Friday, October 25, 2013

NC Voter ID aimed at "Lazy Blacks"

In a brilliant Daily Show clip from two night ago, North Carolina precinct chairman and GOP Executive Committee member Don Yeltin reminds us all that of course these voting restrictions are racist.  That's the entire point!

Today, Mr. Yeltin has resigned his posts.

This will make you laugh and want to cry.  When you realize that it is the Daily Show and not journalist telling this story should make every American cry.  

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Don Yeltin. His views are deplorable but he has the courage to actually speak the truth so we can all see what is actually going on with voter restrictions in North Carolina.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Remember when VA Gov Bob McDonnell was on GOP Short List for Pres?

Well, not any more.

Now he's on the GOP not so short list of those most likely to be indicted. I'm always surprised when people in such positions turn out to be so commonly old school corrupt.  How arrogant do you have to be to think you can be such a public figure with an eye on the White House and also be so completely corrupt?

Today, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports more details on the loans McDonnell has repeatedly lied about,

Star Scientific CEO Jonnie R. Williams Sr. has told federal investigators that he met with Gov. Bob McDonnell before making a $50,000 loan to the governor’s wife, Maureen, in 2011, according to a source close to the ongoing gift scandal investigation.

Williams told investigators he insisted on the meeting in the governor’s office to ensure that McDonnell knew about the loan, the source said.
As the story of these loans first broke some months ago, the classy Governor of Virginia immediately threw his wife under the bus where he continues to hold her sticking to his story that he knew nothing of the loans to his wife until the money was spent.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Battle is Joined; The Chamber has had enough of the Tea Party

I've long wondered why groups like the U.S Chamber of Commerce has suffered the fools in the Tea Party movement for so long.

According to Bloomberg, they've had enough,
“We are going to get engaged,” said Scott Reed, senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The need is now more than ever to elect people who understand the free market and not silliness.”
As the article points out, the Chamber spent $35.7 million on Federal Elections in 2012. But the Chamber might be in a position to exercise influence beyond their own spending by pressing their members to stop funding those groups that fund the tea party, such as FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, Senate Conservative Fund, Heritage Action, etc.   

In fact, this might already be happening.  According to BuzzFeed, FreedomWorks is cash strapped and seeking emergency funding.

The next several election cycles are going to be interesting.  And better them than us. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

At War with Modernity

Michael Ashmore of Hooks, Tex. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
It occurred to me a while ago that the reality of the Tea Party movement is that they are at war with modernity. A war, by the way, that is impossible to win. I've thought about how to express this view in some sort of coherent and succinct way, to no avail.

I think Andrew Sullivan captures this perfectly,
I believe that you cannot understand the current GOP without also grasping how bewildered so many people are by the dizzying onset of modernity. The 21st Century has brought Islamist war to America, the worst recession since the 1930s, a debt-ridden federal government, a majority-minority future, gay marriage, universal healthcare and legal weed. If you were still seething from the eruption of the 1960s, and thought that Reagan had ended all that, then the resilience of a pluralistic, multi-racial, fast-miscegenating, post-gay America, whose president looks like the future, not the past, you would indeed, at this point, be in a world-class meshugganah, cultural panic.

When you add in the fact that the American dream stopped working for most working-class folks at some point in the mid 1970s, and when you see the national debt soaring from the Reagan years onward, made much worse by the Bush-Cheney years, and then exploded by the recession Bush bequeathed, you have a combustible mixture. It’s very easy to lump all this together into a paranoid fantasy of an American apocalypse that must somehow be stopped at all cost. In trying to understand the far-right mindset – which accounts for around a quarter of the country – I think you have to zoom out and see all of this in context.
Andrew has many more insights and I commend you to read the entire post.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

After Cards shut down the Dodgers, LA press lights them up

It's often said that the St Louis press is always too easy on the Cards while the big market teams back East and out West get much more scrutiny by their local reporters.

If you doubt this is true, just read the local papers on-line after big loses.  I make a habit of going to local papers after the Cards roll a contending team in a series. 

Here is some very nice prose from Bill Plaschke in the LA Times this morning,

The most expensive team in baseball has been rolled on the riverfront, mugged in a Busch, kicked by a Clydesdale and sent staggering back to Los Angeles with pockets empty, eyes wide and winter coming.
"This," Hanley Ramirez said, "is really hard."


