Friday Talking Points [122] -- Bikini Bottom Update

Since it's the Friday after month's-end, the new monthly unemployment numbers were released today. Which adds another bar to the "bikini bottom" chart. Now, the measure of how many people know exactly what this means is exactly the measure of how well Democrats are getting the "jobs" message out. Because, as I've said previously, this chart should be front and center in the Democrats' campaigns this year.

The chart to which I refer, of course, is the chart which shows jobs lost and gained since George Bush started his last year in office. It's pretty easy to understand, which is what makes it such a great chart, politically (more on the political aspects of the chart later, in the Friday Talking Points section). It is named for the shape the graph makes, which looks somewhat reminiscent (to those with overactive imaginations) of a bikini bottom. Here is this month's updated chart, from Organizing For America:

But we're running into a problem, here. To put it simply, this chart needs a new name. Now, I have been a strong supporter of calling it the "bikini bottom" chart up until now, for three reasons: (1) it's suggestive without being overly salacious, (2) it has been descriptive of the slopes of the trendlines up until now (it's easy to understand the name, in other words -- just look at it!), and (3) for the gratuitous SpongeBob SquarePants reference. Sadly, though, (2) is becoming less and less true.

Now, some have tried to shorten the name already by merely calling it the "bikini" graph, but this is inaccurate (and we certainly don't want to confuse anybody). A true graph which looked like a bikini (top and bottom, in other words) would be a strange graph indeed, and likely some sort of non-linear equation to boot, if the midriff area were truly bare. Ahem. The only way to properly shorten the term (while keeping its self-referential qualities intact) would be to call it a "monokini" graph, but this would likely be confusing as well, since so few Americans have been exposed (pun intended) to the French "monokini" on their local beaches. A monokini, for those interested, is a "topless" bikini. Which, as I said, is why we don't see too many of them on American beaches, although they are common enough on the Côte d'Azur. I suppose you could call it a "panty" graph, but that (in my opinion) would cross over the boundaries of salaciousness, since bikini bottoms are assumably for public consumption (so to speak, viewing-wise), whereas panties quite simply are not. Also, if you called it anything other than a bikini bottom graph, you wouldn't get (3) in my list above, since Bikini Bottom (as everyone knows) is where SpongeBob SquarePants lives.

But now, alas, the graph is growing something next to the bikini bottom shape. Meaning that, as time goes on (and the jobs picture assumably improves), the graph is going to look less and less like a single bikini bottom. So, I'm open to suggestions as to what to rename this chart. "Valley deep, mountain high"? Well, that's not very good, I admit, which is why I'm throwing it open to suggestion. What to call the newly-shaped jobs chart? Let me know your ideas, in the comments.

Other, non-bikini, things were happening last week, as well. President Obama made some funny jokes at the annual White House Correspondents' yuk-fest, including one he probably regretted a few days later, about sending a Predator drone after the Jonas Brothers if they got any ideas about his daughters. OK, the joke got a laugh, but then days later a man tried to bomb Times Square and the media reported (although largely speculatively, from what I can tell) that his motivation was his opposition to such drone missile attacks in Pakistan. Like I said, not very funny at all.

The Brits held an election, and nobody's sure what it means. In America, the primary election season rolls along, with mixed results. I wrote about what it all means to the Tea Party folks and the Republican Party earlier this week, since I find such factionalism fascinating, but honesty dictates that factionalism is causing some problems on the Democratic side of things as well. A special election in Hawai'i has shaped up into a three-way race with two Democrats splitting the normally-reliably-Democratic vote there, meaning the Republican candidate may walk away with the House seat as a result (two Democrats are in the race because, being a special election, there was no primary election to weed the field down). Blue Dog Senator Blanche Lincoln is in a Democratic primary fight with a more progressive challenger in Arkansas. And Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter is now neck-and-neck in the polls with his Democratic primary challenger, who is running a very effective ad against Specter which accuses him (quite believably, since Specter did used to be a Republican, after all) of sheer political opportunism.

I also have to admit being massively wrong about predicting the imminent resignation of Rahm Emanuel a while back (in FTP [114]), although his top aide did just resign, so make of that what you will.

Another sanctimonious anti-gay-rights icon was found to have spent a vacation in Europe with a man he found on "," proving once again that those most interested in regulating the behavior of their neighbors probably shouldn't be throwing quite so many stones when it comes to what they do in their own (glass) bedrooms.

