Thursday Reads

Aubrey Beardsley

Good Morning!!

Before I get started on today’ news, I want to say that I hope all the surgeries go well. Today RalphB is having surgery and then will have to go through rehab. In addition, JJ’s daughter just had hers on Tuesday and is home recovering. Please keep them in your thoughts. Hang in there JJ and RalphB! Remember you have friends at Sky Dancing Blog who care!

Now to the news…

As I’m sure you know by now, the House Republicans are again engaged in a fruitless but damaging effort to get rid of Obamacare. Speaker John Boehner is threatening to shut down the government by refusing to raise the debt limit unless the Affordable Care Act is killed. From the LA Times: ‘This is the line in the sand,’ House Republicans say.

House Republicans united Wednesday around a plan to use the threat of a government shutdown as leverage to repeal President Obama‘s healthcare law, confident the American people are on their side.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) yielded to his right flank by agreeing to attach the healthcare law repeal to a must-pass bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30. A vote is expected Friday on a bill that would allow the government to stay open for the next few months.

The measure is all but certain to pass the Republican-led House, but faces rejection in the Senate, where the Democratic majority has shown little interest in undoing Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Without a resolution by Oct. 1, the start of the new federal fiscal year, the government will run out of money to keep federal workers on the job and provide basic services.

And so, after a quiet summer, the battle begins again. Honestly, sometimes I really feel as if I must be having a bad dream that I can’t wake up from.  Some responses to the shutdown threat:

Gail Collins at the NYT: World War O

Seriously, people, why do you think the Republicans have gone so completely lunatic when it comes to this issue? Why do they behave as if, once the health law begins to roll out, it will be cemented in place like an amendment to the Constitution?

True, it would be a pain to repeal the whole thing if it doesn’t work out. But not a pain sufficient to wreak havoc on the global economy like, say, refusing to raise the debt ceiling. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has been leading the push to shut down the government unless Congress repeals Obamacare. But have you ever heard him vow that if Congress doesn’t repeal Obamacare there will be … elections and then a new Congress that will repeal Obamacare?

Actually, Ted Cruz has an answer for this. Once the law goes into effect, he told the Web site The Daily Caller, the public will be overwhelmed by its sugary sweetness — “hooked on the subsidies.” It’s the duty of Congress to take it back before people can taste it, just the way New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to whisk away high-calorie Big Gulps.

So, the message is clear. The new health care law is going to be terrible, wreaking havoc on American families, ruining their lives. And they are going to love it so much they will never have the self-control necessary to give it up.

Karl Rove, who used to be considered a far right wing nut is now trying to reason with the even farther right nuts who have succeed him. At the Wall Street Journal, Rove pleads for rationality:

A shutdown now would have much worse fallout than the one in 1995. Back then, seven of the government’s 13 appropriations bills had been signed into law, including the two that funded the military. So most of the government was untouched by the shutdown. Many of the unfunded agencies kept operating at a reduced level for the shutdown’s three weeks by using funds from past fiscal years.

But this time, no appropriations bills have been signed into law, so no discretionary spending is in place for any part of the federal government. Washington won’t be able to pay military families or any other federal employee. While conscientious FBI and Border Patrol agents, prison guards, air-traffic controllers and other federal employees may keep showing up for work, they won’t get paychecks, just IOUs.

The only agencies allowed to operate with unsalaried employees will be those that meet one or more of the following legal tests: They must be responding to “imminent” emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, be funded by mandatory spending (such as Social Security), have funds from prior fiscal years that have already been obligated, or rely on the constitutional power of the president. Figuring out which agencies meet these tests will be tough, but much of the federal government will lack legal authority to function.

But won’t voters be swayed by the arguments for defunding? The GPS poll tested the key arguments put forward by advocates of defunding and Mr. Obama’s response. Independents went with Mr. Obama’s counterpunch 57% to 35%. Voters in Senate battleground states sided with him 59% to 33%. In lean-Republican congressional districts and in swing congressional districts, Mr. Obama won by 56% to 39% and 58% to 33%, respectively. On the other hand, independents support by 51% to 42% delaying ObamaCare’s mandate that individuals buy coverage or pay a fine.

