Sunday, October 23, 2011

Last Call

Here's everything you need to know about this little Forbes article stating that red states are doing so much better financially than blue ones (and that son we'll all be living in red states):

One reason for that shift is that red states are taking fiscal responsibility while many blue states aren’t—and it shows.  The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a bipartisan association of conservative state legislators, recently released its fourth edition of “Rich States, Poor States,” by the well-known Reagan economist Arthur B. Laffer, the Wall Street Journal’s Steve Moore, and Jonathan Williams of ALEC.

The study looks at factors that affect state prosperity and economic outlook, such as tax burdens and population change.  What’s clear is that red or red-leaning states dominate the top positions while blue states have the dubious distinction of dragging in last.  In the economic outlook section, for example, the top 20 states are bright red or lean red, while eight out of the bottom 10 are very blue: New York, Vermont, California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon and Rhode Island.

Now, any economic study by Art Laffer and the WSJ is going to be so much baloney, but throw in the lovely folks from ALEC and you have the trifecta.

If you want to know how Republicans were able to take over at the state level so efficiently and why they are able to flood slate legislatures with carbon copy culture war legislation (like scores of abortion bills), you can trace it back to ALEC, the American Legislative Executive Council.  Over at Crooks & Liars, Karoli flags down what this odious group does:  it's who is writing these bills and giving them to Republican lawmakers in order to carry out their orders.

Surprise, an ALEC study finds that voters should elect Tea Party nutjob Republicans to slash social spending, privatize education and prisons, dismantle unions, lay off thousands of government employees, close state regulatory agencies and pass culture war legislation.  Next you'll tell me the sun is hot and made of fusion.

ALEC is made up of heavy corporate hitters, right wing think tanks, and industry lobbyist groups.  They're spewing out boilerplate whackjob legislation to Republicans all over the country, starting with the epidemic of union-breaking regulations and anti-immigration laws this year.  This is the group the GOP is using to take over your state, folks.  In many cases 2010 was wildly successful for them, and unless that's reversed this year and next, you'll see more and more Republicans at the state level bringing ALEC-spawned legislation to all 50 states.

So yes, this study should be taken with a complete salt mine.  It's directly from the bad guys, folks.  Don't believe it for a second and most importantly educate yourself about ALEC and what they are doing in YOUR state.  Then vote their proxies OUT.

Calling Out The Neighbors

Over at Rumproast, marindenver has some choice words for David Sirota on his Salon article about the his wife Emily's school board race.  The article sparked more than a bit of outrage, but it turns out Sirota was playing fast and loose with the facts about his wife's opponent, Anne Rowe.

The “slickly produced flier” points out the difference between Anne’s extensive experience volunteering both in her/our local school, volunteering for the school district as a whole including serving on advisory boards to the district and her experience as a community volunteer and foundation board member in general.  Emily, she points out, does not have anywhere close to this level of involvement in school and local politics and is, in fact, a relatively recent resident of the area.  Attack?  You decide.  Relevant information to decide which candidate possesses a better skill set for the job?  I think so.

And the Sirotas were naive indeed in believing that running for the DPS board would consist of backyard barbecues and schmoozing their neighbors.  Politics in DPS have been highly rancorous in recent years due to the reform programs that were initiated by former superintendent Michael Bennet (now our Senator) and carried on by his hand-picked successor.  Reform=change and many people fight change tooth and nail.  But it is hard to argue that DPS is badly in need of change with graduation rates only slightly above 50% district wide and thousands of kids lagging several grade levels behind.  Currently the 7 member board is split 4-3 in favor of the reforms which consist of re-designing failing schools to emulate successful models both within and without the district.  As a result of the split many board meetings have been marked with open dissension, fighting and recriminations.  Anyone following DPS politics even moderately closely would be aware of this and recognize that being on the board would be a tough job.

Wait, you may be saying.  How has Anne Rowe been able to rack up all this volunteer and board experience while raising three kids and carving out a career as a “deep-pocketed investment banker”?  Perhaps because she is, in fact, not an investment banker.  This is one of the most glaring lies of all in a piece riddled with lies and insinuations.  Anne’s biography, as listed on her website, is completely accurate.  This is someone that I have known, remember, for the last 15 years.  As far as I can tell he pulled “deep-pocketed investment banker” straight out of his butt.  Or he was misinformed but could not be bothered to check the details on her website in the interests of accurate reporting.  I report, you decide.

It seems to me that Sirota's not exactly a neutral observer here in this race, and looking at the links posted, it also seems to me that marindenver is right and Sirota's at the bare minimum making some pretty outrageous claims in a national forum in order to help his wife's local race.  Sirota also leaves out the fact his wife did score more than $50 grand in donations while intimating that $500 was a major donation for her:

In District 1, Rowe's competitor, Emily Sirota — endorsed by the union — has raised $57,962, $22,500 of which came from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association's small donor committee.

