Browsing the blog archives for January, 2010.


Know Nothings and Do Nothings

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Obama Administration

Frank Rich writes,

The historian Alan Brinkley has observed that we will soon enter the fourth decade in which Congress — and therefore government as a whole — has failed to deal with any major national problem, from infrastructure to education.

I’d very much like to read Professor Brinkley’s analysis of why that is true. Rich blames political polarization, the corruptions of special interest, and a lack of leadership in Congress and in particular the Senate. I think most of us would agree with Rich’s analysis.

But, while I couldn’t find Brinkley’s precise argument about why Congress is so ineffectual, there are clues to his thinking in an op ed he wrote in September 2008. In “The Party’s Over,” Brinkley discusses the role political parties played in government in the past and says that role fundamentally has changed in the past 40 years. The problem, he says, is that we’re moving into a post-partisan world.

That’s way out of line with conventional wisdom, but hear him out. Before the 1960s, Brinkley says, party loyalty played a stabilizing role in American politics. This was partly because party loyalty was more important to most Americans than ideology.

The two major parties in the late 19th century had few policy differences and, on the whole, shared a common, conservative philosophy; but that was of little importance to the way in which the political process worked. Few voters seemed to care. They were not much committed to their candidates, but they were passionately committed to their parties — in much the same way many people today care about baseball or football teams. Party loyalty, like fan loyalty today, had little to do with most people’s economic or social interests, but it inspired great passion nevertheless.

The two major parties, whether Whigs and Federalists or Democrats and Republicans, both represented a spectrum of opinions and positions. Generally, IMO, one party tended to skew more or less progressive than the other, but this role relative to the other party shifted over time. A century ago, for example, the Republican Party on the whole was the more progressive of the two.

Also, conventional wisdom about each party’s proclivities shift over time. For example, I remember adults of the 1950s and 1960s stoutly declaring that Democrats liked to start wars to boost the economy. I haven’t heard that one lately.

The point is that in the past a political party was not expected to be as rigidly and narrowly ideological as we seem to want them to be today. In fact, Brinkley says, through most of American history the parties were a “bulwark against factional anarchy.” Because each party enjoyed robust and reliable support from a citizen base while representing a spectrum of views, “reaching across the aisle” was not so difficult nor so politically perilous.

Further, before the 1960s it was usually the case that the president and the congressional majority were of the same party, and the president’s party played a vital role in ensuring their president had a successful administration. Ultimately, his political success was their political success as well.

Now, you’ve got one party that has locked itself in a tiny ideological box, to the point that it cannot be worked with. President Obama spoke to this on Friday —

I’m not suggesting that we’re going to agree on everything, whether it’s on health care or energy or what have you, but if the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don’t have a lot of room to negotiate with me.

I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable in your own base, in your own party. You’ve given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion because what you’ve been telling your constituents is, this guy is doing all kinds of crazy stuff that’s going to destroy America.

I saw some rightie blog posts that called out this remark, and the bloggers clearly were baffled by it. They had no idea what Obama was saying here. But of course, the President is exactly right. The Republicans have done such a good job persuading the party base that Democrats are the Devil Incarnate that a Republican who compromises with them at all is risking his career. Conceding so much as half a stale doughnut to a Democrat can get a Republican targeted to be taken out in the next primary by somebody more rigid and uncompromising.

Meanwhile, the Dems have turned into the “every man for himself” party. Their personal political careers are no longer tied to their president’s success. They’ll support him if and when it is politically expedient to do so. They’ll turn against him if and when it is politically expedient to do so. This leaves the President in a weakened and more vulnerable position than were presidents of the past. It also set the stage for a handful of Democratic senators to sink the party’s signature legislative issue, health care reform, without fear of punishment.

“Today, untethered from the party system, many voters seize increasingly not on issues that affect their lives, but on whatever simply catches their interest — inflammatory social issues, personalities, and even lapel pins,” Brinkley writes. Beneath that, IMO, is a kind of ideological tribalism that is in many ways more primitive than the party loyalties of the past. No issue — lapel pins are an example — is so trivial it can’t be turned into an effective dog whistle.

