Is it strange that I’m proud of this?

Public Policy Polling, as is its habit, has a cool, unconventional poll up on its site right now, measuring the favorable/unfavorable ratios of the 50 American states.

Overall, it shows (in order) Hawaii, Colorado, Tennessee, South Dakota, and Virginia on top, and (in reverse order) California, Illinois, New Jersey, Mississippi and Utah at the bottom. The last five states are the only ones with net negative ratios (though Louisiana is close with a tie). […]

You can wander around PPI’s crosstabs from this survey for many hours, but the factor that does jump out is political ideology. California’s dismal ranking is basically driven by its heavily negative ratings from people self-identifying as “very conservative” (10/74) and “somewhat conservative” (12/65). Texas, ranking 38th, draws ratings nearly that dismal from self-identified liberals (22/56 among “very liberal” folk, and 17/59 among “somewhat liberal” respondents), but that’s offset by the ecstatic opinion of the Lone Star State among conservatives (62/9 for the “somewhat conservative;” 68/7 for the “very conservative”). Basically, conservatives love TX and hate CA more intensely than liberals feel about either.

Strange that New York has completely fallen off the radar as the conservatives’ scapegoat for all the ills of America. Back during the ’90s it would have been inconceivable that any other state would have been as hated by them. But times change I guess.

Informally, though, I have noticed the shift. Many of my red-state relatives are prone to insulting California in front of people who actually live there (i.e. us). One of my aunts kept bringing up that creep Richard Ramirez for years after he was caught, as some sort of proof that California is a twisted place. This was apparently ignoring the fact that the Plains and Midwest generate way more serial killers per capita than the West Coast does. My experiences hint to me that California hatred among right-wingers is based mostly on fear of the large and politically influential Hispanic population in the state. Ironically, Texas has much the same thing going on, but the process there is far less advanced and white folks are still largely in firm control of things. Texas is about where California was politically in the mid-1980s, so far as I can tell. And while Rick Perry has been smart enough to avoid a Prop 187-like suicide for the party among Hispanic voters, he’s not going to be there forever, and it’s only a matter of time until the fundamentals demand it happens.

In any event, I’m proud of this poll. To get that kind of hatred, we must really be scaring them.

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Surprisingly, comedies aren’t given quite as much of a raw deal as you might think. Horror films, though, really don’t stand a chance.

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And this is the key to why.

A Santorum candidacy would probably just be a longer version of the Sarah Palin section of the 2008 election, with actual sentences this time. Only difference is Palin was a genuinely magnetic figure–whether you believed she walked on water or correctly believed she was a completely ignorant trainwreck of a person, she commanded serious attention. Santorum, though, is just a sad, bitter man who can’t get over losing in 2006, has preserved the particular fights he waged at the time in amber and wants to fight them again and again, ad infinitum, as well as refighting a lot of older ones. Scattered message discipline is the hallmark of an underfunded, ad hoc political campaign, which again, shades of McCain 2008. But it’s not just that, as Alex MacGillis persuasively argues:

We talk a lot these days about Washington having been overtaken by conservative ideologues, but this is an exaggeration. Many of those glibly parroting right-wing ideology these days—say, Eric Cantor—are mere opportunists. But Rick Santorum is a rare breed—a bona fide ideologue with a fixed and coherent world view. He can’t just switch some button and turn off the social stuff and talk jobs instead. It’s all woven together. “I’m not going to go out and lay out an agenda about how we’re going to transform people’s hearts,” he said today. “But I will talk about it.” The contrast with Mitt Romney, the man who is all buttons and switches, couldn’t be any greater.

Which means that, if Santorum is the candidate, he’s going to be running on a holistic hyper-right worldview that will mystify and alienate pretty much everyone else. That’s much harder for Obama to campaign against, but luckily it will be impossible for Santorum to argue for everything to the electorate. How on Earth is he going to convince Protestants (who outnumber Catholics substantially in America) that they’re not really Christians? That’s not at all a political issue and it’s incredibly poorly suited to our soundbyte media culture to boot. Overall, the Santorum campaign doesn’t believe much in emphasizing one issue over another, modulating the impact of his statements for general public consumption, or even holding back on some of his less popular notions. Which is to say that his true enemy isn’t Romney or Obama, but the very idea of politics itself. This is why the Tea Party loves him, as it’s largely their contempt for the actual practice of politics that drives them, as opposed to the not-at-all political Great Statesmanship of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, men who were so morally pure and leader-y that they completely dominated all opponents and got every single thing they wanted when they wanted it due to that awesomeness, and none were known to make a bad call ever. It’s a complete fantasy, of course, but seductive to a lot of people on the right and some on the left too. This is why Santorum would be completely hopeless in a general election (and, God forbid, as president).


