Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Last Call

One of the main reasons I'm not worried about 2010 is that the Teabaggers are simply pretending the world before 2008 didn't exist.  They are convinced centrist independent voters will simply forget about 2001-2008 too, that dislike for the Democrats will equate to instant love for the Republicans.

As Steve M. reminds us, that's just crazy talk.
Please note that Sarah Palin -- possibly the next Republican candidate for president -- and Representative Michelle Bachmann will be joined as featured speakers at the First National Tea Party Convention by uber-birther Joseph Farah of WorldNet Daily, who wrote today at WND, "I am recommitting my energies and resources to the search for verifiable truth on this matter of eligibility."

Oh, and for good measure, another of Farah's fellow speakers will be Fox News contributor Angela McGlowan.

Anyone think the selection of Farah as a speaker is going to cause Palin, Bachmann, or McGowan to drop out? Me either.
By all means, let this be a complete freakshow of an event.  I want to see Birthers, racists, and assholes in their full Obama Derangement Syndrome glory, and I want to see it played again and again on all the networks, just so America sees exactly what the alternative to Obama and the Democrats will be in November.

Furthermore, I want these whackos standing shoulder to shoulder with as many Republicans as possible.  I want to see people earnestly asking "Ms. Palin, when you're President, you'll round up all the damn Muslims in this country, right?  You'll put them in camps, right?"  And then I want to see the next guy say "Oh yeah and the illegal Mexicans, too, right?  You'll do that?  For America?"

And I want that on live TV.

We should only be so lucky.

Zandar's Thought Of the Day

Me, this morning:
In fact, if the Dems hold Dodd's seat, and the other 14 races all lead to turnovers...the Dems STILL would have 60 seats.

In a "throw the bums out" year, it's important to remember the Republicans are hated even more than the Dems right now, and that a fair number of the bums have (R)s next to their names.
TPMDC's Eric Kleefield, this evening:
With the upheavals that have taken place from Democratic retirements in the past two days, are the Dems doomed to lose their 60-seat, filibuster-proof margin in the Senate this year? On close examination, this is not in any way a certain outcome -- because the Republicans have a lot to lose this year, too.
Just sayin'.  Right now, any talk of the Dems losing control of the Senate is sheer idiocy.  It's not going to happen unless some sort of major upheaval occurs.

Having said that, I wish the Village would stop acting like the Dems going under 60 seats (to say, 58) means they somehow lose control of the Senate to the Republicans.   That's how f'cked up our Senate is: where 59 seats to 41 means the 41 effectively control all legislation.

Yet Another President Odubya Moment

Two in one day, even.  This one via Digby:
They made a campaign ad called "Billy" against lobbyist power and then they immediately invited "Billy" to practically move into the White House? What in the hell were they thinking?
The Billy in question is Big Pharma lobbyist king Billy Tauzin.

The ad in question is here:

And the problem in question is this:
White House visitor logs dumped late in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve show that Billy Tauzin, the top lobbyist for the prescription drug industry and once a favorite target of Barack Obama, visited the White House at least 11 times in Obama's first six months in office.
As Digby says, Obama is in real trouble on this one.
Aside from the policy implications, which we already had to swallow, the political problem the Democrats have bought for themselves with this are huge. It would be different if Obama hadn't explicitly run on a clean government platform and if the Republicans weren't blatantly hypocritical opportunists. But he did and they are and this is powerful mojo that plays into the hands of the tea partiers and Republicans.

I can't get over the administration's sheer political malpractice in handling this populist mood in the country. I don't know if they all convinced themselves that they were political magicians and therefore the rules don't apply to them or what, but Democrats should have known that after having turned the phrase "culture of corruption" into their mantra, they would be particularly vulnerable to appearances of impropriety (not to mention actual impropriety.) Bad, bad move.
And she's dead right.  Odubya cut a deal with Tauzin right off the bat.  Then he hoped nobody would notice.  I give the Washington Examiner a lot of crap, but they did their job this time.  Obama really looks like an asshole on this one.

