Friday Reads

a woman hereGood Morning!

The overwhelming amount of news these days shows a discouraging trend in that one party continues to want to disenfranchise a large number of people and strip them of their constitutional rights and of programs hard won in the face of our wars against economic depression, discrimination, and poverty  Here are some of today’s most disturbing Right Wing Republican Headlines.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Thursday objected over and over again in order to keep statements out of the congressional record that accused Republicans of hurting working families by taking food stamps out of the farm bill.

Before a vote could be taken on the Republican farm bill that drops the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — or food stamps — Democrats attempted to voice their unhappiness by inserting statements into the record.

“Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks in strong opposition to the farm bill rule and the underlying bill because it will increase hunger in America,” Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) said.

Although requests to “revise and extend” remarks are routine, Gohmert immediate shouted, “Objection!”

Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-IL) next asked permission to “revise and extend” his remarks in opposition to the farm bill “because it takes food nutrition away from working families.”

“Objection!” Gohmert yelled.

“What he is doing is he is not even giving members on our side the courtesy inserting their statement in the record?” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) asked.

As several more Democratic representatives attempted to insert remarks that the bill “hurts the working poor” and “increases hunger and poverty,” Gohmert repeatedly objected.

“I think it is extremely unfortunate that that members on the other side of the aisle would deny members on this side of the aisle the ability to insert written materials in the record,” McGovern noted. “In all my years here, I’ve never seen such uncourteous gesture.”

Republican Senator Aqua Buddha Paul continues to harbor a racist, neoconfederate, successionist aid on the public payroll without apology.

The man who co-wrote Sen. Rand Paul’s 2011 book and currently serves as an aide to the Kentucky Republican reportedly spent years in the 1990s and 2000s as a pro-secessionist activist and radio shock jock.

According to conservative news site The Washington Free Beacon, Jack Hunter, who currently serves as the senator’s new media director, spent his part of his 20s as a member of the League of the South, a group which “advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic.” In 1999, Hunter was listed as chairman of the group’s Charleston, S.C., chapter.

While the League of the South maintains that it is not racist, Mark Pitcavage, the director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League, told the Free Beacon that the League of the South is an “implicitly racist group.”

“When I was part of it, they were very explicit that’s not what they were about,” Hunter told the Free Beacon. “I was a young person, it was a fairly radical group – the same way a person on the left might be attracted in college to some left-wing radical groups.”

But Hunter’s troubling past doesn’t end there. In the early 2000s, Hunter, now 39, began contributing anonymous political commentary to the South Carolina radio station 96 Wave, under the moniker the “Southern Avenger.” According to the Free Beacon, as the “Southern Avenger,” Hunter would wear a mask printed with a Confederate flag to public appearances.

According to transcripts of monologues reviewed by the Free Beacon, Hunter’s commentaries in the 2000s included assertions that Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth’s heart was “in the right place,” that white people are subject to a “racial double standard,” and that a “non-white majority America would simply cease to be America for reasons that are as numerous as they are obvious – whether we are supposed to mention them or not.”

At other times, Hunter equated the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and said that a man without a vote“[w]hether for Israel or oil, or both, a permanent U.S. foothold in the Middle East has been the primary neoconservative goal since day one and certainly since long before 9/11.”

While Hunter defended his secessionist views in print as recently as 2009, the Free Beacon reported that he “renounced most of his comments” during an interview on Monday.

Congressional Republicans continue to fight attempts at Immigration Reform.

Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, took the lead for stalwart opponents of any legislation that could lead to what they view as amnesty. “You can’t separate the Dream Act kids from those who came across the border with a pack of contraband on their back, and they can’t tell me how they can do that,” Mr. King said, referring to the undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents as young children and known as “Dreamers.”

“Once you start down that line you’re destroying the rule of law.” But the response to his pitch was not as robust as it had been in the past: “It was not a standing ovation,” he conceded.

