Saturday, May 22, 2010

Crazy Uncles, Every One!

Matt Welch (via TBogg):

When reality is unconscionable, and you are an opinion-journalism outfit with principles (or just a human with a functional spine), you tilt at the goddamned windmills, without first vetting it through a reality check.

Why would anyone want to associate themselves with a movement that was content to tilt at windmill? At least regular conservatives try to win elections and enact policies. Libertarians just sneer at the world.

Marshall (TPM): Theories of the Fall

Josh Green has a theory about the Rand Paul implosion: the in-state Kentucky press has been so decimated by the newspaper crisis that there was no one to give him the kind of scrutiny Paul got on day one when he went national and had a head on collision with Rachel Maddow.

I usually find these sorts of explanations deeply unpersuasive, though one hears them more and more. Josh apparently does too, usually; but he spent some time down in Kentucky covering the Paul campaign and in this case he's thinking there may be something to it. And because it's Josh and because he's actually spent some time down there, which I obviously haven't, I'm inclined to believe him.

I've had another theory, though. And I think it actually dovetails nicely with the media crisis one. It's basically this -- all the stuff Paul is getting in trouble for now are things that would just be really tough to use against a candidate in a GOP primary in Kentucky, or frankly most red states, especially in 2010.

One of the things we rely on in politics is an adversary system to weed out bad apples. We don't just rely on the press. We rely on the self-interest of the candidates themselves to ferret out weaknesses and warning signs in their opponents. In this case, though, was Trey Grayson going to go after Paul for his archaic and troubling views on civil rights? In a GOP primary in Kentucky in 2010? I doubt it. And pretty much the same for thinking there shouldn't be a minimum wage or that Mexico and Canada are going to take away our liberty or that there shouldn't be an Americans with Disabilities Act or all the rest.

That doesn't necessarily mean that most GOP primary voters would have agreed with Paul's position. It's just that they weren't going to have any traction for a fairly milquetoast Republican like Grayson who needed to show that he was as anti-Obama and anti-federal overreach as the next guy in the year of the Tea Party. Just wasn't going to happen. So in addition to the press, there was a structural breakdown in the race itself that left a lot of Paul's nuttier positions unexplored.

Which brings us to another point. I'm not at all clear how much or whether any of this stuff is going to hurt Paul in the Kentucky Senate. I think the Rasmussen poll that showed him like a million points ahead a day after the election was nonsense. And Conway seems like a strong candidate. But, again, it's far from clear to me that this is going to hurt Paul in state.

That's now where this is cutting. Where this really has the potential to hurt Republicans is nationally. Whatever happens in Kentucky, Paul risks becoming the proverbial crazy uncle at the picnic they're constantly having to explain or excuse or be embarrassed about.


Republican Senate candidate and right-wing ophthalmologist Rand Paul got into a little trouble this week while explaining his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To a lesser extent, his disagreement with the Americans With Disabilities Act also raised a few eyebrows.

When Wolf Blitzer asked Rand about his ADA opposition, tried to make his concerns sound reasonable. "[L]et's say you have a local office and you have a two-story office, and one of your workers is handicapped," the Republican said. "Should you not be allowed maybe to offer them an office on the first floor or should you be forced to put in a $100,000 elevator? ... [M]y understanding is that small business owners were often forced to put in elevators, and I think you ought to at least be given a choice. Can you provide an opportunity without maybe having to pay for an elevator?"

At first blush, that may not sound ridiculous. The problem, as Yahoo News' John Cook discovered, is that Rand Paul has no idea what he's talking about, complaining publicly about the ADA without knowing what's in it.

The legislation specifically exempts the vast majority of buildings three stories and under from any requirement to install elevators. In other words, if you are a small business owner and you have a two-story office and one of your workers is handicapped, no one can force you to build an elevator. It's true that the exemption doesn't apply to health care facilities or shopping malls or buildings four stories and up -- and Paul, who has an ophthalmology practice, may have been thinking of those provisions when he insisted that businesses are "often forced to put in elevators."

Trouble is, we searched far and wide for a single instance in which a private employer was successfully sued under the ADA for failing to provide an elevator, or was compelled by a lawsuit to do so, and we came up empty. We searched the case law, contacted ADA experts -- both proponents and opponents of the law -- the Justice Department, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Not one of them knew of any case involving the government-ordered installation of an elevator. It looks like Rand Paul is either peddling a myth or spinning some vanishingly small number of elevator installations we've yet to hear of into an epidemic big-government overreach.

That's because, while the ADA does impose a burden on employers and business owners to make their facilities accessible, it also contains reasonable restrictions on what owners and operators of existing buildings can be forced to do.

When Cook asked the Paul campaign to substantiate the candidate's concerns, it did not respond.

Paul's bizarre worldview is troubling enough; is it too much to ask that he read up on the issues he claims to care about?

Libertarian Paul defends oil and gas company May 21: Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project on Government Oversight discusses Rand Paul's libertarian urge to defend the honor of the oil and gas, the enormous recipient of taxpayer money.

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

Think Progress: Oil regulator apologizes for ‘Drill Baby Drill’ cake.

