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Twists and Turns.
During the very first week of the 114th Congress, the new agenda was made clear: Bills to end the Affordable Care Act, to restrict abortion rights, to stop Obama’s immigration plan, and a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
Paul Krugman laughs, and points out the absurdity of the GOP’s Carbon Keynesianism…
It should come as no surprise that the very first move of the new Republican Senate is an attempt to push President Obama into approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canadian tar sands. After all, debts must be paid, and the oil and gas industry — which gave 87 percent of its 2014 campaign contributions to the G.O.P. — expects to be rewarded for its support.
Building Keystone XL could slightly increase U.S. employment. In fact, it might replace almost 5 percent of the jobs America has lost because of destructive cuts in federal spending, which were in turn the direct result of Republican blackmail over the debt ceiling.
Oh, and don’t tell me that the cases are completely different. You can’t consistently claim that pipeline spending creates jobs while government spending doesn’t.
Consider, for example, the case of military spending. When it comes to possible cuts in defense contracts, politicians who loudly proclaim that every dollar the government spends comes at the expense of the private sector suddenly begin talking about all the jobs that will be destroyed. They even begin talking about the multiplier effect, as reduced spending by defense workers leads to job losses in other industries. This is the phenomenon former Representative Barney Frank dubbed “weaponized Keynesianism.”
And the argument being made for Keystone XL is very similar; call it “carbonized Keynesianism.” Yes, approving the pipeline would mobilize some money that would otherwise have sat idle, and in so doing create some jobs — 42,000 during the construction phase, according to the most widely cited estimate. (Once completed, the pipeline would employ only a few dozen workers.) But government spending on roads, bridges and schools would do the same thing.
And the job gains from the pipeline would, as I said, be only a tiny fraction — less than 5 percent — of the job losses from sequestration, which in turn are only part of the damage done by spending cuts in general. If Mr. McConnell and company really believe that we need more spending to create jobs, why not support a push to upgrade America’s crumbling infrastructure?
So what should be done about Keystone XL? If you believe that it would be environmentally damaging — which I do — then you should be against it, and you should ignore the claims about job creation. The numbers being thrown around are tiny compared with the country’s overall work force.
Infrastructure improvement? Blasphemy! Spending money to fix bridges, roads, water supply pipes, commuter rails – that’s Socialism! But building a massive pipeline to ship oil from Canada to China via the Gulf of Mexico is God’s commandment. If you consider Mammon a God that is…
This would make me weep, if I wasn’t laughing so hard…
The hottest competition in Washington this week is among House Republicans vying for a seat on the Benghazi kangaroo court, also known as the Select House Committee to Inflate a Tragedy Into a Scandal. Half the House has asked to “serve” on the committee, which is understandable since it’s the perfect opportunity to avoid any real work while waving frantically to right-wing voters stomping their feet in the grandstand.
They won’t pass a serious jobs bill, or raise the minimum wage, or reform immigration, but House Republicans think they can earn their pay for the rest of the year by exposing nonexistent malfeasance on the part of the Obama administration. On Thursday, they voted to create a committee to spend “such sums as may be necessary” to conduct an investigation of the 2012 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The day before, they voted to hold in contempt Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official whom they would love to blame for the administration’s crackdown on conservative groups, if only they could prove there was a crackdown, which they can’t, because there wasn’t.
Both actions stem from the same impulse: a need to rouse the most fervent anti-Obama wing of the party and keep it angry enough to deliver its donations and votes to Republicans in the November elections.
The rebranding of the Republican Party is complete, mandating the wearing of clown shoes at all times…
Similarly, the Justice Department should not press Ms. Lerner’s contempt citation before a grand jury. She invoked her Fifth Amendment rights at a hearing last year and refused to testify, but Republicans claim, without foundation, that she waived those rights by first proclaiming her innocence. Her refusal, they said, was contemptuous of Congress. Little nuisances like constitutional rights or basic facts can’t be allowed to stand in the way when House Republicans need to whip up their party’s fury.
First, Judge Sandra Watts was stopped while trying to vote because the name on her photo ID, the same one she had used for voter registration and identification for 52 years, did not exactly match her name on the official voter rolls.
A few days later, state Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat who became a national celebrity after her filibuster over a new abortion law, had the same problem in early voting. So did her likely Republican opponent in next year’s governor’s race, Attorney General Greg Abbott.
They were all able to vote after signing affidavits attesting that they were who they claimed to be. But not Jim Wright, a former speaker of the House in Washington, whose expired driver’s license meant he could not vote until he went home and dug a certified copy of his birth certificate out of a box.
On Tuesday, Texas unveiled its tough new voter ID law, the only state to do so this year, and the rollout was sometimes rocky. But interviews with opponents and supporters of the new law, which required voters for the first time to produce a state-approved form of photo identification to vote, suggest that in many parts of the state, the law’s first day went better than critics had expected.
Isn’t it amazing that one of the major political parties in the US would rather have less people vote than do the hard work to convince citizens the political ideas of that party are worth supporting? Or change the doctrines of the political party to comply with the wishes of the voters? The Republicans have spent billions of think-tank dollars figuring out how to disenfranchise as many people as possible instead of taking a chance on democracy. What does that say about the popularity of Republican doctrines?
And in Texas, this was a relatively minor election with low turnout; most participants were experienced, committed voters, not the casual voters who turn out in presidential and gubernatorial contests. Just wait until there are lines stretched around the block…
The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Texas, which opposed the new law, said that it was concerned more about voters who do not have the proper documentation at all, and might stay away from the polls altogether as a result.