In fact, the one area where the legislators showed signs of some consensus was around the “Dreamers,” who many agreed should not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. Hours before the meeting, hundreds of young immigrants who had grown up in the country without legal papers held a mock citizenship ceremony on a Senate lawn. “We have come today to claim our citizenship,” said Lorella Praeli, a leader of United We Dream. But she insisted young immigrants would not agree to any plan that included only them and not all undocumented immigrants. “2013 is not the time for separate but equal.”

State Republicans continue to launch sneak attacks on Women’s health and reproductive rights in states like North Carolina.

The North Carolina House is set to vote on a draconian anti-abortion bill Thursday after Republicans bundled the bill’s provisions into a motorcycle safety bill on Wednesday in an effort to hurry it through the legislature. According to Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel, the state’s GOP made the changes to the motorcycle law bill without giving advance notice to the public or to Democratic legislators.

Democratic legislators told Huffington Post that they’re expecting large and voluble protests to accompany Thursday’s legislative session, which will feature two hours of debate on SB 353 from Democrats and one hour from Republicans.

“We know that proponents — or what I call the anti-women’s health people — are going to do the same, so it’s going to be a zoo,” said Paige Johnson of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.

Republicans originally tried to ram through the brace of anti-choice laws — some of the most stringent in the nation — as part of a Senate bill banning Sharia law in the state. It passed the state Senate July 3, but Republican Gov. Pat McCrory threatened to veto the measure because he felt that the process of writing the bill’s amendments had been rushed.

Senate Republicans instead pulled anti-abortion measures — which require abortion providers to meet a long list of bureaucratic hurdles and mandate that a doctor be present for all abortions, whether they are invasive or not — from the anti-Sharia law bill and bundled them into SB 353, the motorcycle safety bill, and passed it without notifying Democrats. The bill moved on to the House, where Democrats who arrived at the bill’s hearings expected to debate motorcycle safety.

“As a member of the committee, I thought I had a motorcycle safety bill,” state Rep. Joe Sam Queen (D) said to Huffington Post. “I didn’t bring a file on this abortion bill they had, so I wasn’t prepared when we got into the meeting.”

The new bill also denies public employees access to health plans that include abortion coverage and mandates even more red tape licensing requirements for clinics that offer abortion.

“It could very well close down abortion clinics that already exist in this state,” said state Rep. Mickey Michaux (D) to Huffington Post.

 Rick Perry and other Republicans may well amp up the GOP Gay-Bashing in the 2016 elections.women-230x300

Rick Perry’s long reign as governor of Texas is ending, with the announcement that he’s not running for reelection in 2014. Among other things, he’ll be remembered as one of the most vocally anti-gay governors and political figures in American history. In 2003, Perry lambasted the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down the Texas sodomy ban, and all sodomy bans in the states, calling the court “nine oligarchs in robes.” In 2005, Perry championed a draconian constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions in Texas, and signed it into law in a ceremony held in a church. During his 2012 presidential run he cruelly told a 14-year-old bisexual girl on the campaign trail that gays shouldn’t serve in the military because “homosexuality is a sin,” and he demeaned gay service members in a political attack ad that was the most parodied ad of the election season.

So if Perry is stepping down to focus solely on a presidential run in 2016, as some observers contend, what will that mean for GOP political gay-bashing in the 2016 presidential race? Judging from Perry’s most recent rants, 2016 will be 2012 redux, no matter what anyautopsy of the 2012 election by the Republican National Committee or GOP strategists might reveal about how to proceed. Since last fall Perry has only ratcheted up the attacks on gays, much as he has done on abortion. Polls show a majority of Americans, and particularly young Americans (and that includes young GOP Americans), support LGBT rights and even marriage equality. But Christian right groups still influential in the party have been threatening to bolt the GOP unless candidates toe the line. Contrary to strategists who suggest that the GOP will be forced to be more supportive on issues of concern to Latinos, women, gays and other groups, there are thinkers in the GOP who simply want to believe the GOP can win by ignoring all those groups and just getting more straight white male voters to the polls.