By Saturday night, as red-faced fans were howling deep into the cool Midwest morning, everything had changed. The Dodgers aces had been crumpled, their batting order was in tatters and their manager is again drowning.
If LA hasn't figured it out yet, the answer is obvious to us in St Louis: God is a Cardinals fan.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Shutdown Blame Game aka "Don't fart and point at the dog!"

Several months ago, John Boehner went to Harry Reid offering a clean CR if the Senate agreed to their post sequestration spending levels which are $70B less than the Senate wanted. Reid agreed to Boehner's number and Boehner reneged. It's that simple.

So why does it take Jon Stewart to report the story?

Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Budget Crisis Republicans spent months planning

Michael Stravato for The New York Times
The NY Times has the story with on-the-record quotes.
Last week the country witnessed the fallout from that strategy: a standoff that has shuttered much of the federal bureaucracy and unsettled the nation.

To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known.
The defund plot included this handy tool kit.

In 1996, when Pres Clinton was re-elected, the GOP plot to overthrow the election was impeachment.  In 2013, you hear occasional talk of impeachment from  rank and file House members and some party leaders, but this time they've decided to overthrow the election by holding the economy hostage and destroying the Nation's credit.   This, of course, is tyranny coming, ironically, from those who claim to most support democracy.  

When this fails, we'll be back to impeachment, I promise. 

Friday, October 04, 2013

Boehner has said privately that he will not allow a default

(Credit AP/J.Scott Applewhite)
Salon's nasty, snarky headlines kind of wear me out. Fox News for the Left.

But their political reporter and TPM alum Brian Beutler is very good and decently sourced within the Democratic caucus, and should be a part of your daily read.

Yesterday afternoon Brian reported that following their White House meeting, the GOP has finally realized they've trapped themselves. Obama isn't going to budge,
If [GOP leaders] got the same explanation from the president that I and several other writers got from senior officials at a White House briefing today, they know that for Obama this is more than just about preventing his own personal embarrassment (at having caved) and more than about his individual legacy (which will be harmed even if Republicans bear the brunt of the blame for a default). He sees “right sizing” the executive branch, and leaving it in better shape than when he inherited it, as a core responsibility of his presidency. Reducing the scope of executive powers in the foreign policy realm is one piece of it. But it would be a complete abdication, in his mind, to leave the next president vulnerable to the nullification of his or her election.
The good news, to the extent that there is any, comes from Boehner,
House Speaker John Boehner has told at least one House Republican privately what he and McConnell have hinted at publicly for months, which is that they won’t execute their debt limit hostage. Boehner specifically said, according to a New York Times report, and obliquely confirmed by a House GOP aide, that he would increase the debt limit before defaulting even if he lost more than half his conference on a vote.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Tea Pary forced us!

Has the establishment GOP had enough? They’re now leaking to the MSM.

From the Daily Beast:
Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party—their party—seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.

“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”
This ends when true GOP heavyweights inside and outside of Government (the non-tea party money men, top Reps / Senators – those who leaked this story to the DB) get Boehner into a room and essentially force him ‘in the strongest possible terms’ to bring this to an end. Make him an offer he can’t refuse, to figuratively hold a gun to his head. And maybe not figuratively.

The U.S. is going to default on its Debt

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) said yesterday: "We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

Anarchists are running the House of Representatives and all Boehner cares about is being Speaker.  

In all my life, I’ve never seen anything like this.  Even in 95/96 there was a well thought out agenda and more importantly, someone was in charge.  

When you read Costa and York  (and they appear to be the only ones with knowledge inside the House GOP), you get the sick feeling that anarchy reins in the House and that is exactly as the shutdown supporters want it.

We’re going to default on our debt.     

Thursday, August 29, 2013

House Conservatives Turn on Heritage Foundation

Tim Alberta at the The National Journal has a great rundown on the fiasco created this summer by Heritage Action ending with House Conservatives turning on them.

This article offers some great insight into the dysfunctional House and is well worth your time.
In June, as the House prepared to vote on an extension of the farm bill—an enormous legislative package that governs everything from crop subsidies to food-stamp policy—conservative lawmakers and outside groups rallied in opposition. Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the right-wing think tank, called for the bill to be split into two pieces—one dealing specifically with agriculture policy (called a "farm-only bill") and another legislating the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the food-stamp program known as SNAP.

