of a health care mandate. However, King noted that programs like Social Security are mandatory and asked if the tea parties would like to “do away with” that program as well. Both tea party organizers enthusiastically said “yes, absolutely” and added that a compromise would be at least privatizing the system:

KING: Would anyone turn away Social Security now? Would you do away with it?

LOESCH: I would, yes.

KING: You would?

LOESCH: Yes, absolutely.

KING: Would do you away with it, Wayne?

ROOT: I’d certainly like to. At best, I do away with it because I could find better ways to spend and save my own $15,000 a year.

Watch it:

As many observers have noted, tea party fervor has infected the modern Republican Party. The Republican Budget Road Map, championed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and a growing number of GOP lawmakers, would appease the tea parties by slashing entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security through cuts and privatization. Unfortunately, King did not discuss the billionaire-backers of the tea parties, like David Koch, who similarly wants to do away with Social Security.

John Cole: Teabonics

This is pretty awesome- an entire Flickr theme dedicated to “creatively” spelled signs at teabagger rallies, which have been cleverly named “teabonics”:

There is a whole lot of win here.


Most of the far-right arguments against health care reform are either wrong, stale, or both. What we really need is some new far-right arguments to help keep things interesting. Oh, here's one now.

On Glenn Beck's radio show this morning, guest-host Doc Thompson explained his belief that he, as a white person, is a victim of racism inherent in the new Affordable Care Act. You read that right.

Alex Seitz-Wald, thankfully, transcribed the relevant portion. "For years I've suggested that racism was in decline and yeah, there are some, you know, incidents that still happen with regards to racism, but most of the claims I've said for years, well, they're not really real," Thompson told listeners. "But I realize now that I was wrong. For I now too feel the pain of racism. Racism has been dropped at my front door and the front door of all lighter-skinned Americans.

"The health care bill the president just signed into law includes a 10 percent tax on all indoor tanning sessions starting July 1st, and I say, who uses tanning? Is it dark-skinned people? I don't think so. I would guess that most tanning sessions are from light-skinned Americans. Why would the President of the United States of America -- a man who says he understands racism, a man who has been confronted with racism -- why would he sign such a racist law? Why would he agree to do that? Well now I feel the pain of racism."

Sure you do, Doc. Sure you do.

Atkins (Dkos): Census conspiracy theories backfiring on GOP

Remember how Republicans were frantically attempting to get Michelle Bachmann to tone down the census conspiracy theories because they needed as many anti-government conservatives as possible to turn in their census forms to ensure maximum federal funding and conservative representation in Congress? (Yes, let that paradox sink in for a bit.)

Well, it looks like it may not have worked: per Taegan Goddard's Political Wire, distrust of the census could end up costing Republican seats:

Contrary to historical trends, the Houston Chronicle notes one of the toughest challenges facing U.S. Census officials is "not from counting the traditionally undercounted groups such as African-Americans and Latinos. Instead, a new and growing threat to an accurate national head count is coming from anti-government conservatives who may not fill out their forms to protest against 'Big Brother' in Washington."

And let's delve into that Houston Chronicle article in a bit more detail:

As of Friday afternoon, only 27 percent of Texas households had filled in and returned their census forms — well below the national average of 34 percent — according to computer data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In Harris County, the response rate is 23 percent. Houston's returns are running at 21 percent.

Meanwhile, Democrats are the political group most motivated to complete the census and fill it back--and Republicans are following leaders like Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann in refusing to fill it out. Some conservative counties in Texas have a response rate as low as five percent:

Polling by the Pew Research Center finds Democrats are more likely than other Americans to view the census as “very important” to the country. Seventy-six percent of Democrats call this year's count very important, compared with 61 percent of Republicans and independents.

In Texas, some of the counties with the lowest census return rates are among the state's most Republican, including Briscoe County in the Panhandle, 8 percent; King County, near Lubbock, 5 percent; Culberson County, near El Paso, 11 percent; and Newton County, in deep East Texas, 18 percent. Most other counties near the bottom of the list are heavily Hispanic counties along the Texas-Mexico border.

And as sorry as some of us may feel that Texas would not be receiving its fair share of Congressional seats or federal dollars, I'm sure we would feel much worse if the Governor weren't an ardent secessionist.

But the real question is, when did the GOP abandon all sense of long-term perspective just to ensure maximum fury regarding the here and now?

John Cole: Nothing Could Go Wrong Here

This is a great idea, Sarah:

During her “Redneck-Woodstock” speech in Searchlight, Nevada on March 27, 2010, Sarah Palin had a suggestion for her audience:
    “That bumper sticker that maybe you’ll see on the next Subaru driving by—an Obama bumper sticker—you should stop the driver and say, ‘So how is that hopey, changey thing working out for ya?’”

I can’t be the only one who could see a potential problem with teabagging Palinites randomly stopping people with Obama stickers and taunting them. Certainly nothing could go wrong with this plan.

Which reminds me- I need a new Obama sticker for my Subaru. Anyone have “Vets for Obama” sticker lying around unused?


Long-time observers may remember the name Bud Day. Six years ago, Day, a decorated Air Force combat veteran, hooked up with the Swiftboat liars to smear John Kerry. Four years later, Day explained his support for John McCain and the war in Iraq by saying, "The Muslims have said either we kneel or they're going to kill us."

This week, Day has begun trying to rally support for Gov. Charlie Crist's (R) Senate campaign in Florida, instead of Marco Rubio (R), who's leading in the polls. Apparently, Day sees the Republican primary through a racial lens. (via Memeorandum)

"You know, we just got through (electing) a politician who can run his mouth at Mach 1, a black one, and now we have a Hispanic who can run his mouth at Mach 1," Day said. "You look at their track records and they're both pretty gritty. Charlie has not got a gritty track record."