Think the whole birther thing is dead?  Not in Republican land.  Did you catch this on Rachel Maddow last night?  This is your Republican Grass Roots in action!!  Birthers!  Successionists!  Racists!!  Christofascists!  All part and parcel of what is going on in legislatures and congress in this country!

So, is the Republican Party just doubling down or tripling down on white–mostly male and straight–voters?  Here’s some interesting analysis of voter and voter trends.

In the aftermath of Barack Obama’s relatively comfortable reelection victory in 2012 — a win fueled by massive margins among African Americans, Hispanics and other nonwhite voters — an intense debate has begun among Republican leaders and strategists over the future direction of the party. The GOP has now lost the national popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Yet according to national exit polls, Republican candidates won the white vote by double-digit margins in the last four of these elections, including a 20-point margin in 2012.

Given these results, some prominent Republican strategists, including Karl Rove, believe that the key to the party’s future viability in presidential elections is finding ways to increase its share of the growing nonwhite vote. Since 1992, according to national exit polls, the nonwhite share of the electorate has increased from 13% to 28%, and this trend is almost certain to continue for many years to come. Based on census data, the voters who will be entering the electorate over the next few decades will include a much larger proportion of nonwhites, and especially Latinos, than the voters who will be leaving the electorate.

But not all GOP strategists agree with the approach advocated by Rove and his allies or with the necessity of increasing the party’s share of the nonwhite vote in order to achieve success in future presidential elections. In a recent series of posts at RealClearPolitics.com, analyst Sean Trende has argued that Republicans can effectively compete in future presidential elections without substantially increasing their support among Hispanics and other nonwhite voters by focusing on increasing turnout and support among white voters, who will continue to make up the large majority of the American electorate.

Trende’s argument that the GOP can achieve success by, essentially, doubling down on white voters rests largely on an analysis of racial voting patterns in presidential elections over the past several decades. According to Trende, Republicans have significantly increased their performance among white voters over time. If this trend continues, he argues, given a reasonably favorable political and economic environment, Republican candidates should have a good chance of overcoming the Democratic advantage among nonwhite voters in future presidential elections.

The problem with the PVI

Trende’s claim that Republicans have increased their performance among white voters is based on his calculation of a statistic known as the PVI, or Partisan Voting Index, for white voters. Essentially, this statistic is used to compare the political preferences of a given group to the electorate as a whole. The PVI for white voters compares the Democratic share of the white vote with the Democratic share of the vote in the overall electorate. For our purposes, however, we have calculated the PVI based on the Democratic vote margin among white voters compared with the Democratic vote margin in the overall electorate in order to reduce the impact of votes for third party and independent candidates.

Over time, as the data in Figure 1 show, the PVI for white voters has become increasingly negative, with an especially dramatic decline since 1992. There is no question that in comparison with the overall electorate, white voters have become more Republican over time. But the interpretation of this result is not as straightforward as Trende suggests. That is because the PVI for white voters reflects both the Democratic margin among white voters and the size of the nonwhite electorate.

In fact, the main reason that the gap between the Democratic margin in the overall electorate and the Democratic margin among white voters has increased over time is not because whites have become more Republican but because nonwhites, who are overwhelmingly Democratic, now make up a larger share of the overall electorate. As just one example, the PVI of the white vote in 2012 (-24) was far more negative than it was in 1988 (-13). Yet Democratic margins among both whites and nonwhites were essentially the same in each election. The real change: Nonwhites were just 15% of voters in 1988 compared to 28% in 2012. In other words, the rapid growth of the very Democratic nonwhite share of the electorate makes it seem like white voters are becoming more Republican than they actually are.

It’s been really difficult for me recently to continue to turn on the TV and see assault after assault on women, the GLBT, minorities, immigrants, religious minorities, and the poor.  How do we make it stop?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: New Political Books

Good Morning!!

There are lots of interesting books coming out this month, so thought I’d preview a few of them. I pre-ordered the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, The Passage of Power, which comes out today. I have the first two volumes, and I admit they’ve just been sitting on my bookshelf for years unread. I thought I might read vol. 4 first, since it covers the Kennedy assassination and Johnson’s first few years as President. Then maybe I’ll be inspired to read the earlier volumes. Caro is 77 this year. I hope he has time to finish this series, which is considered one of the greatest biographies of all time.

Another interesting book that is being released today is Steve Coll’s Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power. The book is an investigation of the giant corporation beginning with the Exxon Valdez oil spill and ending with the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Salon published an excerpt from the book on Sunday.

Also coming out today is It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. The authors had an op-ed in the Washington Post a few days ago to preview the book: Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

And then yesterday there was a bit of a media circus over a book that will be released next Tuesday, May 8: Yours in Truth, by Jeff Himmelman–a biography of Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post back when it was a real newspaper. New York Magazine published an excerpt from the book that led to a fascinating back and forth over what I think are some pretty minor issues about the Washington Post’s Watergate coverage. The fascinating aspects of the story are the reactions of the people involved: Himmelman, Bradlee, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein.

Jeff Himmelman worked for years as a research assistant to Bob Woodward, helping him with articles for the WaPo, as well as Woodward’s book Bush at War. Woodward was Himmelman’s mentor.

My office was on the third floor of Bob’s house, down the hall from the framed apology from Nixon’s press secretary that sits at the top of the staircase. I was back working as Bob’s research assistant for a few months, after having more or less lived in his house from 1999 to 2002. Bob had been my first real boss, hiring me when I was 23. I’d been with him on September 11, as he charged toward the Capitol while the plane presumably targeting it was still in the air, and had helped him begin Bush at War, the first of his blockbuster portraits of the Bush presidency that were a late turning point in his legendary career. As a reporter, I was in awe of him. I had also gotten to know Carl Bernstein, who called often and sometimes stayed in the guest bedroom on the other end of the third floor. I still remember the charge I got out of relaying Carl’s phone messages—­Bernstein for Woodward.

Carl was important to Bob, but Ben Brad­lee was something entirely different. Bob revered him, and so I did, too. I had only met Ben once, for a few seconds in Bob’s kitchen, but I had seen All the President’s Men. When Bob said, “I told them they should hire you,” I leaped at the chance.

Woodward’s mentor had been Ben Bradlee, long-time editor of the WaPo. So naturally when Woodward suggested Himmelman as a co-author of a memoir by Bradlee, Himmelman was thrilled. Eventually, Bradlee decided he didn’t want to write the book, but he was fine with Himmelman writing a biography. Bradlee generously opened up his archives to the young writer. All of which led up to a mini-Shakespearean tragedy.

Himmelman discovered that Bradlee had on a few occasions questioned whether Woodward’s portrayal of his relationship with Deep Throat had been embellished–perhaps the story about the signals he used to schedule meetings (using a flowerpot on Woodward’s apartment balcony, which has one of the best stainless steel juliet balconies by the way) with the mysterious source wasn’t quite true or perhaps there were more or fewer meetings in the parking garage than Woodward had described. Bradlee had told an interviewer in 1990:

Did that potted [plant] incident ever happen? … and meeting in some garage. One meeting in the garage? Fifty meetings in the garage? I don’t know how many meetings in the garage … There’s a residual fear in my soul that that isn’t quite straight.

To me, that’s a big *so what?* Those details aren’t integral to the Watergate story.

The second big revelation in yesterday’s New York Magazine article was that one of Carl Bernstein’s anonymous sources had actually been had actually been a grand juror in Judge Sirica’s investigation. If that had ever come out, Woodward and Bernstein would have been jailed. The two young reporters and Bradlee had made the decision to approach some of the grand jurors, although it would have been a crime for the jurors to reveal any of the evidence. It was risky, but frankly, I have no problem with it. Journalists should take risks. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

In early December, Judge John Sirica was told by prosecutors that a grand juror had been approached by the Post reporters but had revealed nothing. Incensed, Sirica called Woodward and Bernstein into court two weeks later and warned against any further meddling. “Had they actually obtained information from that grand juror,” he wrote later, “they would have gone to jail.” According to the Post’s lawyers, who negotiated on their behalf, Sirica almost locked them up anyway.

Before the scolding from Sirica, Bernstein visited the apartment of a woman he identified, in the book, as “Z.” She wouldn’t talk to him in person, but she slipped her number under the door. “Your articles have been excellent,” she told him, advising him to read their own reporting carefully. “There is more truth in there than you must have realized,” she said. “Your perseverance has been admirable.” She sounded, Carl thought, “like some kind of mystic.”

Through an old memo from Bernstein, Himmelman learned that this woman was actually a grand juror, although Bernstein didn’t know that when he first approached her. They used her as a source in All the President’s Men without revealing her identity. Again, I have no problem with that. No one is going to jail for this now.

But Bob Woodward especially is very upset. Bernstein is concerned, but less than Woodward, who IMHO is self-involved, pompous ass. Anyway New York Mag published a response from Woodward and Bernstein along with Himmelman’s article.

But that wasn’t enough for Woodward, he also spoke to Politico at least twice about his objections: Woodward rejects new Watergate claims

In an interview with POLITICO Sunday night, Woodward asserted that Himmelman failed to include in the New York magazine article a much more recent interview he did with Bradlee that was more supportive of Woodward.

“There’s a transcript of an interview that Himmelman did with Bradlee 18 months ago in which Ben undercuts the [New York magazine] piece. It’s amazing that it’s not in Jeff’s piece,” Woodward said. “It’s almost like the way Nixon’s tapings did him in, Jeff’s own interview with Bradlee does him in.”

….

According to Woodward’s reading of the transcript, Bradlee told Himmelman: “If you would ask me, do I think that [Woodward] embellished, I would say no.”

Bradlee and wife Sally Quinn also defended Woodward to Politico. Poor Woodward–stabbed in the back by his beloved protege: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is/To have a thankless child! (King Lear)

And then Himmelman fired back, revealing to Politico an even more recent statement by Bradlee.

That interview between Bradlee and Himmelman took place on March 9, 2011, just two days after Woodward met with Bradlee and Himmelman at Bradlee’s house to encourage them not to publish the potentially damaging quotes from his 1990 interview.

In the 2011 interview, which Himmelman provided to POLITICO and are included in his forthcoming biography of Bradlee, Bradlee reiterates his initial doubts about Woodward’s reporting.

“I wanted to be crystal clear about it, so I just went ahead and asked him,” Himmelman writes. “‘You said what you said in 1990, and there’s a record of it…’”

Bradlee: “Yeah.”

Himmelman: “And you don’t retract it?”

Bradlee: “I don’t.”

If, like me you’re still fascinated by the Watergate story and by political journalism generally do go read the Himmelman article in NY Magazine. The part I found most interesting was how upset Woodward was by these minor revelations–he even begged Himmelman not to include them in the book and convinced Bradlee to also ask that Himmelman leave them out of the book. Woodward tried to convince Himmelman himself and then showed up at Bradlee’s house to enlist his mentor’s help. From the NY Mag. article:

When Bob arrived, he didn’t look like he’d slept a lot. We shook hands, but only in the most perfunctory way. Ben sat at the head of the dining-room table, and I sat to Ben’s left, facing Bob. There was no small talk. Bob had brought a thick manila folder with him, which he set down heavily on the table in a way that he meant for us to notice. When Ben asked what it was, Bob said, “Data.” Then he asked Ben what he thought of the whole situation.

“I’ve known this young man for some years now,” Ben said, meaning me, “and I trust his skills and his intent.” Then he looked down at the transcript and said, “Nothing in here really bothers me, but I know there’s something in here that bothers you. What’s in here that bothers you?”

