TAPPED

He's Just Not That Into Blue

For years, liberals have entertained the possibility that Mitt Romney is secretly a moderate whom they could actually agree with. After all, he was for abortion before he was against it, and Romneycare is no conservative achievement. Jonathan Chait admitted as much in 2008, a position he reiterated last week: “He is not, at heart, a true conservative.” Similarly, Newsweek ran an article this week stating that “supporters say that Romney would be “more himself” in a general-election setting, where he’d no longer have to pander to the Republican fringe.” For someone generally so keyed into the structural aspect of politics, I'm surprised by Chait's opinion of Romney because no matter Romney’s true views, he would be a very conservative president. These commentators alluding to Romney’s past policies as proof of his inner moderate are right about one thing -- Romney is playing a game. But the outcome isn’t one where he brings back his Massachusetts centrism; it's one where he gets...

Ron Paul, Crazy Person

Last night, Ron Paul was on The Daily Show , and under the gentlest of questioning from Jon Stewart , he said some truly insane things. After alleging that people who don't support him "don't understand what freedom is all about," Paul made his usual case that government is bad because it makes decisions for everyone, whereas "when you make a bad decision, it only hurts you." Stewart tried to bring up cases in which private actors harm people, like industrial pollution, but each time Paul protested that no, no, that wasn't actually the market, that was corporations acting "in collusion with the government." His argument seemed to be that corporations are only capable of harming people when they're corrupted by government's influence. When Stewart asked whether the fact that government regulations can sometimes be ineffective means there should be no regulation at all, Paul made this truly amazing statement: "The regulations are much tougher in a free market, because you cannot commit...

Courting Chris Christie

(Flickr/ Bob Jagendorf ) With Mitt Romney 's conservatism still suspect and Rick Perry revealed to possess neither a golden tongue nor a nimble mind, Republicans, particularly elite ones, are still uneasy about their potential 2012 candidates. The answer? Why, a not-particularly-popular, not-particularly-experienced, ill-tempered, untelegenic governor of New Jersey, of course! Yes, they're still hankering for Chris Christie , for reasons that are not entirely clear. Operatives are making the case for him, big money-folks are promising cash , and political reporters are weighing the pros and cons (see here or here ). But the most appealing thing about him is the fact that he's not actually running. Right now, Christie can bask in the affection of his fellow Republicans as they beseech him to enter the race. But were he actually to run, all that would evaporate within a couple of weeks. Once you go from being a potential candidate to being an actual candidate, things are a lot messier...

Actual Socialists Substantially More Socialist Than Allegedly Socialist President

Via Kevin Drum , this poll from Winthrop University shows, among other things, that a full 74.7 percent of South Carolina Republicans think the term "socialist" describes Barack Obama well or very well (in addition, almost 30 percent believe he's a Muslim, and 36 percent think he was probably or definitely born in another country). So just out of curiosity, I shuffled over to the website of the Socialist Party USA to see how Obama-esque they are these days. The answer? Not much. There are a few things on the platform I think Obama might agree with; for instance, they support the spaying and neutering of pets, and I think Obama might sign on with that. On the other hand, they also favor "immediate abolition of all private health insurance companies through the creation of a single-payer health system," which they see as "an important step in the direction of a fully socialized national health program," not to mention public ownership of the means of production, the scrapping of all...

Unconventional Thinking

Over at Transom , a site showcasing interesting things going on in public radio, Ira Glass explains what makes Radiolab such a terrific program, which is kind of like having Ted Williams explain to you what makes Joe DiMaggio a great hitter. Here he is talking about a one-minute introduction to a segment on the program, particularly the way the co-hosts, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich , talk to each other: All this banter also helps them solve a storytelling problem that would come up for anyone trying to tell the story of the two Laura Buxtons. Consider: the entire point of this story is how completely amazingly incredible the coincidence is that both girls are named Laura Buxton (other coincidences and the mathematical likelihood of these coincidences follow). For the story to work, the listener really needs to feel the incredibleness of the coincidence. The more he or she feels that, the more punch the whole thing will have. So rather than have Jad narrate the story like any...

Friday Nerd Blogging: Is Batman Crazy?