However, these days on the Right the dog whistles aren’t coming from the party as much as from right-wing media personalities and their corporate sponsors. IMO the departure of Karl Rove left a vacuum that no one within the party was able to fill, and the Koch Foundation et al. were all too happy to charge in and fill the void.

Both parties are guilty of being more responsive to special interests than to their constituents, but at the moment the actual leadership of the Republican Party is almost irrelevant. Weirdly, as we see in the “tea party” movement, the Party’s lemming base is more loyal to the special interests than they are to the party. Or, at least, the special interests are doing a better job of dog-whistling these days, and they are no longer relying on the GOP to do their dog whistling for them.

Thanks to right-wing media and the phenomena of astroturfing, the Powers That Be can manipulate the base directly without the GOP having to be involved. But of course this puts elected Republicans in an even tighter box, since they have no following except by the grace of the Corporate/Media Overlords. This is another reason why softening their positions and working with Democrats even a little bit is political suicide for Republicans.

The Dems have the opposite problem, since much of what might be the national Democratic Party base is actually at odds with the corporate powers and occasionally at odds with some legislators’ more conservative voter base. Further, I don’t think Washington Dems count on progressives to be all that reliable a base. So individual Dems make individual calculations about how “progressive” they can allow themselves to be and still be re-elected. And, as I said, since party loyalty is no longer a determining factor in elections, it is less and less a determining factor in individual Democrats’ legislative positions.

So, while the Republicans are rendered dysfunctional by being locked in a tiny ideological box, Dems are rendered dysfunctional by a lack of cohesion — the party of Know Nothings and the party of Do Nothings.

Whenever I bring up parties some genius always chirps that what we need is a third party. Beside the fact that third parties can’t win national elections in the U.S., I think this is a variation on Sara Robinson’s third fallacy — the belief that the key to enacting progressive legislation is packing Congress with politicians who think the way we do. If we don’t do something to change the nation’s political culture, there is no reason to believe such a party would be any more effectual than the Dems are now, because that third party would soon fall prey to the same corruptions that got to the Dems.

It’s clear to me that a matrix of reforms is needed to restore the government to something approximating competence, including media reform as well as reform of governmental institutions. I still fear things haven’t gotten bad enough yet to make such reform possible.

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Cro Magnon Republicans

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Obama Administration

All the buzz is that President Obama mopped the floor with House Republicans yesterday at the Republican retreat in Baltimore. It was so good that Fox News cut away to begin presentation of the predetermined Republican rebuttal talking points a full 20 minutes early.

Marc Ambinder:

Accepting the invitation to speak at the House GOP retreat may turn out to be the smartest decision the White House has made in months. Debating a law professor is kind of foolish: the Republican House Caucus has managed to turn Obama’s weakness — his penchant for nuance — into a strength. Plenty of Republicans asked good and probing questions, but Mike Pence, among others, found their arguments simply demolished by the president. (By the way: can we stop with the Obama needs a teleprompter jokes?)

More than the State of the Union — or on top of the State of the Union — this may be a pivotal moment for the future of the presidential agenda on Capitol Hill. (Democrats are loving this. Chris Hayes, The Nation’s Washington bureau chief, tweeted that he hadn’t liked Obama more since the inauguration.)

During the presidential campaign, it was John McCain who proposed a form of the British Prime Ministers’ questions for the president. It was derided as a gimmick. This is no gimmick. I have not seen a better and perhaps more productive political discussion in this country in…a long time. 90 minutes worth!

The full video and transcript are here. Much of the question-and-answer part can be boiled down Republicans claiming they have better ideas and plans for solving the nation’s problems, and Obama saying that yes, I’ve seen your ideas and plans, and they sound grand, but nobody can tell me how they’ll work in the real world.

Here’s just a snip:

CONGRESSMAN PENCE: [Speaks to high unemployment and the President’s stimulus bill] … Now, Republicans offered a stimulus bill at the same time. It cost half as much as the Democratic proposal in Congress, and using your economic analyst models, it would have created twice the jobs at half the cost. It essentially was across-the-board tax relief, Mr. President. …

PRESIDENT OBAMA: [Discussion of what the stimulus bill accomplished] … And the notion that I would somehow resist doing something that cost half as much but would produce twice as many jobs — why would I resist that? I wouldn’t. I mean, that’s my point, is that — I am not an ideologue. I’m not. It doesn’t make sense if somebody could tell me you could do this cheaper and get increased results that I wouldn’t say, great. The problem is, I couldn’t find credible economists who would back up the claims that you just made.