The Count Of...Moose Lady?

Mark Leibovich's piece in the NY Times Magazine on Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio is up, but the most interesting part of the piece is how it relates to Sarah Palin, especially this section (emphasis mine):
It is not uncommon for a party out of power to undergo an identity crisis and an internal bloodletting, and it is Crist’s bad luck that his race in 2010 fits the frame of a philosophical debate that has been fulminating in the Republican Party for several months. The race, and the national debate, pits the governing pragmatists against the ideological purists. The purists say that a Republican revival depends on hewing to conservative ideas, resisting compromise and generally taking a dim view of government. Tea Party rallies are filled with such purists, whose populist icons — Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News’s Glenn Becktend to be unburdened by the pressures of governing through a recession.
How quickly we forget Sarah Palin was Governor of West Canada.  But that ideological purity part does describe the tea party wing of the GOP, alright.  That's the part that never makes sense to me, running around saying "We hate government and we're going to do everything we can to effectively cripple it, so vote for me to be in government!"  It's just trading one set of masters for another.
Not long ago, Jim DeMint, a Republican senator from South Carolina, summed up the purity side this way: “I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.” And when I asked Rubio recently which current senator he most admires, he said DeMint.
DeMint may get his wish.
Crist represents the governing pragmatist who was once seen as a winner who could reclaim the political center for Republicans. He was a popular governor with crossover appeal among Democrats and independents. For a time, Arnold Schwarzenegger fit this mold in California. So did, to a degree, Mitt Romney, when he was the governor of Massachusetts, and Mike Huckabee in Arkansas, though each worked to present himself as ideologically pure in his presidential run.
Pragmatists are stupid.  The Teabaggers want to be led by screaming, gut-check types. Presidents don't think, they do!
In recent decades, both parties have looked to governors with moderate appeal to deliver them from rough patches (see Bill Clinton for the Democrats in 1992 or George W. Bush for the Republicans in 2000). But especially when the economy goes south, governors can be sunk by their can-do bona fides and their executive distaste for ideological zeal. It is almost impossible to scour the record of a governor presiding in a weak economy without finding some nod to pragmatism.
Unless you're Sarah Palin, in which case the Village happily forgets you were the Governor of the state with the most handouts per capita in the country.  Teabaggers also have short memories, too.

But seriously, Charlie Crist is doomed because he's a governor, and Sarah Palin is a winner because she gave up on being one and quit.  Palin is considered a serious Republican star.  Crist's career is all but over.  I don't think the problem is with Crist here, but with the GOP.

The Napolitano Mambo Italiano, Part 2

CNN's Ed Rollins says HEADS MUST ROLL and advises Obama to give Janet Napolitano the axe, because somebody has to be fired.
When I worked in the White House, I was told it was the big leagues. Zero defects was the rule. It was like the National Football League and you had to perform at the very top level or you were gone.

We have just finished the regular season of the National Football League and there are some lessons to be learned from that sport. Perform and you survive. Don't perform and you are fired.

Eight years after 9/11, the system failed. Mr. President, follow the example of your neighbor, the unpopular Redskins owner Dan Snyder, and hold someone accountable. Snyder fired his general manager and his football coach for a failed season.

You need to fire someone for the security failures. This is the second big-time security failure this year -- the White House gate crashers and now the Detroit bomber. The two agencies that have failed security big-time are the Secret Service and TSA.

The person in charge of both agencies is Janet Napolitano. Fire her and convince us that standing in long lines at airports is worth the price.

Getting mad is not enough, Mr. President. We're mad too. But you can do something about it!
Yes, he can fire Ed Rollins, too, for being an idiot.  Rollins even admits that firing Napolitano will not improve the situation, but it'll make Obama look better after the unaccountable Bush Administration.  Yeah, and who is he going to get to replace her that the Senate GOP won't filibuster, block, delay or put a hold on?  We still don't have a TSA head because of Jim DeMint.  The GOP will turn the hearing into a circus...and that is if Obama's nominee even gets a confirmation hearing.