To top it all off, this month is the fiftieth anniversary of both The Pill and the L.A.S.E.R. In honor of its golden anniversary, we present the acronym as it originally appeared, long before it just became an ordinary word (much like "scuba" did). Yes, the Lightwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation is 50 next week. Good thing they got rid of the minor letters in that, otherwise we'd be celebrating the anniversary of the "labseor," which just doesn't trip off the tongue quite so nicely. When the laser was invented, it was called "a solution in search of a problem," because the scientists couldn't really come up with any great ideas as to what to use the dang thing for, other than the most accurate measuring system ever. Nowadays, lasers are so common you can buy one for a few bucks and then go out and annoy people at the movies with it... after (of course) you pay for it at a cash register that uses another laser to read the bar code. Lasers are, indeed, everywhere nowadays.

Of course, the birth control pill (which, amusingly enough, went the opposite route linguistically as the laser, and is now more succinctly referred to in capital letters as just "The Pill") was a solution to an age-old problem, meaning there was no confusion about it at all.

But enough 50-year-old trivia, let's get back to the past week in politics instead, shall we?


The Senate has been debating the Wall Street reform bill all week, and we've had some action both ways on competing amendments. The Republicans, as expected, offered a "Let's water the whole thing down!" amendment, which was soundly defeated (with the help of two Republicans who broke party lines -- a good sign for the overall bill). However, a Democratic amendment which had been growing in popularity was also voted down (more on this in a minute). Next week, there may be a big bipartisan vote for an idea which Ron Paul initially pushed in the House -- auditing the Federal Reserve's TARP funds. What exactly did all that "bailout" money go for? Hey, let's find out! But since the amendment hasn't come up for a vote yet, we'll address it (and the tricky question of whether Bernie Sanders is eligible for a MIDOTW award, since he isn't really a Democrat) next time around.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened the Senate with the one thing which truly terrifies Democrats and Republicans alike -- the possible loss of some of their vacation time in August. Laugh if you must, but this is the single most effective threat which leadership can use to get Congresscritters (especially those in the Senate) to act, instead of delaying things forever. Reid, by "showing some steel" on this issue early on has now put Republicans on notice -- if you do nothing but endlessly delay things, then we are just going to sit right here until you eat your vegetables, young man! So to speak. We'll see how this all plays out, but Reid deserves at least an Honorable Mention this week, for wielding this very powerful tool exactly how it is supposed to be used.

But, this week, the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to Senators Sherrod Brown and Ted Kaufman. Their amendment to the Wall Street reform bill was indeed defeated, but it was a very easy answer to a problem everyone's been screaming about -- "too big to fail." The Brown-Kaufman idea was to say "if we don't allow the banks to get that big in the first place, then they'll never be too big to wreck the American economy if they fail." In other words, strike at the heart of the "too big" problem.

While, disappointingly, the Brown-Kaufman amendment failed by a vote of 61-33, for even getting the idea to the floor and getting as much support as it did (which included three Republican votes), Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Ted Kaufman both deserve this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award for their effort. Brown is a freshman senator, and Kaufman is a seat-warmer, holding Joe Biden's old Senate seat until November (for which he had to promise not to run, a decision that may have been somewhat hasty, since Republicans seem poised to win this seat this year).

Brown and Kaufman managed to put on record who is for and against the simple idea of not letting banks get too big, and for that they deserve recognition this week. Keep fighting the good fight, guys!

[Congratulate Senator Sherrod Brown on his Senate contact page, and Senator Ted Kaufman on his Senate contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]


Up for a (Dis-)Honorable Mention this week are the twenty-seven Senate Democrats who just voted against the Brown-Kaufman amendment. Here is a convenient list of them, for easy reference. However, because we aren't made of money here, we simply can't afford to send them all individual Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week statuettes, so you'll have to pass the message on for us. I invite you to scan the list, see if your senator is on it, and then give their office a call and let them know what you think of their vote.