Bob went into his pitch, which he proceeded to repeat over the course of the meeting. He would read the “residual fear” line out loud, and then say he couldn’t figure out how Ben could still have had doubts about his reporting so many years after Nixon resigned. This was the unresolvable crux of the problem, and one they circled for the duration of the meeting: How could Ben have doubted the flowerpots and the garage meetings, when the rest of the reporting had turned out to be true? Bob thought this was inconsistent and hurtful. Ben didn’t. Bob tried everything he could to get Ben to disavow what he had said, or at least tell me I couldn’t use it. Ben wouldn’t do either of those things. “Bob, you’ve made your point,” Ben said after Bob had made his pitch four or five times. “Quit while you’re ahead.”

Clearly Bradlee agrees with me that this is no big deal. But Woodward is worried about his legacy. Sorry, Bob. You already sold out your legacy by becoming the Bush administration’s court stenographer.

Bob turned to me. I had worked for him; he had given an impromptu toast at my wedding. You know me and the world we live in, he said. People who didn’t like him and didn’t like the Post—the “fuckers out there,” as Ben had called them—were going to seize on these comments. “Don’t give fodder to the fuckers,” Bob said, and once he lit on this phrase he repeated it a couple of times. The quotes from the interview with Barbara were nothing more than outtakes from Ben’s book, he said. Ben hadn’t used them, and so I shouldn’t use them, either.

The article ends with the further revelation that the original tape of the 1990 interview has disappeared from the archive.

“What does that mean?” Ben asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think Woodward’s got it?”

“Maybe,” I said. He laughed, and then I laughed. The Watergate parallels were a little much, though we were surely imagining things. “His reaction to this thing was off the charts.”

“Off the charts!” Ben said. “It suggests that he’s really worried. That it might be true.”

Who cares about these little revelations about a long ago scandal? I don’t. Sadly, if Watergate happened today, it would be just a minor blip on the political radar. Huge scandals and abuses of power are now routinely ignored or defended by the supine and power-worshiping corporate media. But the insight this story provides into the psychology of Bob Woodward is fascinating.

Sorry this ended up being so long. I hope you’re not all bored stiff. So what’s on your reading list today?


The Latest Stupid Republican Tricks: The “Default Deniers”

GOP Leadership

{Sigh….} Is there any way to be rid of these crazies? The latest Republican nutty meme is that it will be much much better for all concerned if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling and the U.S. has to either cut trillions in spending or default on its debts. From Politico:

They are the newest breed of government skeptics, the swelling ranks of Republicans who don’t believe the Obama administration when it says a failure to raise the debt limit will prove catastrophic.

And they stand ready to make negotiations over raising the cap on debt as grueling as possible, making Treasury officials and Wall Street more nervous than ever that the country could suffer an unprecedented default with consequences no one can predict.

The suspicion, which once flourished on only the conservative outskirts of economic circles, has seeped into the mainstream in recent weeks, gaining broader acceptance among establishment Republicans, even as the administration issues increasingly dire warnings.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) validated the default deniers Sunday, saying, “I understand the doubts.” Jim Nussle, a budget director under former President George W. Bush, argued last week that “no one’s going to default” if Congress misses the Aug. 2 deadline. And Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, accused the White House of scare tactics similar to those used by the previous administration to win quick approval of the 2008 bank bailout after the markets crashed.

Via Think Progress, Rush Limbaugh yesterday responded to the Politico article by leaping aboard the GOP elephant just as it began to topple off the cliff. Limbaugh announced on his radio program that refusing to raise the debt ceiling will help the country’s credit rating.

LIMBAUGH: Today I claim the mantle. I proudly and honestly come to you today as the Mr. Big of the default deniers. We will not default on anything. And moreover, it is more likely that the country’s creditworthiness would go up around the world since we would finally be doing something to address our out-of-control spending and indebtedness if we were not to raise the debt limit. We would be perceived around the world as serious for a change, and responsible for a change. Otherwise we are headed for junk bond status.