EJ Dionne at the WaPo: Why Republicans are desperate for a shutdown:

To begin with, this is not just a fight between Republicans and Democrats. The GOP is clearly divided between those who take governing seriously — they still believe in government enough to accept responsibility for keeping it open — and those who see in every issue the “final conflict” that Marxists kept predicting. Stopping Obamacare, in their view, is necessary to prevent the country from reaching the end of the road to serfdom. Compared with this hellish prospect, who cares about shutdowns?

What’s fascinating, and this speaks to the perceived power of the tea party in primaries, is that it has taken only a small minority of House Republicans to push toward Armageddon. The Post’s Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane estimated thatroughly 40 conservatives revolted against their leadership’s efforts to keep the government open past Sept. 30. That’s 40 in a 435-member House of Representatives. What’s become of us when less than 10 percent of one chamber of Congress can unleash chaos? What does this say about the House Republican leadership gap?

But it’s also important to understand why the Republican right is so fixated on killing or delaying Obama­care before it goes into effect. Its central worry is not that the program will fail but that it will succeed.

So I guess the House Republicans believe it is worth it to destroy the economic recovery we’ve made so far and possibly crash the global economy to prevent millions of Americans from discovering what it would be like to have health care coverage. It’s unbelievable!

In other economic news, the Fed yesterday indicated that it will not taper of the stimulus as many were expecting them to do. Bloomberg:

The Federal Reserve unexpectedly refrained from reducing the $85 billion pace of monthly bond buying, saying it needs more evidence of lasting improvement in the economy and warning that an increase in interest rates threatened to curb the expansion.

“Conditions in the job market today are still far from what all of us would like to see,” Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said at a press conference today in Washington after a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. “The committee has concern that rapid tightening of financial conditions in recent months would have the effect of slowing growth.”

U.S. stocks rose, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to a record, while Treasuries and gold rallied as Bernanke stressed that the pace of bond buying would be dependent on economic data, and the Fed has no predetermined schedule for tapering the purchases that have pushed its balance sheet to $3.66 trillion.

“There is no fixed calendar schedule, I really have to emphasize that,” Bernanke said. “If the data confirm our basic outlook” for growth and the labor market, “then we could begin later this year.”

No kidding. Earth to the top 1 percent: most of us are still making zero progress. We’re essentially in the same boat as people like us in the days of the Robber Barons. Economic inequality is the highest in history, salaries are stuck at about 1980s levels, and we’re sick and tired of you 1 percenters hogging all the riches. It’s getting close to the time when ordinary people are going to break out the pitchforks and the tar and feathers.

Now here’s a sample of what the 1 percenters think from some moronic Ayn Rand fan at Fortune named Harry Binswanger: Give Back? Yes, It’s Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%. Here’s a taste, but you really need to go read the whole thing.

It’s time to gore another collectivist sacred cow. This time it’s the popular idea that the successful are obliged to “give back to the community.” That oft-heard claim assumes that the wealth of high-earners is taken away from “the community.” And beneath that lies the perverted Marxist notion that wealth is accumulated by “exploiting” people, not by creating value–as if Henry Ford was not necessary for Fords to roll off the (non-existent) assembly lines andSteve Jobs was not necessary for iPhones and iPads to spring into existence.

Let’s begin by stripping away the collectivism. “The community” never gave anyone anything. The “community,” the “society,” the “nation” is just a number of interacting individuals, not a mystical entity floating in a cloud above them. And when some individual person–a parent, a teacher, a customer–”gives” something to someone else, it is not an act of charity, but a trade for value received in return.

I’m running out of space and time, so here are the rest of my news items link-dump style:

The Daily Mail: Sister of suspected Boston Marathon bomber appears in court charged with dealing marijuana

The NYT: Starbucks Seeks to Keep Guns Out of Its Coffee Shops

NBC News: Gamer stabbed, robbed of ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ just minutes after buying game

NBC News: ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ torture episode sparks controversy

Science Recorder: European scientists plan to free robot snakes on the Red Planet

NPR: Officials Say Edward Snowden’s Leaks Were Masked By Job Duties

WaPo: Navy Yard shooter carved odd messages into his gun before carnage


Try Boehner and Cantor for Treason? What about Obama?

Are Sky Dancers cutting edge or what? Nearly two weeks ago, Dakinikat asked whether our government leaders could be charged with treason over the debt ceiling debacle.

Now David Seaman, a blogger at Business Insider argues that Boehner and Cantor are committing treason by catering to a small number of Tea Partiers’ demands while making the U.S. look weak and unreliable to the rest of the world.

