Thursday, May 19, 2011

Last Call

Republicans are now trying to pretend that the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling will be minimal.  Today, the financial ratings agencies disabused them of that notion.  Brian Beutler:

Republicans are now openly flirting with the theory that allowing the United States to default briefly on its payment obligations won't be such a bad thing -- and may even be necessary to extract concessions on entitlement spending in exchange for raising the debt limit.

But two of the biggest ratings agencies say they could downgrade the United States' triple-A credit if the government misses even a single debt-service payment. 

"A sovereign's failure to service its debt as payments come due is a default according to S&P's sovereign rating criteria," writes John Piecuch, spokesman for Standard & Poors, one of the "Big Three" credit ratings agencies, in an email to me. "In that case, the rating would be lowered to "SD" (Selective Default)."

A U.S. analyst for Moody's -- another Big Three ratings agency -- was not available for an interview. But a spokesman referred me to a February report in which they downplay the likelihood that they'll have to reduce the country's credit rating. But it could happen as the result of a major political failure. 

And let's get this straight, folks:  once we lose AAA, we'll never, ever get it back.  But that's fine with Republicans, who seem to now be suggesting that our only choices are a selective default that harms 90% of America, or trillions in spending cuts that will harm 90% of America.

Nice guys, those Republicans.  Again, given the last three decades, what financial and economic credibility do they have?

Nancy Pelosi Gets It

Dear Democrats up for re-election in 2012:  if you want to win, get your head out of your ass and listen, really listen, to Nancy Pelosi for once.  Greg Sargent:

It is a flag we’ve planted that we will protect and defend. We have a plan. It’s called Medicare.”

That’s from Nancy Pelosi, who called me from Wisconsin, where she’s holding events today defending Medicare in Paul Ryan’s back yard. On the call, Pelosi laid out a message on Medicare she hopes Dems will use for — well, forever.

Pelosi recently came under fire from Republicans — and even some liberals — when she recently indicated that Medicare should be “on the table” for deficit reduction. Republicans claimed she now agreed with them; some liberals wondered whether even Pelosi — whose sharp line on Social Security enabled Dems to beat back George W Bush’s privatization scheme — is preparing to cave.

Asked to clarify what she meant, and to detail what sort of changes she’d be open to, Pelosi insisted that any claims she could support cuts in the program are wrong. “No benefits cuts,” she said flatly. Pelosi added that Dems have already put on the table the type of reform they should continue advocating for: The Affordable Care Act.

Really is that simple, guys.  If you defend Medicare for millions of Americans while pointing out that Republicans want to scrap the program, give people coupons, and give the balance of the difference to the wealthiest Americans, you will win.  If you do not, well...

Saying you want to protect Medicare from Republicans who want to destroy the program is not some crazy liberal fringe position, folks.  It's what the American people expect you to do.  I suggest you start doing it.

Exploring The Heart Of Darkness

David Corn's piece in Mother Jones today on the GOP 2012 field attacking President Obama for being the "other", the ultimate dangerous alien outsider, demonized at every turn as an America-destroying catalyst of evil, is one of the most important things you'll read this month, possibly this year.  Corn calls this "Otherism" and he's spot on in his analysis.

Anti-Obama otherists have wrapped themselves in the flag of American exceptionalism, contending that Obama is different because he doesn't believe that the United States is special and superior to other nations. Last summer, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who at the time was mulling a bid for the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination, told Politico that Obama's "worldview is dramatically different than any president, Republican or Democrat, we've had… He grew up more as a globalist than an American. To deny American exceptionalism is in essence to deny the heart and soul of this nation." (In March, Huckabee, à la Gingrich, claimed, wrongly, that Obama had grown up in Kenya and had thus absorbed an anti-colonialist sentiment that prompted him to have a "very different view" of the British than "the average American.") In November, former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum, another 2012 wannabe, told College Republicans at American University, "America is exceptional, and Americans are concerned that there are a group of people in Washington who don't believe that any more."

This is exactly why I've been saying Birtherism is pure and simple dog-whistle racism.  Corn's "Otherism" is just the next stage in evolution of this concept, what the polite circles of the GOP use to describe Obama as "fundamentally not like the rest of us." And yet, it's far more than that. Otherism has been used against Democrats for decades now, against Clinton (he's not like us, he's poor trash from the Ozarks), Gore (he's not like us, he's an elitist hippie tree hugger), Kerry (he's not like us, he's a rich snob who played at being a war hero) and of course these days, against Obama.  Republicans have always pulled crap like this because it works.

