Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Someone needs to give the Cons in Congress a good, sharp slap across the face. Isn’t that what’s typically done to calm hysterical screaming ninnies? Or do they just need their noses shoved deep in some reality? I myself believe they need some quiet time in a padded room while the anti-psychotic medication kicks in, but maybe some tough love by governors in their own party could snap them out of their delusions and make them functioning members of society again:

Congressional Republicans oppose the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package. Media Republicans oppose the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package. But then there are those other Republicans who actually have to govern during this economic crisis.

Most Republican governors have broken with their GOP colleagues in Congress and are pushing for passage of President Barack Obama’s economic aid plan that would send billions to states for education, public works and health care.

Their state treasuries drained by the financial crisis, governors would welcome the money from Capitol Hill, where GOP lawmakers are more skeptical of Obama’s spending priorities.

The 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, planned to meet in Washington this weekend with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other senators to press for her state’s share of the package.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist worked the phones last week with members of his state’s congressional delegation, including House Republicans. Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, the Republican vice chairman of the National Governors Association, planned to be in Washington on Monday to urge the Senate to approve the plan.

“As the executive of a state experiencing budget challenges, Gov. Douglas has a different perspective on the situation than congressional Republicans,” said Douglas’ deputy chief of staff, Dennise Casey.

You don’t say. States facing unprecedented budget crunches and mounting healthcare, education, and transportation costs support the idea of a federal rescue package. Who knew?

Funny how that tax-cuts mantra and the “whatever Dems want, we don’t want” approach to governance get less and less attractive the more one has to deal with the actual consequences of such decisions. If the Cons in Congress were reduced to eating nothing but Spam and off-brand elbow macaroni whenever their states suffered a budget shortfall, I think we’d be seeing a little less obstruction.

Then again, maybe not. After all, that would probably feed right in to their delusions of heroism:

Michael Steele addressed the House Republican Retreat today, his first interaction with the Congressional GOP since he was election RNC chairman yesterday. Steele praised the caucus for voting against the economic stimulus package: “I thought it was very important to send a signal, and you sent it loudly, very clearly, that this party, the leadership of this caucus, would stand first and foremost with the American people. You made it very clear that in order to grow through this recession that you not redistribute the wealth of the people of this nation.”

Someone may want to remind Chairman Steele that Con fantasies about what the American people want are what caused the Cons to lose the last two elections. The American people don’t want Cons standing with them. It’s rather like having the doctor who amputated the wrong limb loudly proclaiming he won’t give up on your case until the proper amputation is done, and insisting on performing your next surgery after you’ve fired him and hired a new surgeon.

And you know what else? That “redistribution” of wealth is more of a reclamation, and starts to look damned attractive when faced with numbers like this:

Bloomberg reports that, according to recently released IRS data, “the average tax rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell by a third to 17.2 percent through the first six years of the Bush administration and their average income doubled to $263.3 million.” Much of their income came from capital gains resulting from the Bush tax cuts:

The drop from 2001’s tax rate of 22.9 percent was due largely to ex-President George W. Bush’s push to cut tax rates on most capital gains to 15 percent in 2003.

[snip]

The Wonk Room has noted how “the conservative approach of putting big corporations and the very wealthy ahead of the middle class has failed to create prosperity that can be shared by all Americans.”

Something tells me it’s high time for a little wealth redistribution. There’s something very wrong with people who make that much money contributing so little tax revenue to our country, and then bitching about how poor they feel.

And there’s something extremely wrong with Wall Street execs screaming for ginormous government handouts calling the taxpayers who fund their extravagance socialists:

On Wall Street these days, being denied bonuses when you’ve lost money for your clients and shareholders (now taxpayers, of course) is … socialism:
“I think President Obama painted everyone with a broad stroke,” said Brian McCaffrey, 55, a Wall Street lawyer who was on his way to see a client. “The way we pay our taxes is bonuses. The only way that we’ll get any of our bailout money back is from taxes on bonuses. I think bonuses should be looked at on a case by case basis, or you turn into a socialist.”

Listen, you stupid fuckwits: you and your Con friends in Washington dumped the economy in the shitter. Now you’re asking for taxpayer money to get you out. And guess what? The easiest way to get the bailout money back is not to give bonuses to dumbfucks who think they earn multi-million dollar bonuses even when they bankrupted their companies. In fact, how about a paycut, instead? Just like the people who are now suffering for your stupidity:

All over the country, workers are being told that they can’t have bonuses or raises, that they have to cut back their hours, that they are being laid off. The waiters at my favorite brewpub, who have been there for a decade or more, are all being reduced to part time (so that none of them have to be completely laid off) and their tips are off by 60%. The idea that the people who caused all this should get bonuses at the taxpayers expense because they are such valuable employees is ludicrous. That these people who work forsuch massively failed enterprises should be rewarded by the taxpayers for their failure is beyond reason. I can’t fathom why they haven’t all been fired.

Neither can I. But they seem to have the same attitude the Cons do, which is that they are the creme de la creme and the country can’t survive without them. They’re so tone-deaf it’s astounding. My jaw aches from the dropping it’s been doing.

