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Monthly Archives: April 2011

Spooking the Masses today…

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Leading off from yesterday’s excellent quote — “Never spook the masses because if you do, they are likely to do crazy” — we have, in short order:

  1. The Fed says inflation is going up (FT; register to read for free) but that’s not exactly news to anyone who’s bought gas or food lately; plus,
  2. The dollar continued to slide, for all who pay attention to such things; plus,
  3. Illinois is on track to end fiscal year with $8.3 BILLION “unpaid obligations;” plus,
  4. Moody’s downgraded New Jersey (which the aesthetically-inclined have been doing for years); plus,
  5. President Obama, the guy who was born in Hawaii two years and 25 days before the Bitch (who was born in a foreign country and is still a US-citizen-by-birth, for God’s sake) released his birth certificate, but “true birthers” aren’t satisfied; plus,
  6. First quarter gun sales in the U.S. are up 12.5%, the largest year-by-year jump in the last three years; plus,
  7. The Bitch would like to point out that people who feel safe and secure don’t buy guns at a record clip; she does not suggest armed insurrection is in the works, but see lede, above; EQUALS
  8. Lots of crazy dollars floating around, looking for a suitable home, peeps.

Why Barbour Got Out…

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Nate Silver wins the best headline contest with this honest entry: “On the Largely Irrelevant News about Barbour Not Running for President.”  It’s brilliant — funny, factual and withering.  Barbour’s out, and it doesn’t matter, except for what it tells us about one very smart pol’s reading of the race.

First of all, it tells us he doesn’t think he can win.  Duh, but bear with the Bitch: win what?  Win the nomination?  Or win the Presidency?  Apparently Haley thinks his party is too nutty for him to get their attention.

WaPo’s Dan Balz tells us

…friends of Barbour, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share insight about his decision, said he had come to the conclusion that Republicans can win only if they are totally focused on serious issues and not distracted by some of the side issues, such as Obama’s birthplace, that have arisen in the early going.

(So let’s just ignore Barbour’s ties to industry and those silly comments on civil rights…After all, he thinks a Civil Rights Museum is such a good idea!  Because “civil rights” is something From the Past!)

Howard Meyerson connects the dots and tells us the crazy base drove Haley from the field.  He’s got a point.  Meyerson reminds us that 45% of the GOP believe President Obama was born outside the US, and that this correlates with the 45% of the” Tea Potniks” who believe the same…leading one to conclude, perhaps erroneously, that 45% of today’s GOP are Birthers and by definition, nutty.

This jumpin’ off the crazy pier explains The Donald and the “Birther Bills” introduced in more than a dozen state legislatures (also the Palin, the Angle, et. al).  Arizona Governor Jan Brewer just vetoed her state’s bill, famously calling it “a bridge too far.”   The Bitch would like to point out that when Arizona sets the standard for sanity, we’re all in deep doo-doo.

A wise woman who studies US politics reminded the Bitch of a smart saying today: “Never spook the masses, because if you do, they are likely to do crazy.”

Doin’ some crazy indeed, boy howdy.

Boehner: Oil Companies Should Pay their Fair Share…Until They Shouldn’t

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By now the Bitch is sure you’ve heard that House Majority Leader John Boehner has said that oil companies need to pull their weight in these budget-conscious times and accept a curtailment of their generous oil exploration subsidies.

“It’s certainly something we should be looking at,” Boehner said. “We’re in a time when the federal government’s short on revenues. They ought to be paying their fair share.”

That was music to President Obama’s ears – today he sent over a letter to Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other congressional leaders calling for an end to the subsidies.  Common ground at last!

Oops!  Not what John Boehner meant at all when he talked about oil companies paying their fair share!  Today he rejected the President’s letter, because ending the subsidies — or tax dollar giveaways to highly profitable oil behemoths who are currently making money hand over fist — amounted to a “tax increase” and, as we all know, tax increases are bad, bad, bad, since those same oil companies would pass the increases on to the public as higher gas prices.  Gouging, anyone?

UPDATE, 4/27, middle of the night

The Bitch’s Bad – John Boehner is the SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, DUH – must have been wishful thinking on the Bitch’s part.