I don’t know of a single American business owner or executive who thinks default — economic armageddon — should be on the table, and yet Republicans are acting as if Americans consider this a viable option.

Sadly, it’s already too late: although we still have time to get a deal before the August 2nd hard deadline, this is the equivalent of shoving a check under your landlord’s door at 11:59 p.m. You’ve lost his trust, even if you are technically not in default.

Enough disgusting dramatics to please your small Tea Party base — we are a nation of more than 300 million; the Tea Party is a handful of folks with racist signs, radical agenda, and the favor of a few influential bookers at Fox News.

On Boehner and Cantor:

John Boehner — a full-grown man who cries in public for rhetorical affect (or maybe he’s that imbalanced, I don’t know)… Eric Cantor — a disgusting attention-seeker who doesn’t realize he is one of the country’s actual leaders, and not merely a commentator on a political morning show.

At this point, Americans should be calling for both of their heads. We need to keep an eye on such “leaders” and ensure that they and their kind are not re-elected to Congress. They don’t represent any of us. And their childish Tea Party views — which have no basis in sound economic theory — are making us look like fools to our international partners.

Seaman also points to this column by John Avlon at CNN, “Our stupid self-inflicted debt crisis.”

…if America defaults on its debt, not only will we find ourselves in a far deeper fiscal hole, but the full faith and credit of the United States will be compromised. In our globalized era, that means America will be considered an unpredictable partner and a second-class power.

Worst of all, this will be a self-inflicted wound. It is a direct result of the hyper-partisanship that has been hijacking America’s political debates. Now it is compromising our ability to govern ourselves effectively.

The markets are viewing Washington’s debt dysfunction as badly as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, which have raised the possibility of downgrading their ratings of U.S. bonds.

The British government’s business secretary, Vince Cable, summed up the situation as he saw it on the BBC this weekend: “The irony of the situation at the moment, with markets opening tomorrow morning, is that the biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few right-wing nutters in the American Congress.”

Avlon blames the mess on “hyper-partisanship,” but the problem as I see it is that the Democratic side–especially our Reagan-adoring President–is showing no partisanship at all, just rushing to cave in to every Republican demand. After all, Obama could quickly resolve this situation, as Daknikat pointed out yesterday, by “invoking the 14th Amendment.”

At FDL, David Dayen points out, rather sarcastically, that Obama “has options to raise the debt limit.” He could tell Congress to vote on the debt limit and hold the arguments about cuts and taxes till later, as Elizabeth Drew suggested at Politico. Alternatively, Dayen says he could turn to the 14th amendment. Obama has so far dismissed this possibility.

Finally, Dayen points to an article in Friday’s NYT by two conservatives.

PRESIDENT OBAMA should announce that he will raise the debt ceiling unilaterally if he cannot reach a deal with Congress. Constitutionally, he would be on solid ground. Politically, he can’t lose. The public wants a deal. The threat to act unilaterally will only strengthen his bargaining power if Republicans don’t want to be frozen out; if they defy him, the public will throw their support to the president. Either way, Republicans look like the obstructionists and will pay a price….

Our argument is not based on some obscure provision of the 14th amendment, but on the necessities of state, and on the president’s role as the ultimate guardian of the constitutional order, charged with taking care that the laws be faithfully executed.

When Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War, he said that it was necessary to violate one law, lest all the laws but one fall into ruin. So too here: the president may need to violate the debt ceiling to prevent a catastrophe — whether a default on the debt or an enormous reduction in federal spending, which would throw the country back into recession.

A deadlocked Congress has become incapable of acting consistently; it commits to entitlements it will not reduce, appropriates funds it does not have, borrows money it cannot repay and then imposes a debt ceiling it will not raise. One of those things must give; in reality, that means that the conflicting laws will have to be reconciled by the only actor who combines the power to act with a willingness to shoulder responsibility — the president.

Abe Lincoln did it, but Obama claims he can’t? Seaman, Avlon, and Vince Cable so far are holding their fire on Obama’s role in this embarrassing mess. But he is the one who is ultimately responsible for maintaining the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury. That credit has already been harmed by Obama’s failure to act decisively.

I’d say it’s high time to begin impeachment proceedings against this President, or failing that, Democrats should find someone to run against him in the 2012 primaries. This nonsense has gone on long enough. Yes, I understand that Obama wants to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but the Republicans aren’t going to accept a deal when it’s blatantly obvious that they still can get more from this President–he’ll cave on anything. Either Obama needs to get a grip and do the right thing for once, or he needs to find a job he can handle and let someone else lead the United States of America.


Thursday Reads: Fallen Idols, President Pushover, Worsening Weather, Rogue Federal Agency, and More

Good Morning!! I’ve got a variety of interesting reads for you today, so let’s get right to it. Imagine the guy who wrote these words:

“Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.”

Now imagine that he admired Ronald Reagan.

John Lennon, the long-haired British peacenik who was investigated by the FBI in 1972 after he allegedly contributed $75,000 to a group suspected of planning to disrupt the Republican National Convention later was a closet conservative….Fred Seaman, who was Lennon’s personal assistant from 1979 until the singer’s assassination in 1980, claims the former Beatle and anti-war activist favored Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter and would have voted for the Gipper if he could have.

“John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on Jimmy Carter,” Seaman told Seth Swirsky, who is making a film about the Fab Four.

Seaman said the guitarist “met Reagan back, I think, in the ’70s at some sporting event.”

“Reagan was the guy who had ordered the National Guard, I believe, to go after the young [peace] demonstrators in Berkeley, so I think that John maybe forgot about that,” Seaman told Swirsky in excerpts published in the Toronto Sun. “He did express support for Reagan, which shocked me.”

I don’t even know how to respond to this stunning news. Lennon was apparently a Reagan Democrat. If he’d lived he probably would have been an Obot too….

NYT: Violent Clashes in the Streets of Athens

Confrontations between the police and protesters reached a violent climax here on Wednesday as armored riot officers beat back demonstrators and fired volleys of tear gas into the crowds who had gathered outside Parliament. Inside, lawmakers approved a package of austerity measures aimed at helping Greece avoid a default.

On the second day of a two-day general strike called by unions, rogue protesters also attacked the Finance Ministry on Syntagma Square across from Parliament and set fire to a post office in the ground floor of the building. The King George Palace, a luxury hotel that faces the square, was evacuated in the afternoon.

A police spokeswoman said that 31 police officers were injured and that 30 people had been detained, leading to 11 arrests. Local news media reported that dozens of protesters were hospitalized, and video clips showed the police striking people with their batons.

Amnesty International released a statement on Wednesday condemning the “repeated use of excessive force by police in recent demonstrations, including the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of tear gas and other chemicals against largely peaceful protesters.”

Is this what’s coming for the U.S.? At a press conference today President Obama warned Republicans to wake up and smell the tax increases (aside: I’m not holding my breath for Obama to follow through).

President Obama pressured Republicans on Wednesday to accept higher taxes as part of any plan to pare down the federal deficit, bluntly telling lawmakers that they “need to do their job” and strike a deal before the United States risks defaulting on its debt.

Declaring that an agreement is not possible without painful steps on both sides, Mr. Obama said that his party had already accepted the need for substantial spending cuts in programs it had long championed, and that Republicans must agree to end tax breaks for oil and gas companies, hedge funds and other corporate interests.

In a 67-minute news conference, Mr. Obama cast the budget battle as a tug of war between the interests of the rich — like owners of corporate jets, who he said get generous tax breaks — and those of the middle class, the elderly and children.

But Obama himself offered at best very weak tea:

Mr. Obama, under assault from Republicans on the campaign trail for an unemployment rate that remains above 9 percent, asked voters to understand that the economic recovery would take time but said that Washington, even in its current financial straits, could still do more to help. He expressed support for extending a reduction in payroll taxes for an extra year, providing loans for road and bridge-building and approving trade pacts that could help spur exports.

Big whoop. Why didn’t he fight to end the Bush tax cuts then?

Ezra Klein explains “How you know the negotiations have truly failed.”

The best advice I’ve gotten for assessing the debt-ceiling negotiations was to “watch for the day when the White House goes public.” As long as the Obama administration was refusing to attack Republicans publicly, my source said, they believed they could cut a deal. And that held true. They were quiet when the negotiations were going on. They were restrained after Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl walked out last week. Press Secretary Jay Carney simply said, “We are confident that we can continue to seek common ground and that we will achieve a balanced approach to deficit reduction.” But today they went public. The negotiations have failed.

“The primary goal of President Obama’s presser, which just wrapped up, was obvious,” writes Greg Sargent. “He was clearly out to pick a major public fight with Republicans over tax cuts for the rich.” That’s exactly right. But he didn’t want this fight. He wanted a deal. And he wasn’t able to get one that the White House considered even minimally acceptable. After putting more than $2 trillion of spending cuts on the table, they weren’t even able to get $400 billion — about a sixth of the total — in tax increases.

The conventional wisdom is that now this fight moves to the people. I’d put it differently. Now this fight moves to the consequences. Neither side is going to give in the face of purely rhetorical salvos. The White House is expecting Republicans to accuse them of wanting to raise taxes. The Republicans are expecting the White House to accuse them of putting the interests of large corporations and wealthy donors in front of the needs of seniors, children and the poor. Both parties have seen the poll numbers behind their positions. If a few news conferences were going to be sufficient to end this, it would never have started.

Climate experts warn that “epic weather” will continue because of climate change

Epic floods, massive wildfires, drought and the deadliest tornado season in 60 years are ravaging the United States, with scientists warning that climate change will bring even more extreme weather.

The human and economic toll over just the past few months has been staggering: hundreds of people have died, and thousands of homes and millions of acres have been lost at a cost estimated at more than $20 billion.

And the United States has not even entered peak hurricane season.

“This spring was one of the most extreme springs that we’ve seen in the last century since we’ve had good records,” said Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

While it’s not possible to tie a specific weather event or pattern to climate change, Arndt said this spring’s extreme weather is in line with what is forecast for the future.

The Boston Globe reveals that fishermen in Gloucester, MA and up and down the Atlantic coast were the victims of abuse of power by NOAA.

About a decade ago, the Commerce Department’s fish police started a fight with Larry Ciulla, who owns and operates the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction with three other family members. Claiming that the auction had exceeded the day’s catch limit by one 60-pound fish, the regulators levied a $120,000 fine and ordered a 90-day shutdown.

Outraged, Ciulla challenged the penalty. He turned to Gloucester lawyer Ann-Margaret Ferrante, who is now a state representative and whose grandfather, father, and uncle were fishermen. Together, they decided to take on the agency known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In need of political backup, they went to US Representative John Tierney, whose district covers Gloucester. Eventually, their grass-roots effort drew in the mayors of Gloucester and New Bedford, the Bay State congressional delegation, and a bipartisan string of lawmakers from Maine to the Carolinas.

This year, federal officials finally acknowledged their own regulators had gone rogue. They were guilty of overzealous, abusive, and targeted enforcement, a series of independent investigations revealed. Regulators were levying crippling fines for invented or inflated offenses, as they relentlessly bullied an entire industry. They were using the fishermen’s money to finance a fleet of cars, a luxury boat, and assorted foreign junkets.

Please read the whole sordid story.

Twitter has released fascinating data on the number of tweets and direct messages during and after the Japan earthquake.

“On Twitter, we saw a 500% increase in Tweets from Japan as people reached out to friends, family and loved ones in the moments after the March 2011 earthquake,” said the company on its blog.

Kirstin Powers interviewed Michele Bachmann, and learned that the Tea Party queen is no feminist.

Unlike Sarah Palin, who has brandished the feminist moniker and spoken of an “emerging conservative feminist identity,” Bachmann told me in an interview Tuesday that she wouldn’t call herself a feminist—instead, she simply described herself as “pro-woman and pro-man.” When I pressed her on the matter, the Minnesota congresswoman said she sees herself as an “empowered American.”

Bachmann seemed loath to engage in the kind of girl-power rhetoric utilized by Palin and Hillary Clinton, who both invoked the perennial—and so far unbreakable—presidential glass ceiling.

Said Bachmann: “I’m a woman comfortable in her own skin. I grew up with three brothers. My parents didn’t see us [as] limited [by gender]. I would mow the lawn and take out the trash; I was making my own fishing lures. I went along with everything the boys did.”

Bachmann is still doing everything the boys do, but as a female candidate she endures indignities that are foreign to your average male pol. Yet she takes it all in stride.

Don’t you just love it when smarmy, self-righteous people are brought low? I know I do. Despite the fact that I loathe pedophiles, I’ve always been turned off by Chris Hansen and his obnoxious TV show “To Catch a Predator.” Now Hansen himself has been caught on “candid camera.”