Elsewhere, responding to the claim that the GOP has a great health care reform proposal —

It’s not enough if you say, for example, that we’ve offered a health care plan and I look up — this is just under the section that you’ve just provided me, or the book that you just provided me — summary of GOP health care reform bill: The GOP plan will lower health care premiums for American families and small businesses, addressing America’s number-one priority for health reform. I mean, that’s an idea that we all embrace. But specifically it’s got to work. I mean, there’s got to be a mechanism in these plans that I can go to an independent health care expert and say, is this something that will actually work, or is it boilerplate?

If I’m told, for example, that the solution to dealing with health care costs is tort reform, something that I’ve said I am willing to work with you on, but the CBO or other experts say to me, at best, this could reduce health care costs relative to where they’re growing by a couple of percentage points, or save $5 billion a year, that’s what we can score it at, and it will not bend the cost curve long term or reduce premiums significantly — then you can’t make the claim that that’s the only thing that we have to do. If we’re going to do multi-state insurance so that people can go across state lines, I’ve got to be able to go to an independent health care expert, Republican or Democrat, who can tell me that this won’t result in cherry-picking of the healthiest going to some and the least healthy being worse off.

So I am absolutely committed to working with you on these issues, but it can’t just be political assertions that aren’t substantiated when it comes to the actual details of policy. Because otherwise, we’re going to be selling the American people a bill of goods. I mean, the easiest thing for me to do on the health care debate would have been to tell people that what you’re going to get is guaranteed health insurance, lower your costs, all the insurance reforms; we’re going to lower the costs of Medicare and Medicaid and it won’t cost anybody anything. That’s great politics, it’s just not true.

So there’s got to be some test of realism in any of these proposals, mine included. I’ve got to hold myself accountable, and guaranteed the American people will hold themselves — will hold me accountable if what I’m selling doesn’t actually deliver.

Here’s a partial video:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The thing is, I doubt very much if the extremist ideologues who make up the “House GOP” actually understand that a stack of paper containing bullet points that repeat the words “common-sense” and “affordable” a lot are not the same thing as a real policy proposal. The House GOP actually has a website called “GOP Solutions” that amounts to prettily presented air. Here’s the health care reform page, for example. It’s all unsubstantiated claims.

Do you remember the Bush Administration’s “strategy for victory in Iraq,” released with great fanfare in late 2005? (It doesn’t seem to be online any more, or at least my old link to it doesn’t work.) I wrote at the time that the thing presented no strategy at all; it was just a list of goals with no indication of how those goals would be achieved. I also said at the time that I doubted the Bush Administration had any clue what a real strategy looked like.

When I was a child I had a picture book about paleolithic cave paintings. The author speculated that Cro Magnon artists drew many, many pictures of game animals in caves to make game animals abundant. It was magic, see. I think the GOP is working on the same principle — produce many, many stacks of paper with many, many bulleted lists saying your plan will make everything better without costing any money, and it will magically happen.

Update: Reaction from the Right — Gateway Pundit writes a blog post titled “ANGRY Obama Lashes Out at House Republicans– Tells Them ‘I Am Not an Ideologue’ (Video).” Then he writes, “Look at how ANGRY he is while speaking to the House Republicans:” and posts this video —

Um, I’m not seeing any anger. The President is speaking truthfully but patiently. Of course, to Gateway Pundit he must be angry, because he is (1) a leftie (in a wingnut’s mind) and (2) black. But by dismissing the President as being “angry” he doesn’t have to address the substance of what he said.

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Elsewhere on the Web

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blogging

Mahablog “regular” Doug Hughes has a really good article published at Hub Pages. Check it out.

Also: Some justice for Dr. George Tiller:

A jury deliberated for 37 minutes Friday before finding Scott Roeder guilty of premeditated, first-degree murder. The 51-year-old Kansas City, Mo., man faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

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WaPo Keeps It Trivial

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Obama Administration

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post writes at length about the SOTU Citizens United Justice Alito controversy. Mind you, there’s no discussion whatsoever of Citizens United; just back and forth about who dissed whom. Typical.