But with Obama, the element of race gives it a whole new dimension.

The key audience for otherists, though, is not the general public. Obama, according to the polls, remains popular, even when voters disapprove of his policies or his handling of key matters. But many tea partiers and other conservatives do view Obama as an interloper and harbor deep fears about him and his agenda. GOP presidential contenders and party leaders need to appeal to these sentiments, and some, no doubt, seek to exploit them. Otherism offers a way to do so.

Unlike birtherism, otherism remains quite useful to the Republicans. Not even the adults of the party can resist its ugly temptations.

When you combine otherism with racism, the result is the frenetic, dangerous cottage industry we see today springing up and playing on the fear that our nation's first African-American president may be our nation's last president period.  Racism as fear has had a long and ugly political history in this country, but rarely has the disease been this acute.

This is the new Obama Derangement Syndrome...same as it ever was, if you think about it.

Dave's Not Here, Man

The esteemed Joe Sonka has an excellent rundown of Tuesday's KY GOP primary non-event as rabid Tea Party voters cast their ballots to pick an opponent for Gov. Dinosaur Steve Beshear.

What was supposed to be an impressive coronation for David Williams as the GOP gubernatorial nominee on Tuesday night turned into something... well, less than impressive.

Leading up to the election, folks either dismissively mocked the Persons of Tea as a tiny fringe of the Republican Party that had faded since Rand Paul's 2010 primary victory, or assumed that David Williams was rabidly right-wing enough to win their support over Johnny-come-lately Phil Moffett. Either way, most assumed that Williams would breeze to a landslide victory over Moffett in a race that would be called soon after the polls in the central time zone closed.

That did not happen, as Lexington and Louisville returns started showing Williams taking a beating, registering less than 35% in both. Moffett won almost the entire golden triangle, hanging within 5 points of Williams statewide with 75% of returns in.

After the dust cleared, Williams managed to pull out a 10-point victory, registering only 48% of the vote. But what's least impressive about Williams' performance is the fact that only 68,528 out of 1,084,982 registered Republicans in Kentucky bothered to vote for him.

Yes, that is only 6%. No, that is not exactly intimidating, going into the general election.

And that's really saying something.  Winning a primary with just six percent of the total number of registered voters in a Republican primary in Kentucky is borderline narcolepsy.  I understand "Dems at the state level, Republicans at the national" is personified by the Bluegrass State, but this is downright sad.

Granted, as annoying as Dinosaur Steve is, I'll take him in a heartbeat over David Williams.  But you think Williams could at least muster some amount of excitement among Republicans here.  I don't think Dino Steve is in any real trouble least not from the Republicans.

Now from a velociraptor attack...that's another story.

The Sperminator Chronicles

The media frenzy around Arnold Schwarzenegger and his newly announced son is amazing.  I'm surprised by the anger people are showing towards a man who has never had a reputation for honoring his wife.  Are we really surprised?

Here is a Christmas pic of Arnie and his mistress at Christmas. 

This article is an update of how Maria has appeared and kept her chin up, while dodging the press.  CNN fills in some gaps and without a snicker they deliver the quote that the maid retired "on good terms" after years of service.

Not to be outdone, TMZ actually dredged up a photo of Arnold and Mildred Baena dancing.  I never knew a still photo could prove the subject had no sense of rhythm.  I'm not taking a cheap shot, check out the picture.  He is the male counterpart to Elaine, the full body dry heave.

Harvey's got some sources.  TMZ has scooped everyone and delivered better information.  I think he has one more bombshell up his sleeve.

StupidiNews! Bad Day To Be Famous Edition

Zsa Zsa Gabor has fallen into a coma after emergency surgery to repair a stomach infection.  The 94-year-old icon has been in poor health for some time, but I so hate to see this.  I adore her for the strength and sass she radiated throughout her career.

Jeff Conaway is also in a coma.  The star, famous for playing the role of Kenickie in Grease, has fought drug addiction for years.  An overdose is suspected but nothing has been confirmed yet.  After multiple injuries, the star became addicted to pain pills and alcohol early in life.

