Fiscal Cliff Negotiations—So Far, So Good

Here is President Obama’s initial fiscal-cliff-avoidance proposal he reportedly offered to Republicans:

  • $1.6 trillion in new revenue (including restoration of top marginal rates, higher taxes on capital gains and a return to the 2009-level estate tax, which itself is way too generous but not as bad as today’s)
  • $400 billion [correction:] $600 billion in additional entitlement cuts, which when added to the almost $1 trillion discretionary spending cuts already a part of law and a similar amount of “savings” from shutting down the two wars, makes well over $2 trillion in total spending cuts
  • About $200 million in additional stimulus, including an extension of unemployment benefits (which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office acknowledges would add 300,000 jobs) and an extension of the payroll tax holiday and some money to invest in infrastructure improvements as well as some money to help still-stressing homeowners modify their mortgages
  • A delay in those pesky automatic spending cuts to Defense and entitlements for one year
  • Ending congressional approval of raising the debt ceiling, a silly technical requirement that in Republican hands has become fiscally dangerous

Here is how Huff Po’s Ryan Grim reported the Republican summary of Obama’s proposal:

The proposal is based on a two-step plan that would decouple the high-end tax and capital gains rates from the middle-class rates, extending only those for the middle class. It would revert estate taxes to their higher 2009 level, and raise an additional $600 billion in taxes elsewhere, according to the GOP summary. It then proposes tax reform required to raise at least as much as the tax hikes, and entitlement reform that would trim $400 billion from the programs.

Here’s how Fox’s favorite conservative pundit, Charles Krauthammer, reacted, uh, overreacted, to the President’s proposal:

It’s not just a bad deal, this is really an insulting deal… Robert E. Lee was offered easier terms at Appomattox and he lost the Civil War. The Democrats won by 3% of the vote and they did not hold the House. Republicans won the House. So this is not exactly unconditional surrender, but that’s what the administration is asking of Republicans.

There not only are no cuts in this, there’s an increase in new spending with a stimulus – this is almost unheard of. I mean, what do they expect? They obviously expect the Republicans will cave on everything. I think Republican ought to simply walk away.

Here is that other intellectual of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh, and his reaction on Thursday:

walk away rush

This is, unfortunately, one time that we can count on Republicans not taking Limbaugh’s advice. They won’t walk away. Their greasy fingerprints—the grease courtesy of their fat-cat donors—will be all over what happens, either a deal or an adventure into short-term fiscal uncertainty.

Finally, here is Ezra Klein’s analysis of Obama’s proposal that should make liberals breathe a little—I said a little—easier, as we worry about our side’s negotiating prowess:

We’re seeing two things here. One is that the negotiations aren’t going well. When one side begins leaking the other side’s proposals, that’s typically a bad sign. The other is that Republicans are frustrated at the new Obama they’re facing: The Obama who refuses to negotiate with himself.

That’s what you’re really seeing in this “proposal.” Previously, Obama’s pattern had been to offer plans that roughly tracked where he thought the compromise should end up. The White House’s belief was that by being solicitous in their policy proposals, they would win goodwill on the other side, and even if they didn’t, the media would side with them, realizing they’d sought compromise and been rebuffed. They don’t believe that anymore.

Perhaps the key lesson the White House took from the last couple of years is this: Don’t negotiate with yourself. If Republicans want to cut Medicare, let them propose the cuts. If they want to raise revenue through tax reform, let them identify the deductions. If they want deeper cuts in discretionary spending, let them settle on a number. And, above all, if they don’t like the White House’s preferred policies, let them propose their own. That way, if the White House eventually does give in and agree to some of their demands, Republicans will feel like they got one over on the president. A compromise isn’t measured by what you offer, it’s measured by what the other side feels they made you concede.

The GOP is right: This isn’t a serious proposal. But it’s not evidence that Obama isn’t serious. He’s very serious about not negotiating with himself, and his opening bid proves it. Now that they’ve leaked his initial offer, the next question is obvious: What’s their offer?

“The Holy Grail Of Liberalism”

I heard Mitch McConnell, who spent four years as the leader of Senate Republicans trying to undermine Barack Obama’s presidency by undermining the economic recovery, say this today:

The only reason Democrats are insisting on raising rates is because raising rates on the so-called rich is the holy grail of liberalism. The holy grail of liberalism. There aim isn’t job creation; they’re interested in wealth destruction. Not job creation, but wealth destruction.

Like the Holy Grail related to Jesus, which mythically found its way into the hands of tidy-white Europeans for safekeeping (uh, but they seem to have lost it anyway), the myth that McConnell and other conservatives believe about liberals, you know, that we hate rich people and want to take all their stuff, is a persistent myth.

It is so persistent that a prominent leader of the Republican Party—right in the middle of what are supposed to be serious discussions on the budget—thinks nothing of standing on the floor of the U.S. Senate and proclaiming it to the world.

But is it really just a myth? Are liberals really “interested in wealth destruction” ? Really? Of course we are! Why? Because we want everyone to be poor! We want everyone to suffer and starve and die! That’s what we want. We want to destroy the rich so everyone can die in misery and pain equally. Yep, that’s what we want.

And the first step in doing that—our holiest of grails—is to put those onerous 39.6% Clinton tax rates back on the backs of the rich so they will just give up and quit. So they will just surrender all their money to us. So we can then take their money and give it to lazy slobs, mostly lazy slobs of color, who don’t want to work, who don’t want to do anything but live off the efforts of others, who want nothing more out of life than to sit around the house and suck the life out of the wealthy, those productive folks who Republicans tell us create all the jobs.

Jobs? Did someone say jobs? Who the hell needs jobs when we can destroy the wealthy!

Yes, that’s what we want; that’s why we exist.

And after all the wealth is gone, after we get our holy grail, and get our jollies on all that “wealth destruction,” then we liberals can sit back and watch everyone croak.

All thanks to us! Long live liberalism!

Marvin Miller, R.I.P.

Marvin Miller, who succumbed to liver cancer on Tuesday, turned diamond dogs into millionaires.

As the first full-time executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, commonly known as the players union, he warred with big league owners and won a series of victories, victories they still hold against him by helping to keep him out of baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Under Marvin Miller’s leadership, the players would no longer have to beg or be at the mercy of baseball’s lords. He turned what had been a toothless association into arguably the most powerful union in America.

Miller forced owners to negotiate the first collective bargaining agreement in the history of professional sports. That was in 1968. The minimum salary in baseball at the time was $6,000 and the new agreement raised it to $10,000.  Today, thanks to him, the minimum salary is $480,000.

In 1970 he won for players the right to use agents in salary negotiations and later the right to have an arbitrator settle disputes between players and owners. That seemingly small victory would soon lead to his greatest victory in 1975, a decision by an arbitrator declaring that pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally could become free agents. (Interestingly, an appeal of that decision was heard in a Western Missouri district court—Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp. v. Major League Baseball Players Association.)

That 1975 arbitrator’s decision essentially killed baseball’s “reserve clause,” a devilish contract provision that was invented by greedy 19th-century owners who knew that if players were free to offer their services to the highest bidder, it would empower players and cut into owner’s profits. (For more on the reserve clause, see this 2009 piece on Curt Flood.)

The reserve clause had essentially made players the property of team owners, and players were bound to the teams that first signed them unless the owner traded them or released them. Ridding baseball of the reserve clause changed the game and finally allowed players to fully benefit from their skills and labor.

And speaking of labor, Marvin Miller was a real union man with a working class background. His father was a New York garment district salesman and his mother was a teacher. Miller started his career in government working for the National War Labor Board and then worked as an economist and negotiator for the United Steelworkers union. In 1966 he became head of the players association, and using his knowledge as a labor economist, his skills as a negotiator, and a union’s right to strike, players became at least the equals of owners at the negotiating table.

Passing away at the age of 95 , Miller never made it into the Hall of Fame, where he unquestionably belongs and where, eventually, he will end up. The owners, as he knew, had a lot to do with his rejection, time and again. Former White Sox pitcher Bob Locker, who created ThanksMarvin.com, noted how Miller’s accomplishments transcended baseball by saying:

He ought to have a statue in front of the Baseball Hall of Fame — and every other sports hall of fame.

Many former players, writers, and broadcasters have protested Marvin Miller’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame, including former Yankees pitcher and author of Ball Four, Jim Bouton, who said,

Essentially, the decision for putting a union leader in the Hall of Fame was handed over to a bunch of executives and former executives. Marvin Miller kicked their butts and took power away from the baseball establishment—do you really think those people are going to vote him in? It’s a joke.

Marvin Miller will, though, have the last laugh. He will be a Hall of Famer and live forever as part of baseball history, while his spiteful owner-critics will be forgotten. As the great baseball historian, Bill James, put it,

If baseball ever buys itself a mountain and starts carving faces in it, one of the first men to go up is sure to be Marvin Miller.

Knowing that, may he rest in peace.

House GOP: Women Need Not Apply

Here is how women voted in the last two presidential elections:

The following is a graphic showing next year’s Republican committee chairmen in the House, kindly put up by St. Rachel Maddow on her Tuesday night show. This gem goes to show how much Republicans learned from the election:

More Hell From Harry Reid

One of the biggest failings of the mainstream press over the past few years has been its lack of clear and continual reporting on Republican obstructionism in Congress, particularly how Republicans in the Senate have used the filibuster to obstruct Democratic—and democratic—governance.

