Friday, November 21, 2014


Many of us warned that it would be dangerous to elect Republicans in this year's midterms. We were assured, however, that Republicans are perfectly safe and harmless as long as you don't (1) expose them to bright light, (2) get them wet, or (3) feed them after midnight -- especially the last one because they undergo metamorphosis from the gee-whiz aw-shucks Norman Rockwell patriots they were all through the 2014 campaign into grotesque, uncontrollably destructive gremlins.

Well, apparently that's happened now:
Rising Republican hostility toward President Obama's impending immigration plan is as intense as has ever existed between the White House and the GOP.

... But the strong reaction by Republican leaders has less to do with opposition to the nuts and bolts of the president's immigration policy and more to do with fear and anger that the issue will derail the agenda of the new Republican majority before the next Congress even convenes....

To many, stark warnings from Boehner and McConnell sound more like pleas to the president to avoid reenergizing the GOP's conservative wing, whose leaders are already threatening to link the president's immigration plan to upcoming budget talks.

Another government shutdown is not what McConnell and Boehner had in mind when their party won control of Congress this month....
The debate is also a test of whether the party can contain the controversial and sometimes offensive comments that have often hindered attempts to bolster support for Republicans among Hispanics. After tea party firebrand Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said on Wednesday that protected immigrants would become "illiterate" voters, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) winced.

"Unfortunate, unfair, unnecessary, unwise," said Graham, who is close to party leaders.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a moderate from the Philadelphia exurbs, said the leadership is asking his colleagues to "not play into the president’s hands."

"The president wants to see an angry and intemperate response, thinking the Republicans will do something that leads to a shutdown," Dent said. "Don't take the bait, and don't have a hysterical reaction. We can be strong, rational and measured."

... Many conservative lawmakers, however, are shrugging off pleas from leadership.... Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said Wednesday that Obama's executive action should be met with a refusal to vote on any more of his nominees....

And Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) -- one of the loudest voices on the right — has hinted at bringing up impeachment measures....

Amid the chatter over strategy, it is the tone of outraged rank-and-file members that most worries GOP elders. Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, they do not want to see Republicans tagged by Democrats as hostile toward Latinos and other minorities.

"It only takes a couple" of comments for an unflattering narrative to build about the Republican response, said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "That's the trouble with having some of these new, young punks around here. They ought to listen to us old geezers."
Obama, the leaders say, fed them after midnight, and now they're going nuts, so it's all Obama's fault. Never mind the fact that a lot of us said it wasn't a good idea to let these creatures into our house in the first place, just because the looked so cute in their ads.

Oh, well -- this is what we're dealing with now:

Thursday, November 20, 2014


This relates to what I was talking about this morning:
Majority Say Not Gov't Duty to Provide Healthcare for All

For the third consecutive year, a majority of Americans (52%) agree with the position that it is not the federal government's responsibility to ensure that all Americans have healthcare coverage. Prior to the start of Barack Obama's presidency in 2009, a majority of Americans consistently took the opposite view.

As I said this morning with regard to immigration, Americans want problems solved ... until they start being solved. Then they say, "What? This is part of the solution? And this? We don't want any of this!"

In the case of health care, Americans wanted it universal, government-guaranteed, unrestricted, inexpensive, tax-free, and free of other new costs. I think they'd have gotten a better deal with single payer, but that was off the table, and if Americans want it, they haven't made themselves aware of why it's off the table, i.e., which vested interests don't want it. (Americans won't confront vested interests -- that's so last century.) Then again, Americans probably would feel betrayed by single payer (omigod higher taxes!), and yet they don't understand that the politically feasible alternatives necessarily involve compromises and require deals to be cut. So they no longer want what they wanted.

Repeat across every other controversial issue, ad infinitum.

Here's the header for Joseph Curl's opinion column in the October 12 Washington Times:

An excerpt from the column:
On Sunday, President Obama suited up for work.

He put on his pants (most likely one leg at a time, but perhaps not), then slipped on his black windbreaker, the one with the presidential seal on one side, his name on the other (in case he forgets who he is). He put on some comfy sports socks, laced up his shoes real tight -- it would be a long, hard day.

Then he grabbed his leather bag of tools, which also bears the presidential seal and the number "44" (in case he forgets which number president he is). He stomped out of the White House and boarded his presidential motorcade just before a pool of traveling reporters was ushered out (he would, again, go unseen for the day, not unlike Kim Jong-un of late).

That was at noon. And yes, you guessed it, the president was not off to "work," but to play golf -- and set a milestone in the doing. Mr. Obama was heading out for his 200th round since taking office. Two hundredth! Tiger Woods, perhaps the most famous professional golfer in the world, has played just 269 rounds since Jan. 20, 2009 -- and that's his day job. Go figure....

And now here's the header for today's column:

An excerpt:
... Despite his vow to work with Republicans, he will shove his executive order down their throats, intent on bringing conflict with the soon-to-be ruling party.

... But like the Joker, the president is intent on bringing chaos to America. In that "Dark Knight" scene, Alfred explains the Joker's true goal: "Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn."

Mr. Obama will say otherwise in his address Thursday night, but this is who he really is. And like the Joker, he is to be truly feared.
We know that the frothing lunatics of the right harbor two views of the president that are utterly in conflict -- he's a stumblebum affirmative-action underachiever and he's a tireless tyrant who uses his unlimited power to crush his enemies without mercy -- but it's just delightful to see this self-contradictory worldview presented so baldly by one person over the course of a little more than a month.

Bonus Curl excerpt from October 12:
Of course, the president couldn't just rush off to the course minutes after taking [an] important phone call [about a U.S. Ebola case] (unlike the time he delivered a statement about an American beheaded by terrorists and then left immediately to play golf on Martha's Vineyard). No, Mr. Obama dickered about a bit in the White House, heading to Fort Belvoir just before 1 p.m.

