Friday, October 11, 2013

Oh, That…

After all this hugga-mugga about Obamacare and it being the end of civilization as we know it, the GOP has quietly decided that their plan to defund it and wipe it off the face of the Earth didn’t go so well.

Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) acknowledged Thursday that defunding Obamacare is not going to be a part of the ongoing debate about re-opening the government and increasing the debt limit.

[…]

“That’s currently off the table,” Lankford, chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, [told CNN’s Jake] Tapper. “I can tell you that’s where my constituents are overwhelmingly. They don’t want this law to go into effect at all, but that’s obviously not going to happen at this point.”

No kidding.

Kicking the Can

The much-hyped meeting yesterday at the White House between President Obama and a bunch of Republicans did not produce a deal to re-open the government and raise the debt ceiling.

That’s the the basics, so even if you’re into reading all the signs and the signals and the tea leaves that are strewn out by the Villagers who make their living doing that, we are still where we were at this time yesterday.  (One bit of good news: the Congress passed and the president signed a bill to pay death benefits for soldiers’ families.)

But even if they had struck a deal yesterday, it would have only raised the debt ceiling for six weeks, it would not have reopened the government offices that are now closed, and given the Republicans six more weeks to come up with even more things to hold hostage.  What’s next; no deal until every high school in America is named for Ronald Reagan?

It was very nice of the president to invite the Republicans over, but unless we get a budget and a long-term debt ceiling hike, all it is is just talk, and we’ll go through all of this again in time for Thanksgiving.

Short Takes

No Deal — GOP offer falls flat.

People were worried about Edward Snowden as far back as 2009.

Alice Munro wins the Nobel for literature.

R.I.P. Scott Carpenter, 88, one of the original Mercury astronauts.

Tropical Update: Still watching Invest 98L, still small.

The Tigers beat the A’s to advance to the LCS.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Who, Me?

The folks who egged the Republicans into the shutdown are now cutting their losses and running away.

In a letter to U.S senators dated Wednesday, Koch Industries denied ever advocating for a government shutdown as a way to force the defunding of Obamacare. The letter was in response to comments on the Senate floor Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in which he blamed Koch for the shutdown, which followed a conservative push to pressure Democrats into defunding or delaying Obamacare to keep the government open.

Yeah, except:

The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.

To quote the immortal Reverend Johnson: “Son, you’re on your own.”

Plan B Is So Two Weeks Ago

Whoops:

wile-e-coyote cliff 12-20-12Key GOP figures on Wednesday sent their clearest signals that they are abandoning their bid to immediately stop the federal health-care law — the issue that forced the government to shut down — and are scrambling for a fallback strategy.

Republican Party leaders, activists and donors now widely acknowledge that the effort to kill President Obama’s signature initiative by hitting the brakes on the government has been a failure. The law has largely disappeared from their calculus as they look for a way out of the impasse over the shutdown and for a way to avoid a possible default on U.S. debt.

Instead, they are regrouping for a longer battle over the health-care law. They also are trying to refocus the upcoming debt-ceiling showdown on fiscal issues, including entitlements and tax reform.

The strategy to defund the Affordable Care Act “needed a Plan B, and its authors, if they had one, didn’t share what it was,” said Heather R. Higgins, head of the Independent Women’s Forum and founder of a coalition of conservative groups seeking repeal of the health-care law.

Okay, everybody in the circular firing squad report over here…

Some Republicans are aiming harsh recriminations toward those who had vigorously advocated linking the funding needed to keep the government operating to the drive to stop the health-care law. Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), who has become the face of that strategy, is the chief target of such criticism from within GOP ranks.

“I think it was very possible for us to delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year until Cruz came along and crashed and burned,” anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said.

But Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said: “The American people remain behind the defund effort. Americans deserve negotiations. They don’t want Obamacare. Public opinion is behind this, and that should be enough for Democrats to come to the table and provide relief for all Americans.”

You know that when someone starts citing “the American people” as their source of inspiration and propulsion, they are just making shit up.  The polling places the GOP and Congress just slightly ahead of the clap and crabs in your shorts in terms of popularity.