Earlier this week, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced a reorganization of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), which has been rife with corruption and incompetence. MMS would be split into three different offices. Shortly after Salazar’s announcement, John Goll, the head of the Alaska MMS office, called an “all hands” staff meeting to eat a cake decorated with the words, “Drill, Baby, Drill.” Goll is now expressing regret for the incident:

In an e-mail Thursday to agency employees nationwide, Regional Director John Goll says it was wrong and expressed regret that he let that happen in his office.

The Center for Biological Diversity is calling for Goll to be fired.

Update A Government Accountability Office report found that the Alaska office “deliberately avoided establishing consistent guidelines for determining whether future leases would cause significant environmental impacts in the Arctic.” Many scientists left the office, "frustrated that their concerns over environmental threats from drilling had been ignored."

Think Progress: Texas Board Of Education Members Largely Stay Silent When Man Says ‘Islam Brings Death’

One of the most contentious issues in the debate over what to include in Texas’ social studies textbooks surrounds the separation of church and state. The far-right members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) argue that America is a Christian nation and separation of church and state is a myth. In March, a majority of SBOE members voted “against requiring high school American government students to learn that the nation’s Founders barred government from favoring or disfavoring one religion over all others.”

At the opening of yesterday’s session — where the board gave final approval to the social studies standards — far-right member Cynthia Dunbar gave the invocation, in which she used the prayer to pusher her anti-church-state separation agenda:

Whether we look to the first charter of Virginia, or the charter of New England or the Charter of Massachusetts Bay, or the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the same objective is present: a Christian land governed by Christian principles. I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it. … I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion.

Watch it:

Additionally, during a session this past week that included debate and comment from members of the public, a man stood up and said, “I have to tell you: Islam is coming, and Islam brings death. So I say, ‘Repent America, repent.’” CNN said that Lawrence Allen, the one Muslim member of the board, called the man out for his “insulting” comments, but not one of the other 14 members complained. Watch it:

A May 4-12 poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the TFN Education Fund found that “68 percent of likely Texas voters agree that church-state separation is a key principle of the Constitution.” That number included “59 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of political independents believing it is a key principle.”


After a contentious debate and international scrutiny, right-wing activists in control of Texas' State Board of Education did exactly what they set out to do: they approved a new social studies curriculum that ignores reality, and reflects history the way they wish it happened.

The State Board of Education Board, ending nearly two years of politically divisive deliberations, approved new social studies curriculum standards for the state's 4.7 million students despite vigorous objections from the board's five minority members.

The revisions have drawn national attention amid complaints that conservative Republicans on the board are attempting to alter history and trying to inject their political beliefs into the curriculum. [...]

The curriculum, which will be used in classrooms beginning with the 2011-12 school year, will also serve as a template for new textbooks. They will remain in effect for more than a decade.... With one member absent, the board voted 9-5 to accept the new curriculum for kindergarten, elementary school and high school.

As we've been reporting for months, the board's version of history is a fairly ridiculous one, which will now be imposed on public school students.

The new standards say that the McCarthyism of the 1950s was later vindicated -- something most historians deny -- draw an equivalency between Jefferson Davis's and Abraham Lincoln's inaugural addresses, say that international institutions such as the United Nations imperil American sovereignty, and include a long list of Confederate officials about whom students must learn.

Of particular interest, the new standards dictate that students must "describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association."

A majority of the state board took an especially hostile view of the separation of church and state -- which, of course, has been removed from the curriculum -- and board member Cynthia Dunbar (R) spoke for her cohorts when she insisted the nation's origins were "a Christian land governed by Christian principles," all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

At its core, this is not just a travesty for academic integrity and students in Texas, but it's also a reminder of what's gone horribly wrong with the twisted right-wing worldview. These state officials have decided they simply don't care for reality, so they've replaced it with a version of events that makes them feel better. The result is an American history in which every era has been distorted to satisfy the far-right ego.

Of course, the concern outside of Texas has been that the state-mandated ignorance might spread -- Texas is the nation's second-largest customer for textbooks, and "publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers." This week, however, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told CNN that he does not believe there will be a "ripple effect" that undermines education elsewhere.

Texas school kids, however, will be punished by the right-wing agenda, and there's not much anyone can do about it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Digby on Inside Job

digby: "Inside Job "
I can't wait to see this movie:

If you don't quite get what happened to the global economy over the last two years, or who's at fault, you're not alone. Indeed, that's nearly everyone's situation. The big crash of 2008 and 2009 and its ongoing ripple effects -- such as the European fiscal crisis that's rendering my visit to France a little cheaper every day -- seemed to come from nowhere as if by natural causes, as unpredictable and unmanageable as the Icelandic volcano or a Gulf Coast hurricane.

Charles Ferguson is here to tell the world that the crisis that wiped out trillions of dollars in wealth, threw millions of people out of their homes and out of work, and further widened the gulf between rich and poor was no accident. It was a crime. Ferguson, a former software entrepreneur and policy-wonk scholar turned filmmaker, is definitely no left-wing bomb-thrower or closet Marxist. But he plays one in the movies, you might say. His new documentary, "Inside Job" -- arguably the smash hit of Cannes so far -- offers a lucid and devastating history of how the crash happened, who caused it and how they got away with it.