Members of the RSC agreed. In fact, Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana sponsored an amendment that would accomplish exactly what Heritage Action and other outside groups were advocating: splitting the farm bill. Stutzman's amendment failed, however, and Heritage Action issued a key vote alert warning lawmakers to vote "no" on the farm bill. (If they voted "yes," members faced consequences, anything from a demerit on their Heritage Action "scorecard" to a 30-second radio ad launched back in their districts.)
The result was that the Farm Bill failed and Boehner capitulated to Heritage Action and their conservative backers and split the bill exactly has they had demanded. 3 weeks later the farm only bill came to the floor and passed by a narrow margin.
The new farm bill had passed over the objections of Heritage Action, which, to the astonishment of some RSC members, had issued another alert, telling conservatives to vote against the split bill—despite having spent years agitating for exactly that. In its warning, Heritage Action said the revised legislation "would make permanent farm policies—like the sugar program—that harm consumers and taxpayers alike."

To some conservative members, this was Heritage Action moving the goalposts, plain and simple. And they were furious about it....That's when Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., decided to do something about it. An ambitious conservative elected in the tea-party wave of 2010, Mulvaney was perfectly positioned to spearhead an offensive aimed at undermining the influence of these outside groups. At the beginning of the 113th Congress, Heritage Action named Mulvaney one of its "sentinels" for his ultraconservative voting record, which had earned him a 95 percent rating on the organization's scorecard for the 112th Congress.
There's much more. It really is a fascinating read on the inner-workings of the most dysfunctional House in 150 years.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Germany & Italy made more Facebook demands to snoop

Facebook has released data for the first 6 months of 2013 on which counties made the most demands on Facebook for user data.

Kevin Drum cleverly adjusted the data by population to over some meaningful insight into which counties made the most request by population.

While the U.S. unsurprisingly made the most total demands, when you adjust by population, Germany and Italy made more requests than the U.S.   But neither was first.

First place oddly goes to Malta! Kevin assumes Malta hits the top due to it being a tax heaven for the Russian mob. 

What will the U.S. Achieve bombing Syria?

It's an important question.

We're all horrified by the images of the murdered men, women and children gassed by Assad in suburban Damascus. It's easy to want to lash out in anger but what does Obama actually hope to accomplish?

And how many more civilians will die? 

George Packer has a debate with himself.
So it looks like we’re going to bomb Assad.


Really? Why good?

Did you see the videos of those kids? I heard that ten thousand people were gassed. Hundreds of them died. This time, we have to do something.

Yes, I saw the videos.

And you don’t want to pound the shit out of him?

I want to pound the shit out of him.

But you think we shouldn’t do anything.

I didn’t say that. But I want you to explain what we’re going to achieve by bombing.
Read on, it's well worth you time.

And in rides Sarah,....

Sarah Palin backs Defund Obamacare
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is set to announce Tuesday that she has signed on to the Defund Obamacare movement.“Forced enrollment in Obama’s ‘Unaffordable Care Act’ is weeks away,” Palin says in a statement to be released by the Senate Conservatives Fund and shared early with Post Politics. “This beast must be stopped — by not funding it. Today, Todd and I joined with many of our fellow citizens to urge those in the U.S. Senate to not fund Obamacare.”
Ain't life grand?

It appears that the GOP will never be ride of Sarah Palin.

As an aside, isn't Sarah Palin the perfect example of the GOP's sexist view of women?  Nancy Pelosi is a bitch and Hillary is a lesbian.  Sarah Palin, pretty and dumb, was deemed the future of the GOP and pushed by important people in the conservative movement including Bill Krystal and Fred Barnes.  Jane Mayer told the story in 2008.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ryan Braun Deserves our Contempt

I've maintained since Ryan Braun won the appeal of his 2012 suspension that he is truly despicable for the way he treated the collector of the urine sample.

Braun has been suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season due to his connection to Biogenesus, making him worthy of our contempt, but he's not alone in this regard.   In a rare moment of class, Braun has decided not to appeal his suspension.