Chris Hansen has found himself on the receiving end of his own hidden camera tactics, after the married NBC anchor was secretly filmed on an illicit date with a blonde television reporter 20 years his junior.

Hansen, 51, has allegedly been having an affair with Kristyn Caddell, a 30-year-old Florida journalist, for the last four months.

ROFLOL!

Secret cameras filmed the couple as they arrived at the hotel for dinner and then drove back to her apartment – where the pair left, carrying luggage, at 8am the following day.
Hansen lives in Connecticut with his wife Mary, 53, but he has been spending more and more time in South Florida investigating the disappearance of James ‘Jimmy T’ Trindade – and allegedly sleeping with Miss Caddell.

The cameras belonged to The National Enquirer. Fortunately for Hansen, Miss Caddell is slightly beyond the age of consent.

"Agony," by Bert Adams

Finally, here’s a nice summery story to get you ready for the upcoming long weekend: Work’s a Day at the Beach for Sand-Castle Consultants

CANNON BEACH, Ore.—On a recent weekend, sand creatures were sprawled across this Pacific Coast beach. There were sea horses by a giant squid, with an “Attackin’ Kraken” sea monster nearby, along with several pigs, some giant mice and an amputee octopus.

Many of the sand sculptures had the same point of origin: They had been built by people who at one time or another were advised by Bert Adams, one of the nation’s handful of professional sand-castle consultants.

“They did well,” said Mr. Adams, a 51-year-old former electrical engineer, as he surveyed the array of creations made by his onetime students at Cannon Beach’s 47th annual sand sculpting tournament.

“He’s a great mentor,” says Amos Callender, an Olympia, Wash., architect who took a course—Sand 101—that Mr. Adams taught two years ago. Mr. Callender and his team took first place at Cannon Beach last year, while this year they built a sand sculpture depicting “the good life”—a wine lover sporting a beret; a mouse tucking into a giant wheel of cheese—that finished second.

What a great idea. Now if only I could find a niche that would pay me big bucks for something I love doing!

So what are you reading and blogging about today? Hit me with it!


Media Making Same Mistake with Bachmann They Made With Palin

Michele Bachmann announcing her presidential run in Waterloo, IA

Michele Bachmann officially announced her candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination today in her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa. In her speech, she talked about growing up in Waterloo and how as a young girl she didn’t want to move away to Minnesota.

I often say that everything I needed to know I learned in Iowa. It was at Hawthorne and Valley Park Elementary Schools and my home, both a short distance from here, where those Iowan roots were firmly planted. It’s those roots and my faith in God that guide me today. I’m a descendent of generations Iowans. I know what it means to be from Iowa—what we value and what’s important. Those are the values that helped make Iowa the breadbasket of the world and those are the values, the best of all of us that we must recapture to secure the promise of the future.

[….]

I’m also here because Waterloo laid the foundation for my own roots in politics. I never thought that I would end up in public life. I grew up here in Iowa. My grandparents are buried here. I remember how sad I was leaving Iowa to go to Minnesota in the sixth grade, because this part of Iowa was all I knew—I remember telling my parents that we couldn’t move to Minnesota because I hadn’t even been to Des Moines to see the state capitol.

I’m guessing Bachmann’s recollections of Iowa probably made a good impression on her audience, but multiple media outlets are focusing on a gaffe Bachmann made in talking to a reporter. She claimed that John Wayne was from Waterloo, but the only John Wayne born there was serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

Sure, that’s funny–and it’s one of many embarrassing gaffes made by Bachmann during her brief political career. But what is the point of ridiculing her about it while ignoring the scary policies she proposed in her speech? George W. Bush made lots of silly gaffes too, remember? But he was [I won’t say elected] President for two terms.

Furthermore, at conservative blog Hot Air, I learned the following.

It turns out there is a Waterloo connection for John Wayne:

Bachmann’s campaign pointed out to ABC News today that actor John Wayne’s parents did live in Waterloo, although the actor himself did not.
And a little internet research proves that point correct.
According to the book “Duke: We’re Glad We Knew You” by Herb Fagen, Clyde and Molly Morrison – actor John Wayne’s parents – lived in Waterloo early in their marriage – but they moved to Winterset before the birth of son Marion Mitchell Morrison (he changed his name to John Wayne professionally).