I would guess that most regular folks, even people who are routine consumers of news but maybe not political junkies, don’t really understand how the modern filibuster—which traditionally meant talking a bill to death—works and don’t understand why it is that in a body of 100 members, in a Democratic society, that it takes 60 votes to get any real business done.

And that lack of understanding of how the U.S. Senate works is partially the fault of the press, which tires rather quickly of reminding folks of such technical matters, even though those technical matters matter a lot, in terms of what has been happening in Washington.

Read this stunning paragraph from Ezra Klein:

Filibusters used to be relatively rare. There were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s combined. A strategy memo written after the 1964 election by Mike Manatos, Lyndon B. Johnson’s Senate liaison, calculated that in the new Senate, Medicare would pass with 55 votes — the filibuster didn’t even figure into the administration’s planning.

Think about that. Medicare, a remarkably large social program, was not only not filibustered, it wasn’t even expected to be filibustered. Compare that to these days of Republican minority obstructionism, where even mundane matters—like whether a bill should even be debated—are subject to the filibuster, requiring the majority to invoke cloture and, if 60 votes can be rounded up, to end the filibuster and move on to the matter at hand.

As Klein says,

Today, the filibuster isn’t used to defend minority rights or ensure debate. Rather, the filibuster is simply a rule that the minority party uses to require a 60-vote supermajority to get anything done in the Senate. That’s not how it was meant to be.

There is serious talk among Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, of changing the rules regarding the filibuster. It turns out that on the first day of a new Congress, the next new one is scheduled to meet on January 3 of next year, there is a method available—now known as the “nuclear option” — for adopting rule changes in the Senate with only a simple majority vote—a filibuster wouldn’t work.

Now, obviously Democrats have to be careful here. They likely won’t always be in the majority in the Senate, and it would be foolish to set a precedent that would completely shut down the minority, much like the minority in the House is made irrelevant by its rules.

To that end, Harry Reid, who should have acted before the opening of the last session of Congress in 2011, is proposing what he calls “a couple of minor changes” to make the Senate “more efficient.” Those changes include:

♦ eliminating the right to filibuster the debating of a bill, but not the right to filibuster the final passage of the bill itself

♦ forcing filibustering Senators to actually stand on the Senate floor and conduct the filibuster, as opposed to merely invoking a filibuster from their offices

Those sound like sensible changes, some would even say too sensible, since the filibuster would still exist and 60 votes would  still be needed to pass legislation, given what mood Republicans have been in since the Dawn of Obama.

So, how did the leader of the obstructionists, the man whose one self-admitted priority four years ago was denying Barack Obama a second term, how did that guy, Mitch McConnell, react? Come on, you know how. He got pissed. He called it a “temporary exercise of raw partisan political power,” and a “naked power grab.”

Other Republicans were equally outraged. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, no stranger to overstatement, threatened something, but I’m not sure what:

I think the backlash will be severe. If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you’ll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we’ll do what we have to do to fight back.

Do what we have to do to fight back” ? Huh? Is he going to blow up the place? Because if he’s not going to wedge a grenade down Harry Reid’s trousers, what else is available? Obstruction? That’s what Republicans have been doing.

As Reid said of such threats,

What more could they do to us?

What more, indeed.

For his part, Ezra Klein says that Reid’s minor reform effort “doesn’t go nearly far enough.” He writes:

The problem with the filibuster isn’t that senators don’t have to stand and talk, or that they can filibuster the motion to debate as well as the vote itself. It’s that the Senate has become, with no discussion or debate, an effective 60-vote institution. If you don’t change that, you haven’t solved the problem.

Defenses of the filibuster tend to invoke minority rights or the Constitution’s preference for decentralized power. It’s true the Founding Fathers wanted to make legislating hard. That’s why they divided power among three branches. It’s why senators used to be directly appointed by state legislatures. It’s why the House, the Senate and the president have staggered elections, so it usually takes a big win in two or more consecutive elections for a party to secure control of all three branches.

But the Founders didn’t want it to be this hard. They considered requiring a supermajority to pass legislation and rejected the idea. “Its real operation,” Alexander Hamilton wrote of such a requirement, “is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of government and to substitute the pleasure, caprice or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent or corrupt junta, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.” Sound familiar?

Of course that sounds familiar. We have been living with Hamilton’s description ever since Mitch McConnell declared war on President Obama. And it is McConnell who has led his “corrupt junta” into unprecedented abuse of an important Senate rule, a rule that must be used judiciously or else it becomes, in Ezra Klein’s words, “a noxious obstacle” :

Filibusters are no longer used to allow minorities to be heard. They’re used to make the majority fail. In the process, they undermine democratic accountability, because voters are left to judge the rule of a majority party based on the undesirable outcomes created by a filibustering minority.

Yes, voters are left to judge. But they need critical information to properly judge. And that critical information comes largely from the press, which did not do a good job of explaining how dogged Republicans were in their pursuit of those “undesirable outcomes” that Klein referenced.

But despite that, despite the trembling economic recovery, despite an entire cable news channel and almost all of talk radio against them, Democrats were able to largely prevail in November.

And making a couple of modest changes to the filibuster rule in the Senate may just make governing a little easier. If it doesn’t, if Republicans dig in their obstructionist heels even deeper, then at least the American people will be able to see them, day after obstructionist day, standing on the Senate floor holding up progress.

And that in itself would be progress.

Fox Gets Thwacked

In what can only be considered one of the sweetest dope slaps Fox “News” has ever received in real time on its own air, I present to you the appearance of Thomas Ricks, who today set the record straight on Fox’s hyper-partisan coverage of the tragedy in Benghazi.

Although Ricks is no Sean Hannity, he is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who has spent considerable time covering military conflicts around the world and reporting on defense issues. He has also written several books, including books on the Iraq war. And he apparently knows a little about professional wrestling, as he executes a perfect spinning headlock elbow drop on a Fox host:

Word To Democrats: Be Careful On Entitlement Reform

A few Republicans are publicly divorcing themselves from Grover Norquist, which is a good sign. But not enough Republicans are yet ready to absorb fully the meaning of the GOP’s defeat on November 6.

As President Obama has said several times now, if the last election had one clear message, it was that the wealthiest Americans, those who have been doing pretty well despite a sluggish economic recovery, need to “pay a little more” in taxes and thus get things started in terms of fixing our long-term fiscal problems.

On Sunday, John McCain’s lap dog, Sen. Lindsey Graham, clearly abandoned Grover Norquist and his infernal tax pledge. I have heard replayed numerous times the following excerpt from Graham’s appearance on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos:

I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.

In context, though, Graham was not endorsing an increase in marginal tax rates (“I agree with Grover, we shouldn’t raise rates,” he said), but only an increase in revenues by other means, like capping deductions for wealthy families (“If you cap deductions around the $30,000, $40,000 range, you can raise $1 trillion in revenue,” he claimed). But, so be it. In whatever form, it is clear that some Republicans, feeling the heat of November 6, are starting to warm up to an increase in federal revenues and it seems likely that more, perhaps enough to get a deal done, will follow.

Now comes the “if Democrats will do entitlement reform” part.

Appearing with Lindsey Graham on ABC’s This Week was Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who signed onto the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan.

He said a couple of things that illustrate the problems for President Obama and the Democrats, in terms of getting a deal that Democrats like me can support. First, Durbin suggested that Social Security shouldn’t be part of a larger budget deal since it is funded separately and “does not add one penny to our debt.” It’s pretty clear that most Democrats feel the same way. They believe that the relatively simple fixes for Social Security don’t belong in the discussion going on now. So, leave that program out of it.

Then we have this:

DURBIN: Medicare is another story. Only 12 years of solvency lie ahead if we do nothing. So those who say, “Don’t touch it, don’t change it,” are ignoring the obvious. We want Medicare to be there for today’s seniors and tomorrow’s, as well. We don’t want to go the Paul Ryan route of voucherizing it, privatizing it, but we can make meaningful reforms in Medicare and Medicaid without compromising the integrity of the program, making sure that the beneficiaries are not paying the price for it, except perhaps the high-income beneficiaries. That to me is a reasonable approach…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that include raising the age for Medicare eligibility?

DURBIN: Here’s my concern about that, George. What happens to the early retiree who needs health insurance before that person’s eligible for Medicare? I had it happen in my family, and I’ll bet a lot of your viewers did, as well. We’ve got to make sure that there is seamless coverage of affordable health insurance for every American. My concern about raising that Medicare retirement age is there will be gaps in coverage or coverage that’s way too expensive for seniors to purchase.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that a fair point, Senator Graham?

GRAHAM: Not really. I don’t think you can look at entitlement reform without adjusting the age for retirement, like Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan did. It goes to 66, 67 here pretty soon for Social Security. Let it float up another year or so over the next 30 years, adjust Medicare from 65 to 67 over the next 30 years, means test benefits for people in our income level. I don’t expect the Democrats to go for premium support or a voucher plan, but I do expect them to adjust these entitlement programs before they bankrupt the country and run out of money themselves. So age adjustment and means testing for both Social Security, Medicare I think is eminently reasonable. And all those who’ve looked at this problem have done that over time.

