Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Last Call

Still wondering why Republicans think they "won" the debt ceiling crisis, especially given their new dismal numbers.

TPM has been reporting for weeks about the effect of the debt debate on individual political leaders and the subsequently low ratings of Congress. But new data from a CNN poll shows that there's been a difference in the minds of many Americans: the Democratic Party is getting a split on approval/disapproval at 47 - 47, but the Republican Party disapproval rating is all the way up to 59%, against a 33% approval.

The GOP approval rating has been going down in the CNN poll since their 2010 victories: in the October 27-30 version, the Republican Party had a small plurality in approval, at 44 - 43. But since last fall's election they've seen a steady downward trend in the survey, to the current low, which is the highest disapproval rating in the CNN poll in the last twenty years.

Democrats, breaking even.  Republicans, negative 26 on the favorability ratings.  The crosstabs on the poll are even more dismal for the GOP.  Tea Party has 31% favorable, 51% unfavorable numbers. Only 45% of registered voters say their particular Congressman deserves to be re-elected, less than this time last year by six points and ten points lower than October 2008, and 15 points lower than October 2006.

If I'm a Republican in the House, I'd be pissing in my boots right now.  These are horrifying numbers for incumbents in Congress.

We'll see how they hold up, but this finally may be one of those crazy ass elections where everyone gets thrown out, or as much as that's possible given the 85% re-election rate of incumbents.

Suddenly Ben Effin' Nelson Doesn't Seem So Horrible

I may scream a lot about Nebraska Blue Dog Dem Sen. Ben Nelson, but the man favored to be Nelson's GOP opponent in 2012 is a truly repugnant individual.

In a video captured by the liberal group, American Bridge 21st Century, Bruning makes the comparison as part of an elaborate metaphor originally focused on environmental regulations. He describes a requirement that workers at a construction project gather up endangered beetles by luring them into a bucket with a dead rat in order to release them elsewhere. But the plan is thwarted when hungry raccoons then eat them straight out of the rat-infested bucket. Which, according to Bruning, is a perfect image to illustrate how welfare recipients receive their benefits.

"The raccoons figured out the beetles are in the bucket," Bruning said. "And its like grapes in a jar. The raccoons - they're not stupid, they're gonna do the easy way if we make it easy for them. Just like welfare recipients all across America. If we don't send them to work, they're gonna take the easy route."

See, welfare recipients are "scavenging racoons".  Forget the dog whistle politics, we're deep into "overt loud racism delivered with a giant billboard campaign" this year, and your wussy liberal sensibilities be damned, the white guy in Nebraska has an election to win.

London Bridge Is Falling Down

As the deadly London riots continue, Susie Madrak at C&L makes a startling point about the London riots: last year as the David Cameron government announced brutal austerity measures, the government assured critics that the cuts would have no negative impact on the country's ability to handle events like last summer's austerity protests.  Unfortunately, the opposite has been true this week.

In September of last year, the British Home Secretary Theresa May refused to accept claims by the British police that austerity cuts would affect their ability to contain civil unrest (h/t George Monbiot).
A look at an article from the Guardian reveals May's belief that British people simply did not riot:
The British public don't simply resort to violent unrest in the face of challenging economic circumstances. We must have a rational and reasonable debate about policing. Your association has a long and proud history of constructive and sensible contributions to policing policy-making – long may it continue.
May was speaking after the announcement of deep austerity cuts, that police officials predicted would lead to 40,000 police staff job cuts. May refused to accept this and told the police superintendents' annual conference:
I will work hard to ensure a fair deal for policing but there will, most definitely, need to be savings made. It is ridiculous to suggest that there are not savings that can be made in policing.

Tens of thousands of police staff cuts in a country of 62 million.  Multiply those numbers by five to get the American equivalent:  what if 200,000 police personnel were laid off last year in the US?   Don't you think that would be a major public safety issue?

There are roughly 800,000 federal, state, and local police officers in the US.  Think about what laying off 25% of all the country's cops would do for the crime rate.  The London riots are heartbreaking, but that's where we are.  What's more, Britons are screaming for a better, more robust police response.

Maybe you should have thought about that before making massive austerity cuts.  Just saying.

Take That, You Hypocrites

Perhaps the only time Republic, MO will be international news:

To hell with the censors!" said Kurt Vonnegut. "Give me knowledge or give me death!" Now the late author's memorial library is acting on his words, giving 150 copies of his seminal novel Slaughterhouse-Five away for free to students at the Missouri school that banned it late last month.
The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is asking interested pupils at Republic High School in Missouri to drop it an email requesting a free copy of Slaughterhouse-Five after an anonymous donor provided it with 150 copies of the book. "We think it's important for everyone to have their First Amendment rights. We're not telling you to like the book ... we just want you to read it and decide for yourself," said Julia Whitehead, the library's executive director, in a note on its website entitled "stop the madness".
Last month the school's board voted to ban Slaughterhouse-Five and Sarah Ockler's young adult novel Twenty Boy Summer from its curriculum and library following a Missouri professor's complaints about their content. In a column for the local paper, Wesley Scroggins wrote that Slaughterhouse-Five "contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame. The 'f word' is plastered on almost every other page. The content ranges from naked men and women in cages together so that others can watch them having sex to God telling people that they better not mess with his loser, bum of a son, named Jesus Christ."

