When the 2012 Republican nominating contest was getting underway earlier this year, it was widely predicted (I predicted it myself) that the race would eventually come down to a contest between an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, and a Tea Party candidate more appealing to the party's base. It seemed perfectly reasonable at the time; after all, the Tea Party had energized the GOP and propelled them to the historic 2010 congressional election victory. With its anti-Obama fervor, it was the focus of all the party's grassroots energy, to such a degree that nearly every Republican felt compelled to proclaim him or herself a Tea Partier. Once the Tea Party's champion was selected, we would discover just how much strength the party establishment still held in our decentralized political age.
Yet with the Iowa caucus just six weeks away, it appears that there will be no grand battle between the establishment and the insurgents, the old guard and the new. There is no Tea Party candidate. Or more properly, there has been one Tea Party candidate after another; the party base's fickle affections have left Romney trudging merrily along, tortoise-style, as one far-right hare after another sprints a few yards, then falls exhausted to the ground. Besides Romney, this race has been led at one time or another by Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and now Newt Gingrich. Each of those other candidates has become the Tea Party flavor of the moment, only to flame out spectacularly when they were revealed to be alarmingly radical, grossly incompetent, shockingly ignorant, or all three. In other words, the Tea Party has not exactly been picking winners. Which could well mean their influence over the GOP is beginning to wind down.
Nevertheless, we must grant them this: However pernicious you find their goals, there is little doubt that the Tea Party has been a smashing success, in political if not substantive terms. Unlike other political movements that spend years trying to slowly build support, the Tea Party exploded in early 2009, quickly establishing itself as a national force that could capture attention, harangue Democrats, and purge Republican office-holders it found insufficiently devoted to conservative orthodoxy.
This happened in large part because the Tea Party's grassroots appeal to conservative Republicans was met with an opportunistic boost from elite Republicans who saw in the nascent movement a perfect vehicle through which to battle the Obama administration. As soon as the Tea Party appeared, groups like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks?staffed by experienced Republican operatives and funded by the usual corporate coffers?swept in to offer training and organizational support. And as Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson write in their excellent new book The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism, "the Tea Party cannot be understood without recognizing the mobilization provided by conservative media hosts who openly espouse and encourage the cause. From Fox News to right-wing radio jocks and bloggers, media impresarios have done a lot to create a sense of shared identity that lets otherwise scattered Tea Parties get together and feel part of something big and powerful. Media hosts also put out a steady diet of information and misinformation?including highly emotional claims?that keep Tea Party people in a constant state of anger and fear about the direction of the country and the doings of government officials."
This institutional support allowed the Tea Party to rapidly become a political force, but they have been far less successful at achieving their substantive goals. They didn't stop the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and while they pushed deficit reduction to the top of the agenda, as of yet they have not succeeded in dramatically reducing the size of government. When Tea Party Republicans brought the nation to the brink of default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, most of the American people were repulsed, leaving them far less able to mount another hostage crisis. Their apex of influence has passed, and it is unlikely to return.
When the Republican nominee is chosen?whether it's Mitt Romney or someone else ? things are only going to get worse for the Tea Party. Every major-party nominee feels a need to move to the center upon winning the nomination, since he now has to persuade the broad electorate, not just the party faithful. The nominee will know all too well that the Tea Party is unpopular with independent voters, so little good can come of being associated with them. Imagine the spectacle of hemming and hawing that would ensue if Romney were asked in an October 2012 debate with Obama whether he considers himself a Tea Partier. His answer will no doubt make their blood boil.
It ought to have been predictable that the Tea Party would have trouble coming up with a candidate for president to take on Romney. Tea Partiers proudly proclaim that their movement has no leaders, but that leaves them unable to act as a bloc. They are, almost by definition, impractical activists, focused more on ideological purity than on winning. So it isn't a surprise that they have embraced one absurd candidate after another, from Trump to Bachmann to Cain, or that they have been unable to unify around anyone. And though we've heard a hundred times that Tea Partiers don't like Mitt Romney, what will they do if he becomes the nominee? They'll have two choices: sit on their hands, in which case they become completely irrelevant, or get in line behind the nominee with the rest of the Republican coalition, in which case they become almost irrelevant, at least as a distinct faction. They'll do the latter, of course ? after all, they're partisan Republicans, and nothing is more important to them than their hatred of Barack Obama.