So, the president spent a few minutes on the phone, then five hours on the golf course. But then, that makes perfect sense: In the 40-second pool spray, shot from the walkway outside the Oval Office, one thing was glaring -- there wasn’t a single thing on the president's desk. Not a piece of paper, a folder, even a Post-it note.
I bet the Joker has a neat desk, too, because who needs paperwork when you're PLOTTING TO BURN DOWN THE WORLD?????


The Washington Post's Aaron Blake spots a paradox in immigration polling:
Breaking: Americans support a path to citizenship.

About six in 10 support a new pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, according to a new poll from NBC News and Wall Street Journal. And that number jumps to a whopping 74 percent if you qualify that the undocumented immigrants must take steps like paying back taxes.

The very same poll, though, also asked people whether they support legal status -- shy of citizenship -- for illegal immigrants. Support for this, somewhat amazingly, is just 39 percent, with 48 percent opposed.

In other words, huge majorities support a path to citizenship. But on a path to legal status, it's reversed.

Blake has a couple of theories:
Why the support for citizenship but not legal status? Your guess is as good as ours. Maybe people don't like the idea of two classes of Americans. Maybe they think of citizenship as something that is earned, and legal status as something that is bestowed without cost to the beneficiary.
I think it might have to do with the wording of the questions, and with what Americans want from government. In the NBC/Journal poll (PDF), the questions about the path to citizenship describe what seems to be a long process. The main question contains the word "eventually." The follow-up describes a lot of hoops for immigrants to jump through:
Q23 Now, as you may know, there is a proposal to create a pathway to citizenship that would allow foreigners staying illegally in the United States the opportunity to eventually become legal American citizens. Do you (ROTATE TOP TO BOTTOM/BOTTOM TO TOP) strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal?

And, thinking some more about this...

Q24 If a proposed pathway to citizenship allowed foreigners staying illegally in the United States the opportunity to eventually become legal American citizens if they pay a fine, any back taxes, pass a security background check, and take other required steps, would you (ROTATE TOP TO BOTTOM/BOTTOM TO TOP) strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal?
Those are the proposals favored by, respectively, 57% and 74% of poll respondents. They describe gradual processes.

Now compare this:
Q21 Next, I'm going to read you several actions the next Congress could take. For each one, please tell me whether you would strongly support this action, mildly support this action, feel neutral about it, mildly oppose it, or strongly oppose this action....

Creating legal status for some immigrants who are here illegally
This has 39% approval, 48% disapproval.

The key word here, I think, is "creating." Americans don't want us to just give undocumented immigrants stuff. We want to watch them earn it. And we don't want anything to happen rapidly -- it upsets us. We have all kinds of problems in this country, and we're furious at the government for failing to address them, but then we seem to get upset at most proposals that actually do address our problems, because they disrupt the status quo, partly in ways that make us uncomfortable. So we get as angry when solutions seem to be imminent as we are when no solutions seem to be imminent.

I'd also point out that in a September Washington Post/ABC poll, the following question was asked:
Q: If Congress does not act to address the immigration issue, do you think Obama should or should not take action on his own through executive orders?
In that poll two months ago, 52% of respondents said the president should act, and 44% said he shouldn't. But in the NBC/Journal poll -- now that we know executive action is imminent -- 38% approve it and 48% disapprove it. It's as if, as action gets closer, suddenly we don't want action. We want the problems solved, but solutions, or partial solutions, upset us.

Is that it? Well, it's a theory. Your guess is as good as mine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


At The American Prospect, Paul Waldman notes that Republicans increasingly believe they'll pay no price with voters if they shut down the government in response to President Obama's executive action on immigration. Here's recent history as Waldman recalls it:
Approval of the Republican party took a nose dive in the wake of the shutdown, and though it is still viewed negatively by most Americans, that didn't stop Republicans from having a great election day. Because as at least some within the GOP understand, you can create chaos and crisis, and large numbers of voters will conclude not that Republicans are bent on creating chaos and crisis but that "Washington" is broken, and the way to fix it is to elect the people who aren't in the president's party. That in this case that happened to be precisely the people who broke it escaped many voters.
That's not quite the whole story, of course. It's too simple to say that after Republicans crash the system, "large numbers of voters will conclude not that Republicans are bent on creating chaos and crisis but that 'Washington' is broken." Voters don't just, on their own initiative, conclude this -- they're told this, over and over and over again, by the self-righteous mandarins of the Beltway press corps. And Democrats never try to identify for the voters precisely who "the people who broke" Washington are -- even Democrats blame "gridlock," or 'Washington," rather than the GOP.

So of course voters fail to assess the blame correctly.

Waldman adds:
The fact that the electorate skewed so heavily Republican in an election with the lowest turnout since 1942 also helped them escape the consequences of their behavior.
Well, it's no surprise that we had low turnout with a Republican skew. Every day, all day, Republicans are told by their favorite media outlets that everything wrong in America is the fault of the Democrats, and thus they arrive at Election Day hell-bent on driving those Democrats out of office. A tiny minority of Democratic voters who are consumers of the left-wing media are regularly reminded who's to blame, but most Democratic voters are moderates who give the lefty media a miss; they're told by the mainstream media that the whole system is an unfixable mess because everyone's at fault. So of course they gave in to despair this year and stayed home.

And all this will probably happen again over the next two years. So Republicans may as well shut down the government again. After all, the vast majority of voters will never hear them blamed for doing so.