The debt ceiling hits a week from today.  By then, and if the White House and the Democrats don’t cave, I expect this panic mode on the part of the Republicans will be looked back on with fond recollection as a time of unity compared to what they’ll be like when the global markets react to the world’s financial capital defaulting on its debts.

This is what happens when you base your strategy solely on what you think your opponent will do.  In this case, the GOP believed that President Obama would cave and give in on Obamacare.  After all, they’ve seen him cave before on such things as the Bush tax cuts and the sequester.  They did not plan a contingency if, for some reason, the Democrats actually stood firm, nor did they take into account that the president might have actually learned something from the last few times or protect the law that will define his presidency in history.

So now what will they do?

Short Takes

Gunmen grab Libyan prime minister in raid in Tripoli.

President Obama formally nominated Janet Yellen to be the next Fed chairperson.

Speaker Boehner chatted up Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer before they met with the president to discuss the shutdown.

The Pentagon has struck a deal with the Fisher House Foundation to cover veterans’ death benefits during the shutdown.

The Libyan government tacitly approved of the the U.S. raid that captured the al-Qaeda leader.

Tropical Update: Invest 98L is still out there.

It’s all or nothing tonight for the Tigers against the A’s in Game 5 of the division series.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What Will They Talk About?

Josh Marshall has a good point:

The saddest thing about this mess is that Republican can’t even decide why they shutdown the government and started threatening debt default? Obamacare? Or maybe now it’s the debt? Or a new supercommittee to pursue the ‘grand bargain’. Now they just want to negotiate. Which thing?

It’s kind of silly to demand a “serious conversation” if you can’t even decide what you’re going to talk about.

Short Takes

The U.N. is sending a lot of people to Syria to check on the chemical weapons destruction.

North Korea is starting up their nuclear reactor again.

President Obama will nominate Janet Yellen to head the Fed.

Speaker Boehner says his own proposal for resolving the shutdown would be “unconditional surrender.”

Tropical Update: Keeping an eye on Invest 98L.

The Tigers beat the A’s 8-6 to force a Game 5.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

You Cannot Reason With These People

The shutdown and the debt ceiling have always been about more than just the budget and spending, and just about everyone who has been watching this knows that.  It’s about one party re-fighting every election they lost: about the Republicans unable to accept the fact that other people from other parties get to live in the White House, and that they don’t always get their way.  And even if they don’t win, they have to exert the most pain they can on the people they lost to and never mind any collateral damage.  It’s all or nothing, and “nothing” is not an option.

Which is why it doesn’t surprise me to hear Republicans talking about winning at all costs, even if they don’t know what they want.  It’s a matter of pride and honor on the level of samurais in Shogun; the slightest lack of due deference is punishable by death.

It’s not about the money.  It never has been.  The budget and the debt ceiling are the hostages here, the innocent bystanders who just happen to walk into the hold-up at the time the robbers pulled their guns and started shooting into the ceiling.  That’s why you have Tea Partiers telling us that we can get along just fine with the government shut down and defaulting on our debt payments is actually a good thing.

As I’ve said more than once, it’s not about governing, it’s about ruling.  There are people out there who want to control everything and have it their way with no equivocation, and they want to make sure of that, even if it means harming others.  They have the long view that eventually it will all work out for the good.  Kind of like the way preachers tell you that life stinks and God can destroy you, but cheer up, you’re going to Heaven if you do exactly what I say.  The hitch in that plan is that you have to die first, but hey, that’s small potatoes compared to what’s waiting for you.

I have no idea how this will end, and anyone who says with certainty that they do is blowing smoke.  But given the fanaticism and the pride at stake, it will not be with smiles and handshakes, and the damage done will take a generation to repair.  (And no, this is not some gauzy attempt to go for the “both sides do it” argument.  The blame falls squarely on the Republicans.  They caused it, they can stop it, and they we are the ones who will have to clean it up.)  The worst part is that there is no guarantee that it won’t happen again and again.  In fact, you can count on it.

