Thursday, February 28

Thursday Olio: Some Some Slight Slippage May Be Experienced

•  Miss Teen Delaware resigns after her hardcore porno surfaces. And for what it's worth I'd like to join the chorus telling her to buck up. Lots of young women have entered pageants and still gone on to useful, productive lives. [/rimshot]

• I have a horrible, public-school-grade cold. Forget zinc, vitamin C, or even chicken soup on this one. This is the only thing that's helped so far:

Doc Pomus wrote it.

"According to Rich Lowry in Politico" is a phrase which proves Chomsky's idea that mastering the fundamental structures of language allows you to invent statements more horrible than you thought possible.
The McCain ad dubbing Barack Obama the biggest celebrity in the world back in 2008 was deadly accurate. What Republicans didn’t consider is that being a celebrity is a priceless asset in contemporary America. 

Yes, because what Republican ever heard of Ronald Reagan?

(I gotta tell ya, I googled Lowry to see how long after the Reagan presidency he was born, because I've been living under the impression that he was fourteen years old. Which, it turns out, he is, just not chronologically. He's forty-four. For fuck's sake. This is the sort of shit Republicans are telling themselves about necessary reform:
Of course, it wasn’t too long ago that Democrats seemed to be in dire straits. The party agonized over appealing to “values voters” after 2004. Little did they know eight short years later, they would run a successful reelection campaign partly on limitless abortion and free contraception. The Bush-era Democrats didn’t do much rethinking.

You're a party of cowards. Intellectual and otherwise. Work on that for a decade.)

In other advice columns news Weigel, having failed to convince Karl Rove to just give up altogether (plucky human spirit for ya, eh?), declares victory because some guy in Ioway isn't gonna run against Steve King.

So Unkka Karl's now down to his last $250 million tax-exempt dollars and his iPhone full of billionaires. On the other hand, this really is the closest thing to a victory libertarians have ever pulled off. Just explain to me why th' fuck you want to inherit the Republican party.

• And th' snarkin' is easy: "Why are American beers so weak?"

I'm not gonna bother. Lemme just note that, first, if you think of beer as an Alcohol Delivery System, and find it deficient in potency, move on to the harder stuff and shut th' fuck up, or just sit sobbing quietly to yourself. The real question, if any, is Why is this stuff so unpalatable? Which can be further subdivided into "Don't you have a myriad of choices these days, unless you'd also like to complain that every last craft-brewer and boutique bottler imagines that ten times the hops means ten times the quality?" and "Why do so many people enjoy watery corn squeezins?"

Just for the record, the answer is "Why do people eat at McDonald's?" and "Why is it lawful in the US to label any trash fish stuck in your nets 'Dover sole' for mercantile purposes?" We're a Zen koan kinda society, somehow.

And, no:
German-American brewers made some alterations to their mother country’s traditional beer, as any beer aficionado knows. Fearing that American drinkers wouldn’t appreciate the malt-heavy Bavarian lager, they substituted American-grown grains like corn and rice for some of the barley, lightening the beer’s flavor.

Got absolutely nothing to do with the fact that corn was cheaper'n dirt, huh?
Modern American beer enthusiasts tend to sneer at the two or three mass-produced beers that have dominated the industry for decades,

They probably just need the exercise.
but their success has little to do with corporate trickery, market manipulation, or the effects of Prohibition on smaller brewers. Nineteenth-century Midwestern lagers simply beat other styles of beer in the American market.

Stylistically, maybe. But it's the post-war consolidation/gobbling of local and regional breweries that allowed three giants to dictate quality, or, rather, lack thereof; ingredients got cheaper and cheaper as profits grew. See also chocolate, cattle feed, and journalism. Laying that off on the consumer is rubbish; the next generation, offered little choice in the matter, has no grounds for comparison. The fact that there is such a thing as craft beer is the semi-miracle.

• I can't leave without mentioning how much I enjoyed hearing Barbara Harsha, of the Governors' Highway Safety Association, on NPR the other day. The topic was that report that teen driving deaths are up almost 20% in a year, and Harsha's task was to explain away most states' refusal to do anything about distracted (i.e. fucking phone in each ear) driving. By ignoring it. Which she accomplished by blaming the increase on the fact that the economy has improved, plus those stringent new requirements the Governors of the Various States, Commonweals, and Taxing Bodies had placed on teen drivers have now been factored into the market, as it were. Pressed to respond to the suggestion that "everyone around the office" at NPR had concluded that cell phones were a big cause, Harsha explained how difficult it is to get reliable information from dead people.

This is why hiring spokeswomen makes good sense. Most of 'em will not find themselves face-to-face with their reflections the next morning with the apparatus of throat-slitting at hand.

Wednesday, February 27

A Note On Fourteen Hundred Words Explaining The Unintelligible

David Weigel, "The Passion of Rand Paul: Why the senator was against Chuck Hagel before he was for him". February 26

FIRST, someone more With It than I needs to tell me if the kids went and changed the definition of Why on the Twitter, and I haven't found out about it yet. For the past several thousand years Why, in its various Indo-European guises, has sought to explain, or elicit an explanation of, reason, cause, or motive. Does it still? Likewise, over the centuries, specialized fields of study, like "Science", or "Rhetoric", or "Advertising" have developed sets of guidelines as to what constitutes an acceptable answer, or at least a response. So that, for example, "Because he won an election that way" is not an answer to "Why is Ted Cruz an Anti-Fluoridationist Bugwit?" if Senator Cruz was that sort of bugwit before he ever ran for anything.

Or if, for example, there's a big intellectual tsimmes in the lofty groves of college sophomore Paultard libertarianism (but I repeat myself!) over Rand Paul's, uh, facile votes over the Hagel nomination (in case you weren't able to stay awake, for some reason:  against cloture of the debate, but for Hegel's confirmation), then repeating Paul the Younger's second response, the one which tried to change the subject after his first response was rendered pre-inoperative, does not explain Why? Possibly What? as in "What kind of bullshit was that?

(For the record, it was Paul's vote which prevented cloture, which he explained by referencing the "unanswered questions" echoing through the canyons of Ted Cruz's mind, and following that up by agreeing with Hugh Hewett that Hagel's theoretical connection to non-existent terrorist organizations was potentially troubling. When this raised the ire of Some Guy Who Imagines Republico-Libertarianism Has Principles, or that the Senate's most principled opponent of foreign aid should, at the very least, not carry water for Bill Kristol's Israel First group, Paul explained that what he really meant was that Hagel was theoretically for a theoretical draft.)

Okay, look: you don't care. I don't care. No ant-farm of explication changes what happened. Rand Paul saw an opportunity to join other Republicans in pointless dickery, because that's their most important product these days. The masses did not rise up as a result and, as usual, the Dickfest quickly became a Step-on-your-Dickfest. Upon which Paul, with a weekend's worth of wisdom now under his belt, changed his vote when it no longer mattered, and declared himself the real defender of Liberty, because it's a secret. That's why.

Monday, February 25

Monday Olio: Up Yours Edition

Amanda Marcotte notes the latest funny business with Ladytown now moving through the World's Third-Worst State Legislature™, because reproductive rights are the one bit of madness they can't bring themselves to put a cork in, you should pardon the metaphor. And because it's the one Christianist thingy they know Mike "Missing" Pence can't veto, or shelve for next year.

And we'd be remiss here if we didn't add that last week Karen Celestino-Horseman (via Doug Masson ) noted that the Double Ultrasound bill was sponsored by Senator Travis Holdman, who also sponsored SB 0373, which, and I quote, "Makes it unlawful recording of [sic] agricultural or industrial operations," with "intent to harass, defame, annoy, or harm".