The Daily Caller reports:
Prominent Protestant Pastors Vow To No Longer Perform Government Marriages

Two Protestant pastors, concerned about rapidly-changing government definitions of marriage, have started a movement encouraging priests and ministers to refuse to perform civil marriages.

Christopher Seitz and Ephraim Radner, Episcopal and Anglican pastors respectively, launched "The Marriage Pledge" at the conservative religious journal First Things on Tuesday....
Here's part of what Seitz and Radner write:
In many jurisdictions, including many of the United States, civil authorities have adopted a definition of marriage that explicitly rejects the age-old requirement of male-female pairing. In a few short years or even months, it is very likely that this new definition will become the law of the land, and in all jurisdictions the rights, privileges, and duties of marriage will be granted to men in partnership with men, and women with women.

As Christian ministers we must bear clear witness. This is a perilous time. Divorce and co-­habitation have weakened marriage. We have been too complacent in our responses to these trends....

To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage....
So here's their pledge, which they're inviting other members of the clergy to sign:
We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles ­articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church's life.
I was struck by the phrase "government marriage," which Seitz and Radner use, and which also appears in the Caller headline. On the right, could this phrase actually catch on? Could wingers decide that marriage is evil and awful if it's linked to the (yecch!) government?

I'm not sure. I've seen the phrase "government marriage" just one other place: in a post at Reason's Hit & Run blog titled "The Problems with Government Marriage." (According to the post, the problem with "government marriage" include state bans on same-sex marriage, which, of course, Seitz and Radner favor.)

In 2011, while running for president, Rick Santorum tried to make state-run education seem sinister, using similar wording:
... Santorum took a swipe at public schools. "Just call them what they are. Public schools? That's a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools," he said.
The phrasing never quite caught on. However, the idea that government-run schools are evil is quite common on the right.

Could that happen with marriage? Could it become a point of pride for right-wingers to refuse to register their nuptials with the state, and for ministers to refuse to legitimize marriage in the eyes of the state?

I could see there being a small refusenik niche among young heterosexual right-wingers in love -- some might choose to marry at churches that reject a state marriage system open to those filthy sodomites. But I think even most right-wingers want the marriage benefits, not to mention the big ceremonies, and they won't want to be forced to schedule a religious(-right) ceremony and a civil ceremony in order to have both. Besides, having the latter ceremony would defeat the purpose of the former, wouldn't it?

And besides, even in states that have legalized same-sex marriage, no church has been forced to alter its rules about which couples it considers eligible for marriage. To me, that's as it should be: we don't complain about the fact that divorced Catholics are prevented from remarrying in the church, even though divorce is legal under secular law. If some churches won't marry gay couples, I think that's the same thing. It's their choice.

I suppose if the law changes we'll see an increase in rejection of state-sanctioned marriage by conservatives. But if that never happens, this seems like an idea that's too radical even for the radical right.

After yesterday's Jerusalem synagogue attack, President Obama made the following statement (emphasis added):
We know that two attackers senselessly and brutally attacked innocent worshippers in a synagogue during their morning prayers. Obviously, we condemn in the strongest terms these attacks. A number of people were wounded, and four people were killed, including three American citizens. So this is a tragedy for both nations, Israel as well as the United States. And our hearts go out to the families who obviously are undergoing enormous grief right now.

Secretary Kerry has spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu. President Abbas has strongly condemned the attacks. Tragically, this is not the first loss of life that we have seen in recent months. Too many Israelis have died. Too many Palestinians have died. And at this difficult time, I think it's important for both Palestinians and Israelis to try to work together to lower tensions and to reject violence.

The murderers for today's outrageous acts represent the kind of extremism that threatens to bring all of the Middle East into the kind of spiral from which it’s very difficult to emerge. And we know how this violence can get worse over time. But we have to remind ourselves that the majority of Palestinians and Israelis overwhelmingly want peace and to be able to raise their families knowing they're safe and secure. The United States wants to work with all parties involved to make that a reality, and to isolate the kind of extremists that are bringing about this terrible carnage.
How is Breitbart covering this?

President Obama has responded to today's terrorist attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem in which four Israeli Jews attending morning prayers condemning the attack, and stating that "the majority of Palestinians" want peace.

In a statement delivered to the White House press pool, President Obama responded to the attack by declaring that "too many Palestinians have died," as well as Israelis, in the struggle between the state of Israel and the terrorist group Hamas and its affiliates, including the internationally active Muslim Brotherhood. "At this difficult time," the President told reports, "I think it's important for both Palestinians and Israelis to try to work together to lower tensions and reject violence." ...
I love the fact that under the screaming, one-sided headline there's this grudging acknowledgment of the president's paired sentences: "President Obama responded to the attack by declaring that 'too many Palestinians have died,' as well as Israelis." Oh, and a misquote of another part of the president's statement is also worth savoring -- according to the Breitbart story, the president asserted that "'the majority of Palestinians' want peace," when Obama actually said, "the majority of Palestinians and Israelis overwhelmingly want peace." (The Breitbart story, needless to say, provides no link to the complete statement, available at the White House website in text and video form, because God forbid any of Breitbart's readers be exposed to the president's words in context.)

And these are the people who say Jonathan Gruber's Obamacare videos prove that the administration deliberately deceives people by massaging the facts?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Here's Philly talk radio guy Chris Stigall:

I'm not sure exactly what Stigall's saying here. Does he think Obama vetoed the Keystone bill today? (That's not what happened -- the bill had to pass by a 60-vote threshold to break a Democratic filibuster, like, um, the many, many bills filibustered by Republicans during Obama's presidency, and it failed.) Or is Stigall saying that in the future, when (inevitablu) the Republicans pass a Keystone bill, an Obama veto will demonstrate that the president is a horrible, uncompromising guy? (Obama, of course, has vetoed only two bills in six years as president.) If it's the latter, can right-wingers at least wait for Obama to actually do this horrible thing before hating him for it?


Similarly, there's Noah Rothman's post at Hot Air about a possible Republican response to executive action on immigration by the president. Rothman thinks the GOP will choose to hold up only the expenditures relevant to enforcement of the executive order, rather than shutting down the entire government. He quotes Byron York's description of this approach:
... a shutdown battle could occur -- but it would be a battle over shutting down the small part of the federal government tasked with enforcing the immigration order. Everything else would remain up and running.
But Rothman thinks mean old Democrats will lie to the public about that:
If this were to occur, Barack Obama, liberal Democrats, and their allies in the press would apply all their power and influence to propagate the notion that Republicans had again shut down the government. They would, however, be deprived of the images of shuttered post offices, or war memorials and public zoos manned by joyless sentinels preventing citizens from making use of them.
That's right -- we'd just lie to everyone and say the government was shut down, even though it would be glaringly obvious that the vast majority of the government was open. Because we're horrible that way.

Fortunately for the forces of Right and Truth, some brave apostates would refuse to cooperate with Democrats' sinister efforts at mass mind control:
... some honest Democrats appear disinterested in helping their fellows craft the dubious narrative that the GOP had forced a suspension of governmental activity in a tantrum over the legalization of much of America's illegal immigrant population.

"It happens all the time," outgoing Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) told National Review's Joel Gehrke. "That's not uncommon that there’s amendments saying 'none of the funds in this appropriation bill may be spent for' -- fill in the blank."
Um, Mr. Rothman? Levin said what the average Democrat thinks -- if Republicans don't shut down the government, we won't say they shut down the government. If Republicans block the executive order, we'll say they're blocking the executive order. If the rest of the government continues to function, we'll acknowledge that. We're like that, you see. We acknowledge reality.

We don't know if Republicans really can restrain themselves this way. But if they can, swell -- we'll admit it. So don't convict us for a crime we haven't committed, and won't commit.

The editorial board of The Washington Post is appalled:
In Mr. Obama's own words, acting alone is 'not how our democracy functions'

DEMOCRATS URGING President Obama to "go big" in his executive order on immigration might pause to consider the following scenario:

It is 2017. Newly elected President Ted Cruz (R) insists he has won a mandate to repeal Obamacare. The Senate, narrowly back in Democratic hands, disagrees. Mr. Cruz instructs the Internal Revenue Service not to collect a fine from anyone who opts out of the individual mandate to buy health insurance, thereby neutering a key element of the program. It is a matter of prosecutorial discretion, Mr. Cruz explains; tax cheats are defrauding the government of billions, and he wants the IRS to concentrate on them. Of course, he is willing to modify his order as soon as Congress agrees to fix what he considers a "broken" health system.

That is not a perfect analogy to Mr. Obama's proposed action on immigration. But it captures the unilateral spirit that Mr. Obama seems to have embraced since Republicans swept to victory in the midterm elections. He is vowing to go it alone on immigration. On Iran, he is reportedly designing an agreement that he need not bring to Congress. He already has gone that route on climate change with China....

Mr. Obama may find a constitutional way to rewrite the nation's immigration laws. But in his frustration with democracy, he is likely to prove his point: Unilateralism will not make the system work.
That's really supposed to leave a mark on Obama: Mr. President, the way you're acting reminds us of that crazy bomb-thrower Ted Cruz. But the Post ed board seems to have forgotten that Mitt Romney, the upright, mainstream, sober-sided 2012 Republican presidential nominee. told us many times throughout his campaign that he planned to do something quite similar, also unilaterally, and none of the Beltway insiders currently occupying the fainting couch ever reproved Romney for it:
Gov. Mitt Romney says he has a plan that would allow states to skirt some of the biggest pieces of the health care reform law -- a proposal that could punch gaping holes in the federal law his critics say he inspired.

... Romney would use the law's "state innovation waivers" to allow the states to opt out of some of the most fundamental pieces of the Affordable Care Act: the individual mandate, the health insurance exchanges and the requirements for some employers to provide coverage or face fines, a Romney aide tells POLITICO....

"I'll grant a waiver on Day One to get [repeal] started," Romney said at Tuesday's debate in New Hampshire....

The state waiver provision, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), was written into the law to allow states to come up with their own health care reform proposals as long as they meet strict requirements: that they cover as many people as the law would have, be budget neutral and ensure coverage is just as affordable and comprehensive.

The Romney aide said the campaign believes the language is written in a way that gives the HHS secretary enough latitude to read a waiver application in a much more generous way, with few -- if any -- of the same demands. For instance, a requirement to provide "comparable coverage" could be interpreted by the Obama administration as covering the same number of people -- but a Romney adminsitration could interpret it as just ensuring that the same number of plans are available.
Now, maybe the press didn't give Romney a hard time about this because there seemed to be legal limits on how much the law could be gutted under these waivers, and because the waivers wouldn't have taken effect until 2017. The Romney people said, however, that this would at last "provide more certainty to individuals, businesses and states that they would be free of the Obamacare burdens in 2017." The plan was to gut the law to the maximum possible extent that it could be gutted -- unilaterally.

And no one in the chattering classes got the vapors.


That's what Romney planned to do on Day One. After that? Well, as he said in that October 2011 debate:
"On Day One, granting a waiver for all 50 states doesn't stop in its tracks entirely Obamacare. That's why I also say we have to repeal Obamacare, and I will do that on Day Two, with the reconciliation bill, because as you know, it was passed by reconciliation, [with] 51 votes."
And what would that mean exactly?
Even without a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, Republicans could use a process called "reconciliation" to repeal parts of the bill that relate to spending. That could carve out such significant portions as the government subsidy that helps poor people buy the mandatory insurance and the penalty levied against people who don't comply with the mandate.

