Friday, October 15, 2010

This Might Work

According to Greg Sargent at The Plum Line, voters might actually care about the Chamber of Commerce spending money from foreign donors on campaign ads.

It has become an article of faith among certain Beltway inside-game commentators that there’s no way the Dem attack on secret money funding elections could ever have a prayer of working. Surely the issue is too esoteric, too process-y, and too removed from voter concerns about the economy to resonate.

But a new poll commissioned by MoveOn, and done by the respected non-partisan firm Survey USA, strongly suggests that the issue may indeed matter a good deal to voters after all.

The poll finds that two thirds of registered voters, or 66 percent, are aware that outside groups are behind some of the ads they’re seeing. This makes sense, since the issue has dominated the media amid the battle over the huge ad onslaught against Dems funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s groups.

What’s more, an overwhelming 84 percent say they have a “right to know” who’s bankrolling the ads. And crucially, the poll also found that the issue is resonant when linked to the economy. A majority, 53 percent, are less likely to think a candidate who is backed by “anonymous groups” can be trusted to “improve economic conditions” for them or their families. People don’t believe these groups are looking out for their interests.

Whether or not this will make a difference in the elections in less than three weeks is problematic; it’s a little late for an October surprise — those usually need to start in September in order to sink in — it does have implications for what could happen after the elections. Either by legislation or just plain public clamor, secret donors to campaigns are going to find themselves under pressure to disclose what they’re doing.

I’ve never been able to figure out why people who support a particular candidate, regardless of party or philosophy, would want to keep it under wraps. If you support the Tea Party or some such group and believe in their goals and their candidates, why not say so publicly? What’s the matter; are you embarrassed by it or afraid of the public backlash? (If so, that right there should tell you something about your causes.)

Frankly, I don’t even like the idea of groups from out of state coming into Florida or wherever and trying to inject themselves into local elections, regardless of whether or not I support the candidate. If you don’t live here and don’t vote here, don’t spend your money trying to buy my vote.

At any rate, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce seems to have handed the Democrats a golden opportunity to make foreign money infiltrating the American elections a big issue in the campaign; you can tell it’s a good one by the volcanic denials of those caught in the act. The only question left is how the Democrats will blow it.

Short Takes

They are going to give peace talks a chance in Afghanistan.

“Papers, please” also applies to mortgages and foreclosures, and it looks like that’s what’s at the heart of the foreclosure mess.

A legal challenge to the healthcare bill in Florida can proceed to trial.

No inflation means no cost of living increase in Social Security this year.

Rick Scott was once sued by the State of Florida for insider trading. The case was later dismissed.

Harry Reid and Sharron Angle held their one and only debate in the Senate contest in Nevada.

Tropical Update: Paula is now a tropical storm skirting the north coast of Cuba.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Last Starfighter

The latest in missile defense:

West Virginia Senate hopeful John Raese is hitting the campaign trail with a plan to launch 1000 laser guns into orbit to shoot down rogue state missiles. “We need 1,000 laser systems put in the sky and we need it right now.”

Because you know the Soviet Union is already arming itself with photon torpedoes.

Why is that Senate race even close?

Chamber Pot

Think Progress is all over the United States Chamber of Commerce story.

Last week, ThinkProgress published an exclusive story about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s foreign fundraising operation. We noted the Chamber raises money from foreign-owned businesses for its 501(c)(6) entity, the same account that finances its unprecedented $75 million dollar partisan attack ad campaign. While the Chamber is notoriously secretive, the thrust of our story involved the disclosure of fundraising documents U.S. Chamber staffers had been distributing to solicit foreign (even state-owned) companies to donate directly to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6).

[…]

In addition to multinational members of the Chamber headquartered abroad (like BP, Shell Oil, and Siemens), a new ThinkProgress investigation has identified at least 84 other foreign companies that actively donate to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6).

Read the whole story and look at the list of companies from all over the world who pay dues to the Chamber; the dues alone total $885,000. They obviously expect something more for their money than just a membership card.

Short Takes

They’re all out — All 33 Chilean miners have been rescued.

The U.S. is letting Taliban officials attend peace talks in Afghanistan.

Officials in all fifty states are investigating the foreclosure process.

Dozens of people have been charged in the biggest Medicare fraud case ever.

Marco Rubio’s campaign tried to give $1,500 to his sister-in-law’s charity. (And kudos to the Reid Report for the initial finding.)