There was nothing reasonable or decent or redeemable about the world of high finance, in Ferguson's judgment, by the time the 21st-century bubble reached its peak around 2006. As he illustrates with a damning parade of interviews, images and public testimony, the financial industry had ridden 20-plus years of manic free-market deregulation and neoliberal fiscal policy from one crisis to the next, surfing a rising tide of greed and corruption. (There are several people in this movie, prominent among them former George W. Bush advisor Glenn Hubbard and Harvard economics chairman John Y. Campbell, who will rue the day they agreed to talk to Ferguson.)

In a captivating conversation with former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (who looks here like a knight in shining armor, believe it or not) Ferguson suggests that the financial industry has become a criminal class insulated from society, where profit justifies everything and morality and ethics, not to mention basic human decency, are totally irrelevant. Gaining remarkable access to a wide range of financial insiders, experts and academics, he builds a persuasive case that by conquering Washington with piles of campaign money and conquering the economics discipline with free-market ideology (and more piles of money), the financial industry built a fortress of deregulation that allowed it to plunder the peasantry with no control or oversight
It sounds as though this is a truthful and lucid rendition of what happened, which is sorely needed. I hope it get wide distribution and a lot of people are able to see it. Since the Democrats are too complicit to build this narrative for political purposes --- and the Republicans are beyond any hope at all --- it's left to others to do it on behalf of the people. This sounds like a worthy effort in that cause.


Think Progress: Wisconsin bar burns Obama effigy with duct tape wrapped around its neck as crowd laughs and cheers.

The Secret Service is investigating a bar in West Allis, Wisconsin after a bartender burned President Obama in effigy in front of a cheering crowd. A video obtained by local NBC affiliate TMJ4 shows a bartender at the Yester Years Pub and Grill burning a small figurine of Obama “with what looks like duct tape” wrapped around its neck. The crowd can be heard laughing and shouting in the background. Watch TMJ4’s report:

Jerry Ann Hamilton, the President of Milwaukee’s NAACP, was “outraged” by the incident and worried it could be racially motivated. She called the images “very offensive” and said she would push for a full investigation. The town’s mayor and local residents also expressed dismay. The Secret Service confirmed it was investigating, but would not comment further. (HT: Mediaite)

Rachel Maddow, grounding the tuning forks of our national narratives. No one else on teevee can bring such clarity of thought and narrative coherence to an issue. This is the most brilliant opening to a tv news segment I have ever seen. Ever.

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

mistermix: Speaking of Topsiders and Acid-Washed Jeans

Not to go all Rand all the time, but he’s a gift that just keeps on giving. His official statement about the civil rights issue, posted on his Obama-clone website, starts like this:

In response to liberal media attacks, Dr. Rand Paul today released the following statement:

Rand and Sarah Palin have at least one thing in common: a reporter asking a question that elicits a moronic response from either of them constitutes a “liberal media attack”.

DemfromCT (Dkos): Your Abbreviated Pundit Round-up

Joe Klein:

The latest--an update from Michael Scherer's smart post below--is that Rand Paul is now saying that he regrets the appearance with Rachel Maddow, not the ridiculous statements he made in favor of a private business's ability to discriminate according to race. I suspect that this will be the first of many such disasters for the Tea Party libertarians. They are about to find themselves faced with actual political rivals who will be more than happy to expose the utopian foolishness of their ideology. This will be a rare moment of public education for an electorate that doesn't pay sufficient attention to even the most important aspects of democracy.

If Democrats play their cards right, by November most Americans will know that Medicare is government health care, that social security is a government pension service, that all the bank bailout money either has been paid back or will be covered by a modest tax on too-big-to-fail banks, that the Obama stimulus package mostly consisted of tax cuts for them and support for necessary local government functions like schools and cops--and that the jobs-creating aspects of the stimulus package have been remarkably free of corruption.

Bob Shrum:

Farther up the Appalachian Trail, in a special election for Congress in western Pennsylvania that had Republicans salivating, the Democrat decisively triumphed in a district that had rejected Obama in 2008. The surprised GOP rationalized that the result didn’t really count; the winner was "pro-choice and pro-life." So are a lot of Democrats in Pennsylvania, including Sen. Bob Casey—and so are a lot of the Democrats in Congress who, after this special, we know can be re-elected in the fall. The outcome was a signal that the new Associated Press survey, which shows Obama’s party with a 5 point lead nationally, may actually be right. All politics is economics; as the economy improves, so will Democratic prospects for the midterms.

But the President can’t simply wait for history. He has to nudge perceptions and interpret events. This is Obama’s party—and the Campaigner-in-Chief has to carry an affirmative message that will define Democrats between now and November.

Charles Lane:

The constitutional aberration, in fact, was Southern legislation that required segregation in various business establishments. To cite just one of many examples, a 1928 Alabama state law mandated racially separate toilet facilities in hotels and restaurants. Segregation was never really a matter of individuals exercising their free speech or property rights, as Paul implied. It was a tight web of mutually reinforcing public and private rules.