We're also going to rule that Joe Lieberman is eligible for this week's MDDOTW award, because he has so richly deserved it this week. You see, Joe wants to strip American citizenship of anyone he doesn't like. Perhaps those kids, there, walking across his lawn. Because of the ongoing terror, Lieberman wants Congress to pass a blatantly unconstitutional law. The terror, that is, not from actual terrorists, but rather the terror conservatives seem to have of our legal system. The Miranda warnings, in particular. Lieberman introduced his provacatively-titled "T.E.A. Act," which would strip the American citizenship from anyone the Executive Branch decided was a terrorist -- without benefit of due process, or any of that namby-pamby "rule of law" nonsense (otherwise known as "The U.S. Constitution"). Chuck Schumer immediately jumped on board (well, he is from New York, where Times Square is located), before coming to his senses and backing hastily away from Joe. The White House also immediately distanced itself from Joe's idea.

Voters of Connecticut, the rest of America is begging you -- please, please do not re-elect this clown to the Senate, next chance you get. I mean, what were you thinking? You really think Ned Lamont would be proposing such things?

[Contact Senator Joe Lieberman on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Volume 122 (5/7/10)

Kind of a mixed bag of Friday Talking Points, this week, ranging all the way from bikini bottoms to chickens (and all points in between).

As always, these are provided for the suggested use of Democrats everywhere, and most especially those who hold office and find themselves in a media interview this weekend.


   Embracing the bikini bottom

OK, I have to admit, I just had to use that subheading. Snerk.

Sorry, won't happen again. Well, it might....

Ahem. Seriously, though, I've been pounding this point for a few months now -- Democrats, use this chart! Make a big blowup of it, and hang it behind you, in preparation for any media interview. Project a giant image of it at any campaign rally you attend. This chart is easy to understand and it makes your strongest case for you, so it is in your best interests to point it out to everyone.

"When President Obama took office, we were losing three-quarters of a million jobs every single month. Last month, the American economy added over two hundred thousand jobs. In a little over a year, Democrats have improved job creation to the tune of one million jobs per month. That's right -- from where we were then, to where we are now, is the difference of a cool million jobs in one month's time. The stimulus has worked, and is continuing to work. Republicans said it wouldn't, but I don't notice any of them explaining what else this chart could possibly show. [Point to chart] Here's what happened under Bush -- job creation falling off a cliff. Here's what happened under Obama, with the help of Democrats in Congress -- job creation recovering, up to last month, which showed the best job numbers in four years. That's why we want to send Democrats to Washington, to continue improving our economy from the mess we inherited."


   Making love to Wall Street

Harry Reid got a good line off the other day, which needs repeating often by Democrats in the upcoming week.

"So far, on Wall Street reform, the only idea Republicans have come up with is to water everything down so it can't change any of Wall Street's behavior in any way. As Majority Leader Harry Reid put it the other day, 'the Republicans are having difficulty determining how they're going to continue making love to Wall Street.' His spokesman later phrased it even better, saying 'Republicans are making love to Wall Street, while the people on Main Street are getting screwed.' I think the Majority Leader speaks for a lot of American voters on this one, personally."


   Stand with the American people

OK, that was a bit snarky, even I'll admit. For something a bit more serious on the subject (but which says pretty much exactly the same thing Reid did), we turn to President Obama, last week:

Unfortunately, throughout this debate, there have been partisan attempts to obstruct progress and weaken reform. Today, the Senate is considering a Republican amendment that will gut consumer protections and is worse than the status quo. I will not allow amendments like this one written by Wall Street's lobbyists to pass for reform. This amendment will significantly weaken consumer protection oversight, includes dangerous carve outs for payday lenders, debt collectors, and other financial services operations, and hurts the ability of community and local banks to compete by creating an unlevel playing field with their non-bank competitors.

As I have said throughout this process, I want to continue to work with Democrats and Republicans because protecting the American people should not be a partisan issue. But we must work together in good faith. Alternatives that gut consumer protections and do nothing to empower the American people by cracking down on unfair and predatory practices are unacceptable, and I urge the Senate to vote no on weakening consumer protections and instead stand with the American people.


   What "deregulation" actually means

This is a philosophical battle where Democrats rarely even try to defend their own view of government, which I think is a shame (and a big mistake). The Republicans have done such a good job demonizing "big government" for so long, that Democrats don't even bother to make their own case for why sometimes some government might actually be a good idea. Even when the issue is delivered to them on a silver platter.