Koch Sucker

Remember Edwin Meese, one of Ronald Reagan’s attorneys general from thirty years ago?  He’s back.

Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.

Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups.

It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.

“We felt very strongly at the start of this year that the House needed to use the power of the purse,” said one coalition member, Michael A. Needham, who runs Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation. “At least at Heritage Action, we felt very strongly from the start that this was a fight that we were going to pick.”

Last week the country witnessed the fallout from that strategy: a standoff that has shuttered much of the federal bureaucracy and unsettled the nation.

[…]

The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.

The groups have also sought to pressure vulnerable Republican members of Congress with scorecards keeping track of their health care votes; have burned faux “Obamacare cards” on college campuses; and have distributed scripts for phone calls to Congressional offices, sample letters to editors and Twitter and Facebook offerings for followers to present as their own.

One sample Twitter offering — “Obamacare is a train wreck” — is a common refrain for Speaker John A. Boehner.

Since the Koch brothers are too chickenshit to actually stand up in public and do their own dirty work, they find surrogates like Mr. Meese, who hasn’t done anything worthwhile for the people of this country since he did them the favor of resigning when he was under investigation for the Wedtech scandal.  That resume makes him a perfect shill for those greedy bastards.

Obama to Boehner: I Call

House Speaker John Boehner wants President Obama to call him to discuss the shutdown.

Mr. Obama obliged, but not with the kind of call that Mr. Boehner was expecting.

President Barack Obama again pressured House Republicans to put a “clean” government spending bill up for a vote Monday, challenging House Speaker John Boehner’s claim that the funding bill lacks sufficient support to pass.

“My very strong suspicion is there are enough votes there” to pass the government funding legislation, he said during an unannounced stop at FEMA National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C.

“Hold a vote. Call a vote right now. Let’s see what happens.”

I would not want to play poker with Barack Obama.  But I would love to watch.

Royal flush 10-07-13

Meanwhile, the Democrats in the Senate are also calling out the GOP on passing the debt limit.

Senator John Cornyn is claiming no clean debt limit hike can pass the Senate, but Dems believe there may be at least half a dozen GOP Senators who would be willing to support one. A vote would put that to the test.

The move might also increase pressure on House Republicans. Kevin Smith, a spokesman for John Boehner, tweeted today: “POTUS & his advisers keep calling for a clean debt hike.  So when will his party in the Senate pass one?”

This prompted a response from Harry Reid aide Faiz Shakir: “Will you if we do?”

Now it looks like Senate Dems will do it….

First time on this riverboat, Mr. Ravenal?

Short Takes

Global markets are jittery over the shutdown.

Violent outbreaks in Egypt.

Polls show public blames the GOP for the shutdown.

High winds and thunderstorms rattle the Northeast.

Congratulations to the Nobel Prize winners for medicine.

Tropical Update: The little disturbance is dithering in the east Atlantic.

The Tigers are one loss away from being eliminated after losing to the A’s 6-3.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bungled Into A Corner

House Speaker John Boehner insisted  to George Stephanopoulos yesterday that he won’t let a clean continuing resolution get voted on in the House until President Obama gives up on whatever it is that the Tea Party demands he give up.  Last week it was Obamacare; this week it could be that and something else they’ve added.

Whatever it is, the president isn’t going to give up — at least that’s what the White House is saying — and this time we have reason to believe that.  The Republicans, however, do not.  After all, he caved the last couple of times on the debt ceiling and the Bush tax cuts.  Why should Obamacare be any different?

Because the White House knows that if they give up, that’s it.  Game, set, match.  The Affordable Care Act is, so far, the legacy of the presidency of Barack Obama, and if he were to surrender on it, he might as well go back to Chicago and be the most popular law professor at Roosevelt University because that is all that will be left to him.

And it’s not just about ego.  It would mean that from now on any president of any party would be vulnerable to blackmail by any intransigent faction of a political party.  And in this case, it would be a faction of extremists who believe their own fevered conspiracy theories based on nothing more than greed, fear and bigotry.