I'm afraid that the Ron/Rand Paul world view founders on these sorts of contradictions all the time. It's amazing that there's room for it in today's Republican Party, or anywhere on the political spectrum, for that matter.

Lane has never been mistaken for a progressive.

DougJ: It was never personal

There are those who think John and I are wrong to want to move the discussion of Rand Paul away from the topic of whether or not Rand Paul is a racist. Let me remind you: a few years ago, there was an extended back-and-forth between Bobo and Paul Krugman about the extent to which Reagan used racism to help himself politically. Republicans tried to deflect it into an argument about whether or not Reagan was racist himself and then trotted out old friends to say how much Reagan loved black people, had black best friends, didn’t see race at all, and so on.

But, you see, it doesn’t matter whether or not Reagan harbored racist feelings in his own heart, he gave his first post-convention speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi and talked about “states’ rights”. He talked about “strapping young bucks” buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. Reagan’s “actual feelings” about race matter about as much as Lindsey Graham’s “actual feelings” about health care reform.

Once things become personal, Republicans can wriggle off the hook. It’s just too easy to trot out black friends or at least stories about black friends and say “see, Rand Paul is not a racist, next question.” The last 40 years of American politics haven’t been destroyed by a bunch of dumb, racist crackers, they’ve been destroyed by cynical conservatives who were all too willing to manipulate dumb, racist crackers for political gain.

Rand Paul is a nut. But the focus has to be on his nutty political positions and the extent to which other Republicans also believe them (the denials have not been strong so far, aside from McConnell, who already hated Paul), not on his “actual feelings”. Republicans have made a lot of hay out of white fear over the past few decades. And now, to use their own words, it’s time to shove it down their throat.

Update. This is very smart:

DougJ: There’s no such thing as an original sin

The most important quote in American politics, from Lee Atwater:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff.

I don’t think that is what Rand Paul is doing here. He’s doing the opposite, in a way, spelling out his opposition to Civil Rights in a politically suicidal way for reasons I can’t ascertain. This may derail his Senate campaign. But it also appeals to racists:

In December, Chris Hightower, the spokesman for Paul’s senate campaign, was forced to resign after a liberal Kentucky blog discovered that his MySpace page had a comment posted around Martin Luther King Day that read: “HAPPY N***ER DAY” above what appears to be a historical photo of the lynching of a black man.

What makes this whole discussion interesting isn’t figuring out whether Paul is racist or a Randian nut job or just an idiot, what’s interesting is that the entire modern Republican party is based on opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and yet it’s taboo to oppose the Civil Rights Act openly. Look, I know there’s taxes and foreign policy and blah blah blah, but the simple fact is that the south was dominated by Democrats before the Civil Rights Act and is dominated by Republicans today.

Can you think of another single issue that has completely changed the political climate of an entire region?

To take this one step further, the institution of slavery is often described as the “original sin” of the United States, but obviously there was nothing original about it. I’ll bet you that in any ancient civilization anywhere in the world, one of the first things people did once they’d figured out the really important stuff—how to feed themselves, how to produce booze and pornography, etc.—was start developing theories about why they were better than the people from nearby areas and why it might be a good idea to steal from these people and/or keep them as slaves. And so it is today, with William Saletan and the Bell Curve and Andrew Sullivan’s deranged readers.

Racism and tribalism have always been a big part of politics everywhere. Why do we have to keep pretending otherwise?

DougJ: Drudge traffic

It’s been a longtime since I’ve nut-picked the comments at Politico, but these are hard to pass up (from the blog piece on Rand I mentioned in the last article):

I’d thought I’d never go along with that kind of thinking. I thought everything should be open to all. I prided myself, only for myself, in doing and voting in such a way as to figure everyone was equal. Now though, I see radical Communists in the White House, I see Presidential friends that tried to blow up the Pentagonand kill cops, I see union goons beating up an elderly black man because they didn’t like his politics, I see a political party that not only supports infanticide,but in addition, supports underage illegal alien teen brothels and a movie director raping a 13 year old, and I begin to think, there sure are a lot of groups I’d hate to hire or hate to live by if I could help it
I do have a question though. Race baiters like Jesse Jackson and Obama’s own Reverend Wright preach a gospel of hatred for the white race. If so many of their flock feel that way, why are they always trying to move into all white neighborhoods?
You liberal clowns are despicable. Obama’s America will look like the Kenyan shanty town where his brother lives if he is not stopped from instituting his radical marxist agenda.

Rand Paul probably isn’t a racist—his reasons for opposing the Civil Rights act are likely intellectual, if misguided. But make no mistake: his position has a lot of appeal to people who are racists.

