Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday Gift Ideas for Those With Too Much Money

UPDATE: See also Neiman Marcus, The 2013 Christmas Book And Fantasy Gifts

In case you needed an idea, take a look at this "holiday catalog, which features extravagant gifts for customers with deep pockets. Gifts included on the list this year range from a $30,000 walk-on role in a Broadway musical to a set of 18-carat gold watches (which come with a trip to Paris and Geneva) for $1 million."  See the Washington Post, Neiman Marcus unveils 2012 'fantasy gifts' list

I'll take the first gift.

See also Just in Time for Christmas.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fear the Goat!

Go Navy, Beat Army!


From a fellow alum:

A guy walks into a bar in wearing an Army Football jersey and carrying a cat that also has an Army jersey on with a little Army helmet on his head too.

The guy says to the bartender, "Can my cat and I watch the Army-Navy game here? My TV at home broke down and my cat and I always watch the game together."

The bartender replies, "Normally, cats wouldn't be allowed in my bar, but it's not very busy in here right now, so you and the cat can have a seat at the end of the bar. But, if there's any trouble with you or the cat, I'll have to ask you to leave."

The guy agrees, and he and his cat start watching the game. Pretty soon Army manages to kick a field goal and the excited cat jumps up on the bar, walks all the way down and gives everyone a high five.

The bartender says, "Hey, that's pretty cool! What does he do for a touchdown?"

The guys answers, "I don't know, I've only had him for 3 years.""


Sorry Republi-CONs, Jesus Would Be Be a Democrat

UPDATE II:  And sorry Republi-cons, "Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, probably a dark-skinned man. If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening by TSA."

Read The Atlantic, Insisting Jesus Was White Is Bad History and Bad Theology.

He's more like Santa, "the result of wild imaginations and creative input from many people across centuries . . . utterly divorced from his religious and historical roots."

Read Slate, What Fox News Doesn’t Understand About Santa Claus.

In fact if you think about it they are both like Hedgehog New, the result of wild imaginations and creative delusions, utterly divorced from facts and reality.

UPDATE:  "If Francis’s embrace of the disabled, his focus on the poor and his mercy for the sinner sound vaguely familiar, that’s because you’ve heard them before. From that Jesus guy."

Read the Washington Post, Like Pope Francis? You’ll love Jesus.

Pope Francis has been under fire from Republi-cons after he criticized capitalism as "'a deified market' and 'a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.' He is particularly tough on ideologies that assume economic growth is a sufficient social goal and that would deny to governments an active role in humanizing free markets.

Some American conservatives, issuing a different sort of papal bull, have accused the pope of “pure Marxism” and being “the Catholic Church’s Obama.” In the process, they are demonstrating how ideology can become a consuming substitute for faith. . .

Those surprised that Catholic social thought is incompatible with libertarianism haven’t been paying attention — for decades. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI said the same. And all warned of the danger when a mode of economic exchange becomes a mind-set. Absent a moral commitment to human dignity, justice and compassion, capitalism is conducive to materialism, individualism and selfishness. It is a system that depends on virtues it does not create. "

Read the Washington Post, Pope Francis and the argument for compassionate capitalism.

If you need more proof, consider how capitalism has corrupted Christmas, which the article notes is now little more than a "shopping season — as evidenced by loud, repetitive commercials — . . . all about seizing the objects of our desires. Christmas songs are turned into commercial jingles. 'Do You Hear What I Hear?,' in the gospel according to J.C. Penney, becomes, 'Do you see what Liz sees? A jacket, a skirt and peep-toe shoes. She’ll be rocking the peep-toe shoes.'".

Happy Shopmas!

Read also:

WWJC ('What Would Jesus Cut?')

Would Jesus Occupy Wall Street?

WWJT (Who Would Jesus Torture)

The Price of Fear, Anger and Hatred

UPDATE II:  Says the "first commander of the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay . . . 'many of the detainees should never have been sent in the first place. They had little intelligence value, and there was insufficient evidence linking them to war crimes. . . the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong. We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantánamo, both in terms of detention and torture. Our decision to keep Guantánamo open has helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States.'"

Read Slate,"A Prison That Should Never Have Been Opened".

Read also Does the Star-Spangled Banner Wave Over the Land of the Torturers?

UPDATE:  Who needs due process?  You do.

"For years now, War on Terrorism hawks have been arguing that terrorists -- by which they mean people accused of terrorism -- don't identify themselves like traditional enemies; and that it's foolish to read them their rights, to bring them before a judge, to require that evidence be presented to justify holding them, or to interfere with the judgment calls the executive branch makes in war time. . .

[The case of 'Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis, who was jailed for a week, interrogated while chained to a chair as the FBI turned his house upside down, with no confession or physical evidence tying him to the ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and other public officials'] is a reminder that being accused of a heinous act, like sending a poison-laced letter to the president, does not mean that the accused is guilty. It is an eye-opening look at an FBI apparently willing to continue holding a man it had good reason to believe innocent. And it is a demonstration of why our system requires appearing before a judge, with evidence, to hold a suspect: to protect innocents from being imprisoned, and to ensure that the real bad guys are found."

Read The Atlantic, What the Framing of a Terror Suspect Says About GOP Attacks on Due Process

"[S]even and a half years at Guantánamo, without explanation" and a stain on the U.S. Constitution.

Read The New York Times, My Guantánamo Nightmare.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is Pastor Truthiness (Formerly Known as Pastor Poppins) the Anti-Christ?

It's generally agreed that the Anti-Christ will be a deceiver.

And we know how accurate Pastor Truthiness (formerly known as Pastor Poppins) has been reporting the Chinese missile launch over California, and his predictions of impeachment because of the fraudulent birth certificate and the soon-to-be apocalypse (to mention just a few of his many pronouncements).  He is not part of the fundamentalist subculture of ignorance that embraces 'discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas'.

Now he is promoting that Obama is the Anti-Christ. 

Read The Raw Story, Is Obama the anti-Christ? It’s irresponsible not to speculate, birther pastor says

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pensacola's Poor Little Mullet-Wrapper

Remember the Sheriff bragging about the local ATF operation "Anything for a Buck", which was ended with the Sheriff saying things like 'it had reached a saturation point', 'before it caused crime', and 'they didn't want to aid and abet'? 

Read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, ATF uses rogue tactics in storefront stings across nation. The read the rest of the newspaper's investigative series, Backfire.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a 'Watchdog' section' to hold "politicians and the powerful accountable".  It puts our little mullet-wrapper to shame. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Trying To Understand Republi-CON Hatred of Obama, Is It Because They Consider Him an Uppity Black Man?

"To identify 12 Years a Slave as merely a story about slavery is to miss what makes race the furious and often pathological subtext of American politics in the Obama era. . .

[In a recent] column in National Review by Quin Hillyer, a conservative pundit, think-tank fellow, and former candidate for the GOP nomination in Alabama’s first Congressional district . . . [he said:]

'Every time decent people think the scandals and embarrassments circling Barack Obama will sink this presidency, we look up and see Obama still there — chin jutting out, countenance haughty, voice dripping with disdain for conservatives — utterly unembarrassed, utterly undeterred from any assertion of power he thinks he can get away with, tradition and propriety and the Constitution be damned. The man has no shame, no self-doubt, not a shred of humility, no sense that anybody else has legitimate reason to question him or hold any other point of view.'

It is bizarre to ascribe haughtiness and a lack of a capacity for embarrassment to a president whose most recent notable public appearance was a profusely and even flamboyantly contrite press conference spent repeatedly confessing to “fumbles” and “mistakes.” Why would Hillyer believe such a factually bizarre thing?

One answer is that, by the evidence of this column, Hillyer believes all sorts of factually bizarre things. But most African-Americans, and many liberal whites, would read Hillyer’s rant as the cultural heir to Northup’s overseer: a southern white reactionary enraged that a calm, dignified, educated black man has failed to prostrate himself. . .

Hillyer finds nothing uncomfortable at all about wrapping himself in a racist trope. He is either unaware of the freighted connotation of calling a black man uppity, or he doesn’t care. In the absence of a racial slur or an explicitly bigoted attack, no racial alarm bells sound in his brain. . .

Conservatives have made endless jokes based on the strange premise that Obama is unable to express coherent thoughts unless reading from a teleprompter, defined health-care reform as 'reparations,' imagined a Reagan-era program to subsidize telephone use for the indigent is actually 'Obamaphones,' or complained when black entertainers or athletes socialize with the First Family. The accusations of racism that follow merely confirm to conservatives that black-on-white racism is a canard, that the balance of oppression has turned against them.