The Next Great Threat to the Republic

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No, it’s not Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann or even Franklin Graham, although it’s part and parcel of the same phenomena: the triumph of idiocy over reason in American conservative “truthiness.”  It’s not the debt ceiling fight (which should not be a fight at all, and isn’t really a dispute over should we default or shouldn’t we default, as if defaulting on the national debt is in the same league as not paying AmEx this month).  No, the next great threat to the Republic is the question of who will replace a backbencher GOP Freshman if he’s tapped to replace the contemptible Senator John Ensign of Nevada when Ensign resigns his seat (sex scandal, natch) early next week.

The freshman mostly likely to replace the contemptible Ensign is GOP Representative Dean Heller, of Nevada’s 2rd congressional district.  At issue: two competing state laws that outline two distinctly separate ways to replace him, and no legal precedent to point the way for GOP Governor Brian Sandoval.

(You’d think something like this would have happened before in Nevada, but apparently not.)

See, the thing is, if Heller goes up to the Senate — for which he’s already running, since Ensign had already announced his plans to retire at the end of this current Congress — someone will have to replace him, and that problem, that conumdrum, is giving Brian Sandoval fits.

Because the next person “in line,” as it were, is Sharron Angle.

You may recall Angle.  She was the GOP nominee who ran against that sure loser Harry Reid in 2010, who took Reid’s state-wide unpopularity (across his own party, even) and converted it into Fear of Sharron, enabling Reid (who ran a disciplined, on-message campaign) to beat her like a gong.

At the outset of the 2010 campaign season, there was no incumbent more in danger of losing his seat than Harry Reid, nothwithstanding his position as Senator Majority Leader, an unparalleled  post-position for re-election fundraising.  And he was supposed to lose because the Nevada polity were fed-up with “business as usual” from “Dirty” Harry Reid and the Nevada GOP was enraged and engaged; they were going to take Reid down!

Except that, after a contentious nomination process, they picked Angle, an ultra-conservative from Reno, a former member of the state assembly well-known for her, um, unique positions on a range of issues and her rabid grassroots network of conservative Christians across Nevada and beyond.  She is, and was, a Tea Party favorite who once fought the state of Nevada’s attempts to override its constitutional requirement of 2/3s approval to raise taxes — and won (Guinn v. Legislature); her devotion to the letter of the US Constitution has won her many TP hearts and dollars.

This is what we knew about Sharron Angle before her nomination for U.S. Senate:

  • She was first inspired to get into politics because a dream a friend had about Angle and Deborah, the Old Testament Prophetess and first female Judge of Israel;
  • She so often voted against issues of broad consensus in the 42-member NV Assembly that such votes were often called “41-to-Angle.”
  • She successfully led the Nevada legislature to sue the Governor (above);
  • She advocated a prison recidivism program (tried and abandoned in New Mexico) for drug offenders that used materials developed by, among others, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and recommended saunas and massages for offenders, claiming that the program had a 10% recidivism rate.  Critics of the program claimed that the program didn’t track ex-offenders after they had completed the program.  Nevadan politicians were invited to study the program, free of charge, by an Arizonan businessman with ties to the Church of Scientology.

This is what we knew about Sharron Angle after her nomination:

  • She denied calling for the “transition” of Social Security to privately-held accounts, even though that goal was stated on her website (Set-up starts at 1:01; Angle’s conversation with a local reporter starts about minute 1:50);
  • At a time when NV unemployment topped 14%, she suggested that Nevadians who took unemployment were “spoiled,” because “overly-high” benefits were more attractive to people trying to replace their lost salaries than taking “honest” work for less pay, even though in Nevada as in much of the country at the time, there WERE NO JOBS TO BE HAD.
  • She ran ad after ad blaming Harry Reid for Nevada’s jobs problem – unemployment and foreclosures were then either the highest or among the highest in the nation — then stated that as a US Senator, her job was not to try to “bring jobs to Nevada.”
  • Her campaign, realizing that their greatest threat was the candidate herself, tried to limit her exposure to non-partisan media, choosing instead to give interviews to Fox News and  its outlets.
  • Her campaign’s fear was well-founded.  After running a series of increasingly shrill campaign ads about Harry Reid’s opposition to the draconian 2010 Arizona immigration law, Angle was confronted by a teen at an appearance before the Hispanic Student Union at  Rancho High School in Las Vegas.  Here’s one of Angle’s best-known and most often-criticized quotes:
  • Additonally, she managed to piss off the Canadians by suggesting, incorrectly, that the 9/11 bombers came through our porous “northern borders,” which they did not; the Canadian Ambassador demanded a retraction (which as far as the Bitch can tell, he never received).
  • Then there was the whole issue of “Shari’a law” taking over Dearborn, MI and Frankford, TX (audio here at minute 43:10, Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly’s furious response here) and by the way, Frankford, TX doesn’t exist any more.  Absorbed by Dallas in 1975, all that remains of Frankford is a church and a cemetery (the Bitch apologizes; she doesn’t know what’s up with the audio);
  • And oh yes, rape victims who conceive as a result of their rape should embrace their pregnancies as “part of God’s plan;”  Angle had counseled some young girls, she said, who did reconsider their situations and found that they could make “what was a lemon situation into lemonade.”
  • That BP clean-up money?  It’s a slush fund.  Oops!  No, it isn’t.
  • Those “Second Amendment remedies?”  Just metaphorical hyperbole, says her campaign.
  • And by the way, she didn’t say the things she clearly said.
Her positions are bad enough; but her self-judgment, like Sarah Palin’s, her “common sense,” her ability to think critically, appears to be completely absent.  As one commenter says, “she doesn’t have positions, she has beliefs which act as filters for her positions.”  And those beliefs don’t ever appear to be critically examined by Angle, she never subjects them to rigorous evaluation against reality, she just embraces them.  This is the problem, and it’s Trump’s problem, it’s Palin’s problem, it’s Bachmann’s problem, it’s Paul Ryan’s problem (at least vis-a-vis his “budget”), it’s the GOP PROBLEM.  Apparently critical thinking died with Bill Buckley.

This is the woman who wants to be the next U.S. Senator from Nevada.  And she could win the nomination, given the right legal pathway.  She has the grassroots support to win a jungle primary, where everyone runs, irrespective of party and the two highest vote-getters either move on to a run-off; or the single candidate that gets a simple majority gets the nod.  Her core believers are that strong, and criticism of their darling only makes them double-down on her.  But — supposedly — she doesn’t have the juice to win a nominating convention run by the Nevada GOP establishment.

Pray that’s true.  Pray Governor Sandoval chooses the nominating convention.

The Kochs: Freedom Lovers or Oligarchic Bullies?

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The Nation, which as a good progressive the Bitch respects, values and reads (from time to time) has a slightly hysterical piece up about the Koch Brothers’ evil, undue and influential participation in the American electoral process.  It’s slightly hysterical because it calls out the Kochs for doing what every sensible corporation, trade and/or membership association and labor union in America does before every federal election (and many local ones too): the Kochs mailed out a packet to a group of their employees in Washington State endorsing certain candidates for state and federal office.  The packet, which the Nation has thoughtfully posted here (note: .pdf), lays out Koch Industries’ rationale for supporting these candidates and requests that the employees consider voting for them in the November general elections.  Note that there are no threats; no way to track who got the document, or who answered the call to register to vote; lastly, the Kochs have no way of knowing who voted for whom.  (The Bitch points out that Dino Rossi, Republican candidate for Senate who was supposed to take out Patty Murray in one of the country’s top-tier Senate races of 2010, lost, as did Koch-supported candidate for State Senate Jake Fey.  So much for KochPAC’s GOTV efforts.  Candidates Honeyford, Short, Kretz, Condotta, and Orcutt were all unopposed.  The other nine Koch-supported candidates won.)

Now, in a past life, the Bitch was a director for both corporate and association federal political action committees, or PACs like KochPAC (although she hastens to point out that she never, ever worked for Koch Industries), so she knows whereof she speaks.  What the Kochs did was not illegal, nor did the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United necessarily have any legal bearing on the contents or the timing of the KochPAC material…although the Bitch assumes that the mere existence of CU made nervous government relations managers at Koch feel more comfortable sending out an amazingly frank explication of the Koch worldview, on which the Bitch has commented previously.

The Bitch hopes sincerely that Professors Paul Secundo and Kathrine Stone, quoted by Nation writers Mark Ames and Mike Elk, don’t have tenure at their respective universities, because their statements about Koch Industries’ political education efforts, federal election law and CU are alarmist and possibly wrong, depending on which employees received the mailing.  Here are the facts about what organizations can say to their employees about elections and candidates.  Bear in mind that the article does not say WHICH Koch employees got this packet, merely that it went out to Koch employees in Washington State.

Federal law, specifically the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (note: .pdf), regulates what organizations can communicate to their employees regarding political endorsements.  Organizations which have political action committees, like Koch, can made endorsements like those contained in the Washington State packet, only to their ‘restricted class.”  The “restricted class,” also known as the “eligible class,” consists of exempt employees, usually the salaried and managerial class, or those employees exempt from overtime; the company or association’s board of directors or trustees; any shareholders; and the families of all those stakeholders.  These people are eligible to make voluntary contributions to a fund — the political action committee — used to support candidates for elected office.  The organization can’t contribute directly to this fund, although it can pay the administrative costs of the PAC, like the Bitch’s salary, thank you very much.  The company, acting through the agency of its PAC, can say anything about elections or candidates to this group of people, at any time.  It can call, as does the Koch material, for the express election of any candidate.  (It just can’t sit down with the candidates’ election managers and figure out what to say and when to say it, and it can’t use any of the campaigns’ own materials.  This is called “coordination,” and it is bad.)  This type of communication was completely legal long before Citizens United ever turned up on the Supremes’ docket.  Many organizations, including labor unions, did — and do — communicate their endorsements to their eligible class, usually in the form of a voter’s guide containing a list of votes on relevant legislation.  If the candidate had voted in a way that the organization approved, the candidate had a green check mark by his or her name.  If the candidate had voted against the organization’s interests, they received a red “x.”  All fairly straightforward — and perfectly legal, as long as it was not “coordinated” with the candidates’ campaign committees and, prior to the Citizens United ruling, as long as it didn’t go outside the eligible class.  It’s possible the Koch packet went to all Koch employees in the state; it’s also possible it only went to its eligible class.  We don’t know; the article doesn’t say (although it implies the broader distribution).

Citizens United has extended the allowable “pool” of people eligible to receive these kinds of electioneering communications from one company or industry’s restricted class to the universe. (All such communications will have to disclose who paid for it; and all sponsoring organizations will have to file with the FEC, just like political action committees and candidate campaign committees do already.)   Increasing the number of political ads on the air will make dinner time during election season annoying, but it’s hardly upending democracy.

As to fears of  “political indoctrination,” the Bitch only wishes it were that easy.  Are Koch employees so stupid and child-like that they need voting direction from their CEO?  The packet is amazing for its definition, and defense of, “economic freedom,” and has probably convinced not a few Koch employees that they work for nutjobs; and that it’s time to move on to saner employment.  But the Bitch seriously doubts that, as a political indoctrination tool, it has any legs at all.  If Koch employees voted for anyone on this list, it’s because they liked them prior to, and regardless of, the Big Brothers’ appeal.  Most people, in this ex-PAC Director’s experience, are way smarter than that.

The South Florida Singing Grannies ROCK!

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The Bitch wants to be these ladies when she grows up!

Obama Speaks! Boehner Loses!

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ABC News’ Jake Tapper reports that the President was caught on an open mic at a Chicago fundraiser last night relating a few juice tidbits from last week’s budget negotiations.  Among other things, the President revealed just how low the GOP negotiators had sunk:

“And I remember at one point in the negotiations one of Boehner’s staff people pipes up and says, ‘You don’t understand Mr. President, we’ve lost on you know, on health care, we’ve lost on the EPA, we’ve given that up, we’ve got to have something to sell to our caucus.’

“And I said to them, let me tell you something: ‘I spent a year and a half getting health care passed. I had to take that issue across  the country and I paid significant political costs to get it done. The notion that I’m going to let you guys undo that in a 6 month spending bill?’ I said, ‘You want to repeal health care? Go at it. We’ll have that debate. You’re not going to be able to do that by nickel-and-diming me in the budget. You think we’re stupid?’”   [Emphasis added.]