Don't take my legal advice, but it was these same jokers who, a couple decades back (okay, not the identical jokers) who decided to rid the state of adult bookstores and wound up, instead, making them all change their names to “Museum of Adult Literature”. So look into getting your lady parts declared an agricultural or industrial operation, just in case.

• Every so often I open a Weigel piece, not because I think he's going to write an unequivocal declarative sentence about the Republican party, but just to see if I can figure out what position he wants the reader to fill in for him. "Why Sen. Ted Cruz gets rewarded for saying a lot of things that no one would take seriously anywhere else," is what the subhead promises to suss out, but--near as I could figure--what we get, fourteen hundred words later, is "But once he entered politics,Cruz’s fireworks and dazzle simply worked." Which to my mind wouldn't be much of an explanation even if you could demonstrate his supposed incandescence did anything beyond "winning him a crackpot seat in Texas".

That sort of thing is what I expected; what caught me short was this:
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, viewed by the right as an accidental senator who rigged the Republican primary to make sure she’d face Todd Akin, compared Cruz to Joe McCarthy.

That took only 80 words to get to, and can anyone explain what Claire McCaskill's reelection campaign, as seen through the eyes of "the right", has anything to do with anything?

It's like there's an entire generation of Facile Libertarians out there permanently pissed-off they didn't get to make Clinton blow-job jokes.

Both sides do it:
That reality also underscores what Republicans, and some Democrats, say was a major miscalculation on the part of President Obama. He agreed to set up the automatic cuts 18 months ago because he believed the threat of sharp reductions in military spending would be enough to force Republicans to agree to a deficit reduction plan that included the tax increases he favored

All right, looky: I'll go to my grave, perhaps this afternoon, insisting that Barack Obama's First Hundred Days was the great Flushed Down the Crapper Opportunity of the hapless post-Reagan era. We do not have political men who think this way anymore; we have consultants, who thought, in November 2008, about positioning themselves for 2012. The great dream of the Civil Rights Movement made flesh, and instead of furthering the Cause its first inclination was to reach across the aisle to the party built on opposing it ever since. That might'a been a good play--it wasn't the best--but when that hand was smacked down in response it was time to start playing rough.

Is there any question that the President knows who he's dealing with now? I'm not buying his conversion to Liberal. He made a deal last year he thought he needed as breathing space for the campaign; now he's using the Pulpit to force the House Republicans' hand. And they've decided they'll stand pat, and take the hit when things really do turn to shit. Not to mention the fact that these are only "minuscule" cuts, laughable fractions, not a "solution" to the Deficit. Republicans used to understand that the American public was equally determined to get all the services it did as it was not to pay for them. That argument turns shortly.

Meanwhile, doesn't this remind anyone of 2009? The Republican party seems to imagine that once it has distilled the latest issue to a bumpersticker ("Hysteria!") it has won the day.

Sunday, February 24

George Eff Will, The Jose Canseco Of Baseball

George Eff Will, "The manufactured crisis of sequester". February 22

LET'S begin, appropriately, in a previous century: George Eff Will is a fucking affirmative action hire, a National Review body double for William Fuhbuckley raised to actual national prominence ostensibly to counteract the horrible leftist slant of mass-market news, but more likely because one of those dreadful Carter people seated Katie Graham below the salt one evening.

Will's the oldest living specimen of the species (unless you count fellow former NatRev sinecure Fr. John McLaughlin, S.J., among the living, and PBS as a mass-market), and the first beneficiary of the No Tag Backs rule which accompanied the right-wing ballast the national press took on: because the Poor Right had been in the wilderness for so long--not through any fault of its own, but because of the unreasonable liberal bias in favor of sex education, fluoridating water, and anti-lynching laws--rightists such as Will were allowed to hurl complaints without ever being cross-examined, asked to produce evidence, or risk having their feelings hurt. Will's been on This Week now longer than David Brinkley had been alive when the program started, and the worst he's ever had to face was the differing opinions of Beltway insider liberals like Sam "Gentleman Farmer" Donaldson.

You'll recall, if you were cursed to live through it the first time, that Ronald Reagan was "President" for "eight" years, and was allowed to play the Washington outsider for all of them.

And, look, in addition to atrophying rhetorical skills, isolation is simply contraindicated when your bloodline includes raging xenophobes, backwoods religious maniacs, hallucinatory monastics, and anyone who puts Atlas Shrugged on their desert island book list.
Even during this desultory economic recovery,

from the worst global financial meltdown since the 1930s, the direct result of Republican economic plerophory, defanged government oversight, crony capitalism, and the elevation of Greed to founding principle of the United States
one industry thrives

Healthcare? Investment banking? Unlicensed gun sales?
the manufacture of synthetic hysteria. It is, however, inaccurate to accuse the Hysteric in Chief of crying “Wolf!” about spending cuts under the sequester.

Wait, "Hysteric in Chief"?
He is actually crying “Hamster!”

Jesus, George, that's weak for an American Thinker blog.

Could you, at the very least, put a small amount of effort into coming up with your own take on the President's side? "Hysterical!", "Frantic!", "Armageddon!". You, Jenny, Lady Noonan, Rich Lowry...
As in: Batten down the hatches — the sequester will cut $85 billion from this year’s $3.6 trillion budget! Or: Head for the storm cellar — spending will be cut 2.3 percent! Or: Washington chain-saw massacre — we must scrape by on 97.7 percent of current spending! Or: Chaos is coming because the sequester will cut a sum $25 billion larger than was just shoveled out the door (supposedly, but not actually) for victims of Hurricane Sandy! Or: Heaven forfend, the sequester will cut 47 percent as much as was spent on the AIG bailout! Or: Famine, pestilence and locusts will come when the sequester causes federal spending over 10 years to plummet from $46 trillion all the way down to $44.8 trillion! Or: Grass will grow in the streets of America’s cities if the domestic agencies whose budgets have increased 17 percent under President Obama must endure a 5 percent cut!

Care to place a little bet on how long it'll be before we hear how vital it is that we have two aircraft carriers in the Gulf to threaten Iran? (It's two.)

For cryin' out loud. I've got no problem if you want to argue from a partisan perspective, but it shouldn't preclude being accurate or sensible.

Where do we begin? The sequester is a joke, but not a particularly funny one, because it's The One About The U.S. House of Representatives, and we've all heard it. The numbers were picked out of someone's ass, and the concept behind it was that once Republicans had swept Barack Obama out of office last November, we'd simply return every last bristle and fried rind to the the military budget, and gut social programs to make up the difference, and then the GOP would ride out the midterms, hope two Court liberals died, and 2016 would usher in the New Golden Age.

And here's the interesting thing about that, George, apart from the fact that you think it should still happen, even though it didn't: Ronald Reagan, the Most Popular Politician Since Jesus, didn't touch Social Security. Newt Gingrich's Revolution didn't. I'm not sure what the Bush II administration did domestically, but it wasn't that. Rabid Republicans have taken the government to the brink of shutdown three times, and all three times there's been a resounding denunciation across the land. Which has led, as we all know, to the party becoming more and more certifiable.

The sequester's a joke, but the cuts are real. That's why you've been hiding from specifics for thirty years, and now it has caught up with you. You relied on "hysteria" about budgets to win elections but you didn't really believe the rhetoric. You just wanted to cut money to blah people and environmental protection. There wasn't any way that would have dealt with deficits, because 1) you'd have continued cutting tax rates alongside; 2) you'd have let the Defense establishment back up twice as many trucks to be filled at Fort Knox; and 3) and most importantly, because there's not that much there there. Domestic spending is real. It's not all intended to save the snail darter, the way you've gotten away with pretending for so long.
The Defense Department’s civilian employment has grown 17 percent since 2002. In 2012, defense spending on civilian personnel was 21 percent higher than in 2002. And the Truman must stay in Norfolk? This is, strictly speaking, unbelievable.