As Josh Levin points out in Slate, what is perhaps most reprehensible is how he slanderously lied and smeared Dino Laurenzi Jr., the poor man who collected his urine sample full of PED to save his own skin,
Why is Braun such a villain? Because after getting a reprieve last year that it’s now pretty obvious he didn’t deserve, he had the gall to smear the lowest man on the baseball org chart to make himself look a teeny-tiny bit better. In February 2012, after he successfully appealed a 50-game drug suspension, the 2011 MVP smarmed his way through a victory press conference, whining that he’d been wrongfully accused and that the whole process had been so very hard on him. He also attacked the integrity of Dino Laurenzi Jr., the man who’d collected his urine sample. "There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened," he said, citing nothing at all to support his claims. “We spoke to biochemists and scientists, and asked them how difficult it would be for someone to taint the sample. They said, if they were motivated, it would be extremely easy.” At the same time, Braun praised his own moral rectitude, saying, “I will continue to take the high road. We won because the truth was on my side.”
In his written statement today, Braun wants everyone to know he is a victim in this matter, "This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family,..." but no where does he acknowledge the damage he's done to Mr. Laurenzi.  Braun owes Mr. Laurenzi a public apology that includes acknowledging his crimes against that gentleman.

Braun is an enormous creep and I hope Brewers fans don't let him off so lightly.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ACA to Reduce Health Insurance for New Yorkers by 50%?

New York Times Graphic. Source: NY State Dept of Financial Services
So says the New York Times,
State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.
These kinds of stories will only make Republicans more desperate. If the cost of insurance nationally falls by similar amounts, the ACA will became hugely popular.

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's Hard to Exagerate the Awfulness of the House Farm Bill

This legislative disaster doesn't just devastate food aid to the poor, but also delivers a gut shot to the small farmer.

How bad is it? Franz Matzner takes a swing,
To start with, the bill takes aim at the environment by first crippling, and then outright ending, conservation programs, as well as zeroing out mandatory funding for rural renewable energy and efficiency development. Thousands of farmers from every state have participated in these programs, generating income while helping restore wetlands and prairies, reducing fertilizer and pesticide pollution that poison our rivers and drinking water, and decreasing the nation’s reliance on polluting fossil fuels.

In stark contrast, the bill would make permanent billions of dollars in subsidies for corporate farmers. This would upend decades of precedent and lock taxpayers into these high costs, at least creating a deterrent to regular updating and improving of our farm policies, and at worst threatening the continuation of important policies to protect soil, water, wildlife, and public health.

Dreher's Monty Burns Republicans

The House Republicans have loaded up the Farm Bill with all kinds of cash to corporate big agra while completely cutting out any food aid to the poorest among us.  But this is nothing new:  It's been going on for 50 years which is why the food stamp program was tied to the farm bill 40 years ago.

FINALLY! A self identified Christian conservative points out the obvious.

The American Conservative's Rod Dreher says what no one else inside the so-called Christian conservative movement has the, um,...well Christianity to say,
You know who needs to find their voice and use it right now? Conservative Christian pastors and leaders. Christians need to seriously reconsider uncritical support for a political party that prioritizes lavishing subsidies on the agribusiness rich while telling the poor to sit quietly and wait for scraps.
There is no question where Jesus falls on this issue, but those who are constantly moralizing in his name seem to have lost their morality.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Is 'Shelby County' a Poisoned Chalice for the GOP?

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States in Shelby County v. Holder found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional. Section 4 required certain states and counties with a history of discrimination to get per-clearance from the Justice Department before they could enact changes to voting laws. 

Joshua Green thinks this ruling will prove to be a "poisoned chalice" for the GOP, 
...since 2006 the U.S. Justice Department has blocked 31 attempts to change voting laws, most of them in the nine, mostly Southern states fully covered by the relevant section of the law...Most, if not all, of those proposed changes would have aided Republican electoral fortunes by making it harder for minorities to vote because most vote Democratic. But the Justice Department stepped in....These nine states,..will be able to pursue whatever changes they like, free of federal oversight....all nine states have Republican-controlled legislatures.  On its face, this looks like a big victory for Republicans. Is it really? I suspect it will turn out to be a poisoned chalice. Many of the GOP’s current problems stem from the fact that it is overly beholden to its white, Southern base at a time when the country is rapidly becoming more racially diverse. In order to expand its base of power beyond the House of Representatives, the GOP needs to expand its appeal to minority voters. As the ongoing battle over immigration reform demonstrates, that process is going poorly and looks like it will be very difficult.
Aside from Section 4, the Voting Rights Act remains in tact. The Department of Justice is free to sue to block any change in voting laws that it deems violates the VRA and can ask a Federal Judge to enjoin enforcement of the law.  However, before Justice can sue, the law has to be passed and take effect.   The SCOTUS has invited Congress to act to fix section 5, but the GOP controlled House has no interest in doing anything to encourage non-white voting.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Republicans 'contraception problem' is that public understands their position pefectly

