2011 - %3, September

Quote of the Day: Voting for the Real Deal

| Tue Sep. 6, 2011 9:28 AM PDT

From Bruce Bartlett, commenting on the unwillingness of Democrats to stick up for their principles:

If Democrats are going to accept Republican premises, they shouldn’t be surprised if a majority of people eventually conclude that Republicans ought to be in charge of government policy.

Yep. Years ago, it was conservative Republicans who pointed out that if the choice was between a Democrat and a Democrat-lite, voters would most likely just vote for the real deal. They learned a lesson from that, and it's one that Democrats now need to learn. If you concede up front that deficits are our biggest problem, that tax increases are bad for the economy, that we can't afford any further stimulus, and that regulations are job killers, that's not going to win you many votes. After all, if this kind of thing appeals to you, why vote for a Democrat who only kinda sorta believes it? You might as well vote for the real deal instead.

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Seeing the Future in California

| Tue Sep. 6, 2011 9:05 AM PDT

Remember those polls showing that Democrats and independents support political compromise far more than Republicans? And remember that Pew poll a couple of weeks ago showing that this was starting to change? Compared to four months ago, centrist-leaning voters were upwards of ten points more likely to think Obama should challenge the GOP more often. If this keeps up for a little while longer, the political landscape would look a lot different than it does now.

Well, my friends, the future is here. In California, Democrats and independents are fed up. According to a new LA Times poll, a full 60% agree that "I want Obama to stand up to Republicans more and fight for my priorities." If California is once again a bellwether for the nation, this is good news. Unfortunately, if California is once again a bellwether for the nation, it means the rest of the nation may soon be like California. This should give us all pause for thought.

Sharron Angle (Still) Thinks Harry Reid Stole the 2010 Election

| Tue Sep. 6, 2011 8:53 AM PDT
Sharron Angle's "Team Hobbit Express" trailer.

Among the folks I didn't expect to meet in Concord, New Hampshire this weekend? Former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle, last seen falling flat in her campaign against Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—a race Republicans almost certainly would have won had the party nominated anyone but Angle.

Angle has been traveling the country this summer with the Tea Party Express, the organization that put together Sunday's rally. She's not riding on the bus, though; she's been following the group's tour bus across the country, from Napa to New England, in a retrofitted SUV-and-trailer she calls "The Team Hobbit Express." The sides of the vehicle are plastered with messages from supporters, Graceland style, urging Angle to give it another go against Reid. The name was inspired by the Wall Street Journal's assertion, parroted by Sen. John McCain, that tea partiers are battling Obama like they're hobbits facing off against Sauron (this is, apparently, a bad thing.) "The hobbits are the heroes of the story and they win," Angle told me. "We're taking a winning vehicle to Tampa Bay, Florida."

Angle was hawking copies of her new memoir, Right Angle, along with lapel pins ($5) and bumper stickers, in the hopes of building up support for her political action committee, Our Voice. "As soon as I get my PAC up and running, then I can turn it over and then I can run," she told a supporter who approached her to tell her he had donated anonymously to her campaign. (Our Voice is a super PAC, which means it can accept unlimited contributions; it can finance independent expenditures but cannot coordinate with any specific candidate—although you would expect Sharron Angle's super PAC to be generally pretty supportive of whatever she does.)

The GOP's Love-Hate Relationship With Stimulus

| Tue Sep. 6, 2011 8:23 AM PDT

Ezra Klein rounds up a series of quotes from 2001 showing that Republicans loved the idea of fiscal stimulus back when a fellow Republican was wrestling with a recession. But now they hate the idea:

So what happened?

Some say the explanation for all this is obvious: Republicans want the economy to fail because that is how they will defeat President Obama. After all, didn’t Sen. Mitch McConnell say, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”? How much clearer can it be?

I don’t believe this sort of behavior is quite that cynical.

Well, I think it's exactly that cynical. But not because Republicans want the economy to fail. Self-interest probably motivates them to believe they're doing the right thing when they oppose measures that might help the economy and therefore help President Obama's reelection, but that's about it. They don't literally want the economy to tank.

But the obvious thing Ezra doesn't mention is that all of those 2001 mash notes to stimulus were based on the prospect of getting an even bigger tax cut for the wealthy than they had counted on. Republicans don't really care about stimulus one way or the other. They care about upper-income tax cuts, and back in 2001, portraying them as a stimulus measure was a handy way of getting them passed. If Obama were to offer up the same deal — big, permanent cuts in the top marginal rates — they'd be happy to become Keynesians for a day if that was the price of admission.

Cynical? Sure. But this is all pretty much common knowledge. Republicans like tax cuts for the rich, and they'll adopt whatever argument comes to hand to get them. If we're in a recession, tax cuts are a short-term stimulus measure. If the economy is doing well, tax cuts are a long-term productivity enhancement. If estate taxes are at issue, they're trying to save family farms. If it's capital gains, cuts are a vital tool for energizing our manufacturing base. Any port in a storm.

Ron Paul Blasts Rick Perry as "Al Gore's Texas Cheerleader"

| Tue Sep. 6, 2011 8:04 AM PDT
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

Is there a harder slam in the fight for the Republican presidential nomination than accusing a fellow GOPer of being a "cheerleader" for climate change guru Al Gore?

That's the charge leveled at Texas governor and GOP frontrunner Rick Perry in a new ad from the campaign of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the libertarian favorite and long-shot GOP candidate. Paul's ad, "Trust," revisits Perry's stint working for Gore's 1988 presidential campaign in Texas. At the time, Gore was an up-and-coming US senator from Tennessee, campaigning on the issues of global warming and AIDS prevention; Perry was a centrist Democrat in the Texas legislature. (He switched parties in 1990.)