That poor staffer sounds like he/she’s begging, don’t they?  And they probably were, because $38.5 billion isn’t $100 billion; nor is $78.5 billion, nor $20 – $25 billion; and that CBO figure of $352 million?  Is to laugh!

The House voted on the 2011 spending bill yesterday – it passed, 260 – 167.  It flew through the Senate also, 81-19.  A number of the Tea Party Frosh defected, however — 30%, says USA Today, or about 24 of the congressional newbies.  In fact, 81 Dems had to vote for the the bill in order for it to pass.  Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during those Whip conversations!

Apparently Congress-watchers in DC are divided over whether House Speaker John Boehner is in trouble with his caucus.  The normally astute Dave Weigel has drunk the GOP kool-aid here.  The Bitch agrees with his analysis, to a point.  Yes, Boehner knew he was going to lose some of his hard-core TPers like Michele Bachmann and Jim Jordan (R-OH-04), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the right-most caucus in the GOP. But Boehner also knew this negotiation was his chance to redeem himself in TP eyes, to show that he wasn’t a squish and to shut down those idiot libruls at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.  He knew the TPers were watching him; they knew he knew; everyone knew everything and yet at the end of the night, John Boehner was left with a lousy $352 million for 2011 and a whining staff member making naked appeals to the President — the President! — for “something to sell to the caucus.”  Ouch.

Scott Walker’s Magical Thinking…

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He’s actually a progressive!  Really!

Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) testified before Rep. Darrell Issa’s Committee Oversight and Government Reform today, saying:

In Wisconsin, we are doing something truly progressive. In addition to holding the line on spending and finding efficiencies in state government, we are implementing long-term budget reforms focused on protecting middle class jobs and middle class taxpayers.

While our idea may be a bold political move it is a very modest request of our employees. We are reforming the collective bargaining system so our state and local governments can ask employees to contribute 5.8% for pension and 12.6% for health insurance premiums. These reforms will help them balance their budgets. In total, our collective bargaining reforms save local governments more than $700 million each year.

Well, no, not exactly.  You might recall the “negotiations” in March, in Madison.  They attracted some attention, and the Bitch has examined them here.  To recap, the Governor asked for two separate concessions from Wisconsin public service unions: he asked for the pension and health care concessions, which he received.  And then Governor Walker demanded that the state employees give up the right to collectively bargain for work rules (they may bargain for salaries); however, he exempted the police and firemens’ unions.  (And oh, gee, those two groups tend to vote Republican.  Who woulda thunk it?)

Then with no small amount of drama and invective, the Gov, assisted by his bros The Bros, shoved his collective bargaining legislation through the Wisconsin legislature, spawning 1) the mass flight of Wisconsin House Democrats to Illinois to avoid the vote: 2) numerous recall efforts for Wisconsin legislators (Walker has to be in office a year before recall efforts can start); 3) recall petitions have been filed against Republican State Senators Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper (Republicans are circulating petitions against Democrat Senator Robert Wirch).  And then a quiet little state supreme court race became, overnight, a proxy war for the pro-Walker/anti-Walker forces, where the Dem candidate was leading by 200 votes, so it looked like a recount.  Then, two days later, some 14,000 uncounted ballots showed up… oh never mind.  Just Google “Wisconsin” and read about it there.

The point is, Scott Walker is probably the most polarizing elected official in America today, beating out even Sarah Palin, the President, Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi.  And Chairman Darryl (“I used to steal cars”) Issa brought him to town to chat about his “progressive” reforms in Wisconsin.

Chairman Issa also asked Vermont Governor Pete Shumlin (D) to testify about his progressive efforts to close his state’s budget gaps, which the Bitch feels compelled to point out don’t involve trashing collective bargaining rights or mass protests, unlike some governors in the room.  Shumlin professed confusion:

“What is puzzling to me about the current debate about state budgets is that the focus has been not on bringing people together to solve common problems, like we have done in Vermont, but on division and blame,” he said.”I do not believe that those to blame for our current financial troubles are our law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other state employees whose services we take for granted.”