Christine O’Donnell and Chris Coons debated for the Senate seat in Delaware.

There’s a glimmer of hope for Democrats in the Senate races.

One Chilean miner may wish he had a place to hide… from his wife or his girlfriend.

Tropical Update: Hurricane Paula will be all over Cuba.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Short Takes

The boss at the plant in Hungary that released the sludge has been detained by police.

A British hostage in Afghanistan was killed by her own rescuers.

The first human patient is being tested with stem cells.

Plans are to start bringing the Chilean miners out late today.

President Obama stops by the neighborhood.

R.I.P. Joan Sutherland, opera star.

Tropical Update: All of a sudden we have Hurricane Paula.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Short Takes

The wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has been placed under house arrest after visiting her husband in prison.

Workers in Chile are reinforcing the rescue shaft for the trapped miners.

Bigots on Parade: Carl Paladino accuses gays of “brainwashing” children.

Eight gang members were arraigned in New York for their anti-gay attack.

President Obama is coming to Miami to raise money for local Democrats.

Miami drivers can expect to keep paying high tolls on the express lanes on I-95.

Tropical Update: Except for this little disturbance, all’s quiet in the North Atlantic.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What The Heil?

Richard Iott, the Republican candidate for Congress from Toledo, used to have a rather interesting hobby.

Mr. Iott appears dressed in a Nazi uniform, along with several other men, in a photo that accompanies the lead item on theatlantic.com.

The headline is “Why’s a GOP Candidate Dressed as a Nazi?”

The online article by Joshua Green begins, “An election year already notable for its menagerie of extreme and unusual candidates can add another one: Rich Iott, the Republican nominee for Congress from Ohio’s 9th District, and a Tea Party favorite, who for years donned a German Waffen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments.”

So, in other words, he used to spend his weekends having a Nazi Party.

Mr. Green writes that Mr. Iott’s name appears on a roster as early as 2003 of a group that re-enacts the Nazi’s 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking. Mr Iott told the writer that his interest in the group is “purely historical interest in World War II.”

Joining was a “father-son bonding thing,” Mr. Green quotes Mr. Iott. But he quit three years ago when his son lost interest, and so his name and photos were removed from the Wiking site, Mr. Iott told Mr. Green.

Far be it from me to offer parenting advice, but if you want to bond with your son, how about joining the Boy Scouts? Little League? Build a soap-box derby car? Those are the classic father-son kind of things people think of, not conquering Eastern Europe with tanks.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Marcy Kaptur, the Democratic incumbent, is assured of re-election.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Time Warp

Last night Rachel Maddow interviewed Republican Art Robinson, who is running for Congress in Oregon against incumbent Peter DeFazio. The interview took place via satellite. It did not go well.


It’s worth watching just to see Rachel pounding her head on the desk.

Assassination by Suicide

Christine O’Donnell is blaming — who else? — the liberal media for depicting her in a bad light.

At a candidate forum sponsored by a group of local Republicans, O’Donnell blamed her campaign’s recent troubles on unfair coverage in the “liberal media.”

“I’ve put my name on the line. And I’ve taken a lot of hits … a lot of character assassination,” O’Donnell said.

But since she rarely gives interviews to the liberal media, all we have are tapes of what she’s said. So….

It’s pretty hard to make a fool out of someone when they’re doing a fine job of it on their own.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

In An Instant

Aside from the fact that the party that won the White House in the last presidential election usually loses seats in the first mid-term election that comes after, one of the other factors behind the the Democrats’ being in trouble is that it’s been tough to convince the voters that President Obama and the Democrats have actually accomplished anything.

Say what? Steve Benen has the comprehensive list of what the Obama administration has pulled off in less than two years:

I don’t expect the public to have an extensive knowledge of federal policymaking history, but I at least hoped Americans would realize the scope of recent accomplishments. We are, after all, talking about a two-year span in which Congress passed and the president signed the Affordable Care Act, the Recovery Act, Wall Street reform, student loan reform, Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, new regulation of the credit card industry, new regulation of the tobacco industry, a national service bill, expanded stem-cell research, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the most sweeping land-protection act in 15 years, etc. Policymakers might yet add to this list in the lame-duck session.

Some of these efforts have been years in the making. In the case of health care reform, politicians have been talking about a major overhaul for a full century, but it took this Congress and this president to get it done.