I’m no economist, but according to Dakinikat Alan S. Blinder is a really good one, and he wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal today. Here is his analysis of what could happen if the Republicans get their way on the debt ceiling.

What happens if we crash into the debt ceiling? Nobody really knows, but it’s not likely to be pretty. Inflows and outflows of cash to and from the Treasury jump around from day to day as bills are paid and revenues arrive. But at average fiscal 2011 rates, receipts cover only about 60% of expenditures. So if we hit the borrowing wall traveling at full speed, the U.S. government’s total outlays—a complex amalgam that includes everything from Social Security benefits to soldiers’ pay to interest on the national debt—will have to drop by about 40% immediately.

The bottom line is that Timmy Geithner will have to decide whether to pay soldiers and old folks or pay China other foreign creditors. I guess that’s what the Republicans are hoping for–that it will spell the end of the entire social safety net. But they don’t seem to be thinking very long-term. Do they really believe Americans will passively allow that to happen? Back to Blinder:

If and when the time comes, Mr. Geithner and his boss will have to decide. But here’s one prediction: Defaulting on the national debt will not be their first choice. After all, the statue of Alexander Hamilton at the Treasury entrance reminds Mr. Geithner every day of the importance of maintaining the nation’s creditworthiness. Even if we hit the debt ceiling, maturing obligations still can be rolled over. And I’ll bet he will bend every effort to make the interest payments, too. Unfortunately, however, when you’re 40% short, not much can be ruled out.

Exactly. Geithner is going to choose to pay China, not the elderly and disabled–that’s what the Republicans are counting on. But that will be a choice between chaos in the world economy and mass uprisings on the domestic front–or we might get both. According to Blinder a contraction in the U.S. economy like the one the Republicans are pushing us toward could lead to world-wide financial panic. According to Blinder:

…suppose the federal government actually does reduce its expenditures by 40% overnight. That translates to roughly $1.5 trillion at annual rates, or about 10% of GDP. That’s an enormous fiscal contraction for any economy to withstand, never mind one in a sluggish recovery with 9% unemployment. Even contemplating such a possibility is evidence of a dark, self-destructive impulse.

Second, markets now assign essentially zero probability to the U.S. losing its fiscal mind. They’d be caught flat-footed if the threat of default suddenly started to look real, possibly triggering a world-wide financial panic. Remember how markets reacted to the Lehman Brothers surprise? As Mr. Geithner pointed out in New York on Tuesday, “As we saw in the fall of 2008, when confidence turns, it can turn with brutal force and with a momentum that is very difficult and costly to arrest.”

And Blinder isn’t even considering what the reaction would be among ordinary Americans here at home when the economy completely tanks and there is no social safety net whatsoever.


Does Michelle Bachmann Have the Guts to Debate a High School Girl?

I'm looney tunes!!

High School sophomore Amy Myers of Cherry Valley, NJ has challenged Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) to a debate.

Myers says Bachmann’s frequent errors, misstatements and distortions aren’t just bad for civic discourse — they’re bad for women.

“Though politically expedient, incorrect comments cast a shadow on your person and by unfortunate proxy, both your supporters and detractors alike often generalize this shadow to women as a whole,” Myers writes.

Here’s Myers’ letter to the notorious Representative from Minnesota:

Dear Representative Bachmann,

My name is Amy Myers. I am a Cherry Hill, New Jersey sophomore attending Cherry Hill High School East. As a typical high school student, I have found quite a few of your statements regarding The Constitution of the United States, the quality of public school education and general U.S. civics matters to be factually incorrect, inaccurately applied or grossly distorted. The frequency and scope of these comments prompted me to write this letter.

Though I am not in your home district, or even your home state, you are a United States Representative of some prominence who is subject to national media coverage. News outlets and websites across this country profile your causes and viewpoints on a regular basis. As one of a handful of women in Congress, you hold a distinct privilege and responsibility to better represent your gender nationally. The statements you make help to serve an injustice to not only the position of Congresswoman, but women everywhere. Though politically expedient, incorrect comments cast a shadow on your person and by unfortunate proxy, both your supporters and detractors alike often generalize this shadow to women as a whole.