Idiocy abounds.  Problems in our policy abound as well.  Firing Janet Napolitano is not a solution.

Another Odubya Moment

Spencer Ackerman pulls no punches on calling President Obama's new airline security policy what it is:  de facto profiling (emphasis mine):
We need to call this what it is: a security risk. If you are one of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, a president who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia is sending you the message that you are considered a threat. Not even Michael Chertoff and Mike Hayden think this is defensible. That ought to tell you something profound. al-Qaeda shows every sign of diminishing potency — that is, its ability to attract qualified recruits and have its message resonate among the world’s Muslims — while U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement capabilities increase. Its strategy — its only strategy — has always been to get the U.S. to overreact, overreach and counterproductively lash out and draw Muslims into al-Qaeda’s corner. Usama bin Laden is really explicit about this.

From this perspective, Matt Duss is wrong and Bill Kristol really is correct: al-Qaeda couldn’t pull off a successful terrorist attack on Flight 253. But it’s getting its victory nevertheless, every time a Pakistani family is pulled out of line on an airport and searched. Kristol doesn’t understand why he’s right, of course, and he’s actually doing al-Qaeda’s work for it here, but it’s nevertheless true. And this is happening not while the hated George W. Bush is president, but during the term of the man who stood up in Cairo to say that America and Islam are not at war. If this sort of dangerous hysteria is what emerges after a failed attack, imagine what will happen if al-Qaeda, God forbid, pulls off something at home.
Ackerman is 100% correct here.  AQ's entire goal has been to make the Muslim world hate the United States.  When recruiters and jihadis can point at this policy and go "Do you see?  America already considers you the enemy of their country.  They do not consider you to have rights.  They do not consider you to even be human.  They pull you aside because you are a Muslim.  To them, this is a crime."

And again, this is Obama's policy...or should I say Odubya's policyTo recap:
“It is unfair to discriminate against over 150 million people because of the behavior of one person,” Dora Akunyili, Nigeria’s information minister, said Monday, referring Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of hiding explosives in his underwear on the Dec. 25 flight.

The Algerian ambassador to the United States, Abdallah Baali, said he would file a protest once he was given formal notice of the change.
“The United States has the right to protect the security of its citizens,” Mr. Baali said. “But this is discrimination against the citizens of Algeria, who do not pose any particular risk to the people of the United States.”
And we do have the right to protect our citizens.  We do not have the right to assume 1.6 billion people are the enemy and treat them as such, unless you're heavy into self-fulfilling prophecies.

And yet that's exactly what Obama's new policy is doing.  Republicans still run our foreign policy, and the whole point of that policy is to allow the complete trashing of our civil liberties.  We're trading liberty for security, and we deserve neither, as Ben Franklin said.

Still Not Worried About 2010, Part 2

Why am I so calm?  Dems are retiring.  Rasmussen has Republicans up by nine on the generic ballot.  Pundits on the GOP side are no longer talking about 1994, they're talking about worse than 1994 for the Dems, as in how they will not only easily recapture the House but the Senate as well.

To which I say  "Not so fast.  You guys are broke."

monopolygif.gif Broke image by Otis_Campbell

A 2009 spending spree has left the Republican National Committee (RNC) with its worst election-year cash flow this decade.

The largest GOP party committee has $8.7 million in the bank heading into an election year with 37 governors’ races, a dozen major Senate contests, dozens more in the House and an all-important redistricting cycle on the horizon.

Said one RNC official: “It is very troubling, and the thing is, most people don’t understand this. But it is really troubling.”

The RNC had $22.8 million in cash and no debt when Michael Steele was elected chairman at the end of January, but has since seen its cash on hand drop to less than $9 million at the end of November.

Over the previous five months, while governors’ battles were being waged in New Jersey and Virginia, the committee saw its cash reserves drop by a full $15 million. Through November, the committee spent more than $90 million last year, which is nearly $20 million more than the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

“They’re spending money at 2002 levels when they are not raising money at those levels,” said a GOP operative. “That kind of thing worked when RNC was awash in money, but you can’t do that in this environment.
What?  I thought the environment meant Republicans taking over easily.  Could it be that America still hates the GOP more than they hate the Dems right now?

