Hullabaloo

How Arizona Anti-Gay Legislation Can Hurt the People It Intends to Support

Here's an interesting perspective on Arizona's new gay discrimination law. The author talks about the fact that Jackie Robinson breaking the color line didn't stop racial discrimination. In fact, black players for many years after had to contend with Jim Crow laws when they traveled with their teams.

He uses the examples of Hank Aaron and Michael Sam to examine Arizona's proposal:
 

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Why "Fines" Don't Stop Bad Corporate Behavior

As anyone who is paying attention knows by now, the slap-on-wrist "fines" being levied against criminal corporations aren't doing much to curtail illegal behavior:
 

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The Awful Service Jobs Replacing Skilled Labor

We already knew it anecdotally, of course, but a new MIT studyadds further weight to the notion that outsourcing and mechanization are turning previously well-paying skilled jobs into low-paying service jobs:
 

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NSA Document Says NSA Needs More Power

This latest NSA revelation from James Risen and Laura Poitras inthe New York Times is one of the creepiest yet. It's a mission statement that forthrightly asserts that if the laws might interfere with the NSA's ability to function to its full, Orwellian, Big Brother capabilities those laws need to be eliminated. (I guess the Constitution would need an overhaul as well.  Talk about out of date ...)

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The Terrifying Future Envisioned By Libertarians

I've written often before about how much of the war between the American left and right is essentially the building of sand castles in the face of the oncoming tide of globalization, deskilling and mechanization of the workforce accompanied by catastrophic climate change. Much of what constitutes public policy battles in this country are fought between the one-percenters simply trying to loot what's left before it all crashes and burns, and neoliberals desperately trying to pump up asset prices and force everyone into engineering programs to disguise the destruction the of the regular wage economy. The far right and progressive left, meanwhile, are each trying to bring back the social and economic norms of the 1950s and late 1960s, respectively, in efforts of utter futility.

It's rare to find columnists who are asking themselves the right questions. It's rarer still to find ones who have the right answers. But it's when conservatives and libertarians ask the right questions and come up with their honest responses that we see the crippling danger of allowing them anywhere near the levers of power. Consider the example of Tyler Cowen, conservative/libertarian economist and pundit, writing in POLITICO Magazine, celebrating a future in which a few technically skilled "economic winners" in cities will lord it over a mass of rubes left behind in an era of mass mechanization:

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Do People in More Liberal and More Conservative States Have Different Personalities?

Chris Mooney has posted an interesting take on that "personality map" that everyone's been talking about.

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Why Dianne Feinstein Is Suddenly Upset About the NSA

There are lots of people wondering just what got into Dianne Feinstein that has her suddenly all hot and bothered over the NSA revelations (which, up until now, she's defended to the hilt.) 

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Williamsburg Accord: The GOP Pledge to Generate Crises to Get Their Way

I think one of the major misunderstandings (willful, in many cases) of this budget mess is that it's about Republicans just running around willy-nilly screaming "nonononono" like toddlers having a temper tantrum. I know it looks that way, but that's not what's happening. This is a strategy. And it's one they've even written down.

Jonathan Chait wrote about this in a widely read piece yesterday in which he explains what  they've been up to:

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Republican Pushes Food Stamp Cuts, Has 0 Problem With Massive Giveaways to Big Food Industry

You've got to hand it to these misanthropic wingnuts.  They don't suffer from a surfeit of self-awareness, that's for sure:

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Food Stamp Recipients Forced to Work 20 Hours a Week in Exchange for $132 a Month in Food Stamps

Ohio is apparently overrun with lazy bums needing food and whatnot. This'll teach them:

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Why Climate Change May Be Responsible for the Horrors in Syria

If you want to understand what's happening in Syria ... 

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Are Hackers the Next Bogeyman Used to Scare Americans Into Giving Up More Rights?

Marcy Wheeler has been speculating for a very long time that the real purpose of all this NSA collection isn't terrorism, it's hacking.These comments last week from Michael Hayden lend a lot of credence to that theory in my eyes:

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The Deep South -- Where the American Dream Goes to Die

David Leonhardt has a fantastic piece about social mobility in the United States. It turns out that the American Dream, while getting more and more distant across the board, is still much more possible in some places than in others. What places? Well, surprise surprise:

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Weaponized Drones Coming to America?

I'm afraid only traitors wouldn't want armed unmanned dronesflying around over their heads

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This Really Is Big Brother: The Leak Nobody's Noticed

This McClatchy piece (written by some of the same people who got the Iraq war run-up story so right while everyone else got it wrong) is as chilling to me as anything we've heard over the past few weeks about the NSA spying. In fact, it may be worse:

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Did You Know that NSA Spymasters Are Involved in the War on Drugs?

