"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
-- Sinclair Lewis
Friday, November 30, 2012
Sunday Classics preview: "Between us, everything is finished" (Carmen)
Olga Borodina and Marcelo Álvarez as Carmen and José (Act II)
We've been working our way up to the final meeting of the free-spirited (but also doom-ridden) gypsy Carmen and her onetime soldier lover Don José. This week we get there.
We've got a lot of performances of chunks of this surprisingly compact climactic scene coming up, but I want to highlight in particular two statements that define the state of stalemate Carmen and José have reached by the start of Act IV of Bizet's Carmen.
FIRST HERE THEY ARE IN ENGLISH (OF A SORT) --
which, as we'll see in a moment, is only sort of what they actually say. (I don't want to make too much fun of Ramón Vinay's English, which after all is no less idiomatic than most of our original-language Josés' French. The Chilean tenor was a wonderfully intense and humane singer in some of opera's most demandingly heroic roles.)
DON JOSÉ: "I'm not threatening you"
[rendered here as "I have not come to harm you"]
[in English] Ramón Vinay (t), Don José; Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski, cond. Live performance, July 11, 1946
CARMEN says: "Between us, everything is finished"
[rendered here as: "For you and I, this is the end"] DON JOSÉ says: "Carmen, there's still time! Yes, there's still time!"
[rendered here as: "Carmen, I cannot believe you! No, I cannot believe you!"]
[in English] Winifred Heidt (ms), Carmen; Ramón Vinay (t), Don José; Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski, cond. Live performance, July 11, 1946
NOW HERE THEY ARE IN FRENCH (OF A SORT), AND IN CORRECT ORDER, AND WITH THE ACTUAL TEXT --
While congressional R's guffaw over the president's first "fiscal cliff" proposal, John Aravosis suggests: "Cut YOUR OWN benefits"
"The idea that President Obama might actually want to enact his campaign promises – tax hikes on the rich, modest Medicare cuts, investments in infrastructure – is apparently considered a joke to the party that has shown virtually no flexibility in the last four years. . . .
"[O]nce the laughter dies down, they will have to come to the table with a responsible offer of their own, rather than simply declaring a stalemate, as Speaker John Boehner did today, because he didn’t like the president’s opening bid. If they continue to refuse to do so, the public won’t find it very funny."
Sick as I am about hearing, reading, and thinking about the "fiscal cliff" follies, where major decisions are apt to be made about our future with hardly any mechanisms for us having any input into them, I have to say I loved John Aravosis's Americablog post yesterday, "Let’s require a super-majority for future tax cuts & defense increases," which managed to be right not just on the substance of the fiscal issues (e.g., this subhead "Health Care Didn't Cause the Deficit, GOP Tax Cuts & Wars Did"), but right in tone -- on the attack. Here's the opening of the post:
You Caused the Fiscal Cliff, Cut Your Own Benefits
I’m really sick of being told by a bunch of guys who make nearly $200,000 a year that “I have to make sacrifices for the budget deficit.
“I”ve got news for them. ”I” didn’t create the budget deficit. ”They” did.
And they did it by repeatedly, and quite submissively, voting for round after round of tax cuts and defense increases, while the rest of us kept telling them, “we’re gonna pay for this some day.”
Another subhead reads: "We know what causes deficits: Republicans," which leadds John to the proposal of his post title.
If the Republicans and their Blue Dog allies are so concerned about the deficit, then let’s address the deficit by addressing the actual causes of the deficit. Here’s my proposal:
1. Pass whatever legislation or rule change is needed to require a super-majority in Congress for any future reduction in taxes or increase in defense spending.
2. And for good measure, require that any tax cut or defense increase be accompanied by a corresponding tax surcharge to pay for it.
We can make it a surcharge on folks’ annual tax returns, a big red sticker or something -- kind of like what Denny’s was talking about doing with Obamacare. This way people will know exactly what that tax cut, or defense increase, is going to cost us. And maybe we can list the members of Congress who voted for, kind of like those campaign ads: “I’m John Boehner and I approve this tax surcharge.”
Republicans reportedly laughed when they saw the Obama administration's initial offer in the fiscal negotiations yesterday. The idea that President Obama might actually want to enact his campaign promises -- tax hikes on the rich, modest Medicare cuts, investments in infrastructure -- is apparently considered a joke to the party that has shown virtually no flexibility in the last four years.
But some of that laughter may contain nervousness, because there is more going on here than just a pathway to splitting the difference. The White House made clear yesterday that it is approaching these talks from a position of responsibility, and that it actually takes seriously the notion of old-fashioned bargaining. That's something Republicans have refused to do — and now they realize they’ve been called out.
Firestone underscores the wholesale flight from responsibility of congressional Republicans in creating conditions that guaranteed the current stalemate.
It was never responsible for Republicans to spend years adamantly declaring total opposition to higher taxes as a back-door way of starving government. . . . It was never responsible to spend years on talk shows demanding "cuts in entitlements," while running a presidential campaign that attacked Mr. Obama for cutting Medicare. . . . It was, above all, profoundly irresponsible for Republicans to govern by threatening to send the Treasury into default if they did not get their way on spending, a wholly new and ugly phenomenon in American politics.
That last development -- yes, we're back to playing chicken with necessary increases in the debt ceiling! -- prompted a proposal from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to require a two-thirds congressional vote to block it. "This," Firestone reports, "was considered particularly uproarious in the offices of House and Senate Republican leaders."
I'd like to see the Dem leaders toss out John A's proposal to require that two-thirds vote for tax cuts and defense increases. Let's see how funny the R primitives find that.
At least Rahm didn't get in the way of winning candidates
The penultimate-- and quite logical-- conclusion to the DCCC's failed Steve Israel strategy would be for them to try to beat independent-minded North Carolina Republican Walter Jones from the right, with some kind of Blue Dog corporate whore, a southern version of Israel himself. (In the 2011-12 session Jones voted more frequently for progressive initiatives than 3 North Carolina Blue Dogs, Larry Kissell, Heath Shuler and Mike McIntyre-- and Shuler was forced to retire, Kissell was defeated 54-46% and McIntyre scraped by with a 655 vote margin out of over 330,000 cast! Jones beat his Democratic opponent 63-37%.) Actually, Jones' ProgressivePunch crucial vote score (40.61) is better than that of 16 Democrats, although many of them were defeated or forced to retire. (Bolded seats indicate they are now held by Republicans, Israel having failed to hold them.)
Walter Jones (R-NC)- 40.61 Larry Kissell (Blue Dog-NC)- 36.93-- defeated Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC)- 36.39-- forced to retire Tim Holden (Blue Dog-PA)- 35.44-- defeated in primary Bill Owens (New Dem-NY)- 35.44 Mark Critz (PA)- 35.43-- defeated Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog/New Dem-NC)- 32.81 Ben Chandler (Blue Dog-KY)- 32.58-- defeated Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- 31.06 Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- 24.61 Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA)- 24.37-- defeated in primary John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)- 24.12 Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN)- 23.60-- in a Hail Mary Pass, ran for the Senate and won Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)- 22.17 Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)- 21.16 Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR)- 17.99-- forced to retire Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK)- 15.24-- forced to retire
Anyway, Israel had promised Pelosi that he would win a net of "at least 27 seats," two more than the Democrats needed to win back the majority. Because of his horrible targeting-- driven by Blue Dog/New Dem ideology and the desire to restock the caucus with conservatives-- Israel wasted tens of millions of dollars on conservative losers while completely ignoring-- and worse-- progressives in districts Obama won and who, themselves, would have won with even minimal help from the DCCC. Israel took senior GOP policymakers, party leaders and committee chairmen off the table, freeing them up from worrying about their own skins and allowing them to campaign for-- and donate huge amounts of money to-- his own targeted Republicans. It also removed some good targets from consideration, particularly Paul Ryan (R-WI), Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Fred Upton (R-MI). The man is an idiot. And Pelosi reappointed him to head the DCCC next time. The Republicans, no matter how the Grand Bargain goes, have something to be thankful for. If there's one person who's proven he absolutely cannot beat Republicans, it's Steve Israel. In fact, he was bragging how he would use the same failed strategy-- wasting money on Blue Dogs in unwinnable districts-- that resulted in a 234-201 Republican House majority on his watch. He doesn't even realize he lost. He has his minions running around Capitol Hill insisting he did as well as Patty Murray at the DSCC-- which is simply mindboggling. Someone with that kind of attitude and with that kind of inability to even understand there's a problem is... the best thing that the Republican Party could possibly hope for in a DCCC chairman.
Democrats plan to begin unveiling candidates by early spring, just as the new session of Congress gets under way.
Party leaders say they are focusing on around 50 Republican seats in 2014 — particularly those in areas where Obama performed strongly in his two elections. Israel identified the four most vulnerable as Ohio Rep.-elect David Joyce, Illinois Rep.-elect Rodney Davis, Florida Rep. Bill Young and California Rep. Gary Miller. But Israel acknowledged that Democrats would also need to contest districts in Southern states, where the party has been nearly wiped out over the past four years. Since 2008, the Blue Dog Coalition, which is made up of mostly Southern conservative Democrats, has declined from more than 50 members to 14. Party officials say that, without Obama-- who’s struggled in the South-- on the ballot, their prospects will be improved in states like West Virginia, Arkansas and Louisiana. With GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia announcing her Senate bid this week, Israel has contacted two potential recruits: Carte Goodwin, who served briefly in the Senate in 2010 after Robert Byrd died, and former congressional candidate Anne Barth. Officials from both parties predict the race for Capito’s seat will be among the most fiercely contested of the election. ...Democrats held their first recruiting meeting at national party headquarters on Wednesday. Seated around the table were Israel and 10 House members, including Pennsylvania Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who headed recruiting efforts in the past election. Also taking part were Georgia Rep. John Barrow, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, and California Rep. Xavier Becerra, the highest-ranking Hispanic in the House. Democrats said their participation signaled that the party wants to make a strong play in the South and among Hispanics as they recruit. Also attending were a handful of incoming freshmen, including Brad Schneider of Illinois and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both of whom have been tasked with helping to woo prospects.
Although Israel adamantly refused to spend money on progressives like Rob Zerban, Lee Rogers, Nate Shinagawa, Alan Lowenthal and Mark Takano-- the first three of whom lost and the second two who won-- he wasted vast sums on losing candidates like Jose Hernandez (CA-$3,139,987), Blue Dog Sal Pace (CO-$453,626), New Dem Val Demings (FL-$1,660,874), Blue Dog Brendan Mullen (IN-$470,872), Blue Dog David Crooks (IN-$516,483), New Dem Christie Vilsack (IA-$841,113), Blue Dog Gary McDowell (MI-$1,218,594), John Oceguera (NV-$2,587,945), New Dem Julian Schreibman (NY-$1,970,776), Blue Dog/New Dem Charlie Wilson (OH-$2,513,712), Eric Stewart (TN-$298,914), Blue Dog Nick Lampson (TX-$163,722), New Dem Paul Hirschbiel (VA-$273,926), Pat Kreitlow (WI-$2,205,515) and New Dem Jamie Wall (WI-$87,664). Just those races alone cost DCCC donors over $18 million. Would Lee Rogers have beaten Buck McKeon, would Rob Zerban have beaten Paul Ryan, would Aryanna Strader have beaten Joe Pitts, would Nate Shinagawa have beaten Tom Reed, would Syed Taj have beaten Kerry Bentivolio with some of that cash? Absolutely. But they're progressives; they're independent-minded and they're anti-corruption... three traits that are anathema to Steve Israel. Keep in mind, that when you donate to the DCCC, your money goes directly to fund anti-Choice, antigay "Democrats" who are vetted for willingness to sell out to corporate interests and, at minimum, play ball with the kind of corruption on which Steve Israel and his ilk thrive and which has turned Washington DC into a sewer.
Labor and progressive leaders came away from a private meeting with White House officials Tuesday encouraged as well, according to an attendee who spoke with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. In particular, hopes are rising that the president is willing to go over the so-called fiscal cliff on Jan. 1 in order to force Republicans to pass a bill that preserves the Bush tax cuts for the bottom 98 percent of income earners. Combine that with loud grumbling among some Republicans about the right’s resistance to tax increases and the outlook is looking even better on the revenue side. The composition of the Senate is also a factor. Several popular progressive candidates will join the Senate in January, most notably Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin, while some of the left’s most hated centrists are on the way out, most notably Joe Lieberman. Activists think they’ll have a powerful set of messengers for their favored deficit reduction ideas, like allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and reducing military spending, especially if negotiations continue past the lame duck session. That said, it’s early in the game and liberal groups are doing all they can to keep the heat on wavering Democrats. There are still concerns that the markets might grow jittery as the new year approaches, pushing nervous lawmakers toward the first deal House Republicans offer. AFL-CIO organizers from around the country descended on Washington this week to lobby lawmakers to protect entitlement benefits and hold firm on ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest top 2 percent of Americans. And the PCCC released a poll of New Hampshire voters on Tuesday showing that a plan championed by Elizabeth Warren to raise taxes on the rich while reducing subsidies was a political winner. And MoveOn.org is hand-delivering letters to every representative in Congress telling them to oppose benefit cuts. “We’ve been heartened by some of the things we’ve heard,” Ilya Sheyman, campaigns director for MoveOn.org, told TPM. “But there’s so much at stake that our members don’t feel like they can wait on the sidelines and not apply pressure.”
This is a sad joke-- and Obama is probably enjoying watching the veal pen liberals make fools of themselves. He and Boehner have already agreed to "at least" $400 billion in cuts to Medicare in return for some not very significant tax increases for the wealthy. Remember, the negotiator-in-chief is Barack Obama, not Franklin Roosevelt. He's said all along that all he wants is to increase taxes for the rich moochers and freeloaders by "a little bit." He was never talking about bringing the tax rates back to FDR's or Eisenhower's time-- when they were fair and when the middle class in this country-- and democracy itself-- exploded into an era of widely shared prosperity. Nope, Obama never wanted much, never asked for much, and was always willing to give away the store to get a little. And most Beltway Democrats-- inside and outside Congress (including union officials)-- will stupidly back him.
Listen to top Democrats and Republicans talk on camera, and it sounds like they could not be further apart on a year-end tax-and-spending deal-- a down payment on a $4 trillion grand bargain. But behind the scenes, top officials who have been involved in the talks for many months say the contours of a deal-- including the size of tax hikes and spending cuts it will likely contain-- are starting to take shape. Cut through the fog, and here’s what to expect: Taxes will go up just shy of $1.2 trillion-- the middle ground of what President Barack Obama wants and what Republicans say they could stomach. Entitlement programs, mainly Medicare, will be cut by no less than $400 billion-- and perhaps a lot more, to get Republicans to swallow those tax hikes. There will be at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and “war savings.” And any final deal will come not by a group effort but in a private deal between two men: Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The two men had what one insider described as a short, curt conversation Wednesday night-- but the private lines of communications remain very much open. ...To those involved in the talks, it’s not really a mystery how big the overall hike will be. Boehner was for $800 billion before the election, and Obama slapped down an opening bid of $1.6 trillion after. So it doesn’t take Ernst and Young to add those numbers, divide by two and know the president wants to end up close to $1.2 trillion. House Republicans, already worried about possible primary challenges in 2014, are pleading to keep that number below $1 trillion, even if it is by a hair. Still, they know it’s likely to come in a shade higher. The safe bet is just over $1 trillion for the final number. A bit less, and that’s a notable win for Boehner. ...There is only one way to make the medicine of tax hikes go down easier for Republicans: specific cuts to entitlement spending. Democrats involved in the process said the chest-pounding by liberals is just that-- they know they will ultimately cave and trim entitlements to get a deal done. ...Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Morning Joe on Tuesday that he could see $400 billion in entitlement cuts. That’s the floor, according to Democratic aides, and it could go higher in the final give and take. The vast majority of the savings, and perhaps all of it, will come from Medicare, through a combination of means-testing, raising the retirement age and other “efficiencies” to be named later. It is possible Social Security gets tossed into the mix, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to fight that, if he has to yield on other spending fronts.
Democrats will try to get their grassroots to buy into this load of crap as a partisan "win"-- one of those "our side won moments... yah!" And it will probably work. Maybe they'll even throw a "win" for pro-corporate-war advocate Susan Rice into the pot as a sweetener for "progressives," as if that elite-vs-elite crap matters to anyone Outside-the-Beltway. Hopefully no incumbents will come to Blue America for reelection help in 2014 who have bought into this betrayal. and it looks like Blue America won't be the only bunch reminding voters who stabs them in the back.
In the past the Progressive Caucus has had trouble holding its members together when Obama wanted something his way. In fact, some of the members are pretty lax about what it means to be a progressive anyway and slip slide over to the corporate Dems when it suits their purposes. What ever happened to the public option line in the sand, for example? In any case, the one hopeful note that's floating around the Beltway today is Keith Ellison's vow that the Caucus he co-chairs with Raul Grijalva will not budge when it comes to eviscerating benefits to working families. Keith: “Any agreement to meet our end-of-the-year deadlines will need a large portion of the House Democratic Caucus to pass. Progressives will not support any deal that cuts benefits for families and seniors who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to put food on the table or cover their health costs." The author, Alex Seitz-Wald, goes on to point out that "while Ellison and progressives have said they oppose benefit cuts, they’re open to other means of cutting costs in entitlement programs. 'There are better options that protect seniors, children and disabled Americans,' Ellison said, citing the elimination of the income cap on Social Security taxes or letting Medicare negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, something Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin also floated yesterday." Ilya Sheyman, the campaign director at MoveOn.org, was even more aggressive in his reaction to the trial balloon that Obama and Boehner had settled on, taking $400 billion out of Medicare. “More than 80 percent of MoveOn’s seven million members say they want us to fight a deal that cuts those benefits, even if it also ends all of the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent. And that’s a mainstream position everywhere except in the lobbyist-cash-infused DC cocktail circuit... Bottom line: Any Democrat who votes to cut Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits does so at his or her own peril, and shouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to be held accountable by MoveOn members in the next primary election.”
As Krugman reminded his readers today, Romney may have been overwhelmingly defeated but class war is not over, "this time [it's being fought] with an added dose of deception."
And this, in turn, means that you need to look very closely at any proposals coming from the usual suspects, even-- or rather especially-- if the proposal is being represented as a bipartisan, common-sense solution. In particular, whenever some deficit-scold group talks about “shared sacrifice,” you need to ask, sacrifice relative to what? As regular readers may know, I’m not a fan of the Bowles-Simpson report on deficit reduction that laid out a poorly designed plan that for some reason has achieved near-sacred status among the Beltway elite. Still, at least you can say this for Bowles-Simpson: When it talked about shared sacrifice, it started from a “baseline” that already assumed the end of the high-end Bush tax cuts. At this point, however, just about all the deficit scolds seem to want us to count the expiration of those cuts-- which were sold on false pretenses, and were never affordable-- as some kind of big giveback by the rich. It isn’t. So keep your eyes open as the fiscal game of chicken continues. It’s an uncomfortable but real truth that we are not all in this together; America’s top-down class warriors lost big in the election, but now they’re trying to use the pretense of concern about the deficit to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Let’s not let them pull it off.
Despite Beltway Conventional Wisdom, Democrats Could Win Big In 2014... If They Actually Behave Like Democrats
In 2010, Beltway Democrats miscalculated badly. Many of them-- with the acquiescence and even the encouragement of the leadership-- decided the safer bet was to vote like a Republican rather than to embrace and explain a progressive vision for solving real problems that face the country. So Democratic voters didn't go to the polls and dozens of House Democrats-- mostly Blue Dogs and New Dems but a few good people as well-- lost their seats. Preventing another catastrophe like that should be a big focus of the House Dems. But they're off on a really bad foot already, having chosen failed DCCC head Steve Israel-- who is delusional enough to claim he was a victor-- to run the show again. The Senate campaign was far better run (by DSCC Chair Patty Murray), where the goal was to just win seats, unlike in the House, where the goal was to restock the House with Blue Dogs and New Dems. There's every reason to believe that Blue Dogs, New Dems and their corporately-funded cohorts in the Senate learned nothing from the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse of 2010 and are about to turn off the Democratic base by undercutting Medicare and Medicaid as part of some phony-baloney Grand Bargain to "save us" from the trumped up "Fiscal Cliff" that the elites created just for the purpose of starting the process of disabling America's social safety net on behalf of the millionaires and billionaires who finance the careers of the politicians. And new polling from PPP, easily the most reliable polling firm from the last cycle, shows that in the case of New Hampshire, virtually the only thing that could defeat a popular moderate Senate freshman, Jeanne Shaheen, would be if she sells out working families. Shaheen may face a rematch with the Republican kook she beat in 2008, John Sununu. The poll shows her with a comfortable lead, 53-42%, probably-- if it holds up-- enough to discourage Sununu from jumping in. If you look at her ProgressivePunch crucial vote score, you find her pretty much in the center of the caucus, equidistant from liberals like Jack Reed, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Sheldon Whitehouse and Bernie Sanders and conservatives like Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, Max Baucus, Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor. Of the 52 Democrats in the Senate, her voting score is the 25th most progressive.
The poll gave strong indication that Granite Staters oppose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid benefits and support higher taxes for the rich. If Shaheen supported cuts to Medicare or Medicaid, 46 percent said they would be less likely to vote for her, while 35 percent said it would not make a difference, 13 percent said they would be more likely to vote for her and 7 percent were not sure, according to the poll. If Shaheen “led the national fight to raise taxes on the rich,” 48 percent said they would be more likely to vote for her, while 31 percent said they would be less likely to vote for her, 19 percent said it would not make a difference and 1 percent said they were not sure. “New Hampshire voters spoke clearly in 2012,” said PCCC spokesman Neil Sroka, a former spokesman for U.S. Rep.-elect Ann Kuster. “Tax the rich, invest in jobs and don't even think about cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. If Senator Shaheen fights hard for this agenda, New Hampshire voters stand ready to support her in 2014.” The poll also showed 48 percent of Granite Staters viewed President Barack Obama's key “mandate” in the election as “standing up for regular families -- even if it means fighting,” rather than compromising with Republicans, which was the view of 36 percent. On another question, 49 percent viewed Obama's mandate as creating jobs rather than reducing the federal debt, which was the view of 22 percent. Other results showed that to reduce the national debt: • 66 percent favored raising taxes on those with incomes of more than $250,000 a year, while 29 percent were opposed. • 75 percent opposed, and 13 percent favored, cutting Social Security benefits. • 74 percent opposed, and 17 percent favored, cutting Medicare benefits. • 66 percent opposed and 25 percent favored cutting Medicaid benefits. • 53 percent supported and 40 percent opposed cutting military spending. • 79 percent supported and 12 percent opposed ending agriculture subsidies to “agricorporations.” Also, 49 percent supported and 34 percent opposed public financing of congressional elections.
Everyone Agrees-- The Republican Committee Chairs Really Suck
Lucky for them Steve Israel gives all GOP committee chairs free passes to reelection-- and even luckier, Nancy Pelosi just reappointed Israel to head the DCCC next cycle, despite the abject failure he just presided over in "trying" to win back the House. Earlier today we were complaining because the GOP committee chairs are all white, all male, all corporate whores. Conservatives are fine with the lack of diversity but they're also uncomfortable with what a bunch of corrupt corporate whores Boehner managed to come up with for his A-Team. Republicans don't care that the Senate, run by the Democrats, will have 6 committee chairwomen while the Republican House has none, one less than this year, because they refused to keep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (their one chairwoman) on-- although they sure did re-up a lot of males, from Ryan, both Rogers and McKeon to Kline, Issa, Hastings, Camp and Upton. Very few men got dumped. Boehner's main criteria was how much the chairmen were able to wring out of their committee's special interests and how much the chairmen spread that around the other members of the Republican caucus. But right-wing website, RedState, had a different way of looking at it and they seem unhappy with the crap Boehner came up with. The complaint, as voiced, is that most of the chairmen aren't right-wing enough. "None of the important economic policy committees are chaired by conservatives," although he admits in the paragraph before that that Jeb Hensarling, one of the most deranged wingnuts ever elected to Congress, has replaced notorious Wall Street hooker Spencer Bachus as head of Financial Services.
Republicans in Washington are looking for ways to change the face of the party following their defeat in the presidential election. However, one thing that will not change is the face of GOP leaders in the House. Last week, John Boehner stacked the Steering Committee, which is responsible for selecting committee assignments, with like-minded stooges. He also gave himself 5 votes. Not surprisingly, there aren’t too many changes from the array of weak committee chairmen. Dave Camp is still at Ways and Means; Fred Upton is still at Energy & Commerce; Hal Rogers is still chairing Appropriations. The only positive change for conservatives is that Jeb Hensarling will be replacing Spencer Bauchus [sic] at Financial Services.
Most of Boehner's stooges, as RedState calls them, have failing grades from Heritage Action and for Club for Growth. The only chairmen right-wing enough to be able to hold their head up in the company of Michele Bachmann, Paul Broun and Benito Mussolini are the aforementioned Hensarling plus Ed Royce (who was vulnerable this year but who Steve Israel refused to go up against despite a well-funded and energetic opponent in Jay Chen), Jeff Miller, and, barely, Paul Ryan. The Madison Project rated each one and the scores really are pretty abysmal from a right-wing perspective. All but two of them have negative scores! Here's the list, starting with the worst:
Frank Lucas, Agriculture -38.5 Hal Rogers, Appropriations -38 Doc Hastings, Natural Resources -35.5 Bill Shuster, Transportation & Infrastructure -35.5 Lamar Smith, Science & Technology -31 Buck McKeon, Armed Services -26.5 Dave Camp, Ways and Means -20.5 Fred Upton, Energy and Commerce -18.5
Sam Graves, Small Business -16.5 Mike McCaul. Homeland Security -14 Darrell Issa, Oversight -11 Mike Rogers, Intelligence -10.5 Bob Goodlatte, Judiciary -10 John Kline, Education and Workforce -8 Pete Sessions, Rules -7 Jeb Hensarling, Financial Services -4.5 Jeff Miller, Veterans Affairs -1.5 Paul Ryan, Budget 2 Ed Royce, Foreign Affairs 8.5
Don't look for any any more productive House this year than we had last year. In other words, lots of pointless bills targeting women's reproductive health and further redistributing the nation's wealth to the biggest corporations and richest families.
Gloriosky! Now the administration is supposed to tiptoe around the imagined "goodwill" of congressional Republicans who don't have any?
"What they saw through those yellow-gold lenses, they never forgot. And neither will you, my friends."After all these decades since I last saw this episode of Boris Karloff's Thriller, "The Cheaters," from 1960, I find that the whole darned thing is on YouTube! We learn from Boris K that the old-time Dutch scientist who created the Cheaters and then boldly looked into a mirror "hanged himself before dawn."
"The choice of a successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state has turned into an unexpectedly nasty political fight that could cost the White House valuable goodwill with Republicans."
The quotation above from Anne Gearan and Steven Mufson's WaPo piece is in fact the story's lead, and it's about as far as I got -- running into that astonishing phrase "valuable goodwill" as applied to congressional Republicans.
"Valuable goodwill"? From these pestilential vermin? I'm tempted to say that there isn't a neuron's worth of goodwill, not to mention honesty or decency, residing anywhere inside the carcases of life forms like Young Johnny McCranky, Lindsey Graham, or Susan Collins, but that probably isn't so. It would probably be more correct that these life forms have mastered the skill of suppressing any impulse to goodwill, honesty, or decency that happens to pop into their consciousness.
The other day when Susasn Rice bearded the lions as it were, sashaying into the den of the right-wing foreign-policy sociopaths, I understood the logic, and even had a certain admiration for it. The vilification they were performing on her, after all, was almost wholly irrational and counterfactual, so why not step right up and try to set the record straight?
Ambassador Rice found out why not, and I'm afraid that came as no surprise whatsoever to me, because she wasn't dealing with people with either functioning ethics or reason. They're savage beasts driven solely by the dark screeching of their deep-seated loathsomeness. And so, instead of clearing the air, their session seems to have breathed even more toxic fumes into the miasma of their America-loathing psychosis and their compulsion to turn the country into a mirror of their fundmental evil.
Now I hold no brief for Rice, but as yet no one has shown any significant offense committed by anyone in the U.S. government in connection with the lethal assault on the consulate in Benghazi. Personally, the thread I would most like to see pursued, is the possible culpability of mentally defective congressional Republicans in denying the State Dept. adequate funds to protect its people around the world. But that won't happen, because Republicans consider that they have carte blanche to commit any form of criminal behavior as long as it's in the service of their murderous ideological psychosis.
So primitive monsters like the McCranky, Graham, and Collins demons should feel free to pursue their witch hunt just as soon as they deal, finally, with the years-long history of indisputable raging monstrous criminality of the foreign-policy of the Bush regime. They will truly have performed a public service when we get to see justice done to everyone involved in those many years' worth of that lethal combination of mass-murderous war crimes and the Great Wall of Lies the conspirators threw up to try to conceal their malefaction from public view. I'm thinking of an assembly line of the murdering hoodlums filing up to a dais, commencement-style, for the administering of their lethal injections. With Chimpy the Then-Prez and "Big Dick" Cheney either leading the way or bringing up the rear -- I'm open to discussion on the point.
At that point it will become appropriate for congresscreeps -- any of them still alive and kicking, that is -- to consider the appropriateness of a slap on the wrist for Ambassador Rice for passing on the intelligence talking points about the Benghazi raid as they were given to her.
A more worthwhile use of the congresscreeps' time, however, would be to pursue the quest of that old Dutch scientist who created the Cheaters. As Boris K explains in the intro to the episode, it's only through the final custodian of those mysterious glasses, which enable the viewer to see the truth, that we learn what they were actually created for. They were created to enable the beholder to look into a mirror and see the truth about himself -- with unanticipatedly fatal consequences.
No doubt there are many Democrats who would benefit from this same exercise. But I'm hard put to think of any Republicans who would survive it. Certainly none of the Senate Republican Psychos.
Does The Thought Of Another Bush Presidency Make You Want To Puke? Many Conservatives Agree
But he's not a Mormon
Jeb Bush is on the short list of which GOP presidential hopefuls the party's moneyed Establishment is ready to bankroll in 2016. And if Wall Street-friendly Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, Republicans can't take these people for granted. They like Bush; he's a known quantity and tends to be more like his father (a mainstream conservative) than his brother (an easily manipulated moron). They want someone like Bush, Ryan or Christie or a boring old slice of ratty whitebread like Portman or Thune and they don't want some kind of crazed Tea Party sociopath like Santorum, DeMint, Rand Paul, Rubio, Rick Perry or Bachmann. Fox Nation may have a problem with Hillary. Republican elites don't, not existentially at least. But the far right-- the Fox Nation types with 3-digit IQs-- are horrified at the thought of another Mitt Romney... like Jeb Bush. They're angry that Jeb Bush didn't endorse insurgent Republican Marco Rubio against the party's recruited candidate, Charlie Crist, fast enough. I don't know if you'll remember, but the NRSC was bragging what a score they had with Crist and Cornyn was crowing and the whole Republican Establishment was jumping up and down. So now they're mad that it took Bush too long to buck the party?
Oh, he finally came around. After then-Governor Crist endorsed the Obama stimulus, this was a bridge too far even for former Governor Bush. But when others were out there at the barricades for an unknown conservative Marco Rubio at the very beginning? When Mark Levin was, typically, out there first to give the conservative underdog some much needed attention with appearances on his show? Where was Jeb? Say again: Jeb was neutral. Why does this seemingly small detail amount to anything? Over the Thanksgiving holidays, the New York Times ran this story on its front page, headlined as follows: Jeb Bush in 2016? Not Too Early for Chatter The paper might as well have had another headline: Jeb Bush in 2016? Here Comes the Next Mitt Romney The Times went on at length about the love for all-things Bush coming from the very same kind of people who were once upon a time insisting that only Mitt Romney could win the day for the GOP. The paper included favorable reference to Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education, about which more in a moment. The Jeb-in-2016 sentiment was expressed this way:
Still, calls for Jeb Bush to enter the arena in a bigger way represent vindication of a sort. His family's longstanding advocacy for a more broad-based and "compassionate" Republican Party was largely ignored and eventually repudiated by the populist, small-government conservatives who held sway over the party after Mr. Obama's election.
The article then gets this gem of a quote from Ana Navarro, the inevitable "Republican strategist":
"This election result has made Jeb Bush's voice that much wiser and that much more needed for the Republican Party: What he's been warning about all along proved to be true."
Ms. Navarro, it should be noted, was the "McCain National Hispanic Co-Chair" in 2008 and did the same for liberal Establishment Republican Jon Huntsman in 2012. No word from her as to how the moderate McCain or Huntsman presidencies have worked out. The GOP has been here before. And before and before and before. Only Jeb Bush… or Mitt Romney… John McCain… George W. Bush…Bob Dole… George H.W. Bush… Gerald Ford… Tom Dewey… pick one…. can win the day. And what happens when these Republican Establishment favorites are picked? They lose outright… or win what should be walkaways by the skin of their teeth. In the case of George H.W. Bush, who won by tying himself tightly to Reagan's coattails in 1988, a re-election was lost with an appalling 37% of the vote. And when GOP Establishment candidates do lose? They immediately start mumbling into their Chablis about how something has to be done with those damnable conservatives. And when that rare win comes along? It quickly becomes plain that these people are not about a Reagan Revolution. They are about managing the bureaucracy that is already there… when not adding to it. A case in point is Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education... The curious incident at Jeb Bush's education foundation? There is not a single word about abolishing the federal Department of Education. And in not even mentioning this, Bush adds to the perception that yet another Bush presidency would be in some fashion just like the other two. Either taxes would be raised to accommodate liberals (Bush 41) or the government would be expanded to placate liberals (Bush 43). Which is to say, Jeb Bush-- like Mitt Romney or others in the long dismal losing line of GOP moderates addicted to such bogus concepts as "broadening the base" and "the Big Tent"-- would seek the presidency to timidly tinker at the edges when not making the problem worse. All the while patronizing the minority-of-the-moment instead of approaching them as equals who need real economic growth just like everybody else in America regardless of color. The impression of Jeb Bush as the Next Mitt Romney comes clearer with his every entry into the national political dialogue. On taxes? Bush would refuse to sign on to Grover Norquist's Reaganite pledge that he won't raise taxes.
"No, I-- okay, so I ran for office three times. The pledge was presented to me three times. I never signed the pledge. I cut taxes every year I was governor. I don't believe you outsource your principles and convictions to people. I respect Grover's political involvement. He has every right to do it, but I never signed any pledge."
So raising taxes is an option for Bush. And he was once neutral between Crist and Rubio... Just like his father on raising taxes, just like his brother on increasing the size of government, Jeb Bush is tone deaf to conservative principle. To wit, the obvious: Jeb Bush is the Next Mitt Romney. The latest moderate favorite of the GOP Establishment. The guy whose backers think being married to a Mexican is a policy statement in the same way Romney supporters thought being a successful businessman was a policy statement. The guy who has all the same people who swore up and down on the record that Romney's so-called "moderation" was THE ANSWER… and post-election have denied Mitt not three times but a thousand times. Jeb Bush… after multiples of years of experience between family and personally held political office… is in fact blind as a bat to conservative principle. When liberal push comes to conservative pull… Jeb Bush is either pleading neutrality between Rubio and Crist or waving the white flag on taxes or falling dead silent on the existence of the Department of Education. In the vernacular: Jeb Bush doesn't get it.
The author, Jeffrey Lord-- best known for his expressed disdain for Ron Paul and his followers and for coming up with failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork for Reagan-- then goes on to explain why the GOP needs Rubio, "a Latino version of Ronald Reagan," not Bush, who, he claims is the Republican Establishment." I wonder if Rubio will be too busy avoiding getting immersed in the David Rivera scandals to run for president.
Democrats Could Make Sure Working Families Come Out Ahead In The Grand Bargain-- But Do They Want That?
Remember how the Republicans whined all year about how Obamacare was cutting Medicare and what an outrage that was? Their base was paying attention and now conservatives are sold on the notion that Congress must not cut Medicare. I bet Ryan, Boehner and the crew would like to strangle Romney if they could find him now!
Sixty percent of Americans favor raising taxes on incomes over $250,000. Sixty three percent of independents, 65 percent of moderates, and even 47 percent of conservatives, agree. By contrast, 67 percent of Americans oppose raising the Medicare eligibility age-- as do 68 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of conservatives... There is a widespread consensus that higher taxes on the rich must be part of any deficit solution, and that the core mission of major social programs and the safety net-- and the social contract underlying them-- should be left untouched for beneficiaries.
So Americans clearly DO NOT want to see Medicare cut, right? That won't stop our political elites, who are beholden to the corporate interests that demand it, and who are, themselves, too distant from the governed to govern in their interest. Reports show that Obama and Boehner have agreed to a framework for a Grand Bargain that, as of this morning, includes "at least" $400 billion in Medicare cuts. Any Member of Congress who votes to cut Medicare will have to explain that to his or her constituents in primaries and the general election in 2014. There will probably be a lot of turn-over in the House. Although it should be, in a not unrelated development, Oklahoma conservative Tom Cole, a former NRCC chairman, is urging his fellow Republicans to go along with President Obama's demands that the Bush tax cuts on working families-- defined as anyone making under $250,000 a year-- be extended immediately. He claims this doesn't even go against the Grover Norquist Pledge. Cole says he isn't the only high-ranking House Republican taking this stand. “I think we ought to take the 98 percent deal right now,” he said of freezing income tax rates for all but the top 2 percent of earners. “It doesn’t mean I agree with raising the top 2. I don’t.” Cole says his approach robs Obama of his ability to paint Republicans as hostage takers against American working families. Boehner says he doesn't agree with Cole (and refuses to give up his hostage-- us.) The NY Times editors say they're "unimpressed" that a few Republicans claim they would drown Grover Norquist in a bathtub. No one's going to believe them 'til we see the bloated purple corpse for one thing. Or, as the Times editors put it:
No credit is due to a party that has suddenly accepted the obvious when it has no choice, particularly after two years of irresponsibly reducing the deficit only from the spending side. True flexibility means acknowledging that tax rates for the rich have to go up, and then negotiating how much and which ones. But, so far, Republicans have been just as closed to that reality as they have been for years, ignoring both the election results and the plain arithmetic of deficit reduction. “No Republican will vote for higher tax rates,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, announced on CBS News’s Face the Nation recently. Raising rates on the rich remains so taboo to party leaders that they have twisted themselves into knots to avoid it, coming up with several convoluted alternative schemes to bring in revenue just so they can tell their supporters that rates were left untouched. Most of them involve putting caps on popular deductions like the vital one for charitable donations. Apparently, Republicans are so wedded to keeping the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich that they would prefer to hurt charities and the vast nonprofit sector, which would inevitably suffer if donations from the rich could not be deducted. A deduction limit also doesn’t raise very much money. Capping deductions at $50,000, as Senator Bob Corker, a Republican of Tennessee, has proposed, would raise only $727 billion over 10 years, according to the Tax Policy Center, far less than the $1 trillion in revenues from ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Excluding the charitable deduction from that cap would raise only $473 billion. In exchange for these nonconcessions, Republicans want vast cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that benefit the middle class and the poor. Fortunately, President Obama is ignoring these head-fakes and holding firm to the principles that won him re-election. This week, he is embarking on a campaign to take his case to the public, meeting with middle-class taxpayers and visiting a toy company in Pennsylvania that he says would be hurt if a tax cut for middle- and lower-income levels isn’t restored. So far, the House has refused to pass a Senate bill to keep those tax cuts, hoping to use them as leverage to preserve cuts for the rich. Speaker John Boehner even threatened yet again to refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless he gets his way, another sign of how far Republican leaders are willing to go to cling to the failed policies of the past.
Over in the Senate, where the Democratic caucus is filled with conservative Wall Street whores, there's a lack of unity on how to proceed. Distance between senatorial elites and normal American families is now so vast and unbridgeable, that many Democrats in that body find it perfectly natural to make common ground with Republicans to balance the budget on the backs of ordinary working families. Not even countering a whore like Lieberman, right-wing, corporately-oriented, anti-populist Democrats like Ben Nelson (NE), Joe Manchin (WV), Mary Landrieu (LA), Mark Pryor (AR), Claire McCaskill (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Michael Bennet (CO), Max Baucus (MT), Tom Carper (DE), Kay Hagan (NC), Mark Udall (CO), Jim Webb (VA), and Kent Conrad (ND) have far more in common with extreme right Republican senators than they do with the Democratic grassroots.
This was the post I had written for this morning before Barbara Lee, who knows how to count, dropped out; very disappointing. I think the post is still worth running. The progressive battle against the New Dems is far from finished... even if this skirmish was lost. The House Democrats are so proud that, for the first time evah, a majority of their caucus is made up of women and minorities. In fact, today one of the very best women members, who is also one of the very best minority members, Barbara Lee-- and from the biggest state with the most Democrats in the House (by far)-- is running for Caucus Vice Chair. She is widely expected to lose-- and to lose to a male whitebread figure of old line politics and eye-averting corruption, Queens County, NY Democratic Machine boss Joe Crowley, a longtime anti-Choice bigot who was caught undermining Wall Street reform-- his pockets bulging with K Street checks-- in the House Ways and Means Committee hearings. Are the Democrats hypocrites over that whole diversity thing? Well, sure. They have to pick between the angels and Satan... and they're going for Satan. Tuesday night they were all getting a good chuckle while Rachel Maddow made fun of the Republicans-- in the video above-- for appointing 19 committee chairs who all... look very much like Joe Crowley. Except Rachel never mentioned Crowley. She castigates bad Republicans-- and she does it better than anyone (she's our era's Walter Cronkite)-- but she leaves the bad Democrats for someone else to castigate. And who, exactly would that be? It sure isn't Chris Matthews; he celebrates and lionizes bad Democrats... the badder the better. Fox? No, all Democrats are bad Democrats over there. Bad Democrats get a pass.
Tuesday the Republicans picked their horrid cast of characters as committee chairs-- people who get the free reelection passes from Steve Israel and it's mostly a reshuffling of the mess from the current session-- Paul Ryan, Buck McKeon, Mike Rogers, Darrell Issa, Fred Upton, Dave Camp... with a sprinkling of "new" chairs who are, for all intents and purposes, perfectly interchangeable with the old chairs: Michael McCaul, Ed Royce, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Sessions, Lamar Smith... Today, as the New Dems seek to cement their control of the Democratic caucus, the Dems pick their own committee top dogs (ranking members rather than chairmen because of Steve Israel's failure to win back the majority). One of the most watched spots is Foreign Affairs, where this session's ranking member, Likudist Howard Berman, was defeated for reelection by Likudist Brad Sherman, who wants the Foreign Affairs slot but is up against a New Dem (and Likudist), Eliot Engel, for the same slot. The Republicans are teaming up with the New Dems to back Engel, who they recognize as a pushover and who favors the kinds of job-destroying "Free" Trade deals Sherman opposes. [UPDATE: Touchy California Democrats forced Brad Sherman to withdraw from his contest with Engel.] The voting is by secret ballot-- so we'll never know who backed the good guys and who backed the good guys-- although here's a partial list of the Democrats who Crowley bribed this year (although he's been running for the job for 6 years so it really is just a very partial list).
Joe Crowley would fit in seamlessly; Barbara Lee... not so much
Rahm's Greatest Hit Has Done All The Damage He Can As A Congressmember-- Now He's Ambling Off To K Street: Heath Shuler DC's Latest Revolving Door Lobbyist
Sleazy lobbyist Heath Shuler-- the ultimate lame duck
If you're a DWT regular, I don't have to tell you who North Carolina Blue Dog Heath Shuler is. We've been following him with trepidation since Rahm Emanuel plucked him away from Tennessee Republicans to run as a North Carolina "Democrat" in 2006. Since then he racked up a dismal 37.93 critical vote score from ProgressivePunch, even worse than the other two North Carolina Blue Dogs, Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell. Shuler, an anti-Choice, antigay, anti-immigrant bigot has voted more frequently with Boehner than with Pelosi and has consistently been one of the Blue Dogs allowing Boehner and Cantor to call their extremist right-wing proposals "bipartisan." But conservative Republicans in the North Carolina state legislature weren't satisfied that Shuler voted like a Republican; they wanted a real Republican. So last year they gerrymandered his district in such a way-- removing most of bright blue Asheville-- to make it very difficult for him to win again. Rather than accept the challenge and go out like a man, Shuler-- who just days earlier had been talking about running for governor and senator-- decided he had had it with politics. He applied for a job as a college gym teacher but wound up announcing this week-- while still serving as a congressman-- that he would be the chief lobbyist for American's biggest utility, Duke Energy. Over the years, he has served their interests slavishly. “Heath is well known in Washington for working with leaders from both political parties and for bringing people together in his district in Western North Carolina,” said Keith Trent, a vice president with Duke Energy's regulated utilities. Citing ludicrously lax House ethics rules, he chuckled that Shuler would not be “actively lobbying” for a whole year but would jump into the fray right after the cooling off period. Duke's interests lie in coal, natural gas and nuclear energy and in undermining the EPA-- all things that come naturally to Shuler. When Shuler first ran in 2006, Duke's PAC gave his opponent, crooked banker/incumbent Charles Taylor, $7,000. But when Shuler managed to beat him in a Democratic wave election, Duke was more than happy to buy the easily bribed Shuler off immediately. In the very next election cycle, Shuler got a $5,000 check from Duke's PAC and the following year he got another $3,000. This year, before he announced he wouldn't be running again, they had already given him $1,000. Shuler is Big Energy's kind of congressman, consistently putting their predatory, anti-family agenda above the interests of his own constituents. His career in Congress may have been short but he had already scooped up $70,000 in legalistic bribes from energy companies by the time he signed on as a Duke lobbyist. Yesterday, investigative journalist Lee Fang, looked into the scandal of Shuler accepting the Duke lobbyist job right in the midst of his attempts to defund social programs for working families. Here's the video of him and Zaid Jilani interviewing Shuler when he was still kind of trying to keep the negotiations secret about his lobbying job:
Though Shuler has already accepted the position with Duke Energy, he is still helping to lead a bipartisan coalition, along with Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID), to deal with the “fiscal cliff.” Shuler has promised an “all options” approach, one that will undoubtedly affect his soon to be employer. Duke Energy benefits from a host of tax subsidies, so much so that Citizens for Tax Justice found that the company paid an effective tax rate of negative 3.9 percent from 2008–10 while making over $5.5 billion in profit. ...Thousands of former congressmen, federal regulators and staff regularly head to K Street to collect high-paying salaries, often from businesses that have benefited from their actions in government. There are dozens of high-profile examples of this form of corruption, from former Senator Tom Daschle to former Representative Billy Tauzin, all securing multimillion-dollar paydays from industries they cultivated while in office. A new report shows how military contractors routinely court retired generals, some with wide sway over weapon purchases, with lavish paydays.
The sum of this dynamic is that people in government have much bigger incentives to sell out to industry, even when doing so hurts the public interest. While it seems likely in some cases, behind the scene job negotiations for officeholders become little more than bribery; we haven’t seen federal prosecutors too eager to prosecute this type of corruption. Part of the problem is actually cultural. In Washington, the sell-outs, the men and women who make the most money as industry hacks, are the winners. From high society tabloids like Washington Life to the Beltway media, those who spin through the revolving door are adulated and celebrated. Maybe that’s why Shuler seemed so certain of a gleaming post-congressional career path.
"No doubt the women of Beijing are swooning. After all, if you squint really, really hard, you might see a slight resemblance [between Kim Jong-Un and] George Clooney — in that they are both sentient humans."
This one definietely comes from our You Can't Make This Stuff Up Dept.
Anyone who has tried his hand at satire knows there are built-in pitfalls. The most obvious one is that so many real-world human behaviors are so outlandish as to defy exaggeration. The classic example is soap operas, but another whole category is modern-day right-wing pols. How do you satirize already-cartoon-conceived characters like John Boehner and Jim DeMint, or
Or, for that matter presidential candidates of the "stature" of Young Johnny McCranky or Willard Inc.? What was the David Letterman line about Young Johnny -- that he's like the cranky old guy who chases kids off his lawn? Once you've made that connection, how do you take seriously anything that comes out of his mouth? And as for Willard, well, what're you gonna do? Make up stories about how he traveled with the family dog caged on top of the car pooping diarrhea down the sides? (Yes, I'm talking about you, Gail Collins.) Or how the great love of his wife's life is a dancing horse?
A special version of this satirical glitch occurs when the satirist's wild exaggerations turn out to be only too believable. The folks at The Onion run into this problem a lot, and as Al Kamen reports in his Washington Post "In the Loop" column, it's happened once again on an international scale.
Looks as though sarcasm is easily lost in translation — or easily ignored. The online version of the People’s Daily, the official organ of China’s Communist Party, lauded a story from the satirical news site that named North Korean dictator Kim Jong Eun 2012’s “Sexiest Man Alive.”
Not realizing — or perhaps not caring — that the Onion was being cheeky, the People’s Daily ran a 55-page photo spread to accompany the story, which it quoted thusly: “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true.”
No doubt the women of Beijing are swooning. After all, if you squint really, really hard, you might see a slight resemblance to George Clooney — in that they are both sentient humans.
It’s not the first time a foreign news outlet has fallen for an Onion spoof. An Iranian news agency this fall reprinted an Onion story about a poll finding that rural white Americans would rather vote for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than President Obama. The news site later apologized for getting duped — but insisted that Ahmadinejad could beat Obama in a popularity contest.
Over at The Onion, are they stricken with remorse and issuing desperate apologies? Not at all. Here's the original item with "UPDATE":
The Onion is proud to announce that North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, 29, has officially been named the newspaper’s Sexiest Man Alive for the year 2012.
With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true. Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile.
“He has that rare ability to somehow be completely adorable and completely macho at the same time,” Onion Style and Entertainment editor Marissa Blake-Zweibel said. “And that’s the quality that makes him the sort of man women want, and men want to be. He’s a real hunk with real intensity who also knows how to cut loose and let his hair down.”
Added Blake-Zweibel, “Ri Sol-ju is one lucky lady, that’s for sure!”
With today’s announcement, Kim joins the ranks of The Onion’s prior “Sexiest Man Alive” winners, including:
2011: Bashar al-Assad
2010: Bernie Madoff
2009: Charles and David Koch (co-winners)
2008: Ted Kaczynski
2007: T. Herman Zweibel
The Onion’s commemorative “Sexiest Man Alive” issue will be available on newsstands everywhere this Friday and contains a full 16-page spread on Kim.
UPDATE: For more coverage on The Onion's Sexiest Man Alive 2012, Kim Jong-Un, please visit our friends at the People's Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc. Exemplary reportage, comrades.
[Note: I've inserted WaPo's AP link for the People's Daily story. Was it part of the joke on The Onion's part to include a bum link? -- Ed.]