Thursday, December 27

Thursday Olio: Can't We Deport Piers Morgan And Convict David Gregory For Their Actual Crimes? Edition

• Do you see what I see? Okay, so I understand that Bad Timing happens; I suppose there's no way that the Times' former Style editor and go-to guy on all things Dressage Bertram "Trip" Gabriel III could have known that the WaPos were about to tell the tale of Dick "Dick" Armey, his wife, and his heat boy stomping into Freedom Works' offices to extort $8 mil.

But, then, maybe the Tripper might have noticed that the picture illustrating his piece on the Teabag Cult featured, you know, Dick Armey? Maybe instead of a fluffier about how "The Tea Party" was now "focusing" on "narrower issues"--a comforting thought, no doubt, to all those people along the Areola Corridor, or whatever th' fuck crypto-landmark they call themselves--we might have gotten an in-depth piece on the amazing transformation of Dick Armey from Republican House Majority Leader to wholly-unrelated Teabagging Revolutionary.

Krishna H. Vishnu, it's like Republicans have decided, this time around, to cure their alcoholism by drinking their way out of it. [Is this not, by the way, the clearest metaphorical picture of "moderate" Republicanism post-Bush? The problem is other people. All right, maybe there's a problem, what color should we repaint it? Wait, wait (baby), I admit I've got a problem, but what th' fuck am I supposed to do about it?]

The thing is a veritable buffet table of busted crockery:
Even more telling, Tea Party activists in the middle of the country are skirting the fiscal showdown in Congress and turning to narrower issues, raising questions about whether the movement still represents a citizen groundswell to which attention must be paid.

As opposed to, say, an obvious Ponzi scheme built on clinical insanity and Beltway chatter.

Hey, anybody remember when the nascent Teabag Revolution was focusing laserlike on economic issues, and excluding all that Culture War stuff?
“People in positions of responsibility within the Republican Party tolerated too much of this,” said Fergus Cullen, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party. He blamed a backlash against “tinfoil hat” issues pushed by the Tea Party-dominated legislature in New Hampshire for the loss of a Republican majority in the State House last month and a near loss in the State Senate. Republican leaders “looked the other way too often,” he said. “They sort of smiled, winked and nodded too often, when they should have been calling ‘crazy, crazy.’ ”

Wait, it's not Fergus Cullen the Third? Look, Mr. Cullen, your party's mainstream positions are crazy, crazy. And crazy. They've been that way since at least 1964, which was almost a decade before you were born. Ain't many of your people in that time said anything. Ain't many people grew up in the party who've mentioned it so long as they thought it helped them win. These are not the people we turn to now to address the problem. Yourself included.
“These guys want instant success,” said [Tim] Cole, a member of the House Republican leadership. “If they want to see a better result, they’ve got to help us win the United States Senate. We’ve thrown away some seats out of political immaturity.”

That'd be the Tim Cole who's helped shepherd the House Republicans' nuanced approach to governance over the last four years.
“I think the Tea Party movement is to the Republicans in 2013 what the McGovernites were to the Democrats in 1971 and 1972,” said Don Gaetz, a Republican who is the president of the Florida Senate. “They will cost Republicans seats in Congress and in state legislatures. But they will also help Republicans win seats.”

Oh, Jeez Louise, it turns out Don Gaetz (b. 1948) is fucking old enough to know better. This must be the same sort of historical process which resulted in Carl Perkins doing Elvis' opening for "Blue Suede Shoes" thinking it was his own. Democrats tossed the McGovernites before New Years 1973, Don. And they were a faction. Teabaggers are just Republicans with Tourette's.
FreedomWorks spent nearly $40 million on the 2012 elections but backed a string of losing Senate candidates, including Richard E. Mourdock of Indiana, Josh Mandel of Ohio and Connie Mack of Florida. Some Tea Party firebrands lost their House seats, including Allen B. West of Florida and Joe Walsh of Illinois.
One notable success for the Tea Party was the Senate victory by Ted Cruz of Texas.
Notable? Texas replaced Kay Bailey Hutchison with an Hispanic nutter. They lost seats they could have won. The Republican party is facing Purity Tests across the country. It's not that it isn't ready to mount a defense. It's that it doesn't have a defense. You're being out-Republicaned by Republicans now, and not just select Democrats.

• Then let's compromise and do it my way. I like Norm Ornstein; I've liked him since the days when Gene Pulliam's Star printed him on "their" side of the opinion columns, alongside Mona Charen and Bob Novak. But, really, when I saw "John Huntsman for Speaker" in someone else's headline, then read the piece and saw Mitch Fucking Daniels as Second Choice, I had to ask if there is any reason whatsoever to believe there's any sanity left on the right?

I know, I know. Ornstein's supposedly suggesting people who could win an election in the House, and maybe he's right. But it's a fantasy piece to begin with. Do we have to turn it into science fiction? Huntsman is wingnutty and soft-spoken; Daniels is utterly amoral and for sale, except Purdue already met his asking price. The Republican party does not want to compromise. Period. Spare me the When Gipper Met Tip bullshit; this is the GOP the GOP always wanted, the one you Money Boys thought was great for votes but would never be called upon to govern. Now you're gonna be living with that for a generation, at least. Which is the real panic over "the changing American demographic".

And spare me, by the way, the idea of Mitch Daniels as a "fiscal conservative". He bought himself two terms as governor; his (state) party is about to find out just how far it can get fudging numbers.

• Exhibit A. Or H. I've lost track. Daniels took one last victory lap in that fucking RV of his, and nobody cared; absent a political cudgel he's just another guy with a big war chest he's mostly keeping for himself, like Democrat Evan Bayh. Meanwhile, "Deacon Mike" Pence may be hard-pressed to get his 10% tax cut approved, even with a veto-proof Republican General Assembly; the game has changed since the legislature went gaga for Mitch in 2005. It's gonna be very interesting watching The Choirboy at work next year. First, he knows now that he could'a been Senator Pence, a much better fit for him than Governor, where there's going to be a track record, even if it is the Star keeping track. (In case you don't remember, Daniels booted his eight-year partner, Lt. Governor Becky "GED" Skillman, so Pence could run for governor without having to run her over. It was widely speculated at the time that this was done in order to clear the way for The Bantam Menace to succeed 182-year-old Richard "Dick" Lugar. That, of course, was before Richard "How Many Dicks Are There In The Republican Party?" Mourdock ate Lugar's lunch; now it's a matter of running against Joe Donnelly, in six years, having to spend money to do so, and having your career end if you try and fail.

Daniels already passed out all the plums and sold all the street signs. The state budget has cut into the bone, and pretty soon Hoosiers are going to notice there've been a few amputations while they weren't paying attention. Pence isn't gonna have the pull with the Money Boys that Daniels did, and that's before the legislature starts handing him bills defining marriage, life, and pi. He's already got Republicans in the legislature asking questions about the flim-flammy Indiana Economic Development Corporation. And who knows how long they can keep shuffling papers to make the Daniels Deficit disappear? Sooner or later every shell game operator has to skedaddle.

Monday, December 24

For The Sake Of The Country, Would It Be Possible For You To Just Be Fucking Insane Somewhere Else For A Week Or Two?

Ross Douthat, "Bloomberg, LaPierre and the Void". December 22

CONNOISSEURS of black humor may remember Benjamin "Virgin Ben" Shapiro, the "Conservative" intellectual who came out of nowhere and returned even more rapidly. (Yes, I know; he's one of Breitbart's brightest now. So fucking what?) Shapiro's schtick--technically, no doubt, that of his handlers--was that he was an amazing political wunderkind, wowing the Temple elders at a tender age. It apparently didn't matter that his actual output was a soulless and savor-free recapitulation of rightist talking points which a lad of sixteen had no business holding. Young Ben didn't talk about his own world; he talked about the world of his parents. He wrote a book about the insidious Invasion of the Pornographers, despite the fact that by the time he was born everyone in America had a VCR, and had it for one reason. It came as no surprise when he suddenly spouted off about the Soviet Union (which had disintegrated when he was 3), the Liberal Media, or Quemoy and Matsu. His most famous jaw-dropping idiocy of the period, of course, revolved around his colpophobia and its best-known symptom, his public insistence on saving his purity to present to his bride on their wedding night.