"What he could do even if he does not have the 60 votes in the Senate, which seems unlikely, is use the budget process to repeal all of the portions of the Affordable Care Act that relate to spending money, which is where all the controversy is," said Gail Wilensky, a senior fellow at Project HOPE who was a top health-care policymaker in both Bush administrations.
That wouldn't have been full repeal, but it really would have gummed up the works:
It turns out that not all of the law can be undone using the budget process. Things like requiring insurers to accept people with preexisting health conditions would almost certainly need the same 60 votes to undo it as they needed to pass it in the first place....

"So now we could be sitting here with reconciliation having stripped out all the money, on Jan. 1 every sick person in America is showing up, getting their guaranteed-issue health insurance, and it's just going to ravage the insurance pools, drive the cost of insurance way high," [Health industry consultant Robert Laszewski] said.
I bring all this up because this week we have Ron Fournier, yet again, arguing that evil Barack Obama and the evil Democrats did an evil thing by passing evil Obamacare without the magic fairy dust of bipartisanship:
On health care, we needed a market-driven plan that decreases the percentage of uninsured Americans without convoluting the U.S. health care system. Just such a plan sprang out of conservative think tanks and was tested by a GOP governor in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.

Instead of a bipartisan agreement to bring that plan to scale, we got more partisan warfare. The GOP resisted, Obama surrendered his mantle of bipartisanship, and Democrats muscled through a one-sided law that has never been popular with a majority of the public.
But here was Mitt Romney, planning to gut Obamacare first with executive action that bypassed Congress, then with a law passed in Congress on a strictly-line vote -- no "mantle of bipartisanship" there.

And no mainstream chatterer expressed the slightest bit of outrage.

If a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline passes the Senate soon, President Obama will veto it, and there won't be enough votes to override the veto. That's for now, of course -- once Republicans have the Senate majority come January, Republicans and pro-Keystone Democrats could muster enough votes to override an Obama veto.

At that point, The New York Times tells me, the president may decide to use Keystone to drive some sort of bargain -- in a way I find unimaginable:
White House advisers have repeatedly said that they do not intend to issue a final decision until a Nebraska court issues a verdict on the route of the pipeline through that state. But that decision is expected to come as soon as January, the same month that an incoming Republican-majority Congress can be expected to send another Keystone bill to the president's desk -- one that could be within a few votes of a veto-proof majority.

If that is the case, people familiar with the president's thinking say that in 2015 he might use Keystone as a bargaining chip: He would offer Republicans approval of it in exchange for approval of one of his policies.
In exchange for approval of one of his policies? Seriously?

The obvious objection to this is that the Republicans simply don't bargain -- in every case, the GOP responds to a dealmaking situation with the Michael Corleone line: My offer is this: nothing.

But the problem is more than just the GOP's refusal to negotiate. I don't see evidence that the GOP even wants the president to sign the bill.

If he signs it, it's no longer available to Republicans as a wedge issue. Republicans care much more about having a long list of wedge issues than they do about actual policy outcomes. Republicans want to fire up the base by being the pro-Keystone party, and want to collect large amounts of money from energy-industry donors by being the pro-Keystone party; those are much more important considerations to them than actually getting the pipeline built.

What's more, while Republicans favor Keystone, it's not so important to them that it's worth trading for something the president favors that Republicans don't favor. Making deals is politically dangerous for the Republicans. Fox and talk radio and Drudge and Breitbart have the GOP base so angry about every issue that any concession on any issue is deemed a betrayal by the base.

So when the president offers to sign the bill in return for a GOP concession on another issue, he's offering Republicans something they don't really want. The Keystone pipeline is much more important to them as an issue than as a conduit for fossil fuel.

The president is making the same mistake Democrats made when they agreed to the sequester. Democrats thought, "Surely Republicans will negotiate to end the sequester cuts because some of the cuts are in defense, and Republicans care deeply about preserving a strong defense." Republicans didn't care. They don't really give a crap about defense spending -- what they care about is being seen as the party of strong defense, while Democrats are seen as the surrender-monkey hippies who put daisies in gun barrels. The policy outcome doesn't matter -- all that matters is the posture, and the political advantage Republicans can gain from it, in votes and checks.

Republicans would be delighted if a Republican president signed Keystone into law, of course. But a Democratic president? Voluntarily? In return for concessions? They'd rather fight.

Monday, November 17, 2014


This tweet surprised me:

Yes, Chris Christie is more mean-spirited than Sheriff Joe Arpaio, at least on the issue of so-called gestational cages for pigs. In fact, on this issue, Arpaio isn't mean-spirited at all -- he's been opposed to the small, constricting cages for many years, whereas Christie may not be mean-spirited so much as, well, self-serving, as the Humane Society's Wayne Pacelle explains:
I can understand Chris Christie's dilemma -- either signing an enormously popular bill to ban gestation crates in New Jersey or caving in to the veto demands of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, whose support is coveted by every aspiring Republican presidential candidate who trudges through Iowa. There's no mystery that Christie is closely examining the idea of running for president, and that the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses often winnow the field and set up the front-runners.

But defying Gov. Branstad might be just what Christie needs to prove he's no handmaiden of the political class in this country....
But Christie has no desire to prove anything of the sort, so he's told Iowa voters he'll veto the New Jersey bill, just as he did last year.