It’s easy now to say that the president should have seen this coming; that the election of 2010 that ushered in the meshuggeneh caucus of birthers and religious fanatics would have a lasting legacy, even after winning a decisive re-election in 2012.  And now, as Paul Krugman notes, we all have to deal with them.

It has been obvious for years that the modern Republican Party is no longer capable of thinking seriously about policy. Whether the issue is climate change or inflation, party members believe what they want to believe, and any contrary evidence is dismissed as a hoax, the product of vast liberal conspiracies.

For a while the party was able to compartmentalize, to remain savvy and realistic about politics even as it rejected objectivity everywhere else. But this wasn’t sustainable. Sooner or later, the party’s attitude toward policy — we listen only to people who tell us what we want to hear, and attack the bearers of uncomfortable news — was bound to infect political strategy, too.

Remember what happened in the 2012 election — not the fact that Mitt Romney lost, but the fact that all the political experts around him apparently had no inkling that he was likely to lose. Polls overwhelmingly pointed to an Obama victory, but Republican analysts denounced the polls as “skewed” and attacked the media outlets reporting those polls for their alleged liberal bias. These days Karl Rove is pleading with House Republicans to be reasonable and accept the results of the 2012 election. But on election night he tried to bully Fox News into retracting its correct call of Ohio — and hence, in effect, the election — for Mr. Obama.

Unfortunately for all of us, even the shock of electoral defeat wasn’t enough to burst the G.O.P. bubble; it’s still a party dominated by wishful thinking, and all but impervious to inconvenient facts. And now that party’s leaders have bungled themselves into a corner.

A lot of Villagers and People In The Know think Mr. Boehner will blink and the Republicans will somehow find a way to declare victory and retreat.  After all, to any reasonable person, their position is untenable.  But nothing we’ve seen from the GOP indicates that they will.

We are ten days away from the debt ceiling.  There’s a lot more at stake than just the legacy of Barack Obama or the speakership of John Boehner.  There is the full faith and credit of the U.S. economy, the balance of power in the government, and future of healthcare for several million people who finally have access to insurance to pay for it.

Short Takes

Al-Qaeda suspect seized in Libya is in U.S. Navy custody.

Violence breaks out in Egypt; at least 15 dead.

Shutdown standoff — Boehner claims he won’t back down.

New money for old — There’s a new $100 bill coming soon.

The Supreme Court opens for business today.

Tropical Update: One disturbance to watch in the Atlantic.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday Reading

The Top Ten List — Kevin Drum on the shutdown in ten infuriating sentences.

At its core, the dispute over the budget and the debt ceiling isn’t complicated at all. But it is full of misconceptions and urban myths. Here are the 10 facts worth remembering past all the obfuscation:

1. Democrats have already agreed to fund the government at Republican levels.

2. Despite what you might have heard, there have only been two serious government shutdowns in recent history, and both were the result of Republican ultimatums.

3. Democrats in the Senate have been begging the House to negotiate over the budget for the past six months, but Republicans have refused.

4. That’s because Republicans wanted to wait until they had either a government shutdown or a debt ceiling breach as leverage, something they’ve been very clear about all along.

5. Republicans keep talking about compromise, but they’ve offered nothing in return for agreeing to their demands—except to keep the government intact if they get their way.

6. The public is very strongly opposed to using a government shutdown to stop Obamacare.

7. Contrary to Republican claims, the deficit is not increasing—it peaked in 2009 and has been dropping ever since, declining by $200 billion last year with another $450 billion drop projected this year.

8. A long government shutdown is likely to seriously hurt economic growth, with a monthlong shutdown projected to slash GDP in the fourth quarter by 1 percentage point and reduce employment by over a million jobs.

9. No, Democrats have not used debt ceiling hostage taking in the past to force presidents to accept their political agenda.

10. This whole dispute is about the Republican Party fighting to make sure the working poor don’t have access to affordable health care.

Gun Control in Canada — Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker explains how they do it in the True North, and no one’s rights get violated.