David Savage has a similar article at the Los Angeles Times, but at least Savage provides some background on what the Citizens United case is about and lets us know there is genuine controversy over the decision.

One of the weirder comments today is from Adam Winkler, who tells us soothingly that Alito was right

Alito was right. The president was wrong about the Supreme Court decision. Obama said, “Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.” …

…There are a lot of grounds to criticize the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decision. It will allow corporations to spend shareholder money to influence the election of candidates many of those shareholders don’t support. And it does open up a loophole that allows foreign corporations to influence federal elections through their U.S. subsidiaries.

So how is Alito “right”?

But the Court did not overturn “a century of law.” The provision upended by the Court was only seven years old. It was a novel innovation of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law adopted during the Bush Administration.

Oh, is that all? The thing about opening up a loophole to allow foreign corporations influence U.S. elections is not a concern?

David Savage writes that the Citizens United ruling did strike down a century of law:

Since 1907, Congress has prohibited corporations from using their money “directly or indirectly” to elect candidates for federal office. After World War II, Congress extended this ban to labor unions and made it clear that the ban applied to independent election spending, not just contributions to a candidate.

But last week’s decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission struck down this election spending ban. “The 1st Amendment does not permit . . . these categorical distinctions based on the corporate identity of the speaker,” said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

I’ve yet to see anyone explain how the ruling would not allow foreign corporations to influence elections, and IMO the idea that this case will somehow enable the free speech of the common person seems to me to be hallucinatory. All we get from the Right is knee jerk affirmation that the ruling is Good.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of smart people who are opposed to Citizens United and clearly state their reasons why. These include Justice Stevens, who said in his dissent that the ruling “would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans.”

Joe Conason says that Alito so much as acknowledged that the ruling would allow interference by foreign corporations, but is OK with that.

“Well, Mr. Olson,” he [Alito] asked, “do you think that media corporations that are owned or principally owned by foreign shareholders have less First Amendment rights than other media corporations in the United States?” Replied Olson, “I don’t think so, Justice Alito, and certainly there is no record to suggest that there is any kind of problem based upon that.”

No problem with foreign-owned media corporations publishing and broadcasting in the United States, perhaps — although some critics have wondered from time to time whether the Washington Times and the Unification Church were acting as instruments of a foreign power. But if foreign-owned corporations possess fully the same rights as citizens to participate in elections under the majority decision — as Olson and Alito indicated — then we could face a serious problem indeed.

But of course, the Libertarians at Reason magazine think this is just dandy, because they love liberty so much. Now global corporate interests have more freedom to manipulate our elections.

One other thing — several writers, including Barnes and Savage, recall that Senator Obama was adamantly opposed to confirming Alito, and that Alito has snubbed the President ever since. Corrupt and petty; no wonder Republicans love Alito.

See also Eric Alterman, “Court Disposes, Media Yawn.”

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Mean Girls

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Social Issues

This is not the sort of story I usually blog about, but I found it deeply disturbing.

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Who Dissed Whom?

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Obama Administration, Supreme Court

I missed it last night, but when President Obama brought up the Citizens United case during last night’s SOTU address, Justice Alito shook his head and mouthed, “not true.” Exactly what wasn’t true is a matter of some dispute, but I’ll come back to that later.

This morning the the question that has become a partisan litmus test is, was the Justice being rude to the President? Or was the President being rude to the Justice?

Some headlines today say that the Justice “dissed” the President. There have been some comparisons between Alito’s “not true” and last year’s Joe Wilson “you lie” episode.

According to others, however, the chief executive was being way too uppity disrespectful toward the Judicial branch. According to Randy Barnett, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center,

In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds Congressmen? To call upon the Congress to countermand (somehow) by statute a constitutional decision, indeed a decision applying the First Amendment? What can this possibly accomplish besides alienating Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion being attacked. Contrary to what we heard during the last administration, the Court may certainly be the object of presidential criticism without posing any threat to its independence. But this was a truly shocking lack of decorum and disrespect towards the Supreme Court for which an apology is in order. A new tone indeed.