“We have always felt there was anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000 voters who would not be able to present the proper identification,” Linda Krefting, the group’s president, said. “The concern we have is that all this flap in the news may have discouraged people from turning out at the polls.”
Voter ID laws and other statutes that cut back on early voting or make it more difficult to register have proliferated in states dominated by Republicans since the party’s wave of governor and statehouse victories in 2010.
Proponents say they are needed to curtail voter fraud. Opponents point out that such fraud is extremely rare and say the laws actually target groups that have proven less likely to have the state-mandated identification: the poor, students, African-Americans and Hispanics, all of whom tend to vote more Democratic.
Under the new Texas law, the list of acceptable identification includes a driver’s license, a passport, a military ID and a concealed gun permit, but not a student photo ID. Voters who showed up at the polls with no acceptable IDs were allowed to cast provisional ballots. Voters whose names were “significantly similar” on their IDs and the official voter rolls could sign an affidavit, which involved checking a box next to their name, then were allowed to vote normally.
Remember how this faux controversy unfolded next time Darrell Issa is talking. He is not an honest man, nor should he be trusted.
In particular, the controversy over IRS scrutiny of Tea Party groups has largely disappeared from the headlines. Considering how much of a political gift that particular controversy was to Republicans, you’d expect them to be upset about this fact. But recent revelations have actually given them cause to celebrate the nation’s short attention span.
The spokesman for the Treasury inspector general noted their audit acknowledged there were other watch lists. But the spokesman added: “We did not review the use, disposition, purpose or content of the other BOLOs. That was outside the scope of our audit.”
We then learned that the entire reason the Treasury Inspector General highlighted IRS scrutiny of conservative groups, but not liberal groups, was because the IG had been instructed to do so by Issa.
See – no scandal, just partisan political bullshit to attempt to embarrass President Obama’s Administration.
I think the bigger problem is actually the designation that allows political organizations to be tax-free at all. Why this loophole? Eliminate the 501(c )(4) category outright, because it is a joke. Corporations can funnel unlimited cash to these alleged social welfare organizations, untrammeled by disclosure; is that really good for the political process?
To be tax-exempt as a social welfare organization described in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 501(c)(4), an organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare. Theearnings of a section 501(c)(4) organization may not inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any managers agreeing to the transaction. See Introduction to IRC 4958 for more information about this excise tax. For a more detailed discussion of the exemption requirements for section 501(c)(4) organizations, see IRC 501(c)(4) Organizations. For more information about applying for exemption, see Application for Recognition of Exemption.
To be operated exclusively to promote social welfare, an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community (such as by bringing about civic betterment and social improvements). For example, an organization that restricts the use of its facilities to employees of selected corporations and their guests is primarily benefiting a private group rather than the community and, therefore, does not qualify as a section 501(c)(4) organization. Similarly, an organization formed to represent member-tenants of an apartment complex does not qualify, because its activities benefit the member-tenants and not all tenants in the community, while an organization formed to promote the legal rights of all tenants in a particular community may qualify under section 501(c)(4) as a social welfare organization. An organization is not operated primarily for the promotion of social welfare if its primary activity is operating a social club for the benefit, pleasure or recreation of its members, or is carrying on a business with the general public in a manner similar to organizations operated for profit link].
Seeking legislation germane to the organization’s programs is a permissible means of attaining social welfare purposes. Thus, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may further its exempt purposes through lobbying as its primary activity without jeopardizing its exempt status. An organization that has lost its section 501(c)(3) status due to substantial attempts to influence legislation may not thereafter qualify as a section 501(c)(4) organization. In addition, a section 501(c)(4) organization that engages in lobbying may be required to either provide notice to its members regarding the percentage of dues paid that are applicable to lobbying activities or pay a proxy tax. For more information, see Lobbying Issues .
Not sure why anyone would waste time reading anything written by Jonah Goldberg, but then I whiled away a few minutes reading a review of Goldberg’s latest turd, so…
Alex Pareene writes, in part:
The full title of the new one is “The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas.” (Yes, the title “The Tyranny of ___” is itself a cliché. It’s by no means the only one Goldberg employs in the book.)
I just opened “The Tyranny of Clichés” to a random page. It is the start of Chapter 9, “Slippery Slope,” and it begins with quotations from Hume, Lincoln and T.S. Eliot. Then we’re treated to the prose of Mr. Jonah Goldberg, who is here to share his presentation on “slippery slopes.” It reads very much like a high school student’s essay assignment:
Ultimately slippery slope arguments are a mixed bag. They are useful as a way to reinforce good dogma, but they are also used to reinforce bad dogma. Similarly they can scare us away from bad policies and good policies alike. There are good slippery slope arguments and bad ones for good ends and bad ends.
What insight! What a masterful grasp of nuance! Let’s try one of our own: Airplanes can be used for good things and bad things. Some airplanes carry medicine or ice cream, but other airplanes carry bombs or bad people. But an airplane with bombs might be good because the bombs are for using on bad guys, and on the other airplane maybe the ice cream has melted.
Throughout the book, Goldberg brings his disposable Bic-sharp wit to bear on the most deserving straw men he can imagine. From the chapter on “Let Them Eat Cake”:
The notion that today’s rich are the most likely to say ‘let them eat cake!’ is a form of cultural propaganda. To be sure, there are many wealthy and politically conservative individuals who are out of touch with the hardships of poverty. But the most obvious inheritors of the cocooned arrogance and self-indulgence we associate with members of the monarchical courts of Europe are to be found not in boardrooms, but among the most celebrated liberals of American life: Hollywood celebrities.