Oh, for chrissakes, now I have to read the Washington Times for you?
“The department’s civilian growth is largely tied to key strategic initiatives, including improved acquisition practices, increased medical support for our troops and their families, and greater protection of our [information technology] systems,” said ArmyLt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, a Pentagon spokeswoman. 
“As a result, there were increases in the acquisition workforce, the medical support staff, and the cyber/IT staff. There were also military-to-civilian conversions to get the military back to their primary responsibilities, and as a cost-saving measure, the department insourced contractor positions to civilian positions,” she said.
This buildup is the shit your guys wanted, George. As well as The American People. Now it's off, because you needed a new tune, or because the Republican level of cognitive dissonance reached critical mass four years ago? Or just because, as always, you think it'll all happen by magic anyway?
The sequester’s critics correctly say it is not the most intelligent way to prune government; priorities among programs should be set. But such critics are utopians if they are waiting for the arrival of intelligent government. The real choice today is between bigger or smaller unintelligent government.

How rare and wondrous is the argument with only one side!

Good thing idiot government always makes the right decision when it comes to saber rattling, though.
Obama, who believes government spends money more constructively than do those who earn it,

Isn't it time you recused yourself, George?
warns that the sequester’s budgetary nicks, amounting to one-half of 1 percent of gross domestic product, will derail the economy.

Do I have to read the New York Times for you?
Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, a Republican, warned in a letter to President Obama on Monday that the automatic spending cuts would have a “potentially devastating impact” and could force Virginia and other states into a recession, noting that the planned cuts to military spending would be especially damaging to areas like Hampton Roads that have a big Navy presence. And he noted that the whole idea of the proposed cuts was that they were supposed to be so unpalatable that they would force officials in Washington to come up with a compromise. 
“As we all know, the defense, and other, cuts in the sequester were designed to be a hammer, not a real policy,” Mr. McDonnell wrote. “Unfortunately, inaction by you and Congress now leaves states and localities to adjust to the looming threat of this haphazard idea.”
Sorry if I'm spoiling your hysterics about hysterics.
A similar jeremiad was heard in 1943 when economist Paul Samuelson, whose Keynesian assumptions have trickled down to Obama, said postwar cuts in government would mean “the greatest period of unemployment and industrial dislocation which any economy has ever faced.” 
Federal spending did indeed shrink an enormous 40 percent in one year. And the economy boomed.
Amazing proof that someone you can label a Keynesian was wrong in 1945. Somebody tell Amity her next book's arrived.

In other news, this ain't 1945. That 40% reduction? Eighty-nine percent of it was the cut in military spending. Maybe that was the magic? Meanwhile, there was that little matter of pent-up spending after years of rationing (and full employment), plus the fact that the U.S. was the only major power whose economy, and whose infrastructure, didn't lie in ruins. Other than that, I suppose the situations are identical.
Because crises are government’s excuse for growing, liberalism’s motto is: Never let a crisis go unfabricated. But its promiscuous production of crises has made them boring.

Yeah, no one loses his head about anything these days.
Remember when, in the 1980s, thousands died from cancers caused by insufficient regulation of the chemical Alar sprayed on apples? No, you don’t because this alarming prediction fizzled. Alar was not, after all, a risk.

Yeah, right. Big conspiracy, big hysteria, according to the paid mouthpieces of Big Anti-Regulation. Fact: Alar is a human carcinogen. The fact that it would require enormous exposure before one reached toxic levels of Alar does not make it risk-free. There is such a thing as cumulative risk. There is such as thing as Better Safe than Sorry. Fact: Alar was detected in applesauce and apple juice, infant foods which caused the American Academy of Pediatrics to call for the ban. We ignore the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics and listen to John Stossel? That's the road to sanity? Fact: Alar was used on apple crops for purely cosmetic reasons. It made apples "look pretty". That's not a reason to poison applesauce, Mandrake. Children's applesauce.

One would get the impression, if one didn't know better, that you folks actually think that "unintelligent government" is a good thing.
Remember when “a major cooling of the climate” was “widely considered inevitable” (New York Times, May 21, 1975) with “extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation” (Science magazine, Dec. 10, 1976) which must “stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery” (International Wildlife, July 1975)? Remember reports that “the world’s climatologists are agreed” that we must “prepare for the next ice age” (Science Digest, February 1973)? Armadillos were leaving Nebraska, heading south, and heat-loving snails were scampering southward from European forests (Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 27, 1974). Newsweek (April 28, 1975) said meteorologists were “almost unanimous” that cooling would “reduce agricultural productivity.”

Remember when Ronald Reagan was going to reduce the Federal debt?

I remember when the continents, and the Universe, were thought to be static. And so what? Science doesn't claim to be perfect. That's your Church.

Tell ya what else I remember: it was only after all that that the extreme environment of Venus was understood, and explained, by the Greenhouse Effect. Like the man said, difference of opinion may make horse races, but it won't stop a glacier from melting.

Sorry you've got more hands stuck in cookie jars now than you have hands, George. Sorry that we're apparently going to have to wait until the public takes it in the ass before it starts screaming about public services. Is it hysterical to note that the minuscule cuts of the sequester are just the first step where you people are concerned? Good luck peddling this shit for the next four years.

Friday, February 22

From Denial To Bargaining

David Weigel, “The Most Misleading Number About the Tea Party and the Senate”. February 22

READER, leave us imagine that in 2010 you traded your job as a libertarian blogger at The Washington Independent for a job as an independent blogger at the Washington Post, a once-great metropolitan newspaper now recapitulating that metropolis' ontogeny in reverse (precapitulating?) by morphing into a fetid swamp. And by design or inclination you become that paper's de facto Teabagger expert. Or maybe it's just because you know the hundred members or so personally.

Any road, in 2010, in the rapidly-shrinking Rational world, the Teabag movement is already known for two things: phony claims of being a sui generis, grassroots, non-partisan movement, and getting coverage exponentially greater than its actual numbers. So of course your plan would be to act like you never heard any of this, because reporters are always the last to know. And, not coincidentally, to ride the well-financed wave of bullshit propelling the "movement" to the forefront of American political debate shoutiness.

But, small problem, you're caught in flagrante email saying nice things to other hip young up-and-coming political bloggers about their choice of eyewear and homosexual tendencies. [Note, reader, that at this point we have to assume that some sizable part of this story is true, else the way ahead is impassible and oer'flown with contrails.] This causes you to be "fired" by the Post. turned into a "liberal" hero by none other than Keith Olbermann, who would know, then "rehired" by the Post. Because of course it does.

And, just in time for the "historic" midterm Republican victory of 2010 to be attributed to the sui generis, grassroots, not-quite-as-non-partisan Teabag movement.

One problem remains: this is all still nonsense, at its core; no political observer whose memory or understanding goes back further than 2004 can possibly believe it, and no one with a half-assed current assessment of American politics can mistake the Teabag party for anything other than a cluster of boils. A Republican cluster of boils.