Over at Alyssa Rosenberg’s blog, a post about the class differences between heroes and villains has become a thread over Batman and his methods. In particular, the commenters are working through one particular question: Is Batman crazy? As the argument goes, it’s not that Batman is insane, per say, but that he has a monomaniacal focus on justice that manifests itself as a sort of pathology, in which his life derives it’s only meaning from the pursuit of criminals. The evidence for this is clear enough: after witnessing his parent’s murder by a common thief, Bruce Wayne pledges to avenge their life by complete devotion to fighting crime through personal methods, eventually donning a Bat costume and using his family wealth to bankroll a career of vigilantism. For the last 30 years, this has been one of the most popular depictions of Batman – a paranoid, distrustful man with a tenuous grasp on reality. Insofar that there have been alternative takes, they come by way of the 1990s animated...

Department of Ed Lets Schools Off the Hook -- for Now

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Department of Education officially released standards for states to exempt themselves from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind law. Many states are desperate to avoid the consequences of failing to meet the requirements of the 2001 law, which mandates that all students be 100 percent proficient in reading and math by 2014 or lose federal funding. Education-reform advocates widely acknowledge that NCLB was a step toward ensuring accountability and achievement in schools -- it also, for the first time, shined a light on the achievement gap between white and minority students. But the law, critics contend, also set unrealistic standards and timetables for achieving its goals. Since there seems little movement in Congress on revamping or changing NCLB, the Education Department is setting forth some ways to allow what it calls "flexibility." But, like the Race to the Top program, ED isn't going to just give something away without asking...

Chart of the Day, Racial Wealth Gap

As has been shown time and time again, African American families have been the biggest losers in the current economy. Black unemployment, for example, has been in the 16 percent range for more than two years, with dim prospects for improvement. The poor economic position of African Americans is most evidence with regards to overall wealth – as this new chart from the Economic Policy Institute shows, black wealth has seen a precipitous decline since 2007, to a 20-year low. EPI’s Lawrence Mishel explains, “Wealth for the median black household has nearly disappeared, falling from $6,300 in 1983 to $2,200 in 2009 – a decrease of more than 65 percent. This means half of black households have less than $2,200 in wealth. Among white households, median wealth has fallen substantially since 2007, but at $97,900, remains higher than the 1983 level of $94,100. White median wealth is now 44.5 times higher than black median wealth.” As our economy – driven by an austerity-minded political system...

The Countermobilization Myth

I strongly recommend Garrett Epps's new article in the Prospect. But like Amanda Marcotte , I don't think this is right: We can, of course, study cases where the Court tried to substitute for a genuine popular movement. Brown was not one; black Americans had carried the idea of integration forward for nearly a century by the time the Court concurred. By contrast, in 1973, the Court decided Roe v. Wade, which leapfrogged ahead of public opinion to “settle” the issue of abortion, setting forth a detailed framework for its regulation in virtually all cases. Abortion-reform movements were stirring, and succeeding, in some states in 1973, but the issue had not been widely aired or made a focus of mass concern. Certainly there was nothing like the movement against school segregation or child labor. The country was feeling its way, and the Court stepped in like an officious parent to “settle” an issue not ripe for settlement. This is an argument I've addressed at interminable length...

What Happened to Rick Perry?

At this point, political observers are almost unanimous in their assessment of last night’s Republican presidential debate: Mitt Romney won, and Rick Perry is not ready for prime time . It’s not just that he seemed tired and lethargic -- his answers to substantive questions on foreign and domestic policy were either weak or incoherent , and his attempted attacks on the former Massachusetts governor fell far short of their mark. For Perry supporters and those convinced that the Texas governor would stand out from the crowd, the obvious question is: “What happened?” At Politico , Jonathan Martin and James Hohmann offer one answer: H was too late to the game. “It’s not quite time for his camp to panic,” Martin and Hohmann write, “but in his third debate in a month -- nearly as many as he’s done in the entire decade he’s served as Texas governor – Perry demonstrated why so few presidential candidates who parachute into the race mid-campaign win the nomination.” Even for gifted politicians...