To answer Professor Barnett’s questions, apparently presidents have called out the Supreme Court during SOTU addresses before, although it’s certainly very unusual. According to Tony Mauro of the BLT: Blog of the Legal Times,

In 1988 President Ronald Reagan made an indirect jab at the Court’s school prayer rulings when he said, “And let me add here: So many of our greatest statesmen have reminded us that spiritual values alone are essential to our nation’s health and vigor. The Congress opens its proceedings each day, as does the Supreme Court, with an acknowledgment of the Supreme Being. Yet we are denied the right to set aside in our schools a moment each day for those who wish to pray. I believe Congress should pass our school prayer amendment.” In the same speech Reagan also urged the Senate to confirm Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court — the very justice whose handiwork in Citizens United Obama was criticizing.

Also,

President Warren Harding in 1922 also urged passage of a constitutional amendment to counteract Supreme Court rulings — the decisions that placed child labor “outside the proper domain of federal regulation,” as he put it. Harding added, “We ought to amend [the Constitution] to meet the demands of the people when sanctioned by deliberate public opinion.”

Also,

An alert reader notes that in his January 1937 State of the Union address, Roosevelt criticized the Supreme Court without using those words. Upset that the Court had thwarted his efforts to pull the nation out of the Depression, Roosevelt a month later introduced his ultimately unsuccessful “court-packing” plan that would have allowed him to expand membership of the Court and add justices of his own choosing. Here is what Roosevelt said in his State of the Union address: “The Judicial branch also is asked by the people to do its part in making democracy successful. We do not ask the Courts to call non-existent powers into being, but we have a right to expect that conceded powers or those legitimately implied shall be made effective instruments for the common good. The process of our democracy must not be imperiled by the denial of essential powers of free government.”

So while the President may have spoken a bit more plainly and directly than presidents have in the past, what he said was not completely unprecedented.

Still, Bradley A. Smith at NRO has the vapors.

Tonight the president engaged in demogoguery of the worst kind, when he claimed that last week’s Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, “open[ed] the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.”

The president’s statement is false.

Um, maybe not. Zachary Roth, TPM Muckraker:

The ruling affirms that corporations, like individuals, have a free-speech right to spend unlimited amounts from their general treasuries on ad campaigns that support or oppose political candidates. It’s true that foreign nationals are currently prohibited by law from making independent expenditures in U.S. elections. But that prohibition has little teeth. According to experts, it doesn’t apply to foreign-owned corporations that incorporate in the U.S., or have U.S. subsidiaries — meaning most foreign multinationals likely aren’t covered. So there’s “essentially no difference” between domestic and foreign corporations in terms of their ability to pump money into U.S. elections, says Lisa Gilbert of U.S. PIRG — a view backed by several other advocates of increased regulation.

I don’t understand how anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of today’s global economy doesn’t know that corporations straddle national boundaries and can have global memberships. One wonders if Sam Alito goes to work in a horse-drawn buggy.

And while I think the Supremes owe the American people an apology — even a Jimmy Swaggart-style public groveling — I don’t think the President and the Justice owe apologies to each other. They’re both big boys. They can take a little dissing.

Also worthy of note: Tweety’s WTF Moment.

Update:I just Remembered Chris Matthews Was White

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SOTU Live Blog

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Obama Administration

State of the UnionThe White House has released a partial transcript.

I understand Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will give the Republican response. If anyone wants to stay put and comment on that, feel free. Here’s the release of McDonnell’s text. I’m still looking for the official SOTU text.

Here’s a question — isn’t it a bit weird for Supreme Court justices to wear their robes when they aren’t on the bench? I guess they do, but seems strange to me. It’s not like a priest’s robe or military uniform.

These are the times that try men’s souls. Answer history’s call. Yes, let’s.

Why is Washington unable or unwilling to solve our problems? And what’s up with the shouting, pettiness, etc.?

“Numbing weight of our politics” — good phrase. Now what are we going to do about it?

So far this speech is not working for me. I think the American people are getting tired of being told how decent and hard working they are.

We are unified! We all hate bankers!

Message: Everything sucks, but if it weren’t for me everything would suck worse. I think this is true, but I’m not feeling warm and fuzzy about it.

Stick it to bankers!