Pacelle explains that the cages are falling out of favor:
This issue has been on state ballot three times -- first in Florida and then in Arizona and California -- and each time voters approved the ban by ever-wider margins. In Arizona, the conservative sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, was the pitchman for the HSUS ballot initiative to ban the crates. In 2006, 62 percent of Arizonans voted for the ban. California voters approved a similar ban with nearly 64 percent of the vote, with the measure even winning in much of the state’s more conservative and agriculture-dominated Central Valley.

Six other states, by act of their legislatures or state rulemaking, have passed laws to phase out the crates, including the major pig-producing states of Colorado, Michigan and Ohio.

But those public policy gains are less compelling than the revolution that's occurring in the food industry. More than 60 of the biggest names in food retail have said they want to cleanse their supply chains of pork from outfits that confine the sows so severely. In announcing it would phase out its purchase of pork from farms that confine sows in crates, McDonald's -- which buys perhaps 15 percent of all pork bellies in the United States -- said gestation stalls "are not a sustainable production system for the future. There are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows." Denny’s said that banning gestation crates "is best for our company, our guests, and our continued work to improve animal welfare."

During the last 30 months, almost every big name in food retail has gotten on board, including fast-food giants Burger King and Hardee's, supermarket chains Kroger and Safeway, food service providers such as Aramark, Compass and Sodexo, and middle-America restaurants such as Bob Evans and Cracker Barrel.

But the argument that really clinches the case is that some of the biggest pig producers have decided to get out of the crates business. Smithfield and Cargill have made pledges to rid their production systems of that form of extreme confinement. Tyson has indicated it wants to move in that direction.
But Christie won't yield.

Hell, there's even an editorial in favor of the bill at National Review:
... The National Pork Producers Council opposes S998, because it opposes any legislation that might constrain animal agriculture. The group's communications director belittled animal-welfare concerns, telling a journalist, "So our animals can't turn around for the 2.5 years that they are in the stalls producing piglets.... I don't know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around.”

Most of us are not so dismissive where cruelty to animals is at issue, which is why the bill is supported by 93 percent of New Jersey voters, including 94 percent of Democrats and 92 percent of Republicans. It's hard to imagine a more popular piece of legislation.

... it's not just animal science that is offended by the crates -- so is basic morality. In short, forcing pigs to spend their lives in such conditions violates elementary principles of decency, compassion, and mercy.

It also violates Biblical principles, which teach us that righteous people have concern for the welfare of their animals. "Animals are God's creatures," the Catholic Catechism teaches. "He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals."

Matthew Scully, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, has written eloquently about the need to get rid of these crates, both in his book Dominion, which opens with a denunciation of crates as violating conservative principles, and in articles for The American Conservative and National Review Online.

The bill on Governor Christie's desk right now is a common-sense measure that merely requires that pigs in New Jersey be able to lie down when they wish and turn around comfortably.

Surely, that's the least we as a society can provide them.
Nahhh. Not Chris Christie.

New Jersey doesn't have a lot of pig farms, and animal rights activists say none actually use these cages. So the bill won't have much practical effect. But by signing it, Christie could articulate a principle. His veto also articulates a principle:

"Me first."

This CNN story acknowledges that, yes, it does seem quite possible that Republicans will throw sand in the gears of government in the next two years. But you can't blame them, because it's really not their fault:
... Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham warned Obama could spark a backlash over immigration.

"If he goes it alone he is going to run into the ire of the American people," Graham said, though said Congress also had a responsibility to act....

GOP leaders are already braced for pressure from the right for a tangible and not merely symbolic reflex when the president acts.

"If the president moves forward and does his executive action, the Republicans have no choice but to respond," said Dan Holler, communications director of Heritage Action for America, a conservative non profit group.

"That response needs to be legislative. The vehicle that makes most sense is denying funding for the activity that they say is unconstitutional and inappropriate." ...

Obama's immigration move is certain to ignite a firestorm of grass roots conservative anger. That will in turn pile pressure on rank-and-file Republican House members who campaigned for office slamming what they see as an imperial president....

Nothing worries Republicans in deeply conservative districts more than the prospect of a primary challenge, and many simply cannot afford not to mount the kind of rowdy response to Obama which will rock Boehner's restive caucus....

Executive orders on immigration will also detonate as the 2016 presidential race dawns, trapping Republicans between the party's activist base and a desire to engage Hispanic voters vital to GOP White House hopes....
Paragraph after paragraph of this story portrays Republicans, once again, as helpless prisoners of their voter base, of right-wing activist groups, and even of "the American people" overall. Republicans don't want to be obstructionist -- they have no choice! They're "under pressure"! Left to their own devices, they'd make deals like crazy!

And, we're told, this puts the poor dears at great risk:
Republican anger is however masking a serious problem the party has yet to resolve : how to hit back at what it sees a presidential power grab.

Other than warning that Obama would "poison the well" for future cooperation, GOP leaders won't say whether they will use pending federal funding bills as leverage.

That route led to a damaging government shutdown for which the GOP paid a heavy political price last year.
This story comes to my attention via BooMan, who writes:
Tell me, please, exactly how the GOP paid "a heavy political price" for shutting down the government and hurting our credit rating. They just had a huge victory in the Senate elections, the exact kind of statewide elections where politicians are supposed to be punished for pandering to the worst extremists in their party. They paid no political price and were, in fact, richly rewarded for their irresponsible behavior.

And if there is one single dominant reason for why the GOP got away with acting like five year-old bullies, it is because the media never mentioned their behavior in the 60 days leading up to the elections. If a tree falls in the forest and the only sound heard is about the Ebola virus and ISIS, then no one knows that a tree fell in the forest.

If the media had actually had a discussion about how a Republican-led Congress was likely to behave, then what's coming wouldn't be such a surprise to people.
Mainstream journalists didn't bring up the shutdown (or GOP intransigence in general) because they found the GOP's "Obama wants ISIS and Ebola to kill Americans" narrative more appealing -- but insider journalists also didn't mention the shutdown because they still think the shutdown wasn't a reflection of the "real" Republican Party. To the media, the shutdown was the work of a bunch of crazies who forced it on the party's congressional leadership and "establishment" members, all of whom were helpless to resist.

And the establishment types are being called helpless again in this story. It's never their fault. Therefore, Republicans are never responsible for their own behavior.

That's awfully convenient for them, isn't it?

Why you'd almost think Republicans were deliberately misleading us when they said they were going to concentrate on showing us they could govern:
The Republican Congress is getting ready to ramp up the Obamacare hearings, firing up enough investigations to keep Obama administration officials visiting hearing rooms on both sides of the Capitol for the next two years.

They'll shine the spotlight on everything from cable-friendly scandals to tried-and-true complaints about the law's side effects. They’re going to investigate premium increases for individuals and small businesses, the impact on the federal deficit, payments to insurance companies that attract too many sick people, and the threat of huge tax headaches for some Obamacare customers next spring.

They'll be watching closely as the new enrollment season for the health care law begins on Saturday, although they'll only jump in with hearings if there's another disaster. And yes, Republicans are going to have a lot of fun with Jonathan Gruber....

They're probably not going to drag Gruber up to the Hill to testify, but they will use his comments to taunt administration witnesses and suggest that the law wasn't passed in an honest, transparent way....
I just had a crazy thought: Maybe all that talk about making governing the #1 priority was a ruse to throw mainstream-media journalists off the scent, while Republicans really planned to do nothing but this sort of thing for the next two years. That couldn't be right, could it? That would suggest that the mainstream press is stupid and naive and easily gulled. Could that possibly be true?

I love the fact that Republicans want to have a Gruber show trial, but don't want Gruber to show up. I guess they're afraid he could be contrite, in which case portraying him as worse than Hitler for the next two years might not seem sporting. Or maybe they're afraid that he'll demonstrate why, despite his loose tongue, he actually earned the money he's been paid by the federal government (and some state governments) -- in all likelihood, he understand this stuff on a technical level better than anyone else in America, and we might actually get to see that side of him, as ignorant Republicans struggle to keep up.

But yes, there are going to be multiple hearings in multiple committees in both houses of Congress. It's going to be all Obamacare all the time in Congress (unless, I suppose, Benghazi intervenes). But the mainstream press won't ask whether this contradicts the Republicans' pious pronouncements about governing. Hey, Republicans gave their word. It would be unfair to hold them to it.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


After President Obama announces executive action on immigration, Republicans may very well shut down the government -- and on Meet the Press today, Bobby Jindal was already trying to blame a GOP shutdown on Democrats:

Very quickly on immigration. If the president goes through with his executive action, do you think Republicans and Capitol Hill ought to use even the power of shutting down the government to stop him from doing it?


Two things. I don't think the president should shut down the government to try to break the Constitution. The reality is this. I do think the--


You think the president would be shutting down the government?


Oh, absolutely.


So you do want Republicans to fight him on this to the point that it could shut down the government?


Absolute-- I don't think the president should shut down the government.


But you're twisting my question.


But wait, wait.


That means you want that kind of showdown?


Let's step back and understand what we're talking about. So the president said, "I want to break the law." He purposely said I’m going to wait till after the election, because I know it's not going to be popular to grant amnesty to millions of folks here that are here illegally. We had an election. He said his policies were on the ballot.

He lost in red states, purple states, blue states. The American people overwhelmingly rejected and rejected his policies. Now he's saying, "I'm still going to break the law." Talk about arrogance. This president used to say, "Elections have consequences." We're talking about how can the Congress force the president to follow the law?

I would expect even Democrats who may agree with him on substance, to say the right way to do this is to follow the Constitution, follow the law. No, we shouldn't shut down the government, but absolutely Republicans should do everything they can to force the president to follow the law. Let's secure the border. No, the president shouldn't shut down the government so that he can break the law.
At that point, Todd just gave up trying to make the factual point that if the government is shut down it will be because Republicans chose to do it. (To give Todd his due, he'd just finished persistently questioning Jindal's decision to refuse the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.)

Jindal's "I don't think the president should shut down the government" line isn't exactly original; many Republicans still insist that Democrats were to blame for the last government shutdown, a line that sounds perfectly logical to the wingnut base but was met with disbelieving laughter when Ted Cruz insisted to CBS's Bob Schieffer last January that the president did the shutting down.

It doesn't really matter -- Republicans never seem to pay a price at the poll for this sort of thing -- but I guess they can't get out of the habit of trying to create their own facts.

Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit is regularly called "the stupidest man on the Internet." That's inaccurate. Hoft is a very smart disseminator of disinformation and other forms of propaganda. The stupidest people on the Internet are people who read Jim Hoft and believe what he writes.

Case in point? This post:
Obama Shows Democracy Dissident Aung San Suu Kyi How a Real Tyrant Operates

... Despite his recent midterm shellacking Barack Obama told reporters in a joint press conference with dissident Aung San Suu Kyi that he will move ahead with his amnesty plan despite his lack of legal authority on the issue.

The Politico reported, via Free Republic:
President Barack Obama on Friday defended his plans to use executive power to bypass Congress, signaling that he’s determined to move on issues like immigration and climate change, especially when lawmakers have failed to act....
Yeah, right -- Obama's "tyranny" far exceeds that of the Burmese government:
In early August, 1988, peaceful demonstrations broke out in Rangoon against the regime's disastrous economic policies, and quickly spread to other cities. Students, monks, lawyers, laborers, and others marched in the streets. Ne Win reportedly gave an order that guns were "not to shoot upwards," and soldiers opened fire, killing nearly six thousand people. General Saw Maung seized power, formed a junta called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), and imposed martial law....