Mitt Romney Knows that Conservatism Is a Feeling

Jonathan Chait may have just unlocked Mitt Romney 's strategy: Yes, conservatives have developed a series of policy stances — say, that subsidizing and regulating private health insurance is the greatest threat to freedom in American history. Rather than treat this as a principled view, Romney simply treats it as an atavistic expression of hostility toward Obama. He defends his Massachusetts plan by pointing out that it involves private insurance. That makes it exactly the same as Obama's plan, but Romney probably figures most conservative voters don't know that, and he's probably right... Rather he uses every question as an opportunity to convey to conservatives that he shares their general sense of anger and grievance against Obama. He does so without, in most cases, tying himself down to specific policy stances that could harm him in the general election. I had assumed that Romney would face insurmountable obstacles because he is not, at heart, a true conservative. But this turns...

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things, Affordable Care Act Edition

Last night's Republican debate was interesting for many reasons, but the thing that made me angriest was this, from Herman Cain : WALLACE: ...and we all share in the happiness about your situation. But, you say if Obamacare had been in effect when you were first being treated, you would dead now. Why? CAIN: The reason I said that I would be dead under Obamacare is because my cancer was detected in March of 2006. From March 2006 all the way to the end of 2006, for that number of months, I was able to get the necessary CAT scan tests, go to the necessary doctors, get a second opinion, get chemotherapy, go -- get surgery, recuperate from surgery, get more chemotherapy in a span of nine months. If we had been under Obamacare and a bureaucrat was trying to tell me when I could get that CAT scan that would have delayed my treatment. My surgeons and doctors have told me that because I was able get the treatment as fast as I could, based upon my timetable and not the government's timetable...

Will Obama Have Trouble With Latinos in 2012?

Yesterday, at a meeting with journalists and bloggers at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke about the organization’s efforts as it prepared for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. During the conversation, I asked the chair about Obama’s potential difficulties with Latino voters. Between the failure to shepherd the DREAM Act through Congress, the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, and the unprecedented number of deportations -- in addition to a poor economy which has disproportionately harmed Latinos -- the Hispanic community has good reason to be skeptical of the administration. And while Republicans are likely to embrace even more draconian policies toward Latino immigrants if elected, it’s not enough for the Obama administration to be the least bad option. “Democratic policy under President Obama has been a plus and a boon for Hispantics, particularly with immigration reform,” said Wasserman Schultz in response...

Florida Republicans Think Social Security Is a Ponzi Scheme Too

According to a new survey from Quinnipiac University, in Florida Rick Perry’s Social Security message -- “it’s a Ponzi scheme” -- resonates with a whole lot of GOP voters. Among Republicans, the only voters allowed to participate in the state’s Republican primary, 52 percent say that a “Ponzi scheme” is a fair way to describe the retirement program. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has worked hard to convince Republicans that Perry is out to destroy Social Security, but that message has yet to take hold with Florida Republicans. By a more than 4-to-1 margin, Republican voters say that Perry wants to fix Social Security. Given the Florida GOP’s high concentration of senior voters -- 44 percent in the 2008 primary were 65 or older -- this must come as a pleasant surprise for the Perry team as it evades attacks from Romney and tackles states like South Carolina that also have large populations of senior voters. But while Florida Republicans are convinced of Perry’s good intentions,...

Top of the Muffin to You

Behold the muffin of tyranny. (Flickr/ devlon duthie ) What, would you say, is the worst waste of taxpayer money we've seen in recent years? Maybe that $6.6 billion in cash -- yes, pallets full of bricks of $100 bills -- that went missing in Iraq? (Or maybe the whole Iraq War, but whatever.) Nah, it's a $16 muffin. If you've been paying attention to the news since yesterday, you've heard of this muffin. The Justice Department's inspector general did a report on spending at the department's conferences, and found that they were paying seemingly ridiculous amounts for food. So how much did taxpayers get fleeced? Well, it's hard to say. The IG only looked at 10 conferences, to determine if there was a larger problem. They said that the department spent $73.3 million on conferences in 2009. Let's go nuts and say that three out of every four dollars, muffin-related and otherwise, was wasted. That means $55 million of waste in a year. That number is just a guess, of course, but it's...

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