Open Thread: Rust Never Sleeps

Dave Weigel at Slate is reporting from Virginia Tea Party Patriots Convention, where the veterans of the Wingnut Wurlitzers’ Clenis offensive are oozing out to infect a new generation:

In the 1996, former FBI agent Gary Aldrich published Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House. It was an account of his days running background checks for the Clinton White House, and like every pre-2001 book accusing the Clintons of strange things, it was a hit. Aldrich faded into the background after that, but he’s emerged at the Tea Party Patriots Convention, under the banner of his Patrick Henry Center, as a punchy political veteran who can teach activists how to avoid being screwed by the media.
“This is a typical liberal,” said Aldrich at his morning session, pointing to a slide of Hannibal Lecter. “They’re some of the nastiest people you could possibly imagine.” He switched up the Lecter photo with photos of enemy reporters, like Chris Matthews, “perky”Katie Couric, and Rachel Maddow, pausing briefly to make fun of Maddow’s haircut. And on the way into the room, he said, he browbeat a reporter for filming an interview with a goofy-looking tea party activist who was carrying a gun. “That’s what’s going to show up on the nightly news,” he said. His audience nodded their heads knowingly.
And so Aldrich’s advice to activists fit cleanly under the heading of “ways to seem paranoid.” Don’t travel alone, he said: He himself had advised a prominent Tea Party leader to stop traveling solo around the country. Choose friends wisely, because allies can betray you and leak to reporters. Demand conditions from the media before agreeing to interviews. Also, learn to use a gun, especially if you live in an open carry state. (The friction between this and his previous statement was not noted.)…

What was that quote about “first as tragedy, then as farce”?

Doubting Thomas

I’m just guessing that Clarence Thomas would still vote with the conservative court majority whether or not his wife was the head of a right-wing group that got $550K in donations from unnamed sources.   Ezra Klein said it pretty well the other day:

I’ll only add that the arguments being tossed around by the two sides are essentially meaningless. There’s no “right” argument here. No one doubts that health-care reform would be constitutional if Antonin Scalia decided to pursue his passion for beekeeping and allowed President Obama to appoint his replacement. The only reason there’s any question about the law’s constitutionality is that conservatives appointed five of the nine sitting justices, and conservatives have organized against the constitutionality of a proposal they once considered not just constitutional, but desirable as a matter of public policy.

And so it goes. Politics is politics, and the Supreme Court is, at this point, deeply and unquestionably political. I continue to think it unlikely that they will want the sort of direct confrontation with the political system, and with the Democratic Party, that overturning health-care reform would entail. But only time will tell.

If there’s any better reason to vote for a Democrat than the need to nominate and confirm decent Supreme Court justices, I don’t know what it is.

“Are There No Orphanages?”

Mistermix’s post on Philosopher-King Gingrich’s latest GOP talking point about “food stamps” reminded me that some of you probably don’t remember back in 1994, when Newt was actually holding political office and talking up orphanages:

… Orphanages were not the subject of Gingrich’s speech, but they were not a throwaway either. The notion reappeared in the Republican welfare-reform bill (with the inflammatory word orphanages changed to “children’s homes”), which is a basis for Gingrich’s famous “Contract with America.”
It was not a smart move. The news media were quick to note the orphanage proposal’s obvious incompatibility with “family values.” Hillary Clinton told a New York audience last week that the “idea of putting children into orphanages because their mothers couldn’t find jobs” was “unbelievable and absurd.” Eager to be seen as the way of the future, the Newtonians found themselves tarred with images of the distant, Dickensian past…
Nearly everyone agrees that illegitimacy and teen pregnancy are key elements in poverty’s vicious cycle and that the government should try to reduce them. Gingrich’s orphanage proposal, however, seems punitive — not to mention odd, coming from a man who was born to a 16-year-old mother eight months after she left his abusive father. It would violate federal law, which mandates family- based care over institutions, and ignore the public policy consensus — first expressed by the Teddy Roosevelt White House — that “no child should be deprived of his family by reason of poverty alone.”
It would also be a budget buster. According to an analysis done for TIME by the Child Welfare League of America, the annual welfare cost of one child living with his or her mother is $2,644. The same child living with a foster family costs the public $4,800 a year. The average cost for the child’s care in “residential group care,” today’s closest approximation of an orphanage, is $36,500. If even a quarter of an estimated 1 million children who would be cut loose under Gingrich’s plan ended up in orphanages, the additional cost to & the public would be more than $8 billion.

Of course, the “budget buster” problem only applies if we intend to treat those “orphans” as if they had potential social value. While googling these old stories, I was appalled to find a link to a much more recent WSJ story from January 2010:

Critics are right on one point: Orphanages are far too expensive. Unfortunately, too many orphanage proponents and directors are convinced that all such care has to be “high quality” (or better than family care), which means high cost and limited access. But make no mistake about it: Orphanages are returning slowly across this country and around the world because communities see the need is so great.
The world needs a Sam Walton of child welfare who can show how to provide lots of kids with pretty good care at very good prices — comparable to the full cost, including administrative overhead and foster-parent payments, of foster care — as did orphanages of the past…

Roll back prices with high-volume, low-quality care! And remember, all you good Christianists… it’s a child, not a choice.

I Got Your Fiscal Conservatism Right Here

D-Day has a truly amazing piece of work up, highlighting 21 Republican Senators who voted in favor of TARP and bailing out Wall Street, collected $31 million dollars in cash from the banksters in 2010, and then voted against financial reform.

Bought and paid for.

How Are We Losing to These Clowns?

They’re actually running on the platform of making sure the trains not only don’t run on time, but don’t run:

Republicans running for governor in a handful of states could block, or significantly delay, one of President Obama’s signature initiatives: his plan to expand the passenger rail system and to develop the nation’s first bullet-train service.

In his State of the Union address this year, the president called for building high-speed rail, and backed up his words with $8 billion in stimulus money, distributed to various states, for rail projects.

But Republican candidates for governor in some of the states that won the biggest stimulus rail awards are reaching for the emergency brake.

In Wisconsin, which got more than $810 million in federal stimulus money to build a train line between Milwaukee and Madison, Scott Walker, the Milwaukee County executive and Republican candidate for governor, has made his opposition to the project central to his campaign.

Mr. Walker, who worries that the state could be required to spend $7 million to $10 million a year to operate the trains once the line is built, started a Web site,, and has run a television advertisement in which he calls the rail project a boondoggle.

“I’m Scott Walker,” he says in the advertisement, “and if I’m elected as your next governor, we’ll stop this train.”

Oh, hell no! We don’t want no efficient high speed transportation around here! We’ll get to work in bumper to bumper traffic in our pick-em-up-trucks with “Jesus is my copilot” and “Palin 2012” bumper stickers, just the way God intended. Turning down a billion dollar train because you will have to pay 8 million a year in maintenance is like giving away a free car because you might have to one day buy windshield wiper fluid.