Says Dave Weigel, “I’m not from a small town, but I’m from a pretty anonymous place (Wilmington, Delaware), and I know that when you’ve got a tenuous local connection to a celebrity, you flaunt it.” Someone probably once told her that John Wayne’s parents met in Waterloo and either she wrongly assumed he’d been born there or else she’s fumbling a talking point about John Wayne’s family being from Waterloo. But this is simply too stupid a story to devote any further thought to, so let’s move on.

I agree with Weigel. I’d rather focus on making sure Bachmann doesn’t manage to soften her extremist image enough to get the nomination and have a shot at beating Obama.

The most important part of the speech, according to Jonathan Chait is this:

“We can win in 2012 and we will,” said Bachmann in launching her campaign. “Our voice has been growing louder and stronger. And it is made up of Americans from all walks of life like a three-legged stool. It’s the peace through strength Republicans, and I’m one of them, it’s fiscal conservatives, and I’m one of them, and it’s social conservatives, and I’m one of them. It’s the Tea Party movement and I’m one of them.”

Here’s Chait’s argument:

Bachmann is trying to break out of the box of the social conservative movement candidate and define herself as a mainstream Republican. First, she declares she can win. Then she pledges her fealty to all three issue families of conservatism, leaving social conservatism for last.

One reason commentators have so grossly underestimated her chances is that they have an antiquated model of the Republican Party in their minds. In that model, religious conservatives are a faction set off from the rest of the party. Pat Robertson could finish a strong second in the 1988 Iowa Caucus, but his appeal was completely limited to right-wing Christians brought into politics by social issues. But the religious right has changed — its power to bend the party to its will has decreased, and its focus has largely merged with that of the GOP as a whole, so that the religious right is almost as concerned with economics and foreign policy as with social issues.

Bachmann represents that transformation. She came into politics through Christianity, but has broadened that style of apocalyptic thinking to economics and foreign policy. There is hardly any difference in the way Bachmann warns that Obama’s policies will destroy the traditional family and the way she warns his economic policies will destroy the economy, or that his foreign policy will lead to the triumph of our enemies. And there’s hardly any difference in the way she discusses these issues and the way most other Republicans do. They are all speaking the same apocalyptic language now.

Unfortunately, Chait is right. The Republican party has moved so far to the right that the nutty fringe is now becoming mainstream. If Bachmann runs for President the whole public conversation is going to move even further right. Just look where Obama is now. He’s more conservative than Nixon–hell he’s more conservative economically than Reagan! Reagan worried about unemployment and social security. Obama couldn’t care less if we have 10% unemployment and old people dying in the streets.

But what’s the “progressive” response to all this? Juli Weiner ridicules Bachman’s “favorite metaphor,” the three-legged stool.

Not to be obtuse, but we counted four (4) legs on the metaphoric stool: “peace-through-strength Republicans,” “fiscal conservatives,” “social conservatives,” and “the Tea Party movement.” Is the Tea Party movement the stool itself, and not one of its legs? We’re English majors with no background in carpentry, but we feel confident in our interpretation.

Who knows? Who cares? Not the Republicans in Iowa, and apparently not in Florida either. Do progressives really think Mitt Romney will win primaries in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania over Michele Bachmann? I don’t. Can Romney beat Bachmann in the south? Give me a break! We need to see the serious threat her candidacy poses.

Is the ridicule just because she’s a woman? Because it sure looks like Bachmann is going to get the same treatment that Palin got in 2008. That is a big mistake, in my opinion. And how is the Obama administration responding to Bachmann’s speech? I found this statement from spokesman Ben LaBolt at MSNBC.

Congresswoman Bachmann talks about reclaiming the American Dream but her policies would erode the path to prosperity for middle class families. She voted for a budget plan that would extend tax cuts for the richest Americans on the backs of seniors and the middle class while ending Medicare as we know it. Congresswoman Bachmann introduced legislation to repeal Wall Street oversight – risking a repeat of the financial crisis — and while she voted to preserve subsidies for oil and gas companies she opposes making the investments necessary to enhance America’s competitiveness and create the jobs of the future.

What is Obama doing about those issues? A great big nothing, as far as I can tell. I’m expecting him to give away the store to the Republicans during his “negotiations” on raising the debt limit. If Obama doesn’t offer something besides “I’m less horrible,” we could very well end up with our first woman President–and not the woman we all wanted back in 2008.

Bachmann should not be underestimated.