When it's over?whoever wins?the Tea Party will no longer seem like such a dangerous beast who must be appeased. Republicans will look at the damage the Tea Party has done to the GOP's image?the debt ceiling debacle, the promotion of ridiculous candidates like Bachmann and Cain?and be rather more hesitant to appease them. In fact, the best thing that could happen to them would be for Barack Obama to be re-elected. After all, the Tea Party is fundamentally a movement of opposition, all anger and resentment. It has shown itself quite clearly to have no interest in governing. And so, the Tea Party has a hard and fast expiration date: the first day of the next Republican presidency. On that day, it will become little more than a memory?one of a fascinating and significant episode in our political history, but a memory nonetheless.
As many of us have been hoping and praying, the Super Committee fell of its own weight, making room for a much better debate about where budget cutting fits into a recovery strategy (if at all), and how to raise taxes progressively in order to finance the investments and jobs that America needs.
President Barack Obama was unwise to make this devil?s bargain in the first place; he has since moved on to emphasizing jobs and recovery. The Super Committee crack-up should be the last gasp of the ?bipartisan? folly about deficit reduction as key to recovery?which the president himself gave a big boost with his appointment of the late Bowles-Simpson Commission.
Now, mercifully, the Republicans stand exposed as the party that would ravage Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other valued social outlays in order to spare the richest one percent any tax increases. Republicans have been in their own echo chamber for so long that they don?t quite grasp that most of the voters oppose this idea. Democrats, in spite of their intermittent death wish, are the big winners from the Super Committee?s collapse.
Much of the mainstream media, however, is still treating the committee?s failure as (a) tragic, (b) symmetrical, and (c) hazardous for the recovery?all mistaken premises. Paul Krugman had a fine column on this last week, making fun of centrist pundits who call for Obama to make more compromises to appease Republicans who won?t compromise at all.
But, true to form, John Harwood?s analysis in The New York Times this morning imagined a happy world of bipartisan compromise, in which Republicans bravely agreed to raise taxes and Democrats bit the bullet and cut cherished social programs. He then quoted several third-way types, bemoaning the deadlock.
Politically, the fallacy in this view is that the playing field has already been tilted so far to the right that ?splitting the difference? is only more of a victory for Republicans. Domestic spending is now back to its lowest level since Eisenhower was president. Taxes on the rich are at their lowest level since before World War II.
Economically, the fallacy is that the kind of belt tightening imagined by Wall Street oriented elites clamoring for ?bipartisanship? would only set back the recovery. The Times also ran a fully page ad this morning by the Investment Company Institute, the lobby for the mutual fund industry, calling on the Super Committee to keep at it. ?Last summer,? warns the ad, ?we saw how harmful it is when America?s failure to resolve our fiscal crisis is put in doubt.?
Now this is almost too rich (literally) for words. ?Last summer? refers to the Republicans? totally gratuitous blockage of a routine extension of the debt ceiling, creating an artificial crisis that they hoped to exploit. The implication is that another failure to pursue austerity would be bad for the stock market, another theme repeated through today?s media coverage of the deadlock.
But those in the mutual fund industry are the very people who have lobbied for the financial deregulation that caused the collapse. They have blood on their hands. Now, they want the rest of the economy to suffer for their sins?or rather, for their bonuses.
Sometimes, Congress blunders into doing the right thing as a last resort. The failure of the Super Committee is one of those times. Let is rejoice, and redouble the pressure on our leaders for a real recovery program.
Lot’s of things flying apart, center not holding. Strange beasts slouching towards Bethlehem? – The debtor Euro nations and half the world’s economists are pleading with the European Central Bank to stop the runs on the Euro countries[...]
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Crossposted from The Stars Hollow GazetteYou see, it's all about easing dependence on "foreign" (brown people) oil-Canada pipeline firms sprint to end U.S. oil glutBy Anna Driver and Scott Haggett, Reuters22 hrs agoThe companies are racing to unlock a[...]
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The Republican and Democratic leaders of a 12-member congressional "super committee" are set to declare defeat in a joint statement to be released after three months of talks failed to bridge deep divides over taxes and spending.
After a year of bruising budget battles, it is another sign that lawmakers are too entrenched to compromise on the tax increases and benefit cuts that budget experts say are needed to set the country's finances on a stable path.
For all the talk about "failure," the super-committee actually succeeded?it avoided doing more damage to the economy than has been done already. The real failure is the process that created it, and our government's misguided focus on austerity since Republicans won the elections in 2010.
Last week Florida psychopath Cliff Stearns' off the rails National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 (H.R. 822) passed the House 272-154. It's one of the most extreme gun bills ever passed by Congress and it trampled on the rights of states to regulate their own gun control laws. Three Republicans from New York state broke with Boehner and Cantor to vote against it-- Peter King (Long Island), Bob Turner (Brooklyn/Queens) and Michael Grimm (Staten Island/Brooklyn)-- but that was more than made up for by NRA-fearing Democrats (43 of them) who rushed to join the parade of madmen.