In 1990, the military regime allowed elections, which the National League for Democracy overwhelmingly won. SLORC, after initially saying it would abide by the result, declared itself Burma’s ruling authority and annulled the election results; many opposition politicians fled into exile. Seventeen years later, thousands of young monks marched in red robes through the streets of Rangoon demanding democracy, in the dramatic, weeks-long Saffron Revolution, and were joined by thousands of civilians. The junta, now led by General Than Shwe and renamed the State Peace and Development Council, opened fire on demonstrators and jailed thousands. The United Nations reported that between thirty and forty monks and between fifty and seventy civilians were killed. Since then, the regime has maintained tough censorship laws and imposed long prison terms for dissent. There are an estimated twenty-one hundred political prisoners in Myanmar’s jails.
Remind me again: How many Obama opponents have been shot in the streets by soldiers? How many have been imprisoned for opposing immigration reform or Obamacare?

On 9 November 1996, the motorcade that [Aung San Suu Kyi] was traveling in with other National League for Democracy leaders Tin Oo and U Kyi Maung, was attacked in Yangon. About 200 men swooped down on the motorcade, wielding metal chains, metal batons, stones and other weapons. The car that Aung San Suu Kyi was in had its rear window smashed, and the car with Tin Oo and U Kyi Maung had its rear window and two backdoor windows shattered. It is believed the offenders were members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) who were allegedly paid 500 kyats (@ USD $0.50) each to participate....

Aung San Suu Kyi has been placed under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years, on numerous occasions, since she began her political career...
... during her early years of detention, she was often in solitary confinement. She was not allowed to see her two sons or her husband, who died of cancer in March 1999.
And from Amnesty International:
Many of Myanmar's [Burma's] 55 million people live in poverty and suffer from ongoing human rights violations. Those who express dissenting views face harassment, arbitrary arrest, torture, imprisonment and sometimes even extrajudicial executions. Political prisoners probably number in the hundreds, maybe more. No transparent process has been carried out to determine the correct number....

Political prisoners in Myanmar are still held under vague laws frequently used by the government to criminalize peaceful political dissent. They are being held in grim conditions, with inadequate food and sanitation. Many are in poor health and do not receive proper medical treatment. Many were tortured during their initial interrogation and detention, and still risk torture as a punishment at the hands of prison officers.
Yeah, just like America -- right, Jim? You have so many friends who've been imprisoned and tortured for right-wing anti-government views here in America -- right, Jim?

Saturday, November 15, 2014


A lot of lefties think President Obama will be impeached in the next two years. I believe a serious impeachment effort will get under way within hours of the president's upcoming immigration announcement -- and I suppose the impeachment clamor could be so great that the House leadership will feel compelled to let the process to play out. But while there really aren't very many differences between "establishment" Republicans and crazy teabaggers these days, the establishment types felt burned by the bad public reaction to last year's government shutdown (even though the anger dissipated almost instantly once the government started up again) and seem to have concluded that an impeachment effort would have a similar effect. Besides, the last guy Republicans impeached is now the most enduringly popular living political figure in America. Nobody wants a repeat of that.

And, of course, Republicans would need a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict. Republicans assume they couldn't possibly get a dozen or so Democrats to vote with them (though these are Democrats we're talking about, so maybe they're underestimating their chances). I say it's not going to happen.

But that leaves Republicans having to explain to their rabid base why they're not going to do what the base desperately wants. And so on Thursday night they sent out Representative Trey Gowdy to deliver what was clearly a scripted one-liner, in order to make the failure to impeach look like the tough-minded, True Patriot thing to do:
Republican bulldog Rep. Trey Gowdy put the kibosh on the idea of impeaching President Obama during a nationally television Fox News interview, telling his broadcast audience that booting the commander-in-chief from his office would open the doors to something even worse....

First, host Bill O'Reilly asked Mr. Gowdy what he thought of the argument made by Judge Andrew Napolitano -- that Mr. Obama's proposed executive orders to grant amnesty to millions of illegals would rise to the level of an impeachable offense....

Mr. Gowdy's reply was both blunt and concise.

The former federal prosecutor from South Carolina said, The Daily Caller reported: "Have you met Joe Biden?"
Savor how that story, from The Washington Times, ascribes anti-impeachment sentiment to a "Republican bulldog" who's a "former federal prosecutor from South Carolina." Yeah, they really want the rubes to think restraint is a good idea.

The right-wing noise machine is really hitting this one hard, in an attempt to manufacture consent on the right. The Daily Caller's headline is "Trey Gowdy Makes The Ultimate Argument Against Impeaching Obama." Fox Nation goes with "WATCH: Trey Gowdy's Soon-to-Be Classic One-Liner Against Impeaching Obama: 'Have You Met Joe Biden?'"

Britain's Daily Mail, which makes a concerted effort to craft clickbait for U.S. right-wingers, add this:
A senior aide to a House Republican told MailOnline on Friday that 'Avoiding the "I" word' is a case of 'better the devil you know than the devil you don't.'

'Only in this case, we're pretty sure we know both devils. And Biden – he's two floppy shoes short of a complete clown outfit. Let's be honest: He's Obama's insurance policy.'
Was Gowdy's quip scripted? Watch the exchange, starting at 2:08 in the clip below. Notice Gowdy's wooden delivery of the one-liner at 2:43. I'd say yes, it was absolutely scripted for him.

So GOP establishmentarians want maximum rage when Obama makes his announcement, but they don't watch impeachment. Can they hit the sweet spot? We'll see.