The Gopnik family seat, such as it is, is nowhere near Manhattan, Upper West or East Side, but rather a farm in remote rural Ontario, where my parents live surrounded by crops, animals, and pests—and indeed by farmers who need and use rifles. When I was talking to my father there last weekend, we discussed a recent raccoon infestation, and how he had called on a neighbor with a rifle to hightail it over to shoot the five unfortunate masked marauders beneath the back porch. (My dad buried them afterward, further proof that English professors can be eminently practical people.) My dad is actually a pretty good shot, and could have done it himself—but he had not finished the paperwork for his gun.

What onerous tasks are involved in getting a gun for the necessary work of rural life in Canada? Well, you have to do that paperwork, fill out an application for a license, take a gun-safety course, and then you have your raccoon-shootin’ rifle for the grim work of keeping off pests. (There are some other “controls”; if you have a longstanding dispute, for instance, your spouse is informed.) Does anything in this interfere with the liberty of the individual or the exigencies of rural life? No one disputes that there are sane reasons for ordinary people to need a rifle. But there is no imaginable, meaningful sense in which Canadians, or Australians, are “less free” when it comes to guns because they have to take a safety course before they use one. People who really need guns—and many, my folks among them, do—can get them and use them safely, while there are hedgerows, so to speak, against impulsive purchases or unsafe or frankly homicidal use.

What we can learn from Canada is how to legislate common sense without violating anyone’s liberty—unless you imagine that anyone’s liberty depends on having as many weapons as he wants whenever he wants them. Perhaps no existing gun law could have been explicitly designed to stop the shotgun killer of the Navy Yard. But to repeat the central truth of modern criminology: building low barriers against violent crime has a disproportionate effect in ending it. Make something difficult and you begin to make it impossible. You don’t have to back-engineer every law to cover every past criminal circumstance; you just have to sensibly craft laws to discourage the next one.

Miggy — Mark Leibovich profiles Tiger slugger Miguel Cabrera, the best player in baseball.

Sluggers used to be the heroes. Now they and their statistics have become suspect. But while fans have been outraged over performance-enhancing drugs, they are also conditioned to expect their results. Cabrera, 30, has never been linked in any way to P.E.D.’s. (His beer-league physique is one obvious defense.) On the field, his only blemish is that he has put up remarkable numbers during an era in which so much seemed too good to be true, and regularly proved just that. In a sense, Cabrera is now positioned to redeem the modern slugger. The question is whether he can compete with the fantasy of players past.

Cabrera’s constitution is not his game’s only anachronism. Over the past decade or so, the stat geeks, data brains and Bill James basement set have tried to redefine the “value” of the modern baseball player, introducing measurements like W.A.R. (wins above replacement) and w.R.C.+ (an indirect attempt to determine the number of runs a player creates) and de-emphasizing traditional power metrics like batting average and R.B.I. Cabrera is perhaps the old school’s best defense against the new one. When I asked what he considered baseball’s most important offensive statistic, he quickly said R.B.I. and then became slightly defensive. “How do you score runs? You need someone to drive guys to home plate. Not a lot of guys can do that right now. You count, it’s not many.”

Cabrera’s big-kid reputation implies, in part, a breezy indifference to the way most modern hitters prepare: endless film-room study, advanced training regimens and so forth. But it belies his own unique obsessiveness as a hitter. Cabrera resists watching too much video of opposing pitchers because, he told me, he fears that the alternate perspectives of the pitchers’ previous approaches could throw him off in the real-time context of a game. Cabrera also hates pitching machines. “I can’t hit it,” he says. “Because you don’t have time. They throw the ball by you — woomph.” This is puzzling to me; pitching machines, after all, usually deliver the ball considerably slower and straighter than real Major League players. “But you don’t see arm action,” Cabrera insists. In fact, pitching machines cannot help him hone what may be his greatest advantage. In a live at-bat, he can do the bulk of his mental work before the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, recognizing the pitcher’s grip, analyzing the arm angle and even picking up slight variances in his leg kick in the fractions of a second before a 90-something-mile-an-hour fastball whizzes past the plate. “Right up here,” Cabrera says, holding his hand over his head like a pitcher about to release. “If I don’t recognize the ball in hand, I’m in trouble.”