And yes, Anne Rowe has about tripled Sirota's total in that race so far, and it seems that the vast bulk of the money has come from in-state donors.  If anything, Sirota seems to be using his pulpit to raise money from out of state for his wife.  Best case scenario, this is a hell of a hit job Sirota's leveling against his wife's opponent.  Worst case?  Guy has a hell of a lot of questions to answer.

Here's what bothers me the most:  when Sirota ran the piece Friday, I looked it over and found that Sirota had some good points: that there is too much corporate money in local elections these days and that the right really is trying to buy as many school boards and city councils and county commissions as they can across the country.  So I took Sirota at his word and thought nothing of it, it was clearly Sirota's wife (who being not David Sirota deserved the benefit of the doubt) doing exactly what I have been preaching about for three years plus on this blog and getting involved in local politics.  It never occured to me that Emily Sirota's opponent could be anything but another Tea Party goon.

And then I saw marindenver's piece this afternoon. 

Really, Sirota?  You're a self-important asshole.  The "W. coming after my wife" stuff was, I thought, hyperbole.  Turns out you're just another grifter and while you're gotten steadily worse over the months, it now seems you're willing to do just about anything to help win this election.  Your article is a massive conflict of interest even in the most generous light.  I think some sort of apology is in order, yes?

Christ, what an ass.

All Borked Up

In the NY Times this morning, Joe Nocera reminds us that today's unprecedented Republican intransigence is all the fault of the Democrats who sent Robert Bork packing nearly a quarter of a century ago.

I bring up Bork not only because Sunday is a convenient anniversary. His nomination battle is also a reminder that our poisoned politics is not just about Republicans behaving badly, as many Democrats and their liberal allies have convinced themselves. Democrats can be — and have been — every bit as obstructionist, mean-spirited and unfair.

I’ll take it one step further. The Bork fight, in some ways, was the beginning of the end of civil discourse in politics. For years afterward, conservatives seethed at the “systematic demonization” of Bork, recalls Clint Bolick, a longtime conservative legal activist. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution coined the angry verb “to bork,” which meant to destroy a nominee by whatever means necessary. When Republicans borked the Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright less than two years later, there wasn’t a trace of remorse, not after what the Democrats had done to Bork. The anger between Democrats and Republicans, the unwillingness to work together, the profound mistrust — the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one. 

Needless to say, Steve Benen puts this nonsense to bed.

It’s hard to overstate how remarkably wrong this is. Indeed, nearly every paragraph in Nocera’s piece includes a fairly significant error of fact or judgment.

The columnist argues, for example, that Bork was an intellectual giant who was unfairly labeled as an “extremist.” I suppose it’s a subjective question — an extremist to one is a moderate to another — but I’d note for context that Bork had endorsed Jim Crow-era poll taxes, condemned portions of the Civil Rights Act banning discrimination in public accommodations, and argued against extending the equal protection of the 14th Amendment to American women, among other things. Nocera may be comfortable with Bork’s ability to justify these positions as a matter of legal theory, but considering Bork’s conclusions as “extreme” seems more than fair.

Benen goes on to explain that six Republican senators voted against Bork at the time, and that Democrats happily worked with Reagan and Bush Sr. to pass legislation.  It was when Republicans refused to work with Bill Clinton and indeed impeached him that things really got "contentious" in Washington, a fact Nocera ignores.    You can certainly make the case that the beginning of the end of comity in the Senate was long before Bork, too.

If you're going to blame everything on the Dems, find a better example, Joe.  This one's just terrible.

Nixon Signs Repeal Of Ridiculous Facebook Restriction

JEFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Friday repealing a contentious law that had limited online chats between teachers and students and caused a judge to warn that it infringed on free-speech rights.

Nixon's action eliminates a law enacted earlier this year that barred teachers from using websites that allow "exclusive access" with students or former pupils age 18 or younger. The law generated an unexpected backlash, with teachers raising concerns they would be barred from using popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter that allow private messages.

A judge temporarily blocked the law shortly before it was to take effect in August, declaring that it "would have a chilling effect" on free-speech rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. Nixon then added the law's repeal to the agenda for the special session that began in September.

Classy.  Except the jackhole had been all for it until he realized the people would rally to support freedom of speech.  Folding like Superman on laundry day, he came to the right decision by the wrong means, but I guess we'll take our victories however we can.

But the most recent bill they sent to the governor also requires school districts to develop their own policies by March 1 on the use of electronic media between employees and students in order to prevent improper communications.

Nixon said he signed the legislation with some hesitancy. The governor said school districts may find it challenging to develop policies that prevent improper communications without also preventing appropriation online conversations.