Yesterday I posted a little tid-bit about the NSA proposing some years back to "re-think the 4th Amendment" in a once secret (now de-classified) document.  I was reading it over again this morning and happened upon this little tid-bit:

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Police Tase Foreclosed Upon Homeowners Protesting Criminal Bankers, Criminal Bankers Continue Facing No Repercussions

You may have heard about the protests at the DOJ by foreclosed upon homeowners demanding that Eric Holder prosecute some bankers for their criminal activity. If you haven't, you can read all about it here. 

Unfortunately, I received reports last night that citizens exercising their right to peacefully protest were being casually tasered by the authorities. 

This came from my friend Jason Rosenbaum, who was there:

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3 Pictures That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Guantanamo

Mother Jones featured a series of pictures released by the military of the equipment used in the Guanatanamo hunger strike the other day. I've shown similar ones before here --- the tubes, the shackles and the torture chairs. 

But the military was clearly trying to show how good the prisoners have it down there so they also showed a picture of the "luxuries" they're allowed, like "fresh olives."   Here a picture of all the belongings these lucky duckies have:

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It's Official: A Democratic President Proposes to Cut Social Security

Mark this day. For the first time in history, a Democratic president has officially proposed to cut the Democratic Party's signature New Deal program, Social Security:

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Fun Facts About Rich People: Walmart Heirs Own More Wealth Than Bottom 40% of Americans; the Wealthy Give Less to Charity Than the Poor

I was watching Bill Maher and his guests last Friday calling the American people morons because they don't want the government to cut programs they value. All the wealthy people on the panel went on and on and on about how those idiotic Americans refuse to make sacrifices for the greater good because they're just sooooo stupid. 

Ok, I'll agree to live in penury in my old age but I think these people should be forced to join me:

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Mitt Romney Shunned at CPAC -- Why Do Right-Wingers End Up Despising Their Standard-bearers?

Much has been made of Mitt Romney's cold reception among conservatives just a few months after being their standardbearer for the presidency. The usual reasons given are that Romney was too liberal on social issues, didn't run a good campaign, wasn't adequately charismatic, etc.

But Mitt Romney is only the latest in a long string of GOP presidents and presidential candidates to be shunned by their own party since Ronald Reagan. Let's look at them in sequence:

1992: George W. Bush loses to Bill Clinton. Between breaking the "no new taxes" pledge, losing fringe support to Ross Perot, and coming off as an out-of-touch Kennebunkport Yankee, Bush Senior was quickly shunned and forgotten by the conservative base.

1996: After a whopping defeat, Bob Dole was barely heard from again beyond making ads for erectile dysfunction. The GOPcouldn't even be bothered recently to pass a bill on behalf of the disabled in spite of his emotional presence and support.

2000-2008: Despite his lionization by the conservative establishment for years, it's important to remember that George W. Bush was dealt two major legislative defeats, largely by his own caucus. The first was his attempt to nominate Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and the second was immigration reform. After a narrow victory in 2004, Democrats rolled into control of Congress in 2006. After the financial crisis and bailout in 2008, Bush Junior was so unpopular that he had to stay well out of the public limelight to give John McCain a chance.

2008: Speaking of John McCain, he was so ill-liked by the Republican establishment even prior to his defeat that he felt the need to rally his base by nominating the famously ignorant Wasilla Wonder as his vice-presidential nominee.

2012: Mitt Romney. No comment necessary.

Nor have the vice-presidential picks fared much better: of Dan Quayle, Jack Kemp, Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin, and Paul Ryan, only the last three have much respect among the GOP base. But Palin and Cheney are absolutely toxic to those who aren't hardcore conservatives, and Paul Ryan is well on his way there.

Democrats, by contrast, have no such problem. Progressives have been upset with Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama for various reasons. But they have remained popular not only with the majority of the Democratic base, but also among the general public. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton are rockstars in the party with high public approval ratings. Al Gore has become a respected leader on climate change and sympathetic figure given the way the 2000 election was snatched from him. And Barack Obama is still Barack Obama. Of the Vice Presidents and VP candidates, only Joe Lieberman has become toxic for his politics (Edwards would still be popular but for his personal indiscretions)--and that because he has moved so far to the right.

What does all of this mean? It suggests something rather powerful.It suggests that Republican policies are deeply unpopular and ineffective, but that the Republican base refuses to believe or acknowledge that to be true. 

Republican Presidential candidates have lost the popular vote in five of the last six elections. Their base has no choice but to blithely interpret those results as the product of inadequate conservatism. Yet those presidential candidates have usually chosen more conservative vice-presidential candidates to help rally the base--and those vice-presidential picks are even moreallergenic to the public than the presidential nominees.

Meanwhile, the only Republican to win the popular vote in the last six election cycles was George W. Bush, a presidential failure so monumental that Republicans have cleansed their memories of his very existence.