GOP birth control nemesis Sandra Fluke / AP J. Scott Applewhite
Amanda Marcotte reviews the College National Republican Committee's recent report detailing the GOPs current woes and points out that much of their problems are self inflicted, including their problems with reproductive rights.
No one is forcing Republicans to attack contraception subsidies every chance they get. Republicans did not actually have to insist that your employer be able to prevent you from using your own insurance benefits on contraception, nor did they have to convene an all-male panel to discuss how important it was to give a woman’s boss a vote in her reproductive health care. It wasn’t required of the party that it run so many rape philosophers for office. Indeed, the problem for Republicans on the subject of reproductive rights is that young voters accurately understand its positions … The problem is that opponents aren’t distorting the attacks on contraception. The only way for Republicans to not be perceived as anti-contraception is to stop attacking contraception. Nothing else will work.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

James Comey and the most riveting 20 minutes of congressional testimony. Maybe ever.

James Comey is an American hero.

Today, President Obama nominated James Comey to be Director of the FBI. Comey was Attorney General John Ashcroft's number two at the DoJ. I think the President should have nominated a Democrat to this important position and disagree with the notion that only Republicans are qualified for such sensitive positions.

But I said James Comey is an American hero and I meant it. Paul Kane at the WaPo reminds us of Comey's riveting 20 minutes of congressional testimony about the night he and a stricken and hospitalized Ashcroft faced down the White House.

If you don't recall this, you have to watch.  It's truly remarkable. 

When the events that took place at the Bush DoJ are finally declassified, I may find many reasons to be troubled by decisions made by Comey, but from what I actually know, James Comey is an outstanding public servant the likes of which we meet too few.

Original Ward Report coverage here

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Some Important Context on the IRS Scandal

As we watch the IRS scandal unfold, some  very important context has been missing from the reporting.

These groups are organizing as educational organizations under Section 501(c)(4) which is for educational organizations and strictly limits political activity. 

It is completely appropriate and in keeping with enforcing the IRS code that the IRS screen applicants for tax exempt status to make sure they are organizing for a permitted tax exempt purpose. 

All these conservative groups and liberal groups are organized as educational groups, many improperly.

Bloomberg reported yesterday that at least 3 liberal groups received the same treatment (including disclosure of donor lists), and unlike the conservative groups, one liberal group had their non-profit status rejected and were forced to pay some taxes. 

There is no question that IRS non-profit status is being abused for political purposes and I think the IRS acted appropriately in screening so called tea party groups.  But the same scrutiny must be applied to liberal or Democratic leaning groups.

Nevertheless, the IRS needs to explain the point of many of it's questions such as asking for the disclosure of donor lists and questioning what issues are important to an applicant group.  There is certainly nothing wrong with a group seeking to educate the public on the bain or virtues of high taxes and I can't see how this is relevant to an IRS investigation into the purpose of an applicant organization.  Likewise, I think everyone will agree that political affiliation of officers and directors is probably not particularly probative of the purpose of the group. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Winning on Gun Control

Nate Cohn makes the case for Democrats winning using gun control as a wedge issue,
It’s easy to envision the next Democratic presidential candidate campaigning on gun control—and winning. Thirteen years ago, Democrats needed rural Ohio, West Virginia, or Missouri to win the presidency. Today, Democratic presidential candidates are less reliant on rural, conservative gun owners than at any time in the history of the party. Democrats win with big margins in cities and suburbs, where support for gun control is an asset, not a hindrance. This is even true in Ohio, where Obama won twice despite losing additional ground in the traditionally Democratic, gun-toting, southeastern part of the state. Now Republicans find themselves in the place that haunted Democrats in the early part of the last decade: To win, Republicans need to reclaim the socially moderate suburbs around Denver, Washington, and Philadelphia, where gun control is a real asset to Democratic candidates.
Would Hillary Clinton have the courage to do this?