So you're stuck, right? You have, like Thurber, struggled painfully for an entire semester of Freshman biology trying to resolve what you see, or don't see, through a microscope into some sort of expected image and then, at the last minute, manage to produce a drawing of your own eyeball. Except that, by accident, good karma, or shrewd calculation, you've chosen to be a journalist. So it doesn't count.
In one of the 500 "both sides share the blame" columns that National Journal is required to run every day, Charlie Cook repeats the least useful "data point" about the Tea Party's role in dragging down the GOP. 
In 2010, the GOP lost five of the seven Senate contests The Cook Political Report rated as toss-ups going into Election Day; in 2012, it lost eight of 10. When a party loses 13 of 17 toss-ups over two elections, it has a problem. In many cases, Republicans nominated horrifically flawed candidates who didn’t quite self-destruct but were too weak to win. In other cases, they nominated candidates who did self-destruct. And when these problematic candidates pulled the pin on the grenade, other GOP office-seekers in their states became collateral damage. 
In 2010, yes, Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell blew elections that Republicans were on track to win. (The Nevada race that Angle lost was less of a sure thing—Harry Reid is underestimated as his enemies' peril. But we'll go with it.) In 2012, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin lost elections that other Republicans could have won, but Todd Akin was not endorsed by any major national or local Tea Party organization.
Just the Republican primary voters of Missouri. And Rick Santorum. And Steve King. And Michele Bachmann. And David Barton, Jim DeMint, Phyllis Schlafly, Pete Sessions, Jim Jordan, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee…
Okay, so, on to that "eight of 10" number from 2012, from the final pre-election Cook report. Akin's race wasn't on that list—by election time, Cook rated the race as a "likely" Democratic win. Mourdock's race was on the list. But look at the other close races lost by Republicans: Montana, North Dakota, Virginia, Massachussetts, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Maine. In the first four, they nominated current or former Republican legislators, not Tea Party candidates. In Wisconsin, they nominated a former governor who defeated Tea Party candidates in the primary. In Connecticut, they nominated a multi-millionaire who ran to the left. And in Maine, they nominated a fairly centrist Republican who tried, and failed, to win a three-way race against a Democrat and an Independent supported by Democrats. As Ramesh Ponnuru keeps writing, most GOP Senate candidates, even in places like Texas and Montana, ran behind Mitt Romney.

Well, this seems to be our week to reanalyze the 2012 Senatorial races. Bit of interest at the beginning here, in how Cook's list of Tossups differs from Newt's list of Coula Shouldas (Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida), as the latter had no apparent interest in close races where Republicans had nominated anyone to the left of Dick Nixon, but, remember, Professor Gingrich is a licensed and compulsive fabulist.

Seven losses with no possible connection to the Teabag party? Well, Tommy Thompson is pretty much the definition of a mainstream Republican (like Paul Ryan isn't?), but he was running in a state already luxuriously pre-conditioned by Koch dealers. Maine, Massachussetts? Not exactly states where Teabagging has made sweeping inroads. Connecticut? Does Linda McMahon even count?

That leaves Montana and North Dakota, where Republicans ran seated House members, which ought to count for something, and Virginia, where they ran George Allen, who is a kook.

Of all those races only North Dakota was really close. So let's agree that, generally, Charlie Cook's post-election predictions are better than his pre-election ones.
The gaffe/Tea Party theory of Republican defeat is just too pat, too easy. George Allen didn't lose by 6 points because Loudon County independents got spooked about Todd Akin. Believing that lets Republicans put off any real questions about internal reform.

Flummery. With the possible exception of Warren/Brown, though I doubt it, more Americans knew "Todd Akin" as a Republican running for the Senate than any of the people on either of those lists. Ditto Richard Mourdock, although in truth Mourdock was already losing in Indiana when something triggered that sexual reverie of his. These guys dragged down the Republican brand, by being the Republican id, in public. They didn't rewrite other states' races, maybe, but they sure energized voters. Mostly Democratic voters.

Teabag candidates--again, assuming their existence arguendo--are shouty, unlikeable, and they roll around like loose ball bearings. They might win elections where that describes much of the electorate, and they might win elections by chance when they manage, like Mourdock or Akin, to beat marginally-saner candidates in the primary. And, well, and that's it. They aren't making any inroads. They might be holding some Republican office holders' feet to the fire, but they aren't doing much more than threatening a reduction in campaign war chests, aka retirement funds. Their numbers may be small--up from "imaginary"--but they're a serious problem nationally, and they're what's preventing "internal reform". That, and the fact that "Teabagger" is just another name for Red State wingnut.

Wednesday, February 20

A Surfeit Of Loons

Kevin Robillard, "Newt: Rove effort like 'Chicago machine'". February 20

I DON'T know which is better news for the Republic: Karl Rove getting his latest comeuppance ("You're going to need more than one lesson, Mr. Kane.") at the hands of the paint drinkers and snake handlers who are the only reason his party got near enough to power for him to become a household epithet, or the fact that that party is still getting advice from Newt Gingrich.

Or maybe we should thank Politico for keeping the likes of Gingrich and Huckabee alive decades after what little political relevance they once possessed. I spent much of this morning trying to come up with four Democrats who've been as successful at success as those two are at failure. I started with Bill Clinton, and I ended with Bill Clinton.

Let's leave the comedy of Newt Fucking Gingrich complaining about billionaire money deciding Republican races to write itself. It's always important to take notes while the Professor is speaking:
“While Rove would like to argue his ‘national nomination machine’ will protect Republicans from candidates like those who failed in Missouri and Indiana, that isn’t the bigger story. Republicans lost winnable senate races in Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida. So in seven of the nine losing races, the Rove model has no candidate-based explanation for failure."

Lessee…lost Montana 49-45 to incumbent Democrat…lost North Dakota 50-49, incumbent Democrat retired, Republican primary challenge…lost Ohio 50-49 to incumbent Democrat…lost Wisconsin 51-46 after incumbent Democrat retired and Republican primary challenge…lost Pennsylvania 54-45 to incumbent Democrat…lost Virginia 53-47 after incumbent Democrat retired…lost Florida 55-42 to incumbent Democrat. Yeah, those are totally like losing the seat Dick Lugar would have carried by 30 points because the Club for Growth decided to kick him downstairs. And McCaskill was an incumbent, too, except one who was headed for the dump until the party nominated a guy from the spirit world. Good analysis, though. Run with it, Newt. Please. In 2016.

Tuesday, February 19

Tuesday Olio: I'm Not In The Office At This Time Edition

• Evangelical disk jockey and Attempted Governor of Indiana Mike "Choirboy" Pence closed his office Friday for "out of office staff meetings". Which seems to have caught every professional and semi-pro observer of the Indiana statehouse by surprise. A Pence nuncio later announced that the meetings had long been scheduled, and blamed the confusion on a Post-It Note falling off the door, or something.

The great risk here, perhaps not readily apparent to the non-Hoosier, is that local political reporters might get into the habit of noticing what the governor is doing, and reporting on it, without having his office explain it all to them first, the way it's been done for the past eight years.

• Pence did stick his head out long enough to gripe about his 10% tax cut (which he is not getting, a fact known to anyone who's been awake at any time during the past month except, apparently, Mike Pence). He pointed out that the previous General Assembly had given tax breaks to estates and businesses, and none to "average" Hoosiers. And he said it as though it was an oversight, rather than their intention. Somebody really needs to pull the man aside and explain things. Or give him a road map to Kansas.

• I ♡ Pierce:
It is a capital mistake of analysis to believe that the reckless, self-destructive vandalism of the Republican base is a function of the country's twice having elected the current president. Certainly, there are things about this president that, ahem, sharpened the anger and gave a tight focus for the abandoned wrath. But it did no start with him nor will it end with him, and I think Rothenberg knows it.

Except for the rancid race-baiting and manic xenophobia, nothing has been aimed at this president that wasn't aimed for nine years at Bill Clinton. In place of birtherism, we had Vince Foster and the Mena airport. The insular conservative media within which people today talk about the president's Kenyan roots and his disguised Muslimhood was formed around the hot central core of conspiracy theorizing and preposterous slander that shaped the reaction to the Clinton presidency.

Let's note, first, that you aren't gonna throw the Teabag "wing" out of Mississippi, nor Indiana, goddam it, no matter how much money Karl Rove can still scrape up. But how much longer is anyone going to be able to pretend that this party isn't in the hands of abject lunatics, a condition which has obtained for decades? And not just from the first whiff of Bill Clinton's musk, but from the Presidency of Jimmy Carter. It's beyond laughable to see Karl Rove's doughy pink phiz makin' with the "unelectable conservatives" routine. What fucking party has Karl Rove been a member of his entire, Nixon-minus-the-genius career? What fucking Republican party did Karl Rove belly up to in 1969, at the University of Utah? Now he doesn't like yahoos, misogynists, and overt racists?

Andrew Hartman:
The liberals of the education reform movement, often more surreptitiously than the overstated former Washington D.C. Chancellor of Schools during Democratic Mayor Adrian Fenty’s term in office Michelle Rhee, have for decades advanced negative assumptions about public school teachers that now power the attacks by Christie, Walker, Kasich and their ilk. This is particularly true of Teach for America (TFA), the prototypical liberal education reform organization, where Rhee first made her mark. The history of TFA reveals the ironies of contemporary education reform. In its mission to deliver justice to underprivileged children, TFA and the liberal education reform movement have advanced an agenda that advances conservative attempts to undercut teacher’s unions. More broadly, TFA has been in the vanguard in forming a neoliberal consensus about the role of public education—and the role of public school teachers—in a deeply unequal society.

TFA goals derive, in theory, from laudable—if misguided—impulses. But each, in practice, has demonstrated to be deeply problematic. TFA, suitably representative of the liberal education reform more generally, underwrites, intentionally or not, the conservative assumptions of the education reform movement: that teacher’s unions serve as barriers to quality education; that testing is the best way to assess quality education; that educating poor children is best done by institutionalizing them; that meritocracy is an end-in-itself; that social class is an unimportant variable in education reform; that education policy is best made by evading politics proper; and that faith in public school teachers is misplaced.
Lemme tell ya, "misguided" is a nice word.

For Teach for America, the Sinn Féin of TFA, and Michelle Rhee's first big tax exempt/taxpayer assisted scam, which now "advises" those Indianapolis public schools the state didn't take over directly (then hand to Mayor Gomer F. Ballard when Republicans lost control of the Superintendent of Public Instruction's office last November) the word is "clueless".

If these people have liberal impulses (Even the Democrat Michelle Rhee!), it's the impulse to give the help an hour off to vote, after patiently explaining to them how they ought to go about it.

Thursday, February 14

The Autotune Party

John Dickerson, "What Mitt Romney Can Teach Marco Rubio". February 13

OH, first: Shorter Maggie Haberman: "Republican consultants generally agree that Mark Rubio's Phony Salesman in the Headlights routine won't be remembered for all eternity."

Maybe it's just the ever-sunny optimist in me, but I have a vague and happy thoughtbubble, the size of a child's balloon, that the Middle Way "movement" in this country, the whole anti-partisanship, undecided voter mindset, is turning away, not from the Republican party, which even it has had to recognize for some time now as the source of the problems it was complaining about, but from the Beltway insider view of the problem. Which, if I may summarize, is that there aren't enough John McCains in the Congress.

Maybe it is just me, but when I do watch the Sundays, instead of letting Piece do the heavy lifting for me, or when (as he did) I happen to run into Morning Joe politischmoozing Cokie Fucking Roberts and Michael Fucking Steele, I feel less inclined to nickname all the guests Fuckwad than I do to marvel at the slow-motion disintegration going on. Like you, I have no idea why it's taken so long. I just, somehow, have the sense that the put-upon Middle of the country, that portion of it which isn't certifiable, has begun to recognize the con. And that even the courtly Press has begun to recognize that as a problem.

Okay, while I'm thinking about it: last time I jumped off from a John Dickerson piece he somehow got the notion that I write preambles, rather than ambles, and mistook my utter lack of any sort of compass, magnetic, personal, or moral, for a personal disagreement. He was very nice about it, and I suggested, in response, that a grown man should know better than to scratch every mosquito bite until it bleeds. My manners, I know; I'm stuck with 'em at this point. Leave us save everyone's time but yours, Reader, and note that the above isn't a comment about John Dickerson's column, or John Dickerson generally, or as a concept. It's about David Fucking Gregory.

Meanwhile, our point is that there's no rehabilitating Marco Rubio, not outside the Beltway. Not because he can't control his thirst, not because he thinks autobiography is a fiction genre, but because he's an obvious carnival talker *.
What's worse for your political ambitions, being labeled a wimp by Newsweek or a savior by Time? Marco Rubio, the freshman senator from Florida, has been stuck with the savior label and it has several disadvantages.

None of which matter, because, really, Time. It's like wondering what his political future is now that he's lost the endorsement of Crocheting Monthly.
After Rubio delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, commentators said he had simply mouthed standard GOP talking points.

Probably because that's what he did.
As Jonathan Martin pointed out, Rubio's speech—thick with references to his humble origins and common touch—was designed to send the signal that he was the polar opposite of Mitt Romney.

Hard to believe someone at Politico caught wind of that.
The story of Rubio, his ambitions, and how they play out is about more than just the fortunes of one charismatic Republican.

It's also his first foray into magic realism.
Rubio is one of the architects of the Republican future. Like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Rep. Paul Ryan, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie,

Really? Because, apart from Governor Christie's rather remarkable architectural feat of shape-shifting something that size when his own constituency suddenly needed a strong central government--okay, maybe that's more like "hydraulic engineering"--I'd as soon hire the firm of Moe, Larry, and Curly. Hell, Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe DeRita.
Every day Rubio is taking soundings about what the GOP will allow and what the larger electorate will allow. The risks he takes and the reactions they provoke from his fellow-travelers will tell us something about where the party is headed.

So will a functioning sense of smell.

Look, don't get me wrong; I've lived through the political popularity of Ronald Reagan and Mitch Daniels, and at least three resurrections of Richard Nixon. I know anything's possible. I also know that Marco Rubio can take all the soundings he wants, train his crew 18 hours a day, and buy the best admiral's hat he can find, and his boat will still be on the rocks, and the scuppers overflow'd, and the only functioning lifeboat will already contain the Koch brothers, Rush Limbaugh, and two or three anti-abortion activists waving Bushmasters. I look forward to his finessing that for the next three years.
Still, the criticism of Rubio’s State of the Union response asks too much too soon. The GOP is not ready to announce a sweeping new direction, (it may never be ready) and Rubio isn't in a position to launch a thorough rebranding right now anyway. Even if he was, 10 minutes after the State of the Union would be the wrong time to do it. Still, if Rubio is going to add new energy to the GOP, he'll have to find a venue where he can make a much more compelling case for the party's signature principle: the promise and glory of smaller government.

First, right, it "may" never be ready. On the plus side, it is perfectly placed in case the 19th century returns.

Second, can't we just say it? The Republican party is frickin' insane, to the point that Insanity is the party's signature principle. The current Republican message isn't "smaller government" (and perhaps the party would be better off if they'd been called on that little fiction thirty years ago); it's "feces-hurling psychosis". The proper venue for that message is "Post-war apocalyptic hellscape." Marco Rubio's not ready for his closeup, but his party ain't ready for even small adjustments, and small adjustments ain't gonna get the job done.
Whoever the transformational figure is, he or she is going to have to build a bridge between the old and the new. That requires at least two tasks: challenging orthodoxy and giving special voice to it. If you can sing the song of American exceptionalism and free enterprise in a way that pleases your party base, then you can push the envelope on immigration without fear of being called a RINO or consorting with Karl Rove.

Really, if the threat of being seen consorting with Karl Rove has to be avoided at all costs, winning elections is the least of the GOP's problems. And if "getting right on immigration" is the key to winning national elections then let's all just give up.
The party was going up against Obama. The script was pre-written. Plus, Rubio is already clashing with conservatives over his immigration reform plans. To the extent he has other provocative ideas (and he may not), it doesn't make sense to create more tumult while you're trying to make rocky progress on immigration.

It's interesting how this is imagined to be the Republicans' "problem" with Hispanic voters. Figure out a way to seem only half as bigoted and hateful, sprinkle on a little eau de bootstrap, and hello White House.
Rubio's case wasn't that nearly savior-worthy. It affirmed the bounties of the free market, but he spent most of the time explaining why Obama's big government was bad. An amazing story about the wonders that would flow from smaller government would be more appealing and persuasive. Bromides about unleashing sectors and removing regulations are tired and threadbare.

Yeah, except there aren't any. The wonders of small government, "right to work", and indifferent regulatory environments are on display throughout the south. Republican programs and prescriptions aren't untried; they're failures. This country has been vacillating between Reaganomics and Reaganomics Lite for thirty-five years now; if they're so magical why are we still having this conversation? If the great swath of red-meat Republicans are going to be motivated by Neo-Whiggism why isn't Romney President?

C'mon, Marco Rubio doesn't lead his party. I doubt anyone does, and I sincerely question if anyone can as presently constituted. Marco Rubio is somebody's idea of what a Republican Presidential candidate should look like in 2016. Nothing more. God knows weaker candidates have managed to get nominated, and win. But if Rubio has to cross a minefield just to get the Republican rank-and-file to go along with the idea that undocumented persons are yet persons then it's reasonable to ask what, besides money, could possibly motivate him. And what, besides someone's idea of "electability", possibly recommends him? Sure, sure, there are a hundred reasons why he gave a lackluster performance the other night auditioning for the role of the Great Off-White Hope. ** Most of them involve the fact that his message lacks luster. Or honesty. Or coherence. Best wishes constructing one that does in the next two years, and not being hounded off the stage in the first Republican debate. (If any.)

Meanwhile, y'know, yes. It's petty, and juvenile, and beneath our dignity to note that Boy Wonder, v. 3.0, fell as flat Tuesday night as did Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal before him. Because it's no sin to be thirsty. Just to read from a teleprompter.


* "Barker" is not the correct term. Not among carnival folk. Believe me, I married one.

**Swiped, shamelessly, from Big Hank53.

Wednesday, February 13

“The Saddest Words Of Tongue Or Pen: Mitch Daniels’ First SOTU That Might've Been.”

I ♥ Pierce:
Accepting Daniels as a budgetary whiz required you to drink enough Sterno to forget that he had been the Budget Director for George W. Bush, which was like running the soda fountain at Jonestown.

To which we would add only that imagining Daniels' record in Indiana is much of an improvement requires a good slug o' napalm n' lime as well, beginning with the "deficit" he supposedly inherited, and ending, well, once all the bills are in for that gasification plant, the half-completed, wholly unneeded I-69 extension, and the bills for suing and being countersued by IBM over the Family and Social Services Administration boondoggle. Plus whatever else has faded from memory. Leave us note here that Indiana received a $3.8 billion lump sum payment when Daniels slicked the consortium that bought the Chicago Skyway into leasing, for the next seventy-five years, the only access to their property from the east. That's roughly 15% of the state's annual budget. Daniels spent it all; I think I must'a slept through that part of the presentation back in '05. (Though I do remember that a year later the Daniels PR machine was griping about how the "unexpectedly poor bond market" was forcing them to downsize the anticipated Asphalt Miracle they'd promised.)

As it turned out, that Miracle consisted of using 6.8 decades of other people's ("Our Children, and Their Children") money to puff up Mitch Daniels' economic record, in hopes of erasing Mitch Daniels' existing economic record. Throw in the $8.8 billion in Federal stimulus money he objected to in "principle" but took anyway, and the $2 billion and counting owed the Feds over his mismanagement of unemployment, and Mitch Daniels actually got to spend nine years of state revenue in eight. A cynic might begin to wonder what drawer that $2 billion surplus he left us is actually in.

The current Indiana General Assembly is hard at work 1) trying to divine Mike Pence's divine intentions, and 2) trying to come up with a different name for a tax increase so we can maintain the roads we already gots, let alone finish the work the Daniels administration so nobly half-advanced. My own suggestion ("Sue Mitch Daniels for the $200 million the next four years should have to spend, even if that Toll Road money never earned a dime in interest") seems to've fallen on deaf ears. If he's not good for it personally, I'm sure Purdue's got some stuff he could auction off.

I'm not gonna forget Mitch Daniels; hell, I'm the only guy in Indiana still trying to get Kindly Doc Bowen (1973-1981) thrown in the hoosegow. Even if I wanted to, the Indianapolis Star seems convinced the man is still politically relevant. Or else it's just nostalgic for his patented brand of Non-Answer; regardless, the sumbitch is still getting more column inches than Pence (who, in fairness, may be getting hard to spot, as he appears to be getting more and more translucent, but maybe that was just the approach of Lent). Last week they sent someone around to get Daniels' thoughts on the legislature's seeming determination to Get th' Fuck Out From Under the Detritus of the Daniels Administration Before Anyone Notices, and he replied something about how different political circumstances may call for different approaches. Some True Believer. My response, shown of swears, is that if the Bible requires a Constitutional Amendment ("When we get around to it") to protect the Imaginary Heterosex Monogamy it commands, how much more do we need one to protect against false witness, which really is in there?

Besides, who can escape memories, without an assist from Nature, whether welcome or not? I was delivering some food to my dad the other day, and, as usual, the teevee was blaring news. It wasn't FOX, for once; maybe he switches to the locals at noon. And the hot-button story was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ("Home of the 500") asking the state for $5 million a year to help with improvements.

"I can't believe they're doing that!" he shouted. (Not in anger, just in hard-of-hearingness.)

"Dad, we spent three-quarters of a billion in taxpayer money on that football barn. That caused the Simons to demand, and get, an extra $10 million a year so they can afford to keep the stadium we built them swept. Where do you think they got the idea?" I shouted back, mostly because "shout" is the preferred volume for our political discussions.

For sixty-five years it was the stated position of the Hulman family that it wouldn't ask the state for money. Which is being held against them now, in some quarters--mostly those same quarters which were happy to build stadia for privately-owned sports franchises, and rebate taxes for ten years for businesses which promised to move into the state while Mitch Daniels needed vapor job numbers.

Where d'ya think they got the idea? Not from Mitch Daniels personally, but, then, Daniels did have to run around to the front of the parade when the Republican-Democrat mayor of Indianapolis--and Daniels' chief rival for the 2008 elections--asked the legislature for small-scale local casino gambling to pay for the deal he'd already worked out with the Colts. The Daniels-controlled legislature upheld the Biblical principle ("Thou shalt not sport over cards, or other games of chance, except on something that looks like a boat, or a dog track, until Republicans need those funds for their own purposes."), as well as their own, and got the doughnut counties to saddle themselves with a tax as well. With Daniels in charge, and Mayor Bart Petersmythe safely seated below the salt, the state managed to bring in the project only $100 mil or so over the (revised) estimates of $650 million.

Only problem was that, under Peterson's plan, the deal included a $50 million emergency operating fund. Just after the state inked the deal it was discovered that that money had been misplaced, somehow. Then it rained, the place leaked, and lost about 1/3 of its electrical system. No problem, though. The taxpayers were good for it.

Yeah, I won't pretend I'd'a wanted to see a Mitch Daniels SOTU, though it might've been amusing to see him try some of that Big Brain execufyin' without the legislature and press in his pocket for once. Same as it would have been entertaining to watch him take the beating Mitt Romney got instead, or to hear him duke it out onstage with Newt and Santorum. I don't believe the man really thought about running for President, just about refilling his campaign coffers after buying all the airtime in Indiana for the first ten months of 2008.

Besides, what's in a name? "Lucas Oil Canyon" would be just as Grand, wouldn't it?

Monday, February 11

Monday Morning Olio, Here's Your Pope Hat, What's Your Hurry? Edition

• Not that I could possibly have invested any energy in it, but I did technically have a dog in last night's Grammy hunt for the first time since, well, ever.  Youngster name'a John Fullbright.

So, of course, "Americana" was awarded off camera, because most "Americana" artists do not do much unison strutting, being connected to instruments an' all, and the winner was Bonnie Raitt, because of course it was. And I like Bonnie. Even if I didn't I wouldn't say so, because I sleep soundly and my Poor Wife is still able to lift a cast-iron pan.

• Congratulations, sir, on the Jennifer Rubin endorsement:
Others in the wake of CIA director nominee John Brennan’s confirmation hearing have lost it. A gross executive overreach! Find a court to tell the president whom to kill ! You really would have thought that Abraham Lincoln needed court approval for Sherman’s March to the Sea or that Harry S. Truman needed to check with Congress before dropping the atomic bomb on Japan that could well have killed some Americans.

An historian and a legal scholar! And every bit as good at the one as the other. One of the basic requirements in choosing the four targets for the two atomic bombings was that there be no known Allied prisoner of war camps in the cities.  [Nonetheless, twelve American POWs died at Hiroshima, and eight Allied prisoners (British and Dutch) died at Nagasaki. That's the two cities where the bombs were dropped, Jen.]

Truman had an actual declaration of war in hand. Lincoln did not, because doing so would have been a tacit admission that the Confederate States was a separate political entity, thereby nullifying the whole point of the exercise.

We can go from there to note that no one was arrested, convicted, or killed by noose or drone, due to "treason" in the American Civil War. One William Bruce Mumford was hanged by Ben Butler's men in New Orleans for tearing down an American flag, but he was charged with violating Martial Law. The conspirators in Lincoln's assassination were, but that was after the war. No one has ever been charged with "aiding the enemy" when there wasn't any enemy declared. Authorizations for executive action do not reach the level.

Which means that if you wanna start frying people indiscriminately for "enemy" actions, it's all very simple and straightforward: declare war. Like the Constitution and the Bible have it. Then it's clear-cut. Then you don't need no fucking memo. (You'd still need one for that little torture program you liked so much, because that violates American law.)

Do me a favor and explain this to John Yoo next time you see him.

This is why we can't have nice things:
It is no secret that young voters tilt left on social issues like immigration and gay rights. But these students, and dozens of other young people interviewed here last week, give voice to a trend that is surprising pollsters and jangling the nerves of Republicans. On a central philosophical question of the day — the size and scope of the federal government — a clear majority of young people embraces President Obama’s notion that it can be a constructive force, a point he intends to make in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Surprising pollsters! Because the "central" philosophical question of the day is supposed to pit them against the Freeloading Olds, and never a thought for the fact that they themselves might be afflicted with Old someday, or disabled in the next two minutes. Why, Paul Ryan himself says so. And he should know. He wears his hat backwards.

Christ on a cracker. Speaking of which, isn't it about time we had a woman Pope?

Saturday, February 9

Back Home Again

I'M DEAD tired. I'm so tired I can't remember to whom I've told the story of the hospital Cardiology Dietician visiting my dad last week. Was it you? Two of our relatives happened to be there at the time, and the woman started her spiel, Low Sodium, No Ham, Don't Trust 'Healthy' Labels, and when she got around to saying--too nicely, I thought--that there was basically nothing whatsoever a person could eat in any American "restaurant" anyone has ever heard of and expect to remain alive any longer than it took to pay the check, he and the other two said, in unison--I swear--"What about Jimmy John's?"

Right. Jimmy John's, which couldn't remain in business if it paid its employees a living wage--and the mizzable ingrates who don't like it should borrow seed money from their own fathers and shut up--is the one shining exception.  "No, not Jimmy John's," she said, smiling with preternatural patience.

Anyway, let me see if I can summon enough energy to give y'all a quick update on The State of Indiana:

Mike Pence is a washout.

I think that about does it.

The Choirboy has spent the first month of his administration--in fairness, it's just three weeks, but, also in fairness, he seemed unaware when he took the oath of office that it was actually starting--reacting. And not the good sort of reacting, either. First, the General Assembly--in Indiana, off-election years host the "long" session of the legislature, where they undertake to fuck over the citizenry on budgetary matters, in the hope that no one will remember it on election day--this generally works--pretty much told him his 10% Tax Cut campaign pledge wasn't gonna fly. (If anything, Pence seemed relieved, though it had to be what everyone expected all along, and I still say that John Gregg, the Democrat who nearly beat him, should'a come out the next day and upped the ante to 20, then smiled like the Buddha when the Press called him irresponsible.)

The problem here is not that Hoosiers are going to suddenly start holding politicians to their word. No, the problem for Pence is that he appears to've missed the experience of one Mitchell Elias "Scooter" Daniels, who likewise tried to cross his first (also Republican controlled) legislature (with his "Tax Surcharge to wipe out the Deficit " proposal). For about fifteen minutes. Then he ran around front and pretended he'd been leading the parade all along. You wanna tell the Indiana General Assembly what to do your RV better be full of cash. In non-consecutive, small denominations.

In fact, about half of Pence's headline-generatin' so far has involved agreeing to investigate the Daniels administration and its henchmen. There's the coal gasification swindle, which the General Assembly has suddenly discovered now that Daniels is gone. Pence has agreed to reinstate the Commerce Department, evidently in an effort to oversee the public (expense)-private (dealing) Indiana Economic Development Corporation Mitch replaced it with in order to improve conductivity, and which was most recently caught shielding the criminal behavior of one of its Chinese contacts. Then last week the previous autumn's story of a Department of Transportation bigwig, and his extended family, cleaning up on land sales for the half-built and wholly unnecessary I-69 project--the centerpiece of Daniels' "Sell the Toll Road and Inject the Proceeds into the Indiana Economy One Republican at a Time, So I Can Run for President" project--got new legs when someone leaked some of the sale prices. Those are kept secret under Indiana law.

That "possible appearance of a conflict of interest, or, say, numerous felonies", was, by the way, cleared at the time by the Inspector General Daniels had created to root out other administration's corruption (and which, thanks to a tip, did manage to nab an office worker who swiped someone's creamer from the break room fridge during the O'Bannon administration). As a result of the publicity, Pence has ordered the same guy to investigate again.

Otherwise The Choirboy is barely part of the process so far. He was also forced to admit, early, that he wasn't risking any skin on the white evangelical storyline anymore, punting on the Anti-Marriage Equality amendment the legislature must pass a second time, either this year or next, before it goes to the voters.