Update. A very good point from Atrios:

Government regulates – and, of course, provides the necessary conditions for the existence of – private business in all kinds of ways. So when people have a particular concern about, say, the Civil Rights Act, as opposed to, say, parking requirements, it’s reasonable to wonder why.
Sully: In Defense Of Rand Paul (Kinda), Ctd

A reader writes:

Here's the problem with Rand Paul's statements over the Civil Rights Act. If he were truly a pure libertarian, they'd be defensible theoretical views, as you point out. But, as Time magazine notes:

Paul has lately said he would not leave abortion to the states, he doesn't believe in legalizing drugs like marijuana and cocaine, he'd support federal drug laws, he'd vote to support Kentucky's coal interests and he'd be tough on national security.

Paul is willing to bend the issue of pure personal freedom for drug laws, abortion, and even coal subsidies ... but he thinks telling a restaurant it cannot discriminate is a bridge too far? I still don't think he's racist, but what he chooses to be ideologically pure about certainly raises my eyebrow.

Frum last week highlighted a pretty damning piece from the WSJ:

Tea party favorite Rand Paul has rocketed to the lead ahead of Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary here on a resolute pledge to balance the federal budget and slash the size of government. But on Thursday evening, the ophthalmologist from Bowling Green said there was one thing he would not cut: Medicare physician payments. In fact, Paul — who says 50% of his patients are on Medicare — wants to end cuts to physician payments under a program now in place called the sustained growth rate, or SGR. “Physicians should be allowed to make a comfortable living,” he told a gathering of neighbors in the back yard of Chris and Linda Wakild, just behind the 10th hole of a golf course. ...

He also said he plans to continue practicing ophthalmology if elected.

Richard Lawson: Mosque-Mad Tea Party Leader Not a Fan of Muslims or Their 'Monkey-God'
Outraged at the proposed building of a 9/11 Anti-Memorial Mosque right near Ground Zero, radio host and Tea Party Express chairman Mark Williams took to his blog and got real mad at nasty Muslims. And their monkey-god too.

Williams, a frequent Fox News contributor, wrote on his site:

The monument would consist of a Mosque for the worship of the terrorists' monkey-god (repeat: "the terrorists' monkey-god." if you feel that fits a description of Allah then that is your own deep-seated emotional baggage not mine, talk to the terrorists who use Allah as their excuse and the Muslims who apologize for and rationalize them) and a "cultural center" to propagandize for the extermination of all things not approved by their cult. It is a project of American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, essentially the same group of apologists (but under 2 different names) for terrorists and the animals who use it as a terrorist ideology. They cloak their evil with new age gibberish that suggests Islam is just misunderstood.

Yay! And he's like a bigwig in the Tea Party movement, which, as we know, is NOT AT ALL RACIST OR CRAZY. We are required to believe that, because they told us so.

A Tea Party Express spokesman told Talking Points Memo that it ain't no thang:

It doesn't have anything to do with the Tea Party Express and the issues addressed by the tea party movement, and was written on Mr. William's personal blog, and not on any Tea Party Express website, blog or social networking page.

Ah yes, the old "The chairman of our Politics & Anger & Soiled Depends Club said something pretty offensive, publicly, but not on our club's letterhead, so it doesn't count" maneuver. It's like when the Freemasons were all "Oh no, Andrew Jackson didn't call that guy a quadroon in our official pamphlet, so it's fine."

Pleasantly enough Williams went on a rant about that Muslim Miss USA lady, Rima Fakih, on the same blog post. It is also NOT AT ALL CRAZY. It is mostly just a beautiful even-handed sentiment that the Teabaggers should be deeply proud of:

Meet the new Miss Muslim USA Rima Fakih. In the photo above she is a participant in a stripping contest held by a Detroit T & A radio show. Last night she won the nod for Miss. USA when Miss. Oklahoma dared answer a question from a judge about illegal aliens with a response that suggested immigration law be enforced while safeguards against racial profiling are also enforced. At that point pageant political correctness went into full gear and Fakih was declared the winner.

Note to the freaks and mental cases who dominate Islam: See what you're missing when you peal off the burka there fellas? Maybe you wouldn't have to spend so much effort Michael Jacksoning the little boys in your terror camps if you took a look at the chicks for a change.

In the meantime I have a wonderful idea along the same lines as that mosque at Ground Zero thing… a nice, shiny new U.S. Military Base on the smoldering ruins of Mecca. Works for me!

Turn that cube in the middle they got there into a McDonald's! Gooooooo Tea!

mistermix: Republicans to Calderon: Callate, Pendejo

Here’s a little thought experiment: Imagine that Mexican Constitution made explosives legal, that Mexico had thousands of shops in border towns selling hand grenades, and that shit was blowing up everywhere here. Then imagine that Obama addressed the Mexican Congress and said the following:

And with all due respect, if you do not regulate the sale of these weapons in the right way, nothing guarantees that criminals here in the Mexico, with access to the same powerful weapons, will not decide to challenge Mexican authority and civilians.

My guess is that Cornyn and Kyl would be yelling treason, while McCain would be commandeering the Arizona National Guard as part of his invasion plan.

Those mild words (with references to the US, not Mexico) are what Felipe Calderon said yesterday in Congress. He’s concerned because the current violence in Mexico is armed in part from the 7,000 stores selling assault weapons on the US/Mexico border. Fewer than half of the Republicans in Congress bothered to show up, and here’s Cornyn:

“I have great respect for President Calderon, but he really shouldn’t turn this into an opportunity to tell us we should change our laws,” Cornyn said. He said that the Second Amendment, which gives Americans the right to bear arms, wasn’t a subject for diplomatic discussions.