And just when I think that the Cons couldn’t possibly be any more obstructionist and stupid, I read something like this:

At this point there are an estimated 6.5 million families still relying on unconverted televisions, and a waiting list for coupons [for converter boxes]. The Obama administration has asked for more time to straighten things out, and the Senate voted unanimously to postpone the deadline for four months. This shows that legislators of good will (Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas) can work in a bipartisan manner when the issue at hand is every American’s God-given right to television reception.

Then the bill moved to the House, where quick action required permission of a two-thirds majority. For once, the Republicans got a chance to make their presence felt, and they instantly sprang into action and refused to allow anybody to do anything. This shows you why Nancy Pelosi always seems a little irritable.

How could the Republicans not be worried about this? A disproportionate number of the endangered TV viewers are senior citizens. Bill O’Reilly’s entire audience is in danger!

Forfuckssake. They’re even knee-jerking something so simple as delaying the transition from analog to digital so that people who don’t have converters yet can get them.

No wonder Nate Silver thinks the Cons are in a death-spiral:

Most fundamentally of all, the McCain campaign radically overestimated the importance of appealing to the base. House Republicans may be replicating their mistake. Self-described conservative Republicans represent only about 20 percent of the population. This base is not necessarily becoming smaller; it’s still alive and kicking. What is true, however, is that the (1) base has never been sufficient to form a winning electoral coalition, and (2) that there are fewer and fewer non-base (e.g. moderates, libertarian Republicans, Republican leaning-independents). As these moderates have fled the GOP, the party’s electoral fortunes have tanked. But simultaneously, they have had less and less influence on the Republican message.

Thus the Republicans, arguably, are in something of a death spiral. The more conservative, partisan, and strident their message becomes, the more they alienate non-base Republicans. But the more they alienate non-base Republicans, the fewer of them are left to worry about appeasing. Thus, their message becomes continually more appealing to the base — but more conservative, partisan, and strident to the rest of us. And the process loops back upon itself.

[snip]

Perhaps the House Republicans voted against delaying the digital TV changeover because they don’t want Americans to see the carnage.

You know what? I think Nate’s wrong about that last bit. You see, to speculate that the Cons are blocking a sensible delay in the analog-to-digital transition because they’re trying to keep as many Americans as possible from realizing what a raving bunch of fucktards they’ve become would require some kind of reason. I have seen no evidence of reason coming from the Cons in the House lately. And if this is emblematic of their thinking, there’s no hope that they’ll start thinking like normal, intelligent human beings:

Former Bush White House chief of staff Andrew Card complained to right-wing talk-show host Michael Medved that President Obama is insufficiently respectful of the presidency. Apparently, one demonstrates respect for the presidency by their choice of attire:

“…I found that Ronald Reagan and both President Bushes treated the Oval Office with tremendous respect. They treated the Office of the Presidency with tremendous respect. And some of that respect was reflected in how they expected people to behave, how they expected them to dress when they walked into the symbol of freedom for the world, the Oval Office. And yes, I’m disappointed to see the casual, laissez faire, short sleeves, no shirt and tie, no jacket, kind of locker room experience that seems to be taking place in this White House and the Oval Office.”

“Locker-room experience.” Card wasn’t kidding.

I think there are two general angles to this. The first is that Obama isn’t especially concerned about the formality of one’s clothing. He was photographed at his desk wearing a shirt and tie, and some of the political establishment gasped because he was seen sans jacket. (Obama, a Hawaii native, reportedly prefers a warm office. David Axelrod said, “You could grow orchids in there.”) Suits are common on weekdays, but the president issued an informal edict for “business casual” on weekends. That, apparently, means slacks and a buttoned-down shirt.

Traditionalists may not approve of Obama’s easy-going style, but we’re a long way from a “laissez faire locker-room experience.” A frat house it isn’t.

The other thing to consider here is exactly how one “respects” the presidency. For Card and others who served with Bush, it’s about choice of clothing. For those who serve with Obama, it’s about honoring institutional limits and the rule of law.

These fuckwits are incredible. What the fuck can you do with a group of people who think appearance matters more than substance? That “thinking” is so fucking shallow that if it was represented by a pool, you wouldn’t even be able to get the bottoms of your feet damp in it.

The fact that 20% of the American public is stupid enough to identify with these dumbshits is a travesty.

Time to Clean Out the Bushies

Something tells me a few people need reminding that there’s a new boss now:

I can’t figure out if these Bushies are doing this for the usual bribes or because they’re homicidally jealous of sentient beings.

Greenpeace nails this:

Bush Holdovers Attempt to Undermine Obama Foreign Policy on Whaling

Greenpeace Calls for Obama, Clinton to Assert Authority and Replace Officials

WASHINGTON – Just days after the inauguration of President Obama, holdovers from the Bush administration are already attempting to undermine his foreign policy on whaling.

According to news reports out of Hawaii, Bush appointees on the International Whaling Commission – Doug DeMaster and commission chairman William Hogarth – participated in closed-door negotiations with Japan to finalize a deal that would allow increased whaling off the coast of Japan in return for marginal limits on Japan’s illegal commercial whaling program in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The trade-off will not benefit whale conservation and could actually put additional endangered populations at risk.