One of the things that hurt Hillary last time was the inability of her campaign to understand that it wasn't 1996 any more.  As Cohn points out, America is drastically different today than it was even 10 years ago. 

Courage aside, the wisdom of using guns as a wedge issue is another matter.  Using gun control as a wedge would be incredibly divisive, making governing with a Republican House even harder than it is today.  

Monday, April 08, 2013

Because it's not 1979 anymore


On the occasion of Margaret Thatcher's death, Matt Yglesias has a very insightful post today.

Thatcher and Reagan both enjoyed great policy success -- as did LBJ domestically -- but it's not 1979 anymore. Times change.
Thatcher, like Ronald Reagan...became what [LBJ] never was—more than an influential politician but a generation-defining icon. And yet while the policies of the Thatcher and Reagan revolutions have been largely successful, the political legacy seems to me to be quite mixed. Listening to contemporary conservatives, you often get the sense that they want to just rerun the policy agenda of the late 1970s and early 1980s. But today the leading global problem is climate change, not Communism. That's not because Communism isn't bad, it's because the Cold War is over. Privatizing state-run industrial companies won't jump-start growth. That's not because state-ownership of industrial firms is a good idea, it's because we don't have any. Reducing the power of labor unions to curb cost-push inflation doesn't fix anything because labor unions aren't powerful anymore. When you triumph, you triumph. But history doesn't end, new issues come to the front of the stack. We have a crisis of inadequate demand. We have the problem of providing health care to an aging population. Trying to apply the "lessons of Munich" to Vietnam was a disaster. Trying to apply the economic policy solutions of a generation ago to the problems of today is equally inappropriate.
Trying to apply the lessons Munich to Iraq also didn't work out so well. I really don't understand the Republican/conservative insistence in looking backward and trying to go backward. I suppose that's what makes them conservatives, but it doesn't take a visionary to see the obvious: Success in the future requires actually moving forward into the future and building a majority with the citizens of the country as they exist today, and not as they existed in 1980 on that August day in Philadelphia Mississippi where Ronald Reagan launched is general election campaign.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The NRA's Jack-booted Thugs take over National Press Club

I find this absolutely stunning for the gall and and also because this wasn't a scandal.

Dana Milbank reports on the goonery of NRA thugs at the National Press Club on April 2 where the NRA was rolling out their plan to arm schools,
The thugs....About 20 of them -- roughly one for every three reporters -- fanned out through the National Press Club, some in uniforms with gun holsters exposed, others with earpieces and bulges under their suit jackets. In a spectacle that officials at the National Press Club said they had never seen before, the NRA gunmen directed some photographers not to take pictures, ordered reporters out of the lobby when NRA officials passed and inspected reporters' briefcases before granting them access to the news conference.
First, where was the usual security at the National Press Club? Second, on exactly what authority did this self-appointed militia operate? And finally, why on earth would anyone take orders from these kooks?

And forgive me for asking the obvious, but what about the Second Amendment rights of those attending this press conference?  Assuming any of the reporters was carrying, was the NRA going to take their gun away from them?  As I understand the position of the NRA anyone carrying a concealed weapon that day would have been well within their Second Amendment rights to shot any one of those goons in the head for even trying to take their gun from them.  Am I missing something?

Because undeserving people have been called fascists too many times, it makes it harder to point out examples of actual fascist among us in 2013.  The NRA is running their very own Sturmabteilung or Camicie Nerre. This is exactly how fascists in Germany, Italy and Spain behaved in the 1920s and 1930s before they took power.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The War Crimes Committed in Our Name

Jane Mayer reviews Jess Bravin’s The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay, and reminds us all of the war crimes that were committed in our name.  And the actions of those who tortured in our name didn't just destroy our moral authority as a people and a nation, it may well let murders walk away.

Take the case of Mohamadou Ould Slahi, a detainee who Marine Corps prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch concluded had “the most blood on his hands”,
Slahi, Couch learned, was horribly mistreated. Effeminate and childless, he was subjected to bizarre sexual gambits involving photos of vaginas and fondling of his genitals. When these methods, death threats, and physical abuse didn’t produce results, the military interrogator told him that his mother would be shipped to Guantánamo and gang raped if he did not talk. He was also subjected to a false kidnapping and threatened with worse torture.
Eventually, Slahi confessed incriminating details to his interrogators, but because of the abusive methods through which they were learned, Couch believed the confession was unreliable and inadmissible. Indeed, he no longer believed he could press charges against Slahi at all.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mitch Daniels missed Iraq War costs by $5.94 Trillion

Mitch Daniels is what passes for a policy wonk in the Republican party.

Dave Weigel brings us this blast from the past,
The administration's top budget official estimated today that the cost of a war with Iraq could be in the range of $50 billion to $60 billion, a figure that is well below earlier estimates from White House officials.

In a telephone interview today, the official, Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., director of the Office of Management and Budget... would not provide specific costs for either a long or a short military campaign against Saddam Hussein. But he said that the administration was budgeting for both, and that earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush's former chief economic adviser, were too high.
The actual cost of $6 trillion was 100 times larger than GOP wunderkind Daniels estimated. 

You might think that in a party that talks often about accountability a political price would be paid for a blunder of such historically staggering proportions.  You'd be wrong.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A musical interlude for a rainy Sunday

The Indiana University Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Hersch performing Bohemian Rhapsody.

Don't laugh, it's excellent. 

Friday, March 08, 2013

Clinton Trounces Rubio in National Poll

Rublicans simply don't understand non-whites.  They convince themselves that Marco Rubio is their answer to the Latin problem -- like Michael Steele was the answer to Obama.

What underlies the GOP's problem is the essentially racist view that non-whites are incapable of understanding issues and vote simply on skin color.  There may actually be some projecting going on here, but I digress.

Quinnipiac University has just released a national poll testing a variety of possible 2016 pairings with 1,944 registered voters and had a margin of error of +/-2.2 percent.

Rubio's popularity, it would seem, is only among white Republicans.  Clinton led Rubio by a 50-34 margin among all groups.  But among Latin voters?   Clinton mops the floor with Rubio 60-24.

Chris Christie did better against Hillary but still trailed 45-37 nationally among all groups.  Latin voters favored Hillary over Christie 62-23.

Paul Ryan didn't do any better against Hillary, losing 50-38 in an overall matchup and even worse with Latin voters, 69-21.

Before you Democrats get too excited about this,  Hillary running is still a long shot by my estimation.  She'd be 69 on election day making her the oldest person in history elected president.  Ronald Reagan was 68. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Garry Wills looks with sadness on the American South

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and historian Garry Wills loves the American South where he was born and where both sides of his family called home.

Wills looks with real sadness on the South's self inflicted self destruction,
But the current South is willing to cut off its own nose to show contempt for the government. Governor Rick Scott of Florida turned down more than $2 billion in federal funds for a high-speed rail system in Florida that would have created jobs and millions of dollars in revenues, just to show he was independent of the hated federal government. In this mood, his forebears would have turned down TVA. People across the South are going even farther than Scott, begging to secede again from the Union....No one needs better health care more than the South, but it fights it off so long as Obama is offering it, its governors turning down funds for Medicaid. This is a region that rejects sex education, though its rate of teenage pregnancies is double and in places triple that of New England. It fights federal help with education, preferring to inoculate its children against science by denying evolution.

No part of the country will suffer the effects of global warming earlier or with more devastation than the South, yet its politicians resist measures to curb carbon emissions and deny the very existence of climate change—sending it to the dungeon with evolution and biblical errancy. One doesn’t need much imagination to see the South with lowered or swollen waters in its rivers and ports, raging kudzu, swarming mosquitos, and record-breaking high temperatures, still telling itself that global-warming talk is just a liberal conspiracy. But it just digs deeper in denial. The South has decided to be defeated and dumb.
The American South's penchant for ignorant self destruction predates the Civil War, and while in the recent past things appeared to be getting better, as Wills points out, it's now getting worse. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

The GOP Electoral College plan would undermine democracy

So says Larry Saboto at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.  They asked Alan Abramwitz from Emory University to examine the proposal being pushed by RNC Chair Reince Priebus to award electoral college votes based upon Congressional districts.  Professor Abramwitz found that because of gerrymandered Congressional districts, the plan pushed by Herr Priebus would allow Republicans to win the White House even has they lose the popular vote by many million votes. 