Republicans only applaud Republican tax cuts. Democratic tax cuts don’t count.

Small business loans — should be popular.

Sorry — dozed off. Jobs. OK.

Financial reform. OK, MSNBC cameras went to Senator Dodd as soon as Obama mentioned financial reform. Ouch.

Hey, the Republicans like nuclear power plants! Even better than tax cuts! Oil and gas development!

Disagree with “overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.” Nice dig.

Finally, here’s the complete text.

“To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer-subsidies that go to banks for student loans.”

Yes! Steps to reduce the student loan debt on the young folks. Very good.

Health insurance reform. Sigh.

“Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, this process left most Americans wondering what’s in it for them.”

Partly your fault, Mr. President.

He added a line to the paragraph above about taking his share of the blame.

I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber.

I hope this signals he is going to get more engaged in pushing this.

We’re past the halfway point in the text, btw.

Am I hearing some boos?

We cannot continue tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers, and those making more than $250,000 a year. We just can’t afford it. Works for me.

I’m still leery of the spending freeze and “bipartisan fiscal commission.”

Mention of Citizens United. Yeah, with some of the bums sitting right there in front of him.

Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.

Oh, they’re all against those awful earmarks. I guess the earmark devil makes them do it.

I’m going to guess the pundits will grade this speech in the C+ to B – range, except on Fox News, where it will of course have completely failed.

Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership.

In other news, I see that Peg is whining that I was mean to her. Poor baby.

He deviated from the text a bit about bringing troops home from Afghanistan. I’m not sure I caught exactly what he said.

We’re on the next to the last page, folks.

Hey, he’s repealing don’t ask, don’t tell? That’s a plus.

I campaigned on the promise of change – change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change – or at least, that I can deliver it.

But remember this – I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone. Democracy in a nation of three hundred million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That’s just how it is.

OK, but dude, you’ve got to be more visible, more engaged with what’s going on in Congress.

Anyone else want to grade this? I don’t think the speech itself will have much impact on current political momentum.

I am really, really tired and am going to tune out now, but keep talking among yourselves.

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State of the Union — Live Blog Tonight

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Obama Administration

Join us for the autopsy. BYOB.

Elsewhere — via Paul Krugman, I see that Senator Tom Udall is making proposals to change Senate rules that do not require a constitutional amendment.

The CIA guy who claimed waterboarding “worked” has retracted; says he wasn’t even there.

The Legacy of Eight Years of Conservative Rule: More teen pregnancies

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A Sweet Spot

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Something to cheer us up in an otherwise gloomy week —

Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O’Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group’s credibility.

Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, the office confirmed. All four were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

Yeah, O’Keefe was the guy who played the pimp in the infamous ACORN sting videos. I’m getting read to go out and don’t have time to see what excuses the wingnuts are cooking up for O’Keefe et al. They should be good.

Update: Fox News is looking for “context.” Snort.

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Today’s Agenda

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Obama Administration

Item One: Please visit Amygdala, and if you the means, please send Gary some support. It’s a fact that as a culture we’re still living in the Dark Ages as far as mental and mood disorders are concerned, and if you are hampered by such the world cuts you no slack. It’s why a lot of us end up, shall we say, financially challenged.

Item Two: WTF? For pro and con on the looming domestic spending freeze, see Matt Yglesias (trying to put the best face on it) and Brad DeLong (“Barack Herbert Hoover Obama?”) Robert Reich thinks it’s a huge mistake. Paul Krugman hasn’t weighed in yet, but I expect him to be shrill. [Update: Yep, pretty much.]

And may I say, I really wish I didn’t have so many ties to the community here, or I’d seriously consider relocating to another country before it’s too late. Maybe I can get everyone else to move with me.

Item Three: A couple of days ago I ran into a post written by a Buddhist on a conservative blog, and it was one of the more surreal things I’ve seen on the Web lately. I posted a comment on it in the forum on the Buddhism website, and if you feel inclined to discuss it, please go there. It’s funnier if you understand Buddhist doctrine, but even if you don’t I’m sure you can still see the weirdness.

The funniest part, to me, is that the author attributes her conversion to political conservatism to the teachings of the late Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche. The Rinpoche was many outrageous things, but conservative wasn’t one of them.

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