Photo of the day

From a Guardian gallery from the Siena International Photography Awards 2015

Nature winner: Showtime, by Hasan Baglar‘When mantises are afraid of something, they raise their arms and spread their wings. It’s their normal defensive behaviour. To take the picture I attempted to touch them and this is how they reacted, opening their wings. They look like smiling ballet dancers.’

It’s called compromise!

Man, I hate Marc Thiessen.  After working for GWB and Rumsfeld, the man is most notable for being a Cheney-esque torture apologist.  Anyway, I couldn’t let his column today just go by where he complains about the budget deal that just passed Congress:

What did the GOP get in exchange? The deal includes a desperately needed boost in defense spending, but this came at a cost of political capitulation. Obama took funding for our men and women in uniform hostage, refusing to raise defense spending unless Republicans agreed to commensurate increases in domestic spending. In this deal, Republicans cried uncle and gave him what he wanted.

Actually, inflammatory language aside, I think the word for this is not “capitulation” but “compromise.”  And then:

Obama got his domestic spending increases, while Republicans got to avoid a debt ceiling or government shut down standoff before the next election.

GOP leaders were willing to give up principled governance for political gain.

Interesting how that defense spending increase so rapidly disappeared just a paragraph later.  Also, don’t you just love the idea of threatening the default of the US Government to be “principled governance.”  Sure, if your principle is nihilism of self destruction.  Ugh.

Of course, with bozos like this fanning the flames on the right, is it any wonder the Republican Party is being taken over by the crazies.

The better late than never debate omni-post

So, I read lots of good stuff about last week’s Republican debate that I was meaning to compile into a single post.  Sure, the debate seems old now, but these analyses have a shelf-life of longer than a few days.  So, here goes.

1) Cassidy on Rubio:

In fact, it [response to Jeb’s attack] may have been more than “a” moment. If you believe some of the commentators who were waxing lyrical about Rubio’s performance after the debate, it was “the” moment in which he publicly confirmed that he has displaced Bush as the regular politician most likely to be the Republican nominee. The Fix, one of the Washington Post’s political blogs, ran a pieceheadlined “How Marco Rubio owned Jeb Bush in Wednesday’s GOP debate.” At The New Republic, Brian Beutler suggested that Bush should do himself and the G.O.P. a favor by dropping out of the race…

But none of them looked like they were poised to break away from the pack.

Rubio, on the other hand, might just be ready to do so. Standing between Trump and Bush—both large, hefty men—he appeared small in stature when the cameras panned back. But on this occasion, anyway, he also looked like the most skillful and potentially formidable politician that the G.O.P.’s 2016 crop has to offer.

2) Jon Cohn on the policy:

Lots of people seem to think the dominant storylines about Wednesday night’s Republican primary debate are Marco Rubio’s smooth delivery, Jeb Bush’s weak attempt to knock Rubio off his game, and the supposed incompetence of the CNBC moderators.

If you care about substance, however, the main takeaway was how little candor the candidates showed when talking about policy.

Over and over again, the GOP contenders on stage in Boulder, Colorado, made misleading claims about important economic issues. And when the moderators confronted the candidates with their contradictions or misstatements, the candidates responded by attacking the media — and fibbing a little more.

[Plenty of examples of each candidate shamelessly lying and distorting]

None of this may matter. The early verdict is that Rubio won, because he showed “poise, seriousness, and passion.” Pundits are describing the CNBC moderator performance as an “epic fail.” And maybe that points to an inherent problem with trying to ask substantive questions in televised debates: Candidates willing to bend or even deny the truth can get away with it, as long as they do so shamelessly and the audience roars with approval.

3) Chait:

The debate allowed the candidates mostly to agree with each other and against the moderators, whom they especially resented for their intrusions of reality. A recurring trope was for candidates, when presented with uncomfortable facts, to simply deny them.  [emphases mine] (Becky Quick: “You’d have to cut — you’d have to cut government about 40 percent to make it work with a $1.1 trillion hole.” Ben Carson: “That’s not true.”) …

This is the sort of exchange that will be replayed endlessly in the general election, since the entire Republican field is unified on the necessity of regressive, debt-financed tax cuts as the centerpiece of their economic strategy. Predictably, when the subject changed from revenue to outlay, the candidates’ moods shifted suddenly from the insouciant conviction that the budget can withstand the loss of trillions of dollars in revenue to rabid parsimony. All the retirement programs are going broke, in dire need of cutting — for younger people, not for current recipients! — and backed by worthless IOUs. Republicans agree that no connection can be made between the federal government’s revenue levels and the levels of social spending it can afford to maintain…

What the candidates agreed upon above all else is that any intrusions into their alternate reality represent a gross offense by the liberal media.

4) A similar take from Jordan Weissman:

That, essentially, is the state of Republican policy discourse these days—a debate that’s mostly about signaling conservative bona fides rather than detailing a realistic way one might actually run a country. Ben Carson says he’s in favor of a tithing-inspired flat tax of about 15 percent, which he will somehow balance out by cutting “fat” from the government. Ted Cruz is promising a flat tax of 10 percent. Both would likely cost trillions. But compared with Bush’s or Rubio’s plans, they only look like a slight ratcheting up of the crazy…

And ultimately, GOP candidates have little reason to offer something more serious. Impolite questions from journalists don’t matter much, since the GOP base doesn’t trust the mainstream media. They matter even less when party opinion-makers like Norquist and Kudlow are happy to bless the most radical ideas that come down the pipeline. Meanwhile, few of the candidates either want to or have standing to criticize their opponents. One exception is Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has decided to pitch himself as the realistic Republican, and who spent Wednesday’s debate lambasting his fellow candidates for their “fantasy tax schemes.” But so far, the man has made zero headway in the polls. Right now, voters seem to prefer fiction.

5) Cassidy again:

Did any of the candidates detail how they would pay for their huge tax giveaways? Of course not. Relying on the discredited arguments of supply-side economics, a few of them did say that reductions in tax rates would produce a much higher rate of economic growth, which would boost tax revenues. Carson talked vaguely about eliminating some tax deductions. Carly Fiorina said that she would reduce the mammoth U.S. tax code to three pages. Ted Cruz said that his plan would allow people to file their tax returns on a postcard.

It was left to John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, who is seeking to position himself as the voice of sanity in the asylum, to state the obvious: “You know, these plans would put us trillions and trillions of dollars in debt…. Why don’t we just give a chicken in every pot, while we’re, you know, coming up—coming up with these fantasy tax schemes.” Referring to proposals to clean up the tax code, Kasich went on: “We’ll just clean it up. Where are you gonna clean it up? You have to deal with entitlements; you have to be in a position to control discretionary spending. You gotta be creative and imaginative.”

In a better world, Kasich would be rewarded for his honesty. As it is, the Real Clear Politics poll average indicates that he has the support of just 2.6 per cent of potential Republican voters.

6) Jamelle Bouie in response to RNC head complaint about the CNBC moderators:

Which brings us back to Priebus’ letter. The problem isn’t that CNBC engaged in “gotcha” questions meant to “embarrass” the Republican candidates. It’s that any serious look is a fatal blow to GOP plans and proposals, which don’t deliver on promised substance. Trump can’t deport millions of immigrants; Carson can’t raise enough revenue to fund the federal government; and the “middle-class” tax plans of Bush, Rubio, and others showermost of their benefits on the rich. And as long as this is true, GOP candidates will have a hard time with all but the most friendly moderators.

7) And we’ll give Andy Borowitz the last word:

New G.O.P. Debate Format Forbids Questions About Things Candidates Said, Did


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