Day confirmed he was speaking of Obama and Rubio.

"You've got the black one with the reading thing. He can go as fast as the speed of light and has no idea what he's saying," Day said. "I put Rubio in that same category, except I don't know if he's using one of those readers."

By "readers," Day appears to be referring to teleprompters.

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that the Crist campaign doesn't promote Day's endorsement too heavily. Any praise that includes references to the president as "the black one" probably isn't the kind of support a politician will want to advertise.

Or is it? In a press release, Crist said he "could not be more grateful" for Day's support, though the statement did not refer specifically to Day's apparent racial perspective on the primary contest.

I can only hope Crist will distance himself from Day's comments, and not try to win Republican support by characterizing Rubio as "a Hispanic" that belongs "in that same category" as "the black one."


Oh, Michele Bachmann, is there anything you won't say out loud?

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told a crowd at a Duluth, Minn., rally over the weekend that there is no evidence that several black lawmakers were harassed by conservative protesters on Capitol Hill in the days leading up to the health care reform vote.

Black lawmakers, including civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), reported that they had been spat on and slurred by protesters demonstrating against the health reform bill last week.

"Democrats said that they were called the 'N word,' which of course would be wrong and inappropriate. But no one has any record of it. No witness saw it, it's not on camera, it's not on audio," she said. "They said that they were spat upon. No one saw it."

She went on, "There's a $10,000 reward right now for anyone who can produce a video or an audio. Don't you think we would have seen a video or an audio by now if there was something out there?"

I see. So, Michele Bachmann would have us believe that John Lewis is a liar. John Lewis, who has demonstrated more integrity, honesty, and courage in his career than Bachmann's limited intellect can even fathom, is deserving of mistrust, because he heard racial slurs and talked about it. Got it.

Here are a few details for the right-wing Minnesotan to consider.

1. When Bachmann's buddies began hurling bigoted slurs at her Democratic colleagues, there were plenty of witnesses, many of them journalists who reported on them. "No witness saw it"? That' s backwards.

2. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) not only claims to have been spat on, there's a video of the incident. Moreover, the right-wing activist who did the spitting was arrested. "Don't you think we would have seen a video"? Michele, we have seen a video. (I'll take that $10,000 reward now, please.)

3. A wide variety of Democratic lawmakers, many of them African American, including Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) have received faxes with images of nooses on gallows. The faxes have been given to law enforcement officials. If Bachmann wants to see them, I'm sure that can be arranged.

It's easy to expect garden-variety stupidity from Michele Bachmann, but these remarks question the integrity of her colleagues, who've been harassed by Bachmann's unhinged friends. The sooner she apologizes, the better.


Following weekend raids in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, federal officials now have nine suspected members of a Michigan-based Christian militia in custody. All have been indicted on sedition and weapons charges.

Barbara McQuade, the U.S. attorney leading the prosecution against the accused, explained to reporters today that the terrorist plot represented an imminent threat, prompting federal officials to take action. McQuade said the plot would have begun with a false 911 call, leading to the murder of the responding law enforcement officials. From there, the radicals intended to set off a bomb at the funeral, which they hoped would set off an "uprising."

To clarify a point from yesterday, eight of the nine suspects were initially taken into custody on Sunday, and the ninth surrendered to authorities today.

And as long as we're on the subject, 15 years ago, Paul Glastris, the Washington Monthly's editor-in-chief, spent some time with members of the Michigan militia and wrote a provocative piece for the magazine on his experience.

One June day two years ago, James Douglas Nichols was pushing 70 miles per hour down a country road not far from his Decker, Michigan farm when he was caught in the crosshairs of a sheriff deputy's radar gun. The deputy pulled Nichols over and issued him tickets for speeding and for driving without a valid license.

Soon after, before a courthouse hearing in Sanilac County in eastern Michigan's "thumb," Nichols offered a bizarre defense of his actions. The government, Nichols insisted, does not have the constitutional power to regulate private citizens in their cars. "I have put everyone concerned here on notice of what is going on here," declared Nichols with paranoid melodrama, "to violate my rights to free travel as cited in the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Michigan."

Presiding District Court Judge James A. Marcus patiently explained to Nichols the long-accepted legal distinction between a private citizens' constitutional right to travel freely and the government's legitimate right to regulate the operation of a motor vehicle. But Nichols was not about to buy the judge's fine distinction; he had done plenty of his own research. Nichols continued his losing protests, citing Supreme Court case after Supreme Court case. "He'd lift a sentence or phrase that he thought was applicable, but he'd do so out of context so that the meaning was completely incorrect or nonsensical," recalls Judge Marcus.

The Sanilac County courthouse, a gracious brick edifice with a hideous concrete-block addition stuck on the back, is no stranger to twisted logic. Earlier that year, James's brother Terry Nichols had tried his own hand at finding his salvation in do-it-yourself legal reasoning. He didn't really owe that $31,000 in bank credit card debt, he announced to the court, because the banks had lent him "credit," not "legal tender." He offered to pay with what he called a "certified fractional reserve check" -- a worthless piece of paper. "You can't follow their arguments," explains Judge Marcus, "because they're listening to a different music no one else hears."

Terry Nichols, of course, conspired with Timothy McVeigh to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City -- at the time, the deadliest terrorist attack in American history.

It's fascinating, 15 years later, to see how the militia extremists have changed, and how they haven't.