All of this in spite of entrenched opposition by Republicans on everything the Democrats proposed — including ideas that the GOP was once in favor of — and a perpetual media storm by a network that is basically owned by the opposition. All that, and the thanks they get from the voters is staring down the barrel of the Republicans possibly getting the majority in the house and four or five Senate seats. Why is that?

Some say it’s the lack of communication from the White House and the Democrats; their message isn’t getting out about what they’ve done, or if it is, it’s being overshadowed by other events or the clown antics of the fringe groups who still get air time for claiming the president is a secret Muslim in cahoots with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But I think Steve M gets it when he says that what the voters wanted to see were results, not bill-signings, and so far, there aren’t a lot of tangibles to show for all the work.

Lefty political junkies, please: stop thinking like lefty political junkies. Ordinary Americans aren’t like us. They want to see kitchen-table, meat-and-potatoes results. They’ll usually settle for distractions — wars, well-publicized tax cuts they mostly don’t benefit from. But this administration hasn’t given them any of this.

It’s hard to impress someone with the news that didn’t happen. The economy didn’t collapse. The auto companies didn’t go out of business. Unemployment didn’t hit 25%. Credit card companies didn’t come after your first-born child. All of the horror stories are just that; stories. But in a culture where we wait for bad news, it’s hard to sell the voters with the pitch of “wow, you really dodged the bullet that time.” That doesn’t work.

The other factor is that we have become a nation that expects instant results. Everything has to happen NOW. The file takes a moment to download? What’s wrong with my computer? Popcorn takes three minutes in the microwave and we’re pacing in the kitchen. We fast-forward through the commercials on TiVo to see an hour-long show in forty minutes, and sitting at a stop light feels like several geological ages. So after waiting nearly seventy years for real comprehensive healthcare reform, for example, when we don’t see the magical changes to our world overnight, we throw the bums out… and vote for the party that has made their mark by doing absolutely nothing and bragging about it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Short Takes

NATO oil tankers are under attack by the Taliban in Pakistan.

It’s the first Monday in October, which means the Supreme Court is open for business.

No surprise there: Rahm Emanuel announces his candidacy for mayor of Chicago.

The FBI has made an arrest in the robbery of an armored car that also resulted in the death of a guard.

Today is the last day to register to vote in Florida for the November 2 election.

If you’re a Verizon Wireless customer — like me — you might be getting a refund.

The election in Brazil may lead to a run-off.

Tropical Update: Invest 97 doesn’t seem to be doing much of anything scary.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No Matter What

There are a lot of people on the progressive side who understandably feel angry, frustrated, and just plain pissed off by what they’ve seen coming from the Obama administration. I won’t argue with them; there have been some real disappointments and unpleasant moments, up to but not limited to Rahm Emanuel’s outbursts. I know exactly what they’re talking about, and I’m not here to defend them or rattle off the talking points.

But I do think we have to look beyond what we wanted or what we expected and realize two things. First, nobody could live up to the hype that accompanied Barack Obama’s run for the White House. The combination of a dynamic speaker and the revulsion at the failure of the Bush administration made the perfect climate to sweep him into office with the expectations of miracles and deliverance. So no matter what he did, even if he accomplished everything in the first one hundred days and relegated Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and Sarah Palin to selling Christmas goodies on HSN, there was bound to be disappointment and unmet expectations. In some ways we set ourselves up for the let-down, and that made the missteps and the screw-ups even more painful and aggravating.

Second, I think we woefully underestimated the visceral hatred that would erupt when it dawned on the right wing that America had actually elected a black man with a centrist/liberal agenda. I remember writing a post back when Barack Obama started his run for the nomination in 2007 that if he got elected, the Republicans and the hard-core wingers would go to heights unimagined to denigrate and slander him and possibly even threaten his life, but I don’t think we really understood the depths of depravity that would come out. Even the worst things that the rudest left-wing bloggers said about George W. Bush amount to gentle chiding compared to what we’re seeing. And it’s not just from the fringes. We have elected members of Congress who are questioning everything from the president’s place of birth to his faith, and we have an entire industry devoted to churning out this crap. (Ironically, it’s probably good for at least one segment of the economy; there’s money to be made in Wingnuttia.)