I am still at a loss as to why some people feel the need to "protect" others from what they find offensive. Kids see far worse on prime time television.  This gives a chance for parents or teachers to have a discussion about what the kids have read and their take on it.  It's a chance to encourage reading, thought and considering new opinions.  I am not a fan,  but I believe everyone has the right to choose for themselves.  Meanwhile, I did learn a lot about his particular writing style and his prose is creative and worth looking at for its own sake.  I suppose that is threatening to some folks.  After all, when I read Of Mice And Men it broke my heart, but I came away with a new understanding of how far we've come as a society that we can better house and protect the mentally challenged.  I guess people like Prof Scroggins just see a retard and a bum.

Why The Browser Wars Matter

There has been a lot of mention of browsers lately.  A rumor came out that Internet Explorer users weren't as bright as people who used other browsers.  Firefox has cleaned up their bloat in response to user complaints.  Google Chrome has brought out a series of improvements that makes full use of their integration potential.  Internet Explorer has finally responded to feedback and brought IE up to snuff.

But why is it such a big deal?

The transfer to cloud computing is the reason.  Eventually our devices will have little onboard memory and the focus will be purely on moving data.  Our files, our work, our hobbies and notes will be stored with multiple cloud service providers, from Google Docs to Dropbox.  Your web browser is the gateway to all cloud functions, and industry leaders know that is more important than proprietary programs.  This is the beginning of a shift in how we use computers, and the leaders are struggling to keep (or improve) their ranking.  Developers will flock to the winner and runner-up, all others may not survive the long run.

For what it's worth, I'm betting on Chrome and Firefox, but we'll see.

What Ifs And Told You Sos

And of course we get the inevitable round of "President Hillary Clinton would have won this fight!" nonsense from the Daily Beast.

At a New York political event last week, Republican and Democratic office-holders were all bemoaning President Obama’s handling of the debt-ceiling crisis when someone said, “Hillary would have been a better president.”

“Every single person nodded, including the Republicans,” reported one observer.
At a luncheon in the members’ dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday, a 64-year-old African-American from the Bronx was complaining about Obama’s ineffectiveness in dealing with the implacable hostility of congressional Republicans when an 80-year-old lawyer chimed in about the president’s unwillingness to stand up to his opponents. “I want to see blood on the floor,” she said grimly.

A 61-year-old white woman at the table nodded. “He never understood about the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy,’” she said.
Looking as if she were about to cry, an 83-year-old Obama supporter shook her head. “I’m so disappointed in him,” she said. “It’s true: Hillary is tougher.”

Yes, President Obama cannot possibly begin to fathom the vast right wing conspiracy that regularly target him, his wife, his daughters, and everything he does in a bold effort to destroy the country on his watch.  He can't possibly understand or deal with being called a socialist Kenyan Muslim terrorist plant for several years, he certainly can't win an election in front of the Mighty Wurlitzer and he sure as hell can't handle this right wing-style racial name calling when it came from...Hillary Clinton or her supporters.

And yet he's been handling it quite well, thank you.  But you'd never notice that because if he just got angry, everything would be solved.  Magically.

America's racial history is full of great outcomes for black men who "got angry", don't you know.

Doubling Down On Disaster

Yeah, the House GOP ignoring the whole "S&P thinks Republicans contributed to the downgrade by blocking any revenue increases" and vowing to continue to destroy the economy was about the safest bet you could make this week. Eric Cantor:

In a Monday memo to the House GOP caucus, he candidly acknowledged that S&P faulted the party's unyielding stance on tax revenues for the downgrade. But he encourages members not to erase this bright line.

"Over the next several months, there will be tremendous pressure on Congress to prove that S&P's analysis of the inability of the political parties to bridge our differences is wrong," Cantor wrote. " In short, there will be pressure to compromise on tax increases. We will be told that there is no other way forward. I respectfully disagree.... I firmly believe we can find bipartisan agreement on savings from mandatory programs that can be agreed to without tax increases. I believe this is what we must demand from the Joint Committee as it begins its work."

And by "mandatory programs" he means Social Security and Medicare cuts, period.  GOP is going to be running on that into 2012 and they're confident they are going to win, through Democratic malfeasance and/or Village indifference.

Perhaps it's time for Democrats to start pointing this out, yes?

The Depressing Depression

Steve M. just doesn't see 2012 getting better.

I don't think Barack Obama has any advantages that compare to these. He's not going to have a good economy to run on. (Unemployment just before those '02 midterms was 5.7%.) You'll say he's running against people who've been proved to be demonstrably crazy and extreme, but (a) the polls show that voters blame congressional Democrats almost as much as they blame congressional Republicans and (b) voters had three shots at depriving demonstrably crazy, extreme Republicans of control of part or all of Congress during the Bill Clinton years -- in 1996, 1998, and 2000 -- and they never did it. (The closest they came was getting the Senate to 50-50 in the 2000 elections, but it was still under GOP control until the Jeffords switch.)

Low-information voters identify the government with the president; in addition, Republicans are usually very good at convincing voters that they're the outsider party, even when they actually run much of the government. (Reagan was a master at this; the boilerplate message is that Democrats control the media and the universities and "the culture" in general.) So I'm telling you that the vast majority of the congressional teabaggers are safe, and I'd predict that their tribe will actually increase.

The only way we win is getting turnout like 2008.  That's it.  Otherwise the nation belongs to the Tea Party.   Will that happen again?  I'm not honestly sure.  Odds are very much against it, but I think Steve is underestimating just how mad Americans are at the Republicans right now.

Whether or not that helps the Democrats or depresses voters into apathy (which favors the GOP) I couldn't tell you.  A good part of that depends on the nominee from the GOP side.  Once the Obama team has a target, I think it's going to start increasingly going President Obama's way.

That leaves the question of how long his coattails are.  Enough to take back the House?  I'm not sure.  But I have to think it's possible.


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