Before passing the bill, the House rejected (150-276) Memphis Democrat Steve Cohen's amendment to allow states to bar citizens of other states who were under 21 years old from carrying concealed handguns and David Cicciline's amendment would have kept guns out of the hands of terrorists and child sex predators. Republicans and their Blue Dog allies voted that down by even greater numbers, 146-277.
Blue Dog extremist Heath Shuler, who co-sponsored the bill, joined Stearns in writing a deranged and misleading editorial in the Washington Moonie Times pimping the legislation. It was very different from the NY Times editorial that pointed out the gross hypocrisy of the legislation's intent.
House Republicans usually claim to be champions of both small government and states? rights, which makes it hypocritical, and downright reckless, that they are obsessed with taking away the authority of states to decide who is allowed to carry a concealed and loaded handgun.
At least 36 states now set a minimum age of 21 for carrying concealed guns, and 35 states require some sort of gun-safety training. Thirty-eight states prohibit people convicted of certain violent crimes like misdemeanor assault or sex crimes from carrying concealed weapons.
The act would override those rules, requiring states with tight restrictions, like New York and California, to allow people with permits from states with lax laws to tote concealed and loaded guns in their jurisdiction. Wording added by the committee exempts people with a concealed-carry permit from one state from having to meet eligibility standards set by the state they are visiting.
The measure, pushed by the National Rifle Association, would undermine legitimate states? rights by nationalizing lenient gun rules most states have rejected for themselves. It would increase the chance for gun violence and make it harder to combat illegal gun trafficking.
Instead of creating jobs and improving the economy, the Republican Congress continues to stagnant America's recovery by focusing on legislation that is not putting people back to work.
Last Wednesday, the GOP passed the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 822). A bill allowing gun owners, which also includes those with a criminal record, to carry hidden weapons across state lines.
How does this bill get people back to work? It doesn't. Republicans are failing to address the needs of our families and businesses. Instead, they are expanding the role of the Federal Government to create federal mandates onto States that put New Jerseyans lives at risk. This bill does not create a single job and is an affront to the tough gun laws of our state by allowing a person to register to carry a concealed weapon in another state with lax rules and then carry it with them in New Jersey to the mall, sporting events, restaurants, and bars. It drags New Jersey's gun laws down to the lowest common dominator of state laws.
The disregard of the Republican Congress for our safety and state laws, coupled with their inaction on job creation measures proves once AGAIN that Congress is broken.
We need NEW representation and that begins with me. When elected to Congress, I will fight every day to stop the radical Tea Party Republicans from holding our nation hostage to their extremist agenda. I will ensure America's future is strong with a vibrant economy, high quality education, clean air, and water and ensure that bills like these do not get passed.
"House Republicans who represent urban or suburban districts often claim the title of "moderate." Yet moderate voters in urban areas tend to support sensible gun laws. So it is hard to see how they are voting their districts, or living up to the image they projected when elected as a so-called "moderate" by sponsoring or voting for the "National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act."
"Looking at it another way, Republicans who have campaigned against "big government," decrying what they see as the federal government forcing its will on the states, are shown to be hypocrites. These former "states' rights" champions have no hesitation in voting for federal laws that effectively overrule a concealed carry law a state legislature may have enacted with some level of restriction, (such as age, no history of crimes of violence, no history of drug or alcohol abuse, evidence of having completed training) by mandating that those states must allow someone with a permit from a state like Utah, with virtually no restrictions, not even residency, to carry a concealed weapon. The laws of New York or California, for example, would be subject to this back door veto.
"I find this another example of the power of the NRA to scare Members of Congress. It is incredible to me that in the 10 months following the attack on Rep. Gabriel Giffords, including the deaths of 6 people in Tucson, that no progress has been made on closing the gun show background check loophole, or prohibiting high capacity magazines that allow for a mass slaughter to occur in seconds. Instead, federal law is being used to make it easier to carry a concealed weapon, no matter what the laws of your state would require."
Isn't this heartbreaking? The country is now even more starkly divided into haves and have nots, and most of them are people who followed the rules but got screwed, anyway - and if that's not a recipe for social upheaval, I don't know what is:
In Forsyth County's rolling subdivisions near Atlanta, Easy Street seems to run forever. What recession? The average household here earns $88,000 - the highest in Georgia, 13th highest in America.
But for more families here, prosperity is a pretense. The job's lost, the savings are gone, and the big house is either in foreclosure or on its way. And just keeping food on the table is a struggle.
So Forsyth's newly-needy file into local food banks.
Yesterday's givers have become today's takers.
"People lost their jobs and went from great incomes to no incomes," said Sandy Beaver, Sandy Beaver leads The Place, Forsyth County's biggest non-profit center for social services. She calls those who visit The Place "the new poor."
The Place's main mission: Feed the hungry.
"Who are the new poor in this county?" asked Strassmann.
"The new poor could be you, me, your neighbor, your church member, somebody who has been affected by the economy," she said. "Many of our people who have come for assistance used to be our donors. And they'll say, 'I never thought I'd have to do this, never in my wildest dreams.'"
"People who two, three four years ago, the hunger would have been unimaginable?" asked Strassmann.
People like these married retirees in their 70s, too embarrassed to appear on camera. They said they could not feed themselves snow without help.
They retired comfortably in their early 50s. But now, after bad investments, a ruined portfolio, and costly medical issues, they qualify for food stamps - and could lose the house.
"Taking the food was really tough," the woman said. "The hard part was, we used to give it, and now I'm taking it back, you know?" she said, crying.
Nearly 15 percent of Americans are now receiving food stamps, a record level, and a jump of about two-thirds since 2007.
One in six Americans - 49 million people - say they have trouble putting food on the table.
At Forsyth County's Lambert High, eight percent of kids now get free lunch, double the number three years ago.
Gladys Sasso-Alvarez directs the district's help for needy students: "Sometimes they feel embarrassed that they are getting free breakfast and lunch. They think no one will know about it. But it was something deep inside of them, you know - they feel it is an embarrassment to eat for free."
This post contains spoilers through the Nov. 20 episode of Homeland.
“Call him a terrorist. What happened here won’t matter very much.” -The FBI’s liaison to the CIA on the Tom Walker detail
“I’m going to be alone my whole life, aren’t I?” -Carrie
Tonight brought another twist in the mystery of what happened to Brody in Afghanistan and who he is now. But I think I’ve decided that I don’t much care about the final destination of this show as long as it keeps taking us to these fascinating, heartbreaking places. Whether Brody is guilty, innocent, or merely beyond our comprehension, Homeland is, I think, a story about how our country breaks our hearts.
On a policy level first, the botched apprehension of Tom Walker pulled together three central themes of the show. First, Carrie turned out to be wrong about the extent to which she could wrangle Walker’s traumatized wife, who made a grand, stupid gesture to try to absolve herself for the sin of moving on. But she was right to order caution in the raid, and disaster resulted when the FBI ignored her, leaving two men dead at prayers and the Muslim community up in arms. Second, that tragedy continued the show’s dedication to finding beauty in prayer: the agents’ sights picked out the iconic arches in a mosque that from the outside was so non-descript, it looked like a warehouse. And finally, it was an example of a government agency being so callous about Islam that it would be nice to believe it wasn’t true, though of course it mirrors an ugly reality.
Then, there’s the human heartbreak of the work-service to country can be salvation and damnation both. Saul, mounting a last-ditch effort to make Mina stay, compares himself to Walker, saying their fatal flaws are that they both love their wives. But of course he has it wrong, admitting, too late, that “I always come when they call me.” And even in his own home, there’s someone he loves more than his wife. Twice Carrie’s come to his home in tense moments with Mina, and twice Saul’s admitted her. He can take time to chastise Carrie and to comfort her, but not to save his marriage.
Then, there’s Jess, who is in an agony of guilt, and Brody trying to absolve her and himself. What pulls them together is an invitation to a party thrown by a power-broker from their church with political plans for the Brodys. It turns out that playing perfect saves them. Their children watch for the arrival of a hired car like it’s something far more powerful than a prosaic sedan, and when the parents return home, drunk and excited by having lived up to the imaginations of powerful people who see the promise of America in them, their children are sober, placid, and watching uniquely American dreck. It may not last, but a single night of Ice Age, popcorn, and accord feels like heaven.
Welcome to The Morning Pride, ThinkProgress LGBT?s 8:45 AM round-up of the latest in LGBT policy, politics, and some culture too! Here?s what we?re reading this morning, but let us know what you?re checking out as well. Follow us all day on Twitter at @TPEquality.
- If you missed this Saturday’s presidential “Thanksgiving Family Forum” hosted by The FAMiLY LEADER, here are some highlights:
- The gay soldier who was booed at a September Republican presidential debate has spoken out about watching those events unfold.
- Truth Wins Out reports from The Call Detroit, a dominionist Christian prayer gathering.
- Whitemarsh, PA has become the 24th Pennsylvania municipality to create LGBT non-discrimination protections.