Democrats would, of course, agree to means-testing entitlements. No doubt about that. But raising the eligibility age for retirement and old-age health care? Not so fast.

Paul Krugman, a leftish economist, is definitely opposed to the idea, as he indicates in this short post, his generalized objection based primarily on the differences in life expectancy between economic classes (folks with lower earnings don’t tend to live as long as those with higher earnings, thus raising the eligibility age would have a disproportionately harmful effect on lower wage earners).

There have been more specific objections to raising the age, including these:

  • folks with physically demanding jobs would likely be forced to hang on another few years to keep their insurance;
  • cost-shifting to retirees who won’t have adequate income to absorb the increase;
  • an increase in the number of uninsured Americans (especially among low-income groups, including African-Americans and Hispanics);
  • the obvious increase in the cost to those employers who offer health care benefits to retirees (the employer plan would become the primary payer), which would, among other things, discourage employers from offering such retirement plans.

Now, an astute reader might suggest that some of these objections could be answered by provisions already in place in the Affordable Care Act. In fact, I heard a commentator this weekend suggest that raising the eligibility age for Medicare was no big deal since ObamaCare will provide coverage for those seniors who can’t afford it.

Well, that turns out to be partially true, at least according to a study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which looked at raising the age in the context of the Affordable Care Act (it assumed an increase in the Medicare eligibility age to 67 that would go into effect in 2014, just for simplicity). I suggest all those interested in this topic read that study, but its conclusion was as follows (highlights mine):

Previous studies conducted prior to the enactment of the 2010 health reform law concluded that raising the age of Medicare eligibility would produce significant federal savings, but would also increase the number of uninsured older adults and shift risk and additional cost onto retirees who lack health insurance and onto employers that offer retiree health plans. Our analysis, which takes into account the coverage expansions and subsidies in the ACA, finds that net federal savings to the federal government would be considerably lower than previously estimated because the federal government would incur new costs associated with expanded coverage for 65- and 66-year olds under Medicaid and premium tax credits and cost-sharing assistance for lower-income individuals in the new health insurance Exchange.

We estimate that nearly one-third of the 65- and 66-year-old adult population who would be affected by an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility [about 5 million people]—those with low incomes who would qualify for Medicaid or generous premium tax credits and cost-sharing assistance through the Exchange—would face lower out-of-pocket costs than they would have paid under Medicare in 2014 as a result of this policy change –generally those with incomes below 300 percent of the FPL [federal poverty level]. However, two-thirds would face higher out of-pocket costs, on average, due to higher premium contributions for employer-sponsored coverage and for coverage in the Exchange. The shift of adults ages 65 and 66 from Medicare to the Exchange is also projected to increase premiums that would be paid by adults younger than age 65 in the Exchange, as older adults enter the Exchange risk pool. In addition, Part B premiums paid by the elderly (ages 67 and over) and by disabled Medicare beneficiaries would be expected to increase, as the healthiest and lowest-cost segment of the Medicare population is removed from the Part B risk pool and shifted to the Exchange or to employer-sponsored plans. States and employers are also expected to see increased costs.

The study warns:

Given the magnitude of the changes that we estimate would occur by raising the Medicare eligibility age, this analysis underscores the importance of carefully assessing the distributional effects of various Medicare reforms and savings proposals to understand the likely impact on beneficiaries and other stakeholders.

It’s just not as simple as Republicans, like Lindsey Graham above, make it. And Democrats need to be careful about getting giddy over a possible Republican retreat on raising revenues and under the influence of such giddiness make a bad agreement on entitlements.

In short, Democrats need to remember who their constituents are.

The Unpardonable Sin: Voting For Obama

You alone are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry? From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet—

—the Book of Psalms

ear. Religion rules by fear. And lots of it.

Men,” Mark Twain wrote, “are more compassionate…than God” because “men forgive their dead, but God does not.”  And who wouldn’t fear a god who holds a grudge past the grave?

Or past an election.

James Dobson, who for years was one of the most prominent voices in conservative evangelical Christianity, suggested, during a solemn, I-can’t-believe-my-eyes, post-election discussion with other like-minded zealots, that God may have judgment on his mind:

It’s my speculation that America has turned its back on the principles that we have believed in for 230 years. And there’s a lot of wickedness that’s going on out there. Fifty-five million babies have been murdered, and we don’t think God sees that? 

Franklin Graham, who now runs his dad’s part of the Evangelical Empire, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, explained to Newsmax how the election of Barack Obama may just move God to finish us off:

“In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God,” Graham reiterated. “We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any public forum.

“What has happened is we have allowed ourselves to take God out of everything that we do – and I believe that God will judge our nation one day.”

And, “maybe God will have to bring our nation to our knees – to where that we just have a complete economic collapse” to do that, Graham said. “Maybe at that point, people will again call upon the name of almighty God.”

Fear. Do what God’s self-appointed spokesmen say or else.

It never occurred to Franklin Graham, of course, that we almost had a “complete economic collapse” under the God-fearing evangelical Christian George W. Bush, but perhaps that is because lately God has had a hard time communicating to the leaders of the Evangelical Empire.

Pat Robertson said in January the following:

I spent the better part of a week in prayer and just saying, “God just show me something,” and I’ll share with you—uh, some things I’ll share with you. I think he showed me about the next president but I’m not supposed to talk about that, so I’ll leave you in the dark…but I think I know who it’s gonna be.

We know now that Robertson thought he heard God say that Mitt Romney would be the next president. We know that because Robertson fessed up last week:

So many of us miss God. I’ll tell you, I won’t get into great detail about elections, but I sure did miss it. I thought I had heard from God. I thought I had heard clearly from God. What happened? What intervenes? Why? You ask God, how did I miss it? Well, we all do and I’ve had a lot of practice.

Oh, my. If God can’t make his message clear to Pat Robertson, what hope do the rest of us have?

In any case, in the context of God’s vindictive behavior toward his creation, or more narrowly, the American electorate who elected Barack Obama, I will bookend this piece with more Mark Twain, a famous excerpt from his Letters From The Earth:

I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos. A man got religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate. The priest said, “Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him.” The man studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations.

He tricked his wife into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life;

he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea;

he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for life;

and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him.

Then he reported to the priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.

$90 Billion And Counting For Walmart’s First Family

I don’t know how successful the strike against Walmart will be this week, but if you want to support the efforts of workers to get a living wage and benefits from the retailing giant, then stay away from the store on Black Friday, which, unbelievably, actually starts this year on Thanksgiving evening.

You can also make a contribution to help striking workers by going here.

I captured this shot from MSNBC last night:

Think about that for a minute, then think about the fact that thousands upon thousands of Walmart workers who work full-time (by Walmart’s definition of 34 hours per week) don’t make enough to surmount the poverty line. And think about the thousands upon thousands of Walmart workers who need public assistance—taxpayer money—just to survive.

Making Change At Walmart puts the Walton family wealth in a different light:

  • Let’s put it this way, according to Forbes’ list of the most valuable sports franchises, the Walton heirs could afford to buy every major league baseball team, every NBA team, every NHL team and every NFL team, and still have money left over to buy some of the most valuable soccer teams in the world.
  • To put it yet another way, according to a recent Time article, the net worth of the average American household is $319,970. Multiply that by 2,797,137 and you have the Walton heirs’ wealth.

It’s not that the Walton family is wealthy beyond most people’s imagination. That’s not it at all. It’s how they got wealthy beyond most people’s imagination: partly on the backs of Walmart’s workers.

And now some of those workers are saying enough is enough. Let’s join them this week.

If This Keeps Up, Single-Payer Will Be Here Before You Know It

An article published last month on Remapping Debate points out what may become a trend among American employers:

Beginning next month, Sears and Darden — the latter of which owns several restaurant chains, including Olive Garden and Red Lobster — will cease to offer defined benefits in which the employer, as part of its compensation package, provides employees with a set of health insurance benefits and continues to offer those benefits even when the employer’s costs for insurance rises.  Instead, they will implement a defined contribution model, in which the companies will offer employees a fixed annual sum — like a voucher — that they can use to buy insurance for themselves and their families.

A voucher? Sound familiar?

Along with this monumental change comes what the writers of the article term a “large-scale marketing campaign,” designed, of course, to sell a very undesirable modification of “the multi-generational compact between management and labor.”

That marketing campaign, just like right-wingers selling their distasteful wares, purposely uses terms like “choice” and “empowerment,” as in, the good-hearted employers are merely offering their employees more choice among insurance plans and empowering them to take charge of their health care. Who could be against that?

Remapping Debate, though, is not sold:

According to numerous health care experts, economists, and even some in the consulting industry itself, however, that rhetoric belies the true motivation behind the shift: reducing the company’s exposure to ever-rising health insurance costs by shifting those costs directly onto employees, who will be forced to either pay more out of pocket for the same level of insurance or pay the same amount for less robust coverage.