[…]

Many of baseball’s best hitters — Babe Ruth, Pete Rose, Manny Ramirez among them — have also been compared to overgrown children. The description conjures loosefitting personalities that, in some cases, disguised varying burdens and demons. And here, for Cabrera, the comparison fits. A few years ago, a predawn argument with his wife during the 2009 pennant race ended with Cabrera at a police station (no charges were filed). During spring training in Florida two years later, Cabrera was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. (He eventually pleaded no contest.) In the police report filed in St. Lucie County, Cabrera is said to have told officers: “Do you know who I am? You don’t know anything about my problems.”

People focused on the first sentence as the classic sign of an entitled athlete, but the second was more revealing. Cabrera was raised in Maracay, Venezuela, and his parents, who are divorced, placed great pressure on him to succeed at baseball. Cabrera’s father, Miguel, worked in an auto shop, and his mother, Gregoria, was a softball player on the Venezuelan national team. His uncle, David Torres, played in the St. Louis Cardinals system and trained young Miguel, who landed a tryout with the Marlins at 15 and received a $1.8 million signing bonus at 16. In 2003, a 20-year-old Cabrera hit a game-ending home run in his big-league debut. A few months later, he responded to a brushback pitch from Roger Clemens by taking him deep in the World Series. The Marlins defeated the Yankees in six games.

Cabrera was traded in December 2007 and signed a deal that would keep him in Detroit for eight years and $152 million. His parents still contact him constantly, urging him to keep improving, wondering, for instance, why he did not hit a home run, even though he had just gone 4 for 5. Cabrera, who is married to his hometown sweetheart, Rosangel, has a son and two daughters. There have been no further public reports of friction since the 2009 incident, and people around the Tigers describe Cabrera today as a lighter and matured personality. The 2012 signing of Prince Fielder, who hits fourth in the Tigers lineup, behind Cabrera, seemed to take a great deal of pressure off him. The acquisition forced him from first base to third, but by all accounts he has worked hard to become a serviceable defender. “He’s in a real good place right now,” said McClendon of Cabrera.

Doonesbury — Putting the No in North Carolina.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

Right and Wrong

Timothy Egan at the New York Times thinks the Republicans have finally pounded the last nail into their coffin with the hammer of the shutdown.

Sarah Palin finally got her death panels — a direct blow from the Republican House. In shutting down the government, leaving 800,000 people without a paycheck and draining the economy of $300 million a day, the Party of Madness also took away last-chance cancer trials for children at the National Institutes of Health.

And now that the pain that was dismissed as a trifle on Monday, a “slimdown” according to the chuckleheads at Fox News, is revealed as tragic by mid-week, the very radicals who caused the havoc are trying to say it’s not their fault.

It’s too late. They flunked hostage-taking. About 30 or so Republicans in the House, bunkered in gerrymandered districts while breathing the oxygen of delusion, are now part of a cast of miscreants who have stood firmly on the wrong side of history. The headline, today and 50 years from now, will be the same: Republicans closed the government to keep millions of their fellow Americans from getting affordable health care.

[…]

Politically, the shutdown is terrible for a party trying to rebrand itself. When Bobby Jindal said Republicans have to “stop being the party of stupid,” he swallowed a teaspoon of common sense. That’s been washed away by a river of stupid.

This week’s Quinnipiac Poll found 72 percent of Americans opposed to shutting down the government to halt the Affordable Care Act. When asked to pick a party in a generic Congressional matchup, those surveyed chose Democrats over Republicans, 43 percent to 34 — the widest measure in recent polling.

Those numbers won’t penetrate the gerrymandered fortresses that produced the people who have made our democracy a laughing stock of the world.

“We’re right,” crowed Representative Steve King of Iowa.

“We can always win,” seconded Representative Raúl Labrador of Idaho.

Say it enough times, and it’ll be true, like Karl Rove’s gasping on election night that Obama had not yet won. But the die is cast. They wrecked the car, dug their own grave; no matter what you call it, history’s verdict came early.