- A group from Occupy Springfield (MA) protested anti-gay activist Scott Lively.
- The conservative Florida Family Council is pushing the limits on political advocacy.
- The Devotion Project has a touching look at the meaningful relationships of same-sex couples.
- Both National Public Radio and PBS’s In The Life take a look at the big problem of LGBT youth homelessness:
Other stories below: Africa Leads Climate Push as its People Go Hungry; Easy Loans Now a Burden for Chinese Solar Firms?
Soaring use of man-made gases used in refrigerators, air conditioners and fire extinguishers risks speeding up global warming and industry should adopt alternatives, a U.N. report said on Monday.
In the most dire forecast, unless governments and industry act to limit the growth, the annual emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, by 2050 could equate to pumping nearly 9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — about a third of mankind’s CO2 emissions now.
HFCs have been phased in since the 1990s to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which have damaged the Earth’s protective ozone layer and are also very powerful greenhouse gases.
On average, HFCs survive in the atmosphere for 15 years and are about 1,600 times more potent in trapping heat in the air than CO2, underscoring growing alarm about these compounds.
Several times a day, long trainloads of coal trundle through Missoula to power plants in Washington.
Those routine runs generate lots of electricity for homes and lots of consternation for politicians and scientists concerned about the trade-offs. In the short term, coal’s convenience and low price make it a simple answer to the nation’s energy needs. But its pollution, damage to water supplies and impact on global climate may produce a long-term cost we’re unable to afford.
“Two years ago, the United States was on the verge of adopting a comprehensive climate bill,” said Michael Gerrard, a Columbia Law School climate change expert who visited Missoula last week. “That fell apart, and we now have at best paralysis and at worst an effort to move backward. All this is happening in the face of a stream of new scientific evidence showing the serious worsening of climate problems. And the U.S. is now standing virtually alone in the world among major countries listening to voices that deny the reality of climate change.”
Africa is leading the push for clean energy policy-making as climate change turns millions of its people into “food refugees,” the head of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) Achim Steiner said.
“On the African continent, there is sometimes more leadership being shown by countries, by governments, than we see in some of the industrialized nations,” Steiner told Reuters.
“Kenya is currently doubling its energy and electricity generating infrastructure largely using renewables. These are policies that are pioneering, that are innovative,” he said.
Kenya generates most of its energy from hydroelectric dams but water levels have fallen due to recurring drought. It is now investing heavily in geothermal and wind power.
The African Development Bank is financing Africa’s biggest wind farm on the shores of Lake Turkana, one of the windiest places on Earth. The $819-million project aims to produce 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity per year, boosting Kenya’s energy supply by 30 percent.
Toyota and Hyundai are building a fourth geothermal power station in Naivasha, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Nairobi, which will increase geothermal capacity from 115 MW to 395 MW by 2014.
U.S. oil company Chevron will fully clean up a spill off Brazil’s coast, George Buck, the CEO of the local subsidiary said on Sunday, taking responsibility for an accident that has become a major test for one of the world’s fastest-growing oil frontiers.
About 18 vessels were supporting well-plugging operations and sheen cleanup, the company said in a later statement, adding that no new oil was being emitted.
Buck said the leak from the undersea well, owned in partnership with Brazil’s state-controlled Petrobras and a Japanese consortium, has been plugged.
“Chevron takes full responsibility for this incident,” Buck told reporters in Rio de Janeiro. “We will share the lessons learned here in the hope that this sort of incident won’t happen again in Brazil or anywhere else in the world.”
The spill, one of the largest to hit Brazil’s growing offshore oil industry has raised questions about its safety and ability to respond to accidents.
Generous state bank loans to Chinese solar companies, a bone of contention for their Western counterparts, are threatening the financial health of the firms, as they grapple with falling product prices and tumbling demand from their biggest customer, Europe.
The huge funds that flow into China’s solar sector, in which local governments hold stakes, have boosted production in the first half despite fragile demand, depressing product prices and setting off an anti-dumping probe by the United States.
State banks provide easy loans to the sector amid the Chinese government’s push to develop clean energy. Provincial governments that have helped build solar companies are also pressuring banks to continue lending, which may add to the woes of the struggling industry.
The glut of production and swelling inventories of the panels that turn sunlight into electricity have already driven down prices by about 40 percent so far this year. Analysts expect prices to slide by another 10 percent by early next year.
“The longer and larger the Chinese bank lending bubble for solar inflates, the sharper and more unpredictable will the eventual fundamental correction be due to industry consolidation,” Credit Suisse analyst Satya Kumar said.