But possibly the best moment came when Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) relentlessly pursued the question of Walker’s forthrightness regarding his intensions to bust union butt during his 2010 campaign.  Watch the exchange below:

As Greg Sergent points out,

The debate over whether Walker campaigned on that plan has been central to the Wisconsin battle since it began, and it remains significant now that the drive to recall Wisconsin Repubicans is under way. Labor and Dems have argued that their reaction to Walker’s proposal — from the Dems’ fleeing of the state to the decision to initiate the recall drives — has been justified by the fact that Walker never leveled with voters about his truly radical intentions.

The claim that Walker campaigned on the proposal has also been central to Walker’s defense of himself throughout the whole fight, and has been widely repeated by many Republicans and conservatives defending the Governor.

Uh oh.  I guess Scott Walker lied, huh?  And we all know how the Bitch feels about lying liars who lie…

UPDATE

He even admits it won’t save any money!  WFT?!!

Just Who Won the 2011 Budget Deal? (Hint: NOT the GOP)

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On Saturday, the progressives despaired. Details about the 2011 budget deal made Friday night between GOP/Dem negotiators were trickling out, and they weren’t pretty. $38.5 billion in cuts; Pell grants cut; community medical centers cut; WIC cut (supplemental food programs for Women, Infants & Children; foodstamps and the like); EPA funds cut to Bush-era levels…The wails went up: Obama betrayed us! And much gnashing of teeth was heard in the land.

On Tuesday, the word went out: Over half of the funding “cuts” were accounting “gimmicks,” like this one:

The legislation includes $4.9 billion [in cuts] from the Justice Department’s Crime Victims Fund, for instance, but that money is in a reserve fund that wasn’t going to be spent this year. Crime victims would receive no less money than they did before the deal.

Or this one:

The bill includes savings [cuts] of nearly $500 million on the federal Pell grant program, which aids low-income college students. But those savings [cuts] are reflected in an administration plan already underway to limit grants to the academic year to preserve the maximum grant amount of $5,550.

And then there’s this one!

Another cut, $3.5 billion for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, would affect only rewards for states that make an extra effort to enroll children. But officials with knowledge of the budget deal said that most states were unlikely to qualify for the bonuses and that sufficient money would be available for those that did.

[All emphasis the Bitch's.]

In other words: Kabuki Budgets! They “cut” many things that weren’t going to be funded in the first place! WooT!

Now, the Bitch likes this particular Kabuki Budget, since it embarrasses the GOP House leadership; it confuses the Tea Party Frosh; and it thwarts, splits and enrages the Tea Parties themselves. And they will direct their anger at the GOP. “Boehner is selling us out tonight,” twitted Judson Phillips, head of Tea Party Nation, on Friday. “We will primary him next year.”* Once again, the Rabid Right-wing has been out-thunk by the smart black guy in the suit. If the Bitch were the head of the progressive wing of the party, she’d be sending The Prez flowers and champagne. Waytago, O!

* Whether or not Judson Phillip can inspire the TP movement to even cross a street is in question; see this interesting piece by Mother Jones writer Stephanie Mencimer.

What We Learned over the Weekend: Dylan, Sell-Outs and Subversion

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Maureen Dowd takes Bob Dylan to task for playing in Beijing.

James Fallows and others take Dowd to school for her “drivel.”

The Bitch likes Dowd (“drivel” is a little harsh); but she agrees with those who actually attended the concert that Bob Dylan knows more about being subversive than Maureen Dowd ever will.

All of which illustrates the layers of complexity in the “engagement” argument used to promote (justify?) economic contacts with pariah nations (although China is hardly a pariah.  Oh dear – does the Bitch need to assert her humanist cred by commenting on China’s execrable human rights record?  Is there anything more that can be said about China’s execrable human rights record?  Get with the program, China!  Your nation, with all its history, ability and achievements, will never ever get the respect you feel it deserves while it keeps an iron boot on the neck of all dissenters.  There.  Happy now?).

One point of disagreement:  Although the Bitch loves the Eagles and has happy, happy memories of belting out “I’m Already Gone” driving south on I-75 as fast as she could to get away from The Undergraduate Experience from Hell in 1982, it is simply not true that their “dated pop tunes” could nudge anything, except a monumental self-regard — that’s the essence of the Eagles, and all of the fun.

But on second thought, that raises another question: is monumental self-regard a necessary weight to nudge the tipping point for revolution?  Discuss.

 

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