The celebrities whose excesses Goldberg goes on to document — those he deems “among the most celebrated liberals of American life” — are Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, John Travolta, (Republican) Sylvester Stallone, Kim Basinger and Sean Penn. Ah yes, the modern American aristocracy.
The book is, plainly, another dumb piece of assembly line conservative argument, gussied up with extensive footnotes. It will not impress any academics or intellectuals and it will not get the blood of true believers boiling with indignation. (It will likely sell well, thanks to bulk orders and conservative book clubs.) The phony Pulitzer bragging, that bit of slightly sad résumé-enhancement, is Goldberg all over: Desperate to impress, but utterly unconvincing.
It’s a cynical thing to say, but I suspect this might cost Susan G. Komen more than it does Planned Parenthood. The former has long been criticised for sugar-coating or even commercialising breast cancer. See Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2001 essay “Welcome to Cancerland” for an elegant indictment:
What has grown up around breast cancer in just the last fifteen years more nearly resembles a cult—or, given that it numbers more than two million women, their families, and friends—perhaps we should say a full-fledged religion. The products—teddy bears, pink-ribbon brooches, and so forth—serve as amulets and talismans, comforting the sufferer and providing visible evidence of faith. The personal narratives serve as testimonials and follow the same general arc as the confessional autobiographies required of seventeenth-century Puritans: first there is a crisis, often involving a sudden apprehension of mortality (the diagnosis or, in the old Puritan case, a stem word from on high); then comes a prolonged ordeal (the treatment or, in the religious case, internal struggle with the Devil); and finally, the blessed certainty of salvation, or its breast-cancer equivalent, survivorhood.
Planned Parenthood, by contrast, serves several million people a year; mostly women, but also men. The bulk of its activities are focused on contraception, STI screening, and cancer screening, and it places a particular emphasis on providing reproductive health care to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access. They also provide abortions, which are controversial, obviously, but legal, obviously. And insofar as access to contraception and other family-planning services reduces the demand for abortion, Planned Parenthood also prevents abortion. In my view, it is an important part of civil society. Even from a pro-life position, I would think it qualifies: being pro-life is a coherent moral position, and not one that necessarily implies a lack of concern for women’s health. So I really don’t understand why Planned Parenthood gets so much grief from the right. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I understand what the complaints are, but I’m not really convinced. Last year, for example, Kathryn Jean Lopez published an admiring interview with Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood clinic director turned pro-life activist. Among other things, Ms Johnson said that Planned Parenthood should be defunded:
Planned Parenthood is an organization that does not provide quality health care. Our tax money should go to organizations that provide comprehensive care to women, men, and children. There are better uses of our money. Planned Parenthood provides shabby, limited health care. Why would we want women to get some health care when they can go to a different clinic, other than Planned Parenthood, and receive total health care? That makes some sense—Planned Parenthood doesn’t focus on comprehensive health care—but what clinics is she talking about? The emergency room? Crisis pregnancy centres?
And Mollie Williams, former top public health official at the organization, resigned in protest. I guess she isn’t one of the three sources Jeffrey Goldberg spoke with…
But three sources with direct knowledge of the Komen decision-making process told me that the rule was adopted in order to create an excuse to cut-off Planned Parenthood. (Komen gives out grants to roughly 2,000 organizations, and the new “no-investigations” rule applies to only one so far.) The decision to create a rule that would cut funding to Planned Parenthood, according to these sources, was driven by the organization’s new senior vice-president for public policy, Karen Handel, a former gubernatorial candidate from Georgia who is staunchly anti-abortion and who has said that since she is “pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.” (The Komen grants to Planned Parenthood did not pay for abortion or contraception services, only cancer detection, according to all parties involved.) I’ve tried to reach Handel for comment, and will update this post if I speak with her.
The decision, made in December, caused an uproar inside Komen. Three sources told me that the organization’s top public health official, Mollie Williams, resigned in protest immediately following the Komen board’s decision to cut off Planned Parenthood. Williams, who served as the managing director of community health programs, was responsible for directing the distribution of $93 million in annual grants. Williams declined to comment when I reached her yesterday on whether she had resigned her position in protest, and she declined to speak about any other aspects of the controversy.
But John Hammarley, who until recently served as Komen’s senior communications adviser and who was charged with managing the public relations aspects of Komen’s Planned Parenthood grant, said that Williams believed she could not honorably serve in her position once Komen had caved to pressure from the anti-abortion right. “Mollie is one of the most highly respected and ethical people inside the organization, and she felt she couldn’t continue under these conditions,” Hammarley said. “The Komen board of directors are very politically savvy folks, and I think over time they thought if they gave in to the very aggressive propaganda machine of the anti-abortion groups, that the issue would go away. It seemed very short-sighted to me.”
*I was looking for reliable statistics regarding how many American women are pro-choice, and haven’t found the stats yet. I suspect more than half of women (and men) support a women’s right to control her own body, but as always, a loud-mouthed minority drowns out the consensus. 40%-50% of the eligible voters vote in most election opportunities, and of those, the 20% who are rabidly anti-choice seem to set policy. ACORN, NPR, PBS, and Planned Parenthood all have felt the GOP Christian-Taliban wrath, with various degrees of success in fighting it.
I still do not understand how or why the GOP mouth-breathers have decided that incremental improvements in light bulb efficiency is a threat to civilized society. Such an odd thing to freak out about.
Few things exemplify the ongoing right-wing, media-fueled campaign against reality as well as the hysteria surrounding implementation of light bulb efficiency standards, which gather the low-hanging fruit of energy conservation by inciting manufacturers to improve their technology. Following in a long line of federal efficiency standards created by Republican presidents, the light bulb requirements were signed into law in 2007 by President George W. Bush with bipartisan support.
