Archive for Parties

Sep
28

Funny, how that works

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Perhaps it is not just a coincidence or a quirk of American policy-making that the words “innovation” and “reform” lately seem to attach themselves to ideas that drive more public money, public infrastructure, and public control into the hands of private investors. Nor that this meme is driven by lobbyists for public-private partnerships (P3s) where corporations stand to rack up profits by privatizing the commons.

Whether it is turning over state prisons to for-profit Corrections Corporation of America or public education over to publicly traded K12 Inc., we are to believe that despite the scandals and poor outcomes, the private sector will always do a better job than big gummint. We hear the private sector is more “efficient” than efforts run by the people and for the people. But more efficient at what?

This last week, as we noted, ITR Concession Co, and its parent company, the Spanish-Australian consortium Cintra-Macquarie declared bankruptcy on its concession to operate the Indiana Toll Road. The 75-year deal fell apart after only eight.

But getting back to efficiency. Think maybe the Germans could do it better? Maybe not.

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Sep
23

A North Carolina Bridgegate?

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As corporate-carpetbagger friendly as the NCGOP has made North Carolina since taking control of the legislature in 2010, they keep surprising. This latest revelation Monday from North Carolina echoes the billion-dollar, Hudson Lights real estate deal thought connected to Gov. Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal. WCNC-Charlotte has video here.
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Sep
17

Old warhorses

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Buster Keaton in “The General.” Public domain.

Hear that melody? Sen. Lindsay Graham is conducting the Village Symphony Orchestra in one of Republicans’ favorite warhorses. You’ve heard it before. You’ll hear it again.

“Republicans mount their warhorses” sits atop the WaPo’s online Opinion section this morning. (If you arrived late, music lovers, the VSO just began the ISIS movement.)

The sudden desire for a ground war is a bit suspect, both because many Republicans adopted this view only after Obama came around to their previous view and because many Republicans oppose even the modest funding Obama has requested to train Syrian fighters. (Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she opposed “giving even more money to the so-called vetted moderates who aren’t moderate at all.”)

It may be that Republicans embraced the boots-on-the-ground position because Obama rejected it. Whatever the cause, the militancy is spreading — even though polls indicate that while Americans favor military action against the Islamic State, they aren’t keen on ground troops.

Of course, whatever the Kenyan Pretender wants is not enough for Graham and the VSO. Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) wants “all-out-war.” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) doesn’t want another “half-pregnant war.” As Dana Milbank observes, the rest of the VSO (or is it the Very Serious Orchestra?) oppose anything less than a new ground war in the Middle East. And soon, because they want to hurry back to their districts to campaign for reelection wearing new campaign ribbons. And hoping war hysteria might distract voters from quizzing them on what they haven’t done in Washington to earn their paychecks.

Maybe I missed the act of war ISIS committed against the United States of America that justifies the war into which (with their new trailer) ISIS wants to goad us. Or has America just gone so far down the rabbit hole that we’ll launch another war because — when in doubt — it’s the one thing this aging empire does by default? Like the clueless civilian Buster Keaton plays in “The General,” who, finding himself in the middle of a Civil War battle, brandishes a discarded saber to rally troops whenever he doesn’t know what else to do?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
11

Stupid is as stupid does

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Many have commented on the recent Facebook posting by a Georgia Republican state senator. Fran Millar complained about siting an early voting location in a South DeKalb mall heavily used by African American residents, a location with large black churches nearby. Millar then made things worse in followup comments:

“I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters. If you don’t believe this is an efort [sic] to maximize Democratic votes pure and simple, then you are not a realist. This is a partisan stunt and I hope it can be stopped.”

That feeling among Republicans goes back at least to Paul Weyrich’s oldy-goldy, Goo-Goo syndrome speech from 1980.

George Chidi, a Georgia journalist writing in the Guardian, acknowledges the partisan flavor of the location decision, calling the plan “a gigantic middle finger to Republicans intent on suppressing black voters.” But if Republicans want to head off “the coming demographic Armageddon,” Chidi believes, they might just want to start courting those black voters.

Considering that early voting will begin in a few weeks, I want pivot to Millar’s crack about preferring “more educated voters” to more voters generally. It’s easy to sneer at Millar for (basically) calling constituents stupid. Besides being condescending, it’s not the message to send people right before you ask for their votes.

Yet, I sometimes hear the same from lefties about poor, white, Republican voters. Occasionally, they just blurt out that voters are stupid. More often it’s couched in a dog-whistle complaint about people voting against their best interests. Which, if you think about it, is just a more polite way of saying the same thing.

As a field organizer in the South, I remind canvassers that, no, those voters are not stupid. They’re busy. With jobs and kids and choir practice and soccer practice and church and PTA and Friday night football and more. Unlike political junkies, they don’t keep up with issues. They don’t have time for the issues. When they go to the polls they are voting to hire someone to keep up with the issues for them. And when they look at a candidate — your candidate — what they are really asking themselves is simple: “Is this someone I can trust?”

One of my favorite southernisms is, “I wouldn’t trust anyone my dog doesn’t like.” That, I caution canvassers, is how most Americans really vote, like it or not. And if you don’t purge the thought, those “low information” voters? They will know you think they’re stupid before you do. Right before you ask for their votes.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
11

An economic cult

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Paul Krugman this morning writes about “the inflation cult,” doomsaying pundits and supposed economic experts who, economic rain or shine, predict that a steep rise in inflation is coming anytime now and, quite reliably, get it wrong time after time.

Part of that appeal is clearly political; there’s a reason why Mr. Santelli yells about both inflation and how President Obama is giving money away to “losers,” why Mr. Ryan warns about both a debased currency and a government that redistributes from “makers” to “takers.” Inflation cultists almost always link the Fed’s policies to complaints about government spending. They’re completely wrong about the details — no, the Fed isn’t printing money to cover the budget deficit — but it’s true that governments whose debt is denominated in a currency they can issue have more fiscal flexibility, and hence more ability to maintain aid to those in need, than governments that don’t.

And anger against “takers” — anger that is very much tied up with ethnic and cultural divisions — runs deep. Many people, therefore, feel an affinity with those who rant about looming inflation; Mr. Santelli is their kind of guy. In an important sense, I’d argue, the persistence of the inflation cult is an example of the “affinity fraud” crucial to many swindles, in which investors trust a con man because he seems to be part of their tribe. In this case, the con men may be conning themselves as well as their followers, but that hardly matters.

This tribal interpretation of the inflation cult helps explain the sheer rage you encounter when pointing out that the promised hyperinflation is nowhere to be seen. It’s comparable to the reaction you get when pointing out that Obamacare seems to be working, and probably has the same roots.

Not just economists, but the country (and perhaps the entire Republican Party) seems to be in the grip of an economic cult concerned with much more than inflation — that’s just a symptom. As Krugman suggests, ethnic and cultural (and class) divisions factor into it. Digby has written repeatedly (and just yesterday) that many of the same people “have always been wrong about everything.” And yet, their followers keep listening. Conservatism never fails. It is unfalsifiable. I wrote last week that the Koch brothers’ evangelism for the their libertarian Kochification Church resembles recruiting techniques used by cults.

Hey, let’s start a meme.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
10

Math is hard

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TillisCaptureNorth Carolina’s Republican House Speaker, Thom Tillis, wants to be the state’s next U.S. senator. He’s finding it a tough sell. Tea party members and Republican small businessmen oppose Tillis for pushing for toll lanes on I-77 in his own district and elsewhere in the state. Then, someone anonymously slipped a provision into a must-pass budget bill that “allows warrantless drone surveillance at all public events … or any place which is in ‘plain view’ of a law enforcement officer.” Privacy advocates from left to right cried foul.

Next, Tillis was been pilloried for “mansplaining” both in his debate with incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan and in a TV ad where he uses “simple math” (just numbers on a white board) to show how math is lost on Hagan. The Tillis ad spotlights the average 7% raise he claims state teachers received under his leadership (only after the loud public outcry over Republican education cuts in an election year). Well, not so fast.

When Gov. Pat McCrory wrote to welcome teachers back to the classroom, he touted a “substantial” pay raise that amounted to “an average pay increase of 5.5 percent for teachers.”

That might have been exciting news, except that legislative leaders have been touting a 7 percent average pay raise for more than a month. House Speaker Thom Tillis trumpets that 7 percent figure as “simple math” in a recent campaign ad for his U.S. Senate campaign.

McCroryCapture

I guess math is hard for Pat and Thom.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
03

No Free Lunch

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Our friends on the right get almost gleeful whenever they see an opening to use their superior command of economics to explain to liberals how the world really works.

Yet, the basic concept they themselves have trouble wrapping their brains around is “no free lunch.”

Gov. Sam Brownback’s tea party-driven economic experiment in Kansas is taking a toll. The latest poll shows him trailing his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, by 8 points. The Kansas City Star says Brownback is “paying a political price for bold leadership.” This is what bold leadership looks like:

Brownback has slashed income taxes, cut thousands off welfare, curbed abortion rights, tried gaining control of judicial appointments and made a failed attempt to cut arts funding.

When the moderate wing of his party stood in the way, Brownback successfully campaigned for conservatives more in step with his political philosophy so he could exert a tighter grip on the statehouse.

The result? His state’s economy is headed into the tank after slashing income taxes at Brownback’s urging, with more cuts scheduled and growth below projections. Standard & Poors downgraded Kansas’ credit rating in August. Davis charges that another Brownback term will bring cuts to Kansas schools.

Five hundred women from across the state gathered last week at the Taking Back Kansas convention in Wichita, put on by Women for Kansas and chaired by Lynn Stephan. The bipartisan group aims to turn out Brownback, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in November. Most of the candiidates they support are Democrats.

“Women in this state are scared,” Stephan said. “We’re going broke” under the leadership of Brownback’s tea-party fiscal ideas. Schools and hospitals in some small towns may have to close, she said, and then “the town will dry up and blow away.”

Although she considers herself a moderate Republican, Stephan said that “the Republican party abandoned me 10 years ago.”

That’s about two decades after the party abandoned reality for the magical thinking of trickle down economics and started worshipping the Market as a deity.

As much as conservatives discuss curtailing entitlements, many of them behave as if they are entitled to kick ass on any country they feel is stepping out of line, and to doing so without paying for it. They feel entitled to beat their chests about how exceptional America is, and entitled to the public infrastructure their parents and grandparents built with their taxes and sweat in making it a world power. Yet they seem to have no sense of pride in maintaining it. Not their responsibility. They’re taxed enough already.

They complain their taxes are too high, and all the while the country is running a budget deficit that proves they are not paying enough to cover its costs and to keep it from crumbling. A report last year ranked U.S. highways 18th in the world, behind Korea, Luxembourg, and Saudi Arabia.

Point this out, and conservatives insist that the problem is government is spending too much. That we need to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse — the bane of Republicans’ perpetual motion economy.

See, America could maintain its infrastructure, fund top-notch schools, and support a costly global empire indefinitely without raising taxes just by eliminating the friction of waste, fraud, and abuse.

And by installing this simple device — one that big oil companies have tried to suppress — your car can get 500 miles per gallon. Order now!

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Economy, Republicans
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With the imposition of a state-appointed emergency manager for Detroit, a local activist says half the voting population of Michigan has, essentially, lost the right to vote. As we noted during our recent visit, they’re also cutting off the water to thousands of Detroit families and headed towards privatizing the water and sewer systems. Sally Kohn looks at The Republican Occupation of Detroit:

Why would any city want to privatize its water system? A report by Corporate Accountability International (CAI) shows that water privatization fairly universally leads to higher prices for cities and consumers and, in many cases, decreased efficiencies. In fact, the track record for water privatization is so abysmal that CAI found more than 20 American cities that had once privatized their water have taken back control of their systems since 2002. If water privatization is bad for the city of Detroit and its residents, who is it good for? Corporations. Which is where the state’s interest comes in.

Government governs best that’s closest to the people? Not so in Michigan. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s GOP may hate what they decry as the nanny state, but they are just fine with a paternalistic daddy state.

Under Governor Pat McCrory and the GOP-led legislature, North Carolina is headed there as well. Michigan just got there first.

Jul
17

Live Stream – Netroots Nation 2014

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Check back for the addresses listed below and here.


Live streaming video by Ustream

Thursday, July 17, 2014 Keynotes

3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Keynote featuring Vice President Joe Biden
7:15 to 9 p.m. Opening keynote featuring Rev. Barber

Friday, July 18, 2014

10 to 10:45 a.m. Morning keynote featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Categories : Action, Democrats, National, News
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Jul
15

The GOP knows what women want

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Hey Baby,

Yeah, I’m talking to you hot pants! You so fine I want your vote to be mine. Didn’t you know I was a free-market Love God? It’s because I’ve got “invisible hands” but it feels so good when they make the market run in perfect harmony, you know what I’m sayin’?

Hey, sweet cheeks, don’t get upset. I’m just trying to bring the debate down to your level, honey! Are you getting me yet? Are you voting for me yet? Do ya love me Baby? Do ya? Can you fetch a cool glass of privatized water for me Baby?

 

Categories : Republicans
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