Democratic presidents and candidates have no such problems. Bill Clinton was a successful president. Al Gore's warnings about Social Security lockboxes and climate change have been proven right. John Kerry's warnings about Republican financial and foreign policy have been proven right. And despite our numerous misgivings as progressives, Barack Obama remains a largely popular president navigating the worst economy since the Great Depression.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Mitt Romney is the latest victim of the Right's capricious relationship to its standardbearers. The problem isn't their candidates. It's their ideas. But the Right is all too happy to blame the candidates when their ideas fail the test of reality and public opinion.

The GOP Has Taken America Hostage -- Is There a Downside for Them?

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the fiscal cliff "negotiations" is that there is essentially no downside for Congressional Republicans in holding the country and its economy hostage. Democrats are less than two months removed from having resoundingly won the Presidency, gained seats in the Senate, and earned over a million more votes for House candidates than did Republicans. Due to gerrymandering, however, the Republicans still have a narrow majority in the House. Due to the Senate's ungovernable filibuster rules, Republicans can also control the balance of legislation in the Upper Chamber as well.

It's true that Republicans have been taking a beating in the polling on the fiscal cliff negotiations. That's not surprising, since Republicans want very unpopular things. Further cuts to earned benefit programs and lower taxes on the rich were resoundingly rejected by voters in November, and they continue to poll poorly. In theory, fear of voter backlash should cause Republicans to think twice about holding the line on these policies. But voters already rejected Republicans by wide margins this year and it did little to weaken their negotiating position.

There is little problem for Republicans, then, in attempting to get their way through holding the economy hostage despite the clear will of the American people. The biggest danger to most individual Republicans remains a primary challenge from someone even farther to the right. The vast majority of them are so protected by gerrymandering as to face little to no danger from a Democratic challenger in the near future.

Also, since the conservative agenda depends on the notion that government itself is a failure and doesn't work, there's no issue for them in making that supposed incompetence a reality. Since the President and his party end up being blamed by voters when economic conditions are poor, scuttling the economy in the wake the President's re-election is actually a smart political move for them.

It's up to Democrats to show that government can be a force for good and to protect the economy, which means that only Democrats have the incentive to reach a deal to avert crises like the "fiscal cliff" or the debt ceiling. Republicans have no such incentive.

But there is yet another twisted irony here. Since conservatives both lack incentive to make a deal work and want deeply unpopular policies, it makes perfect sense for them to withhold any cooperation on a deal that makes sense and the American people actually want, opting instead to force most Democrats to vote for an amalgam of terrible policies while they themselves remain mostly intransigent. And why not? Since seniors tend to like their earned benefits but support Republicans because of fear that tax revenues are being spent on the "wrong" people, why not force Democrats to cut those benefits while raising taxes to avert a fiscal crisis? There's no significant backlash Republicans can expect from voting no.

From the conservative calculus, there's no reason to stop the taking of economic hostages and no reason not to push the damage of horrible votes to avert crises back onto Democrats.

So what should Democrats do? The same thing governments do when confronted by more pedestrian hostage takers: refuse to negotiate. Insist on the correct and popular policies, and if Republicans refuse to abide by them, then allow the chips to fall where they will on various fiscal crises.

There should be, then, no deal on the fiscal cliff today. Democrats should make it clear who was responsible for the failure to come to a deal and why, allow the tax increases and cuts to take place, and then do little over the next two years but force Republicans to vote against simple and popular policies like middle-class tax cuts, repeal of the most onerous sequestration cuts, immigration reform and the entire rest of the broadly popular Democratic agenda all the way until November 2014.

It may or may not be that voters will punish Republicans appropriately at that time. But at the very least Democrats will avoid the indignity of being manipulated by hostage takers into voting against the American people just to reach a terrible deal.

The Right-Wingers Who Said Hillary Clinton Was Faking Her Concussion

You've undoubtedly heard that Hillary Clinton has been hospitalized due to complications from her concussion. 

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White House Magical Thinking on Striking Medicare-Cutting Deal With Republicans

If you are curious as to what the White House really thinks about the fiscal cliff, I'd have to guess that [Obama senior adviser] David Plouffe would know:

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Rush Limbaugh's Vile Rants Are So Bad They're Screwing Other Radio Programs

It would appear that Rush Limbaugh's vile form of commentary is starting to have a negative impact on radio profits as a whole:

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6 Restaurants You Should Avoid If You Don't Want Your Food Cooked By Sick People

Here's a handy list, courtesy of Wonkette, of the restaurants you need to avoid if you want to avoid having your food handled by sick people:

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Watch: Secret Mormon Ceremonies Revealed -- How Mormons Baptize Dead Non-Mormons

As a child of ex-Mormon parents whose blood relatives are mostly still practicing Mormons, I heard a good deal about the secret Temple ceremonies that no one was ever allowed to speak of, much less put on film. They have been described before by participants, but actual footage of the ceremonies has leaked onto the web in the last week. Well worth a peek:

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