Paul's ad slams Perry for serving as Gore's Texas chairman, labeling him "Al Gore's Texas cheerleader." "Rick Perry helped lead Al Gore's campaign to undo the Reagan revolution," the ad's narrator says, "fighting to elect Al Gore president of the United States."

Here's the ad:

Perry, it's worth noting, wasn't the only unlikely supporter of Gore's '88 campaign. Fred Phelps, the patriarch of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., housed campaign workers for Gore's presidential bid in 1988. And in 1989 Phelps' son, Fred Jr., threw a fundraiser for Gore's Senate run at his home.

Maybe the Super Committee Should Do Something About Jobs

| Tue Sep. 6, 2011 3:15 AM PDT

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States created a net total of zero jobs in August. The 17,000 jobs that were added in the private sector were offset by the 17,000 jobs that were lost in the public sector—which, as Kevin Drum notes, means we actually had negative job growth because the population continued to grow.

So what's to be done about all this? Kevin has some ideas for what Obama should do if he were a dictator (a $1 trillion investment in our crumbling infrastructure), but as has become pretty clear to everyone but this guy, Obama is not a dictator. Congress, meanwhile, is set to embark on another lengthy debate about reining in the deficit and "living within our means," in the form of a bi-partisan "Super Committee." On Friday, Ezra Klein suggested a way out of the mess we're in:

[T]he supercommittee has a design flaw: it's directed to return recommendations on deficit reduction, but not job creation. That doesn't make sense from an economic perspective and it doesn't make sense from a political perspective. If the supercommittee succeeds and a deficit-reduction package passes Congress, Washington will have nevertheless failed to make any progress on the issue that economists consider most important in the near-term and that the American people have named, in poll after poll, as their top priority.

Rep. John Larson is introducing a bill to add a jobs component to the supercommittee's mandate. His legislation suggests three possible ways of doing so: either the existing supercommittee should commit to returning recommendations on jobs, or it should add four new members and create a subsupercommittee on jobs, or it should create a parallel supercommittee on jobs. In all cases, Larson says, failure to return and pass job-creation legislation would mean the trigger goes off.

Larson, a Connecticut Democrat, has since introduced his bill. But even if it does gain traction, I'm not totally sure I share Ezra's optimism that anything will come of it. That's because Congressional Republicans' ideas for job creation are more or less the opposite of Larson's (or Kevin's, for that matter)—if you listen to Paul Ryan and his fellow GOPers, you'll realize that slashing government spending is their job creation strategy.

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Exclusive: The Koch Brothers' Million-Dollar Donor Club

| Tue Sep. 6, 2011 3:00 AM PDT

Read our inside account of the Koch brothers' Vail seminar, and listen to the exclusive audio.

Twice a year, the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch host secretive retreats for an exclusive list of corporate America's rich and powerful to strategize and raise money for their right-wing political agenda. Mother Jones has obtained exclusive audio recordings that shed some light on the brothers' latest retreat, held at a resort near Vail, Colorado, in late June.

In a speech that is part of these recordings, Charles Koch thanks donors who gave more than $1 million to the cause. We checked the audio against a list of participants at the Kochs' 2010 seminar in Aspen that was obtained by ThinkProgress.org and did additional research on these individuals. Below are the names Koch read that appeared on the previous guest list.

John Childs: Childs is the founder and CEO of private equity firm JW Childs Associates. In 2006, Boston Magazine placed the "notoriously media-shy" magnate—a.k.a. "the Republican ATM"—among the city's wealthiest residents, reportedly worth $1.2 billion. Childs donated $750,000 to outside political expenditure groups in 2010. He's also been involved in Florida wetlands conservation efforts.

The Cortopassis: Dean "Dino" Cortopassi and his wife, Joan, hail from Stockton, California. This article, which identifies the pair as philanthroposts, calls Dino a "wealthy self-made agribusinessman who is Stocktonian of the Year for 2005." He is suing the state of California for its failure to dredge streams in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 6, 2011

Tue Sep. 6, 2011 2:57 AM PDT

Herding Sheep

Spc. Robert Ryder and Spc. William Chavez, automated field artillery tactical data systems specialists with Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, escort sheep out of harm's way during an air re-supply in Bala Marghab District, Aug. 23. Soldiers from Forward Operating Base Todd receive most of their supplies using air drops because of the tough terrain in the area. Photo by the US Army.

Quote of the Day: Republicans and Roads

| Mon Sep. 5, 2011 2:12 PM PDT

From Barack Obama, after noting that millions of the unemployed could be put back to work if Congress approves his upcoming plan to rebuild roads, bridges, and other infrastructure:

We’re going to see if we’ve got some straight shooters in Congress. We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party.

I predict that Obama will get his answer pretty quickly.

Review: "Black Smoke Rise," by Wooden Shjips

| Mon Sep. 5, 2011 3:30 AM PDT

TRACK 1

"Black Smoke Rise"

From Wooden Shjips' West (Thrill Jockey)

Liner notes: Fire up the incense, turn on the black lights, and let your mind float downstream with this sludgy dose of neo-psyche-delia, mixing fuzzed-out guitars, funeral-parlor organ, and murky voices to ominous effect.

Behind the music: Fronted by Ripley Johnson (half of Moon Duo), this San Francisco quartet launched in 2003 as a vehicle for untrained musicians to explore new sounds. Eschewing convention, the band gave away all 300 copies of its 10-inch vinyl debut. And yes, there is a "j" in "Shjips."

Check it out if you like: The Velvet Underground, The Doors, and German minimalist greats Neu!

Click here for more music features from Mother Jones.