Stephen Hawking has ticked off a few folks by saying there is no heaven.  One of the loudest to speak up has been Kirk Cameron.  In other news, Kirk Cameron and Stephen Hawking are having a debate.  I'm not sure who is more aggravating when it comes to the subject.

Nuked Gingrich, Part 3

The death spiral of the Gingrich campaign continues unabated, this time as Newtie becomes just about the only person in history to pick a fight with Meet The Press's David "Fluffy" Gregory and lose.

"There was no set-up," Gregory told the Huffington Post's Michael Calderone, adding that Newt "knew what he was doing" and "knows what he's doing now."
Sunday marked Gingrich's 35th appearance on Meet The Press, but he said in a conference call with conservative bloggers yesterday that he was unprepared for Gregory's questions on Paul Ryan's budget and Gingrich's support for an individual mandate.

"I didn't go in there quite hostile enough, because it didn't occur to me going in that you'd have a series of setups," Gingrich said. "This wasn't me randomly saying things. These were very deliberate efforts to pick fights."

According to Gregory, he isn't letting the presidential candidate's words get him down.

"I don't take what he's doing all that personally," Gregory said. "I understand that he must feel that he made a mistake in answering the way he did. He's got to do whatever he's got to do."

Yeah, I don't see Newt ending up on Fluffy's show anytime soon.  But next week's Paul Ryan segment should be boatloads of fun...

Win Ben Stein's Misogyny, Part 2

The other day Ben Stein asked:

Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes?

Randall Munroe of xkcd fame takes up that offer.

On a whim, I just did a little research, and couldn’t believe what I found.  Guess who holds an economics degree?

Paul Bernardo.

For those not familiar with the case, Bernardo is one of the nastiest serial killers in history. He and his wife drugged, raped, and tortured to death a number of schoolgirls in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The story is the stuff of nightmares.

I’ll leave the debate over the rest of Mr. Stein’s article to others. But as for his suggestion that studying economics precludes becoming a violent sex criminal, it seems history provides one hell of a counterexample.

Remember when Ben Stein got fired from the NY Times for his hawking of the Freescore "credit watch" service?  Yeah, somehow 18 months later he's still employed at the "Gentlemen's World Net Daily" there at American Spectator, and if anything his writing has actually gotten worse.

Making Bucks From Birthers

Making fun of the Birthers at this point has become nearly a full-time job for guys like me.  Over at Esquire magazine, Mark Warren wrote a clever satirical piece on Jerome Corsi "scrapping" his birther book in the light of the President's long form birth certificate.   The Right Wing Noise Machine was of course furious and Corsi and World Net Daily are already threatening a titanic lawsuit.  The WSJ:

Esquire's defense, rather, would be that it published the parody believing in good faith no one could reasonably understand it as a true report. The speed with which it posted the disclaimer that it was satire--the equivalent of a correction to an actual false report--would be a strong piece of evidence in its favor.

As to "restraint of trade," that accusation presupposes that the Esquire parody was a guise for an anticompetitive conspiracy to harm WND's publishing business. A judge and jury--unlike WND and its readers--would reject such a theory unless there was evidence to support it.

But WND doesn't need a lawsuit, for it has already won. "The book is selling briskly," WND quotes Farah as saying, and the free publicity from Esquire surely isn't hurting. Esquire's journalistic reputation has been tarnished, too--to the point where we'd be hard-pressed to say it's any more lustrous than WND's. Writing good satire isn't as easy as it looks.

On the other hand, the Obama 2012 campaign is having as much fun with this as humanly possible.

President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign today started selling “Made in the USA” t-shirts featuring images of both President Obama and the long-form birth certificate he released copies of last month.

“Wear your support for this campaign with an official Made in the USA T-shirt,” his website advertises. Donate $25 or more today and we'll send you your limited-edition shirt.

Coffee-mugs are also available.
“Remember ‘fight the smears’ from the 2008 campaign?” asked campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. “This is the mobile version of it.”

Naturally the Birthers are even more infuriated by this.  They figure the President is being petty and obsessive, and coming from these morons (and yes, anyone who believes Obama was born in Kenya, I've got some nice beachfront property in Utah for you) that's just hysterical.

Might as well make some campaign cash off of making fun of these fools, yes?


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