I wonder what would happen if half of the Republicans missed one of Bibi Netanyahu’s joint addresses to Congress, and if the ones who did attend told him to STFU.

Think Progress: Gingrich: I’m not ‘unhinged,’ even though I once said that about people who made Bush-Nazi comparisons.

Recently, healthcare and oil industry lobbyist Newt Gingrich published a book, To Save America, which argues repeatedly that the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are a “secular-socialist machine” that “represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.” But in 2005, during an appearance on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, host Sean Hannity asked Gingrich what he thought about and Democrats supposedly “comparing George Bush to Adolf Hitler.” Gingrich replied, “maybe they’re becoming the unhinged party.” Today during a press conference in the Capitol Hill visitor center, ThinkProgress asked if Gingrich’s standard for being “unhinged” applied to his own frequent comparisons of Obama to Nazi Germany:

TP: In your new book, you argue that Obama and liberals quote “represent as great of a threat to America as Nazi Germany”–

GINGRICH: Not here, but I’m happy to talk about that–

TP: Just really quickly though, but during the Bush years, you said people who make Bush-Nazi comparisons were quote “unhinged.” By your own definition, are you unhinged?

GINGRICH: No. Nice try.

Watch it:

While Gingrich sees nothing absurd or hypocritical about his comparison between the Obama administration and Nazi Germany, he is facing increasing criticism for his assertion. This morning, conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough ripped Gingrich’s Nazi-Obama comparison as “sick” and “pure wingnuttery.” Yesterday, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) called on the GOP to condemn Gingrich’s new book for his “dangerous anaology” between Obama and Nazi Germany. “Gingrich’s linkage not only diminishes the horror of the Holocaust, it also licenses the use of extremist language in contemporary America,” remarked David Harris, executive director of the AJC.

The MSM We Have

DougJ: Memo to David Gregory

Fact-checking can be a good business strategy (Greg Sargent):

Has anyone else noticed that the Associated Press has been doing some strong fact-checking work lately, aggressively debunking all kinds of nonsense, in an authoritative way, without any of the usual he-said-she-said crap that often mars political reporting?

I asked AP Washington Bureau Chief Ron Fournier about this, and he told me something fascinating, if not all together unexpected: Their fact-checking efforts are almost uniformly the most clicked and most linked pieces they produce.

Journalistic fact-checking with authority, it turns out, is popular. Who woulda thunk it?

I’ve heard various theories about David Gregory’s refusal to allow fact-checking on “Meet the Press”, but none of them make sense to me.

DougJ: That was the sin that did Jezebel in

It’s longer than the Constitution, and Conor Friedersdorf is already arguing with Matt Yglesias about Megan McArdle’s take on it, but, nevertheless, this report from the belly of the media beast (Philadelphia Daily News, Wall Street Journal, Jezebel) is a must read:

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.

It’s not an anti-media screed, it treats not only the arrogance of established media and silliness of some new media, but also the genuine bad-assedness of being a real reporter.

Rolling Stone should hire Maureen Tkacik, she’d be a great complement to Matt Taibbi.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Marshall: Sen. Brown Says He'll Support Reform

From Brian Beutler's latest report from Capitol Hill ...

Sen. Scott Brown acknowledged tonight that he did indeed tell Majority Leader Harry Reid he'd support financial reform legislation, before voting to filibuster at the last minute. But he says he's confident he'll ultimately side with the Democrats, and suggested he may switch his vote back to yes as early as tomorrow.

Read the rest here.

Zev Chavets (NYT): The Limbaugh Victory

THERE are many theories for why very conservative Republicans seem to be doing so well lately, taking their party’s Senate nominations in Florida, Kentucky and Utah, and beating Democrats head-to-head in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia. Some attribute this to a generalized anti-incumbent mood. Others say it reflects the tendency of parties in power to falter in midterm elections. Recently it has been fashionable to ascribe right-wing success to the Tea Party movement.

But the most obvious explanation is the one that’s been conspicuously absent from the gusher of analysis. Republican success in 2010 can be boiled down to two words: Rush Limbaugh.

Mr. Limbaugh has played an important role in elections going back to 1994, when he commanded the air war in the Republican Congressional victory. This time, however, he is more than simply the mouthpiece of the party. He is the brains and the spirit behind its resurgence.

How did this happen? The Obama victory in 2008 left Republicans dazed, demoralized and leaderless. Less than six weeks after the inauguration, in a nationally televised keynote address to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Limbaugh stepped into the void with a raucous denunciation of the new president’s agenda and a strategic plan based on his belief that real conservatism wins every time. He reiterated his famous call for Mr. Obama to fail and urged the party faithful to ignore the siren song of bipartisanship and moderation and stay true to the principles of Ronald Reagan.

Democrats responded by branding Mr. Limbaugh — whom they considered self-evidently unattractive — as the leader of the opposition. The day after the conservative conference, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, went on “Face the Nation” and described Mr. Limbaugh as the “voice and the intellectual force and energy” of the G.O.P.

Mr. Limbaugh loved being tossed into this briar patch. He mocked the notion that he was the titular leader of the Republicans even as he was becoming the party’s top strategist and de facto boss.

His strategy was simple. With Democrats controlling Congress, Mr. Limbaugh saw that there was no way to stop the president’s agenda. He dismissed the moderates’ notion that compromising with the president would make Republicans look good to independents. Instead he decreed that the Republicans must become the party of no, and force Democratic candidates — especially centrists — to go into 2010 with sole responsibility for the Obama program and the state of the economy. And that is what has happened.

Mr. Limbaugh was not just the architect of this plan, he was (and continues to be) its enforcer. Dissenters like Arlen Specter, whom Mr. Limbaugh disparaged as a “Republican in Name Only,” found themselves unelectable in the party primaries. Moderates like Michael Steele, the party chairman, were slapped down for suggesting cooperation with the administration. When Representative Phil Gingrey of Georgia had the temerity to suggest that Mr. Limbaugh was too uncompromising, he was met with public outrage and forced into an humiliating apology.

When the Tea Party movement emerged, Mr. Limbaugh welcomed it. The movement’s causes — fighting against health care reform, reducing the size and cost of government, opposing the Democrats’ putative desire to remake America in the image of European social democracies — were straight Limbaughism. A very high proportion of the Tea Partiers listen to Mr. Limbaugh. Sarah Palin’s biggest current applause line — Republicans are not just the party of no, but the party of hell no — came courtesy of Mr. Limbaugh. (Ms. Palin gave the keynote address at the first national Tea Party convention.) Glenn Beck, who is especially popular among Tea Partiers, calls Mr. Limbaugh his hero.

So why the lack of attention? Mr. Limbaugh has studiously refrained from claiming credit for the movement. His only intervention thus far has been to quash talk about the Tea Party becoming a third party. He wants a unified, right-wing G.O.P. in 2010, and by all appearances he is going to get it.

Rush Limbaugh came along after the age of Ronald Reagan. He has never really had a Republican presidential candidate to his ideological satisfaction. But if the party sweeps this November under the banner of Real Conservatism, Mr. Obama will find himself facing two years of “no” in Washington and, very likely, a Limbaugh-approved opponent in 2012.

Chris in Paris: GOP blocking science and technology bill

The Party of No lives! They might break out with a rash if they were somehow associated with anything as progressive as science and technology. They're tripping over themselves to save Big Oil from their financial responsibilities but somehow it's OK to spend taxpayer money for oil spills caused by bad the oil industry.

It was strike two for a major science funding bill Wednesday as House Republicans again united to derail legislation they said was too expensive.

Going down to defeat was the America COMPETES Act, which would have committed more than $40 billion over three years to boost funding for the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies involved in basic and applied science, provided loan guarantees to small businesses developing new technologies and promoted science and math education.
Lach (TPM): House GOP Again Foils Jobs Bill (And Again Includes Porn Measure)

The Dems were ready to accept the GOP's anti-porn amendment, but Republicans in the House again managed to thwart a jobs bill that provides billions in funding to science and research.

Last week, we told you how house GOPers managed to scuttle the bill by forcing Democrats to vote in favor of federal employees viewing pornography. 121 Democrats balked, and voted with Republicans to kill the bill.

Today, GOPers pulled off an encore performance. The AP reports the bill's total price tag was reduced from $85 billion to about $47 billion (achieved by reducing the bill's spending timeline from 5 years to 3), and Democrats were united in support, despite the continued inclusion of the porn measure. They opted to use a procedure that required a two-thirds vote to pass the bill, but prevented any more amendments from being added. Every Democrat voted in favor, but they were joined by only 15 Republicans, and the bill failed despite a 261-148 vote.

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), who spearheaded the porn-amendment effort, told the AP that the bill "continues to take us in a much more costly direction and authorizes a number of new programs which have little to do with prioritizing investments."

Roth (TPM): Cuccinelli: Critics Of Climate-Science Probe 'Need Not Worry'

Ken Cuccinelli is trying to allay intense concerns from Virginia's scientific and academic communities about his investigation of a former University of Virginia climate scientist.

"The same legal standards for fraud apply to the academic setting that apply elsewhere," the attorney general told a crowd on Tuesday at a fundraiser for -- what else? -- an abstinence-only education group, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "The same rule of law, the same objective fact-finding process will take place."

This week, a group of 800 scientists and academics wrote to Cuccinelli urging him to call off the probe of Michael Mann, which even some climate skeptics have referred to as a "witch hunt."

"The need not worry, but I doubt anybody screaming about it will take that from me," Cuccinelli added. "We're going to work our way through the process in a professional way."

Cuccinelli recently subpoenaed UVA for documents relating to the government-funded climate science research of Mann, who left UVA in 2005 and now teaches at Penn State. UVA's administration has said it is still weighing whether to challenge Cuccinelli's subpoena.

