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What would Alexis de Tocqueville think of democracy in America in 2014? How would Thomas Jefferson describe it? I doubt that either man would know what to make of the fact that one mind-numbingly greedy gnome might have the power to anoint the next Republican nominee for president.

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Here's my theory: Rick Perry was in New York City once and saw grownups wearing rain gear and riding on big red trucks and hooking up hoses every time a measly block of houses caught fire. And he said to himself, firefighting is for sissies, I refuse to waste another dime on it. A real man, a Texas man, puts out his own fire, or he shoots holes in it and watches it burn.

Perry is anti-fire departments, even when the firefighters aren't getting paid. From The Raw Story:    

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For months Obama loyalists at places like Daily Kos have argued against the evidence of their own senses. They insisted critics were wrong to call the president weak and rudderless. They remained confident Obama would stop caving and call the bluff of the wing-nuts who were threatening actions that would lead to default on the national debt.

The true believers were way off, probably because they couldn’t, and can’t, admit Obama has turned out to be exactly the wrong person to lead the fight against Republicans determined to use the debt issue to destroy the social safety net and maintain huge tax breaks for the rich. The loyalists will keep the faith even though, as Paul Krugman wrote today:

   

The deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.
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If political betrayals were base hits, Barack Obama would be approaching the record for hits in most consecutive games. This week he kept the streak going by not nominating Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal agency she willed into being over the past year, allegedly because he's sure Republicans would block her appointment.

This was a sad development for American consumers, but I couldn't help noticing how many liberal readers on this site hemmed and hawed and then swallowed whole the rationale for Obama's decision. On Tuesday, Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism summed up the situation in a piece called "Why Liberals Are Lame, Part 3":

What little remains of the left seems to be rallying around Elizabeth Warren, which given the dearth of prominent figures who are serious about standing up for middle class Americans, as opposed to pandering to them and then selling them out, isn’t a bad impulse per se. But they are deploying their energies in quixotic missions or worse, falling completely in line with the Administration’s plan, which has been to... box [Warren] in and render her incapable of independent operation. And in case you wonder what I am talking about, I mean the plan, concocted by the Democratic Party hackocracy, for her to run for the Senate seat now occupied by Scott Brown.
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Here's Paul Krugman last week in The New York Times, urging Barack Obama "to draw a line in the sand" regarding the debt ceiling issue:

So what’s really going on is extortion pure and simple. As Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute puts it, the G.O.P. has, in effect, come around with baseball bats and declared, “Nice economy you have here. A real shame if something happened to it.”

And the reason Republicans are doing this is because they must believe that it will work: Mr. Obama caved in over tax cuts, and they expect him to cave again. They believe that they have the upper hand, because the public will blame the president for the economic crisis they’re threatening to create. In fact, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that G.O.P. leaders actually want the economy to perform badly.

Republicans believe, in short, that they’ve got Mr. Obama’s number, that he may still live in the White House but that for practical purposes his presidency is already over. It’s time — indeed, long past time — for him to prove them wrong.

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You may have noticed that more and more social critics are looking at the future and seeing very few smiley faces. Here's Frank Rich's take on the end of the world as we know it:

What haunts the Obama administration is what still haunts the country: the stunning lack of accountability for the greed and misdeeds that brought America to its gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression. There has been no legal, moral, or financial reckoning for the most powerful wrongdoers. Nor have there been meaningful reforms that might prevent a repeat catastrophe. Time may heal most wounds, but not these. Chronic unemployment remains a constant, painful reminder of the havoc inflicted on the bust’s innocent victims. As the ghost of Hamlet’s father might have it, America will be stalked by its foul and unresolved crimes until they “are burnt and purged away."

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Here's Robert Reich, talking to the wall again, trying to tell Democratic politicians what they must do to lead the way to economic recovery and prevent Republicans from creating an even worse downturn than the one that has plagued us since 2008:

Americans are scared, with reason. We're in a vicious cycle in which lower wages and net job losses and high debt are causing consumers to cut their spending - which is causing businesses to cut back on hiring and reduce pay. There's no way out of this morass without bold leadership from Washington to rekindle consumer demand.

If the Democrats remain silent, the vacuum will be filled by the Republican snake oil of federal spending cuts and cut taxes on big corporations and the wealthy. Democrats - starting with the President - must have the courage and conviction to tell the nation the recovery is stalling, and what must be done.

Reich even made a video that explains why the recession persists, so succinct even a Tea Partier could understand, if he or she was interested in understanding.

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It's not because he embraced the nickname King James and has "Chosen1" tattooed on his back. It's because he's too arrogant or stupid (same thing?) to resist demeaning basketball fans who rooted against him during the NBA Finals. This is how James, in sore-loser mode, put it after his team lost:

...At the end of the day, all the people that was rooting on me to fail . . . they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal, but they have to get back to the real world at some point.

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Michael Smerconish in The Philadelphia's Inquirer, inadvertently shedding light on why the mainstream media are so reluctant to bash elitist politicians:      

It was no surprise to me that Chris Christie took heat for using a state helicopter to attend his son's baseball game, but I'm not thinking of the wrath of New Jersey taxpayers. If his house is anything like mine, he has bigger problems on the home front for the poor decision he made.

Last Tuesday, Christie flew from Trenton to Montvale to watch his son Andrew play baseball in a state playoff game. Upon arrival next to the field, Christie was shuttled about 100 yards in a dark town car with tinted windows to the stands. Then, after the fifth inning, play was halted so he could depart in order to travel to Drumthwacket, the governor's mansion, to dine with some Iowans who were courting him to run for president.

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Where is Tina Fey when we need her? This question sprang to mind when I saw a Washington Post story about Sarah Palin's latest publicity stunt:

...Unless Palin decides to formally explore a possible presidential run, she is free to spend the money raised by SarahPAC for “any lawful purpose” under federal law, experts said. That means it doesn’t matter whether the trip is a holiday, a political event or something in between...

Traveling in a brightly decorated bus — which is labeled “Paid for by SARAHPAC” — Palin kicked off the “One Nation Tour” Sunday with an appearance at the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally on the Mall. Stops since then have included Mount Vernon in Virginia, the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania and the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor...

Reporters are being kept at bay throughout much of the trip, with even lodging details kept secret.

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Wed May 25, 2011 at 06:27 PM PDT

Subterranean homesick Bob

by David McKenna

I tried, but the hundred Inevitables dogged me all day. By the time I got back to the bunker the medicine man was gone and Beethoven had unwrapped a bedroll with Ma Rainey. I'd missed my chance to give Bob Dylan his props on Birthday No. 70.

No sweat, the songs are timeless. We never have to worry about missing the birthday of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," from Bringing It All Back Home, as fresh now as it was in 1965. It's a rap, a blues, an electrified protest song, a vision of the future, a time-lapsed photographic look at how easy it is to fall asleep, Rip Van Winkle-style:

...Get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don't steal, don't lift
Twenty years of schoolin'
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid...

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Here's to the Earnest Weasel, David Brooks, and all the other insiders who get paid big bucks to bloviate. Thanks, guys, for wasting thousands of words speculating that Donald Trump might end his trash-TV show and run for president. Special thanks to the clown/pundits who predicted he definitely would run. (You were one of them, Weasel.)

The mainstream media shies away from iconoclastic types but it embraces certain sideshow freaks who can be counted on to attract the attention of Middle America. Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin are only a few of the freaks who repeatedly blow the same hot air, on the birther issue and other lies, and yet never fail to make it into the news.

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