Reporting on what it called “a case study of the way government mandates can spur innovation,” the New York Times noted back in 2009 that Philips Lighting had already developed a more efficient incandescent light bulb using halogen gas to comply with the new requirements. Philips executive Randall Moorhead has said that “the new incandescent lights were not being made because there was not an economic incentive to make them.” The other major lighting companies have followed suit, and today halogen incandescent bulbs are widely available for purchase at hardware stores, department stores and online. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that “more efficient incandescent lights” will continue to make up a large portion of general service light bulb purchases for decades to come.
And yet the efficiency standards — the first phase of which took effect on January 1 despite legislation blocking funding for enforcement — have been met with outrage from conservative media who spent the last year claiming that they infringe on consumer “freedom of choice.” Led by Fox News, right-wing media outlets have repeatedly told consumers that the standards would “ban” incandescent bulbs and force us all to purchase “mercury-laden, ugly and smelly compact fluorescent light bulbs,” to the chagrin of electrical manufacturers. Fox has even gone so far as to encourage consumers to “hoard” the old, inefficient bulbs.
The lighbulb manufacturers must regret being Republican sponsors…
The NYT reported last May:
Late in his second term, George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires light bulb makers to improve the efficiency of incandescent bulbs by 25 percent. The details of the law dictated a phase-out of the manufacture of certain bulbs in their current incarnation, starting with 100-watt bulbs next January.
The law does not ban the use or manufacture of all incandescent bulbs, nor does it mandate the use of compact fluorescent ones. It simply requires that companies make some of their incandescent bulbs work a bit better, meeting a series of rolling deadlines between 2012 and 2014.
Furthermore, all sorts of exemptions are written into the law, which means that all sorts of bulbs are getting a free pass and can keep their energy-guzzling ways indefinitely, including “specialty bulbs” like the Edison bulbs favored by Mr. Henault, as well as three-way bulbs, silver-bottomed bulbs, chandelier bulbs, refrigerator bulbs, plant lights and many, many others.
Nonetheless, as the deadline for the first phase of the legislation looms, light bulb confusion — even profound light bulb anxiety — is roiling the minds of many. The other day, Ken Henderlong, a sales associate at Oriental Lamp Shade Company on Lexington Avenue, said that his customers “say they want to stockpile incandescent bulbs, but they are not sure when to start. No one knows when the rules go into effect or what the rules are.”
Probably this is because articles about light bulb legislation are incredibly boring, and articles about the end of the light bulb as we know it are less so. Certainly they stick in the mind longer.
For years, Glenn Beck, among other conservative pundits and personalities, has proclaimed the death of the incandescent light bulb as a casualty of the “nanny state” (never mind that the light bulb legislation is a Bush-era act), and he has been exhorting his listeners to hoard 100-watt light bulbs (along with gold and canned food). This year, conservative politicians took a leaf from his playbook, introducing bills like the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, courtesy of Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman, that would repeal the 2007 legislation.
The hubbub has been deeply irritating to light bulb manufacturers and retailers, which have been explaining the law, over and over again, to whomever will listen. At a Congressional hearing in March, Kyle Pitsor, a representative from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a trade group that represents makers of light bulbs, among others, patiently but clearly disputed claims that the law banned incandescent bulbs. He restated the law’s points and averred light bulb makers’ support for the law. As usual, it seemed as if no one was paying attention.
I am a politics nerd, I’ll admit. Watching the presidential nomination process is more interesting to me than watching football, what can I say? A couple of jumbled thoughts about this year’s season:
Too much of the political coverage focuses upon the “beauty contest” aspect, and not on the aspect of collecting delegates, which is akin to ignoring the electoral college during the general election and instead focusing on popular vote counts. It might mean something, but it isn’t the most important count to keep track of.
I have my spreadsheet with delegate counts, called GOP 2012 Clown car, but Iowa is a little difficult to parse – the delegates are not obligated to vote in any particular manner, though tradition says they have to respect the caucus totals. So, for instance, the NYT has Romney with 12 delegates, and Santorum with 13, while CNN has Romney -7, Ron Paul – 7, Gingrich -2. Meanwhile, the Greenpapers has the Iowa delegates proportioned as: Santorum – 6; Romney – 6; Ron Paul – 6, and Gingrich 4. We won’t know exactly where these delegates end up until Saturday, June, 2012. Weird, but that’s how it is. Oh, there are also between 3-6 unpledged as of yet delegates.
New Hampshire is easier:
Mitt Romney – 7
Ron Paul – 2
Jon Huntsman – 2. Huntsman has suspended his campaign, not withdrawn, so he still controls his big two delegates.
South Carolina, by virtue of Gingrich winning all the Congressional Districts, and the overall vote, has given all the delegates to Gingrich. Romney might have won 28% of the vote, but he didn’t win any delegates.
Newt Gingrich – 23
The nomination requires 1,143 delegates (out of 2,286 total). There are also 132 Automatic Delegates, a/k/a Super Delegates.
Each state, and American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands all have three superdelegates, except as follows:
Superdelegates from the following states: AZ, DE, FL, GA, KS, MI, MO, NH, NJ, NV, SC, VT. are bound by their state’s results, and therefore are not included in the list. Their names can be found in a separate table after the break.This leaves a total of 132 GOP superdelegates
Currently, these GOP Super Delegates are committed as:
Romney – 16
Gingrich – 1
Santorum – 1
Thus, in my totals, including Iowa’s cockamamie system, and including Super Delegates who have announced support, I have the current race as:
Mitt Romney – 28
Newt Gingrich – 28
Ron Paul – 9
Rick Santorum – 7
unpledged – 8
The race is far, far from over. 28/1143 = 2.5% of the needed delegates.
Sleep Still in Their Empty Eyes
Nate Silver wonders if the prior nominating processes in previous years are relevant anymore:
Perhaps, then, there is profound resistance among Republican voters to nominating Mr. Romney after all. He has significant weaknesses as a candidate, having reversed his position on several major issues at a time when conservative voters distrust the Republican establishment and value authenticity. And he is a Mormon from Massachusetts — not a traditional pedigree for a Republican candidate.
If the resistance is strong enough, perhaps Republicans will nominate Mr. Gingrich. Or perhaps there will be an effort to draft a candidate who is not currently running for president, like former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida or Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin or Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
Political parties sometimes do go through challenging phases. In the past, they have not happened to coincide with periods in which the other party had an incumbent president with a 45 percent approval rating amid a poor economy. But parties have tended to nominate more ideologically extreme candidates in their first cycle out of the White House rather than being willing to settle for an electable moderate.
Still, the nomination of Mr. Gingrich would very much violate the “More of the Same” paradigm, given that he has proudly and loudly proclaimed that he will not adopt the auspices of a traditional campaign, and that he would be one of the most unpopular candidates ever to be nominated by a major party.
But perhaps “This Time Is Different.” We will learn a lot more in the coming days based on the results in Florida and movement in national polls.
Although there can be a tendency to overreact to developments, there can also be a tendency to stubbornly default to conventional wisdom and previous assumptions about the way the process is supposed to work.
In the case of presidential primaries, previous beliefs ought not be accorded all that much weight: Americans have not been picking presidential nominees in quite this way for all that long, and yet a presidential nomination process is complex. In more abstract terms, both conceptual and statistical models of the presidential nomination process may be “overfit” and draw too many conclusions from idiosyncratic examples.
Steve Kornacki wonders what happens if Romney doesn’t win Florida:
Newt Gingrich wanted to make Mitt Romney’s life miserable, and now he’s succeeded.
After getting blown out in Iowa on Jan. 3, the former House speaker all but announced he was transforming his presidential campaign into a one-man crusade to exact maximum vengeance on Romney, whose super PAC allies had crushed Gingrich’s December surge with a barrage of negative attacks. Gingrich then suffered through a predictably miserable week in New Hampshire before moving to friendlier turf in South Carolina, where he completed one of the more improbable turnarounds in modern presidential campaign history on Saturday night with a startlingly lopsided victory over Romney.
The outcome severely complicates – and potentially imperils – Romney’s march to the Republican nomination. As the week began, he seemed positioned to post his third victory in as many contests in South Carolina, a feat that no previous GOP candidate had achieved and that would have essentially ended the race on the spot. But with his defeat, which came after some of Romney’s most problematic general election baggage was exposed, Romney’s standing in national GOP polls and in the next primary state – Florida, which votes on Jan. 31 – figures to plummet. Questions about his appeal to the Republican base and his vulnerabilities in the fall will invite new and intense scrutiny.
The chaos theory: This is the really fun one, and the least likely. But after Saturday night, it at least warrants a mention. The basics: What if Romney suffers such a bad loss in Florida that his campaign melts down completely and elite Republicans lose confidence in his ability to stop Gingrich? If they really are committed to stopping the former speaker, these elites would then be in need of a Plan B, leading to the “white knight” scenario – a new candidate drafted into the race who could qualify for the late big-state primaries and to prevent Gingrich from racking up the delegates he’d need for a first ballot nomination. There are many reasons to sniff at this possibility, not the least of which is that it’s unclear if the GOP has any candidate on the sidelines who’d be capable of this. But if Mitt can’t get the job done in Florida, expect to hear it mentioned a lot.
Confirming my long held opinion that Chuck Todd is a hack, he complained vehemently about Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC satire:
Has Todd ever seen the Colbert report? If so, he would recognize that Colbert’s entire schtick is to be a faux-Conservative, so it would make no sense whatsoever for him to run as a Democrat. Additionally, as even Todd recognizes the system is a mess, Colbert’s only sin is to point out how screwed up the whole process is for a much larger audience, because ALLAH KNOWS Todd and his beltway buddies aren’t. They’re too busy in the day to day horse race, too terrified to point out the absurdities of both the system and the GOP candidates, and lately, have spent their time pathetically wondering out loud if they should even report facts.
And Todd won’t ever tell you this, but he and the rest of the bobbleheads and their corporations don’t want the system fixed. They like it as a mess. If we were to hold elections like other civilized nations, we’d have public funding of them and they would last for a finite period. That would mean that billions of fewer dollars spent on advertising on places like NBC, CBS, ABC, and all the other media outlets. That would mean that Todd and others like him, who really add no value to the system, would be looking for legitimate work. Let’s face it, if these guys are terrified of stating the truth out of the fear of being called biased, what purpose do they actually serve at all? None. Not one person in the nation would be less informed than they are right now if you fired the whole lot of political operatives and political analysts. In fact, the opposite is true- they’d probably be more informed.
Additionally, the corporations also like the mess our current system is, because it gives them massive influence they would not otherwise have. Dodd told you all that this morning when he lamented the fact that the SOPA bill took too long and that was its downfall. What he meant was “all the wheels were greased, everyone was bought and paid for with corporate cash, but we screwed up and allowed the little guys time to figure out what we were doing.”
A lot of Democrats are giddy about the prospect of Newty-Newt winning the nomination, and a lot of Republicans are worried too:
Henry Barbour, a top Rick Perry fundraiser who endorsed Mitt Romney after the Texas governor dropped out, said Gingrich could not beat President Obama and would cost Republicans many House and Senate seats.
