Open Thread: Even Politico Is Beginning to Worry…

… because the Repubs are sailing On Beyond Crazy. Michael Grunwald, “senior staff writer for Politico Magazine and editor-at-large of the Agenda”:

After five Republican debates, most Americans know about Donald Trump’s provocative beliefs, like his desires to end birthright citizenship, stop Muslim immigration and kill families of suspected terrorists. Much less attention has been paid to Carly Fiorina’s conclusion that the minimum wage is unconstitutional, Mike Huckabee’s pledge to defy Supreme Court rulings he deems incompatible with God’s law, Rick Santorum’s claim that Islam is not protected by the First Amendment or Chris Christie’s threat to shoot down Russian planes and launch cyberattacks on Chinese leaders.

Those provocative beliefs, believe it or not, were also expressed during the five Republican debates. They were just overshadowed by the furor over Trump. It might be natural for an opposition party to sound bombastic during primary season, especially when its front-runner is blessed with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of bombast, but the debate transcripts read like a Democratic opposition researcher’s dream…

… I’ve watched all the debates as well as the undercards live, but when I reviewed the transcripts, I was amazed how many radical statements had slipped under my radar. Ted Cruz called for putting the United States back on the gold standard. Marco Rubio accused President Barack Obama of destroying the U.S. military. Huckabee said Bernie Madoff’s rip-offs weren’t as bad as what the government has done to people on Social Security and Medicare. Lindsey Graham said his administration would monitor all “Islamic websites,” not just jihadist ones. I had even forgotten Trump’s claim that vaccines caused autism in a 2-year-old girl he knew.

Vaccines do not cause autism. Goldbuggery is crackpot economics. The U.S. military is still by far the strongest in the world. And what the government has done to people on Social Security and Medicare is give them pensions and health care. But none of those statements drew any pushback from the other Republican candidates, or, for that matter, the media moderators. Neither did Ben Carson’s assertion that if the United States had set a goal of oil independence within a decade, moderate Arab states would have “turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks,” which is wackadoodle on multiple levels…

Democratic leaders have expressed glee about these nationally televised festivals of right-wing me-too-ism, but another way of thinking about them is as highly rated, mostly unrebutted advertisements for the notion that Obama is a disaster and America is in peril. So far, the Republicans have had more than 20 hours to tell the public that “the idea of America is slipping away,” that “we’re on a path to socialism,” that “America has been betrayed.” Nobody on the debate stage disagreed when, for example, Christie declared that Obama doesn’t respect the military or the police, or that Americans believed in a more prosperous future in January 2009 (when the economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month) until Obama “stole” that belief. You might not take Christie at his word that Obama is a “feckless weakling,” but when you hear it over and over, you might assume he must be missing at least some feck…

Ah yes, the cult of BothSides — all the GOP candidates are spinning lies and nutcase fantasies as loudly as they can, but it’s President Obama’s fault for not, I dunno, arranging to have the debate stage struck by a bolt of lightning. Grunwald ties up his jerimiad by complaining that “the Democrats are acting like they’ve lost their feck”, unlike the “confident… perhaps overconfident” Republicans. If our proud nation is destroyed at the hands of feral revanchists, at least the Politico lads will have their savvy takes to hug.



Open Thread: The Tire Rims and Anthrax Candidate!

There’s a lot of American voters who just want to blow up the world, per Reuters:

American voters are evenly split between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton as their top choice to address the issue of terrorism following the Paris attacks, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.

Asked to choose from the entire field of 2016 presidential hopefuls, 20 percent of 1,106 respondents surveyed between Nov. 16-17 opted for Trump. An equal share of the electorate picked Clinton.(polling.reuters.com/#!poll/TM743Y15)

Given Clinton’s background as a former secretary of state it is perhaps not surprising that she did reasonably well in the poll. However, Trump’s good showing upends an emerging narrative that the Paris shootings and suicide bombings would prompt voters to rethink their support for the real estate billionaire, who leads the field of Republican presidential candidates…

Glenn Matlosz, 71, of Audubon, New Jersey, said Trump would be the most able to address terrorism because he’s proven to be a straight talker.

“He’s telling it as it is,” said Matlosz, who describes himself as a Democrat. “He’s not mincing any words. There is no gobbledygook there. Everybody else is squawking.”…

Republican strategist Steve Schmidt said voters respond to candidates they perceive as taking a tough stance and aren’t necessarily looking at their biographies…

Trump is talking broadly about his approach instead of bogging voters down with details, said Republican strategist John Feehery.

“He’s the one who is speaking in the simplest language that is most understandable to the average voter,” Feehery said. “He’s not talking about ‘no-fly’ zones. He’s not getting into policy. He’s talking about, ‘Lets go kill ISIS.'”…

Translation: And the permanent Republican “establishment” is totally fine with an ignorant loudmouth whose solution to every world problem is YELL ABOUT BLOWING STUFF UP….

Jenna Johnson, reporting for the Washington Post:

WORCESTER, Mass. — As police officers escorted a shouting protester out of the rally Donald Trump held in a converted ice hockey arena on Wednesday night, the crowd of 10,500 held up their cellphone cameras, booed and then chanted: “USA! USA! USA!”

“Isn’t a Trump rally much more exciting than these other ones?” the presidential candidate marveled as he took in the scene. “And that kind of stuff only adds to the excitement, I tell you. Just incredible.”…

During a press conference before the rally, reporters pressed Trump to explain why he continues to say President Obama plans to resettle 250,000 Syrian refugees in the United States even though the administration has only publicly committed to accepting 10,000. Trump said his larger number comes from a “pretty good source” and is likely accurate because he has correctly predicted a number of other foreign events, including the rise of Osama bin Laden.

“You watch,” he said, “I’ll be right.”

Trump once again cursed as he described what he would do as president to Islamic State terrorists: “We’ve got to knock the s— out of these people. We’ve got to do it. We’ve got to do it.” The crowd once again began chanting: “USA! USA! USA!”…

And Trump continued to warn his supporters that these terrorists could use the Internet as a weapon.

“They’re using the Internet, and they’re recruiting people,” Trump said. “We’ve got to take back the Internet because they are taking people. They’re literally brainwashing people. They’re brainwashing our youth… We can’t let that happen. We have innocent youth, and they are misguided.”… Read more



Thursday Morning Open Thread: Getchur Popcorn & Rolled-Up Socks Ready…

Your National Paper of Record, Americans!

CLEVELAND — Just over 24 hours before the first Republican primary debate here, more than a dozen Fox News executives and producers gathered Wednesday with their debate moderators — Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace — backstage at Quicken Loans Arena for a final run-through of logistics.

“I don’t think anybody knows — maybe he doesn’t know — what you’re going to get from Donald Trump,” Mr. Wallace said after the meeting. “What makes it such compelling television is that sense of, at the very least, uncertainty, and at the very most, danger.”

And so they found themselves, sitting at a long table, trying to minimize danger and uncertainty, while maximizing the sleek and high-octane television for which Fox News has become known. The team had already decided to eliminate opening statements from the field, to save time. Instead, at 9 p.m. sharp, the questions will begin.

To keep the debate on schedule, the Fox team was also discussing a possible alternative to the usual gentle ding sound that signals that a candidate’s time has expired: the actual shot clock buzzer used during Cleveland Cavaliers basketball games, which are played at the same arena….

The WaPo, meanwhile, treats this as just another business convention for the local industry:

Chris Wallace tapped the black three-ring binder resting on the corner of his desk. “I’ve got some doozies in there,” he said, eyebrow raised provocatively…

“There’s so doggone many,” said Wallace, 67, sitting at his desk in Fox’s Washington bureau. The decision to pack the stage was made above his pay grade, he adds. “Will [the debate] be as great as it would be if there were three or four candidates? No. But it’s clear from the polls, people are far from decided.”

But now the decision-making begins, with an event that TV analysts predict could draw the highest ratings in cable-news history. And as the candidates attempt to make their first impressions before a national audience, you can count on the veteran newsman to leave his imprint on this moment by interrupting, prodding and pressing the debaters in his trademark fashion.

“I certainly think my style is adversarial,” he said, absentmindedly pushing his penny loafers around under his desk with socked feet…

I believe it was commentor Gimlet who suggested rolled-up socks for throwing at the tv, as less liable to cause collateral damage than drink glasses…

Then there’s always that one killjoy…



Battle Flag Acquisition Strategies

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Early this morning, I was doing some research on the endurance of corporate culture, studying how sometimes the spirit of a smaller, acquired firm can permeate the larger, acquiring organization. It’s not unusual for a big behemoth to acquire a scrappy smaller company solely for the purpose of infusing the moribund giant with fresh blood, and when the companies’ interests align, it can create an unstoppable marketplace force…for a while.

With that dynamic still on my mind, I moseyed over to Booman’s place and read a post that hit upon something that has been bothering me about the focus on the rebel flag in the wake of the domestic terrorist massacre in Charleston:

But the focus on the Confederate Flag can have an unfortunate side effect. What, after all, does that flag mean when it doesn’t simply mean white supremacy?

It’s meaning in those cases in nearly identical to the meaning of the modern conservative movement. It’s about disunion, and hostility to the federal government, and state’s rights. It’s anti-East Coast Establishment and anti-immigrant. It’s about an idealized and false past and preserving outworn and intolerant ideas. It’s about a perverse version of a highly provincial and particularized version of (predominantly) Protestant Christianity that has evolved to serve the interests of power elites in the South. It’s about an aggrieved sense of false persecution where white men are playing on the hardest difficulty setting rather than the easiest, and white Christians are as threatened as black Muslims and gays and Jews.

“Those blacks are raping our women and they have to go.”

That’s what the Confederate Flag is all about, but it’s also the basic message of Fox News and the whole Republican Party since the moment that Richard Nixon promised us law and order.

But it’s not black people who have to go.

It’s this whole Last Cause bullshit mentality that fuels our nation’s politics and lines the pockets of Ted Cruz just as surely as it has been lining the pockets of Walmart executives.

Today, maybe the governor down there had an epiphany. Maybe this massacre was the last straw. But, tomorrow, we’ll all be right back where we began with Congress acting like an occupying Confederate Army.

If we solve a symbolic problem and leave the rest untouched, then what will really change?

You can’t bury the Confederate Flag without, at the same time, burying the Conservative Movement.

Let’s get on with it.

He’s right. For many white people, the rebel flag represented moldy old myths about the antebellum South. But think about how nicely that mythology dovetailed with the lies about the pre-Civil Rights era that paleocons like Pat Buchanan tell themselves.

Like a moribund corporation, the GOP acquired Confederate culture with the Southern strategy, harnessing the racism in the South and its echo nationwide to build the present day Republican Party. That’s why Ronald Reagan launched his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi. That’s why an always-wrong, New York City-born legacy hire who is relentlessly eager to send other people’s kids off to die in glorious causes is tweeting nonsense that his ancestors would find…puzzling:

So, the rebel flag should come down in South Carolina and every other state capitol in the former Confederacy, and with surprising (to me) swiftness, it looks like it will. That will be more than a symbolic victory; it will be the partial righting of a very old wrong.

But there’s a danger in “otherizing” the South in this context. It’s not wrong to condemn its blinkered myth-making and prideful backwardness, but there’s a hazard in moral preening within and outside of Dixie, a risk of declaring a tidy victory when the dinosaurs in the state capitols of the former Confederacy finally sink into the tarpit they’ve thrashed in for 150 years.

The risk is that we’ll lose focus on the modern day “Congress acting like an occupying Confederate Army,” as Booman put it. At its core, the Southern strategy was an attempt to roll back progress by hitching the anti-New Dealers’ star to the creaky old Confederate wagon. Its organizers weren’t all or even mostly slack-jawed yokels waving rebel flags. They included a fiery libertarian business man from Phoenix, a glib B-movie pitchman who hailed from Northern Illinois and a twitchy, paranoid Quaker from California.

To achieve true victory, we have to finally drive a stake through the heart of the Southern strategy, not just the Confederacy. So let’s make expunging the rebel flag from the public square the opening salvo in a larger battle to take our country back. Yes, that’s right, TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK. With no lies and decaying myths about what that means. The flag that represents it isn’t spotless. Its founding was rooted in slavery, genocide and the oppression of women. But unlike its dying counterpart, this flag is worth saving.



A Hard Shove To The Left

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is gearing up for a new national progressive agenda based on what he’s been able to do so far in the Big Apple, and he’s expected to announce it next week.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, using his muscular perch to try to nudge the national Democratic Party to the left, next week will unveil a 13-point progressive agenda that he hopes will be the left’s answer to the Contract with America, which helped propel Newt Gingrich and the Republican revolution of 1994.

On Tuesday, de Blasio will hold a 3 p.m. news conference outside the U.S. Capitol with labor leaders, Democratic lawmakers and liberal activists to unveil his “Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality.”

The manifesto includes the ideas of economist Joseph Stiglitz and dozens of other leaders and thinkers consulted by the de Blasio team.

Among the planks is a universal pre-kindergarten program, DeBlasio’s signature policy since he took office on Jan. 1, 2014. Other elements are aimed at helping working people ($15 minimum wage) and working parents (paid family leave), and proposals for “tax fairness” (increasing the tax on carried interest, a huge issue for private equity).

De Blasio convened a group of a dozen national progressives at Gracie Mansion on April 2, and they discussed ideas for addressing income inequality. Among the advisers present was John Del Cecato of AKPD Message and Media, who made de Blasio’s campaign commercials, including the famous “Dante” ad.

Then the conversation extended to others — economists, elected officials and activists.

De Blasio advisers say that more than 60 big names have signed on, including Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.); Marian Wright Edelman and Howard Dean; national labor leaders; and actors Susan Sarandon and Steve Buscemi.

Rolling Stone has a preview of de Blasio’s new drive in the forthcoming May 21 issue, which has a 7½-page spread, “The Mayor’s Crusade: Bill de Blasio is trying to remake America’s biggest city — and he doesn’t plan to stop there.”

I’m actually very glad to see a concerted effort to push the Overton window to the left. Right now American politics seems to consist of “And how shall we choose to punish the poors this time around, m’lord” and a big effort to reframe the entire debate is way overdue.

The pushback on this is going to be enormous, but putting these issues into the 2016 arena is absolutely necessary.

More of this, please.  This is how we can help get both more and better Democrats elected at the state and national level.



Sunday Morning Open Thread: UMPEECH!!!

new millenium gang signs knight life

(Keith Knight via GoComics.com)
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Well, this should cause plenty of soiled diapers among the stalwarts of the Wingnut Wurlizter. Per the NYTimes:

HONOLULU — President Obama plans to spend the weeks leading up to his State of the Union speech traveling across the country to promote different themes from it, a new approach by the commander in chief to the annual address to Congress.

In previous years, the administration waited until the day before the speech to disclose what the president planned to talk about, hoping that the element of surprise increased its news value and reach. Typically, Mr. Obama went on the road the day after the address, like the two previous presidents, to push his agenda.

But starting on Wednesday, according to the White House, Mr. Obama will begin a three-day, three-state trip in which he will lay out new executive actions and legislative policy proposals for higher education (Tennessee), housing (Arizona) and jobs (Michigan)…

The administration has not said whether Mr. Obama plans to do any additional traveling after the speech. But officials said they had changed their approach because they wanted the president to contrast with, and perhaps overshadow, Republicans, who will be taking over control of the Senate when the new Congress convenes on Tuesday…

“The president is eager to get to work, and looks forward to working with the new Congress on policies that will make sure middle-class Americans are sharing in the economic recovery,” the White House said. “There are a number of issues we could make progress on, but the president is clear that he will not let this Congress undo important protections gained — particularly in areas of health care, Wall Street reform and the environment.”

I believe this will be interpreted by the GOP as “YOUR CHEERIOS, I AM PEEING IN THEM”.
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Apart from donning our political ear protectors, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up the weekend / the holidays?



He’s Useful, Idiots

Watching Up With Steve Kornacki because I refuse to watch the bobbleheads and the Cheney tonguebathing, so that means that MSNBC has two viewers this morning- me and Steve’s mom. Both of us want to tell him to comb his hair. At any rate, one large segment was devoted to how mad many Republicans are at Ted Cruz, and Steve repeatedly mentioned that Mitch McConnell, when asked about his caucus and whether he was mad at them, answered with a “wink and a smile.” This line of thinking tracks nicely with this TPM piece:

Other members of the Senate fumed Saturday over objections by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) that held up a $1.1 trillion omnibus bill meant to keep the government open. The objection was fueled by the two conservatives’ desire to fight President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

The objections by Cruz and Lee mean that the Senate must slog through procedural votes Saturday on nominees and also vote to end a filibuster on the omnibus bill at 1 a.m. on Sunday.

It was too much for Democrats and even Republicans to bite their tongues over.

The TPM goes on to offer up several sternly worded tweets so as to prove how angry people are at Cruz and Lee and their antics.

It’s all bullocks. The Republicans love Cruz. Notice what really got no attention whatsoever in the Senate? Elizabeth Warren, and something really worth fighting for in the CROMNIBUS, the big giveaway to Citigroup and friends (for a primer on why this was so important to them besides oodles of money, read this– it’s all about the credit ratings). Instead of having a serious debate about that, the conversation tilted to the right on immigration, and the progressive concerns were squelched as the right and center right banded together to fend off the “lunatic right,” and CROMNIBUS was passed and everyone not named Jamie Dimon gets screwed.

Cruz gets attention because McConnell and company want him to get attention, as he shifts the conversation to the right, making the already unpalatable right wing position seem palatable by comparison. You’d think watching how the Republicans did the bait and switch during the ACA debate, always making more and more demands while never being able to find a way to vote for the bill they helped craft would have clued some of our media in.

It hasn’t.