Under Herr Priebus plan, even as Mitt Romney lost the popular vote by 5 million votes, he would have won the White House with 11 more electoral votes than those awarded to Barack Obama.

Calling Priebus plan "a corrupt and cynical maneuver to frustrate popular will,"Professor Saboto sees the Republican party is a death spiral,
Republicans face a choice that can best be characterized by personalizing it. A healthy, optimistic party is Reaganesque, convinced that it can win the future by embracing it, and by making a positive case for its philosophy and candidates to all Americans. A party in decline is Nixonian and fears the future; it sees enemies everywhere, feels overwhelmed by electoral trends, and thinks it can win only by cheating, by subverting the system and stacking the deck in its favor. Whose presidency was more successful, Reagan’s or Nixon’s? Which man made the Republican brand more appealing?
That pretty much sums it up. Priebus talks minority outreach, but he is convinced the GOP cannot win the White House as long as majority rule selects the President.

Contrast how far the Chairman of the Republican Party is willing to go with Harry Reid's refusal to reform filibuster in the Senate? It's no wonder the American people see Democrats as feckless losers.

Republicans Come Up With A New Way To Punish Rape Victims

Via The National Memo,
New Mexico’s House Bill 206 would make it a third-degree felony to abort a child conceived as the result of rape. A woman who didn’t want to conceive her rapist’s baby would be guilty of “tampering with evidence.”

The crime would carry a punishment of up to three years in prison and could implicate the doctor or anyone helps the rape victim secure an abortion.
The bills author, Republican State Rep Cathrynn Brown says the purpose of the bill is to punish sex offenders by not allowing them to destroy the evidence of their crime. “New Mexico needs to strengthen its laws to deter sex offenders,” said Brown. “By adding this law in New Mexico, we can help to protect women across our state.”

And so the Days Without an Offensive Rape Remark counter is reset to zero. 

Is it structurally impossible for GOP to attract minorities?

That is the point Michael Tomasky makes. The rank and file GOP is sufficiently racist, Tomasky argues, to make any meaningful outreach to non-whites impossible.
The bottom line is about the base. The GOP base consists of white people who are terrified of losing their skin privilege in Barack Obama’s America. Even if Priebus and a few other Republicans are sincere in their efforts, the minute they start to take steps that are anything but symbolic and that are aimed specifically at trying to win over blacks or Latinos, the base will howl to the moon. I suppose it’s possible that two or three generations from now, which means 30 to 50 years, white Republicans who grew up in our multicultural era will have different attitudes. But even that is a fairly big question mark—there are always going to be vast sections of the country where the population will be 90 or more percent white.

Changing all this can’t be done with some buzzwords and slogans. It is going to be a deeply painful and contentious process for the GOP. I’d say it will be amusing for the rest of us, but it will inject enough poison into the body politic to make it not much fun for anyone.
Tomasky is quick to point out that not all conservatives are racist, and we all know this to be the case. But, Tomasky notes, "If you find yourself at a table with five conservatives and try to break the ice with a watermelon joke, you’re very likely to get somewhere between two and three laughs."

Tomasky is on to something.  The success of the so-called Rockefeller Republicans has had the ironic effect of moving both parties rightward such that now Democratic leadership occupies the space once filled by moderate Republicans leaving only the wacko right for Republicans.   I like pointing out to conservative friends that both Clinton and Obama are to the right of Nixon (the father of the EPA, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and just look at Nixon's proposal for comprehensive health insurance).  Imagine if Obama made a trip to Tehran ala Nixon's trip to China?

It is going to take at least another generation to modernize the GOP.  But that doesn't mean they can't win the White House (although GOP Chair Herr Priebus believes his party can no longer win the national popular vote).  Eventually, voters will become sufficiently frustrated with the status quo to just vote for the other person for a change. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Text and video of Obama's Second Inaugural Address

Here is President Obama's second Inaugural Address as delivered. Below is the text as prepared for delivery.

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

Inaugural Address

Monday, January 21, 2013

Washington, DC

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Assault Weapons Common Sense

What does it say about America in 2013 when the comedian makes more sense than elected Republican politician?

Watch Jon Stewart nail this issue.