Now, it's entirely possible that in the global history of letters--most of it written in languages in which I lack basic competence, and all of it written in languages where I lack fluency--someone has tried to peddle a stupider idea. But I wouldn't take the bet. It is possible, just, that a young man at the peak of hormonal disruption of every fucking cell in his body nevertheless finds his religious or moral landscape sufficient to overcome the sexual urge. (To my knowledge, Shapiro never claimed this.) It's certainly possible that physical or psychological difficulties leave one on the outside looking in, as it were. However, the odds that a nominally-sentient sixteen-year-old decides, of his own volition, to forego the normal 24 hr/day cycle of hunting for pussy because of some scruple about the effects of promiscuous sexuality on the culture at large? Zero. Maybe Shapiro was making a virtue of necessity. I don't care. Considering his public persona I'd have bought a lifelong pledge of celibacy. I just don't know why anyone bought it as a political act from someone too young to get a driver's license.

Which brings us to Douthat, now humping along toward a monochrome middle age with the same teenage facial hair and the same teenage hand-me-down politics. Is there a single example of organic development in what we'll call, for lack of a thesaurus, Douthat's thought? (Concessions don't count.)
FOR a week after the Newtown shooting, the conversation was dominated by the self-righteous certainties of the American center-left.

As opposed to the certainties of the self-appointed public moralist, who can point to the Book his ideas come from, making them simply righteous.
In print and on the airwaves, the chorus was nearly universal: the only possible response to Adam Lanza’s rampage was an immediate crusade for gun control, the necessary firearm restrictions were all self-evident, and anyone who doubted their efficacy had the blood of children on his hands.

Mite touchy, are we?

And, look: "The Left", in general, favors some restrictions on gun ownership and weapon availability. The "immediate response" you were forced to suffer through so unfairly is a result of 20 6- and 7-year-olds being gunned down in a public school. By, predictably, some nut with an assault weapon. Normal people were shocked and appalled, Ross-O. Normal people want such atrocities to end. Normal people, not just political partisans, see the easy availability of weapons as the crucial link in all these episodes.
The leading gun control chorister was Michael Bloomberg, and this was fitting, because on a range of issues New York’s mayor has become the de facto spokesman for the self-consciously centrist liberalism of the Acela Corridor elite.

Who's the de facto spokesman for the sort of person who uses "Acela Corridor elite" as a collective noun?

So now a billionaire "Third Way" Rockefeller Republican is King of the Leftists because he, like millions of Americans, including a lot of apolitical ones, believes that maybe stricter gun laws might allow more of our fellow citizens to reach their eighth birthday?

How fucking convenient, how remarkably fucking convenient, if one wishes to pretend the argument is taking place in 1968, when yelling "Dirty Hippie" trumped everything.
Like so many members of that class, Bloomberg combines immense talent with immense provincialism: his view of American politics is basically the famous New Yorker cover showing Manhattan’s West Side overshadowing the world, and his bedrock assumption is that the liberal paternalism with which New York is governed can and should be a model for the nation as a whole.

Ross Douthat, born in San Francisco, CA, raised in New Haven, CT; attended Hamden Hall and Harvard University. Resides in Washington, District of Columbia. Spokesman for the culture of Middle America.

From 1992 to 2000: Blackville, SC. Lynnville, TN. Moses Lake, WA. Bethel, AK. Pearl, MS. Paducah, KY. Stamps, AR. Jonesboro, AR. Edinboro, PA. Springfield, OR. Richmond, VA. Fayetteville, TN. Columbine, CO. Conyers, GA. Deming, NM. Flint, MI. Lake Worth, FL.

Middle America can use all the help it can get.
It’s an assumption that cries out to be challenged by a thoughtful center-right. If you look at the specific proposals being offered by Bloomberg and others, some just look like reruns of assault weapon regulations that had no obvious effect the last time they were tried. Others still might have an impact on gun violence, but only at a cost: the popular idea of cracking down hard on illegal handguns, for instance, would probably involve “stop and frisk” on a huge scale, and might throw more young men in prison at a time when our incarceration rates are already too high.

The bullshit that "assault weapons bans failed" has been dealt with a hundred times over in the ten days since Sandy Hook; you can wish it away in your own mind, but not in public debate. As for the strain on our overcrowded prison system, it's full of drug offenders, many of 'em non-violent, and some guilty of next-to-nothing. Fact is that thanks to your party we've needed plenty of capacity, and can free up space as necessary. But, may I say, spirited attempt on the anti-racism routine, Ross. I didn't know you had it in you.
But instead of a kind of skepticism and sifting from conservatives, after a week of liberal self-righteousness the spotlight passed instead to ... Wayne LaPierre. And no Stephen Colbert parody of conservatism could match the National Rifle Association spokesman’s performance on Friday morning.

For cryin' out loud, you knew it was broken when you bought it.
It wasn’t so much that LaPierre’s performance made no concession whatsoever on gun restrictions or gun safety — that was to be expected.

It was expected from Wayne LaPierre. It isn't from every responsible gun owner.
It was that he launched into a rambling diatribe against an absurdly wide array of targets, blaming everything from media sensationalism to “gun-free schools” signs to ’90s-vintage nihilism like “Natural Born Killers” for the Newtown tragedy.

I gotta tell ya, Ross, how much I've enjoyed the "Wayne LaPierre is so old he thinks Natural Born Killers is in theaters" schtick every time I've heard it. As if Wayne LaPierre's actual political position isn't sixty years out of date.
Then he proposed, as an alternative to the liberal heavy-handedness of gun control, something equally heavy-handed — a cop in every school, to be paid for by that right-wing old reliable, cuts to foreign aid.

I'd just like to mention, once again, that this thing took the geniuses at the NRA a fucking week to come up with. And evidently no one told them a) most of that foreign aid goes to the We Need Israel to Start Armageddon Fund, and b) most of that comes in the form of weapons. If you think people should be armed to the teeth before they head over to the mall, you sure must believe Israel needs to fucking bristle with hardware.
Unfortunately for our country, the Bloomberg versus LaPierre contrast is basically all of American politics today. Our society is divided between an ascendant center-left that’s far too confident in its own rigor and righteousness and a conservatism that’s marched into an ideological cul-de-sac and is currently battering its head against the wall.

Puts me in mind of Thurber's bit in My Life and Hard Times where, after a semester of trying and failing to see anything through a microscope he finally produced a sketch of his own eyeball.

That's not the country, Ross-boy; that's the fucking interior of your own skull. It's certainly not a mirror held up to the public discussion of the last ten days, where Liberal Leftist Centrists Oblivious to the Evidence are opposed by Slightly Skewed Self-Defense Groups. That's not how sensible people in that Middle America you imagine you speak for think of things. Most people, most reasonably sane people, are so repulsed by Newtown that they don't want to hear any more excuses. That may not be a fully nuanced view, or a completely practical one, but it is the sane reaction. Your side sure didn't have a problem with simplistic, emotional arguments drowning everything out after 9/11, did it?
The entire Obama era has been shaped by this conflict, and not for the good. On issue after issue, debate after debate, there is a near-unified establishment view of what the government should do, and then a furious right-wing reaction to this consensus that offers no real policy alternative at all.

Says the guy who co-wrote that book in 2008 about how the Republican party had to adapt, then climbed on board the Teabag Express the moment it gained momentum.
The establishment view is interventionist, corporatist and culturally liberal. It thinks that issues like health care and climate change and immigration are best worked out through comprehensive bills drawn up by enlightened officials working hand in glove with business interests. It regards sexual liberty as sacrosanct, and other liberties — from the freedoms of churches to the rights of gun owners — as negotiable at best. It thinks that the elite should pay slightly higher taxes, and everyone else should give up guns, SUVs and Big Gulps and live more like, well, Manhattanites. It allows the president an entirely free hand overseas, and takes the Bush-Obama continuities in foreign policy for granted.
The right-wing view is embittered, paranoid and confused. It opposes anything the establishment supports but doesn’t know what it wants to do instead. (Defund government or protect Medicare? Break up the banks or deregulate them? Send more troops to Libya or don’t get involved? Protect our liberties or put our schools on lockdown?) 
Sometimes the right’s “just say no” approach holds the establishment at bay — as on climate change and immigration, to date. But sometimes, as the House Republicans are demonstrating in the budget showdown, it makes the eventual defeat that much more sweeping.
Speaking of sweeping: that's what the Times Op-Ed pages could use. Criticizing the "extremist excesses" of a portion of your party is bullshit. FOX News is your party. Further, you don't gain the status of Reasonableness, let alone Free Thinker, by offering the occasional half-assed swipe at it when things go bad. These people are Holy Middle America when they're turning out to vote your way, and crazed yahoos when you lose in spite of 'em. You're supposed to be the religious man, Douthat; how 'bout your standards gaining a little consistency? Meanwhile, Leftist Liberal Centrist Provincial Elites are everywhere, and at all times, barely able to cloak their inherent Evil. Or else they're simple-minded dupes. Is this the great swath of middle ground we're supposed to crowd around on?

Because if it is, you might want to work on that "sexual liberty" routine some.

Friday, December 21

At Least We Now Know What It Takes To Get Some Of The Nation's Top Conservative Intellectuals To Mention Gun Restrictions

Charles Krauthammer, "The roots of mass murder". December 20

Jennifer Rubin, "Dear Commission: About those guns…" December 20

WE'RE going to cover this in more detail in a bit, but, first, let's just correct the willful misrepresentation of legislative efficaciousness: it is true that the 1994 so-called Assault Weapons so-called ban did not appreciably reduce the national gun homicide rate. This is less surprising, perhaps, if one recalls that 1985's Gramm-Rudman act did nothing to prevent Phil Gramm or Warren Rudman. And their names were right there on the bill.

Anyway, today Chuckles Krauthammer's trying to be reasonable, and Jennifer Rubin is trying to be smart. Let's look in. Chuck?
Every mass shooting has three elements: the killer, the weapon and the cultural climate. As soon as the shooting stops, partisans immediately pick their preferred root cause with corresponding pet panacea. Names are hurled, scapegoats paraded, prejudices vented. The argument goes nowhere.

I dunno; like the man said, even the truly worthless can serve as a bad example.

Let's begin with Columbine. The screaming about "The Culture" began there before anyone knew anything about Harris and Klebold, and it went on long, strong, and without regard for facts. It gave all the impression, in fact, of being a pat and partisan response to the entire question of gun violence.

Japanese culture is stomach-churningly violent. No one there ever kills anybody. The rest of the world watches our movies and plays our video games; we have four times the homicide rate, and four times the firearms-homicide rate, of comparably-developed countries.

And while we're at it, leave us just point out that the argument over "culture" is a partisan political talking point which got appended to the issue of school violence just because it was handy, and just because cultural arguments are made incontinently, without full consideration. The violence in American culture isn't just Tarantino and Peckinpah movies, and thrill-kill video game anarchy. We lead the globe in martial glorification, too. More innocents died at Fallujah than at Newtown. Our somber reflection on the hopeless, needless, and utterly worthless global slaughter that was the First World War, once known as Armistice Day, is now demonstrated by putting a few of our surplus hi-tech bombers to work wowing the rubes down below.

The killer? Are we actually proposing to control human psychology now? All the babbling about the Motive of Adam Lanza seems like carnival rubbernecking.

Weapons, on the other hand, well, time hasn't diminished that argument any. Guns kill. Assault-styled weapons kill massively.
I have no problem in principle with gun control. Congress enacted (and I supported) an assault weapons ban in 1994. The problem was: It didn’t work. (So concluded a University of Pennsylvania study commissioned by the Justice Department.) The reason is simple. Unless you are prepared to confiscate all existing firearms, disarm the citizenry and repeal the Second Amendment, it’s almost impossible to craft a law that will be effective.

And unless we are prepared to eliminate, or ameliorate, the money that flows into both parties from those who profit on firearm sales, such laws will always be watered-down, and subject to repeal as soon as the heat's off. This crap about how the Assault Weapon ban "didn't work" is just that. It wasn't comprehensive enough, and it wasn't in place long enough to begin to dent the supply.

Although, yes, it's entirely correct that a solution would require us to confiscate guns, at least for inspection (the way many states do motor vehicles). And, yes, the attempt would probably be met with gunplay. Which kinda proves the point.
Monsters shall always be with us, but in earlier days they did not roam free. As a psychiatrist in Massachusetts in the 1970s, I committed people — often right out of the emergency room — as a danger to themselves or to others. I never did so lightly, but I labored under none of the crushing bureaucratic and legal constraints that make involuntary commitment infinitely more difficult today.
Why do you think we have so many homeless? Destitution? Poverty has declined since the 1950s. The majority of those sleeping on grates are mentally ill. In the name of civil liberties, we let them die with their rights on.
We didn't turn 'em out in the first place because of civil liberties. We did so so that Ronald Reagan could prove that cutting budgets saved money.
If we’re serious about curtailing future Columbines and Newtowns, everything — guns, commitment, culture — must be on the table. It’s not hard for President Obama to call out the NRA. But will he call out the ACLU? And will he call out his Hollywood friends?

Well, assuming that at some point you actually demonstrate some causative connection between cartoon violence and real violence, th' fuck happened to the argument about it taking 100 years to get rid of things?

And, once more: this "Hollywood lefties" thing is just an old wingnut stalking horse trotted out so it sounds like you have something to add to the conversation. Just how much Hollywood violence is there, these days? I doubt it compares to the ultraviolence of video games, which dwarf the amount of time and attention young males spend on blockbuster theatrical releases. Who's supposed to talk to the techie libertoonians who market those, eh?

And by the way: it's common knowledge that over the last forty years, sex would earn a movie a restricted rating a lot faster than violence would. Which end of the political spectrum is responsible for that? You're the guys making fun of hippies for banning toy guns.

I'm sorry, Ms Rubin; you were trying to sound serious for once?
3. Criminal and civil liability. Parents, relatives and guardians who knowingly allow persons with diagnosed mentally illness access to firearms should bear legal responsibility. That might get the attention of some homeowners and drive the discussion of gun safety and security.

Has your party been keeping its platform from you the last forty years? Were you overseas, or in a worse coma than usual, in 2004, when a Republican administration with effective control of both Houses exempted gun manufacturers and retailers from all liability for firearms use, in perpetuity? Which end of the political spectrum of the Court ruled fucking trigger locks un-Constitutional?
7. [sic] Voluntary advanced certification program for principals. If school principals want to undergo specific training and be qualified to handle a gun and respond in an emergency that should be an option for schools and those principals. Even if not all (or even most) do the deterrent effect (like air marshals) will have some effect.

Understand that I speak from some expertise in the field: nobody who knows anything about school administrators in this country would ever suggest such a thing. Hell, nobody who actually knows school administrators will recommend they administer schools, let alone while packing.
8. Fund some studies on the impact of media coverage of mass shootings. Do they contribute to other such crimes? Let’s look.

While we're at it, how 'bout we study where the PR campaign to absolve weapons of all blame has gotten us?
9. Study the impact of the 1994 assault weapons ban.

Actually, the assumption here is that such weapons facilitate the sort of mass slaughter we saw a week ago, and that they have little if any legal justification for ownership. Which makes them a prime target for the sort of incremental change such a law might begin to affect.

Meanwhile, you'll have to excuse the assumption that anyone looking for opportunities to nit-pick such a ban has a political agenda, not a practical one. I suppose it beats assuming that you just dislike school children.

Wednesday, December 19

Robert Bork 1927-2012

ASSUMING you know nothing about the Bork nomination, and were spared living through it, here is all you need to know to dogpaddle the salty seas of tearful Borking tributes: the man was forced, under oath and before the Senate and the nation, to admit that Originalism was, I believe the Latin term is, horseshit. And that the last quarter century has added exactly nothing to its foundation.

Okay, So What Have We Refused To Learn So Far?

DOES it matter the subject, or the day?

I'm an asshole. I'm a shit-flinger. I haven't really tried to hide it, for all the good that would do.

But let me assure you, I do have a positive suggestion: every network that uses the public airwaves, every cable outlet that went wall-to-wall about Newtown, every post-facto enlightened spokesman like Joe Scarborough should, from this day, broadcast pictures of the twenty-six victims at Sandy Hook, individually on their birthdays, collectively on December 14. Followed by a demonstration of the capabilities of a Bushmaster brand M16 on a child-sized block of ballistics gelatin.

By the way, in case I haven't mentioned it, I Heart Pierce:
But if Senator Joe [Manchin] wants to convince me this change of mind is anything but a tentative nod toward what he thinks might be a changing political reality regarding guns — and, to me, that's still really up in the air — then here's what he can do. He can call a press conference today and announce that he is resigning from the NRA unless and until Wayne LaPierre and the rest of the executive board is fired, and unless and until the organization ceases to create through its mailings and its rhetoric a universe of armed paranoia in the land, and unless and until the NRA stops aiding and abetting — and profiting from — the continued existence and propagation of that paranoia. Then I'll believe him. Oh, and if he publicly apologized for that idiotic commercial wherein he shot cap-and-trade legislation with his personal shootin' 'arn, that would be nice, too. 
As for Scarborough, well, it seems he's offering a little Beltway horse trading here. If you crack down on video games, I'll consider cracking down on guns. Nice to have you aboard, Joe. Now sit down. examine your conscience for past sins, and then shut up while the people who have been doing the real work on this issue for the 20 years in which you were carrying water for the gun industry go about their business again.
There's one other thing they can do for me: spend every night for the rest of their lives haunted in their dreams.

Too harsh? Did either one of these guys really not understand what doing the bidding of the NRA meant?

[Manchin, by the way, claimed, belatedly, that "nobody goes hunting with these sorts of weapons", which, as anyone who's ever been in the woods in Southern Indiana on the first day of squirrel season can tell you, is just plain disingenuous.]

As for the attendant discussions, the main thing they demonstrate to me is that the ability to reason, or even to understand the distinction between Law and Oprah reruns, is in serious jeopardy. Mental health? The Mental Health Establishment is like the modern aircraft carrier: good at pushing around defenseless targets, but in a real war it has to drop all its offensive operations and scramble to keep afloat. What's kept you guys from solving the problem before now? Where were you when Reagan eviscerated the public mental health program? Busy exploring the market in telling parents there was something wrong with their children for smoking marihuana the same as the parents did? How'd that work out? Great, if you market Adderall.

Video games and violence in the culture? Sheesh, ask the Mental Health Establishment to back you up on this one. You do realize that a lot of those kids are playing first-person military shooters, right? What we just sent another generation of Americans to do for realz? Except the kids' enemies are more realistically portrayed. The goddam culture thrives on lying to these young people, and insists they swallow it whole, and then, when it comes down to it, lies to their faces again, in ways that not only do the kids know isn't true, but in ways they know the people saying it know isn't true. I was listening to NPR in the car yesterday, and some mental health professional--clincal psychiatrist or neurologist or something, not some chopped liver psych major--was bemoaning the legalization of maryjane in her home state. It was an updated version of Harry Anslinger's rap, minus the Mexicans and Chinese; weed is still a Gateway drug, but now (now that that claim is too laughable to make, that is), it's a Gateway to Dropping Out. The role of the modern psych professional is to make sure everyone realizes his full potential in IT somewhere.

Farhad Manjoo explains why we don't have smart guns. Control of killing machines is waaaay overdue, but I caution that Looking Hard at Problems and Attempting to Solve Them is something Slate should undertake very slowly, like an abdominal surgery patient approaches solid food. There are 200 million guns in this country. How long would it take all of them to be replaced by smart tech? Maybe we should legislate an upgrade? Let's announce the recall in Slate.

Fer chrissakes. No, we cannot legislate human nature, cannot legislate Evil out of existence, can't even be sure Dawn will arrive on schedule. None of that changes the capacity of automatic (semi-; who gives a shit) weapons, large volume clips, and high-velocity shells to inflict enormities, like the most recent one, like the next one. Sure, bombs can, too. I remind you, it's illegal to own those.

Nancy Lanza was 52. That means she was forty years old when the Columbine massacre screamed across the headlines. Yet she had an emotionally disturbed child, semi-automatic weapons, and she taught him to shoot. Our Precious Freedoms are too fragile for society at large to've demanded she keep them under lock and key. We can't legislate sanity, or common sense, and it's too late to discuss either with her. We can stop looking for easy answers, and start holding people accountable for facilitating this sort of thing in the name of profit.

And we can show those pictures, and make sure no one forgets, until things get better.

Monday, December 17

Principles, Not Principals

I TUNED in This Week yesterday morning, excited that, according to my U-verse info button, they'd coaxed the elusive John McCain out of hiding. 

He was, sadly, bumped. The Roundtable began when Georgie S. tossed to George Eff:
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, George, let me begin with you. And I watched those clips from earlier this week and Friday and Saturday, and there's a depressing sameness to the conversation coming out of these tragedies.
WILL: Yes. And our response is always to think that there's some defect in the social system or some prompting in the social atmosphere that causes this and, therefore, we assume, we can tailor a law to correct the defect.
Okay, let's hit Pause right there (as I did) and regard this. Hold it up to the light and admire the patina. This was the Conservative answer fifty years ago, when George Eff was a Goldwater supporter, and it's still the answer today, thirty years since the Republican party started tailoring the laws to its own vision of social defects. It sounds like principle; in practice it acts like anything but.

That's not your take on reproductive rights, George. Not for the last forty years, anyway, forty years of social disruption based on nothing but the idea that we could tailor the law to assuage your moral qualms (in some still unspecified fashion).  

I didn't think that when I hit pause, the better to hear exactly what was said. What I thought was "Th' fuck's wrong with that?  Why wouldn't a sane people recoil from this slaughter, and want to do everything in its power to prevent another?" I'll wager that for a sizable number of our fellow citizens obeying the legal niceties was not the first thing on their minds.

Any legislation which restricts access to the tools of mass killing is going to be strenuously opposed, and subject to, you should pardon the expression, judicial review. It isn't like the Second amendment is going to be overturned tomorrow morning by a mob of angry mommies. 

Millions of Americans support sane gun laws. Every day of the year. My own feelings about the easy availability of weapons designed to slaughter, like my feelings about the facile Constitutional arguments which have brought that about, or the money which has bought legislative complacency, or the sham arguments about video games, goth fashions, and backward messages in Judas Priest songs which accompany every such occurrence, are not the product of headlines, or of fire in the blood. Maybe Sandy Hook changed some people's minds in a way that Virginia Tech or Paducah, or Columbine didn't. That's for those people to explain. 

What there is for the Right to explain--at long last, George, at long last--is why every single instance until now was accompanied by explanations that ignored the implements of mass slaughter. Let alone why the theoretical ought to trump the practical. In certain cases only, of course.

Saturday, December 15

A Note On Usage

IF we can't quite grasp the concept of "clause" where the 2nd amendment is concerned, can we try "phrase", or should we head straight to orthography?

"Well regulated". It means, first of all, regulated. And well. If you want to argue that "not at all" constitutes the wellest form of regulation, okay. But that's not the same thing as unfettered

Incidentally, you might mention to your grandchildren, since the best-case scenario is that they might finally be able to do something about this, that civil liability would eliminate machines for killing people. It seems damned sure that body counts won't. 

By the way, can anyone tell me what th' fuck Clint Van Zandt has ever done? Aside from his uncanny prediction that the Unabomber would be a married suburbanite middle manager? 

Friday, December 14

Friday Olio: Excrement Retains Its Buoyancy Edition

• Bonus Easterbrook:
Typical example: the gleaming new Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Colts perform, was funded by $615 million from Indiana taxpayers and $100 million from the NFL, yet all profits generated in the stadium are converted to the private luxury of the Irsay family, the Colts' owners. 
If Indianapolis or California or other state taxpayers are, through their elected representatives, foolish enough to allow their money to be used to build sports facilities where all profits are converted into private luxury, then taxpayers have only themselves to blame.
Tell ya whut, Gregg: I follow local politics a little, and the time we voted for The Enormous Football Barn escapes me. Ditto Conseco Fieldhouse, the new Victory Field, the demolished Hoosier Dome or Market Square Arena, the two revised lease agreements we've signed with Jim Irsay, or the $10 million annually we're now donating to the Mall-of-America Simons. There's no fucking way any of this was ever getting near a referendum. There's no fucking way a public outcry would stop it, either.

It's true that voters in the seven doughnut counties did get to choose whether to participate in the "luxury" taxes that fund the place (Indianapolis did not), and six of them did. But the state had to sweeten the deal to let them keep 50% of the revenue.

It's also true that in the late 60s the state gave the city of Indianapolis the right to create a "public-private" corporation--the Capital Improvement Board--which has the right to raise levies without ever facing voters. They're the ones who've been funneling much-needed cash to the Simons, who're now in their 29th season of refusing to open their books in exchange for public largess, as required by law. (The cash is "much-needed" because it's what's required to shut the Simon family up about how much better the deal the Colts got is than the one the city kidnapped their children and made them sign.)

The current Mayor, proto-Teabag revolutionary and retired Marine Looney Bird Gomer F. Ballard, hasn't built any stadia (yet), but he was the point man on the PR campaign convincing the public the Simons had a secret clause in their 20-year lease which reduced it to ten if they wanted more money. This was while the Simons were making noise about how they'd just up and move to some city that appreciated them if they couldn't get more of what was rightly theirs. Maybe they learned this from former NFL President Paul Tagliabue, who told the citizens of Indianapolis, on more than one occasion, that the NFL desperately needed a franchise in Los Angeles by the following Friday, and wouldn't Payton Manning look good in front of some palm trees? At some point in there (I've lost track) Major League Baseball dropped in to say it would be condemning our fine old copy of Wrigley Field unless we replaced it.

I can go on and on (and on) about this, but the simple fact is that the people with the money get their way. Big fucking surprise. I'm not sure whether voters would have stopped the Lucas Oil giveaway had they had the chance; there was fire on both sides. But voters had no choice. The citizenry could have risen up forty years ago and torn all these people limb from limb. Since then, no.

• Jim Shella, the Dean (Broder) of Indiana political reporters, gets a last make-out session with Mitch Daniels:
His eight years of service have been marked by constant change and history may well remember him as the best governor in a generation.
Honestly, what kind of fool talks like that?

We've had nothing but two-term governors in Indiana since 1972, which is when the single term limit was lifted. So at best "in a generation" means a choice of Daniels over Evan Bayh and Frank O'Bannon, who died in his second term. Economically the state was better off under either. (I'm not saying that's the way to judge a governor. I am saying that's the way Mitch Daniels says we're supposed to judge a governor, and he was the only one of the three who had the Magic Rand Beans, so his numbers should be vastly superior.) But I dunno; History does seem to have a selective memory. Maybe she prefers "constant change", corporate boondoggles, rampant cronyism, billion-dollar IOUs, and peddling off state property in order to build half a highway.

You wanna be a Daniels fanboy, fine. That shouldn't include taking the same casual attitude toward evidence that Little Big Man has. Daniels' legacy will include the 20% cut (for starters) in public education, to save money we didn't have until we looked in the other pocket seven years later, "Right to Work", that highway we didn't need he found half the money for, the funny stuff with public accounts, and the coal gasification plant we're obliged to make profitable. With any luck--that is, if it's not left to our current crop of political reporters--there'll be an accurate accounting of the state's books, too, including the $2 billion we owe the Feds, just to see how he stacks up against that $2-500 million "deficit" he's been claiming he inherited. If nothing else, maybe History could hold her water until all the facts are in. Justice is the one that's blind, right?

•Meanwhile, Richard Mourdock is blaming his Senatorial defeat on "the liberal media". The great thing about that is, everybody laughed in his face when he said it. Even Jim Shella.

• This week Daniels announced several thousand more imaginary jobs that won't be created by his latest round of tax giveaways (History, I'm sure, is keeping a scorecard), and relayed the concerns of his corporate buddies over the proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriages and civil unions. That would be the amendment which passed its first hurdle in 2011, back when Mitch Daniels was governor. You know, the guy who crows about how he never was a lame duck.

Thursday, December 13

Let Me Count The Ways

I WAS at a funeral last week. Three family members spoke, each expressing a heartfelt conviction that the recently deceased was, at long last, reunited with her dead husband. In heaven, not just below the frostline.

And, scoffer and mocker that I am, I enjoyed the umpteenth occasion in my life when some Official Licensed spokesman for God had to get up and step gingerly around the magical, and un-Scriptural, thinking on display, and add a little actual Christian teaching about Death while hoping no one noticed enough to stiff the collection. I didn't envy him his job. My wicked enjoyment came from the knowledge that he and I, alone in that room, in all likelihood, understood that he routinely spoke to roomsful of fellow believers who do not believe the same thing he does.

At this point I read Gregg Easterbrook just because I'm curious whether the mounting religious mania is going to take him over completely before ESPN cans him for writing five consecutive football columns that fail to mention football.

I may be given to a bit of hyperbole concerning religious mania, but the fact is that this is mostly an artifact of its political uses. I have nothing but respect for real religious maniacs, provided they observe two simple rules: they have to permit everyone else in the world to be his or her own kind of religious maniac, too. And they can't proselytize unbidden. Not even--perhaps especially--their dependent children. That is, just respect the fact that your religious experience is yours alone, and is not to be inflicted on anyone who doesn't seek you out. Admittedly this reduces the exceptions, statistically, to zero.

I don't mean you cannot make your preference known, if you see fit; I just mean that you should recognize that it can't possibly convince anyone, and no one else should be expected to believe you, agree with you, or imagine you to be sane. In exchange you can have whatever flights of religious fancy/insanity you choose, write all the religious books you want, and bore the chi-pants off anyone who asks you about it.

It's no different than sex, is it? We don't let parents do that in front of the children. We think sexual orientation is your business, and you're free to make it known, or keep it hidden.  Your thoughts on felching, or fisting, or stigmata are your own, and should stay there. Just as others should be free to pursue their own thoughts without you shouting your way into them without warning.

And leave it out of your goddam football column.
And on the Seventh Day, God Asked for a Refund: Since Washington politicians want to avoid dealing with the federal deficit, why not use time debating the origin of the universe? Republican bright light and possible 2016 presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) recently said about the origin of the cosmos: "I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. There are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in seven days, or seven actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that." This caused commentators to recall that in 2008, Barack Obama, then a presidential candidate, said, "I believe God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it. It may not be 24-hour days, and that's what I believe."
Obviously a politician asked a question like this is trying to come down firmly on both sides, seeming to endorse science and religion both.
Of course, even if by some Divine Miracle, or sudden outbreak of Scriptural observance, every Christian in America took his prayers to his closet, Facile Libertoonianism as a cover for folk cosmogony would be with us always. No one was "reminded" of what Barack Obama said; somebody dug that up in hopes of deflecting the latest model of Can't Miss "Conservative" revealing the wholly mazed worldview behind him. Rubio wasn't tiptoeing a line. He was claiming that Young Earth Creationism is on an equal footing with Sanity. In public science courses. (None of these guys seems to think we should "Teach the controversy" on our coinage.) Rubio hasn't come down on both sides. He's specifically refused to back his own side in explicit terms. The President stated his personal views outright. Maybe he fudged them, but if so he did it in a way which "conforms" to Western scientific thought since Copernicus. Maybe they're full of shit, too; "six days might not mean six twenty-four hour periods" does tend to gloss over, just a tad, the fact that the general run of the Creation tale in Genesis doesn't jibe with the facts, six days, six millennia, six ways from the Sabbith, but that doesn't mean the President can't believe it.

No, Senator Rubio didn't actually come out and say "Science is bunk." What he did say, effectively, is that Science can fairly be treated as bunk. That's not straddling. That's weaseling.
Saying that the six days of Genesis may be a metaphor for a far longer period seems a reaction to a sense that an entire universe could not have been created in just 144 hours.

It's not a "sense". It's a fact. The universe is billions of years old.
But why not? If God is omnipotent, there's no barrier to a very rapid creation.

Why is this so difficult? Only because people wish to make it difficult, because they don't like the simple (and obvious) answer. Yes, an omnipotent God could, at every turn, create a universe precisely as described in Genesis (except for the small problem that the Creation tale of Genesis 1 contradicts that of Genesis 2, but let's leave you a few cherished idiocies). And then, for whatever Mysterious reason, He could create a chain of evidence designed to fool every thinking person since the invention of the telescope. Just as an omniscient God could have written all this vital stuff down 6000 years ago in Ancient Hebrew, the one universally understood and utterly unambiguous human tongue.

And if so there's no fucking way to know anything, including the accuracy of your Book, and certainly not the "best" way to understand it:
The Bible is best understood as an accurate record of actual events -- it may not be, but that's the way the Bible is best understood. Other biblical references to days are to regular 24-hour days. Why shouldn't the six days of the creation also be regular 24-hour days?

It "may not" be? It ain't. The only way that "literally" is the best way to take the Bible is if that's what you've pinned your hopes of being right about Everything on. Look, there was no Exodus. There simply wasn't. There's no archaeological evidence of Egyptian captivity, no archaeological evidence of a million Israelites wandering in the Sinai for forty years, not contemporary record of any of this except in Hebrew writings, despite the fact that the Egyptians kept records of every sheet of toilet paper they used. There was no conquest of Canaan. No Battle of Jericho. The foundational stories of the people who "transmitted" the "word of God" are the same sort of mythological tale-spinning every culture we know about has engaged in. They are pre-science, pre-history, and non-contemporary. They're beautifully written, often, and a world treasure, but the only way they can be understood by a sentient 21st century Westerner is as a collection of folk tales.
Suppose the cosmos came into being entirely via natural forces. This does not necessarily eliminate God from the equation, it only means that the universe began naturally, as we observe many other aspects of existence to be natural.

It does, however, eliminate the Bible as a literal guide, don't it?
The current Big Bang consensus holds that all the material needed for a cosmos of 100 billion galaxies was once within an area much smaller than a baseball, that the triggering event of the universe was a random quantum fluctuation and that in the initial moments, space expanded far faster than the speed of light.

I'm no physicist. Is this the "consensus", or is it the consensus that without faster-than-light expansion the current Big Bang model is mired, maybe hopelessly? That wouldn't reset the default back to "King James Version".
Maybe that is actually what happened. But that description -- a hundred billion galaxies in a tiny place -- in many ways seems more speculative, more freewheeling, than placing God in command of the show. And if a natural-origin universe was able to expand much faster than the speed of light, then creation in six days doesn't sound so out of the question.

The last time "what sounds commonsensical" was a way to understand physics, Einstein was still refusing to learn to talk.
In any event, a supernatural could exist, and natural forces (the Big Bang, evolution) also exist. You wouldn't want to rely on religion for explanations of the natural world. But you wouldn't want to rely on science for morality, either. As William Jennings Bryan said at the Scopes trail -- Bryan believed the Earth to be 4.5 billion years old and often said so, the play "Inherit the Wind" took many liberties with facts of that trial -- "Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals."

However closely Bryan's personal beliefs accorded with the science of the day, he was not a scientist. Marco Rubio may be a secret String Theorist, for all we know. If so he's denying the truth for his own enrichment. Does the Bible have anything to say about that?

And the religious pleading that "morality depends on us" is basically refuted by looking at what religious people do. Or at what non-religious people do. If public morality depends on religion, God help us.

Tuesday, December 11


I HEART Charlie Pierce:
First, though, Woodward needed to establish order, because some actual human interaction had broken out between Gingrich and MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell over who had said what about the Clinton tax hikes back in 1993.
MR. GINGRICH: When we balanced the — when we balanced the budget, we balanced the budget with a tax cut not a tax — four consecutive balanced budgets with a tax cut, not a tax increase. 
MR. O'DONNELL: A tiny tax cut compared to the biggest tax increase in history which is what Bill Clinton did. You didn't dismantle it.
(Cross talk)
MR. BOB WOODWARD: re-litigate the 1990s.
Yes, because it takes a guy who steadily turns out gigantic doorstops full of establishment stenography to remind us that historical parallels are basically worthless because history basically ends and then starts again, like it's got carbureator trouble, and nothing in the past ever teaches us anything worth knowing now. Besides, there is the terror of The Cliff to confront.

And never more than when I try to watch a single one of the Sundays, let alone all of them, Jesus save me. I haven't made more than ten minutes in decades.

That's about what I managed this week with This Week, with a panel that included Paul Krugman and Mary Matlin, the political equivalent of a comedy panel including Louis C.K. and a drunken Greta van Susteren. Matlin responded to something Krugman said with "Are you an economist or a polemicist?" and, apparently because she'd been practicing it all week, used it six more times, a couple of times out loud before the rest were muttered under her breath.

I lasted until Stephanopoulos threatened to return to talk about the Court and gay marriage with the same bunch.

Here is what I learned. Maybe "learned" is overdoing it:

The last Presidential Press Secretary worth a shit was Bill Moyers.

Consider that Mary Matlin, David Gergen, James Carville, Stephanopoulos, Pat Buchanan, Bay Buchanan, Peggy Noonan, Diane Sawyer, and Dana Perino (!) once worked for U.S. Presidents.

Am I leaving out someone who could turn either list to gold?

Thursday, December 6

Thursday Olio: Seasonal Affective Disorder Edition

Disney's Copyright Lawyer Battalions have finally gone too far.

Pierce dispatches Douthat's amplified and clarified excuse for that Sunday piece of his. Which, as usual, is all that needs to be said about it. So let me add:

• Douthat:  "(For now, Megan McArdle’s extended post on the subject deserves your attention.) The second group agreed with Matt Yglesias…"

For cryin' out loud, these people have sex with each other more often than the Manson Family did.

• And how many times now has Douthat taken to his supernumerary, third-nipple posts to explain something he tried to say in the most valuable political opinion mall space in America? And failed both times? Because, as Charlie has pointed out whenever he bothers with Cardinal Douthat (his construction, which I'm totally stealing), the man won't tell the truth about anything. This country paid an enormous price for the phony Reagan Revolution, followed by the Gingrich Revolution, and the Cheney House Revolt doubling down on the Crazy. Are we gonna spend another decade paying for the "Ah, but there are reasonable religious maniacs and thoughtful corporate mouthpieces" horseshit that centrist plutocrats and Beltway insiders try to console themselves with? The Times should insist that every Douthat missive be about abortion. It's all he has to talk about anyway.

Wasn't Weigel supposed to be the ink-stained and diligent Post reporter who managed to get inside the Teabagger movement? Of course, he seemed to imagine, somehow, that it was a sui-generis, totally independent, totally fiscal-focused spontaneous political eruption, despite the fact that its astroturf roots were already exposed, and its connection to the obvious Birther Shit was, well, obvious.

Anyway, Dave's on top of the shocking story of how a couple of disruptive Teabagging nut cases got tossed from the House Budget Committee, and recommends you keep up with RedState for further developments. Meanwhile, a quote from Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, one of the two Holy Martyrs:
According to Amash, the party leaders were blaming the wrong people. They, not libertarian-leaning Republicans like him, were the ones who spent “$300 million on ads that didn’t work.”

Would this be a good time to remind you asshats that you got handed your hats, and your asses, in the Republican primaries, by committed "conservative" voters who had a smorgasbord of Crazy from which to select? And that that's why that $300 mil landed where it did?

Joe "Like Sixteen Hours Every Morning Isn't Enough of You" Scarborough, in something called Politico:
By meeting more regularly with the leader of the opposition, President Obama may also learn what Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich learned in the 1990s and what Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill learned in the 1980s: that American government works best when political opponents build personal relationships.

Y'know, not only is rightist Clinton Nostalgia touching, it's doubly so when it comes from someone who voted to impeach the guy. And not only might this country be better off today if Tip had sworn off the Scotch and The Gipper, and not only is this country better off because Bill Clinton gave Newt the Full Deliverance, but shut th' fuck up. Obama came to Boehner and the Republicans as a fucking supplicant in 2009. Were you following politics then, Joe? This time all he has to do is watch Boehner stew. If you want "leadership" from the President now, why didn't you call for it then?

Forget it Jake, it's Slate: "The Rise of the Hipster Hunter".

Tuesday, December 4

I Think You've Just About Got It Worked Out

Frank Donatelli, "What This Party Needs Is More Advice From Leftover Reagan Confidence Men". December 4

David Brooks, "One More Budget Battle And We're Back On Top". December 3

Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, "2016. What Else Is There To Write About?" December 4

REPUBLICAN Rebirth? More Like a Renaissance!™

Let's begin with the piece on Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio's "makeovers", which it took the combination of Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei to completely fill in. That's the sort of firepower Perry wished he could'a sailed into Edo Bay with.
Marco Rubio doesn’t want to be the “Hispanic candidate.” Paul Ryan doesn’t want to be the “austerity guy.”

And Daniel Craig doesn't wanna be typecast as Bond. So we have Cowboys vs. Aliens.

What a remarkable thing that, after fifty years of tone-deafness, Republicans figured out with just one little election that their message wasn't reaching everybody. And the solution, of course, is to try a different lipstick.
While Congress dawdled this summer, Rubio, 41, assigned his policy experts to figure out ways to help make the middle class wealthier — and add a dose of substance to the charismatic presidential hopeful’s résumé. Reaching out to academics and think tanks to build Rubio’s network, the senator and his staff developed a two-year reinvention project and an “upward mobility agenda,” including programs like early childhood education, school choice and incentives for entrepreneurs. Those are some of the proposals he’ll test-drive at the Kemp Foundation dinner, where he’ll receive the group’s second leadership award. The first winner: Paul Ryan.

Miss Congeniality: I dunno. Probably some white guy.

I'm sorry, but aren't "academics and think tanks" at the bottom of the present Republican message? And isn't "Support the elimination of taxes on the wealthy and we'll make you middle class, honest" pretty much it already?

As for "school choice", well, I've been watching domestic politics too long to imagine that shit will somehow stop floating, but do take a look at Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction election a month ago, fellas. This is not Taxes, this is not Abortion, or Incontinent Military Spending, issues you are convinced will live forever. You've promised the moon and a white picket fence over school "reform", and now there's enough of it around that people are beginning to notice the lack of miracles. Think "Mission Accomplished".
If he makes the sale in countless such appearances over the next two years, he’ll begin a formal presidential campaign shortly after the midterm elections of November 2014, Rubio sources tell us.

Wow. There's just no substitute for insider information.
Ryan, 42, will kick off his own drive to redefine the party — and himself — as the pre-dinner keynote speaker before 300-plus conservative faithful on the same stage, detailing his thinking on how people of all classes can rise up economically and improve socially. Top Republicans tell us Ryan tried to push his ideas for a more creative “war on poverty” during the presidential campaign but was muzzled by nervous Nellies at Mitt Romney’s Boston headquarters who didn’t see an immediate political payoff. So Ryan seethed when the “47 percent” tape emerged, convinced that the impact was worse because the campaign had no record on issues relating to inclusion or poverty, exacerbating the out-of-touch image that the hidden camera cemented.

You say "out-of-touch image", voters say "the condensed soul of the Republican party."

And, excuse me, but Paul Ryan sprung full-grown from Mitt Romney's spacious cranium this summer? He's been pelting the country with "ideas" for the last two years. He's suddenly noticed poverty?

Paul Ryan's toast, unless "still being taken seriously by Politico" becomes the major issue in 2016. Backwards-hat-wearin', flexin' motherfucker should have been smart enough to turn down Mitt Romney, if he isn't smart enough to do anything else. And he isn't.

But then, Ryan's still the House go-to guy on all things fiscally screwy, so he gets to bask in the headlines (something all these Republican intellectuals would be screaming bloody murder about if they really wanted to reform the party) for another couple years. Maybe he'll even take advice from Brooks:
But the big demand would be this: That on March 15, 2013, both parties would introduce leader-endorsed tax and entitlement reform bills in Congress that would bring the debt down to 60 percent of G.D.P. by 2024 and 40 percent by 2037, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office. Those bills would work their way through the normal legislative process, as the Constitution intended. If a Grand Bargain is not reached by Dec. 15, 2013, then there would be automatic defense and entitlement cuts and automatic tax increases.

That's right. David Brooks wants us to govern by a fucking series of unworkable, unrealistic, and, frankly, clinically delusional Financial Cliff bargains. And he believes this will turn the national debate to the Republican's turf.

(Brooks, you'll recall, got burned by the Teabaggers in 2009, after declaring his heartfelt belief of the moment that the party needed to reform itself. So this time he's betting it all on Red, apparently. Foolproof system.)

Can we just mention something? Either go fucking soul search for twenty minutes, at least, or just admit you're never changing anything except your cosmetics. Why don't we convince Boehner to start showing up blue? Your problem--and it's been your problem since Reagan--is that the things you insist are solutions to national problems are shit. And they're proven to be shit. They don't fucking work. They're designed as slogans, not solutions, but somewhere along the line you all started to drink your own snake oil. Turning the national debate towards the Republicans is like turning the key light onto Lindsey Lohan at 5 AM.

Meanwhile, former Reagan functionary Frank Donatelli has some insights, and if "former Reagan functionary" is at the top of your resume, you know you've got something:
One much-discussed approach is totally counterproductive. A few conservatives continue to pursue unfettered purity in their candidates. They blame defeat on the GOP’s “moderation” and contend that Mitt Romney was an insufficiently conservative alternative. The reasoning is that “millions” of conservatives stayed home on Election Day. If the prospect of President Obama’s reelection couldn’t bring these “millions” out to vote, one wonders what would. I remember people telling me with a straight face that Ronald Reagan wasn’t conservative enough when he was running for president.

Who told you that, Frank? We need a name. Claire Chennault? Anna Chennault? George Lincoln Rockwell?
Pursuing everyone on the farthest end of the political spectrum is futile and only results in losing more independent voters. It is significant that despite overall disappointing results, the GOP won independent voters this time.

And it's nearly as significant that you still fucking lost.
On the other side are some, mostly non-Republicans, who claim that the GOP’s social conservative positions are “turning off” moderate voters and suggest Republicans abandon traditional value voters. The problem here is that the socially liberal, economically conservative Republicans barely exist in reality. The most prominent proponent of this approach, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, was the only incumbent senator to lose his race last month. Social conservatives are a key part of the Republican coalition and among our most loyal supporters. It would be foolish in the extreme to walk away from such an important part of the GOP base .

True, "foolish and extreme" is what I think of, too.

By the way, Quarter-term Senator Scott Brown lost to a liberal in liberal Massachusetts. I know your people are out of it, but there can't be many who think they need to run someone more conservative to reclaim The Old Colony. Meanwhile, risible social "conservatives" lost in conservative Indiana and Missouri. But they weren't incumbents, just winners of Republican primaries, so it doesn't count?
The problem is not that social conservatives are an important part of the GOP, but rather that they are not enough alone to form a voting majority in the new America. Nor apparently are there enough social conservatives and economic conservatives to stitch together 270 electoral votes. The GOP cannot become a majority by reading people out of our party. We become a majority by adding new converts.

And one reason you're unable to do so is that most everyone else hates the fucking social "conservatives". Who, by the way, are the same people who're screaming for "more 'conservative'" candidates next time.
Fortunately, the targets available are obvious. First are Hispanics. Michael Barone compares them with the Italian immigrants of the last century and there is much truth in that comparison.

There's a shade of truth in that, at least. It's maybe the penumbra of truth. Colored by experience, perhaps. Not quite as black and white as with some other voting blocs, we might say. Quit listening to Michael Barone, we could add.
Both are family oriented and, yes, socially conservative. Italian-Americans were heavily discriminated against and chose Democrats and government help at first, but eventually sought opportunity over security and are now an important part of the GOP coalition.

Hey, Hispanics: If you make enough money, in forty or fifty years we'll treat you like family!  (Please vote like the Pope tells ya in the meantime.)
Second are women, especially single women. At a time in America when half of marriages end in divorce and an increasing number of children are born out of wedlock, women are rightly concerned about economic security. After all, they can suffer the most immediate consequences.

Maybe you can have the vital "social 'conservative'" wing pray for 'em.
I dare say Obama or liberals have no earthly idea what to do for these women – except for expanded welfare programs.

As opposed to no welfare programs.

And by the way, fuck you. "Obama or liberals" may have a lot to answer for, but it doesn't begin to touch your own little cosmetic problem with The Girls. Try the Earned Income Tax Credit. Try Headstart, the School Lunch Program, the expansion of the School Lunch Program, Medicaid, Title IX, Title X, or the national focus on domestic violence. All liberal, all Democratic programs. When last we left women to the Republican-rightist coalition they were little more than chattel.

It's the same motherfuckin' thing with you people every time. How do we keep our stranglehold on the white racist vote, and still appeal to non-whites?  How do we convince the 99% that the 1% Knows Best? What shade of lipstick will make this pig prom queen?

Keep it up.

Monday, December 3


Ross Douthat, "More Babies, Please". December 1

APOLOGIES for treading ground that Roy has already stomped much more efficiently, but yesterday, when my neighbor tossed the Times over the back fence it landed with such a resounding thud I knew I had to check out Douthat first thing.

Reader, is there any question that the whole right-wing "birthrate" thing is the Anti-Fluoridationalism of the 21st century? The most hopelessly bent, the most recursively insane, the signature folly of a parade of fools? They can't keep race out of it, the way their intellectual forebears couldn't keep backwoods theology out of dental hygiene. They can't keep Catholic theology out of it, even though most of 'em aren't Catholic.

They can't quit talking about it. Which, y'know, to each his own kink:
IN the eternally recurring debates about whether some rival great power will knock the United States off its global perch, there has always been one excellent reason to bet on a second American century: We have more babies than the competition.

So right off the bat: 1) Where are these debates occurring, let alone recurring? 2) Assuming they are, who is saying our great reliance is babies? I thought it was the fact that God needs us around to help with Armageddon?  That, and the superiority of Coca-Cola™ to all other beverages.
It’s a near-universal law that modernity reduces fertility. But compared with the swiftly aging nations of East Asia and Western Europe, the American birthrate has proved consistently resilient, hovering around the level required to keep a population stable or growing over the long run.

Okay, so the debate is being held in the sort of circles where Europe is referred to as "swiftly aging." I guess that's why I missed it.
America’s demographic edge has a variety of sources: our famous religiosity, our vast interior and wide-open spaces (and the four-bedroom detached houses they make possible), our willingness to welcome immigrants (who tend to have higher birthrates than the native-born).

Thanks for explaining the non-solution to a problem that doesn't actually exist.
And it clearly is an edge. Today’s babies are tomorrow’s taxpayers and workers and entrepreneurs, and relatively youthful populations speed economic growth and keep spending commitments affordable. Thanks to our relative demographic dynamism, the America of 50 years hence may not only have more workers per retiree than countries like Japan and Germany, but also have more than emerging powers like China and Brazil.

Not that this means Social Security and Medicare aren't doomed, mind you. Ya ever notice how, when the likes of Douthat wants to insist on innate ethical superiority of US Americans, they head right for that abiding human-heartedness which they, politically, fight against tooth and claw?
If, that is, our dynamism persists. But that’s no longer a sure thing. American fertility plunged with the stock market in 2008, and it hasn’t recovered. Last week, the Pew Research Center reported that U.S. birthrates hit the lowest rate ever recorded in 2011, with just 63 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. (The rate was 71 per 1,000 in 1990.) For the first time in recent memory, Americans are having fewer babies than the French or British.

Pretty impressive for swiftly-aging nations.
The plunge might be temporary. American fertility plummeted during the Great Depression, and more recent downturns have produced modest dips as well. This time, the birthrate has fallen fastest among foreign-born Americans, and particularly among Hispanics, who saw huge amounts of wealth evaporate with the housing bust. Many people may simply be postponing childbearing until better times return, and a few years of swift growth could produce a miniature baby boom.

Well, I think that's summed up the recurring debate nicely. We'll just wait and see.
Among the native-born working class, meanwhile, there was a retreat from child rearing even before the Great Recession hit. For Americans without college degrees, economic instability and a shortage of marriageable men seem to be furthering two trends in tandem: more women are having children out of wedlock, and fewer are raising families at all.

Thank God. For a minute there I thought realization that this was a non-debate over an imaginary issue which could go one way, or the other, was going to remove every opportunity for priggery.
Finally, there’s been a broader cultural shift away from a child-centric understanding of romance and marriage. In 1990, 65 percent of Americans told Pew that children were “very important” to a successful marriage; in 2007, just before the current baby bust, only 41 percent agreed. (That trend goes a long way toward explaining why gay marriage, which formally severs wedlock from sex differences and procreation, has gone from a nonstarter to a no-brainer for so many people.)

I'm gonna go waaaay out on a limb here, without even Pew to guide me, and suggest that The Childless Trend has convinced exactly zero percent of the population to change its attitude on gay marriage from "nonstarter" to "no-brainer".
Government’s power over fertility rates is limited, but not nonexistent. America has no real family policy to speak of at the moment, and the evidence from countries like Sweden and France suggests that reducing the ever-rising cost of having kids can help fertility rates rebound. Whether this means a more family-friendly tax code, a push for more flexible work hours, or an effort to reduce the cost of college, there’s clearly room for creative policy to make some difference.

So by the tenth paragraph we get around to mentioning that the non-story of a vapor argument having two nonexistent sides really has nothing much to do with political policy, and more to do with Douthat's recollection of the political ploys of his parents' generation, when Republicans sought to convince the white Middle Class it was discriminated against at every turn. A condition for which the solution, if I recall, was to vote Republican, and have Middle Class economic prospects shrink like a bar of soap for forty years.
Beneath these policy debates, though, lie cultural forces that no legislator can really hope to change. The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

Well, it really is too bad, then, that the Republican party has spent 170 years championing unfettered corporate rapine, exploitative labor practices, and the demise of the family farm to multi-mega agribusiness. In fact, y'know, it's too bad that the standard "conservative" solution to our problems involves correcting what "conservatives" did a half-century previous, now that they've seen the light.
Such decadence need not be permanent, but neither can it be undone by political willpower alone. It can only be reversed by the slow accumulation of individual choices, which is how all social and cultural recoveries are ultimately made.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter at
And, Ross, I invite you to get a real job for a couple years, and copulate to your heart's content.

Saturday, December 1

Stand Up And Say That

THE real Mitch Daniels:
WASHINGTON -- Republican frustration over the election defeat of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett boiled over into the public this week with Gov. Mitch Daniels claiming at an education reform conference here that teachers used illegal and improper methods to oust Bennett.

"If you're a fan of anything-goes politics, it was a creative use of illegal -- but still creative use -- of public resources," Daniels said Wednesday at a Washington, D.C., meeting of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group led by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. "We got emails sent out on school time by people who were supposed to be teaching someone at the time, all about Tony Bennett. We have parents who went to back to school night to find out how little Jebbie is doing and instead they got a diatribe about the upcoming election."
If you're scoring at home, and I hope you are, that's one-time Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, still on company time [as he has been for the last four years, during which he 1) spent two and one-half years running for the money to not run for President, then 2) spent the next year ducking a subpoena in the IBM/FSSA billion-dollar boondoggle, on the grounds that as Governor he was Constitutionally protected from having to tell the truth, before 3) lining up employment as President of Purdue, after a rigorous selection process conducted by people he appointed], complaining that public school teachers illegally defeated his henchman Bennett. From six-hundred miles away. Before picking up his award (though it's dollars to doughnuts his fee cleared a couple weeks ago).

We're sure, though, that he's got solid evidence of this illegality, right?
Asked if the governor has proof of the illegal activities, spokesman Jake Oakman said the incidents "were rather well known during the campaign" but offered no specifics.
 Oakman said the Indiana Republican Party "received a number of complaints from parents about the personal attacks on Dr. Bennett during the election."
He referred to the state party the question of whether any action was taken to investigate the claims.
In other words, No.
Indiana GOP spokesman Pete Seat said the party received copies of emails about the election that were sent by teachers from school accounts. Seat said the party did not take action because those who provided the emails simply wanted the GOP to be aware of them. 
Asked if the emails were a violation of state law, Seat said they were "certainly inappropriate."
Now, first, kudos to Maureen Groppe for climbing the chain of bullshit here, and to the smoldering crater where once stood Gene Pulliam's flagship paper for actually allowing it, (and other questions about Daniels' pet projects, now that he's safely away from needing votes). But the issue isn't whether these people have something to say in reply; it's that they don't have anything to say in reply. Daniels didn't say "certainly inappropriate", which wouldn't have been nearly petulant enough to earn him his trophy, though it's just as inaccurate.  And this is the state, and the party, so concerned about voter fraud it was the first in the nation to chase its Voter ID law all the way to the Supreme Court. (We have, as a result, learned of three cases of vote fraud: Charlie White, Richard Lugar, and Richard Mourdock, although only the first can actually be called "criminal" by someone who observes the niceties.) Why aren't the State Police on the case?

Maybe because "using your professional email account to send email" isn't, um, illegal? Nor is "personally attacking" Tony Bennett a felony, unless you use a hatchet (if you use a gun it's a Second amendment exercise). If parents were unfairly harangued about Bennett at what they thought were school conferences, they should have complained to a) the teacher, b) the principal, and c) the superintendent. Or at least given the GOP permission to use their names. 

This is Mitch Daniels, by the way, the man many puditologically-inclined Republicans thought should get another crack at the Federal budget. When he controlled the sluice gates he was quickly surrounded by people who managed to keep his natural, Randian inclination to slime everyone and everything that begged to slightly differ with him. Not that he's reduced to the D list he's back home in the bicorne. His opponents are "dinosaurs", opponents of a progress so clear it never has to prove itself, or provide any evidence. Just like th' Guv'ner hisself.