Barbour told The Hill that endorsing Romney and coming to his South Carolina rally was a “very easy decision” because of Gingrich, who he said would turn the presidential race from a referendum on Obama into “the adventures of Newt Gingrich.”
“Newt would be a disaster as the nominee,” he said. “He will put the House at risk. He will put our chances of taking the Senate down the tubes.”
Barbour, who ran his uncle Haley Barbour’s successful reelection campaign as Mississippi governor, warned that Gingrich would cost the GOP chances at some governorships as well, and could not beat Obama.
“He’s too polarizing a figure to win the White House. He can’t win independent voters and we can’t win the White House without independent voters. He would be a disaster for our down-ticket candidates and our gubernatorial candidates.”
I would be insanely surprised if Newt Gingrich even survives the first couple months of the upcoming primary season. He just has too much political baggage.
Talking Points Memo reports:
The real news in Bloomberg’s new reporting on Newt Gingrich’s time as a consultant for Freddie Mac isn’t how much he made — though that’s pretty precious — but that Freddie Mac sources from that time period say Newt was not, as he claimed, warning them about the housing bubble or the dangers of their business model. Nor, it should be added, was Newt advising them, as he most preposterously claimed, as a historian. In fact, his role was, in part, to protect the mortgage giants from more regulation by the Republican-controlled House.
Clea Benson and Dawn Kopecki write that Gingrich made much more than the $300,000 he claimed last week. Significantly more, in fact:
Newt Gingrich made between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees from two contracts with mortgage company Freddie Mac, according to two people familiar with the arrangement. The total amount is significantly larger than the $300,000 payment from Freddie Mac that Gingrich was asked about during a Republican presidential debate on Nov. 9 sponsored by CNBC, and more than was disclosed in the middle of congressional investigations into the housing industry collapse.
Gingrich’s business relationship with Freddie Mac spanned a period of eight years. When asked at the debate what he did to earn a $300,000 payment in 2006, the former speaker said he “offered them advice on precisely what they didn’t do,” and warned the company that its lending practices were “insane.” Former Freddie Mac executives who worked with Gingrich dispute that account.
Gingrich’s first contract with the mortgage lender was in 1999, five months after he resigned from Congress and as House speaker, according to a Freddie Mac press release.His primary contact inside the organization was Mitchell Delk, Freddie Mac’s chief lobbyist, and he was paid a self- renewing, monthly retainer of $25,000 to $30,000 between May 1999 until 2002, according to three people familiar with aspects of the business agreement.
During that period, Gingrich consulted with Freddie Mac executives on a program to expand home ownership, an idea Delk said he pitched to President George W. Bush’s White House.
and Gingrich lied about what his role was, unsurprisingly:
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said during a Nov. 9 debate that he earned a $300,000 fee to advise Freddie Mac as a “historian” who warned that the mortgage company’s business model was “insane.”
Former Freddie Mac officials familiar with the consulting work Gingrich was hired to perform for the company in 2006 tell a different story. They say the former House speaker was asked to build bridges to Capitol Hill Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company’s public-private structure that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it.
If Gingrich concluded that the company’s business model was at risk and that the housing market was a “bubble,” as he said during the debate, he didn’t share those concerns with Richard Syron, Freddie Mac’s chief executive officer at the time, a person familiar with the company’s internal discussions said.
Greg Sargent takes us to Paul Ryan’s latest speech, in which Ryan expresses outrage over what President Obama is saying:
Just last week, the President told a crowd in North Carolina that Republicans are in favor of, quote, “dirtier air, dirtier water, and less people with health insurance.” Can you think of a pettier way to describe sincere disagreements between the two parties on regulation and health care?
Just for the record: why is this petty? Why is it anything but a literal description of GOP proposals to weaken environmental regulation and repeal the Affordable Care Act?
I mean, to the extent that the GOP has a coherent case on environmental regulation, it is that the economic payoff from weaker regulation would more than compensate for the dirtier air and water. Is anyone really claiming that less regulation won’t mean more pollution?
So Ryan is outraged, outraged, that Obama is offering a wholly accurate description of his party’s platform.
Let me add that this illustrates a point that many commenters here don’t seem to get: criticism of policy proposals is not the same thing as ad hominem attacks. If I say that Paul Ryan’s mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries, that’s ad hominem. If I say that his plan would hurt millions of people and that he’s not being honest about the numbers, that’s harsh, but not ad hominem.
The United States has deep, serious structural problems with our economy, and yet the morons in Congress debate trivialities.
Malcom Fraser, former Prime Minister of Australia writes, part:
The United States’ friends around the world watched with dismay the recent brawl over raising the federal government’s debt ceiling, and the US congress’ inability to come to anything like a balanced and forward-looking compromise. On the contrary, the outcome represents a significant victory for the Tea Party’s minions, whose purpose seems to be to reduce government obligations and expenditures to a bare minimum (some object even to having a central bank), and to maintain President George W Bush’s outrageous tax breaks for the wealthy. The United States’ current fiscal problems are rooted in a long period of unfunded spending. Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the manner in which he conducted the “global war on terror” made matters much worse, contributing to a totally unsustainable situation. Indeed, Obama inherited an almost impossible legacy.
In the weeks since the debt ceiling agreement, it has become increasingly clear that good government might be impossible in the US. The coming months of campaigning for the US presidency will be spent in petty brawling over what should be cut. The example of recent weeks gives us no cause for optimism that US legislators will rise above partisan politics and ask themselves what is best for America.
In these circumstances, it is not surprising that financial markets have returned to extreme volatility. The expenditure cuts mandated by the outcome of the debt-ceiling debate will reduce economic activity, thereby undermining growth and making debt reduction even more difficult. Providing further fiscal stimulus to boost economic growth would carry its own risks, owing to the debt ceiling and another, more ominous factor: the US is already overly indebted, and there are signs that major holders of US government securities are finally tired of being repaid in depreciated currency.
Most importantly, China’s call for the introduction of a new reserve currency stems from its frustration with the failure of major governments – whether in the US or Europe – to govern their economic affairs with realism and good sense. China recognises that the US is in great difficulty (indeed, it recognises this more clearly than the US itself), and that, given the poisonous political atmosphere prevailing in Washington, there will be no easy return to good government, economic stability, and strong growth.
One more important excerpt from Mr. Fraser’s Op-Ed:
The counter-argument – that any sell-off or failure by China to continue to buy US government securities would hurt China as much as the US – is not valid. As each year passes, China’s markets expand worldwide, and its domestic market comes to represent a greater percentage of its own GDP. As a result, China will not need a strong dollar in the long term. Americans need to get their economic house in order before China loses its incentive to support the dollar.
On several occasions in the post-WWII period, the US has learned with great pain that there are limits to the effective use of military power. US objectives could not be achieved in Vietnam. The outcome in Iraq will not be determined until the last American troops have been withdrawn. In Afghanistan, where withdrawal dates have already been set, it is difficult to believe that a cohesive unified state can be established.
As the efficacy of military power is reduced, so the importance of economic power grows. Recognition of these central realities – and bipartisanship in addressing them – is critical for America’s future, and for that of the West.
We ignore these realities at our peril – and allowing the Tea Party to control policy is akin to letting someone hepped up on bath salts pilot your airplane. Dangerously stupid, in other words.
Rick Perry doesn’t seem like the type to let facts get in the way of constant stream of vitriol.
On Aug. 16, while speaking in Iowa, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a Republican presidential candidate, took the demonization of Mr. Bernanke to a new level. He declared in much-quoted remarks — and to appreciative laughter from the crowd — that “we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas,” and that Mr. Bernanke’s monetary policy was “almost treacherous — or treasonous, in my opinion.” The next day, in New Hampshire, Mr. Perry was less inflammatory but more pointed. “They should open their books up,” he said of the Fed. “They should be transparent so that the people of the United States know what they are doing.”…
It’s also hard to fathom what Mr. Perry means when he calls for the Fed to “open its books up.” It publicly releases its current balance sheet every Thursday at approximately 4:30 p.m., and it’s available on the Fed’s Web site. Mr. Perry’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The charge that the Fed is “printing money” seems to be shorthand for recklessly risking or even seeking inflation. That notion “is complete nonsense,” Robert E. Hall, a senor fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution and professor of economics at Stanford, told me. “But it must be exciting to accuse him of things he hasn’t done.”
GOP assholes taking advantage of the distracted country to attempt to sneak in an eviseration of everything protecting the environment from corporate rape and pillage. A paint-by-the-numbers definition of what Naomi Klein called the Shock Doctrine, aka disaster capitalism…
With the nation’s attention diverted by the drama over the debt ceiling, Republicans in the House of Representatives are loading up an appropriations bill with 39 ways — and counting — to significantly curtail environmental regulation.
One would prevent the Bureau of Land Management from designating new wilderness areas for preservation. Another would severely restrict the Department of Interior’s ability to police mountaintop-removal mining. And then there is the call to allow new uranium prospecting near Grand Canyon National Park.
But Democrats argue that the policy prescriptions are proof that Republicans are determined to undo clean air and water protections established 40 years ago.
Many of these new restrictions, they point out, were proposed in the budget debate earlier this year and failed. They are back, the Democrats say, because Republicans are doing the bidding of industry and oil companies.
“The new Republican majority seems intent on restoring the robber-baron era where there were no controls on pollution from power plants, oil refineries and factories,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, excoriating the proposal on the floor.
Environmental regulations and the E.P.A. have been the bane of Tea Party Republicans almost from the start. Although particularly outraged by efforts to monitor carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas linked to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere, freshmen Republicans have tried to rein in the E.P.A. across the board — including proposals to take away its ability to decide if coal ash can be designated as a toxic material and to prevent it from clarifying rules enforcing the Clean Water Act.
Conservatives have been adding amendments at a furious pace. Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group, counted more than 70 anti-environmental amendments filed as of Wednesday morning and was monitoring for more.
But Mr. Goldston of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that although most of the policy attachments would never become law, the Republican appropriations flurry was still unnerving — and could pose more reason for concern in coming months. ”We are then going to be in a situation again where the Senate and president face the question of whether they are willing to shut down the government or appease a motley group in the House over a spending bill,” he said. “No one knows how that plays out.”
Wow, what if this was true? I wouldn’t be surprised if Rick “Christian Taliban” Perry is thinking the same thing, and this is why he is considering entering the race. Given a choice between a Tea Bagger woman and a Tea Bagging man, most GOP faithful will choose a man every time. And yeah, that sounds a bit funny, but the Republicans often do endorse those sort of sexual-political dynamics, right?
Markos Moulitsas argues:
Michele Bachmann will be the GOP nominee.
Yeah, yeah—this could be wishful thinking. Bachmann would gift Obama a second term and would lead to another Democratic wave election in the House. And yeah, this assumes that Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin don’t get into the race. But this is the age of Christine O’Donnell and Ken Buck. Republican primary voters don’t give a damn about electability, but about casting a vote for the purest candidate.
Currently, there are three real candidates in the race—Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich is history, Rick Santorum is yesterday’s news, Ron Paul is a niche product, John Hunstman has six supporters, and Herman Cain exists only to allow Republicans to say, “Some of my best friends are black!”
Of the three credible candidates, Bachmann easily wins the purity test. Romney has been on the other side of pretty much every issue of current importance to Republicans, while Pawlenty supported the individual mandate. They’re toast.
But it’s not just policy substance. The early GOP nomination calendar clearly favors Bachmann.
Iowa caucusing is perfect for Rethuglican Teabaggery; WY (stripped of half of its delegates because it jumped ahead in line); New Hampshire; Michigan (minus any delegates); South Carolina -another Tea Bagger Friendly backwards state; NV. Who’s going to out-crazy Michele Bachmann in any of these primaries? Going to be a wild ride…
And the longer Ms. Bachmann is in the race, the more incidents like this we’ll see:
Rep. Michele Bachmann kicked off her presidential campaign on Monday in Waterloo, Iowa, and in one interview surrounding the official event she promised to mimic the spirit of Waterloo’s own John Wayne.
The only problem, as one eagle-eyed reader notes: Waterloo’s John Wayne was not the beloved movie star, but rather John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer.
Mrs. Bachmann grew up in Waterloo, and used the town as the backdrop for her campaign announcement, where she told Fox News: “Well what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That’s the kind of spirit that I have, too.” (Someone has already posted the clip to YouTube under the name BachmannLovesGacy)
John Wayne, the movie legend, is in fact from Iowa and the John Wayne birthplace is a celebrated landmark — only it’s in Winterset, which is a nearly three hour drive away from Waterloo.
Gacy, though, had his first taste of the criminal life in Waterloo, where he lived for a short time, and where he had his first criminal conviction for an attempted homosexual assault, which landed him in prison for 18 months.
How many low-information voters regret their votes for economy-destroying, Medicare-ending, environment-despoiling Republicans now? Even some of the Teabaggers wish they had paid a bit more attention to the lying Republicans who asked for their votes…
Katrina Vanden Heuvel reports:
It’s been a common refrain of politicians in Washington for as long as the capitol has been unpopular: “It’s good to get outside the beltway, good to go get back to the real America.” But in recent days that cliché might feel a bit stale for Republican House members, who voted last month for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal. Inside the beltway, Ryan is called “courageous,” a “visionary,” a “serious man,” for having the bravery to put forth a budget that pays for tax cuts for the wealthy by ending Medicare as we know it. Back home in his district, he’s becoming known as the leader of the most serious assault on seniors since President Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security.
In April, Ryan was greeted, not with the outsized praise of New York Times columnist David Brooks at his town hall in Milton, Wisconsin, but instead, with sustained boos. On Friday, according to Politico, he asked police to remove a man from his town hall because the man refused to stop yelling about the impact the Ryan budget would have on Medicare.
He’s not alone. In New Hampshire, the first six questions posed to Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH) were about his vote in favor of Ryan’s budget. “I’m not surprised it’s controversial,” said Bass of his vote. But for a man who won his seat during the 2010 Republican wave by a little more than 3,000 votes, it’s an open question as to whether his career can afford such controversy.
In addition to Ryan and Bass, at least six other GOPers have faced pointed questions and outright protest at town halls, reminiscent of the tea party anger seen at Democratic town halls in 2009. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) arrived at his town hall greeted with signs that said “Hands Off Medicare.” The meeting became so contentious that police officers intervened to quiet the crowd. The New York Times described one such town hall as approaching “near chaos.” The Orlando Sentinel described another as reaching the level of “bedlam.”
Already, some members are backing away from their votes. By the end of Charlie Bass’s town hall, he already seemed to be wavering. “If there are certain facets of the budget that are manifestly unpopular, I think that should be taken into consideration… this is the beginning of a long conversation.” How manifestly unpopular is Ryan’s plan for Medicare? A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that more than 80 percent of all Americans disapprove of cuts to the program. A whopping 70 percent of Republicans opposed them, as well, making it one of the most unpopular positions supported by a national party in modern memory.
And the Ryan plan doesn’t do much, really, besides shift the burden the state level…
Enter the House Republicans’ budget proposal. Instead of a commitment to insure as many people as meet the criteria, it would substitute a set amount per state. Starting in 2013, the grant would probably equal what the state would have received anyway through federal matching funds, although that is not spelled out. After that, the block grant would rise each year only at the national rate of inflation, with adjustments for population growth.
There are several problems with that, starting with that inflation-pegged rate of growth, which could not possibly keep pace with the rising cost of medical care. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal payments would be 35 percent lower in 2022 than currently projected and 49 percent lower in 2030.
To make up the difference, states would probably have to cut payments to doctors, hospitals or nursing homes; curtail eligibility; reduce benefits; or increase their own payments for Medicaid. The problems do not end there. If a bad economy led to a sharp jump in unemployment, a state’s grant would remain the same. Nor would the block grant grow fast enough to accommodate expensive advances in medicine, rising demand for long-term care, or unexpected health care needs in the wake of epidemics or natural disasters. This would put an ever-tightening squeeze on states, forcing them to drop enrollees, cut services or pump up their own contributions.
This is not the way to go. The real problem is not Medicaid. Contrary to most perceptions, it is a relatively efficient program — with low administrative costs, a high reliance on managed care and much lower payments to providers than other public and private insurance.
The real problem is soaring medical costs. The Ryan plan does little to address that. The health care law, which Republicans have vowed to repeal, seeks to reform the entire system to deliver quality care at lower cost.