I really wish I could believe that’s the case, but for every time that the Republicans have been wrong on an issue or an ideology, be it the New Deal, desegregation, women’s rights, reproductive choice, marriage equality, civil rights, and every time they’ve suffered through a scandal that would normally kill off a political party like Raid on a roach, they’ve bounced back.

Not only that, they’ve learned nothing from their shame and scandal.  Even a child learns not to touch a hot stove more than once, but these radicals think they can not only do it, but come out even better.  They are counting on the slow clock speed and short attention span of the electorate, and a year from now they’ll probably keep all their seats in Congress and perhaps pick up a few more.  The one thing they do best is polish a turd.

Karen Karma

No one — especially someone who lived through a couple of hurricanes — would wish a natural disaster on anyone.  The wind and the rain hurts everyone regardless of their political views, and we would hope that after it’s over, there wouldn’t be any reason for them to get help when they need it.  A government shutdown shouldn’t stop FEMA and the National Guard and all the other emergency services.

It looks like Nature is planning on proving that point:

TS Karen 10-04-13

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) declared a state of emergency on Thursday as the only-partially-shut-down National Hurricane Center warned that Tropical Storm Karen could become a hurricane by early Saturday.

An advisory issued Thursday said that the tropical depression had strengthened to a tropical storm after winds hit 65 m.p.h. The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for the Gulf Coast from Grand Isle, LA, to Indian Pass, FL.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama had been updated about the storm during a Thursday morning briefing, and had directed FEMA to recall some furloughed employees to begin to prepare for Karen. 11,468 out of the 14,729 employees at FEMA were deemed essential and stayed on staff, so recalled staff would be in addition to that number.

Visitors to the National Hurricane Center’s website see a message at the top explaining why they are still able to see hurricane warnings: “Due to the Federal Government shutdown, NOAA.gov and most associated web sites are unavailable. However, because the information this site provides is necessary to protect life and property, it will be updated and maintained during the Federal Government shutdown.”

Most reporting on the impacts of the shutdown briefly mentions that the Center will continue to track storms. Forecasting, technical, and front desk staff are still working, though “non-exempted” staff like the Center’s spokesperson was out on furlough due to the shutdown on Wednesday. He was recalled on Thursday.

It seems like Nature has it in for the GOP: remember when Gov. Jindal mocked “volcano monitoring” only to have a volcano in Alaska rumble to life a month later?  Maybe that’s Nature paying them back for all the damage they’re doing with their climate change denial and stinking up the joint with oil spills and pollution.

Cracks Among the Cracked

First it’s just a little tremble.  Then a pebble falls.  Then a twig snaps.  Then you feel a little movement, and soon the ground is shifting.  Then pretty soon the whole thing gives way and it’s down the mountain we go.

In a Capitol rattled by a shooting on the grounds that killed a woman and injured a police officer, tempers have flared and pressure appears to be mounting to resolve a stalemate that has shut large parts of the government, sidelined 800,000 federal workers and forced more than one million more to work without pay.

As the shooting incident was still unfolding, Representative Tim Griffin, Republican of Arkansas, took to Twitter to imply a connection with the shots fired outside the Capitol and the heated words inside. “Stop the violent rhetoric President Obama, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. #Disgusting,” he wrote, only to delete the message later.

There were signs on Thursday, however, that some lawmakers were willing to work together to end the dispute. About 20 Republicans and Democrats signed on to a proposal that would reopen the government, finance it for six months and repeal the health care law’s tax on medical devices, a provision that has bipartisan opposition.

Representatives Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Ron Kind, Democrat of Wisconsin, framed it as a compromise that both sides should be willing to accept to reopen the government.

“It’s important that we accept incremental progress when we can,” Mr. Dent said. “What we’re talking about here is leadership.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, approached Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, to try to open talks, also centered on the medical device tax as a face-saving victory for Republicans looking for a graceful way to back down.

I think I just heard a twig snap.

Note to Chuck Schumer: Do not let them have a graceful way out.  Make it public, make it uncomfortable, make them pay for it.