Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mario Piperni and That Sinking Feeling

The GOP’s Race To The Bottom

February 29, 2012 By

Succinct and to the point.

Rick should scat.

Mitt Romney needs to be left alone to limp across the finish line, so he can devote his full time and attention to losing to President Obama.

Maureen Dowd is right, but it won’t happen, at least not now. Rick isn’t about to scat anywhere. He tasted victory in Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota and isn’t about to give up his quest for establishing Christian Taliban rule in the U.S. – a place where he dreams of one day telling his grandchildren how he, the Elliot Ness of American morality, single-handedly took down contraceptives, universities, gays and the women’s vote and made America clean and pure once more.

Ricky is not well.

As for Romney, nothing much will change. He is who he is, silver spoon and all, and there’s not much he can do about it. He has no idea what life without wealth entails. This is why he can nonchalantly mock Daytona racing fans for sporting plastic ponchos by saying, “I like those fancy raincoats you bought. Really sprung for the big bucks.”

Was that a terribly condescending remark to make to someone who does not happen to have $250 million in the bank? Yes, of course it was. Was he attempting to be condescending? I don’t think so. Romney is simply a clueless rich guy who interprets the world and all he finds in it by looking through the gold-tinted glasses life handed him at birth.

Mitt Romney cannot understand why everyone doesn’t own a number of Burberry trench coats like he does. In his world it’s not at all complicated. One simply pulls out their American Express Centurion black card and…

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Ezra Klein: Romney in Michigan

On Tuesday, after outspending his opponent by 2-1, Mitt Romney managed to win his home state by four points. That’s a win. But it’s a win that makes Romney look weak, not strong.

The question with Romney, at this point, is whether he’s a strong general-election candidate who is ill-suited for the peculiar dynamics of modern-Republican primaries, or whether he’s a weak general-election candidate whose vulnerabilities are being exposed in the Republican primaries.

One way to answer that is through polls. The latest Politico/George Washington University poll, for instance, finds, “Romney is bloodied after nine contests, five of which he has lost. Only 33 percent of independents view him favorably, compared with 51 percent who see him in an unfavorable light. In a head-to-head match-up against Obama among independents, Romney now trails 49 percent to 37 percent.” Losing ground among independents suggests a real weakness in the general election. But it might be meaningless. Those independents might simply be reacting to the primary, and they’ll come around when Romney transitions to his general-election campaign.

But that might not happen anytime soon. Another way of presenting the outcome in Michigan is that Santorum challenged Romney in his home state, got outspent by 2-1, and still only lost by four points. If Romney won in a way that made him look weak, Santorum lost in a way that made him look strong. It’s not the sort of a result that leads an overperforming longshot to drop out of the race.

At the same time, Romney was right in his victory speech. “We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough and that’s all that counts,” he said. His advisers might have preferred if he’d omitted that unusually honest look into the dynamics of the campaign. But Romney did win by enough. He remains the frontrunner. He remains strong enough to dissuade any new entrants. Which means the status quo continues. Romney vs. Santorum. The Republican Party will continue to have nowhere else to turn and independent voters will continue to see a side of Romney they don’t much like. You can argue that Michigan produced three kinds of winners last night. Romney, who didn’t lose. Santorum, who almost won. And the Obama campaign, which gets to sit back and watch this primary go on for that much longer.

Mario Piperni on Ricky Righteous

The Case For Chanting ‘Go, Santorum, Go’

February 28, 2012 By

Former Reagan strategist Ed Rollins made this observation (as quoted by John Heilemann in New York Magazine) regarding the 2012 Republican primary:

Six months before this thing got going, every Republican I know was saying, “We’re gonna win, we’re gonna beat Obama.” Now even those who’ve endorsed Romney say, “My God, what a fucking mess.”

Given Rick Santorum’s quest for an American theocracy, Mitt Romney’s insistence throughout the campaign on portraying himself as a somewhat less compassionate version of Gordon Gekko, Newt Gingrich’s moon colonies and hope of eradicating from the judiciary every judge who does not follow the Gingrich Doctrine and Ron Paul…well, Ron Paul’s refusal to be anyone else but Ron Paul…one can only think, a fucking mess, indeed. Which begs the question, why so, why now?

Because any party which is composed in large part (in Robert Reich’s words) of “birthers, creationists, theocrats, climate-change deniers, nativists, gay-bashers, anti-abortionists, media paranoids, anti-intellectuals, and out-of-touch country clubbers” cannot possibly be appeased by a single candidate and when the attempt is made, the result is the three (four?) ring circus Republicans now have before them.

In this Republican age of insanity, finding credible, rational conservatives willing to risk their politician careers to take on an incumbent president while courting the vote of teabaggers, bigots and religious fundamentalists (not all mutually exclusive) is no easy task. Just ask Jon Huntsman. Intelligence and a record of staunch conservatism is simply not enough to satisfy the GOP’s current base – a base which insists that their candidate be every bit as irrational and loopy as them. It is a request which the four remaining candidates vying to become the Republican nominee are desperately attempting to fulfill.

Given the current state of the Republican party John Heilmann theorizes on the consequences of an Obama win or loss in November.

…it’s still perfectly conceivable that Obama might lose this thing.

If that happens, the implications for the Republican Party will be straight­forward: It will be reshaped in the image of whichever of the candidates becomes president-elect. A Romney victory would signal the resurgence of the regulars, while one by Santorum would usher in an era of red-hot regnancy.

But if Obama prevails, precisely the opposite dynamic is likely to kick in: a period of bitter recriminations followed by a reformation (or counterreformation) of the GOP. This, please recall, was what many Republicans were counting on to happen in the wake of their party’s loss of the White House and seats in the House and Senate in 2008. Instead, Republicans seized on a strategy of relentless opposition to Obama, which proved politically effective in 2010 but left the party as bereft of new ideas, a constructive agenda, or a coherent governing philosophy as before.

And this bit of reasoning for hoping that Rick Santorum prevails against Romney but loses to Obama.

Only the most mindless of ideologues reject the truism that America would be best served by the presence of two credible governing parties instead of the situation that currently obtains. A Santorum nomination would be seen by many liberals as a scary and retrograde proposition. And no doubt it would make for a wild ride, with enough talk of Satan, abortifacients, and sweater vests to drive any sane man bonkers. But in the long run, it might do a world of good, compelling Republicans to return to their senses—and forge ahead into the 21st century. Which is why all people of common sense and goodwill might consider, in the days ahead, adopting a slogan that may strike them as odd, perverse, or even demented: Go, Rick, go.

The Borowitz Report

Santorum Proposes Replacing Church, State with New Entity Called ‘Sturch’

Would Offer Salvation, Motor Vehicle Renewals on Sunday

LANSING (The Borowitz Report) – Telling a crowd of supporters that the separation of church and state “makes me want to throw up,” GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum today proposed replacing church and state with a new entity he called “sturch.”

“Merging church and state into sturch will benefit all Americans,” he said.  “Except maybe Jews.”

Mr. Santorum said that the combined entity would offer greater convenience to the American people than the separation of church and state currently does, since Americans would be able to get salvation and motor vehicle renewals at the same place every Sunday.

Turning to another campaign theme, Mr. Santorum told the crowd, “I support the rights of the unborn child until it is born and wants an education.”

He contrasted himself with President Obama on the education issue, stating, “Barack Obama speaks in complete sentences. What a snob.”

In other campaign news, singer Kid Rock endorsed Mitt Romney, which means that his music is no longer the worst thing about Kid Rock.

An upbeat Mr. Romney visited the Daytona 500, where he told a reporter, “I love this stuff. I’ve always been a big NASDAQ fan.”

Naked Capitalism

Matt Stoller: Wall Street Fixer Rodge Cohen – Big Banks Key to American Global Dominance

By Matt Stoller, the former Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Alan Grayson and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can reach him at stoller (at) gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller. Cross posted from New Deal 2.0.

Sometimes finance executives let slip the way they really feel: that they hold the world in the palm of their hands.

It’s not often that the people in charge admit what is really going on: a global game for political dominance. I just saw an interview with Wall Street superlawyer Rodgin (“Rodge”) Cohen of Sullivan & Cromwell, the secret force behind (among other things) the expanded emergency lending power of the Federal Reserve through section 13(3). You know, that’s the law allowing the Fed to lend unlimited sums based on whatever it wants to lend, a section amended in 1991 at Cohen’s behest. He was involved in “more than 17 deals” during the crisis in 2008, including the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the $85 billion AIG bailout deal, and the takeover of Fannie Mae by the federal government. He is, as Bill Black said, the fixer of Wall Street. Here’s his quote, at minute 3:39 of this Bloomberg interview:

Hopefully we will not see the major financial institutions in this country disappear because if we do we will also see a loss of ability to influence events not only financially but also politically throughout the world.

That’s pretty clear. It reminds me of this quote from an anonymous military officer while he was touring JP Morgan’s trading floor (emphasis added):

JPMorgan Chase yesterday hosted about 30 active duty military officers (across all branches and agencies) from the Marine Corps War College in Quantico, Va. The officers met with senior executives, toured the trading floor and participated in a trading simulation. They discussed recruitment, operations management, strategic communications and the economy. Aside from employees thanking them for their service as they passed by, they also received a standing ovation on the trading floor. Said one officer after a senior JPM exec thanked him for his service: “We promise to keep you safe if you keep this country strong.”

There are always conspiracy theories out there about a global linkage between large financial institutions and American empire. They don’t, however, usually come from the people running the place.

Mario Piperni on Conservapedia

Conservapedia: Wingnut’s Path To Ignorance

February 27, 2012 By

When I’m in need of a chuckle, I point my browser to Conservapedia, the supposedly conservative alternative to Wikipedia. Conservapedia is basically where the far right fringe wackos turn to when they’re in need of ‘encyclopedic’ proof of the lies and bullshit they just heard on Fox News. In short, Conservapedia is to knowledge what the Creationist Museum is to science.

From the Conservapedia entry for ‘Barack Hussein Obama’

Anyway, I was doing a Google search for something and accidentally stumbled upon the Conservapedia entry for Barrack Hussein Obama. Not only is it as stupid as stupid gets, it’s hilarious. Here’s the opening paragraph for the entry.

Barack Hussein Obama II also known by the alias Barry Soetoro during his time in Indonesia (born August 4, 1961) is the 44th President of the United States and the controversial recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Overcoming a short political career, Obama defeated Republican nominee John McCain for the presidency in 2008, campaigning on promises of “hope” and “change”. In effect, that change has been an embrace of socialism and liberal policies. Barack Obama has been widely criticized by the American business community and others for his anti-business policies that are killing American jobs during a period of high unemployment. Trend forecaster Gerald Celente indicates that Obama administration’s response to the the failed American economy is more war and the creation of misleading economic statistics.

Can’t you just feel the love? After that, it only gets better. Here’s what they have printed under the sub-heading Early Life.

It has been disputed by some groups whether Obama was actually born in the United States; some people allege that he was born in Kenya. On April 27, 2011 Obama officially released his long form birth certificate, which many experts have determined to be a fake and no legal body has determined its authenticity .

More…

Ayers and Dohrn used their celebrity status among leftists to launch Obama’s career. Ayers, Dohrn and Jeff Jones are authors of Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-imperialism, the title taken from The Sayings of Mao Zedong. The book declares “we are communist men and women.” Ayers later jokingly, publicly admitted to ghostwriting Obama’s book, Dreams From My Father and Obama was to appoint several openly avowed Maoists to prominent White House and Executive Branch positions.

And in case you didn’t know…

By Obama’s third year as Commander-in-Chief, over 1200 American troops died in Iraq and Afghanistan – significantly more than the number who died during President George W. Bush’s term of office.

What about those 4100 soldiers who were killed in Iraq while George Bush was Commander-in-Chief, you ask? Shhh…never happened.

Conservapedia likes to brag that it is used as a learning tool for many children in conservative households who are homeschooled. So the next time someone asks you how a child can grow up to become a Rick Santorum an ignorant, misinformed, bigoted, self-righteous moron, now you know.

Mario Piperni on Broker’s Choice

Presidential Nominee Clarence Thomas?

February 27, 2012 By

Oh yeah, this is definitely a wonderful idea.

With the Republican presidential nomination still up in the air, the possibility of a brokered convention is looking increasingly likely. Under the party’s rules, the delegates won by Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and the others in the primaries and caucuses are obligated to vote for their assigned candidate only on the first ballot. If no candidate wins the required number of votes, the delegates can throw their support to anyone. There’s speculation that party insiders, unhappy with the current field, might float the candidacy of someone not now in the race, like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie or Jeb Bush.

While Christie and Bush might be fine candidates, perhaps the Republicans should consider a more inspired and game-changing pick: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Far-fetched?  Maybe. But a Thomas candidacy would energize Republicans in a way that few other Republicans can and would steal tremendous media attention from President Barack Obama.

Has the level of desperation reached such proportion for Republicans that they’ve resorted to scraping the bottom of the barrel in search of a savior? Clarence Thomas? President?

Funny.

The Borowitz Report

Poll: Given Choice Between Romney and Santorum, Most Voters Choose Suicide

Survey Spells Trouble for GOP, Pollster Says

DETROIT (The Borowitz Report) – With just one day until the key Republican contests in Michigan and Arizona, a new survey of likely voters indicates that in a match-up between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a majority would choose suicide over either candidate.

The poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, shows Mr. Romney drawing 21%, Mr. Santorum 18%, and various forms of suicide 61%.

“Throwing yourself in front of a speeding city bus” was the most popular means of suicide at 22%, with “jumping off the roof of a really tall building or bridge” coming in second at 17%.

According to pollster Davis Logsdon, the surging popularity of suicide bodes ill for both Gov. Romney and Sen. Santorum as presidential candidates in 2012.

“It’s still early, but even at this stage of the game the prospect of one of those two being nominated shouldn’t be making voters want to kill themselves in these numbers,” Mr. Logsdon said.

Reached on the campaign trail in Lansing, Mr. Romney pointed out that while he did not do as well as suicide, he still polled higher than Sen. Santorum, adding, “That’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.”

But Mr. Logsdon was quick to throw cold water on Mr. Romney’s upbeat assessment: “In a head-to-head match-up, a sharp stick in the eye beats Romney by a two-to-one margin.”

Elsewhere, Academy Award voters hailed “The Artist” as the ultimate fantasy film, since it depicts a world in which the French are silent.

Ezra Klein on Romneycare

Mitt Romney has been very clear, and very confusing: His health-care reforms are working in Massachusetts, but they’re not a good model for the rest of the nation. New numbers out from Massachusetts — and from the rest of the nation — suggest he’s only half right.

It’s been clear for some time that Romneycare succeeded in expanding access to health care in Massachusetts. Over 95 percent of the state’s residents are insured. It’s also popular. A February poll found that 62 percent approved of the law, and only 33 percent disapproved. Whether it’s controlling costs has been less obvious.

MIT health economist — and Romneycare architect — Jon Gruber showed that premiums in the non-group market, which was the market most affected by the reforms, fell sharply after the law’s introduction. But another group of economists, including Romney-campaign adviser Glenn Hubbard, published a paper showing that premiums in the employer market were rising more quickly than the national average.

But the data used by Hubbard and his coauthors only went through 2008. Fred Bauer has taken another look at the numbers, which now include 2009 and 2010. And now, those same numbers show the situation has turned around. “From 2006 to 2010, employer-sponsored health-care premiums for a family rose about 19% in Massachusetts, while they rose about 22% in the US as a whole,” he writes. “Compare that to the period between 2002 and 2006, when Bay State family premiums increased 40% and US family premiums rose only 34.5%.” Individual premiums have also been growing more slowly than the national average.

So Romneycare is working. Across the board. But perhaps, as Romney implies, there’s something that makes it unsuitable for the rest of the nation.

If that’s so, however, we’re not seeing it yet. Romneycare’s cousin, the Affordable Care Act — or, as it’s more frequently known, Obamacare — isn’t fully in place, and won’t be until 2014 at the earliest. But it has passed. And since it has passed, health-care spending has been dropping. Karen Davis, director of the Commonwealth Fund, writes that the most recent spending projections show a “$275 billion (5.6 percent) reduction for 2020, compared with pre-reform estimates. Moreover, that projection represents a cumulative reduction of $1.7 trillion over the 10 years from 2011 to 2020.”

You might argue that that’s just the recession, but as Davis writes, “the recession doesn’t plausibly explain why projected health spending in 2020 is substantially below estimates made just two years ago.” And why the recession having such an effect on long-term spending under Medicare? The latest data shows we’re on track to spend $750 billion less than the pre-reform projections suggested. The Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act account for barely half of that. If these trends hold, the Affordable Care Act will cost far less than anticipated.

Is this all the Affordable Care Act? Certainly not. The recession is part of it. And perhaps efforts over the last decade to change the health-care system are beginning to pay off. But the passage of the ACA didn’t just send a loud signal to the health-care industry that things needed to change. It laid out, in endless detail, how providers would begin to lose money if they didn’t change. And so they’ve started changing. We’re seeing more consolidation in the hospital industry. We’re seeing doctors join larger group practices. We’re seeing efforts to crack down on medical errors and prepare for regulations that will penalize hospitals with high rates of readmission.

It’s possible those preparations are beginning to bear fruit. At the very least, as Davis writes, “the dire predictions that the Affordable Care Act would fail to control costs and, in fact, accelerate spending have not been borne out by the early experience. It now appears that both the costs of covering the uninsured and Medicare spending are substantially below pre-reform estimates.” If that seems impossible, well, look at the Bay State.

So the Massachusetts reforms worked. And though it’s too early to say anything definitively, there’s encouraging evidence that the national reforms based on the Massachusetts reforms are leading to positive changes in the health-care industry. Romney is right to defend his signature accomplishment as governor of Massachusetts. But he’s wrong to deny its lessons for the rest of the country.

The Borowitz Report

Santorum Makes Campaign Swing Through Seventeenth Century

Blasts Contraception, Electricity, Soap

THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY (The Borowitz Report) – In an effort to underscore his core beliefs leading up to this Tuesday night’s primary contests, former Sen. Rick Santorum made a campaign swing through the Seventeenth Century today.

At the first stop of his ambitious journey, Mr. Santorum restated his reason for seeking the White House: “I am running for President today because the position of Spanish Inquisitor is no longer available.”

The former Pennsylvania Senator served up red meat to his seventeenth-century supporters, telling them, “Since we all agree that contraception is a bad idea, it’s time to take a harder look at electricity and soap.”

Mr. Santorum, who said that in his first day in office he would repeal the Age of Enlightenment, stressed that he had home-schooled all seven of his children: “That means there are at least eight people in this country who don’t understand evolution.”

In a lighter moment, Sen. Santorum told his audience what he said was his favorite joke: “A Kenyan, a Muslim and a socialist walk into a bar. And then he makes everyone get an abortion.”

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich scored points with this comment on education: “We should leave no child behind, only wives.”