"Republicans always say they're against 'big government' and for deregulation of industry. Well, you know what that leads to? That leads to regulatory agencies which don't have the power to enforce safety regulations in mines. That leads to allowing oil companies to gut safety regulations because it would cost a little more money to drill offshore. Safety regulations are there for a reason -- to save lives, and to save America from industrial disasters. And then when those disasters happen, not to allow companies to have laughably low liability limits when it comes time to pay for the damage. BP's liability for the drilling disaster was set by law at $75 million, when it is going to likely take billions to clean it up and compensate those affected. Our mine safety agency doesn't have the power to subpoena mine owners, and doesn't have the power to do more than charge them with a misdemeanor. That, my friends, is the result of deregulation and the mania for 'small government.' Sometimes government is the only answer to keep the free market safe for everyone, because we all know the companies involved aren't going to spend money on safety out of the goodness of their own hearts."


   Tea Party wedgies

I think it's time to exploit the wedge in the Republican Party that the Tea Party movement represents. Because the fact that establishment Republican candidates are winning most Republican primaries (as happened earlier this week, in three states' primaries) may prove to be more divisive than anyone in Washington now thinks, come November (especially if several three-way races develop, as has already happened in Florida). Taunting the Tea Partiers with "Oh, you're just Republicans, right?" is the way to go, here, as it might just enrage them to the point of supporting such third-party bids. Or, as Sarah Palin might say, "How's that wedgie thing workin' out for ya?"

"The Tea Party folks all say they're not just dupes for the Republican Party to manipulate, and that they're independent of any party. But Sarah Palin seems to think differently, since she's now endorsed candidates in two Republican primary races who are facing Tea Party challengers, in Arizona and now California. Seems Palin's more interested in getting the Tea Partiers to line up as good little Republicans than she is about any of their professed principles. Is she right? Will the Tea Partiers just fall into line behind establishment Republican candidates this November, or do they have the courage of their own convictions to not be led around by the nose by the GOP political machine?"


   So, Marco, would you have sent your parents back?

Speaking of Florida's Senate race, we have Marco Rubio performing an absolute beaut of a flip-flop this week. Rubio originally (and bravely, considering he's now the official Republican Party nominee) came out against Arizona's new immigration law. He is, after all, not only Latino himself, but he's also the son of immigrants. But then Rubio, likely after receiving a few phone calls, decided to get on board. His actual quote: "There are going to be stories of very young kids that were brought to this country at a very young age who don't even speak Spanish [sic] that are going to be sent back to Nicaragua or some other place. And it's gonna feel weird and I understand that." He probably meant to say "don't even speak English," to be fair. But his blatant hypocrisy should be pointed out, in the form of a scathing question.

"I noticed Marco Rubio's recent flip-flop on the Arizona immigration law with some amusement, I must say. I wonder, if Rubio's parents hadn't been from Cuba, if he would feel any differently about the subject. Because, as we all know, Cubans don't need any sort of immigration papers when they arrive here illegally. They are automatically given green cards, and a path to citizenship. Perhaps, if his family had been from another country in this hemisphere he might see the issue a wee bit differently. I'm not sure if anyone's asked Rubio if he still supports giving one country this automatic free pass on illegal immigration -- or whether he agrees that his own parents should have been rounded up and sent back to Cuba. Either he's for shipping Mom and Dad back to Cuba, or he's just a hypocrite on the issue because his parents were given automatic amnesty."



Over in Nevada, the chickens have come home to roost, as it were. Sue Lowden, who leads in the polls heading into the Republican primary race to unseat Harry Reid, said something really, really stupid a few weeks back. And it has proved to be the gift that just keeps right on giving. Instead of realizing she looked like an idiot and immediately apologizing (or, at the least, walking her comments back), she instead chose to defend her idea that it'd all be great if we started bargaining with our doctors with chickens. Not only did the Democrats start up a "Chickens for Checkups" site immediately, but now they've got a guy in a chicken suit following Lowden around at public appearances. Nevada Republicans, from what I've heard, are becoming less and less supportive of Lowden as a result of this metaphorical egg she laid. But you can't make an omelette without cracking a few eggs, as they say...

"It sure looks like Sue Lowden's 'chickens for checkups' idea has come home to roost. I guess the Republican Party motto should now read 'proudly taking America back to the eighteenth century!' Seriously, somebody really needs to tell Sue what millennium it now is."


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Full archives of FTP columns:

All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground