Thursday, October 31, 2013

More Polling In The Inland Empire-- More Good News For Eloise Reyes


Ros-Lehtinen (FL) and Denham (CA), 2 Republicans in favor of immigration reform... unlike Gary Miller

Gary Miller, a multimillionaire, crooked Confederate Civil War reenactor from Arkansas was always an odd pick for the new Inland Empire district carved 2 years ago out of the districts of retiring congressmen David Dreier and Jerry Lewis and defeated Blue Dog, Joe Baca. The only reason Miller won is because DCCC Chairman Steve Israel insisted on backing a pathetic empty suit, the appointed mayor of Redlands, Peter Aguilar. Aguilar was rejected by Democratic voters and lost to two Republicans. He even came in third in Redlands! Steve Israel almost looks like he wants to keep Miller in the seat; he forced the DCCC into the awkward position of endorsing the wealthy but socially conservative Aguilar again, despite the obvious progressive choice, Eloise Gomez Reyes.

CA-31 is the single bluest district in the country-- by far-- with a Republican incumbent... and we can thank Steve Israel's incompetence for that. Why Nancy Pelosi doesn't tell him to go defeat Fred Upton, Peter King and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and keep out of California, a state that he's proven himself to be entirely clueless about, is beyond me. But the good news here is that another batch of new polling indicates that Miller's time in DC is just about over.

The first batch of PPP polling in CA-31, released October 6, was meant to measure voter feelings towards Miller in regard to the government shutdown he championed. His approved rating was a dismal 27% and if the election had been held that day, 48% would have voted for his Democratic incumbent and 39% would have voted for Miller. Once voters were told that Miller supported the shutdown, he kept his 39% of Tea Party nuts but the Democratic opponent increased her share of the vote from 48 to 51%.

  Less than a month later, PPP was back in CA-31, this time working with SEIU, and measuring how dissatisfied voters there are with Miller's obstruction of comprehensive immigration reform. Without even mentioning that Miller is a notorious racist and xenophobe, the situation pollsters found looked extremely bad for him. PPP claims Miller could improve his chances for reelection if he gives up on his long record of dogged opposition to immigration reform and backs the bill that fellow Republicans Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) just signed onto as co-sponsors. In CA-31 overall support for comprehensive immigration reform is 66% and only 23% say they oppose it. Even among Republicans, support for comprehensive reform is 58% (with 31% opposing). Among independents-- a key factor in this district-- 62% support it and 32% oppose it.

PPP learned that voters say they would be more likely to give Miller a second chance if he backed immigration reform-- and by a significant margin. 39% said they be more likely to vote for him if he did and only 28% said they would be less likely to vote for him. Among independents, 37% say they would be more likely to vote for Miller if he votes for immigration reform and only 33% say that vote would make them less likely to back him.

Meanwhile, as you can probably guess, Eloise Reyes is the strongest backer of immigration reform among all the candidates running and has already worked the hardest on the issue. This morning she told me that "I don’t need a poll to tell me that comprehensive immigration reform is overdue in our country. My brothers, sisters and I were raised in an immigrant family, and so many of our neighbors, colleagues and friends here in San Bernardino County are first-generation Americans. I’ve heard the stories about undocumented workers exploited by their employers, families torn apart by deportation and the students sidelined from higher education because they could never even apply for a loan.

"These tragedies are not the stories that should be defining America.

"The reality is that over 11 million Americans are living in the shadows, and nothing is going to change unless we create a path forward for the immigrants who are currently here and the immigrants who want to come here. The American Dream is not something that starts and stops with those of us who have already made it. Comprehensive immigration reform is about putting a system into place that protects the core values of our country-- opportunity, access, inclusion-- and this week’s PPP proves that reforming our immigration system is the American thing to do."

Blue America has endorsed Eloise and if you'd like to help her beat Gary Miller and Blue Dog/NRA super-star Joe Baca, who's trying to worm his way back into Congress, please consider making a contribution here.

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A DWT holiday ghost story featuring the Spirit of Halloween: "Big Dick" Cheney and his unexplodable heart


The former veep reveals how he forced his doctors
to protect his (alleged) heart from remote hackers.

by Ken

Halloween is fine for kids. I don't know what the cutoff age is -- 9 or 10 is fine, 10 or 11 is pushing it, and beyond that, well, you might want to seek professional help. As for adults who indulge, I have to imagine we're dealing with straight people who want to be more like gay people and gay people who . . . okay, I haven't worked this part out, but you're going to have a rough time persuading me it's wired into the schematic of being gay, like doing tasteful floral arrangements or singing show tunes.

Still, if we have to celebrate the, er, holiday, what better governing spirit than our own "World's Biggest Dick" Cheney, whom I like to think of as the Spirit of Halloween?

Now, regular readers know how parismoniously I guard my free NYT clicks, but I ask you, could you resist something like this?

I mean, didn't we all see this actually happen on Homeland? You know, when the crafty Islamic terrorist found a way to insinuate Brody, as a confidant of the vice president, into his study in order to . . . well, you remember. And the scheme worked. They sent the strategic zap and the veep crumpled!

Well, it appears that a certain former vice president saw it too, and it brought back memories.
Of Fact, Fiction and Cheney’s Defibrillator

October 27, 2013


In a chilling episode of “Homeland” last year, a terrorist killed the vice president with a fiendishly clever weapon: a remote-control device that attacked the computerized defibrillator implanted in his chest.

For former Vice President Dick Cheney, it was all too realistic.

Mr. Cheney, who had heart disease for decades before receiving a transplant last year, had such an implant to regulate his heart rate and shock his heart back into life, if necessary. The defibrillator could be reprogrammed wirelessly from a short distance away. In 2007, he had the wireless feature disabled.

About the “Homeland” scenario, Mr. Cheney said on the Oct. 20 episode of “60 Minutes”: “I found it credible. It was an accurate portrayal of what was possible.”
Now naturally Ms. Kolata, as a science writer, is interested in the science of it. Could this really happen?
Medical experts say the answers are surprisingly complicated.

Mr. Cheney’s cardiologist, Dr. Jonathan Reiner of George Washington University, said in the “60 Minutes” interview that he agreed with his patient.

An assassin “on a rope line or in a hotel room next door” could have instructed the defibrillator to kill Mr. Cheney, he said, adding that a wireless programmable device “seemed to me a bad idea for the vice president of the United States.”

Other experts say the scenario is highly unlikely, though they couch their answers carefully.

The devices, used by millions of Americans, transmit data from a patient’s home to a doctor’s office, alerting the doctor of a malfunction. But the communication goes only one way; the devices being used today cannot be reprogrammed remotely.

Instead, patients must go to a doctor’s office. With some devices, they must be within inches of the reprogramming machine. Others can be reprogrammed from about 30 feet away, but a wand must be held close to patients’ collarbones to identify them to the machine.

“My opinion is it is probably unlikely that a remote attack of this nature could happen today,” said Kevin Fu, a University of Michigan expert on computer security.

But he emphasized the word “probably,” adding that he would never say something is impossible. “There can always be a flaw we are unaware of,” he said.
And on and on. If you really care about the science, you can read on for yourself -- you've got the link above. (We might as well get some return on my expended click.)

What interests me is that then-Vice President "Big Dick" had exactly the same concern, and apparently believed there were people out there who might want to blow up his heart. I'm not saying he was wrong, just that it's interesting that he thought so. Now that I think of it, the Homeland veep had distinctly Cheney-esque qualities. And in the case of the genuine article, the real "Big Dick," I don't think it would have been necessary to resort to fanatical Islamists for potential suspects.

For the record, Dr. Fu, the University of Michigan computer-security maven, who you'll recall is skeptical that the Homeland scenario could really play out, has serious concerns about the idea deactivating the wireless connection.
[H]e noted that the wireless feature of a defibrillator serves an important purpose. Without it, a device cannot be fixed wirelessly in a doctor’s office if something goes wrong. Nor can it employ its early warning system to alert a doctor that something is amiss, like a broken wire.

“He must have decided that he was willing to sacrifice that because of the security risk,” Dr. Fu said. “I think the average person would make the opposite decision.”
Well, nobody ever accused "Big Dick" of being "the average person" -- or even of knowing any average people.

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Tom DeLay, God And Original Intent-- Happy Halloween


George Orwell wrote that "religion is the last refuge of a scoundrel," a take on Alfred North Whitehead's "religion is the last refuge of human savagery" and Samuel Johnson's "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." All three adages fit Tom DeLay, who claims to be on a mission from God, equally well. Samuel Johnson, Boswell assures us, was referring only to "false patriotism."

DeLay's egregious corruption drove him out of his leadership role in the House GOP and then out of the House entirely. Until he was rescued by a corrupt Republican appeals judge, his guilty convictions, seemed sure to send him to prison. Last week he told a bunch of teabaggers in Burleson, Texas that God has told him to lead a constitutional revival.
"He believes that he is being led to encourage, or promote, or participate in sort of a new a new revolution for the country-- not armed battles and muskets and all that stuff, but in terms of ideals," said Barry Schlech, the vice-chairman for the Texas Patriots PAC.

DeLay said the best way to start this revolution is for conservative tea party candidates to lay claim to the U.S. House. DeLay spent part of his time detailing how faith helped him through his criminal trial that involved charges of laundering money from his congressional campaign funds-- DeLay’s conviction was overturned earlier this month.

But Schlech said he doesn’t see DeLay returning to Congress.

"I didn’t get the sense-- with what he said-- that he wants to ever be in office again," Schlech said. "He’s going to be an advocate, not in the background but maybe in the forefront."
Or maybe the storefront, figuratively speaking. DeLay hasn't just been dancing with the stars since being driven out of Congress; his lobbying firm, First Principles, is as sleazy and shady as he has always been, although he does claim everything he does is countenanced from Above. "God has spoken to me… I listen to God, and what I’ve heard is that I’m supposed to devote myself to rebuilding the conservative base of the Republican Party, and I think we shouldn’t be underestimated."

According to the Dallas Morning News what DeLay claims God told him to do is to “shut down” every part of federal government that is not specifically based on the Constitution. “It’s time for a constitutional renewal, a constitutional revival,” DeLay said in Burleson, adding that this revival is inherently linked to a “spiritual awakening” he sees happening across the country. He said conservatives have allowed “the left to intimidate us, cut off our heads, put us in prison… It’s time for a revolution,” DeLay said. “I am not advocating for revolution in the streets. But if that’s what it takes … ”

That kind of palaver about original intent of the Founding Fathers is part of that last refuge crap we were referring to at the beginning of this post. I had it in my mind since reading David Simon's brilliant review of 12 Years A Slave, particularly these paragraphs:
[F]or those still desperate to mitigate our national reality at every possible cost, this film will be an affront. It is not intelligently assailable by anyone, though the racial divide and resentment that still occupies our national character a century and a half after abolition will prompt certain creatures to pull at threads, hoping against hope. Mostly, those who want to pretend to another American history will just avoid the film or the discussion that ensues.

The second screening did leave me with one additional thought, something distinctly political that could not fight its way through the more fundamental human reckoning produced by the first viewing.  It’s this: Anyone who acquires the narrative of 12 Years A Slave and finds it within his shrunken heart to continue any argument for the sanctity and perfection of our Founding Fathers, for the moral wisdom of their compromised document of national ideal that begins the American experience, or for their anachronistic, or understandable tolerance of slavery is  arguing from a desolate, amoral corner.

If original intent included the sadism and degradation of human slavery, then original intent is a legal and moral standard that can be consigned to the ash heap of human history. And for hardcore conservatives and libertarians who continue to parse the origins of the Constitutions under the guise of returning to a more perfect American union are on a fool’s journey to decay and dishonor.

There is some considerable wisdom in the American Constitution, and more found within the 27 sanctioned efforts to amend and improve the weaknesses and moral lapses that were allowed to co-exist with the adoption of the original template. There is, at some key points in our history, even more wisdom in some of the liberalizing and rationalizing assessments of the U.S. Supreme Court in adopting the improved morality of a later age to constitutional language and code. We have journeyed far, and by many metrics, we have acquired a greater claim to our own humanity.

For anyone to stand in sight of this film and pretend to the infallibility or perfect intellectual or moral grandeur of a Washington, a Jefferson, or a Madison is to invite ignominy from anyone else sensate. Slavery was abomination, and we, in our birth of liberty, codified it and nurtured it.

It took Lincoln, and a great war, to hijack the American experiment from its original, cold intentions by falsely claiming, a century and a half ago, that the nation was founded on the proposition that all men are created equal.  It was founded on no such thing.  It required blood, a new birth of honor and a continuing battle for civil rights that is still being fought for this nation to be so founded.

In the echo of this film, the call for a strict construction of our national codes and a devotion to the original ideas of the long-dead men who crafted those codes in another human age, rings hollow and sick and shameful.

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Did You Think Only Republicans Are Wall Street Whores?


If you're a regular DWT reader, you know better. Of course, virtually every Republican in Congress is a full on shill for Wall Street. It's part of their DNA. But it's part of the DNA of a significant chunk of the Democratic congressional caucus as well. When it comes to catering to Wall Street there is virtually no difference whatsoever between Republicans and New Dems. Yesterday, 70 Wall Street-oriented Democrats voted with all but 3 Republicans to pass H.R. 992, an amendment to gut a piece of the Dodd-Frank financial reform consumer protection act. The final vote was 292-122. The 70 bad Democrats were led over the aisle by corrupt corporate business shills among the Democratic leadership and the New Dem leadership-- Steny Hoyer, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Crowley, Jim Himes, Ron Kind, and Rick Larsen. The bill was actually co-sponsored by 3 especially craven New Dems, Sean Patrick Maloney, who does his call time from a hedge fund office, Jim Himes, widely considered to be Wall Street's guy in the Democratic caucus, David Scott, and Brad Schneider, another pathetic New Dem freshman, almost all of whom voted for Wall Street Wednesday. Nancy Pelosi and Steve Israel absented themselves from the House and didn't vote. The 119 Democrats who stood up to Wall Street and voted against the giveaway bill that Citibank lobbyists wrote were led by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Wall Street banksters, who spend more on bribing Members of Congress over legislation than any other group in America, had plenty to celebrate. The bill, written for GOP dullard, Randy Hultgren (R-IL) by CitiBank lobbyists, exempts a wide array of derivatives trading from new regulation and forces the taxpayers to insure overly-risky derivatives trading so that reckless behavior of the sort that crashed the economy in 2008 is not actually risky for the banisters, just for the rest of us.
To Wall Street, this town might seem like enemy territory. But even as federal regulators and prosecutors extract multibillion-dollar penalties from the nation’s biggest banks, Wall Street can rely on at least one ally here: the House of Representatives.

…The bills are part of a broader campaign in the House, among Republicans and business-friendly Democrats, to roll back elements of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the most comprehensive regulatory overhaul since the Depression. Of 10 recent bills that alter Dodd-Frank or other financial regulation, six have passed the House this year. This week, if the House approves Citigroup’s legislation and another bill that would delay heightened standards for firms that offer investment advice to retirees, the tally would rise to eight.

Both the Treasury Department and consumer groups have urged lawmakers to reject the bills, warning that they could leave the nation vulnerable again to excessive financial risk taking. The House proposals stand little chance of becoming law, having received a much chillier reception in the Senate and at the White House, which on Monday threatened to veto the bill on investment advice for retirees.

But simply voting on the bills generates benefits for both House lawmakers and Wall Street lobbyists, critics say. For lawmakers, it comes in the form of hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. The banks, meanwhile, welcome the bills as a warning to regulatory agencies that they should tread carefully when drawing up new rules.
There are 20 freshmen Democrats who joined the corrupt Wall Street-oriented New Dems. 17 of them voted against the best interests of their own constituents to back Wall Street and K Street.
Ami Bera (CA)
John Delaney (MD)
Elizabeth Esty (CT)
Bill Foster (IL)
Pete Gallego (TX)
Joe Garcia (FL)
Denny Heck (WA)
Derek Kilmer (WA)
Ann Kuster (NH)
Dan Maffei (NY)
Sean Patrick Maloney (NY)
Patrick Murphy (FL)
Bill Owens (NY)
Scott Peters (CA)
Brad Schneider (IL)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)
Juan Vargas (CA)
Kuster and Hanabusa, in the pockets of the banksters

As you know, New Hampshire has two Members of Congress-- and so does Hawaii. The two delegations split right down the middle, one Member backing the banksters and lobbyists and one member standing up for the taxpayers and for the country. New Dems Ann Kuster (NH) and Colleen Hanabusa (HI) backed Wall Street, as they always do. Carol Shea-Porter (NH) and Tulsi Gabbard (HI) voted to protect their constituents from Wall Street predators. This was Rep. Shea-Porter's statement after the vote:
“Just as I voted against the bank bailout of 2008 because it was an enormous gift to Wall Street, I voted against this bill because it reflects the same failed policies that led to the Wall Street bailout. The idea that the market will solve all our problems if we simply remove regulations for Wall Street and slash taxes on corporations was wrong when it crashed our economy, and it’s still wrong today.

“This legislation is riddled with bad ideas, but that’s not surprising since it was partly written by Citigroup lobbyists. This bill would allow America’s biggest banks to take on more risk with no extra oversight. And worst of all, it could increase taxpayer exposure to another bank bailout.

“It’s time for Washington to stop deferring to Wall Street and start focusing on Main Street.”
Carol Shea-Porter is one of only two incumbents in shaky seats Blue America has endorsed this year. The other, Mike Honda, joined her in voting against corrupt legislators working for Wall Street. Neither Carol nor Mike is going to get any campaign contributions from Wall Street, the biggest source of campaign funds for congressmembers. If you'd like to help them win very tough reelection bids, you can do so here.

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Do You Think Multimillionaire Congressmen Care If You And Your Family Drown?


Chris Hayes did something remarkable Tuesday evening. He talked about how climate change relates to income inequality in America. Take a look at the short clip above. "Here's what I've learned," he reported. "The people at the bottom of the social pyramid, the poor, those without assets, or no assets other than their home, with debts piled up and low-wage jobs; those people who are struggling to just hang on by their fingernails to something that looks like a middle class existence… Those people, when the waters come in from the storms, those people are the first ones dragged out to sea and the ones who take the longest amount of time to get back to shore." And he pointed out that "55% of the storm-surge victims in New York City were very-low income renters, whose incomes averaged $18,000 per year."

But what about the people on the other end of the income spectrum? We've been looking at how grotesquely inappropriate and destructive of democracy it is for the two party establishments to fill Congress with multimillionaires with zero capacity for empathizing with their constituents. But they can empathize with people who read Angeleno. It's a slick magazine/advertiser that comes to all the homes in high property value neighborhoods. I glanced at a copy yesterday and saw pages of ads like this one:

I bet you can't read the captions. Let me give you a hand:
Ottoman jacquard ball gown in sepia, $10,990, by Zac Posen, similar styles available at Sachs Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills; yellow and white diamond tiara with detachable bracelet set in platinum and 18K gold from the 2013 Blue Book Collection, $335,000, at Tiffany & Co., Beverly Hills' Nougat yellow gold ring, $9,000, by Dior Fine Jewelry at Dior, Beverly Hills. Opposite page: Black panne velvet one-shoulder gown with draped shoulder, $4,900, by J. Mendel at 212.832.5830; oval ruby ring with diamond pave shank from the Graff Bombe collection, price upon request, by Graff at Sacks Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills; triple emerald slice and irregular diamond invisible hook earrings in 18K gold, $16,250, at Kimberly McDonald, West Hollywood.
That $335,000 baubly little headpiece costs about the same as the total annual income of 35 average families that had the misfortune to be in the path of the storm surge, a storm surge largely resulting from the efforts of the captains of industry and their quest for the cash to buy those lovely yellow and white diamond tiaras for their sweet-smelling sex partners. I suspect that tiara and those triple emerald slice and irregular diamond invisible hook earrings will never get washed away in a storm surge.

Nice coincidence: ss soon as Chris Hayes was done… Rachel Maddow. What a treasure in the Great Wasteland of TV News these two are!

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Guest Post From Paul Clements, The Progressive Democrat Opposing Fred Upton In Western Michigan


Fred Upton's "monkey court"

Today Congressman Fred Upton grilled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sabelius over the error-plagued launch of, the federal government’s enrollment website for mandatory health insurance. Would that he were so assiduous in his support for Americans’ access to high quality, affordable health care!

This is the same Upton who voted 40 times to defund the Affordable Care Act. The same one who required healthcare navigators to fill out arduously voluminous paperwork before they could help people figure out how to get new health insurance. The same one who blocked Americans’ access to cheaper generic drugs from Canada, and who tried and failed to block a measure to reduce prescription drug abuse with pain pills (requiring patients to get new prescriptions after 90 days for widely abused drugs). The same Upton who has often blocked the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from applying normal health and safety regulations.

The Affordable Care Act will prevent denials of insurance to millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. It is already allowing millions of young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance. Millions of life threatening conditions will be identified by primary care physicians rather than in emergency rooms. Yet Upton has been a constant obstructionist.

Congressman Upton routinely and repeatedly puts corporate profits before citizens’ health. He routinely and repeatedly puts narrow partisan advantage before compromise to solve problems.

The good news is that citizens in Upton’s district are tired of him. He now gets the lowest approval ratings of his career-- 34% in an early October PPP poll, versus 53% disapproval. Even his Tea Party challenger accuses him of crony capitalism.

I am building the strongest Democratic challenge Upton has ever faced. I have degrees from Harvard and Princeton, and I have devoted my career to increasing the impacts and enhancing accountability of government programs.

Please take a look at my website:, and consider a contribution.

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"Ted Cruz resembles the Bill Murray of a quarter-century ago, when he played fishy, mock-sincere fakers" (David Denby)


Plus: Worst spam of the day

"When Ted Cruz lies, he appears to be praying. His lips narrow, almost disappearing into his face, and his eyebrows shift abruptly, rising like a drawbridge on his forehead into matching acute angles. He attains an appearance of supplication, an earnest desire that men and women need to listen, as God surely listens."
-- the opening of David Denby's
blogpost today,
"Ted Cruz: The Mask of Sincerity"

by Ken

I keep wanting to get to "Big Dick" Cheney's apparently unexplodable heart, but stuff keeps coming up. Yesterday it was breaking news about the Rampant Rabbi vibrator. Today it's a different kind of fake sex toy: Texas Sen. Ted "Jeez, I Suck" Cruz. Specifically, there's New Yorker film critic David Denby's "Daily Comment" blogpost "Ted Cruz: The Mask of Sincerity."

It's hard for me to keep my cool when thinking about Senator Ted. Like there was the news this morning: Cruz lifts hold on FCC nomination. This is supposed to be good news, I guess, but it just reminds me that a useless pile of puke like this so-called senator can actually place a h old on a nommination as if he were, you know, a regular U.S. senator.

You'll recall that Senator Ted's beef with the FCC chair nominee, Tom Wheeler, was that he might take steps toward requiring disclosure of the identity of sponsors of political ads -- thereby violating a bogus right to privacy that not even this institutionally democracy-hating Supreme Court believes exists in the Constitution.
In a statement, Cruz said Wheeler told him that the nominee "heard the unambiguous message" that pursing the political disclosure efforts would "imperil the Commission's vital statutory responsibilities."

"He explicitly stated that doing so was 'not a priority,' " Cruz said about Wheeler, a telecom industry veteran. "Based on those representations, I have lifted my hold on his nomination, and I look forward to working with him on the FCC to expand jobs and economic growth."
From which we may conclude that Senator Ted:

• was (and presumably still is) threatening to interfere with the FCC in exercising its "vital statutory responsibilities," and --

• has no idea what those statutory responsibilities are (hint: they do not include expanding jobs and economic growth").

It's true that there are growing numbers of people on the Right who are anywhere from upset to mortified by the clown-of-doom antics of Senator Ted. Just today bona fide conservative Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker, writing about the national threat to GOP prospects posed by office-seeking pond scum like Virginia Attorney General "Cuckoo Ken" Cuccinelli ("Virginia is GOP wake-up call"), pointed to the source of a good part of the blame for the party's current national poll disaster.
Republicans can thank their tea party constituents in the House of Representatives and the singular Ted Cruz in the Senate — the latter’s Texas ovation and Iowa stampede notwithstanding. These were the actors who forced the shutdown and who, should Republicans begin losing gubernatorial and congressional races, would be the major reason. Disgust trickles down, over and out.
Yet the slug continues to command widespread admiration (unlike that pathetic slug Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who is apparently fighting for his political life), not to mention fear. The fear part, at least, is understandable. As David Denby writes:
His strategy is universal aggression, aimed at everyone. Well, not quite everyone -- lately, his popularity with the Tea Party cohort has increased. And at a recent rally at the convention of the Texas Federation of Republican Women, he was greeted with heated adoration. But normally Cruz resembles one of those war chariots with blades flashing from the wheels; he tries to cut up everything in his path. When things go wrong, he only sharpens the blades. From the Senate, he urged House Republicans into a government shutdown and a sustained threat not to extend the debt ceiling. When the President held firm and the Republican leadership backed down, the fallout included collapsing poll numbers for the Republican Party and the possibility, mentioned by nonpartisan political analysts, that the Democrats could pick up a serious number of seats in the House in 2014.

But, rather than acknowledge any responsibility, Cruz told Dana Bash, from CNN, that "the single most damaging thing that has happened to Republicans for 2014 is all of the Senate Republicans coming out attacking the House Republicans, attacking those pushing the effort to defund Obamacare, and lining themselves up opposite the American people." He has repeated this charge -- the betrayal, the stab in the back -- in many forms. He has been wronged, his cohort has been wronged, the American people have been wronged, traduced by weaklings and cowards in the ranks. In Cruz's rhetoric, the American people are always being wronged.
You may well ask why you would want to read a film critic -- and a not-very-good one at that -- on Ted Cruz. Well, you should read David Denby. (It may or may prove relevant that Frank Rich was, after all, a terrible theater critic.)

For one thing, in the matter of faking sincerity, and a pol's "performance" generally, it turns out to be useful to have all those decades of experience describing and actorly evaluating performances. For example, let's continue the thought from David Denby's opening paragraph, picking up just where I left off in the quote at the top of this post.
Cruz has large ears; a straight nose with a fleshy tip, which shines in camera lights when he talks to reporters; straight black hair slicked back from his forehead like flattened licorice; thin lips; a long jaw with another knob of flesh at the base, also shiny in the lights. If, as Orwell said, everyone has the face he deserves at fifty, Cruz, who is only forty-two, has got a serious head start. For months, I sensed vaguely that he reminded me of someone but I couldn't place who it was. Revelation has arrived: Ted Cruz resembles the Bill Murray of a quarter-century ago, when he played fishy, mock-sincere fakers. No one looked more untrustworthy than Bill Murray. The difference between the two men is that the actor was a satirist.
Now is that an image, or what? Bill Murray doing his "fishy, mock-sincere fakers"? No one looked more untrustworthy than Bill Murray. The difference between the two men is that the actor was a satirist.

Again, perhaps only a film critic would find Senator Ted wanting in quite this way -- that he's no Ollie North or Ronald Reagan:
Cruz is not as iconographically satisfying as other American demagogues -- Oliver North, say, whose square-jawed, unblinking evocation of James Stewart, John Wayne, and other Hollywood actors conveyed resolution. Or Ronald Reagan -- Cruz's reedy, unresonant voice lacks the husky timbre of Reagan's emotion-clouded instrument, with its mixture of truculence and maudlin appeal.
And yet, Denby says,
Cruz is amazingly sure-footed verbally. When confronted with a hostile question, he has his answer prepared well before the questioner stops talking. There are no unguarded moments, no slips or inadvertent admissions. He speaks swiftly, in the tones of sweet, sincere reason. How could anyone possibly disagree with him?
Noting Senator Ted's Baptist father, Denby cites the "evangelical cast to his language,"
but he's an evangelical without consciousness of his own sins or vulnerability. He is conscious only of other people's sins, which are boundless, and a threat to the republic; and of other people's vulnerabilities and wounds, which he salts.
And if other people "have a shortage of vulnerabilities, he might make some up," as Denby says he did with Chuck Hagel during his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearings to be secretary of defense.

Later Denby returns to Senator Ted's performance during the Hagel confirmation hearings. At the time, says Denby, "some senators suggested that his insinuating manner -- the bullying slurs, the implication of treason -- reminded them of Joseph McCarthy," and "since then, comparing him to McCarthy has become commonplace."

Denby notes the dramatic differences between McCarthy and Senator Ted in physical appearance and vocal delivery, without pointing out the obvious: that McCarthy was a demagogue for the '50s, but today's media world is something else again. Who would pay any attention today to someone who looked and sounded like Joe McCarthy?

Denby has already pointed out Cruz's vocal fluency -- fluency, I would add, that holds as long as no one actually pays attention to the sub-cretinous nonsense he's spewing, which would earn him a one-way ticket to the booby hatch. Really, it's hard to believe than any public figure could be that stupid and globally misinformed, or perhaps just that dishonest.

But when it comes to the tactics Senator Ted uses to inflame and command his public, the ghost of Joe McCarthy rises over Senator Ted's bog.
like McCarthy, he evokes a menace that is destroying the nation: Obamacare, which is killing jobs, obliterating businesses, demoralizing everyone. Obamacare is his Communism, a conspiracy that is the main impediment to economic growth. It is a malaise that is particularly hurting "single moms, Hispanics, African-Americans" -- a brazen touch on Cruz's part, since it is exactly those three groups whose interests Republican policies tend to ignore. It takes a certain ingenuity to suggest that an attempt to insure the powerless is rendering them powerless. One of Cruz's tricks is to turn his enemies' words back on them so that they stand accused in their own language. Meanwhile, he remains, at least rhetorically, invulnerable behind a mask of sincerity.

Cruz voted no on the bipartisan immigration bill, no on the farm bill, no on the continuing resolution; he voted against the confirmations of John Brennan, Chuck Hagel, John Kerry, and Jack Lew. He makes extreme demands, then accuses the other side of being unwilling to compromise, then calls his own party members cowards, and so on. The refusal to extend the debt limit endangered the American government and economy. What does Cruz want? What is he up to? The naïve may believe that all of these obstructionist moves are part of a principled opposition to Obama, the President who, in the past, inspired greater and greater outrage in Republicans in proportion to how conciliatory and mild he became. But Cruz seeks more than the humbling of the President. There are plenty of other Republicans around eager to accomplish that.

He seeks the Presidency, of course. And he appears to be doing it by sowing as much confusion and disorder as possible -- playing the joker in a seemingly nihilistic charade whose actual intent is a rational grab for power.
About this I'm not so sure. Oh, I'm sure that it's occurred to Senator Ted that, the way events have transpired, he has an honest-to-good shot at the Republican presidential nomination. But I'm not sure that's what got him into his weird political crusade. After all, it wasn't what motivated Joe McCarthy. I think that was more that he wanted to somehow feel, you know, important, like as if he was somebody, despite the abundant evidence that he was born and bred to be one of Nature's Nobodies.

I think Senator Ted actually has some sense of mission. Oh, not the one he prattles on about, because, as Denby points out, he has no compunction whatever about lying his stinking guts out. But you look at his even more demented father, and you get the feeling that there's something go on there. Yes, dementia, but of a kind that they know can be made to resonate with truly clueless people.

I guess by the old Roman Hruska standard, whereby mediocre people were entitled to mediocre representation all the way up to the Supreme Court, clueless people are entitled to clueless representation. And Senator Ted is just the man to provide it.


Aw, c'mon, guys. "Your needs to verify"? Your needs to at least makes an effort.


For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."

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NAFTA: Two Decades Later


Of course Buck McKeon voted for NAFTA and every other disastrous "free" trade agreement

On November 17, 1993-- quite late at night-- the House voted on NAFTA, the George H.W. Bush "free trade" bill that he couldn't pass but that Clinton assured Wall Street he would get done. And it got done, Rahm Emanuel twisting arms for the White House. Although most progressives warned of the consequences in advance, we now have 20/20 hindsight to rely on in confirming their worst fears:
NAFTA opponents-- including labor, environmental, consumer and religious groups-- argued that NAFTA would launch a race-to-the-bottom in wages, destroy hundreds of thousands of good U.S. jobs, undermine democratic control of domestic policy-making and threaten health, environmental and food safety standards.

NAFTA promoters-- including many of the world’s largest corporations-- promised it would create hundreds of thousands of new high-wage U.S. jobs, raise living standards in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, improve environmental conditions and transform Mexico from a poor developing country into a booming new market for U.S. exports.

Why such divergent views? NAFTA was a radical experiment-- never before had a merger of three nations with such radically different levels of development been attempted. Plus, until NAFTA, “trade” agreements only dealt with cutting tariffs and lifting quotas to set the terms of trade in goods between countries. But NAFTA contained 900 pages of one-size-fits-all rules to which each nation was required to conform all of its domestic laws-- regardless of whether voters and their democratically-elected representatives had previously rejected the very same policies in Congress, state legislatures or city councils.

NAFTA requires limits on the safety and inspection of meat sold in our grocery stores; new patent rules that raised medicine prices; constraints on your local government’s ability to zone against sprawl or toxic industries; and elimination of preferences for spending your tax dollars on U.S.-made products or locally-grown food. In fact, calling NAFTA a “trade” agreement is misleading, NAFTA is really an investment agreement. Its core provisions grant foreign investors a remarkable set of new rights and privileges that promote relocation abroad of factories and jobs and the privatization and deregulation of essential services, such as water, energy and health care.

Remarkably, many of NAFTA’s most passionate boosters in Congress and among economists never read the agreement. They made their pie-in-the-sky promises of NAFTA benefits based on trade theory and ideological prejudice for anything with the term “free trade” attached to it.

Now, over a decade later, the time for conjecture and promises is over: the data are in and they clearly show the damage NAFTA has wrought for millions of people in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Thankfully, the failed NAFTA model-- a watered down version of which is also contained in the World Trade Organization (WTO)-- is merely one among many options.

Throughout the world, people suffering with the consequences of this disastrous experiment are organizing to demand the better world we know is possible-- but we face a race against time. The same interests who got us into NAFTA are pushing to expand it to include 31 more countries in Central and South America through the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). In 2005, Congress voted to extend NAFTA to five Central American countries through the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA); Peru was added in 2007; and there are signed NAFTA expansions with Panama and Colombia as well, although these have not been taken up by Congress.

During his first campaign for president, Obama lied about re-opening NAFTA talks (above) to ameliorate the damage the treaty has done to working people and to the environment. Despite having said, "NAFTA was a mistake" and using the issue to beat up on Hillary Clinton during the primary debates, not only did he not do what he promised once winning office, he has accelerated Wall Street's "Free" Trade agenda with gigantic new trade agreements just as bad-- if not worse-- than NAFTA.

Most of the Members of the House who voted for NAFTA back then are gone-- but not all. And some are still backing the catastrophic "free" trade agenda which is part of the bipartisan conservative agenda that pervades our ruling elites. First and foremost, the current Speaker of the House, John Boehner voted for NAFTA. So did the two top Democrat, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer. Here's a list of 10 somewhat vulnerable Members who voted for NAFTA and will be facing the voters next year:
Joe Barton (R-TX)
Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Dave Camp (R-MI)
Howard Coble (R-NC)
Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN)
Peter King (R-NY)
Buck McKeon (R-CA)
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Fred Upton (R-MI)
Frank Wolf (R-VA)
So who's still in the House today who was smart enough to vote NO on NAFTA 20 years ago? Well Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), two of the leaders of the anti-NAFTA coalition, have gone on to the U.S. Senate. But Corrine Brown (D-FL) is still in the House. So are Jim Clyburn (D-SC), John Conyers (D-MI), Pete DeFazio (D-OR), John Lewis (D-GA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and several others… mostly voices still worth listening to today.

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Maine Has Saved The Union Before-- Can Shenna Bellows Save Us From NSA Spying?


Both of Maine's congressmembers are Democrats-- and one, Chellie Pingree, is a strong progressive leader. Last year Obama beat Romney 401,306 (56%) to 292,276 (41%) in the state. And the Democrats regained control over both Houses of the state legislature. Still, the DSCC is reluctant to take on Senator Susan Collins. She has an undeserved reputation as a "moderate," probably because people think if a Republican isn't a teabagger, they must be a "moderate." In reality, Susan Collins is a mainstream, garden variety conservative, profoundly out of step with Maine's progressive traditions. This year, though, there's a smart and outspoken progressive running hard against Collins, Shenna Bellows. Yesterday, Collins issued a statement against NSA spying on foreign leaders but does not seem to be bothered by the NSA spying on millions of Americans. Perhaps that's why she has voted multiple times for the Patriot Act. Shenna Bellows offers a clear contrast on issues of our constitutional freedoms. She's well-known in the state because of her role leading the ACLU. She's one of only four people running for the U.S. Senate to be endorsed by Blue America this year. I asked her to introduce herself with a guest post on one of the motivations that has inspired her public service-- the protection of individual liberties.
I may be the first ACLU leader in history to run for the United States Senate, but nothing less than our democracy is at stake. Politicians in Washington have trampled on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They have created a constitutional crisis. NSA spying is out of control, threatening our individual freedoms and international relations.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, on which my opponent, Susan Collins, sits, is reportedly holding closed-door hearings on NSA reform legislation. The secrecy of the proceedings is part of the problem. It is unacceptable for Congress to scold the White House in public but codify NSA spying in secret. The Senate should open its work to the public and enact meaningful NSA reforms.

My work in Maine provides a model for moving forward. I made my decision to run for United States Senate when I was working on two groundbreaking privacy laws this spring to require law enforcement to get a warrant before accessing cellphone communications including location data, text messages and voice mails. I organized a broad coalition of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Greens. We did not agree on very much at all except the fundamental importance of our constitutional freedoms and the dangers posed by government intrusion into our personal lives. The opposition was intense, bipartisan and included some of my close friends, but we persevered. Maine was one of only two states in the country to protect against cell phone tracking. The law also survived a veto by Governor Paul LePage on a rare veto override vote.

Our work in Maine with Republicans and Democrats alike to advance strong privacy principles should serve as a model for the nation. We demonstrated that it’s not necessary to compromise our core principles in order to advance meaningful reform. A shared commitment to protecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights transcends partisan politics.

The USA Freedom Act introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) is an important first step in restoring checks and balances. We can and should do more in the months to come. We need a Church-style investigation of the nature and extent of surveillance in America and comprehensive privacy legislation to bring our laws up to date. We need to repeal not just Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, but also other provisions like the “sneak and peek” searches in Section 213. We need to strengthen protections for whistleblowers like Edward Snowden. We need to reduce government secrecy.

I began my career at the ACLU ten years ago as a “Safe and Free Organizer” organizing a nationwide resolutions campaign against the Patriot Act. I learned about the power of broad coalitions then when I was working with diverse groups like the American Library Association and Gun Owners of America. Following the launch of my campaign for the United States Senate one week ago, libertarians and progressives alike are voicing support for my record and my values.

Speaking out against the NSA is the popular thing to do this week, especially in light of the revelations that the NSA has been listening in on the private calls of foreign leaders. We have been down the road of tough rhetoric and weak action before unfortunately. As head of the ACLU of Maine, I led a 2006 campaign to investigate telecommunications companies’ involvement in federal surveillance of Mainers’ telephone calls. Unfortunately, Congress responded by passing the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which included immunity for the telecommunications companies and prohibited state-level investigations from moving forward.

I hope that Congress will not repeat the mistakes of 2008 in responding to calls for change by codifying NSA spying. We certainly need to stop listening in on the phone calls of allies like Angela Merkel, and we need to stop spying on millions of Americans. To address the international relations crisis of the moment without looking at the larger issue of surveillance is unacceptable. Minor changes to the law, passed behind closed doors, will not go far enough to restore our constitutional freedoms.

My work against the Patriot Act in Washington and my advocacy for privacy in Maine are just two examples of my leadership. Under my leadership, Maine was the first state to reject REAL ID in 2007. I co-chaired a successful statewide voting rights ballot measure to restore same day voter registration when the Republicans took it away in 2011. I served on the executive committee of the Maine freedom to marry campaign for seven years before we won on the ballot in 2012.

At the ACLU, I learned the importance of standing up for what you believe in the face of powerful opponents. I am a carpenter’s daughter from a small town in Maine. Carpenter’s daughters don’t usually run for the United States Senate, which is why we have a Congress of millionaires instead of a Congress of working people. But our democracy is too important for good people to stay on the sidelines.

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Alex Sink Is Running For Congress


The big news in Florida this morning wasn't exactly a surprise. After Florida's former chief financial officer and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Alex Sink, expressed interest in running for the open congressional seat in Pinellas County (FL-13), she became the focus of all Democratic attention. And when former candidate Charlie Justice and potential candidates Janet Long and Ken Welch said a few days ago they weren't running, it was widely assumed Sink had let them know she was in. This morning Adam Smith at the Tampa Bay Times let everyone else know. Sink, who lives in nearby Hillsborough is moving into the district "imminently." Here statement was pure boilerplate, almost word for word what every candidate says when they declare they're running for Congress.
"Washington's broken. And I, like everybody else I know, is angry and mad about the logjam, about shutting down the government, about not understanding the impact it was going to have on small businesses and people. The people up there just don't seem to be able to work together," said Sink, who had considered running for governor again but ruled that out in late September.

"I'm somebody who's solved problems, has a long history of working with Republicans and Democrats to get things done," said Sink, who used to run Bank of America's Florida operations and was the state's CFO from 2007-11. "I believe I can be an effective advocate for the people of Pinellas County and get to Washington and make a difference."

…"I am no stranger to Pinellas County," Sink stressed. "I have a long history here. I have been involved in doing business in Pinellas County for decades, and the people of Pinellas County have elected me twice. They voted for me to be their CFO and they voted for me to be their governor, in this very district."

In addition to helping lead four banks doing business in Pinellas, Sink said that as CFO she worked closely on the BP oil spill that affected the county, helped crack down on insurance agents scamming victims in Pinellas, and selected Largo to be the site of one of her office's two call centers, after consolidating 11 centers to save money.

"Do I know everything there is to know? Of course not," Sink said. "But I'm no stranger, and it has to be about whether or not I can be a leader and an advocate and a voice for the people of this district in Washington. I think I'm the best person to do that."
As we saw a few days ago, the Florida state legislature, sensing Bill Young's time on earth was short, redistricted to make the seat a little less impossible for a Republican to win. It went from a D+1 to an R+1 district, but Republicans have trouble holding onto R+1 districts these days as well, since independents have been tending to break for Democrats as the national GOP drifted further and further away from the mainstream. In 2008, what is now FL-13 gave Obama 177,758 votes (51%) and McCain 164,644 votes (48%). Obama won again last year 171,102 (50%) to 166,087 (49%) against Romney.

With Young out of the way, this district should be a "gimme" for the Democrats. Even before he announced he was retiring, a new PPP poll showed Pinellas County would be happy to replace him with a Democrat. Although his death has rescucitated his popularity, a week before he died his job approval was down to 33% and voters said they were ready-- by a 48-43% margin-- to vote for an unnamed Democrat against him. Worse still, was when voters were informed that Young had voted to shut down the government, his Democratic opponent's chances to be elected sky-rocketed into a 51-42% outcome.

Over on the Republican side, most of the viable candidates have already said they don't want to run, although the best hope for Republicans is to persuade former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker to change his mind. It's more likely that the GOP will be stuck with one of Bill Young's relatives. His brother, Tom, wife, Beverly, and son, Bill II, are all claiming the "right" to the district. A few days ago another Florida pundit was waxing ecstatic at the prospect of Junior running for his father's vacant seat. I responded snidely about Louis XVI following Louis XV who followed Louis XIV. He had an even snider response-- either that or he didn't understand that many people-- usually those who prefer democracy to any kind of aristocratic governance-- don't like the whole idea of political dynasties. It's so unAmerican… at least in theory it's unAmerican. In reality, it started right from the git-go. The two awful George Bushs came long after the two John Adamses, the second and sixth presidents. Among the political dynasties in our country are the Kennedys in Massachusetts, the Udalls in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, the Daleys in Chicago, the Tafts in Ohio… The Youngs in St. Petersburg is a stretch. A few months ago, Time Magazine had a little discussion of political dynasties in reference to the horrific prospect of Cheney's fascist-oriented daughter Liz, following him into politics.
Liz Cheney's announcement last week that she is running to unseat three-term incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi upended politics in Wyoming where the two Republicans are set to duke it out over their conservative credentials. But her candidacy also serves as the latest test of dynastic power in the United States, in her attempt to follow in the path of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney. "She said it's just time for her to quit sitting on the sidelines and roll up her sleeves," recalled Wyoming Republican National Committeeman Greg Schaefer. They also discussed her last name. "I told her it's her best asset," he said of the candidate's famous pedigree. "It's also her worst liability."

The Constitution is clear, "No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States," but for centuries Americans have shown a clear preference for electing lawmakers of the same political families-- with family names like Adams, Taft, and Kennedy. Roughly one in ten lawmakers in Congress have had a family member serve in either the House or Senate, and many more come from state and local political clans.

President Barack Obama's defeat of the Clinton machine in 2008 could have indicated a decline in political family trees as Democratic primary voters rejected what could have been 24-years of two-family rule. Instead, these dynasties are making a comeback, with at least four well-known surnames considering running for president in 2016. Indeed while America has long held an aversion for kings, it sure loves its princes and princesses.
This is the kind of thing we've come to expect in placed with shallow-rooted democracies, like the Phillippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia… so perfect for Florida.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Did Nature Bless You With Progressive Predispositions Or Were You Doomed From Birth To Be A Conservative?


Over the weekend, Time Magazine published a mood map-- "an interactive guide to the United States of Attitude." A multinational team based at Cambridge and "using personality test data from over one million people, researchers have identified three distinct personality regions in the country-- "friendly and extroverted," "relaxed and creative" and "temperamental and uninhibited." OK… so West Virginia is the most neurotic state, Utah is the most agreeable and the folks of Wisconsin are the country's most extroverted… For conscientiousness, South Carolina takes the finishing-their-homework-on-time prize, while the independent-minded Yanks of Maine-- who prefer to do things their own way and in their own time, thank you very much-- come in last. Does any of this tell us anything about electoral politics? The lead researcher doesn't think so:
“Political values may exaggerate the temperamental differences and a sense of tribalism may emerge,” he concedes, “but these things all come from a mix of common personality types. The Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic may be very different from the Rockies and the West, for example, but openness is a big part of both personality profiles.”

That simple idea might be the best message we can take from the study. We’re less a nation of warring tribes and angry camps than we are a loud, boisterous, messy mix of geography, social history and the unpredictable X factors of human personality, all trying to make a go of things under the same national flag. In other words, we’re exactly what the Founding Fathers intended us to be.
However, the whole point of the new book by academics John Hibbing, Kevin Smith and John Alford, Predisposed: Liberals. Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences, ties in personality traits to political preferences. "well as cooperation. "Politics," they write, "is such a fundamental part of our natures that our political temperaments are at least partially heritable and we pick mates on the basis of politics (thus further shaping the political temperaments of offspring). Heritable political beliefs make no sense if politics is purely the product of our social environments."
The key to understanding this apparent contradiction is what we call bedrock social dilemmas. These reflect divisions on the underlying first principles of politics; core preferences about the organization, structure and conduct of mass social life. All social units face the same need to resolve certain social dilemmas. They need to decide on leadership and decision-making arrangements, distribution of resources, decide how best to secure protection from out-groups, punish the misbehavior of in-group members, and orient to traditional (as opposed to new) forms of social behavior. People clearly have different underlying preferences on these bedrock dilemmas. Some prefer more hierarchical decision-making while others prefer egalitarian arrangements; some believe in share and share alike while others believe in taking care of your own; some see out-groups as threats while others see them as potential sources of friendship and new knowledge.

These underlying dilemmas are the bedrock of politics. They are fundamental to human social life, they are never fully resolved for all time, and divisions on the best solutions to these dilemmas constantly churn human societies. These dilemmas, then, constitute the deep and constant current of politics. Labels and issues are just waves on the top; they can be whipped up and blown every which way by the winds of history and culture.
They developed something called the "Society Works Best" index, traits that predict political predisposition almost perfectly. Take the test and, in case you're unsure, you can figure out where you "belong" politically.

Bedrock Social Dilemma 1: Degree of Adherence to Traditional Values/Moral Codes

Society works best when…

1-People live according to traditional values
2-People adjust their values to fit changing circumstances

Society works best when…

1-Behavioral expectations are based on an external code
2-Behavioral expectations are allowed to evolve over the decades

Society works best when…

1-Our leaders stick to their beliefs regardless
2-Our leaders change positions whenever situations change

Bedrock Social Dilemma 2: Treatment of Outgroups/Rulebreakers

Society works best when…

1-People realize the world is dangerous
2-People assume all those in far away places are kindly

Society works best when…

1-We take care of our own people first
2-We realize that people everywhere deserve our help

Society works best when…

1-Those who break the rules are punished
2-Those who break the rules are forgiven

Society works best when…

1-Every member contributes
2-More fortunate members sacrifice to help others

Bedrock Social Dilemma 3: The Role of Group/Individual

Society works best when…

1-People are rewarded according to merit
2-People are rewarded according to need

Society works best when…

1-People take primary responsibility for their welfare
2-People join together to help others

Society works best when…

1-People are proud they belong to the best society there is
2-People realize that no society is better than any other

Society works best when…

1-People recognize the unavoidable flaws of human nature
2-People recognize that humans can be changed in positive ways

Bedrock Social Dilemma 4: Authority and Leadership

Society works best when…

1-Our leaders are obeyed
2-Our leaders are questioned

Society works best when…

1-Our leaders call the shots
2-Our leaders are forced to listen to others

Society works best when…

1-Our leaders compromise with their opponents in order to get things done
2-Our leaders adhere to their principles no matter what

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Attention, all vibrator fans: Could you tell the difference between a Rampant Rabbit and a Rampant Rabbi?


A Religious Experience!

Oi vey! The RAMPANT RABBI is a meticulously produced dildo in the shape of a Jewish teacher. His prayer cap gives the dildo a smooth, rounded top and each piece is made from phthalate-free and latex-free silicone. Use only with non-silicone lubes and wash in warm water.

The RAMPANT RABBI is a limited edition erotic piece of art of 100 pieces. Each one is numbered and signed by creator Shed Simove.

• Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!

• The Chosen Dildo

• Not At All Tight

• Comes With 69 Commandments

• Get Rejewvenated

From £99

by Ken

Now that you're all excited about Rampant Rabbi -- and his playmates Vagenie, Cunt Dracula, and the Buckingham Phallus -- I should warn you that can't just walk into your neighborhood toy shop and buy him. But I'm sure you want to know all there is to know about him. Let's turn the floor over to Haaretz. (Interestingly, no one seems to have clamored for a byline on this story.)
The latest buzz || 'Rampant rabbi' vibrator arouses legal battle between sex shop competitors

Lawyers at mega store Ann Summers got word of British comedian Shed Simove's product and challenged his application in court.

By Haaretz | Oct. 29, 2013 | 8:09 PM

British comedian Shed Simove started a legal battle with sex mega store Ann Summers over a vibrator he designed named the 'Rampant Rabbi,' when he tried to trademark the name.

Simove, a 42-year-old comic from London, designed a vibrator in the shape of a Jewish religious leader as part of his 'masturpieces' collection of sex toys, which also includes the 'Buckingham Phallus' -- a dildo that looks like Queen Elizabeth II.

'Rampant Rabbi' offers "the modern Jewish woman a religious experience" and comes with the tagline "Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!"

The rabbi dildo caused a stir when Simove tried to trademark his $160 vibrator. The lawyers at Ann Summers got word of the product and challenged his application in court as a "conflicting mark." Their argument is that the name 'Rampant Rabbi' is too similar to their own sexy toy 'Rampant Rabbit.'

Simove's response is that there is "no confusion" between the two rampant dildos and will continue to sell his version.

"I am Jewish and a fan of laughing at one's culture, Simove told the New York Daily News, when asked if his dildo might offend Jews.

Other provocative products Simove has created include a range of sweet candy called 'Clitoris Allsorts' and a published book called '50 Shades of Grey' containing only blank grey pages.

Here's the Rampant Rabbit Heart Throb, just one of many models in the Rampant Rabbit line.


Hi there, Shed here. I'm the proud creator of the MASTURPIECES limited edition dildos and author of Success Or Your Money Back and Ideas Man. At MASTURPIECES, customer happiness is our prime concern and we currently have vacancies for the exciting position of DILDO TESTER.

This is a role that involves excellent job satisfaction, a flexible working position and a hugely exciting package. If you're chosen, you'll receive one of our limited edition 'work of art dildos' -- the VAGENIE, the RAMPANT RABBI, BUCKINGHAM PHALLUS or CUNT DRACULA -- completely free.

To be considered for this thrilling role, and to have the wildly sought-after opportunity of being able to place 'Dildo Tester' on your resumé, simply let us know the reasons you're suited for this job and any other relevant information you think might help your application using the form. [Click here to get to the form. -- Ed.]

[Click to enlarge.]


*CURRENTLY SEEKING LICENSE PARTNERS* If you’re a wholesaler in the adult industry, then please get in touch. This site showcases our carefully crafted creations: The VAGENIE (genie dildo), The RAMPANT RABBI (rabbi dildo), CUNT DRACULA (vampire dildo) and BUCKINGHAM PHALLUS (a dildo in the shape of the British Queen Elizabeth). Each dildo is handmade and limited to one hundred. We use phthalate-free and latex-free silicone. All dildos are delivered in plain packaging (we won't place a sticker on the box saying 'DILDO INSIDE').

For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."