This is not the most important metric of economic success by any measure, but still a pretty significant accomplishment nonetheless. Welcome to the recovery.

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There are a lot of people out there who believe that Mitt Romney is basically a decent person with dignity and decency and everything, and that he just doesn’t think that elections ought to be taken seriously. It’s hard to reconcile a concept of Romney with dignity to this:

With just over a week to go before the Michigan primary, ABC News reports Mitt Romney “is enlisting the help of one of his highest-wattage surrogates: Donald Trump.”

“The real estate mogul is preparing to spread his pro-Romney, anti-Rick Santorum message in a series of radio interviews this week on local stations from Traverse City to Detroit.”

Is this going to convince anyone to vote Romney? Probably not. Nobody’s ever pegged the Donald as having the common touch, and aside from his ongoing birther fixation there’s little there for working-class white conservatives to have much of an interest in there. It would be one thing if Romney were trying to steal the New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut primaries away from Santorum, but Trump has no connection to Michigan or Ohio, he’s just the guy who says “You’re fired!” on the TV to everyone not in the Tri-State Area. Hard to see how he helps Romney, and it could even backfire by making him less credible with elites.

Does this reek of desperation? Of course, but Romney’s been wearing that scent so long it might as well be his cologne. And I do think there’s a fascinating angle here. Back when Romney was the unchallenged frontrunner, he declined an invitation to participate in a debate hosted by…Donald Trump, basically saying it was beneath him. Both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum agreed to participate. But, now that pretty much everyone in America has turned on poor old Mittens, he’s decided that acknowledging the unbearable orangeness of being is now hardly beneath his dignity, and failed alternative football league founder Trump is now cheerleading for the candidate who publicly snubbed him, against one of the two guys who never did, and who additionally is the one whose style he most resembles. How confusing.

What can we conclude from all this? I think (1) that Donald Trump has no memory and is making it all up as he goes along, and (2) that while I do agree that Romney is probably not a horrible person deep down, the depth of his tragic flaw (i.e. an insatiable desire for power) is practically Shakespearean, and the few scruples that he still has today will probably be out the door in a few months if things get desperate enough. He’s like Francis Urquhart without the wit and humor.


One thing I’m always interested in watching or reading are accounts of when pundits or other noteworthy people personally undergo torture techniques and talk about them. In almost every case, the end result is they wind up more skeptical of the practices than they were before. This clip of the actor Denzel Washington is pretty short, but it sure seems like that was the case after he went through it (sorry no embed, but I tried for about 10 minutes and couldn’t figure it out–it’s worth a click, I assure you).

Not that I’d ever advocate forcing Sean Hannity or Marc Thiessen to undergo torture, but maybe if they could be dared into it, possibly with some sort of Reagan-based macho contest, we could move beyond this dumb debate already and go back to when everyone agreed torture was horrible.

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Here’s what action on privatization will get you:

David Cameron has squandered the Conservatives’ new year lead as voters turn against his health reforms, according to a Guardian/ICM poll. The Tories are down by four percentage points in a single month, slipping from 40% to 36% since January.

Labour is one point ahead, on 37%, with Ed Miliband’s party up from 35% last month. The Liberal Democrats slip back two to stand at 14%, and the combined total of the smaller parties has climbed by four points, to 13%.

As the prime minister hosted a special NHS summit, which excluded the professional bodies most opposed to his health and social care bill, the public is siding with those royal medical colleges who want the legislation ditched.

An outright majority of respondents, 52%, say that the bill – which would overhaul NHS management, increase competition and give family doctors more financial responsibility – should be dropped. That is against 33% who believe it is better to stick with the plans at this stage.

Which is to say, push more costs onto providers and introduce some kind of a Medicare Advantage-like program to complement, shall we say, the NHS (MA “competed” with Medicare at 150% the cost or so). But once again, the lesson is reaffirmed that steps toward privatization just aren’t going to be stomached by the voters of this or really any other electorate.

As usual, the worst news here is for the Liberal Democrats. But this would be a golden opportunity to tear their misbegotten alliance asunder, if they wanted to. Whatever the logic behind it at first, it’s pretty clear that the new Tories are essentially the same as the old Tories, only with dumber leadership. Even Thatcher never messed with the NHS. Clegg must have decided to go all-in with this alliance, hoping things will get better before it’s too late, but as we Democrats have learned here in the US, passively waiting for the economy to get better isn’t where you want to be in politics.