You betcha.  People are mad at the Dems...but not as mad as they still are at the Republicans after eight years of Bush.  They're not about to put the Republicans back in charge.

[UPDATE 12:29 PM]  Steve Benen also picks up on this:
In the House, 14 GOP incumbents have decided not to seek re-election, while 10 Democratic incumbents have made the same announcement. Does this mean Republicans are "dropping like flies"?

In the Senate, six Republican incumbents have decided not to seek re-election, while two Democratic incumbents have made the same announcement. Is this evidence of a mass Democratic exodus?

Among governors, several incumbents in both parties are term-limited and prevented from running again, but only three Democrats who can seek re-election -- Parkinson in Kansas, Doyle in Wisconsin, and Ritter in Colorado -- have chosen not to. For Republicans, the number is four -- Douglas in Vermont, Rell in Connecticut, Crist in Florida, and Pawlenty in Minnesota. (Update: the GOP number is five if we include Palin in Alaska.)

So, to review, Republican retirements outnumber Democratic retirements in the House, in the Senate, and among governors. The preferred Republican/media meme of the day doesn't match up well against reality.
Once again, if this is such a good year for Republicans, and Republicans are supposedly just a year away from opening the next Congress with control of both chambers, why are so many Republicans ditching out?

Have You Driven A Ford Lately?

Hillary's replacement in the Senate for New York is Kirsten Gillibrand, and while as a member of the House she was decidedly Blue Dog, as a Senator she's done a wonderful job as a progressive, pushing for the repeal of DADT and standing up for ACORN when most of the rest of the Senate Dems pussed out.

In other words, I was completely wrong about Gillibrand.  She's one of the good guys, and she's got Wall Street nervous too.

Naturally, Wall Street does not want to see another six years of her.  They want somebody they've already conveniently purchased:  our old Blue Dog friend Harold Ford.
About a dozen high-profile Democrats have expressed interest in backing a candidacy by Mr. Ford, including the financier Steven Rattner, who, along with his wife, Maureen White, has been among the country’s most prolific Democratic fund-raisers.

“Maureen and I worked hard for Harold in his last race because we think the world of him,” Mr. Rattner said, referring to Mr. Ford’s run for the Senate in Tennessee in 2006. “He has extraordinary drive and intelligence and will excel at anything that he chooses to do.”

Among those who have encouraged Mr. Ford to consider a run are Merryl H. Tisch, the chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, whose husband, James, is the chief executive of the Loews Corporation, and Richard Plepler, the co-president of HBO, according to people who have spoken with them.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has publicly tangled with Ms. Gillibrand, is open to the possibility of supporting a challenger of Mr. Ford’s stature, according to those familiar with his thinking.

Those who have expressed interest in a Ford campaign remain skittish about discussing it publicly, citing Ms. Gillibrand’s power over billions of dollars in financing around the state. The state’s senior senator, Charles E. Schumer, has been aggressively elbowing out potential primary challengers to Ms. Gillibrand.

Mr. Ford, chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, would begin the race at a significant financial disadvantage: Ms. Gillibrand had raised $5.5 million as of Oct. 1, and is expected to raise tens of millions more.

But he has a formidable track record as a fund-raiser. During his Senate run, he amassed about $15 million, with about a fifth of his contributions coming from New York. Mr. Ford, who is black, may also be able to tap into African-American donors nationwide; the Senate is poised to lose its sole black member, Roland W. Burris of Illinois, at the end of the year.
And while Gillibrand ran as a Blue Dog in the House and managed to absolutely surprise me as a Senator, Harold Ford is a Sensible Village Centrist through and through.  Naturally, Wall Street would be thrilled with Ford over Gillibrand.

This Ford's still a clunker.

[UPDATE 12:52 PMTBogg on Harold Ford:
Honest to jeebus. Watching Harold Ford during his run against Corker I felt I was watching the smarmiest and most  insincere politician ever to grace the political stage. I still feel that way.