Rep. Bachmann, the frequent inability you have shown to accurately and factually present even the most basic information about the United States led me to submit the follow challenge, pitting my public education against your advanced legal education:

I, Amy Myers, do hereby challenge Representative Michele Bachmann to a Public Forum Debate and/or Fact Test on The Constitution of the United States, United States History and United States Civics.

Hopefully, we will be able to meet for such an event, as it would prove to be enlightening.

Sincerely yours,
Amy Myers


BACHMANN’S LATEST LIE:


The Year of Wishful Thinking

I’m not one to look back to the past. I definitely am not one to obsess on the past. It’s possible that my Buddhist training keeps me rooted in the pragmatic present. It’s likely that it had something to do with my bout with inoperable and deadly cancer.  It took me at least five years to think beyond about one month.  I completely lost my ability to project ahead during that time. While I have regained my foresight and I have an appreciation for hindsight, I’m still not one to rehash what coulda, shoulda, woulda been.  However, Ruth Marcus shoved my thoughts back to the year of wishful thinking.

It was about 3 years ago when I started to realize who the only credible Democratic candidate was for the post-Dubya years. I came to that after listening to about three primary debates and reading a lot of background material. I was tempted by the lot of them but I always found it odd that the first one I discounted as more vice presidential material than presidential material given his appalling performance in the first primary debate wound up with the top job.  The world keeps spinning on.  We now have so many crazies in the Republican party that it’s a wonder they all don’t walk through the statehouse with a set of visible knuckles dragging the floor.  The economy isn’t creating enough jobs to sustain us and we have people advocating the same kinds of policy that caused the great depression now.  One of the worst ones wants to repeat the 20’s era Fed’s mistakes and is in charge of the House oversight committee on the Fed. Then, we have irresponsible tax cuts while running two wars.  And THAT’s just a few of the economic policies ruling topsy turvy land these days.

So, again, my chagrin and thoughts were peaked by this Ruth Marcus Op Ed piece.  So, I had to look back to read now and look forward.

For a man who won office talking about change we can believe in, Barack Obama can be a strangely passive president. There are a startling number of occasions in which the president has been missing in action – unwilling, reluctant or late to weigh in on the issue of the moment. He is, too often, more reactive than inspirational, more cautious than forceful.

Each of these instances can be explained on its own terms, as matters of legislative strategy, geopolitical calculation or political prudence.

He didn’t want to get mired in legislative details during the health-care debate for fear of repeating the Clinton administration’s prescriptive, take-ours-or-leave-it approach. He doesn’t want to go first on proposing entitlement reform because history teaches that this is not the best route to a deal. He didn’t want to say anything too tough about Libya for fear of endangering Americans trapped there. He didn’t want to weigh in on the labor battle in Wisconsin because, well, it’s a swing state.

Yet the dots connect to form an unsettling portrait of a “Where’s Waldo?” presidency: You frequently have to squint to find the White House amid the larger landscape.

This tough assessment from someone who generally shares the president’s ideological perspective may be hard to square with the conservative portrait of Obama as the rapacious perpetrator of a big-government agenda.

Then, read on, the rationalizations are still there but we finally get back to the punchline: “Where’s Obama? No matter how hard you look, sometimes he’s impossible to find.”  I’d just like to say that any one with an impressive career of voting present so many times, who was known to hide out in bathrooms during the tough votes, spent his entire senate career campaigning and not voting, and only introduced minor legislation into the Chicago legislature after it was carefully crafted by others already had shown his brand of leadership.  How a standing record that was way out of its way in proving  “he who hesitates is lost” got translated into national ‘hope and change’ by so many people will be something I will ask myself whenever books come out with themes similar to Marcus’ WAPO musings. Past performance is usually an indicator of future performance.  Next time, check your data.   That is all.  Back to the present for me.