So now we’re coming up on the mid-term elections. There’s been a lot of talk about the enthusiasm gap; Democrats are demoralized and disappointed, the Republicans are ginned up, and it’s all Barack Obama’s fault. The Democrats aren’t going to vote and the Republicans will vote twice (and suppress voters where they can just for good measure). If that happens, the results will be even worse than what’s going on now because no matter what happens — even if every teabagger candidate out there loses by double digits and the Democrats cling to the House and Senate — the Republicans will claim it as a win and, like George W. Bush did with his “mandate” in 2000, take every pound of manure and sell it as gold. And, true to form, if the Democrats manage to pull it off, they will breathe a huge sigh of relief and not feel as if they deserved to win.

So let me be perfectly blunt: your feelings don’t matter, and failing to vote because of your disappointment will only empower the wingnuts. In fact, they’re counting on it.

Footnote: Of course, Digby says it better.

Short Takes

Pakistan generals want to shake up the government.

Senate Republicans blocked the outsourcing bill.

Poll: The race for Congress is getting tighter.

Former President Jimmy Carter was hospitalized after getting sick while flying to Cleveland.

The Grand Ole Opry re-opens after last spring’s flooding in Nashville.

Poverty is up in South Florida.

Tropical Update: South Florida is under a tropical storm warning with TS Sixteen bearing down.

The Tigers were rained out against the Indians. They’ll play a double-header today.

Monday, September 20, 2010

You Fight The Fights That Need Fighting

According to this piece in The New York Times, the Democrats are trying to come up with their last stretch strategy to keep the mid-terms from going down in flames.

President Obama’s political advisers, looking for ways to help Democrats and alter the course of the midterm elections in the final weeks, are considering a range of ideas, including national advertisements, to cast the Republican Party as all but taken over by Tea Party extremists, people involved in the discussion said.

White House and Congressional Democratic strategists are trying to energize dispirited Democratic voters over the coming six weeks, in hopes of limiting the party’s losses and keeping control of the House and Senate. The strategists see openings to exploit after a string of Tea Party successes split Republicans in a number of states, culminating last week with developments that scrambled Senate races in Delaware and Alaska.

“We need to get out the message that it’s now really dangerous to re-empower the Republican Party,” said one Democratic strategist who has spoken with White House advisers but requested anonymity to discuss private strategy talks.

So far so good. But wait…

Democrats are divided. The party’s House and Senate campaign committees are resistant, not wanting to do anything that smacks of nationalizing the midterm elections when high unemployment and the drop in Mr. Obama’s popularity have made the climate so hostile to Democrats. Endangered Congressional candidates want any available money to go to their localized campaigns.

Late Sunday night, White House advisers denied that a national ad campaign was being planned. “There’s been no discussion of such a thing at the White House” or the Democratic National Committee, said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser.

Argh. This is what drives people crazy. Newt Gingrich is fulminating about passing a federal law banning the use of shariah law in the courts (we already have one; it’s called the First Amendment); Christine O’Donnell, the Republican nominee for the Senate from Delaware, is deemed to be “a bit of a flake” by William Kristol (who says he would still vote for her. Of course he would); Sarah Palin is defending the use of racial epithets by radio pseudo-shrink; Sharron Angle is endorsing armed insurrection, and who knows what tomorrow may bring in the annals of right-wing batshittery. The Tea Party is delivering the Democrats campaign fodder to their door; they couldn’t have asked for it better if they had done with candy and a stripper. But the Democrats are worried about taking advantage of these gifts because they’re afraid of being attacked in a position of weakness and, as the article states further on, they want to hold their fire for the 2012 campaign.

That makes as much sense as the Tigers keeping their best pitcher out of the rotation in April because they want to save him for the World Series six months later. Trust me, he’ll be in good shape if you never use him, but then you won’t be in the World Series, either. Certainly the GOP and the Tea Party aren’t going to hold their fire because they’re afraid of exposing their weaknesses; they revel in that sort of stuff. They’re going to capitalize on Christine O’Donnell’s serial quotations as proof that she’s a genuine American with all the quirks and peccadilloes that are emblematic of what we really need in Washington instead of the career politicians who wait until they’re elected to go off the deep end.

A.J. MacInerney (The American President) said you fight the fights that need fighting, not just the ones you can win. That means you do it because it’s the right thing to do. And that also means standing up for people who are fighting for their political lives right now because they won’t be fighting for you two years from now if they’re out of office.

Hood Ornaments

In case you weren’t riveted to C-SPAN’s coverage of the “Value Voters Summit” this past weekend, you might have missed the news that Indiana Congressman Mike Pence came in first in their straw poll for president in 2012. Sarah Palin came in fifth, behind such luminaries as Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. I guess that tells you what this particular right-wing gathering thought of Ms. Palin; she’s great on the stump, but even they don’t want her to run for president. Or at least they’d rather have a white guy from Indiana.

It’s interesting to note that the most prominent spokespeople for the Tea Party have been women: Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Sharron Angle, and now Christine O’Donnell. They’re outspoken, occasionally charismatic and fun to watch as they give speeches, but when it comes to actually running for president or attaining a real leadership role in the default party of choice, none of them will be given any real power. This is, after all, not a group known to be sympathetic to feminism, at least in the way that most people define it. The most mileage they can get out of them is by trying to blunt the criticism from the left by saying, “Hey, we have women in positions of power, too,” or thinking that by running women as candidates, it makes it hard for people to criticize them without coming across as hypocritical misogynists, the same way they say it’s hard to criticize President Obama without being called a racist. Actually, no, it’s not. It’s quite easy to criticize a candidate for their views and their extremist statements without bringing race or genitalia into the equation. It’s just that a lot of conservatives can’t get past the exteriors, which is where they get into trouble.

There’s no doubt that Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell are energetic and that the Tea Party folk are delighted to have them out there drawing the crowds and the media attention. But the likelihood of them actually achieving serious support from the people with the money who run the show and who will choose their nominee in 2012 is pretty small.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Short Takes

They’re voting for a parliament in Afghanistan.

A bore hole has reached the trapped miners in Chile.

Lisa Murkowski will run as a write-in for the Senate in Alaska.

This isn’t over — The Deepwater Horizon leak may be capped, but there’s still a lot to do.

Candidates debate: Marco Rubio, Charlie Crist, and Kendrick Meek mix it up.

Tropical Update: Hurricane Igor is bearing down on Bermuda. Julia has devolved to a tropical storm, as has Karl over Mexico.

The Tigers beat the White Sox.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Florida Three-Way

Charlie Crist is now running ads on TV here that touts his independence from both parties, but he’s making more moves to the center and even dipping into liberal territory by suggesting that the state may drop its defense of the ban on gay adoption in Florida and is now in favor of civil unions. He defended the move as “evolution” (another liberal leaning):

The governor, who now needs to attract more Democratic and independent voters, called his changing views “an appropriate evolution.”

“The older you get the more tolerant you become, the less judgmental you are, and that’s called wisdom,” Crist said. “Maybe I was more rigid earlier, but I don’t feel that way. And I know who’s supposed to be judging people, and it’s not me.”

That’s nice, but it’s not just about becoming more tolerant as he gets older. It’s because he’s trying to scoop up the votes from Kendrick Meek, although I have a hard time believing that hard-core Democrats would flip for Crist just because he’s not sounding like a right-winger. But even if they do, it may be for naught. TPM takes a look at the Senate race in Florida and basically calls it for Marco Rubio.

The day after the Florida Senate primary on August 24th, our Eric Kleefeld suggested that Kendrick Meek’s victory over mogul-Democrat Jeff Greene might be very bad news for Charlie Crist, who to that point, running as an independent, had been in a consistent lead over Republican nominee Marco Rubio. Indeed, Crist had virtually supplanted Meek as the de facto Democrat in the race.

But Eric was prescient. Meek’s victory over Greene has turned out to be a devastating reverse for Crist.

[…]

The reality is that both Crist and Meek are running in effect as Democrats, albeit of rather different flavors. And if they split the vote, neither can win. So the current deadlock, albeit with Crist significantly ahead of Meek, will likely guarantee the Republicans that seat.

You can’t say you didn’t see that coming.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Short Takes

Primary results from yesterday’s races include Christine O’Donnell in Delaware winning the GOP senate nod and Carl Paladino running for governor in New York.

Israel and Palestine met in Egypt for Round Two of their talks. Next stop, Jerusalem.

Sarah Shourd, the hiker held in Iran for over a year, has been released and is now out of the country.

The signs of an improving economy are there: retail sales were up in August.

Former Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer apologized to President Obama for his screed last year against the president’s speech to school kids.

Tropical Update: Hurricane Igor may give Bermuda a scare; Hurricane Julia may head for Igor; Tropical Storm Karl heads for the Yucatan peninsula.

The Tigers lost to the Rangers 11-4.