Um, they're called parents. It is up to the parents to monitor their children and ensure their safety. While schools certainly have a stake in protecting the children on premises, what happens after hours is not theirs to control. Nowhere is safe, and nobody is above healthy skepticism.  Parents should be aware of what their children and doing and who they are doing it with.  "It's so hard to do that" is a valid statement, but it doesn't lessen their responsibility.  Or am I missing something?  Their cell phone usage, social activity and electronic behavior are not the responsibility of the school system once they are out of school.  Nor is it up to Jay "Big Brother" Nixon, who would violate all of our rights to privacy if we allowed.  It might be hard, it might be a fight for some parents, but it is their duty nonetheless.

Yo-Yo Ma Gets His Bluegrass On

Classical crossover has taken an interesting turn.  Vanessa Mae and Lucia Micarelli opened a lot of doors, but I have to say I had no idea Yo-Yo Ma was working on a bluegrass project.  Called The Goat Rodeo Sessions (a nod to how hard it was to organize), he has teamed up with some power hitters in the genre, including Edgar Meyer.  This is not his first project with Meyer, and I'm a little saddened that I had not discovered it until now.

Meyer has worked with the other members of the group over the years, but after listening I am surprised there isn't more cello in bluegrass.  It adds a depth to the sound and he really does take turns playing with the fiddle, vocals, even percussion.  Of course, there's a reason he's Yo-Yo Ma and can pull off a change like that.  I have played classical all my life, and started playing Celtic fiddle about a year ago.  It is surprising how much carries over, but whooo, the things that are different are really different.  This is an older video, but the thing that strikes me is how much fun he's having.  It's not every day you get to see YYM jam.

Kenneth, Still The Governor

It's beginning to sink in that post-Katrina Louisiana is now among the reddest of red states and will remain so for the foreseeable future as Gov. Bobby Jindal won re-election easily and took two-thirds of the vote in the state's Saturday runoff election.

With more than 99 percent of precincts reporting, Jindal carried 66 percent of the vote with his nearest challenger, Democratic school teacher Tara Hollis, taking 18 percent. None of the remaining eight candidates moved out of single digits.

Jindal, whose vote count allowed him to bypass a November runoff, has been viewed as a potential vice presidential contender. But he has said he would serve out his term as governor if re-elected.

"I will use every day, every hour of these next four years to make Louisiana the best it can be," he said.

Once seen as a possible presidential contender himself, Jindal has since endorsed Texas Governor Rick Perry for the Republican nomination.

"Jindal doesn't aim low," said Bernie Pinsonat, a Baton Rouge political analyst and pollster. "I don't think anybody in Louisiana thinks that Bobby Jindal doesn't have ambitions to be president," he said.

Pinsonat said the key to what Jindal did next was the 2012 presidential election. "If (Democrat) Barack Obama is re-elected, Jindal will throw himself 100 percent into running for president in 2016," Pinsonat said.

Jindal has no chance of course.  Well, not any more of a chance than Perry, Bachmann, Cain, or Ron Paul does now, anyway.  The more important story is that the massive remaking of Louisiana's population after Hurricane Katrina has now cemented the Bayou State as blood red.  It's an important lesson in demographics that has not been lost on other Republican leaders in other states or at the national level either:  when you remove minorities from the voting equation, Republicans win.

Despite Louisiana's economy crashing during his tenure, Jindal still got 2/3rds of the vote.  Ask yourself why he was rewarded with four more years when the economy and jobs are the most important single issue among voters and just last year the state's coastline was ravaged by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and farmers this year were flooded out of their lands when Jindal gave the green light to do so in order to spare the wealthier parts of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Jindal should have been run out of town on a rail yesterday.  Instead he won overwhelmingly.  Think about what allowed that to happen.

Playing The Devil's Advocate

Can somebody explain to me why the author of a book warning how the the Tea Party right is "hijacking" America is offering Rick Perry advice on how to use the flat tax to become our next President and praising Dick Armey and FreedomWorks?

Rick Perry is calling for a flat tax to stop his campaign from flatlining. But it might be just what he needs to revive his presidential ambitions. Because a flat tax is not just a big idea; it could prove to be both good politics and good policy.

After all, tax simplification is both needed and polls well, and the flat tax promises a simpler approach to paying taxes. And at a time when President Obama is campaigning against the fact that Warren Buffett and his secretary pay different rates, the flat tax idea might just have met its moment for broader-based appeal.

Its virtue is its simplicity. The current tax code contains more words than the Bible, and Americans spend 6 billion hours each year trying to compile with the code. That's time that can be more productively spent elsewhere. In contrast, a flat tax could be calculated during the seventh-inning stretch of a ballgame.

John Avlon is the definition of playing both sides of the political fence.  Anyone who goes on about how wingnuts have wrecked America and is giving Rick Perry and Dick Armey advice on how to move the Overton Window (and worked for Rudy Giuliani's 2008 campaign) was never a "centrist" to begin with, he *is* the wingnut he purportedly hates.

The fact he's employed by both the Daily Beast and CNN tells you everything you need to know about those two outfits, too.
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