It's a long way to the end of the Session, and Jesus is ubiquitous, so we'll wait and see. In the meantime it's irresponsible not to speculate as to what, exactly, might've chastened the Republican party, which has a supermajority in both houses now to go along with its superior understanding of everything, and yet has remained cautious. Was it Pence's narrow victory in a big Republican year? The defeat of Superintendent of De-Publicking Public Instruction Tony Bennett? The clear rejection of Richard Mourdock's rape-y rectitude? An eye toward Republican prospects down the road?

At any rate, the Anti-Homo amendment is the first big casualty, officially tabled for the year this Thursday by House Speaker Brian Bosma, on the grounds that the Supreme Court is addressing the constitutionality of such bans this session, and it's only prudent to hear 'em out first.

Yes, this is this first time the question of Constitutionality has ever entered into social-issue legislatin' in the state, and Yes, that's the same House Speaker Brian Bosma who shuffled a quarter-million bucks towards a crony law firm to conduct the pre-doomed appeal of a court decision that he couldn't open every legislative day by invoking his Lord and Savior from the pulpit podium. I guess there's a distinction between established precedent and prudently holding off to give the Court a listen which I'm somehow missing.

Of course this is just the sort of thing the seasoned observer of Hoosier politics has grown accustomed to thanks to Mitch Daniels: the yawning tear in the fabric of reality between explanations and the thing being explained. (Asked, while he was still governor, about the state reportedly paying as much as four times fair market value for land to build that highway we didn't need, Daniels noted that "the project was under budget".) And it still works. Asked whether polls showing that Hoosiers seem to be moving, along with the rest of the nation, to acceptance of marriage equality, Bosma suggested that his own, double-plus secret and Biblically-inerrant poll numbers said otherwise. Which probably means that Dick Lugar's old polling firm is still finding business.

The funniest thing so far in all this was the take of the Indianapolis Star's (Motto: No, Really, We're Still Here) political reporter Matt Tully: praising Bosma for "evolving" (his choice, not mine) into "a voice of reason" (his choice, not mine), and giving Bosma the opportunity to chalk it all up to "mission trips to the devastated nation of Haiti, and watching his children grow up".

God works in wondrous ways, all right. Why, it was just a couple years back when Bosma hailed an Appeals Court decision upholding Indiana's "defense of marriage" act, saying it "made marriage safe again." Guess maybe He wanted Bosma's conversion to seem doubly convincing to Matt Tully.

Or maybe it's just that kids grow up so fast these days.

Monday, February 4

Look, Don't Do Me Any Favors. Fucking Shut Up As A Favor To Yourself.

IT'S cold and snowy, and I've been forced to ride the indoor bike for too long now. And the only way to get in anything like enough milage is to find some teevee entertainment while I ride. Music, well, that'll cover it once in a while, but you tend to pick up rhythms, so you try to program all up-tempo stuff, and man will that make you sick of your music collection before spring.

So I keep looking for things that might be moderately interesting, and last month The History Channel, with whom I am barely on speaking terms, ran a five-or-eight-part series on the American Presidency. I recorded all of 'em, except the last; I wanted to see whether it was safe to risk their Reagan coverage.

That answer was No, as The Great Communicator made something like sixteen appearances in the Washington-to-Monroe segment. And, look, you don't have to share my opinion of Reagan, but if, in 2013, you're still talking as though the guy led a Revolution that Saved the American Economy or somethin', you are either delusional or you think I am.

The thing was, at best, a sort of community-college survey of American history, heavy on the Amusing Anecdote. It didn't exactly risk breaking any plow blades on new ground. But the opening episode did have Jack Rakove, which beats the hell out of the usual den of Kagans, and Jonathan Alter in place of V.D. Hanson is like Arthur Schlesinger instead of Hal Lindsey. I kept at it, and the Civil War episode did not contain the standard History/Military Channel panel discussion of whether Sherman was a war criminal or just a mass murderer. So I kept going.

Then it got to be 1920. And who turned up as an expert?

Amity Schlaes, the noted historian and best-selling economist.

"What th' hell are you shouting at?" my Poor Wife asked from upstairs.

Here, as nothing like a public service, is as complete a record of Ms Schlaes' contributions as I could stand transcribing. If anyone is offended by my [sic]ing her I want to offer an apology, as well as a reminder that her degree is in English.

(And, listen: if you haven't experienced her Aging Debutante With Tourette's speaking style, I apologize for the ALL CAPS routine. I started out using italics, but realized that you just don't get the flavor that way.)
They [the Harding administration] put people out of work. Their unemployment rose terribly, [sic] in fact it was 20% in some cities in some weeks. [sic]. It was a BAD recession, the recession of the early 20s.

He [Harding] besmirched the Presidency through his association with corrupt people. But he was not an evil man himself. He was just weak.

Wilson had very high taxes [sic] in World War I. Harding started to bring them down, then Coolidge came along and said, "That's not enough. It must be much lower."

Before the radio, how did you give a speech before the mic [sic]? You BELLOWED. And Coolidge was not a bellower. And there was this great, sudden surprise [sic] which is the radio was coming in [sic] and the voice that was poor for the lecture hall was ideal for radio.

Coolidge sometimes didn't put [sic] a CHAIR in his office because then his guests would sit down [sic] and have more time to ask a favor. It was CRUEL, it was RUDE, but he was saving the American people money.

The Presidency is supposed to be about policy but of course it's really about TEMPERAMENT, isn't it? It's about who you are and how you react under pressure. Coolidge reacted by stopping, halting, preventing. Coolidge was the Great REFRAINER.

When he was President his son Calvin died very suddenly from A BLISTER from playing tennis. Calvin didn't show his mother his blister early enough, and it went SEPTIC. He [sic] said of Calvin his son that "When he died the glory of the Presidency went with him."

Roosevelt * believed in action for the sake of action. Even if it's WRONG! it's OKAY. [sic]. The humorist Will Rogers [oh, that Will Rogers!] said, "Y'know, if he'd burned down the Capitol or the White House we would have said "Good! At least he got a fire started, anyhow." That's how cold and bad it felt [BA in English, magna cum laude, Yale, 1982] in 1932.
Roosevelt had that [the end of Prohibition] cheered as a leader [sic] and that was important to the voter [sic], especially in the Depression [sic].

There was abiding unemployment, double-digit unemployment, most of the 1930s. Instead of a recovery there was a Depression within the Depression. **

Roosevelt was good at war [sic]. He was a great sailor [sic]. He knew every crack and crevice [sic] of the East Coast, and could sail it personally not matter what SIZE the craft. And he was turning away from economics to foreign policy, which he was a master of.

FAR MORE was spent in the war than was spent on the New Deal projects of the 1930s (oh, those New Deal projects). You see the government becoming more [sic] than 30% of the economy, which was STUNNING.

QUIZ next Wednesday, class. NONE of this will be on it.

* She unvaryingly pronounces it Roe-za-velt. Which is a mistake a lot of us make, at least sometimes, but a lot of us didn't write respected, best-selling tomes about the man.

** No. In case you're blissfully unaware of Ms Schlaes claim to economic literacy, here it is for you. She managed to take some fourth-generation class resentment about the New Deal and turn it into a best-seller for the already persuaded. And the whole fucking thing hinges on the Recession (not Depression) of 1937, which is frequently, if not universally, thought to have occurred because the administration tightened the money supply prematurely, and reduced stimulus spending. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Professor Schlaes' position, but enough, apparently, to get her a sinecure with the George W. Bush Institute. †

† No, really.  There's a George W. Bush Institute.