An important point to make here is that this fixed contribution scheme is just the latest attempt to shift costs from employer to employee:

Several experts pointed out that benefits have already been significantly eroded in the group insurance market, as many employers have switched to “consumer-directed” health care models in which low premiums are coupled with very high deductibles and occasionally a health savings account. But [Kathleen] Stoll of Families USA said that the implementation of the fixed contribution model could greatly exacerbate that problem. When their contribution to health insurance is already limited to a fixed amount, Stoll said, employers will be more liable to make changes to that contribution. If the company has a bad year, for example, it may simply choose to freeze the contribution or even lower it in order to cut costs.

In my experience, the company doesn’t even have to have a bad year to cut costs. Profitable companies have been squeezing employees, when it comes to wages and benefits, including health care benefits. This is just another cost-shifting model and look out if it becomes popular:

According to Jacob Hacker, a professor of political science at Yale University and an expert on the American health care system, if the defined contribution health insurance model were to catch on, it would fit into a larger, historical context.

“The fundamental thing to recognize is that this is part and parcel of the more general risk shift,” Hacker said. “The reality is that health care, retirement, all of the fundamental sources of security are shifting from larger organizations like employers and the government onto individuals.”

This cost-shifting, though extremely problematic for workers in the short-term, may mean that in the long-term Americans will finally say goodbye to employment-based health insurance coverage altogether and demand a single-payer, Medicare-like system for all.

And the sooner the better.

Civil War? What Civil War?

Ron Paul, hero to a lot of middle school-minded Americans, said on Sunday:

If a people cannot secede from an oppressive government, they cannot truly be considered free.

Paul was commenting on “all the recent talk of secession” going on in the reddest hearts in the reddest parts of the country.

Of course there really isn’t any serious talk of secession going on, but Ron Paul, who is mercifully retiring from Congress, doesn’t want to miss a chance to demonstrate just why libertarian Republicanism isn’t a grown-up political philosophy.

Paul asked:

Is it treasonous to want to secede from the United States? 

Why, yes, it is, Ronny Reb. We have been there, done that, remember? Yep, he does remember:

Many think the question of secession was settled by our Civil War.  On the contrary; the principles of self-governance and voluntary association are at the core of our founding.

In the Paulian mind, in the mind of a man with a kid’s view of politics, the Civil War didn’t mean squat. Nothing, apparently, was settled by the often-ugly death of 600,000+ Americans in our War of Northern/Southern Aggression, the name dependent on what side your ancestors were on.  All states are free to dissociate themselves from the Founders’ creation at the drop of a hat, or at the drop of a black man’s hat, he says.

Paul continued:

There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents.

Nope. That’s right. There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about “wanting” such a thing, but there is something treasonous and unpatriotic about actually fighting—with real guns, for God’s sake—for such a thing. And if we are not talking about real guns here, then what the bleep are we talking about? Does anyone think President Obama is going to say to the Ron Pauls of Texas: Go ahead, go your own way? Secession talk means nothing if it doesn’t mean fighting for it with guns.

But what is it that has Ron Paul’s rebellious spirit all aglow? What is it that has him writing such nugatory nonsense?

Stupidly, he seems to be, above all, upset about the Affordable Care Act:

It remains to be seen what will happen in states that are refusing to comply with the deeply unpopular mandates of Obamacare by not setting up healthcare exchanges.  It appears the Federal government will not respect those decisions either.

Respect what decisions? If a state is unable or unwilling to comply with the law, the law—apparently a foreign concept to Paulmandates that the federal government set up those exchanges. The federal government will respect any state’s decision not to set up the health insurance exchanges by setting them up itself. As John Kasich, Republican governor of Ohio, said, his state “will not run an ObamaCare health exchange, but will instead leave that to the federal government to do.”

Got that Ronny Reb? If states don’t want to do it, The Scary Negro In The White’s House will take up the slack.

Finally, Ron Paul wrote:

In a free country, governments derive their power from the consent of the governed. When the people have very clearly withdrawn their consent for a law, the discussion should be over. 

The “discussion should be over” if people in a state “have very clearly withdrawn their consent for a law“? Huh? Is that all it takes to dissolve our Union? A state simply has to declare that, say, it will not abide any more meat inspectors and, voilà,  a new Republic of Texas is born?

If Ron Paul had been a big shot politician in the 1960s, when landmark civil rights legislation was passed, he would surely have said that states had the right to secede over whether blacks could piss in white toilets or whether blacks could sit in the front of white buses or whether blacks could vote in white elections.

But, thankfully, this isn’t the 1960s, or, more to the point, the 1860s, and Ron Paul is in a very tiny minority, a minority that looks more childish every day, a minority that will soon be without Ron Paul as its intellectually callow leader.

“I’m Not A Scientist, Man”

More than two years ago I suggested that a simple test of rationality for political candidates would be this question:

How old is the Earth?

An alternative question, should the politician want to dodge that one, would be this one:

Were the biblical Adam and Eve real people who lived less than 10,000 years ago?

In my mind, how politicians answer either question reveals something important about them, in terms of their appreciation of the methodology of science, which is the best way we humans have of understanding the world.

And as I responded to a commenter:

I do demand my representatives cross the basic threshold of intelligence, which is to acknowledge that the universe (not just the Earth) is more than 6,000 years old…I have found if someone believes that the Earth was created in six days about 6,000 years ago, they believe all kinds of other crazy stuff, like Fox “News” is fair and balanced.

So, there is something to learn from asking a politician about the age of the Earth, beyond finding out where he or she likely goes to church.

That brings me to the GOP’s Hispanic hope for the future, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Michael Hainey of GQ ask Rubio the question I suggested should be asked of all politicians:

How old do you think the Earth is? 

Here was Rubio’s answer:

I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

No, it’s one of the great mysteries why there are still so many folks who talk like that.

Here are my objections to Rubio’s claims:

1) There is no real “dispute amongst theologians.”  Most theologians, and even some creationist-friendly evangelical apologists, believe the earth is very old. And besides that, most theologians are not scientists, so why is their opinion even relevant to this question?

2) Rubio is in fact “qualified” to answer the question, “How old do you think the Earth is?” He was asked for his opinion as a politician, not as a scientist. In other words, he was asked whether he respects, enough to believe it, the methodology of science.

3) The Earth was not “created” either in “7 days” or “7 actual eras.” It was formed 4.5 billion years ago from a cloud of interstellar dust and gas, remnants of other stars and, possibly (Allah only knows), other civilizations. Thus, the age of the earth is not “one of the great mysteries” for the simple reason it is not a mystery at all.

The point of all this is that Marco Rubio, one of those Republicans being discussed as a “great right hope” for that party’s future, sits on the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He specifically sits on the Science and Space subcommittee, which, among other things, has responsibility for:

science, engineering, and technology research and development and policy; calibration and measurement standards; and civilian aeronautical and space science and policy. The Subcommittee conducts oversight on the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

A man who can’t answer a simple question about the age of the Earth, who attempts to pretend that there is a “mystery” about it, who essentially denies the validity of the science that has removed that mystery, is simply not fit to sit on that important subcommittee, especially since it claims, with devastating accuracy, this:

Advancements in science and technology are vital to the nation’s continued economic security, innovation, and competitiveness.

If those advancements are vital, then it is also vital to have members of that subcommittee who believe in science.

And if one day Marco Rubio ever seriously thinks he should be president in a 21st century America, he should first disavow his Iron Age ignorance and stop pretending that science and faith give us equally rational answers about the age of the Earth or anything else.

Remarks And Asides

In terms of negotiations over the dreaded fiscal non-cliff, we have the following from my why-we-need-Nancy-at-the-table department:

MARTHA RADDATZ: Could you accept a deal that does not include tax rate increases for the wealthy? We’ve seen talk about a possible compromise that would leave rates the same, but cap deductions for high-income earners. Is that something that’s acceptable?

NANCY PELOSI: No.

_____________________________

The Washington Post’s The Fix summarized an important Republican’s appearance on Meet The Press:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) suggests Obama might have known about the David Petraeus investigation before the election. But he acknowledged he doesn’t have any evidence.

The news here is that a Republican actually “acknowledged” there is no evidence for his belief. Usually, a Democrat has to point out that Republicans have no evidence for what they claim. So, perhaps, Republicans did learn something from the election.

_____________________________

Allen West, that freaky flat-topped Florida teapartier, talked his way into getting a recount of some votes in St. Lucie County. The result was that his opponent’s lead actually increased by 0.65%. Of course, West still won’t concede the election, presumably because he is more convinced than ever that there exists a conspiracy to keep him out of office.

Now, arithmetic is out to get him.

_____________________________

For reasons known only to his psychiatrist, Penn Jillette, of Penn & Teller fame, actually did a gig on The Celebrity Apprentice 2012, NBC’s vehicle for making a few bucks off Donald Trump’s stupidity. But Jillette can be forgiven for his lapse in judgment because he came up with a perfect description of Donald Trump’s hair:

…as I sat there for hours half listening to Donald carry on, it struck me exactly what his hair looked like. It looks like cotton candy made of piss.

Later in the article, which was sort of an accounting of his experience on the show, Jillette said this about the participants’ decision to appear with Trump:

We’ve chosen to make this whackjob, with the cotton candy piss hair and the birther shit, into someone we want to please.

If Jillette does nothing else noteworthy in his life, he can die a happy man for perfectly describing Donald Trump.

______________________________

As we witness our weirding weather, Reuters reported this yesterday:

All nations will suffer the effects of a warmer world, but it is the world’s poorest countries that will be hit hardest by food shortages, rising sea levels, cyclones and drought, the World Bank said in a report on climate change.

Now we know why Republicans don’t give a damn about global warming: it will hurt the poor more!

______________________________

I pick on my state neighbor, Oklahoma, a lot, mostly because it, and roughly two-thirds of the people who live there, deserve it. But come on Okies! If you are gonna violate the principle of separation of church and state, if you are gonna put down God’s word in granite, if you are gonna erect a monument to an Iron Age fantasy, then at least consult a dictionary:

OKLAHOMA CITY -A new monument at the Oklahoma State Capitol honoring the 10 Commandments was unveiled Thursday morning but Friday, the buzz was all about two mistakes carved into the granite stone.

In the commandment “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy” the word “Sabbath” was misspelled as “Sabbeth.” A second mistake was in the commandment “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant.” The word maidservant was spelled as “maidseruant,” replacing the “v” with a “u.”

_____________________________

Finally, I don’t have anything amusing to add—the guy has suffered enough, don’t you think?—to this photo of an Indiana man who actually had a Romney-Ryan logo tattooed on his temple. At least he spelled it correctly:

The Enablers

Blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com is now a very popular conservative, partly because CNN chose to employ him as a political contributor. The network chose him to represent conservatives on its network even though:

he referred to Michelle Obama as “Obama’s Marxist harpy wife,”

he called former Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglas “the Joseph Goebbels of the White House Health Care shop,”

he smeared retired Justice David Souter a “goat f*&king child molester,”

he labeled the Democratic National Convention, “The Vagina Monologues.”

Yes, despite all that, Erickson has a job at CNN and has become quite popular.

When he was hired by the network, first as a contributor to the old John King, USA program, CNN’s political director said Erickson was “an agenda-setter whose words are closely watched in Washingtonand that, “as a person who still lives in small-town America, Erick is in touch with the very people John hopes to reach.”

So, Washington pays attention to this guy and this guy is in touch with those small-town folks and CNN thus blesses his noxious rants with legitimacy.

And I’m afraid that in that formulation we can find the reason our divisions in America are so deep and so bitter.

You see, because Erick Erickson does speak for some people, some conservative people, he does get attention, even, I’m sorry to admit, in Washington, D.C.  But because CNN, which used to be a first-class news organization, gives him a platform that reaches millions of people, he gets much more attention than he deserves.

And so it is with most of what is now being called the “conservative media complex,” of which Erick Erickson’s RedState is a small part. Without help from more mainstream outlets, like CNN, these corrosive conservative voices would have a limited impact on our discourse, beyond selling their ideological trinkets to a relatively small but gullible audience.

A larger part of that conservative media complex, Fox “News,” is also given undeserved credibility by mainstream news outlets, which, just because there are some real journalists working there, treat Fox as a completely legitimate journalistic enterprise, thus damaging the brand of all.

About three years ago, bona fide reporters, like Jake Tapper of ABC News, came to the aid of Fox, as the White House was pushing back against the network and accusing it, accurately, of being “a wing of the Republican Party.” Tapper referred to Fox as “one of our sister organizations.”

Some sister.

Enabling Fox to do what it does—which is to provide part of the country with its own set of facts, facts that happen to support the conservative agenda of the Republican Party, and facts that often don’t happen to be the facts that the rest of us understand as facts—is part of why there were a lot of conservatives who woke up on November 7th and couldn’t believe their eyes: Barack Obama is still alive!

Our country has always been divided in various ways, but never have we had anything like a Fox “News,” a large-scale enterprise that not only broadcasts our differences, which would be okay, but it magnifies them, exploits them, and then profits from them.

While there have been a multitude of examples that I could cite to back up this claim, none of them are as stark, as telling, as what has been happening on that network since Mitt Romney first shamefully tried to exploit the tragedy in Benghazi.

In fact, as I write this, Fox is featuring the nutty right-wing congressman Louie Gohmert, who is unashamedly calling for a “special prosecutor” to investigate what happened in Benghazi, even though there are already investigations going on all over the place.

But Gohmert was really on the network to promote a group called “Special Operations Speaks,” which claims to have 100,000 signatures on a petition, the title of which is:

Special Operations Speaks DEMANDS an Independent Investigation to Uncover Potential High Crimes and Misdemeanors in Benghazigate

In case that doesn’t make clear the motives of this right-wing group that purports to represent “the Special Operations community,” how about the group’s logo, complete with the universal symbol for Obama haters:

______________________________

Having Gohmert on this morning is just another attempt by Fox “News” to commodify ignorance, and, perhaps more important for its profitability, to undermine and delegitimate President Obama.

In fact, things have gotten so bad on Fox, that this morning even Geraldo Rivera went on the network and called the latest claim by Foxers—that David Petraeus was essentially forced to cover for the Obama administration because of the investigation over his extra-marital affair—”absolutely reckless, and it has no fact base at all and really is a disgrace to a man who has served us honorably.”

No fact base at all,” says Geraldo, yet the beat goes on, and on.

And the vitriol continues to flow.

As do the profits for the father of Fox, Rupert Murdoch.

Imagine

There was a reason I never praised Mitt Romney for his short but ostensibly gracious concession speech on election night.

I suspected someday, sooner or later, that speech, like the one who delivered it, would be exposed as disingenuous. And so it has.

He said in that speech:

The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing.

Oh, yeah?

The very first time we hear from Romney after he gave that speech, after he said “we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing,” we hear courtesy of The New York Times, which reported on remarks he made during a conference call to his campaign’s national finance folks, you know, “his” folks, those able to raise and donate large sums of money.

Now, we know from experience that in front of his kind of folks Mittens is free to be himself, as he was before those fat cats in Boca Raton. He told them, when he thought the rest of us weren’t listening, that nearly half of all Americans are moochers, a claim that dovetailed nicely with one of his campaign assertions that those who want “free stuff” should look elsewhere.

And, according to Romney’s latest remarks, they did.

On the phone with those fundraisers and moneyed donors who helped finance his campaign (one of the participants allowed The New York Times to listen in), Romney whined that he lost the election because President Obama gave free stuff to “the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

Part of that free stuff was health care:

Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, ObamaCare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people.

Damn those kids! Why should they want health care?

But he said there were others who wanted it too:

You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge. Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus.

You can imagine,” he said to those well-off campaign financers. “You can imagine” what it would be like to not have the money to get health care. “You can imagine” how happy you would be if suddenly you could get health care for your kids, or, God forbid, for yourself. “You can imagine,” he said to folks who aren’t in the business of imagining such things.

Imagine, indeed.

Imagine if Mitt Romney had become president.

President Obama Dope Slaps McCain And Graham At Press Conference

If you heard a loud pop this afternoon, it came from Washington, D.C., as President Obama, during an excellent press conference that every American should have seen, dope-slapped John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

And it’s about damn time.

Here was the question and the President’s remarks:

JONATHAN KARL: Thank you Mr. President. Senator John McCain, and Senator Lindsey Graham both said today that they want to have Watergate-style hearings on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and said that if you nominate Susan Rice to be Secretary of State, they will do everything in their power to block her nomination. Senator Graham said, he simply doesn’t trust Ambassador Rice after what she said about Benghazi. I’d like your reaction to that? And — and would those threats deter you from making a nomination like that?

OBAMA: Well first of all I’m not going to comment on various nominations that I’ll put forward to fill out my cabinet for the second term. Those are things that are still being discussed. But let me say specifically about Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill, and professionalism, and toughness, and grace. As I’ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her.

If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi? and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received? and to besmirch her reputation? is outrageous.

And, you know, we’re after an election now. I think it is important for us to find out exactly what happened in Benghazi, and I’m happy to cooperate in any ways that Congress wants. We have provided every bit of information that we have and we will continue to provide information. And we’ve got a full-blown investigation, and all that information will be disgorged to Congress.

And I don’t think there’s any debate in this country that when you have four Americans killed, that’s a problem. And we’ve got to get to the bottom of it and there needs to be accountability. We’ve got to bring those who carried it out to justice. They won’t get any debate from me on that.

But when they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me. And should I choose, if I think that she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity at the State Department, then I will nominate her. That’s not a determination that I’ve made yet.

That was a presidential beat down. And McCain and Graham deserved every bit of it.

The Right’s Convenient Outrage Over Benghazi

It’s official: John McCain thinks the President, who whipped his sorry behind four years ago, is a liar.

Regarding Benghazi, I heard him tell the low-information hosts on Fox this morning:

Why did the President of the United States continue to deceive the American people and the world? We need a select committee. Nobody died in Watergate. Nobody died in Iran-Contra. Four people died here because of their lack of action. As my friend Lindsey Graham says, they turned that consulate into a death trap.

Fox host Steve Doocy, in whose brain IQs go to die, followed McCain’s outrageous assertion with, “They did indeed.”

It’s amazing to me that without any evidence, with only “new questions” about what happened, the Foxers and their allies in Congress can continue to pretend that they know President Obama is guilty of everything from ignorance to treason.

I’m also amazed at how damned concerned are all those Foxers and Republican legislators about the four Americans who died in Libya, when those same people spent little time worrying about the Bush II administration’s failure to pay close attention to intelligence that seemed to foresee what happened on 9/11.

If Fox and its allies had spent a fraction of the time looking into that unfortunate episode as it has spent claiming that Obama is lying about what happened in Benghazi, we probably wouldn’t have had the second Bush administration.

And I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?

For the record, and because Fox “News” will never touch it, here is an excerpt from Kurt Eichenwald’s article two months ago in The New York Times:

On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning’s “presidential daily brief” — the top-secret document prepared by America’s intelligence agencies — featured the now-infamous heading: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.

It took almost three years for the Bushies to release that incriminating document, and they did so only under pressure from the 9/11 Commission. The Times article continued:

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.

Eichenwald points out that despite the CIA’s “repeated warnings” and more briefs about the upcoming “planned assault,”

the White House failed to take significant action.

Get that, Fox? Get that, John McCain and Lindsey Graham and all you others out there who are now quick to blame Obama for Benghazi? George W. Bush failed to take significant action. He failed. Where was your outrage over that? Where is it today? Three thousand Americans died on 9/11 and many more have died in our response, much of it misguided, to those attacks that the CIA warned were coming. Where’s the ongoing outrage?

We don’t know if the 9/11 attacks could have been stopped, even if Bush and his neocon friends had paid sufficient attention to the warnings. But we know it wouldn’t have hurt if they had, as there were at least a couple of events—co-conspirator Mohamed al-Kahtani’s detention in Orlando in August of 2001 and flight-school trainee Zacarias Moussaoui’s arrest later that month in Minnesota—that might have led to the unraveling of the entire plan.

And we all know that the death of four Americans in Benghazi was indeed a tragedy, apparently one that could have, should have, been prevented, even though we don’t yet know enough to say what went wrong and who was responsible for it.

And, sadly, we know that people like John McCain and his channelers at Fox “News” will not wait to find out what happened before they hurl accusations at President Obama, even though not a damned one of them bothered to so much as question Bush’s ham-handed handling of intelligence warnings, just prior to the worst terrorist attack in our history—and on our own soil.

If McCain and other Foxers had been all over the Bush administration’s pre-9/11 failures, if they had been on television demanding Watergate-like hearings over those failures, then perhaps they would have more credibility today, as they prematurely demand a “select committee” over Benghazi, which would quickly turn into an Obama hate fest.

But they didn’t say a word about those prior failures, and I, for one, don’t give a damn what they are saying now.

One Nation, But Only Under A Republican God

There are two stories in the news today that I think are related, even though at first glance they don’t appear to be.

Here’s the first story from Reuters:

CHICAGO, Nov 12 – Political watchdog and secularist groups are asking the U.S. government to investigate whether Catholic bishops and a Christian evangelical group headed by preacher Billy Graham should lose tax breaks for telling followers how to vote in this year’s election.

Those tax breaks are reportedly “worth $145 billion in the past decade.” There was no comment from a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but a spokesman for Billy Graham, who actually signed his ad, said that it did not mention any candidate or political party. Hmm.

On Sunday, November 4—two days before the election—this very expensive full-page ad appeared in the Joplin Globe:

In the corner it says, “Paid Advertisement By The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,” and it is obvious the ad, which appeared in numerous publications, was a call to vote for Romney-Ryan and the Republican Party.

But the first thing I thought about when I saw that ad was how much money my late mother donated to Billy Graham and how disappointed she, as a life-long Democrat, would be to see what Graham had done.

I also thought about something else. When I was a kid, several of Billy Graham’s books were in the house, including a book that scared me to death, “World Aflame.” If nothing else, it was the cover that frightened me:

I was seven years old when that book came out. The earth engulfed in flames, and the threat of eternal damnation awaiting those who didn’t surrender to Jesus, tends to make a kid a little fearful, the kind of fear that never quite disappears, no matter how old one gets or how far one gets from the source.

In any case, the basis of Graham’s pro-Romney, pro-Republican political ad, and his ministry in general, is the kind of fear I felt profoundly as a kid, when I understood what that book was about. The line in the political ad about it being “vitally important” that “we” vote for “candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel” is telling.

In “World Aflame,” Graham wrote:

The Bible teaches that God is indeed a God of judgment, wrath, and anger.

And he speculated in the book that God will ultimately use “the elemental and creative form of fire” to destroy this earth and “bring into being” a new one, “a fire of judgment upon the wicked world.” He continued:

I believe the earth will be consumed by fire, not only because God said it, but because science has created weapons that can do it.

Consumed by fire. That’s the price to be paid for not following biblical principles, for not supporting the nation of Israel, which folks like Graham believe is the key to the End Times.

Consumed by fire. Presumably, that’s the price to be paid for not supporting Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and the Republicans. What else can “vitally important” mean in the context of Billy Graham’s consumed-by-fire ministry, the same ministry that paid for that ad?

I mention all that to make the point that some of the people who would be moved by a Billy Graham ad, moved by a theological appeal to vote for Republicans, moved by a Bible-based fear, see themselves as living in an entirely different country than the one I live in. These folks were genuinely shocked that Barack Obama won a second term. They, like Mitt Romney himself, honestly could not believe it. Why didn’t the Bible-based fear work this time?

What kind of country is this? they asked. What happened to our America? The last line in Graham’s ad was this:

Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.

Translation: If you don’t vote for Republicans then “one nation under God” is in jeopardy.

Yes, in jeopardy. And that leads me to the second story that came out today:

Just a week after President Barack Obama was re-elected, a petition by Texans for the right to secede from the rest of the country has garnered some 64,000 signatures, many more than the 25,000 signature threshold needed to get a response from the Obama administration.

The petition was made on the government’s “We the People” petitioning web site, along with secession petitions from at least 18 other states.

As I write, Texas now has more than 72,000 signatures. Locally, the Missouri secession petition has over 10,000 signatures. Oklahoma has over 11,000, Arkansas has almost 15,000, and Kansas is way behind at around 3,000.

So, what happened to “one nation under God“? These folks, many of whom I can safely assume are conservative Christians, don’t have a problem with the “under God” part of it, just the “one nation” part, particularly if they don’t get their way in a “vitally important” election, particularly if the nation doesn’t embrace the Republican Party.

Perhaps it is that Billy Graham and other Christian extremists, who claim to want us to be “one nation,” mean that we can only be so under their conception of God, which is a very Republican one. Otherwise, some of them want to take their states, and presumably their God, and go their own way.

Thus it is that those groups that are asking the government to investigate Graham and the Catholic bishops for their partisan advocacy are exactly right. If religious zealots want to put the fear of a Republicanized God into voters, and argue for one nation under that God, then the rest of us shouldn’t have to pay for it.

_______________________

By the way, a counter-petition has been offered against the secessionists, one that suggests we should,

Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America.

So far, it has only about 2,400 votes.

What Are The Troops Supposed To Think Now?

David Wood won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, after he published a series of articles on the severely wounded soldiers who have returned from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He has covered military and national security issues in a lot of dangerous places in the world for a number of publications. As his HuffPo bio reads:

He has been scared much of his professional life.

On this official-unofficial Veterans Day, Mr. Wood said the following on MSNBC about the implications of the David Petraeus scandal:

The thing that struck me about the Petraeus story is the damage that this puts on the troops and veterans. Because, look, the military for the last ten or fifteen years has emphasized that it’s a values-based organization. And the primary value that I hear talked about all the time, particularly in combat among what I call the working class of the military—the sergeants and lieutenants who do most of the heavy lifting in combat—the key value is, “doing the right thing when no one’s looking.” And there was nobody in the military, I think, who exemplified that more than David Petraeus. He talked about it all the time.

Now to find out that he was not only not doing the right thing, but lying about it, is, I think, devastating and will have a long-term, corrosive impact on the troops…I mean, think about the young kids who are in basic training now who are being taught, “do the right thing when no one’s looking.” Well, what are they supposed to think now?

While a lot of right-wing folks are wondering how Petraeus’s troubles figure into their wild conspiracy theory about a gigantic Obama administration cover-up of Benghazi, it’s nice to know someone is thinking about something else, something much more important.

“The Beginning Of The Battle To Take Over The Republican Party”

I just noticed, via C-SPAN, that a bunch of bitter extremist conservative leaders got together after the election last week and told reporters at the National Press Club that what’s wrong with the Republican Party is that there aren’t enough bitter extremist conservatives in it.

The press event was led by Richard Viguerie, an influential conservative who has tried to help right-wing nuts take over the Republican Party for more than 50 years. To people like Viguerie, the GOP is merely “the most convenient vehicle through which to seek elective office.”

To give you an idea of what strange ideas whiz around in the noggin’ of Richard Viguerie, he thought that Rick Santorum was “the most electable conservative seeking the Republican nomination for President.” Yes, he really thought that.

Viguerie said last week:

The battle to take over the Republican Party begins today and the failed Republican leadership should resign. Out of last night’s disaster comes some good news, however. Conservatives are saying, “Never again are we going to nominate a big-government establishment Republican for president.”

As if he were reading from a script written by liberal Democrats who want the GOP to continue on its path toward national irrelevance, Viguerie elaborated:

Republicans never, ever win the presidency unless they nationalize the election around conservative principles and a conservative agenda…In choosing to ignore the conservative agenda, Romney chose not to follow the path that led to Republicans winning the White House seven out of the last eleven elections…

Now don’t get caught up on how delusional Viguerie is to think that Mittens actually ignoredthe conservative agenda,” an agenda he embraced so effectively that it helped bring him down (“self deportation,” anyone?). Viguerie said something more important, in terms of the internecine struggle that has begun over the future of the Republican Party: “The battle to take over the Republican Party begins today.”

The old conservative went on to demand the heads of Reince Priebus, John Cornyn, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and “other Republican leaders behind the epic election failure of 2012.” He then tossed Karl Rove out with the other consultant trash he considered unworthy of advising the Republican Party, saying “no one should give a dime to their ineffective super PACs such as American Crossroads.”

Despite all that, the real problem for Republican leaders, who can see that their party is becoming nationally unattractive, is related to the following Viguerie remarks, in which he reiterated what is at stake for movement conservatives:

The disaster of 2012 signals the beginning of the battle to take over the Republican Party, and the opportunity to establish the GOP as the party of small government, constitutional conservatism.

Viguerie, you see, doesn’t just want to share the Republican Party with other Republicans. He and other like-minded zealots want to take it over and completely remake it in the image of the Tea Party. That’s what “small government, constitutional conservatism” translates to.

In the mean time, some of the more establishment righties, like columnist and Foxer Michael Barone, said the Tea Party “brings some talented people into politics…but it also brings some wackos and weirdos and witches, and we put too many of them on the ticket.

As a Democrat, I am more than happy to stand back and watch Republicans figure out just who are the “talented people” and who are the “wackos and weirdos and witches.” It will be amusing to see Republicans turn on one another, attack one another, injure one another. They deserve the tumult they are going through, given how many of them tried to destroy President Obama by waging a war of slander against him and by slowing down the economic recovery so he couldn’t win a second term.

While those disgraceful actions didn’t stop Obama’s reelection, they did hurt the country, and given the confusion they created around next year’s fiscal policies, Republicans are still hurting the country.

These people have sown division and uncertainty, and, by God, they are, as a political party, reaping what they sowed.

Odds And Ends From The Election

♦ UPDATE: With 99% of the vote now in, President Obama has received 51% of the vote  and Romney 48%.

♦ To give you an idea what a liberal in Southwest Missouri is up against, while President Obama received just over 44% of the vote in Missouri, in the county where I live he received less than 26% of the vote. That’s not a typo. Mitt Romney received 72.5% of the Newton County, Missouri, vote. McCain had received 69.4% in 2008. Put area Democrats on your prayer list, if you have one.

♦ And also in my county, the locals endorsed Tea Party gynecology, as Todd Akin got almost 59% of the vote, and his pal, Ozark Billy Long, got just over 71%. Yes, it’s that bad.

♦ In my part of Petticoat Joplin, my state representative, Bill White, got all the votes, or so says the Secretary of State website. I, however, know that’s not true. My dog Fosters, a wonderful and wonderfully spoiled Miniature Dachshund, got three votes, all from his adoring family, who officially wrote his name in. Yes, we’d rather vote for a wiener dog than a right-wing Republican.

♦ In Jasper County, where the biggest part of Joplin sits, Barack Obama got only 28.3% of the vote (that explains the Joplin Globe’s endorsement of Romney). So much for the President’s two—count ‘em: two—tornado-related visits here. Todd Akin got a lot of Jasper County love, too, taking almost 55% of the vote. (Akin received only 39.2% of the vote statewide. That’s how nutty the conservatism is in these parts.)

♦ Perhaps most disappointing, if you happen to be Governor Jay Nixon, was that in Jasper County he received just slightly more than 43% of the vote. That for a man who, since the tornado, practically lived here. I’d say there are a lot of ungrateful Joplinites, Jay. (He did do a little better than last time’s 39.4% and he did actually win again, this time in a statewide blowout.)

♦ Nationally, Obama got a stunning 11% of the vote among people who said (erroneously) they support the Tea Party (only 21% of the electorate, thank God).

♦ Only 5% of the electorate said that foreign policy was the most important issue facing the country and the President got 56% of their vote. That has to piss off folks at Fox, who spent weeks before the election trying to convince voters that foreign policy was the number one issue and that what happened in Benghazi proved Obama was a lying traitor.

♦ And only 15% of the electorate said that the deficit was the most important issue facing America, which has to piss off the Washington press corps, since it has been fixated on it beyond belief. By the way, Obama got 32% of the worried-about-the-deficit vote.

♦ Romney did clean house among that 14% of the electorate who sit around worrying about their tax rates. He got 66% of their vote even though Mittens never did budge on the secret tax return issue. (We can still assume there is some ugly stuff in those returns.)

♦ Folks who make $100,000 or more a year represented 28% of all voters and imagine this: Barack Obama managed to get 44% of them. Here in Missouri, those upper-income folks represented 20% of all voters and Obama could only get 38%.

♦ Interestingly, Missouri was one of the few polled states that gave Romney the edge among voters making between $30,000 and $50,000 (representing 21% of all voters nationally and 24% of Missouri voters). The President only received 44% of them, while nationally winning that income group with 57%.  Obama had won 52% of their vote in 2008 in Missouri.

♦ Among those making under $30,000, Obama continued his dominance. Nationally, that income group represented 20% of the electorate and he won 63%. In Missouri, those same folks represented 24% of the electorate and the President won 60%, just slightly less than 2008. People without much dough still count on Democrats to defend their interests.

♦ In 2008, John McCain beat Obama by 35 points (67-32) in the “small cities” Missouri electorate (5% of all Missouri voters).  This time, though, Obama won 39% of that vote and Romney beat him by “only” 19 points. Noteworthy is that in 2004, George W. Bush managed to whip John Kerry by 50 points (75-25) in that demographic. So, things are looking up for Dems in the small town vote.

♦ By the way, Obama enjoyed an advantage in “big cities” similar to the Republican advantage in small ones. The President took 69% of the big city vote. The problem for Republicans is that the big city vote represents 11% of the overall vote and small cities represent only 8% nationally.

♦ I was very interested in how much support white evangelical voters would give Romney, the Mormon cultist. These born-again folks represented 26% of the electorate (which ought to scare us all) and Mittens got 78% of their vote, which is 4 points more support than McCain received in 2008. That officially removes Mormonism from cult status, as far as I’m concerned. Mormons are now Christians!

♦ Just to show you that a lot of people who self-identify as liberal or conservative don’t have a clue what those terms mean, in this election 25% of voters said they were liberal. Of those, 11% voted for Romney! Likewise, 35% of voters claimed they were conservative and a whopping 17% of them voted for Obama! Come on, people. In the future, just do what most voters do and identify yourself as a “moderate” (41% did and Obama got 56% of them).

♦ And more weirdness related to what voters tell pollsters: 49% of voters claimed that ObamaCare should be repealed (versus 44% who don’t), but O got 15% of their vote! Not quite as weird is that 83% of those opposed to ObamaCare actually voted for its self-admitted and proud grandfather, Mittens!

♦ More weirdness: Romney got 17% of the vote among people who think the “government should do more.”  Maybe they knew something we didn’t. Or maybe they were Republican fat cats who expected a return on their investment.

♦ Even more weirdness: 53% of the 2012 electorate still correctly blame Republican George W. Bush for our “current economic problems.” Romney got 12% of their vote!

♦ Still more weirdness: 55% of the electorate correctly believe our economic system “favors the wealthy.” So, why did 26% of them vote for the vulture capitalist?

♦ Yep, more weirdness: 51% of Missouri voters believe “abortion should be legal all or most of the time.” Yet, 19% of them voted for Todd Akin!

♦ In the weird-and-dumb category: 18% of all voters have someone in their household in a labor union. Romney, unbelievably, got 40% of their vote. Dammit, if there were only a way for those unionish voters to get what they deserve without harming the other union members.

♦ Romney got 73% of the illegal-immigrants-should-be-deported vote, which proves that his extreme rightward turn in the GOP primary was successful. The problem for him was that those deport ‘em folks represented only 28% of the electorate. This is what brought Sean Hannity to his Republican death-bed conversion on the issue.

♦ Voters were asked, “Should same-sex marriages be legal in your state?” 49% said yes and 46% said no. Obama got 73% of the former and Romney 74% of the latter. But the times they are a changin’.

♦ Almost 70% of voters had their minds made up before September. Obama got 53% of their votes. Of those who waited until election day to decide (3%), O got 51%.  Of those who waited until they actually had the ballot in front of them on election day, who cares? Those folks need prayer, too, and lots of it.

♦ As far as political party ID, nationally more voters once again identified themselves as Democrats rather than Republicans (38% to 32%), which was only a slight drop from 2008 (39-32 in favor of Democrats). In Missouri, however, Democrats had only a two-point edge this time (37-35), significantly lower than in 2008 (40-34). As the country turns brown, Missouri is turning red.

♦ Although no exit polling was done in Missouri on this issue, something I found surprising was that 5% of the national electorate identified themselves as “Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual,” and 95% of the electorate did not. (For comparison, Asians represented 3% of the electorate.) Of those who claimed they were straight, Obama got 49 and Romney got 49. Wow, that means that the 76% of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals who gave Obama their support, made the crucial difference!  Take that all you homophobic Republicans! (And you know who you are.)

♦ Finally, a true-blue secularist, and a woman who reportedly is openly bisexual, is on her way to the U.S. House of Representatives, courtesy of, uh, Arizona. As I said, the times they are a changin’. Congratulations Kyrsten Sinema and the voters of Arizona’s 9th congressional district (south Phoenix, and parts of Scottsdale, Mesa, and Chandler).

If Only White Men Voted

BuzzFeed Politics published some interesting electoral maps, including these:

 

Here’s What Obama, The Winner, Should Say In Private

Although you wouldn’t know it by listening to them, Republicans did lose the election.

At least I think they did.

Mitch McConnell, the lead saboteur who failed to sabotage Obama’s chances of reelection, fired off a statement to one of the most virulent right-wing websites in the country, Breitbart, and said this:

One issue I’ve never been conflicted about is taxes. I wasn’t sent to Washington to raise anybody’s taxes to pay for more wasteful spending and this election doesn’t change my principles. This election was a disappointment, without doubt, but let’s be clear about something: the House is still run by Republicans, and Republicans still maintain a robust minority in the Senate. I know some people out there think Tuesday’s results mean Republicans in Washington are now going to roll over and agree to Democrat demands that we hike tax rates before the end of the year. I’m here to tell them there is no truth to that notion whatsoever.

Everyone knows that McConnell’s Kentucky senate seat is up next time, and since the only thing that matters to him is political power, the first thing he has to do to keep the little power he has is to make sure teapartiers don’t challenge him in a Republican primary. Thus, he has to grovel before them like the low-life reprobate he is.

In any case, the President is supposed to deliver a “fiscal cliff” speech today to address the confluence of budget dilemmas that face the country at the end of this year.

I obviously don’t know what he will say publicly, but here is what he should say privately to Mitch McConnell:

I won. Despite your best efforts to screw me and the country over, I won. And Democrats won. There are now more of us in the Senate. Sorry about that. I know you were counting on being Majority Leader. Ain’t gonna happen. Live with it. In fact, you may have a tough time getting elected next time against that Democratic fox Ashley Judd.

In any case, here’s the deal: Your party does still control the House. I’ll give you that. But that doesn’t entitle you to get your way. You see, I campaigned on raising taxes on those who are prospering. I told folks that’s what I wanted to do. And I’m gonna do it. And you can threaten me with that fiscal cliff bullshit all you want. I ain’t having it. If you want to go there, if you want to risk all those Pentagon cuts, hell, if you want to shut down the whole damned government, all in service to your rich friends and to those Tea Party creeps, so be it.

But I’ll tell you this: I will visit every bleeping town in Kentucky, from Bowling Green to Butcher Holler, from Louisville to Lick Creek, and tell them what you are doing. I’ll tell them that you are willing to wreck the country just to give Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers tax breaks. I’ll tell them you would rather see taxes go up on middle class folks in Kentucky than give one inch in your quest to let rich Republicans keep a few more dollars.

And I’ll tell them just how slimy you are, just what you have tried to do. 

You won’t get your way this time. I’ve got nothing to lose politically. Can’t you see that? Those tax rates on the rich, the ones that existed when Bill Clinton was president and the country was prosperous, they are going to go back up, Senator. And if you want to stand in the way of that necessary first step in getting our fiscal house in order, then I’m going to run right over you.

See ya when negotiations start.

Community Organizer In Chief

Can anyone imagine a victorious Mitt Romney speaking to his campaign staff like this:

t32g

Here’s What Happened On Tuesday Night

If you didn’t see Wednesday night’s episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, I suggest you go here and watch it. From start to finish, it was simply the best show she has done.

All of us who sympathize, to one degree or another, with what the Democratic Party stands for, need to sit back and take in all of what happened on Tuesday night. It really was remarkable.

And here is a rather remarkable accounting of it by Saint Rachel, an account we should savor all the way to the end:

We are not going to have a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe versus Wade.

There will be no more Antonin Scalias and Samuel Alitos added to this court.

We’re not going to repeal health reform.

Nobody is going to kill Medicare and make old people in this generation or any other generation fight it out on the open market to try to get themselves health insurance. We’re not going to do that.

We’re not going to give a 20% tax cut to millionaires and billionaires and expect programs like food stamps and kid’s insurance to cover the cost of that tax cut.

We’ll not make you clear it with your boss if you want to get birth control under the insurance plan that you’re on.

We are not going to redefine rape.

We are not going to amend the United States Constitution to stop gay people from getting married.

We are not going to double Guantanamo.

We are not eliminating the Department of Energy or the Department of Education or Housing at the federal level.

We are not going to spend $2 trillion on the military that the military does not want.

We are not scaling back on student loans, because the country’s new plan is that you should borrow money from your parents.

We are not vetoing the Dream Act.

We are not self-deporting.

We are not letting Detroit go bankrupt.

We are not starting a trade war with China on Inauguration Day in January.

We are not going to have, as a president, a man who once led a mob of friends to run down a scared, gay kid, to hold him down and forcibly cut his hair off with a pair of scissors, while that kid cried and screamed for help, and there was no apology, not ever.

We are not going to have a Secretary of State John Bolton.

We are not bringing Dick Cheney back.

We are not going to have a foreign policy shop stocked with architects of the Iraq War. We are not going to do it. We had the chance to do that if we wanted to do that, as a country, and we said no, last night, loudly…

The Democratic senator who was supposed to be the most endangered incumbent in the country not only won, she won by 16 points.

Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who was so stuffed with hedge funds money that he burped credit default swaps, Scott Brown lost by a lot to the nation’s foremost authority on the economic rights of the middle class.

After marriage rights for same-sex couples were voted down in state after state after state for years, more than 30 times in a row, this year, all change. In Maine, they voted on marriage equality and they voted for it. In Maryland, they voted on marriage equality and they voted for it. In Minnesota, they were asked to vote against marriage equality, and Minnesota refused to ban it. In Washington state, the vote is not called yet. They are still counting the vote and we will be watching closely, but if you are on the pro-gay rights side in Washington state, it should be noted that it is looking pretty good.

In Iowa, anti-gay activists were sure that they were going to turf out a judge for ruling in favor of marriage equality. They had done it before, to a bunch of other judges. They had been successful every time they had tried before. But not this one, not this time. Judge Wiggins in Iowa keeps his seat.

Nevada elects its first African-American congressman this year.

America gets our first openly gay United States Senator.

America gets our first-ever Asian-American woman senator from Hawaii. Her seat in the House, I should note, gets filled by…a Democratic Iraq War veteran. I’m going to tell you right now that her name is Tulsi Gabbard, because she is on the fast track to being very famous some day. Tulsi Gabbard.

Speaking of Iraq War veterans, Tammy Duckworth, veteran helicopter pilot who lost both her legs in Iraq, she is going to Congress, and she is sending home the opponent who mocked her for her war record, Joe Walsh.

California relaxed its three-strikes-you’re-out law and rejected a law to cripple the political power of unions.

Decriminalization of marijuana was approved in Washington and in Colorado.

The astonishing tide of dark money spent against Democratic Senators Jon Tester in Montana and Sherrod Brown in Ohio turned out to be pointless. Both those Democratic senators won. They held on to their seats.

Democrats won a Senate seat in North Dakota, of all places, a seat that nobody thought they could win.

All of these states that had this hugely aggressive, total Republican takeover from the 2010 elections—Ohio and Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania and Virginia and Florida—all of those states that went so red in state government in these past couple of years and that then had these big fights inside their states over how Republicans were governing there, in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia— and we will see about Florida— last night not only did Republicans lose the presidential election in every single one of those states, Republicans lost the Senate race in every single one of those states too: Sherwood Brown, Tammy Baldwin, Debbie Stabenow, Bob Casey, Tim Kaine, Bill Nelson. Depending on Florida, a Democratic sweep of the presidency, and definitely a Democratic sweep of the Senate races in those states that the GOP was so excited to have supposedly turned red in a way that was going to stick.

Last night, Democratic women swept every major office in New Hampshire.

Last night, California Democrats won a Democratic super-majority in the state house and in the state senate. Not just majorities in California, but super majorities. Wherein, if the Republicans don’t turn up, any of them, any day, at work, nothing will be different in California  They’re completely legislatively irrelevant.

Allen West lost his seat.

More women got elected to the U.S. Senate than at any time in U.S. history.

The Republican presidential nominee and vice presidential nominee both lost their home states.

Missouri and Montana and West Virginia chose democratic governors.

West Virginia chose its first gay state legislator. So did North Dakota. West Virginia and North Dakota? Yes, seriously.

Joe Lieberman’s old seat went to a real Democrat in Connecticut.

The proportion of young people voting compared to 2008, it went up. Same with African-Americans, up from 2008. Same with Latinos, up from 2008. Not down, up.

If you are a liberal or if you are rooting for the Democrats, last night was a very, very, very big night.

And, oh, yeah, this happened: President Barack Obama, yes, will go down in history as our nation’s first African-American president. But he will also go down in history as the most successful Democratic presidential candidate since FDR. President Bill Clinton got re-elected too, I know, but only Barack Obama got re-elected with not just big electoral college margins, but also with majority wins in the popular vote, twice.

Wow.

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