Such a deal would directly violate President Obama’s stated policy of working to end Japanese whaling.

I guess they couldn’t read the memo. Not surprising, considering the caliber of people Bush chose to contaminate the government with.

Obama’s a busy man. He’s got a ginormous mess to clean up, and rooting out Bush’s buffoons on top of the myriad crises he was left with is a gargantuan job. Luckily, there are many firms specializing in the removal of toxic waste. And I’m sure they’ll discount for bulk requests.

Send ‘em in.

Hangover Discurso

In case you were wondering, yes, socializing was a success. I got to go fall in love with my adopted city all over again, I’m stuffed to the gills on excellent food, and Dark Knight on the IMAX screen was teh awesome.

And I had all of this lovely Con stupidity to come home to. Yippee!

For those of you who were desperate to know who the next chairman of the RNC would be, wonder no more:

Today, Republican National Committee (RNC) delegates chose former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele as their new chairman. Steele is the first African-American to lead the party, which continues to struggle with diversity problems.

The choice of Steele represents a considerable failure for the social conservatives who dominated during the era of Tom DeLay and George W. Bush. These far right wingers — including Phyllis Schlafly, Tony Perkins, Richard Viguerie, and Ed Meese — all backed Kenneth Blackwell, who had one of the poorest showings in the election.

The frothing fundies didn’t get their man, but never fear! Steele has plenty of entertainment potential. This is the man who thinks whites-only country clubs are not a problem because he, personally, doesn’t play golf. Which may go a long way towards explaining why he thinks anyone who isn’t LGBT doesn’t care about LGBT rights. He once called the R in front of his name a scarlet letter and repeatedly tried to brand himself a Democrat in 2006. And he likes to compare stem cell research to Nazi experiments. Doesn’t he sound like the perfect Con to improve Cons’ electoral chances after two cycles of abject defeat?

Consider that this is the best man they could find for the job:

Indeed, whenever I see Steele, I immediately think of the editorial the Washington Post ran on his U.S. Senate candidacy in 2006, which described Steele as a man of “no achievement, no record, no evidence and certainly no command of the issues.” Noting his four-year tenure as Maryland’s lieutenant governor, the Post added, “Steele had at best a marginal impact, even on his handpicked projects.”

No wonder Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed a little worried when he yammered to the RNC about the Con outlook on the eve of Steele’s victory (h/t):

“We’re all concerned about the fact that the very wealthy and the very poor, the most and least educated, and a majority of minority voters, seem to have more or less stopped paying attention to us. And we should be concerned that, as a result of all this, the Republican Party seems to be slipping into a position of being more of a regional party than a national one,” McConnell told the gathering.

“In politics, there’s a name for a regional party: it’s called a minority party. And I didn’t sign up to be a member of a regional party . . . As Republicans, we know that common-sense conservative principles aren’t regional. But I think we have to admit what our sales job has been poor. And in my view, that needs to change.”

Oh, Mitch. The voters are totally paying attention to you. That’s why they’re not voting for you.

But according to the current leading lights in the Con party, it’s just a matter of marketing:

Every once in a while, a Freudian slip of mammoth ugly truth proportions falls from someone’s lips. Behold:

Before Gingrich offered that somewhat surprising praise, Boehner reminded Republicans that they are no longer in the business of legislating and should focus almost solely on communicating their message with voters.

“We are in the communications business,” Boehner told the crowd during his opening remarks. “We can build a new Republican majority one issue at a time.”

Ask not what you can do for your country.

Ask what you can manipulate the voters of your country to do for your own personal ambition and the growing needs of the rapacious Republican party.

[snip]

Because nothing says “man of the people” like a robust speech about how their needs don’t matter unless your political party is getting something out of it, while dining in luxury accommodations and taking in the mineral waters and perhaps a morning Sportsman treatment for a bit of uplift around the eye area and a gentle scrubbing of the skin to enhance that Ebenezer glow.

You know why they’re talking about “sales jobs,” don’t you? It’s because when all you’ve got to offer is snake oil, you can’t let the product speak for itself. You have to con people into buying your useless bullshit. And that, my darlings, is why they’re called “Cons.”

What they’re trying to sell right now is the idea that we don’t need no stinkin’ stimulus, and they’ll go to pseudo-heroic lengths to stand in its way:

Last night on NPR’s All Things Considered, host Robert Siegel asked Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) about the prospects of a Republican filibuster of the Senate’s version of the economic recovery package. Grassley responded that Republicans would indeed filibuster the package, requiring the bill to garner a 60-vote majority for passage:

SIEGEL: By the way, Senator, we always just assume that anything in the Senate requires 60 votes because there will be a filibuster threat. Is that right? Does this bill need 60 votes to pass?

GRASSLEY: Yes.

SIEGAL: It does?

GRASSLEY: Yes.

They may want to rethink that default obstructionist position just a wee bit. Despite an all-out media assault on the stimulus, voters are smelling the snake oil, and deciding they ain’t buying:

A new poll in support of the stimulus plan:

A new poll by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg.

A survey of 1,200 voters in 40 traditionally Republican congressional districts now held by Democrats Greenberg’s firm conducted between Jan. 14 to 19 shows Obama’s post-election honeymoon reaching a rapturous stage, with 44 percent of voters strongly supporting his policies.

A full 64 percent favor his economic plan, compared to 27 percent against. And precisely that same proportion favors the stimulus in 13 states that are expected to have competitive Senate races in 2010: Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Colorado, Ohio, Kansas, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Greenberg says an incumbent’s support for the economic plan appears to make voters more likely to reelect the lawmaker — particularly good news for the 20 or so Democrats who in November captured districts that former President Bush carried in 2004. He said one-third of Republicans and two-thirds of independents are leaning with Obama’s general goals on the recovery.

Numbers like these would make a party capable of thinking engage in some serious cogitation about the likely effects of standing firm against a piece of legislation that 64% of voters in conservative districts love. A party concerned about getting their candidates elected might want to consider the fact that voters are plumping for the pols that support the stimulus. We know the Cons are hard of thinking, but I do hope the Blue Dogs fire up the synapses and stop acting like outrageous idiots. Emulating the Cons seems, I dunno, suicidal at this point.

But if the Blue Dogs and the Cons want to help more progressive Dems win in landslides in 2010, I won’t quibble. So nice of them to provide us so much lovely ammunition.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on (yesterday’s) public discourse.

That’s right, my darlings. We’re going with vintage stupidity because Dana’s going to be traipsing through downtown Seattle, doing things like gazing at the Seattle Fault beneath the waters of Puget Sound and marveling at the fact part of it just slipped 35 kilometers down, stuffing herself until she bursts on the best chowder in the Northwest and some of the finest Indian food in town, and seeing Dark Knight at the Imax. Lucy may figure in there somewhere, but depending on how things go, we may be punking her off until a couple weeks from now, when we can spend a bit more time with her.

Since I’ll be getting home rather too late to deliver Happy Hour at a reasonable time, and since the Cons were so obliging with the stupid, we’ll have a retro discurso for now. I’ll hit you with the hangover later so we don’t get too far behind. Sound good to you? It does to me. So let’s go for it.

Let’s begin with Eric Cantor, who demonstrates beautifully the GOP tendency to loudly declaim, “I know you are but what am I?”

House GOP whip Eric Cantor has been successfully using the battle over the stimulus to secure a great deal of media attention. Now he’s trying a novel tack: Making an issue of that ad campaign by Obama allies I wrote about below, which shows, he suggests, that President Obama is the real partisan here.

Cantor has an aggressive new statement out demanding that Obama force the coalition running the ads — which includes MoveOn, AFSCME, SEIU, and Americans United for Change — to take down the spots, which pressure GOP Senators to back Obama’s stimulus package.

“President Obama should immediately disavow plans by some political groups who announced they will run attack ads against Republicans,” Cantor says. “Let us be clear: attack ads will not create jobs or help struggling families but will only serve to undermine our nation’s desire for bipartisanship. Instead of thinking about winning at any cost, we should all be thinking about creating the jobs Americans need.”

I think irony just died a little bit there. Here we have a partisan hack accusing the man who bent over backwards to make the perpetual crybabies of the GOP happy of being a partisan hack. For the Cons, the reality inversion never ends.

My friends, the fundamentals of the pearl-clutching economy are strong. Just listen to Rep. Jim DeMint waxing hysterical:

The stimulus bill that is being championed by President Obama, which was passed by Democrats in the House last night, is the worst piece of economic legislation Congress has considered in a hundred years. Not since the passage in 1909 of the 16th Amendment – which cleared the way for a federal income tax – has the United States seriously entertained a policy so comprehensively hostile to economic freedom, nor so arrogantly indifferent to economic reality. …

This bill is not a stimulus, ladies and gentlemen; it is a mugging. It is a fraud.

DeMint’s preferred solution? You guessed it, folks: make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Why add to the deficit to create jobs when you can add to the deficit to mostly benefit the rich?

Somebody get that main a fainting couch, stat.

David Sirota thinks they deserve a fainting cell instead (h/t):

How do you know House Republicans aren’t negotiating in good faith and are acting as legislative terrorists? Because their rantings are verifiably crazy (h/t Steve Benen):

Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, said that former President George Bush’s signature tax cuts in 2001 had created years of growth but that the nation’s problems started when Democrats regained majorities in Congress in the 2006 elections.

Again, only legislative terrorists desperate to sabotage the economy would make such deliberately insane statements. Only legislative terrorists would insist that the economy was Teh Awesome under George W. Bush. Only legislative terrorists would ignore the basic facts that most Americans innately know, and that were perfectly summarized by Washington Post

[snip]

And only legislative terrorists would keep repeating lies that claim – despite overwhelming data to the contrary – that Bush-style tax cuts are a better way to create jobs and boost GDP than infrastructure spending.

Alas, Guantanamo is closing. Where oh where will we put the legislative terrorists who want to destroy America?

Speaking of terrorists, isn’t it amazing how the folks on the right so often sound just like ‘em?

I’ve followed this for a quite a while, because I’ve always been fascinated by the extent to which far-right criticism of Americans runs parallel to terrorists’ criticism of Americans.

Dinesh D’Souza, for example, wrote an entire book devoted to arguing that terrorists are right about the problems with the culture in the United States. Osama bin Laden and other dangerous Islamic radicals believe the U.S. is too secular, too permissive, too diverse, too free, and too tolerant — and D’Souza concluded that they’re absolutely correct. Indeed, D’Souza went so far as to argue that liberal Americans are to blame for 9/11 — the left invited the attacks by reinforcing the beliefs al Qaeda had about the United States.

In one particularly memorable episode of “The Colbert Report,” D’Souza conceded th
at he finds some of the critiques from radical, anti-American extremists persuasive.

Glenn Beck, at the time with CNN, came to the same conclusion:

“More and more Muslims now hate us all across the world, and it really has not a lot to do with anything other than our morals.

“The things that they were saying about us were true. Our morals are just out the window. We’re a society on the verge of moral collapse. And our promiscuity is off the charts.

“Now I don’t think that we should fly airplanes into buildings or behead people because of it, but that’s the prevailing feeling of Muslims in the Middle East. And you know what? They’re right.”

And a few months later, the Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan also seemed to agree with our enemies about America: “We make it too easy for those who want to hate us to hate us. We make ourselves look bad in our media, which helps future jihadists think that they must, by hating us, be good.”

And they accuse us of hating America just because we’d like to stop the things that really drive terrorism, like, y’know, torture, invading Middle Eastern countries cuz we wanna, and letting Israel starve and kill as many Palestinians as it likes without so much as a murmur of protest.

Speaking of unhinged torture advocates, John Yoo’s doing a spectacular job lying for the cause:

John Yoo, infamous author of the Bush administration legal memos authorizing the use of torture on suspected terrorists, slams President Obama for banning torture in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, gravely warning that Obama “may have opened the door to further terrorist acts on U.S. soil.”

Throughout the article, Yoo insists that torture is America’s most effective weapon against terrorists and warns that without it, the U.S. will be incapable of intelligence-gathering:

Eliminating the Bush system will mean that we will get no more information from captured al Qaeda terrorists. Every prisoner will have the right to a lawyer (which they will surely demand), the right to remain silent, and the right to a speedy trial. […]

Relying on the civilian justice system not only robs us of the most effective intelligence tool to avert future attacks, it provides an opportunity for our enemies to obtain intelligence on us.

Considering the Bush administration repeatedly insisted its use of coercive techniques was “limited,” it would be a far stretch even for loyal Bushies to suggest that torture is not the one and only method to obtaining information. And as ThinkProgress has made clear again and again, numerous intelligence experts and real interrogators agree that, far from being “the most effective intelligence tool,” torture simply doesn’t work.

You know what? I think they know that now. But they’ve backed themselves into a corner – if they admit they were wrong, they have to admit that they were criminal dumbshits who really didn’t keep America safe, their chances at ever running this country again within the next generation could be measured only with an electron microscope, and it would prove they’re so spectacularly stupid that they get their ideas on effective counterterrorism from a teevee show. All they can do at this point is keep digging their hole and hope it’s not their political grave.

Good luck with that.

You know what’s really sad? We’ve gotten two Happy Hours out of these assclowns just from their antics from yesterday alone, and I still haven’t managed to cover the full extent of the stupid. When historians look back on this period of American history a century for now, I hope they have universal healthcare, because there’s going to be a lot of hernias resulting from the hysterical laughter.

Friday Favorite Fun With Earthquakes

So no shit, here I was beavering away at the blogging, and all of a sudden I notice the house is juddering and the cat’s sitting bolt-upright acting like the world’s coming apart. The shaking lasted nearly a minute. It wasn’t the kind of thing that would make a Californian blink, but to this Arizona girl, it was a little intense – and exciting.

Had to be an earthquake. The only other thing that could cause the house to start dancing would be an explosion, and while I had the headphones on, I didn’t have the music on that loud.

The cat is currently sitting by my chair pretending she never panicked, nuh-uh, not even a little bit.

The sensation of an earthquake’s hard to describe – it’s like being on a rollercoaster that’s rapidly weaving side-to-side. The power of it is astonishing. My gliding rocking chair didn’t know what to do – it was trying to go in all directions at once, which added something of a washing-machine-from-hell element to the whole experience. You can feel it in your whole body. Bizarre.

The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network just reported it:


Magnitude 4.6 is about what I expected. According to the Nevada Seismological Lab, the approximate energy of this thing was somewhere between a small nuclear weapon and a decent-sized tornado. Nice!

Now let’s check out its intensity. I’m going to have to guess here, but this fits the bill:

IV. Most people indoors feel movement. Hanging objects swing. Dishes, windows, and doors rattle. The earthquake feels like a heavy truck hitting the walls. A few people outdoors may feel movement. Parked cars rock.

The blinds were swaying. The walls were vibrating. But crap didn’t fall down, so yup, I’d say we’ve got ourselves a IV.

Not that I’m a geologist or even particularly good at reading maps, but it looks like this one hit right on the Seattle Fault:



The Seattle Fault is a zone of multiple shallow east-west thrust faults that cross the Puget Sound Lowland and through Seattle, in the US State of Washington, in the vicinity of Interstate 90. First suspected from mapping of gravitational anomalies in 1965 [1] and an uplifted marine terrace at Restoration Point (foreground in picture), its existence was definitely established by a set of five reports published in Science in 1992. These reports looked at the timing of abrupt uplift and subsidence around Restoration Point and Alki Point (right side of picture), [2] tsunami deposits on Puget Sound, [3] turbidity in lake paleosediments, [4] rock avalanches, [5] and multiple landslides around Lake Washington, [6], and determined that all these happened about 1100 years ago (between A.D. 900-930 [7] ), and most likely due to an earthquake of magnitude 7 or greater on the Seattle Fault.

We are also, if you recall, right by a subduction zone, where the Juan de Fuca Plate slides under the North American Plate, and causes things like earthquakes and Mt. St. Helens. It could also cause tsunamis, which is going to delight my stepmother. She, after all, is relatively convinced that moving up here means I’m going to get sucked into the sea.

Maybe I should be worried about that. I’ve moved to one of the most geologically active areas in the United States. I could easily end up an eye-witness to a devastating earthquake or catastrophic volcanic eruption. Tsunamis are definitely on the list of potential fun. That’s too close for comfort for my stepmother, and used to be for me.

But damn it, after getting over the shock of realizing I was in a really-real earthquake, I’m grinning from ear to ear. This shit’s exciting. It’s a delight to be here where the earth’s reforming itself beneath my very feet. It’s one thing to read about it, quite another to live it. Now I understand why geologists look like kids at Christmas when they get to go into the caldera of an active volcano.

So there ye go. My first fun with earthquakes (that teensy tiny tremor several months ago doesn’t really count – it wasn’t even a kiddie ride). I never thought in a million zillion years I’d say this, but I’m almost hoping for an aftershock.

The Republicon Comeback and Other Political Fairy Tales

Tragedy, comedy, or tragicomedy? You be the judge:

The eager band of volunteers standing in the lobby of the Washington Hilton as the Republican National Committee winter meeting rolled into its second day made for a strange sight Thursday afternoon. One part Wal-Mart greeters to two parts Alex P. Keaton, they wore the sartorial train wreck that has become the unofficial uniform of young Washington apparatchiks trying to look “grassroots”: a T-shirt, in this case bright blue, over a button-down shirt and dress slacks. “The comeback starts now!” their T-shirts declared. [snip]

That’s the state to which the Republican Party has been reduced — a tiny knot of true believers engaged in a cutthroat battle to win a majority of the GOP’s 168 national committee members. It’s a voting population so small it makes student government elections seem complicated by comparison. And it’s also a very narrow demographic, with a unique, perhaps eccentric, view of the world. If the mood and the speeches at the winter meeting are any guide, Republicans are seeking refuge from electoral defeat in an alternate reality, one where the public still loves them — or would if they could only improve their sales pitch. And where going along with President Obama’s agenda just isn’t in the cards.

To the Republican base, and the members gathered at the Hilton, the House GOP’s unanimous, losing vote against an economic stimulus bill on Wednesday wasn’t a Bronx cheer aimed at a popular new president, but rather a heroic stand on behalf of the American public. Playing to the hardcore grass roots, the party’s leaders made clear Thursday that they plan to stick to their new formula, the one they think will lead them back from the wilderness — even if it sounds pretty similar to the one that got them there in the first place.

Don’t you ever change, GOP! Seriously. You’ve surely got the recipe for success right there. I mean, just look at all the red on this map:


Yeah, baby! That’s like totally a center-right nation that will rise up and applaud your obstructionism as what’s left of the economy gets flushed down the sewers. You just stand up to that nasty ol’ socialist Obama. Let the voters know who’s watching out for their interests:

Duncan, for his part, said Republicans were “in a position of strength today.”

“The Democrats mean to use this opportunity of unchallenged power to explode the size and scope of the federal government, to take control of entire sectors of our economy, to crush the conservative opposition through parliamentary procedure and redistricting,” he told RNC members, winning applause. “The goal is to indoctrinate a generation of American children to the gentle comforts of the nanny state … The only thing standing between their agenda and success is the Republican Party.”

That is, of course, exactly what Democrats want voters to remember when they go to the polls in 2010 — that the Republicans’ first instinct was to stand between Obama’s agenda and success.

I do believe some aides de memoire can be arranged. If we don’t let the voters forget what you’ve done for them, you’ll probably take your five remaining states by storm!

60?

This could get highly entertaining:

Both Roll Call and the Huffington Post are reporting that President Obama is thinking of nominating Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) to be secretary of Commerce. There’d be a special significance to this move, if indeed the president does make it: New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, who’d appoint Gregg’s replacement, is a Democrat. He could appoint a fellow Democrat to replace Gregg, which would — assuming Al Franken is declared the victor of his race when the legal battle over that seat is finished — give the party 60 seats in the Senate, a theoretically filibuster-proof majority.

Well, filibuster-proof is a bit of a stretch, but the terrified screams from the Cons would be almost as satisfying.

From what little I gleaned in a few moments’ worth of research, Sen. Gregg is your basic don’t-tax and don’t-spend Con:

  • Risk-takers like Wal-Mart create jobs. (Oct 2004)
  • Voted NO on repealing tax subsidy for companies which move US jobs offshore. (Mar 2005)
  • Voted YES on reforming bankruptcy to include means-testing & restrictions. (Mar 2005)
  • Voted YES on restricting rules on personal bankruptcy. (Jul 2001)
  • Rated 78% by the US COC, indicating a pro-business voting record. (Dec 2003)

Considering the… ah… prestige of the Commerce Secretary position, it’s hard to see how Gregg would turn that glory down:

As the Obama administration heads into the last day of its first working week, exactly nobody is poised at the edge of their seat wondering who the next Commerce Secretary will be. The reason is that nobody cares about the Department of Commerce. The only important sub-cabinet job—the head of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration—has already been filled by Jane Lubchenco (an excellent choice).

Jonathan Zasloff suggests doing away with the department altogether:

In the run-up to the 2012 Election, President Obama should propose abolishing the department. It would be his equivalent of Bill Clinton’s support of school uniforms and V-Chip: small, symbolic gestures that send a sort of cultural signal. You can trust the Democrats to run the government frugally.

He might just go for it, though. The political winds howling through New England mean his prospects for re-election may not be all that rosy. He’d at least get bragging rights being in a Cabinet position. And he could play at fostering commerce, which it’s rumored Cons care about, although their policies rather put the kibbosh on commerce being successful in this country for a good many years more. (Kinda hard to have commerce when the economy’s in shambles, innit?)

Break out the popcorn, my darlings. I’m sure the reaction from the right to the renewed specter of a filibuster-proof Dem majority shall be enormously entertaining.

Buh-Bye, Blago

State Senate to Blagojavich: “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass:”

Rod Blagojevich spoke at some length to the Illinois Senate today, imploring state lawmakers not to remove him from office. He was not, apparently, persuasive.

The Illinois State Senate on Thursday convicted Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich on a sprawling article of impeachment that charged him with abusing his power. The vote prompted the governor’s immediate and permanent ouster, and ended nearly two months of political spectacle in which he sought unsuccessfully to salvage his reputation and career here and across the country. [...]

[snip]

The senators voted 59 to zero in favor of removing him after a four-day trial; a dramatic, 45-minute speech by Mr. Blagojevich in which he declared his innocence; and about two hours of deliberation.

Blagojevich was also barred from ever running for any public office in Illinois. Democrat Pat Quinn, up until a couple of hours ago the lieutenant governor, has already been sworn in as Illinois’ new governor.

And so, the sun sets on an era of political surrealistic entertainment.

You know, I’ll almost miss him. He was nearly as bountiful in his dumbfuckery as the Cons.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

And the stupid keeps rolling in from every side….

Republicons need to be taken to school and taught what “bipartisan” really means:

Today, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) offered his understanding of the word.
“[If the Ledbetter and SCHIP bills] are any indication, we’ll get votes on amendments, they’ll all lose, and the bill will then pass, and we end up with a totally partisan package. I don’t think that’s what the president had in mind when he talked about putting legislation together in a bipartisan way.”

So, the appropriate way to put together legislation is for Democrats to vote for Republican amendments. If GOP measures win, it’s bipartisan. If not, it’s antithetical to Obama’s approach. Got it.

The president and Democratic lawmakers can obviously speak for themselves about how they interpret a “bipartisan” approach to governing, but my sense is, it’s built around the notion of an open process. Republicans may have failed spectacularly at governing, and may have been handed devastating electoral defeats that left them as a regional party, but the White House and the Democratic majority are nevertheless willing to hear them out. Their ideas are welcome. Their amendments will be considered. The president is willing to engage them directly, and make some policy concessions to address their concerns. There has been and will be an exchange of ideas, in good faith, and proposals with merit will advance, no matter which party recommended them.

That’s what’s happened, and that’s what Republicans don’t believe is good enough. As Kevin Drum noted last night, the GOP apparently “really has decided to blindly stonewall everything Obama wants, no matter what.”

They may want to have a bit of a think about their tactics. For one thing, the “center-right nation” myth is going down in flames:

Call it the Obama effect or call it the George Bush effect. Whatever you call it, its name is “bad news” for the Republican Party.

Gallup:

The political landscape of the United States has clearly shifted in the Democratic direction, and in most states, a greater proportion of state residents identified as Democrats or said they leaned to the Democratic Party in 2008 than identified as Republicans or leaned Republican.

As recently as 2002, a majority of states were Republican in orientation. By 2005, movement in the Democratic direction was becoming apparent, and this continued in 2006. That dramatic turnaround is clearly an outgrowth of Americans’ dissatisfaction with the way the Republicans (in particular, President George W. Bush) governed the country.

With Democratic support at the national level the highest in more than two decades and growing each of the last five years, Republican prospects for significant gains in power in the near term do not appear great.

Like it or not, the nation’s taken a hard swing left. And so antics like banding together to oppose a wildly-popular Democratic president when the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate ensure things get done anyway seem destined to fail.

They are not negotiating from a position of strength. When you demand everything when you offer nothing, you often end up with – wait for it – nothing, which is what the Cons are about to learn:

As far as some House Democrats are concerned, when it came to the economic stimulus package, Republicans wouldn’t take “yes” for an answer. The GOP wanted tax cuts, and Democrats offered them tax cuts. The GOP howled at some specific spending measures, and Democrats removed them from the legislation. It didn’t affect the outcome.

Amanda Marcotte argued today that House Republicans “can’t be dealt with like reasonable people.” Not surprisingly, some Democrats who did deal with the GOP as if they were reasonable want to reverse the concessions they gave up.

Rank-and-file Congressional Democrats had been willing to give Republicans the business tax cuts and other provisions they wanted in the stimulus. That is, up until every single one voted against the bill on the House floor Wednesday.

Now, in both the House and the Senate, angry members are lobbying Democratic leaders to yank those tax breaks back.

[snip]

So, are the business tax breaks going to be yanked from the bill? No, at least not yet. Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “We haven’t reached that point,” he said. “In fact, Republican senators I’ve spoken to today said, ‘Don’t give up on us. We still want to work with you.’”

We’ll see how that goes.

So far as I can tell, the answer will be: not too good:

The recovery legislation will now be heard by the Senate. Is there hope for bipartisanship there? Unlikely. Today on Fox News, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) excoriated the legislation and said that he “thinks” the bill will receive zero Senate GOP votes:
DEMINT: But I think it is going to help define the Republicans and the Democrats once again. Because every Republican in the House rejected this, and I think every Republican in the Senate might do as well.


And it’s worthwhile trying to work with these buffoons how, exactly?

I hope they’re prepared for the firestorm headed their way. Nobody’s taking this lying down:

The White House has invested quite a bit of time and energy reaching out to congressional Republicans. Late yesterday, the president’s efforts were rewarded with exactly zero GOP votes on an economic stimulus plan. As the Politico reported when Republicans announced their opposition, the minority party “slapped” Obama’s “outstretched hand,” as part of a “coordinated effort to embarrass” the president.

We’re starting to get a sense of how the White House plans to respond.

Pushing back against the unanimous House Republican vote against President Obama’s stimulus plan, the White House plans to release state-by-state job figures “so we can put a number on what folks voted fo
r and against,” an administration aide said.

“It’s clear the Republicans who voted against the stimulus represent constituents who will be stunned to learn their member of Congress voted against [saving or] creating 4 million jobs,” the aide said.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the lawmakers will have to answer to their constituents. And a Democratic official added: “We will run campaigns in their districts.”

What’s more, Greg Sargent reports that a coalition of groups and unions, including Americans United for Change, MoveOn.org Political Action, AFSCME, and SEIU, are launching a new television ad “targeting Republican Senators and pressuring them to vote for President Obama’s stimulus package.”

Try to bluff on an empty hand, leave behind an empty seat. Sounds fair to me.

More Republicans Like This, Please

There’s one or two of them who occasionally makes sense. Very occasionally:

Rep. John L. Mica (Fla.), the ranking Republican on the transportation committee, called the proposed infrastructure spending “almost minuscule” and expressed regret that the administration had not crafted its plan around an ambitious goal such as building high-speed rail in 11 corridors around the country, which Mica said would cost $165 billion.

“They keep comparing this to Eisenhower, but he proposed a $500 billion highway system, and they’re going to put $30 billion” in roads and bridges, he said. “How farcical can you be? Give me a break.”

You know what? He’s a typical Republican in many, many ways, but here he’s actually talking sense. More like this, please.

But, of course, the majority of them are just batshit fucking insane:

Now, Republicans are just chipping away and collecting scalps, and they’ve been moderately successful, but in a really haphazard fashion. Yesterday, out of nowhere, conservatives started complaining about the lack of housing aid in the bill, which is rich for them. And check out what nutball Michelle Bachmann tried to pass as an amendment (it didn’t make it through the Rules Committee) – requiring a state spending cap for any state that receives funds from this legislation, the kind that almost destroyed Colorado a few years back (Republicans are the party of state’s rights). I’m not seeing a lot of strategy, just a general lurching from one outrage to the next.

Sadly, it’s working. I guess the provision to refurbish the National Mall has been excised. From a raw policy standpoint, it’s not a dealbreaker, but it shows a troubling trend where GOP hissy fits bear fruit. Democrats are plowing forward on this bill, but what happens with the next one? Who has the ear of the President? Democrats who want to cement legitimate progress? Or Republican know-nothings who appeal to elites to create firestorms? And the idea that this will buy Obama votes down the road for other liberal initatives borders on the insane.

So here’s an idea for Obama: seize on those statements from the rare few Republicans who actually realize the need for more spending, give them their heart’s desire, and then go on teevee crowing “See? All bipartisan, these bits were recommended by Republicans, isn’t that loverly?!”

Reward good behavior, punish bad. It works for small children. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for the bunch of screaming infants the Republicon party has become.