Mann was one of several scientists whose emails were released as part of last year's Climate-Gate controversy. Cuccinelli has said he's concerned that Mann may have committed fraud by deliberately skewing his findings -- though Mann has already been cleared of wrong-doing by several investigations.

DougJ: Hanging on the telephone

This kind of pointless, macho posturing is no doubt part of the reason Rand Paul is a teabag icon:

After winning Kentucky’s Republican primary Tuesday night, Bowling Green ophthalmologist Rand Paul refused to take the call of congratulations from opponent Trey Grayson, according to Grayson’s campaign manager Nate Hodson.

Hodson did not elaborate, except to say “it happened.”

“This is truly a classless act in politics,” said Marc Wilson, a Republican lobbyist and friend of Trey Grayson.

It will be fun seeing what Brooks and Broder make of this dude if he becomes Senator.

Think Progress: Rand Paul: ‘The Hard Part Of Believing In Freedom’ Is Opposing Ban On Whites-Only Lunch Counters

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century, banning whites-only lunch counters and similar discrimination in hiring, promotions, hotels and restaurants. Yet, in a recent editorial board interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul explained why he believes that this landmark law should not apply to private business owners:

INTERVIEWER: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

PAUL: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that.


PAUL: You had to ask me the “but.” I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners—I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant—but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I absolutely think there should be no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that’s most of what I think the Civil Rights Act was about in my mind.

Watch it:

After adding that he is also a fan of Dr. Martin Luther King, Paul dug in deeper, explaining that he he believes that in a “free society,” private lunch counters must be allowed to refuse service to Dr. King because of his race:

INTERVIEWER: But under your philosophy, it would be okay for Dr. King not to be served at the counter at Woolworths?

PAUL: I would not go to that Woolworths, and I would stand up in my community and say that it is abhorrent, um, but, the hard part—and this is the hard part about believing in freedom—is, if you believe in the First Amendment, for example—you have too, for example, most good defenders of the First Amendment will believe in abhorrent groups standing up and saying awful things. . . . It’s the same way with other behaviors. In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people, who have abhorrent behavior.

For the record, here is an example of the “boorish people” that Paul thinks a free society must tolerate:

lunch counter

In an interview with NPR today, Paul was asked three times about his position on the Civil Rights Act, but each time he dodged giving a declarative answer. “A lot of things that were actually in the bill I’m actually in favor of,” said Paul. Hinting at what he doesn’t “favor,” Paul added that “a lot of things can be handled locally.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Cole said . . .

John Cole: Conflicting Goals, My Ass

The NY Times:

Clients Worried About Goldman’s Dueling Goals

...While no one has accused Goldman of anything illegal involving WaMu, National City, A.I.G. or the other clients it bet against, potential conflicts inherent in Wall Street’s business model are at the core of many of the investigations that state and federal authorities are conducting. Transactions entered into as the mortgage market fizzled may turn out to have been perfectly legal. Nevertheless, they have raised concerns among investors and analysts about the extent to which a variety of Wall Street firms put their own interests ahead of their clients’.

“Now it’s all about the score. Just make the score, do the deal. Move on to the next one. That’s the trader culture,” said Cornelius Hurley, director of the Morin Center for Banking and Financial Law at Boston University and former counsel to the Federal Reserve Board. “Their business model has completely blurred the difference between executing trades on behalf of customers versus executing trades for themselves. It’s a huge problem.”

Goldman Sachs does not have dueling goals. Period. They have one goal, and one goal only.


That is all they want. Bonuses. And they will do, or say anything to keep the bonuses rolling in. Bankrupting the country? No problem. Destroying Greece and the international economy. Cash money.

They don’t care about their clients, they don’t care about their community, they don’t care about their country. Their only goal is to make the deal and cash the bonus check.

John Cole: Screwing You is Job One

Oh, hey. More bankster criminality:

A telephone call between a financial adviser in Beverly Hills and a trader in New York was all it took to fleece taxpayers on a water-and-sewer financing deal in West Virginia. The secret conversation was part of a conspiracy stretching across the U.S. by Wall Street banks in the $2.8 trillion municipal bond market.

The call came less than two hours before bids were due for contracts to manage $90 million raised with the sale of West Virginia bonds. On one end of the line was Steven Goldberg, a trader with Financial Security Assurance Holdings Ltd. On the other was Zevi Wolmark, of advisory firm CDR Financial Products Inc. Goldberg arranged to pay a kickback to CDR to land the deal, according to government records filed in connection with a U.S. Justice Department indictment of CDR and Wolmark.

West Virginia was just one stop in a nationwide conspiracy in which financial advisers to municipalities colluded with Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Wachovia Corp. and 11 other banks.

They rigged bids on auctions for so-called guaranteed investment contracts, known as GICs, according to a Justice Department list that was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on March 24 and then put under seal. Those contracts hold tens of billions of taxpayer money.

And yet our dysfunctional Senate still can not pass meaningful financial regulation. At least the Bloomberg piece says they are ready to name names and there will be prison terms.

I eagerly await the Reason magazine treatise on how this is the fault of too much regulation.

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.