And, yes,  I’ve seen Sarah Palin give a speech.

If someone offered Ford a $100 for his vote, they’d own it.  If the opposing side offered him $100.05, they could take his vote to the bank…unless the bidding moved to $100.10.

That is Harold Ford.

Epic Slovak Airport Security Exercise Fail

"Slovak Airport Security" is the new euphemism for Bush Administration-style incompetence.
Security experts said the episode illustrated the inadequacy of security screening of checked-in luggage—the very point the Slovak authorities had sought to test when they placed real bomb components in nine passengers’ bags Saturday.

‘’The aim of the training was to keep sniffer dogs in shape and on alert in a real environment,’’ the ministry said.

Eight items were detected. But one bag had two bomb components in it. The sniffer dog found one but the police officer in charge failed to remove the second, which was not detected by the dog, because he was busy, the ministry said.

That allowed 90 grams (3 ounces) of RDX plastic explosive to travel undetected through security at Poprad-Tatry Airport in central Slovakia onto a Danube Wings aircraft. The Slovak carrier launched services to Dublin last month.
"Yeah, we're real sorry about that, Ireland."  But hey, in the bad old days, the eight people they did "catch" would have been guilty of trying to explode a plane.  Still, nice work on planting RDX on a guy and watching him get the explosive to Dublin.  Oops.


Dorgen, Dodd, And Democratic Disappointment

Nate Silver confirms that the GOP picking up Byron Dorgen's seat in North Dakota is all but guaranteed if Republican John Hoeven runs, rising to the number one spot in his contested race list.


But Dodd's retirement drops the Connecticut race from #2 all the way down to #15 as popular Democratic AG Earl Blumenthal has joined the race.  In fact, if the Dems hold Dodd's seat, and the other 14 races all lead to turnovers...the Dems STILL would have 60 seats.

In a "throw the bums out" year, it's important to remember the Republicans are hated even more than the Dems right now, and that a fair number of the bums have (R)s next to their names.

Still not worried about 2010.  The Teabaggers may hate the Democrats, but to many of them the Republicans are worse:  they are heretics as well.

Big Unit's Big Exit

Senators aren't the only people retiring this week, legendary lefty Randy "Big Unit" Johnson is hanging up his glove, too.

SI's Tim Marchman argues the Big Unit was the greatest left-hander of all time, and Johnson has the numbers to back it up over Sandy Koufax:
During his five-year peak, Koufax ran up a 111-34 record with a 1.95 ERA, striking out 1,444 in 1,377 innings. From 1998-2002, Johnson's record was 100-38, with a 2.63 ERA and 1,746 strikeouts in 1,274 1/3 innings. Koufax won five straight ERA titles, leading in strikeouts and wins three times and innings twice. Johnson won three ERA titles and four strikeout crowns while leading in innings twice and wins once.

Taking these numbers at face value, you'd say that as marvelous as Johnson was at his best, Koufax was that much better. But then Koufax pitched in a great pitcher's park in a great pitcher's era, while Johnson pitched in good hitter's parks in a great hitter's era. Going by ERA+, which adjusts for park and league effects and indexes them on a scale where 100 is average, Johnson actually has the better of it over their five-year primes, 175-167. Perhaps more impressively, he led his leagues in ERA+ four times during his best five year run. Koufax did that twice.

What makes Johnson so special isn't that he had a five-year run to rate with Koufax's prime, though; it's what he did outside of it. Leave aside that run from 1998 through 2002 and Johnson's career record is 203-128 with a 3.28 ERA --essentially Curt Schilling's entire career, Hall-worthy in its own right. Add Koufax's prime to that and you have something unfathomable, something that I'd say rates as the best career any left-hander has ever had.

There are arguments for other pitchers, but they aren't convincing. Spahn wasn't nearly as effective as Johnson per inning and had probably one year that would rate among Johnson's ten best, though he pitched over than 1,000 more innings and lost another three seasons to World War II. Carlton was essentially Spahn with a higher peak and more merely average seasons. Grove had a better ERA+ in a similar number of innings and won more ERA titles, but that should be discounted because black and Latino ballplayers weren't allowed to play in the majors during his career. There isn't another left-hander who can touch Johnson's peak, let alone his career value. Judged dispassionately, he stands alone.

What we'll remember, though, isn't his statistical ranking -- it's just how terrifying Johnson was. By the time his career had reached its apex, baseball was too polite a game for intimidation to really play much of a role, but there were five players who truly scared people. The others were Clemens, Martinez, Mariano Rivera and Barry Bonds. That's terrific company. He deserved to keep it.
And to be perfectly honest, Johnson really was the best southie.  He's going to the Hall on the first ballot, guaranteed.  But the 6' 10" Johnson was terrifying to face, he had not only the numbers but the aura as well.  David Cone, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, all of those guys were devastating pitchers, but nobody in the game wanted to go up against Big Unit.  Nobody.  He's 6' 10'...what are you going to do, charge the mound?

In an era of performance enhancers, he stands head and shoulders above the rest by himself.

Because That's Where The Money Is

Cincy's buzzing about a bank robbery yesterday:  one apparently committed by a pair of teenage girls.
With helicopters flying overhead and at least one police canine on the ground, the two girls – who police believe are 14 to 15 years old and 12 years old – got away with cash. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office would not say how much.

The girls entered the bank at 9015 Fields Ertel Road at about 3:20 p.m., according to sheriff’s office spokesman Steve Barnett.

The older girl is described as black, heavyset, 5-feet 4-inches to 5-feet 5-inches tall, and wearing a dark knit cap, dark hooded sweat shirt and blue jeans. The younger girl is described as black with a thin build, and 5-feet tall to 5-feet 2-inches tall. She was reportedly wearing a baseball cap with the round tag still hanging from it.

Authorities say the girls implied they would harm bank employees, but did not appear to have any weapons. The sheriff’s office would not say whether surveillance equipment caught pictures of the girls and did not release any surveillance photos.
Times are hard, as they say.  Still, 12-year olds robbing banks is a bit much.

On the other hand, the banks are doing a pretty good job of robbing us.

The Full Galtie

Richard Epstein takes to Forbes today to offer advice for states bleeding red ink:  Go The Full Galtie!
On taxation, don't play the mug's game of imposing ever higher marginal tax rates on ever lower amounts of income. Play it smart for the long haul. Low-income tax rates (and no estate taxes) will attract into states and communities energetic individuals who would otherwise choose to live and work elsewhere. Treasure their efforts to grow the overall pie. Don't resent their great wealth, but remember the benefits their successes generate for their employees, customers and suppliers. Repudiate the politics of envy for the social destruction it creates. Don't fret about the states and communities left behind. Let them adopt the same sound policies to keep people at home. The outcome won't be a zero-sum game. Enterprise is infectious. Open markets are the rising tide that raises all ships. High taxation is the tsunami that sinks them.
I love that.  "Don't fret about states and communities left behind," like they wouldn't include human beings.  Darwin the little f'ckers right off the map!  Open markets!  Free enterprise!  Crush your opposition and take what they have if they can't defend it!  The United States of America becomes May The Best State Win.
On real estate, change the culture so that getting permits for yourself and blocking them for everyone else is no longer the preeminent developer's skill. The government can still prevent buildings from falling down and fund infrastructure through general taxation. But don't let entrenched landowners and businesses raise NIMBY politics to a fine art. Today our dysfunctional land-use processes too often build thousands of dollars and years of delay into the price of every square foot of new construction. The instructive requirements on aesthetics and handicap access should be junked, along with the crazy-quilt system of real estate exactions that asks new developments to fund improvements whose benefit largely belongs to incumbent landowners. And for heaven's sake, learn the lesson of Kelo and stop using the state's power of condemnation for the benefit or private developers.
And while I agree somewhat with the Kelo stuff, junking handicapped ramps, well...see my response to paragraph one:  Darwin the f'ckers right off the map.

(More after the jump...)


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