Conservatives can transport themselves for two hours into the hellish antebellum world of 12 Years a Slave and experience the same horror and grief that liberals feel. What they cannot do, almost uniformly, is walk out of the theater and detect the still-extant residue of that world all around them."

Read New York Magazine, 12 Years a Slave and the Obama Era.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Understanding the Republi-CON Hatred of Government and Emotional Addiction To Hysteria

In response to the routine Republi-con hatred of government, a great article on the purpose of government, which also explains the right's emotional addiction to hysteria.  Read The New York Times, The Stem and the Flower:

"How much emotional and psychic space should politics take up in a normal healthy brain?. .

On the one hand, there are those who are completely cynical about politics. But, as the columnist Michael Gerson has put it, this sort of cynicism is the luxury of privileged people. If you live in a functioning society, you can say politicians are just a bunch of crooks. But, if you live in a place without rule of law, where a walk down a nighttime street can be terrifying, where tribalism leads to murder, you know that politics is a vital concern. . .

Then there are those who look to politics for identity. They treat their partisan affiliation as a form of ethnicity. These people drive a lot of talk radio and television. . .

Now most TV and radio talk is minute political analysis, while talk of culture has shriveled. This change is driven by people who, absent other attachments, have fallen upon partisanship to give them a sense of righteousness and belonging.

This emotional addiction can lead to auto-hysteria.

So if politics should not be nothing in life, but not everything, what should it be? . .

Imagine you are going to a picnic. Government is properly in charge of maintaining the essential background order: making sure there is a park, that it is reasonably clean and safe, arranging public transportation so as many people as possible can get to it. But if you remember the picnic afterward, these things won’t be what you remember. You’ll remember the creative food, the interesting conversations and the fun activities.

Government is the hard work of creating a background order, but it is not the main substance of life. As Samuel Johnson famously put it, “How small, of all that human hearts endure,/That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.” Government can set the stage, but it can’t be the play. . .

So one’s attitude toward politics should be a passionate devotion to a mundane and limited thing. Government is essential, but, to switch metaphors ridiculously, it’s the stem of the flower, not the bloom. The best government is boring, gradual and orderly. It’s steady reform, not exciting transformation. It’s keeping the peace and promoting justice and creating a background setting for mobility, but it doesn’t deliver meaning."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

You Don't Know Jack, Current Events Edition

"Test your knowledge of prominent people and major events in the news by taking our short 13-question quiz. Then see how you did in comparison with 1,052 randomly sampled adults asked the same questions in a national survey conducted online August 7-14 by the Pew Research Center. The new survey includes a mixture of multiple-choice questions using photographs, maps, charts, and text."

See the Pew Research Center, The News IQ Quiz

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why the Republi-CONs Have an 'Ahab-Like Determination to Destroy Obamacare'

UPDATE V:  "Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, for instance, is going perfectly well in states that chose to accept it. . .

[I]ndeed, the argument for a broader single-payer health-care system is very much intact. Instead, the elements of Obamacare that are failing are precisely those market-based initiatives that Republicans most want to work."

Read Bloomberg, Obamacare’s Failings Undermine Republican Goals.

UPDATE IV:  The funny thing is, Republi-cons should want Obamacare to work.

"[T]he worst features of Obamacare are the very features that conservatives want to impose on all federal social policy: means-testing, a major role for the states, and subsidies to private providers instead of direct public provision of health or retirement benefits.   This is not surprising, because Obamacare’s models are right-wing models — the Heritage Foundation’s healthcare plan in the 1990s and Mitt Romney’s “Romneycare” in Massachusetts.

This point is worth dwelling on.  Conservatives want all social insurance to look like Obamacare.  The radical right would like to replace Social Security with an Obamacare-like system, in which mandates or incentives pressure Americans to steer money into tax-favored savings accounts like 401(k)s and to purchase annuities at retirement, with means-tested subsidies to help the poor make their private purchases.  And most conservative and libertarian plans for healthcare for the elderly involve replacing Medicare with a totally new system designed along the lines of Obamacare, with similar mandates or incentives to compel the elderly to buy private health insurance from for-profit corporations. . .

Read Salon, Here’s how GOP Obamacare hypocrisy backfires.

UPDATE III:  "It got buried beneath an avalanche of Obamacare scrutiny and anti-Obamacare spin, but the most revealing statement about the future of the Affordable Care Act yesterday came in the form of a flustered conversation between a CNN host and Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C.

[H]ere’s the short version.

An unusual arrangement in the commonwealth of Kentucky gave Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear the power to implement the Affordable Care Act almost by fiat. And he did it. The ironic consequence is that one of the most conservative states in the country, surrounded by states that have by and large tried to obstruct the law, now has one of its best functioning insurance exchanges, Kynect.

Because it was developed independently from — and because Beshear’s administration took great care to make the law work for skeptical constituents — Kynect customers seem to be happy and are signing up by the thousands.

Ellmers’ North Carolina doesn’t share a border with Kentucky but it’s safe to call it a neighboring state. Its population as a whole is less conservative than Kentucky’s, but it’s governed by conservative hard-liners. So it’s no surprise that Ellmers hates Obamacare and uses’s inauspicious launch to bolster the case that it should be repealed.

What’s revealing is that when asked to contend with Obamacare’s relative success across a couple of borders in Kentucky, she plunges into gibberish. She can’t even begin to grapple with it. . .

[These examples show that the U.S. may soon have a] two-tiered healthcare system. One, for most people, that would work pretty well. Another highly dysfunctional one for post-policy conservatives, which would either last until the feds get it right, or slowly shrink over time as states recognized how pointless the stand they were taking really was."

Read Salon, The amazing politics of failure.

UPDATE II:  "The classic definition of chutzpah is the child who kills his parents and then asks for leniency because he's an orphan. But in recent weeks, we've begun to see the Washington definition: A party that does everything possible to sabotage a law and then professes fury when the law's launch is rocky."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP’s Obamacare chutzpah

UPDATE:  Read also, The New York Times, Why the Health Care Law Scares the G.O.P.

"Washington was shut down because Republicans don't want Obamacare. On the other hand, Obamacare was nearly shut down because so many Americans wanted Obamacare. . .

This is, of course, precisely what Republicans were scared of: That a law they loathe would end up being enthusiastically embraced by millions of Americans -- and thus proving permanent. It's Obamacare's possible success, not its promised failures, that unnerve the GOP. . .

[M]illions of Americans have been waiting for something like Obamacare, and now that they've got it, they're going to want to keep it."

Read the Washington Post, This is what the Republicans were afraid of

Monday, November 18, 2013

I May Be Paranoid, But They Are Watching You

Want to know the extent of the massive surveillance of American citizens by 'our' government, read the Pensacola News Journal, Washington High student's bomb joke no laughing matter, which reported:

"What started out as an apparent joke over Twitter ended in a criminal investigation and the possibility of expulsion for a student at Washington High School.

Investigators were at Booker T. Washington High School last month after a student reportedly tweeted a friend that she 'would pay someone to blow up this school,' according to a Pensacola Police incident report.

'Sure. Where? When?' the friend tweeted in reply.

The Twitter exchange between the Washington student and a Pensacola State College student took place just before 11 a.m. Oct. 29, according to the report. The communication was intercepted by an outside agency. The actual agency that spotted the perceived threat and reported it to the school was unclear, local officials said. (Emphasis added in case you missed it.)

'It was because of the words that were utilized that they informed the school,' Pensacola Police Captain David Alexander said.

Once the school was notified, school officials contacted the police, who were able to track the tweets to an honors student at the high school and a student attending PSC, Alexander said.

'The next thing you know, they were the subject of an investigation,' Alexander said."

If this report doesn't worry you . . .

(The article did note that "detectives determined that the tweets posed no real threat, and no arrests were made.")

Also, read You Better Watch Out, He's Making a List, He Knows When You've Been Bad or Good, and It Ain't Just Santa and Uncle Sam's Naughty List.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Go Ted and the Tea Party, Go!

UPDATE:  Tuesday is a pivotal day for the Tea Party in their civil war with the Republi-con establishment.  They have already lost the battle in NJ, where "highly popular incumbent Chris Christie, who conspicuously spurned the tea party wing, is cruising to reelection. In Virginia, a seat that should be safely Republican has been put in jeopardy. . .

[The Democratic nominee, Terry McAuliffe] shouldn’t have a chance in this race. He’s a liberal from New York, a McLean millionaire, a former Democratic National Committee chairman who served as chief moneyman to Bill and Hillary Clinton. A company he led as chairman until last year, GreenTech, is under federal investigations, and he failed to disclose his investment in a Rhode Island insurance scam that used the identities of dying people."

Read the Washington Post,When the tea party jumped the shark.

Another battle is a special Republican primary runoff for Congress in South Alabama, piting “Bradley Byrne, a lawyer and former Republican officeholder” who is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against "Dean Young, the Tea Party-backed businessman."

Read The New York Times, In Alabama Race, a Test of Business Efforts to Derail Tea Party.
 FYI -- jumping the shark, coined to describe an episode of the 1970s TV show Happy Days, is an idiom "used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery, which is usually a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use [a cartoonish turn towards attention-seeking gimmickry] in a desperate attempt to keep viewers' interest."

"Polling released this week by the Washington Post and ABC News found the GOP’s unfavorability ratings among Americans at an all-time high of 63 percent.

But a closer look at the numbers reveals that this has been accompanied by a massive collapse in 2013 of the GOP brand among core constituencies important in midterm elections: Independents, women, and seniors. The crack Post polling team has produced a new chart demonstrating that in the last year — since just before the 2012 election – there’s been a truly astonishing spike in the GOP’s unfavorable ratings among these core groups:

 The interactive chart (run the cursor on the bars for numbers) shows the GOP’s unfavorable ratings have jumped 19 points among seniors, to 65 percent; 17 points among independents, to 67 percent; and 10 points among women, to 63 percent. Those are all key constituencies in midterm elections."

Read the Washington Post, The implosion of the GOP brand, in one chart.

And invite Sarah to join in too!

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Republi-CON 'Health Insurance is Like Any Other Product or Insurance' Myth

UPDATE IV: "In 2009, millions of Americans lacked any health insurance whatsoever and millions more had private health insurance metaphorically designed to explode at the hint of any serious illness or preexisting conditions or exorbitant medical costs.  So, in 2009, 14,000 Americans were losing their health insurance every single day.  And medical bills were prompting more than 60 percent of all bankruptcies in our nation. In other words, many health insurance policies were patently dangerous and unsafe."

Read Salon, The right’s most loathsome Obamacare lie yet.  

UPDATE III:  "Obamacare's critics are going to town on the cancellation letters millions of Americans are receiving from their health insurers, informing them that their health plans won't conform to the new federal standards for health coverage as of Jan. 1. . .

Back in March, Consumer Reports published a study of many of these plans and placed them in a special category: "junk health insurance." Some plans, the magazine declared, may be worse than none at all.

Consumer Reports is right. Plans with monthly premiums in the two figures marketed to customers in their 30s, 40s, or even 50s invariably impose ridiculously low coverage limits. They've typically been pitched to people who couldn't find affordable insurance because of their age or preexisting conditions, or who were so financially strapped that they were lured by the cheap upfront cost. . .

An example from CR: A plan costing $65 a month held by Judith Goss, 48, a Michigan department store employee. When Goss was diagnosed with breast cancer, she discovered the drawbacks of the policy's coverage limits of $1,000 a year for outpatient treatment and $2,000 for hospitalization -- barely enough to cover a day and half a Tylenol in the hospital. She delayed treatment, so her cancer got much worse before she finally opted for surgery. Those sorts of coverage limits are illegal  come Jan. 1. . .

[Or c]onsider the case of Diane Barrette, the 56-year-old Florida woman whose cancellation horror story was reported by a credulous CBS News and picked up by Fox News, which has been a one-stop shop for your Obamacare misinformation needs. (We mentioned the Barrette case on Tuesday.)

CR's Metcalf examined Barrette's Blue Cross Blue Shield policy and made two discoveries: how junky it really is, and how badly her insurer may have misled her about her options. Barrette's $54 monthly premium bought her almost nothing. The policy pays $50 per office visit (which can run two or three times that) and $15 per prescription (which can run to thousands of dollars a month); above that she's on her own. Nothing for a colonoscopy. Nothing for mental health treatment. Up to $50 for hospital and ER services -- and then only if her treatment is for 'complications of pregnancy.' Nothing for outpatient services.

'She's paying $650 a year to be uninsured,' said an insurance expert Metcalf consulted. If she ever had a serious medical problem, 'she would have lost the house she's sitting in.'"

Read the Los Angeles Times, Obamacare hysteria: Don't believe the canceled insurance hype

UPDATE II:  "Republicans are outraged that some Americans must give up their current insurance plans because they don't satisfy Obamacare's new regulations for benefits and pricing. . .

But Republicans are also making a substantive argument here. It’s unconscionable, they say, that lawmakers would force people to give up their current coverage. . .

It’s good politics, I’m sure. It’s also breathtakingly cynical. Republicans have repeatedly endorsed proposals that would take insurance away from many more Americans—and leave them much, much worse off. . .

The real issue here isn’t simply Republican opportunism and hypocrisy—although, please, let’s not ignore that either. The real issue is about the true trade-offs of policy. Both sides offer them. With Obamacare, a small number of people lose their current insurance but they end up with alternative, typically stronger coverage. Under the plans Republicans have endorsed, a larger number of people would lose their current insurance, as people migrated to a more volatile and less secure marketplace. Under Obamacare, the number of Americans without health insurance at all will come down, eventually by 30 or 40 million. Under most of the Republican plans, the number of Americans without insurance would rise."

The New Republic, Guess Who Really Wants to Take Away Your Insurance: Republicans.  

UPDATE:  Speaking of winners and losers, under Obamacare "ninety-seven per cent of Americans are either left alone or are clear winners, while three per cent are arguably losers. . . 'no law in the history of America makes everyone better off.'"

Read The New Yorker, Obamacare’s Three Per Cent.

This is a great explanation of the nature of health insurance:

"[H]ealth insurance isn't like a toaster or, more to the point, . . . like other kinds of insurance.

Most insurance products are designed to turn an individual's risk of loss into a predictable cost. For example, your premium on homeowner's insurance should equal your expected average annual claims plus a profit margin for the insurer. If your home is in a high-crime neighborhood or especially susceptible to natural disasters, you'll pay more.

Because of this, we can more or less let people buy whatever kind of homeowner's insurance they like, or none at all.

But health insurance doesn't just allow individuals to turn risks into fixed expenses. It is also designed to shift costs across individuals, away from the sick and toward the healthy. If you have foreseeably high health costs, your health insurance premium will be less than your expected claims; if you're likely to be healthy, it will exceed them.

This system is a kind of shadow fiscal policy, redistributing income from the healthy to the sick. It can only work if consumer choice is restricted in such a way that many people are induced to buy policies that cost much more than they can expect to get back. . .

[As a  2006 paper from Georgetown's Health Policy Institute noted] 'these rules protect consumers from dramatic premium increases when they are sick, or at renewal after they become sick.' . .

That's a summary of the "private" health insurance system we have today: Subsidize and regulate to push as many people as possible into insurance pools, and shift costs among them so the healthy subsidize the sick. . .

"[C]onservatives will say that health insurance should be a normal insurance product and not a tool of fiscal redistribution. But we have this system for a reason: chronic health conditions are really expensive, and they can't be addressed through one-year contracts. Addressing the problem of uninsurability requires either heavy-handed regulation of the sort we have now and will have under Obamacare, or some other heavy-handed non-market alternative, like a single-payer plan for catastrophic health expenses. . .

[Thje fact is that] health insurance is not really a private product but a government program creating winners and losers, and the terms of the debate are about who will win and who will lose. Democrats want the poor and the sick to win. Republicans want people with existing coverage and high tax rates to win. Neither side is calling for a free market."

Read Business Insider, Here's The Truth About Your 'Private' Health Insurance — It's Already A Big Government Program

Obama, the Incompetent Nuclear Saboteur

"IT’S COMPLETELY TRUE, we read it on [on the Internet] . . .

[For the second time this month] a completely imaginary nuclear attack by Barack Obama has been foiled, and that the wingnut email network has carried the news far and wide. It’s got something to do with his plans to take all the guns and turn over the United States to the UN/Radical Islam/the Shriners or something. He is just the least competent nuclear saboteur to ever hold the position of Commander in Chief, isn’t he?"

Read Wonkette, We Are All Going To Feel Pretty Stupid When Barack Obama Really Does Nuke Charleston, South Carolina

And don't tell me it's not true, or what Snopes says, I heard the Pastor say it on WEBY, and we all know how accurate he was  reporting the Chinese missile launch over California, and his predictions of impeachment because of the fraudulent birth certificate and the soon-to-be apocalypse (to mention just a few of his many pronouncements).  He is not part of the fundamentalist subculture of ignorance that embraces 'discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas'.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Republi-CON "We're the Party of Lincoln" Myth

"Chris McDaniel is taking the 'GOP Civil War' to a new level. Two months ago, the tea party-backed Mississippi Senate candidate addressed a neo-Confederate conference and costume ball hosted by a group that promotes the work of present-day secessionists and contends the wrong side won the 'war of southern independence.' Other speakers at the event included a historian who believes Lincoln was a Marxist and Ryan Walters, a PhD candidate who worked on McDaniel's first political campaign and wrote recently that the 'controversy' over President Barack Obama's birth certificate 'hasn't really been solved.'

McDaniel, a state senator, is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Thad Cochran in next summer's GOP Senate primary. After announcing his run last week, McDaniel quickly picked up endorsements from the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a prominent backer of the tea party. Both groups are key players in the internal GOP battle between establishment-minded Republicans and tea party insurgents and are backing right-wing challenges to incumbent Republicans whom they deem insufficiently conservative. Cochran, who is finishing out his 35th year in the Senate and has not said if he will seek re-election, earned the ire of tea partiers by voting to re-open the federal government and avert defaulting on the debt. McDaniel, whose campaign bus features an image of Article I of the Constitution, has promised to make Cochran's debt ceiling vote a centerpiece of his campaign.

With their endorsements of McDaniel, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth have shown just how far they are willing to go in terms of embracing the far right to prosecute their war for the soul of the party. In August, McDaniel addressed a neo-Confederate conference in Laurel, Miss., near his hometown of Ellisville. A local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), the Jones County Rosin Heels, hosted the two-day event, which the group described in invitations as a 'Southern Heritage Conference' for 'politically incorrect folks.' Attendees were advised to dress in 'Confederate uniforms and antebellum ball gowns or wee kilties.' McDaniel's appearance at the Rosin Heels heritage conference was not a one-off occurrence; weeks earlier he was the keynote speaker at a separate event in Jackson. . .

Hobnobbing with birthers and Lost Causers may not be an impediment for McDaniel as he tries to dethrone Cochran—he is, after all, in Mississippi. According a 2011 survey from Public Policy Polling, only 47 percent of Mississippians—and 21 percent of Mississippi Republicans—were satisfied with the outcome of the Civil War."

Read Mother Jones, GOP Senate Candidate Addressed Conference Hosted by Neo-Confederate Group That Promotes Secessionism

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Republi-CON "The End Is Near" Myth

UPDATE:  Lo and behold, I reference false prophets of doom, and on the same day so does one of my favorite economic op-ed columnist.  Great minds think alike, although he gets paid a lot to write a column for The New York Times and won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.  I'm just another schlep with an unread blog:

"Once upon a time, walking around shouting “The end is nigh” got you labeled a kook, someone not to be taken seriously. These days, however, all the best people go around warning of looming disaster. In fact, you more or less have to subscribe to fantasies of fiscal apocalypse to be considered respectable.

And I do mean fantasies. Washington has spent the past three-plus years in terror of a debt crisis that keeps not happening, and, in fact, can’t happen to a country like the United States, which has its own currency and borrows in that currency. Yet the scaremongers can’t bring themselves to let go. . .

[T]here are two remarkable things about this kind of doomsaying. One is that the doomsayers haven’t rethought their premises despite being wrong again and again — perhaps because the news media continue to treat them with immense respect. The other is that as far as I can tell nobody, and I mean nobody, in the looming-apocalypse camp has tried to explain exactly how the predicted disaster would actually work. . .

Why, then, should we fear a debt apocalypse here? Surely, you may think, someone in the debt-apocalypse community has offered a clear explanation. But nobody has.

So the next time you see some serious-looking man in a suit declaring that we’re teetering on the precipice of fiscal doom, don’t be afraid. He and his friends have been wrong about everything so far, and they literally have no idea what they’re talking about."

Read The New York Times, Addicted to the Apocalypse.

"Hedge fund billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller is really, really worried about the future of the United States. He is doing an event at Georgetown next week making the case that entitlement spending will form the next mega-financial crisis, and not for the first time.

This kind of quasi-apocalyptic talk is breathtakingly common. His is of a thread with a lot of commentary that suggests that the whole world economy is just a shell game being propped up by profligate government spending and central bank money-printing, that it’s all a scam that will implode soon enough.

It is embedded in the writing of David Stockman, who views the world as being on the precipice of an 80-year central banking bubble that will pop any day now. Hamilton Nolan at Gawker has made an entire side-career out of writing 'Bubble Watch' posts. . .

The poster advertising Druckenmiller's speech last week argues that the "true national debt" is more than $200 trillion. What the sponsor  seems to be doing is looking at the liabilities side of the balance sheet, but not the asset side. Yes, Social Security and Medicare are on the hook to pay out a lot of money in the future. But they are also on track to collect many trillions in tax revenue in the future. . .

Crises are real. And they can be destructive. Policymakers should be on the watch for potential triggers of crises, and thinking deeply about how to avoid bubbles that waste human potential and result in damaging recessions. But when everything is a bubble, and apocalypse is always now, the terms becomes meaningless."

Read the Washington Post, Another billionaire is predicting doom. Ignore him.

Social Security and medicare would remain solvent with some minor adjustments, unless of course you don't want the programs to remain solvent.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Republi-CON Insanity

UPDATE VII:  Speaking of trafficking in conspiracy theories, Glenn Beck now alleges that Grover Norquist is an Islamist and ally of the White House.

Of course, Beck has long pandered to Republi-con fear, anger and hatred

So many delusions, so little time to refudiate.

UPDATE VI:  "Stories of cabals and secret plots provide comfort as its power wanes" but [m]ost elected officials who traffic in conspiracy theories are too rich and successful themselves to believe in them; they deploy them opportunistically, to push voters’ emotional buttons. As Michael Tomasky wrote in The Daily Beast last week, 'The rage kept the base galvanized….The rich didn’t really share the rage, or most of them. Even the Koch Brothers probably don’t….But all of them have used it. And they have tolerated it, the casual racism, the hatred of gay people, and the rest….because they, the elites, remained in charge. Well, they’re not in charge now. The snarling dog they kept in a pen for decades has just escaped and bitten their hand off.'"

Read Salon, Conspiracy theories explain the right.

UPDATE V:  "The budget fight that led to the first government shutdown in 17 years did not just set off a round of recriminations among Republicans over who was to blame for the politically disastrous standoff. It also heralded a very public escalation of a far more consequential battle for control of the Republican Party, a confrontation between Tea Party conservatives and establishment Republicans that will play out in the coming Congressional and presidential primaries in 2014 and 2016 but has been simmering since President George W. Bush’s administration, if not before. . .

Far from being chastened by the failure to achieve any of the concessions they had sought from President Obama — primarily to roll back his signature health care law — the conservative activists who helped drive the confrontation in Congress and helped fuel support for the 144 House Republicans who voted against ending it are now intensifying their effort to rid the party of the sort of timorous Republicans who they said doomed their effort from the start."

Read The New York Times, Fiscal Crisis Sounds the Charge in G.O.P.’s 'Civil War'.

UPDATE IV:  "Every time Republicans suffer a rejection of the most right-wing items on their agenda, a significant number decide they haven’t been sufficiently crazy. That was the conclusion that many Republicans drew from the defeat of Mitt Romney in 2012. And now that Republicans in Congress have been forced to surrender in their fight with President Obama over the budget, health care and the nation’s credit, some are drawing the same conclusion."

Read The New York Times, The Insufficient Craziness Theory.

Expect more Republi-con insanity, that is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.

UPDATE III:  "On talk radio and in the conservative blogosphere, the bipartisan vote on Wednesday to reopen the government without defunding President Obama’s health care law was being excoriated as an abject surrender and betrayal by spineless establishment Republicans. But for glum and frustrated conservative voters on Thursday around breakfast tables in eastern Tennessee, in the shadow of a military base in Colorado Springs and on the streets of suburban Philadelphia, it was as much a surrender to reality as to Democratic demands."

Read The New York Times, From the Right, Despair, Anger and Disillusion.

Read also Salon, GOP’s next civil war: A demented blame game.  

UPDATE II:  "However you slice and dice the history, the strategery, and the underlying issues, the decision to live with a government shutdown for an extended period of time — inflicting modest-but-real harm on the economy, needlessly disrupting the lives and paychecks of many thousands of hardworking people, and further tarnishing the Republican Party’s already not-exactly-shiny image — in pursuit of obviously, obviously unattainable goals was not a normal political blunder by a normally-functioning political party. It was an irresponsible, dysfunctional and deeply pointless act, carried out by a party that on the evidence of the last few weeks shouldn’t be trusted with the management of a banana stand, let alone the House of Representatives.

This means that the still-ongoing intra-conservative debate over the shutdown’s wisdom is not, I’m sorry, the kind of case where reasonable people can differ on the merits and have good-faith arguments and ultimately agree to disagree. There was no argument for the shutdown itself that a person unblindered by political fantasies should be obliged to respect, no plausible alternative world in which it could have led to any outcome besides self-inflicted political damage followed by legislative defeat, and no epitaph that should be written for its instigators’ planning and execution except: 'These guys deserved to lose.'"

Read The New York Times, A Teachable Moment

UPDATE:  "On his radio show recently, Glenn Beck urged his listeners to 'defund the GOP.' Sarah Palin has threatened to leave the Republican Party; Rush Limbaugh calls it 'irrelevant.' The Senate Conservatives Fund has targeted mainly incumbent Republican senators for defeat. Erick Erickson, one of the right’s most prominent commentators, wonders if what's coming is 'a real third party movement that will fully divide the Republican Party.'

Conservatives have declared war on the GOP.

Tired of feeling taken for granted by a party that alternately panders to them and sells them down the river, in their view, Tea Partiers and others on the right are in revolt. The Republican Party itself is increasingly the focus of their anger, particularly after Wednesday's deal to reopen the government, which many on the right opposed. Now, many are threatening to take their business elsewhere."

Read The Atlantic, The Conservative War on the GOP.

"It happened slowly, didn’t it? The change in the Republican Party? I don’t know. Maybe it’s nostalgia. There have always been the wild, vicious voices of the right. The devil on the shoulder of the conservative movement that whispers in its ear, “burn it down, burn it down.” But those voices were to be ignored, humored, tolerated, placated, or just deceived. That was the way of things, and we were protected by the obvious: people who believe foolish things tend to be easy to fool.

Then it all changed. The Republican elite caught a ride on the tiger. But the tiger got sick of waiting for the gazelles it was promised, the gazelles that were always one election away. The tiger was hungry and angry and tired of being used and the longer it waited the more appetizing the elite on its back became. So the tiger got a radio station and a news channel. The tiger got organized and mobilized. And finally the tiger realized it didn’t need someone kicking its sides telling it which way to run and who to eat and when to eat and why it wasn’t time to eat and the time to eat would come, don’t worry, you’ll eat soon enough.

So the tiger ate its master and now here we are. . .

This moment in American political life is insane. That a group of narrow-minded zealots could push us to the brink of economic ruin, that they maintain a base of support in their frenzied, quixotic, incompetent gambit, that there is an apparatus that exists to defend this kind of nonsense—it came on us slowly but it is no less an emergency. This is broken. This cannot go on.

And if you can’t see that then it’s not just the world that’s gone mad. You're crazy too."

Read The Atlantic, How the GOP Slowly Went Insane.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Republi-CON 'Canadians Hate Their Single Payer Health Care System' Myth (And Other Obamacare Myths)

UPDATE III:  "The part of Obamacare that's troubled is the part Democrats lifted from Republican policymakers. It's the part that tries to integrate private insurance companies with government systems in order to create a universal insurance system that's subsidized by the state but run by private companies. The part that's working well is Medicaid -- which is to say, the part that's working well is the part that expands an existing, government-run, single-payer system. . .

Obamacare isn't 'the left's' grand plan. Their grand plan is Medicare-for-all. Obamacare is a compromise between the left's vision of universal health care and the right's hatred of government-run insurance. It's based off a blueprint developed by the Heritage Foundation, introduced into the Senate as a Republican alternative to Bill Clinton's health-care ideas, and passed into law by then-Gov. Mitt Romney. It's true that Republicans abandoned their idea when Democrats decided to adopt it but that doesn't change the intellectual lineage -- or the point of the plan.

Put aside whether Obamacare's failure would hurt President Obama, who will never be on a ballot again, and look instead at what it will mean for health-care policy broadly. The case that can be made against the difficulties of implementing a system this complex isn't a case for the status quo. Nor is it a case for Republican health-care ideas, insofar as they exist. After all, Rep. Paul Ryan's health-care plan -- and his Medicare plan -- would also require the government to run online insurance marketplaces. It's a case for a much simpler, government-run health-care system."

Read the Washington Post, The right doesn’t want Obamacare fixed. But it’s even worse for them if it fails.

UPDATE II:  "I happened to turn on the Hannity show on Fox News last Friday evening. 'Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,' Hannity announced, 'and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.'  Three married couples were neatly arranged in his studio, the wives seated and the men standing behind them, like game show contestants.

As Hannity called on each of them, the guests recounted their 'Obamacare' horror stories: canceled policies, premium hikes, restrictions on the freedom to see a doctor of their choice, financial burdens upon their small businesses and so on. . .

But none of it smelled right to me. "

And it turns out, none of the stories were true.  One business owner hung up when confronted with his lie, and two other couples would have saved more than 60% a year in premiums for equivalent coverage on Obamacare exchanges, but never bothered to shop the exchanges.

Read Salon, Inside the Fox News lie machine: I fact-checked Sean Hannity on Obamacare.  

So many lies, so little time to refudiate.

UPDATE:  "The U.S. likes to think of itself as friendly to small businesses. But, as a 2009 study by the economists John Schmitt and Nathan Lane documented, our small-business sector is among the smallest in the developed world, and has one of the lowest rates of self-employment. One reason is that we’ve never had anything like national health insurance."

The New Yorker, The Business End of Obamacare, which notes that "the likely benefits of Obamacare for small businesses are enormous."  

"When you’re being forced to endure another rabid Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) soliloquy on Obamacare’s threat to human freedom, it’s easy to forget how absurd our health-care debate seems to the rest of the civilized world. That’s why it’s bracing to check in with red-blooded, high testosterone capitalists north of the border in Canada — business leaders who love Canada’s single-payer system (a regime far to the 'left' of Obamacare) and see it as perfectly consistent with free market capitalism.

Read the Washington Post, Canadians don’t understand Ted Cruz’s health-care battle.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Debt Celing Déjà Vu All Over Again

UPDATE V: "On Monday I wrote that the shutdown/default-threat/Republican extortion plot was essentially over—it was just a matter of Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, hammering out the final details of a deal whose contours were coming into focus. Once they’d reached a deal, it would pass the Senate with a fair amount of bipartisan support. After which John Boehner would tearfully bring it to the floor of the House in defiance of the so-called Hastert Rule (requiring a majority of House Republicans to support a bill before it can come to a vote), possibly with some minor face-saving alteration that the Senate signaled it could accept.

Regrettably, I was wrong. As it happens, Reid and McConnell came very close to inking a deal Monday night, but then McConnell suspended their negotiations on Tuesday to give Boehner a chance at passing a bill, which promptly collapsed under the weight of his own ineptitude and your basic garden-variety House Republican lunacy, at which point Reid and McConnell resumed their negotiation over a deal that will soon pass the Senate and force Boehner’s hand. Which is to say, I missed the all-important “let’s briefly pause so Boehner can flail helplessly while the entire world looks on in horror before we officially end this thing” step in the process.

In retrospect, I’m not sure how I overlooked it. That final pathetic lurch is a tradition Boehner inaugurated during the fiscal cliff negotiation last December (recall 'Plan B,' which Boehner also chose to euthanize before it came to a vote in the House). There was every reason to believe he’d observe that same sacrament this time around."

Read The New Republic, John Boehner's Shutdown Endgame: "The Final Spasm of a Corpse".

UPDATE IV:  "[W]hile it’s certainly the case that Boehner thinks a shutdown would be terrible for the party, and that he’d prefer to avoid one, it’s not at all clear it’s in his interest to do so. Why? Because there are two things Boehner presumably cares about more than avoiding a shutdown: not being ousted as Speaker, and raising the debt ceiling by mid-to-late October so as to avoid a debt default. The latter would be far more damaging to the economy than a shutdown, and therefore more devastating to the Republican brand. Unfortunately for Boehner, the only plausible way to both keep his job and avoid a debt default is … to shut down the government when the fiscal year ends next week."

Read the New Republic, If John Boehner Knows What's Good For Him, He'll Shut Down the Government.

UPDATE III:  "John Boehner isn't even trying to pretend his House of Representatives is a sane place anymore.

The House GOP's debt limit bill -- obtained by the National Review -- isn't a serious governing document. It's not even a plausible opening bid. It's a cry for help.

In return for a one-year suspension of the debt ceiling, House Republicans are demanding a yearlong delay of Obamacare, Rep. Paul Ryan’s tax reform plan, the Keystone XL pipeline, more offshore oil drilling, more drilling on federally protected lands, rewriting of ash coal regulations, a suspension of the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate carbon emissions, more power over the regulatory process in general, reform of the federal employee retirement program, an overhaul of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, more power over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s budget, repeal of the Social Services Block Grant, more means-testing in Medicare, repeal of the Public Health trust fund, and more. . .

This looks like an Onion parody of what the House's debt-ceiling demands might be. It's a wonder it's not written in comic sans.

Read the Washington Post, The House’s debt-ceiling bill is…wow.

UPDATE II:  A "shutdown is almost certainly a good thing. Yes, it can slow the economy and wreak temporary havoc on people who rely on government services. But these consequences are nothing alongside the fallout from defaulting on our debt, which will happen if we don’t raise the debt ceiling by mid-October. That's why Boehner's inability to persuade conservatives to postpone their Obamacare demands until the debt-ceiling fight is in fact a hugely welcome development. It gives everyone a chance to sober up before we take on the substantially higher-stakes proposition of avoiding a debt default. In fact, if Boehner and the White House had both been a bit more pro-shutdown back in 2011, when this whole B-movie horror flick started, that year’s debt ceiling fight and the sequester may never have happened, and we might not be in the mess we’re in today. A little bit of shutdown, I’d wager, goes a long way."

Read The New Republic, This Time There Really Will Be a Government Shutdown

UPDATE:  "For three years, Congressional leaders have relied on tactical maneuvers, sleights of hand and sheer gimmickry to move the nation from one fiscal crisis to the next — with little strategy to deal with the actual problems at hand. . . .

Now, with a government shutdown looming at month’s end and a crippling default on the nation’s debt possible by mid-October, Congressional leaders may have run out the string on legislative trickery. Conservative Republicans in the House have declared they will not go along with any more gimmickry from their leadership. Democrats have vowed they will not help Republican leaders out of their jam without some easing of spending cuts."

Read The New York Times, Amid Revolt Over Fiscal ‘Gimmicks,’ Options Dwindle for G.O.P.

"The savvy, sophisticated thing to say in Washington, D.C., is that the next debt limit fight is just Kabuki theater: Republicans folded last time. They’ll fold this time, too.

And perhaps that’s right.

But perhaps it isn’t. The central fact of the next debt-ceiling fight is that the two parties’ positions are mutually exclusive. Republicans say they will raise the debt ceiling only in return for significant budget concessions. The Obama administration says it won’t offer anything in return for raising the debt ceiling.

There’s only one possible outcome given those two positions: The debt ceiling won’t be raised. . .

And that’s the problem. None of the safe outcomes are likely. None of them even look particularly plausible, at least right now. And that’s scary. If you’re not at least a bit worried about the debt ceiling, you’re not paying close enough attention."

Read the Washington Post, I’m scared of the debt ceiling. You should be, too.

Monday, October 7, 2013

How Radical Can They Be?

UPDATE VII:  Republi-con "elders, many of whom have been in denial about their party’s radicalization, seem especially startled. But all of this was predictable.

It has been obvious for years that the modern Republican Party is no longer capable of thinking seriously about policy. Whether the issue is climate change or inflation, party members believe what they want to believe, and any contrary evidence is dismissed as a hoax, the product of vast liberal conspiracies. . .

Unfortunately for all of us, even the shock of electoral defeat wasn’t enough to burst the G.O.P. bubble; it’s still a party dominated by wishful thinking, and all but impervious to inconvenient facts. And now that party’s leaders have bungled themselves into a corner."

Read The New York Times, The Boehner Bunglers

UPDATE VI:   How did the Republi-cons become so radical?

"It was Mr. Gingrich who pioneered the political dysfunction we still live with. His inflammatory rhetoric provided a model for the grandstanding guerrilla warfare of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. And his actions — particularly his move to shut down the government in 1995 and 1996 — undermined popular trust and ushered in the present political era of confrontation and obstruction.

But here’s the catch: Mr. Gingrich, of Georgia, rose to party leadership because he was the preferred candidate of the moderates themselves. They even sided with him against Robert H. Michel of Illinois, the House minority leader from 1981 until 1995, who, in his civility and willingness to cooperate with Democrats, embodied the moderate’s political sensibility.

Mr. Michel once reminded his fellow House Republicans that “we also have an obligation to the American people” to be “responsible participants in the process.” Talk of obligation and responsibility to the greater public good would quickly become obsolete in the Gingrich era of hyperbolic partisanship.

The problem for Republicans was that playing a “responsible” role appeared to consign them to permanent minority status. For a 40-year span beginning in 1955, Republicans were in a minority in the House and were in the majority for only six years in the Senate. By the early 1990s, even moderate House Republicans felt that the ruling Democrats had grown arrogant and corrupt.

As moderates came to believe that nothing was to be gained from cooperating with Democrats, they became more receptive to Mr. Gingrich’s argument that the way to dislodge the entrenched majority was to polarize the electorate while attacking Congress as an irredeemable and illegitimate institution. . .

The Republican Party won’t change course until the Gingrich strategy for winning House elections stops working."

Read The New York Times, The Moderates Who Lighted the Fuse

UPDATE V:  Republi-cons are "barking-mad pack of ideologues," with an approach that "places great value on zeal and combativeness and isn’t very concerned with success" and an idée fixe "that some sort of cataclysmic confrontation is inevitable."

"This is the reality that finally brought Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, two of DC’s most arbiters of political standards and practices, fastidiously sober, even-handed and high-minded, to finally just throw up their hands mid-last-year and say 'Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.'"

The party is "committed to a reckless, pointless budget brinkmanship, which creates a perpetual cycle of outrage and disillusionment among conservatives and leaves Washington lurching from one manufactured crisis to the next."

"[D]ivided government now looks like dysfunctional government.  And despite the political security created by the rigged system of redistricting, Republicans may suddenly find the congressional midterms a referendum on their ability to get things done.  The scorecard is ugly on that front, providing yet another reason for Democrats to accept a government shutdown, however painful.

There is the sense that maybe the stark stupidity of this conflict will break the hyper-partisan fever consuming our nation’s capital.  Republicans are realizing that the angry conservative populist forces they empowered to achieve power have turned on them and are now actively restricting their ability to be taken seriously as a governing force."

Read The American Conservative, Republicans, Over the Cliff.

The article quotes other conservatives, and concludes that the "Republicans cannot govern. These people aren’t conservatives. They are radicals."

UPDATE IV:  "What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule."

Read The New York Times, Our Democracy Is at Stake,.

The article notes that the "contempt for the democratic process" by a "superempower[ed] small political movements to act in extreme ways without consequences and thereby stymie majority rule" is the result, of among other things, "the rise of a separate G.O.P. (and a liberal) media universe — from talk-radio hosts, to Web sites to Fox News — [which] has created another gravity-free zone, where there is no punishment for extreme behavior, but there’s 1,000 lashes on Twitter if you deviate from the hard-line and great coverage to those who are most extreme. When politicians only operate inside these bubbles, they lose the habit of persuasion and opt only for coercion. After all, they must be right. Rush Limbaugh told them so." 

UPDATE III:  What are the Republi-cons risking by shutting-down the government to attack Obamacare?

"Right now, then, a kind of sour spot seems like a pretty plausible outcome for Republicans: A shutdown that lasts just long enough to convince swing voters that the G.O.P. can’t be trusted with the reins of government, but also ends with the party’s grassroots convinced that they’ve been sold out by their leaders once again."

Read The New York Times, Is Republican Intransigence Reasonable?   

UPDATE II:  "It is almost impossible to find an establishment Republican in town who’s not downright morose about the 2013 that has been and is about to be. . .

The blown opportunities and self-inflected wounds are adding up."

Read Politico, Eve of Destruction, which notes that the problem is that "pressure from conservative media only encourages their public voices to say things that offend."

UPDATE:  Republi-cons may soon "suffer a third straight crushing defeat at the Presidential level. Based on history and common sense, that will probably be enough to give the reformers the upper hand. With today’s G.O.P., though, you never can be sure. . .

A party that loses once can put it down to bad luck or the political cycle. A party that loses twice can blame a bad candidate. (That’s you, Mitt!) A party that loses three times can hardly avoid some navel inspection. . .

For now, the G.O.P. and many of its tribunes on Capitol Hill appear content to ignore this elemental fact of political life. Maybe things will change during the next few months, but I wouldn’t wager on it. More and more, it’s looking like it will take Hillary Clinton, or another Democrat, succeeding Barack Obama in the White House to bring about real changes in the G.O.P.

To put it another way, the great G.O.P. freak show still has a ways to run. From the point of view of the cynical heckler in the cheap seats, that’s just dandy: extremism and nuttiness makes good copy, and it keeps the Republicans out of the White House. The problem is that, diverting as it is, the show is paralyzing the government and doing great damage to the country."

Read The New Yorker, Why the G.O.P. Needs to Lose For a Third Time.

"When Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was picked as Mitt Romney’s running mate last August, conservatives rejoiced.

Ryan, after all, is known as a conservative’s conservative, having authored the GOP budget that contained trillions in spending cuts and major entitlement reform. By picking Ryan, the logic went, Romney was making a bold choice in the name of shoring up the GOP base.

But in today’s Republican Party, Ryan’s recent voting record is hardly one of the most conservative. And in fact, his votes over the past two years paint the picture of a middle-of-the-road conservative Republican rather than a rabble-rousing tea party crusader.

Whether that says more about the Republican Party or Paul Ryan is up for debate."

Read the Washington Post, In today’s GOP, Paul Ryan is middle-of-the-road

This is interesting because Ryan was (and I do mean was) a expected contender in 2016. Read the Washington Post, Rubio vs. Rand vs. Ryan, The race for conservative mantle in 2016

Even more interesting, "CPAC will have a hole in the line-up: Chris Christie, the outspoken governor of New Jersey, has not been invited to speak at CPAC, despite his massive popularity."  Read the Washington Post, Chris Christie’s CPAC snub.

Republi-cons just don't understand or accept that political extremism is a problem in the general election, even Romney, who was a relative liberal before the campaign, lost in 2012 to Obama and a bad economy.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Republi-CON " Obama is Unwilling to Negotiate" Myth

The White House "went on a widely covered "charm offensive" back in the spring. The president held multiple dinners with Senate Republicans. He invited over key House Republicans. The meetings were so frequent that the participants were nicknamed 'the diner's club.'

Nothing came of those meetings. Republicans still weren't willing to talk on taxes. And so the White House grimly accepted that they couldn't move the dial on spending. The CR, they note, funds the government at the GOP's number of $988 billion. It is, itself, a compromise, and one they don't like. But they made it, because they couldn't pass anything else through Congress. And then the Republicans decided to shut down the government because they couldn't pass a delay or defunding of Obamacare through Congress.

As the White House sees it, Speaker John Boehner has begun playing politics as game of Calvinball, in which Republicans invent new rules on the fly and then demand the media and the Democrats accept them as reality and find a way to work around them."

Read the Washington Post, How the White House sees the shutdown (and debt ceiling!) fight, which notes that "[t]o the White House, the shutdown/debt ceiling fight is quite simple, and quite radical: Republicans are trying to create a new, deeply undemocratic pathway through which a minority party that lost the last election can enact an agenda that would never pass the normal legislative process. It's nothing less than an effort to use the threat of a financial crisis to nullify the results of the last election."

The Republi-CON Media CONplex

UPDATE VIII:  "There's a direct connection between the shutdown and hyperbolic, partisan journalistic outlets driven more by profits than the search for truth."
Read The Atlantic, How the Broken Media Helped Break the Government

UPDATE VII:  "The theme of Ted Cruz’s filibuster this week was 'Make D.C. Listen.' But Cruz himself doesn’t listen; he talks. And talks. And talks. It’s no wonder the Texas senator can’t hear what the public is actually saying. . .

A poll this month from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 69 percent of Americans, including many who disapprove of the law, want Congress to 'make the law work as well as possible.' Only 23 percent of Americans say Congress should try to 'make the law fail.'

The Republican Party, however, has focused like a laser on making the law fail. Congressional Republicans have withheld crucial implementation funds and sent letters to everyone from the National Football League to local health groups warning them against helping with the rollout. Republican governors have, for the most part, refused to set up health-care exchanges or participate in the Medicaid expansion authorized by the law.

And now Republicans in Congress are considering shutting down the entire government or defaulting on the national debt in order to prevent Obamacare’s implementation. They’ve gone from trying to make Obamacare fail to threatening to make the country fail. . .

In return for a one-year suspension of the debt ceiling, House Republicans are demanding a yearlong delay of Obamacare, adoption of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s tax-reform plan, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, more offshore oil drilling, more drilling on federally protected lands, looser regulations around ash coal, a suspension of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of carbon emissions, more power over the regulatory process in general, reform of the federal employee retirement program, changes to the Dodd-Frank Act, more power over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s budget, repeal of the Social Services block grant, expanded means-testing for Medicare benefits, repeal of the public health trust fund and more.

Yes, that’s right: 'and more.'

If this policy grab bag sounds familiar, it’s because Republicans have proposed it all before. It was, more or less, Mitt Romney’s agenda during the 2012 presidential campaign. The voters rejected it -- another message, it seems, that Republicans in Washington somehow failed to hear. . .

This is the strange world much of the Republican Party now inhabits. The 'voice of the people' is the one they hear when they whisper into one another’s ears. And they have just enough power to force the rest of the country to listen to it, too."

Read Bloomberg, Ted Cruz Republicans Listen Only to Themselves.  

UPDATE VI:  "[T]he conservative movement is, among other things, an elaborate moneymaking venture by which the wealth of the rabid and gullible conservative rank and file is redistributed to already rich celebrities. . .

From miracle health cures, to get-rich-quick schemes, to overpriced precious metals and seed banks, talk radio hosts and conservative news outlets are making a killing by trading their platform and credibility for the hard-earned cash of their unsuspecting listeners."

Read Salon, Secrets of the right: Selling garbage to your fans.

The article notes that the Republi-CON Media CONplex includes WND, "the birther website that . . . delivers some exciting offers that strain credulity, then break it, kill it, and cremate it."

UPDATE V:  "The Republican National Committee is finally acknowledging what dissidents on the right have warned about for years: 'We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people," a new report on reforming the GOP states, "but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.'

This isn't a problem that the national party can solve on its own. Conservative principles and Republican policy ideas mostly reach the rank and file via mass media. But Fox News, most talk-radio hosts, most right-leaning websites, and even donor-driven organizations with communications shops, like the Heritage Foundation, aren't just 'preaching to the choir' out of stubbornness.

It's their business strategy."

Read The Atlantic, The GOP Can't Reach Beyond Its Base Without Confronting Its Hucksters.  

UPDATE IV:  The Hedgehog News modus operandi, lying and screaming.  Read the Washington Post, Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly: Relevance via screaming?

UPDATE III:  As I've said before, so many lies, so little time. (In fairness, Republi-cons don't consider it lying, to them it is "created reality.")

Four months ago, The Daily Caller ran an explosive, Drudge-leading story with a dynamite, Drudge-worthy hed: 'Women: Sen. Bob Menendez paid us for sex in the Dominican Republic' . . .

[The 'escort' who was allegedly] paid her for sex has told Dominican Republic police that she was instead paid to make up the claims in a tape recording and has never met or seen the senator before, according to court documents and two people briefed on her claim."

Read Slate, The Daily Caller's Call Girl's Total Recall.  

UPDATE II:  Even Hedgehog News has limits.

"No more Fox News contributor Dick Morris. His contract to spout republic-damaging nonsense on Fox airwaves has expired, and the network isn’t renewing it.

Taken together with the news that Sarah Palin will no longer be contributing, the Morris development is strong evidence that Fox News has glimpsed the underside of allowing charlatans to brand its coverage. Palin was a roboto-contributor, who responded to everything with a little crack on the lamestream media and a reference President Obama’s socialist heart."

Read the Washington Post, Fox News drops Dick Morris: Hooray.

The article ironically notes that "[v]ast arrogance and loose, poorly substantiated facts: a great combination for a cable-news contributor in these modern times."

Remind you of anyone locally?

UPDATE:  The wacko-sphere, from Rusty to Hedgehog News "and friends can still crush their own, as Obama noted. But that only drives the Republican Party further to the fringes. Virtually everything the broadcast bullies are against -- sensible gun measures, immigration reform, raising taxes on the rich -- are favored by a majority of Americans.

It makes sense, then, that the logical next step for these folks is to retreat into an actual bubble of brick and mortar -- their own city. Glenn Beck has announced plans to build 'Independence, U.S.A.,' a sort of new urbanism for paranoids. In that world, at least, all the fantasies of the far right are always true."

Read The New York Times, Right Flight.

"The conservative media movement exists primarily as a moneymaking venture. As Rick Perlstein explained in the Baffler, some of the largest conservative media organs are essentially massive email lists of suckers rented to snake oil salesmen. The con isn’t limited to a couple of newsletters and websites: The most prominent conservative organizations in the nation are primarily dedicated to separating conservatives from their money. . .

The problem this presents for the movement, beyond the threat of eventually bankrupting the people who give it power, is that the business of money-making, for consultants and media personalities and Herman Cains, is at this point getting in the way of the business of advancing conservative causes. The groups exert massive influence, and they only ever push the Republican Party to get more extreme. Apocalyptic hysteria is much more effective at getting people to open their wallets than reasonable commentary. There are a lot of people whose livelihoods depend on keeping lots of conservatives terrified and ill-informed. The groups that exist to raise funds raise more funds when they endorse the crazier candidate."

Read Salon, The conservative movement is still an elaborate moneymaking venture

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why Facts Don't Matter to Some People

UPDATE:  "The best explanation of the U.S. government shutdown points to two factors. The first involves information, or what people think they know. The second involves incentives, or what motivates our elected representatives.

From decades of empirical research, we know that when like-minded people speak with one another, they tend to become more extreme, more confident and more unified -- the phenomenon known as group polarization. One reason involves the spread of information within echo chambers. . .

With respect to incentives, elected officials are often motivated by one goal above all: to get re-elected. They are focused on their own electoral prospects, not those of their party. They know they have to answer to their constituents, not to the nation as a whole.

Within the Republican Party, many members of Congress have no reason to fear a challenge from the left. There is no chance that they will lose their seat to a Democrat, and a moderate Republican isn’t going to run against them. The only threat is from the right. With respect to a controversy that the public is closely following, the main question may well be whether, in the view of the most extreme conservative voters, the legislators will 'cave' to President Barack Obama or instead stand up for their convictions. Is it any wonder that many Republican members are willing to run the risks of a shutdown? . .

Read Bloomberg, Shutdown Psychology Made Simple, which notes there will no compromise by "the most extreme members of the Republican Party [unless they] are able to move out of their echo chambers, and unless the incentives of those members are significantly altered."

Why is the U.S. so politically polarized?

"There are two explanations . . .

The first is that if you know a lot about politics, you are more likely to be emotionally invested in what you believe. Efforts to undermine or dislodge those beliefs might well upset you and therefore backfire. The second explanation is that if you have a lot of political knowledge, you are more likely to think you know what is really true, and it will be pretty hard for people to convince you otherwise.

The general lesson is both straightforward and disturbing. People who know a lot, and who trust a particular messenger, might well be impervious to factual corrections, even if what they believe turns out to be false."

Read Bloomberg, Why Well-Informed People Are Also Close-Minded

As I noted beforeThe Great Lecherer, aka Newtenstein, said: "Lincoln once said if a man won't agree that two plus two equals four then you'll never win the argument because facts don't matter . . ."

Republi-CONs on Obamacare

UPDATE VI:  "[F]ew [Republicans] are willing to stand up to the zealots, and even fewer are willing to cast votes that depart from the pack. All of them dutifully recite the mantra that Obamacare is an abomination that ought to be eliminated, and none notes that it is basically the same plan as 1994’s Grassleycare/Hatchcare/Durenbergercare/Chafeecare, which was built around an individual mandate, private insurers on exchanges, and premium support for less fortunate Americans. More strikingly, no one notes that Ryan’s long-term plan for Medicare, built around regulated exchanges and premium support, is basically Obamacare for seniors. Every opportunity to reform and refine the Affordable Care Act through traditional institutional means, working with both parties, has been rejected by them."

Read The Atlantic, The Republican Hardliners Aren't Conservatives, They're Radicals.

UPDATE V:  "Americans hate Obamacare but love the Affordable Care Act. That is the big story from one of America’s more reliable sources of information, Jimmy Kimmel. . .

One woman who vehemently condemned Obamacare while singing the praises of the Affordable Care Act was asked by Kimmel's merry pranksters if she thought an informed electorate is vital to a healthy democracy. The woman answered with a firm 'yes' -- making herself look like an idiot, not only to the television audience, but to the much bigger audience who have watched the clip online.  "

Read the Los Angeles Times, Obamacare-hating voters have been suckered by right-wing spin

Also, watch Jimmy Kimmel Live,  Six of One - Obamacare vs. The Affordable Care Act:

UPDATE IV:  "Republicans have pulled out all the stops to kill Obamacare, the president's landmark health care law that requires every American to purchase health insurance by 2014. There have been lawsuits; there have been bills (40 in the House so far); there has been a Supreme Court case—all aimed at rolling back a law that that the GOP says is an assault on individual liberty. Now, with only a few more months to go until the individual mandate—the requirement that we all have coverage—kicks in, Republicans are frantic; some are even threatening to force the United States to default on its debts if Democrats don't agree to delay the law.

This is odd because the individual mandate, the cornerstone of Obamacare, was originally a conservative idea. It was first proposed by the Heritage Foundation in 1989. And scores of Republicans—not just Mitt Romney—have backed the idea in the past couple of decades. Here are some of the GOPers who supported Obamacare before Obama."

Read Mother Jones, 25 Republicans Who Supported Obamacare Before Obama

UPDATE III:  "Obamacare isn’t perfect, the former political spear-carrier said. 'But to even improve it, to make something work, you’ve got to participate in the process. [Republicans] are not even participating in the process.'"

So says a former Republican after bout with testicular cancer and four rounds of chemo, who is now "dismayed by his party’s cavalier attitude toward the health care debate."

Read The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, A Republican conversion to Obamacare.

UPDATE II:  For another "beautiful example of a writer so intent on criticizing Obamacare that she’s missed the fact that the law is doing precisely the thing she wants done. . . hoping for a replacement that looks like, well, Obamacare", read the Washington Post, Peggy Noonan attacks Obamacare for doing what Peggy Noonan wants Obamacare to do.

UPDATE:  Republi-cons want to repeal Obamacare, they have tried 40 times already, but "have no idea what is it is they’ll do — save for undoing what the Democrats did. But for all Gingrich’s bluster on the subject, the simplest way to understand that policy vacuum is to understand Gingrich’s pre-Obamacare health-care plan: It was Obamacare.

'We should insist that everyone above a certain level buy coverage (or, if they are opposed to insurance, post a bond),' he wrote in his 2008 book, 'Real Change.' 'Meanwhile, we should provide tax credits or subsidize private insurance for the poor.'

So that’s an individual mandate plus tax subsidies to purchase insurance. That’s the core of Obamacare. And it’s no surprise Gingrich supported it. Lots of Republicans did. Gov. Mitt Romney even signed a plan like that into law in Massachusetts. . .

'We are caught up right now in a culture — and you see it every single day — where as long as we are negative and as long as we are vicious and as long as we can tear down our opponent, we don’t have to learn anything,' Gingrich said at the RNC.'"

Read the Washington Post, Newt Gingrich explains how the GOP’s Obamacare tactics backfired

From U.S. News and World Report, The Tea Party's Unhealthy Obsession and Conservatives Yearn for the Art of the Impossible: