Thursday, February 28, 2013

Boob Woodward: Dumb like a Fox

Slow news cycles breed stupid media obsessions -- with themselves. Thanks to long past his prime DC hack Bob Woodward, the Capitol Hill courtiers found a springboard to launch into an endless bitchfest about their dismal treatment at the cruel hands of Obama's White House. If somehow you missed the red siren alerts, last night Politico posted an interview where Woodward claimed to have been threatened in an email from an unnamed, highly placed, White House official.

Today, the White House released the Woodward email exchange that nearly had him hiding under his bed. Here's the the "threatening" part of it:
From Gene Sperling to Bob Woodward on Feb. 22, 2013

Bob:

I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall — but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here.

But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim.
It was the "you will regret" bit that had our hapless sad sack trembling in his booties. I'm sure you'll be shocked to learn Politico truncated the quote in their original piece. But that aside, more revealing is his response to Sperling.
From Woodward to Sperling on Feb. 23, 2013

Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening. I know you lived all this. My partial advantage is that I talked extensively with all involved. I am traveling and will try to reach you after 3 pm today. Best, Bob
Doesn't he sound terrified? Gracious. You can almost smell the fear. Or maybe that stink is something else that reminds me of living on the farm. But mission accomplished. The entire media industry from the internets to the teevee punditry are all talking about the Boob Woodward today with Sean Hannity scoring an exclusive interview with him on Fox tonight. Oh and by the way, did you know Woodward has a new book out about debt crisis dealing on the Hill?

The glaring attention Woodward is basking in has already spawned a half dozen, "yeah I was "threatened" by the White House too" copycats seeking their share of the spotlight. Most notable being Ron Fournier who woefully informs us he had to "ice" one of his longstanding inside contacts who had hitherto enjoyed guaranteed "blanket anonymity" for any and all tips rendered. I imagine Fournier misses his cozy exchanges with Karl Rove back in the the golden days of the Bush era.

Even one of the biggest hacks in the business is embarrassed by this solipsistic orgy. Chuck Todd tweeted: "This Woodward-WH story is proving a media stereotype that I hate but can't disprove: that we're too self-absorbed. It's not about us!!!!!!!"

Not that Chuck's lament will stop the airing of the grievances. Because what this is really about is that most of our Big Media DC divas do feel threatened by their diminishing role as sole gatekeepers to access. I mean what's the point of manning the gates when everybody and their brother has a key to the side door?

Addendum: To be fair, I should mention much of the chatter is actually mocking Woodward's lame claim to being terrorized by email. Nonetheless, they're still all talking about themselves -- and their access.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Progressive agenda is popular with Republicans

Really try not to avoid encouraging poll mania, but this was such an interesting stat, it's worth sharing. Business Insider commissioned poll testing on alternatives to the sequester showed the Progressive Caucus’ plan was the most popular of the three choices by a rather unimpressive margin. However, this was surprising:
– Shockingly, 47 percent of Republicans preferred the House Progressive plan to the sequester. This means that Republicans supported the House Progressive plan just as much as they supported their own party’s plan. [...]

The CPC’s plan involves replacing the sequester with $960 billion in new revenue — raised via closing loopholes that benefit the rich and corporations, as well as ending wasteful subsidies — $278 billion in defense cuts, and investment in new job creation measures, including spending $160 on America’s crumbling infrastructure. The House Republican plan, meanwhile, replaces the sequester with a basket of cuts to food stamps, Medicaid, and the social services block grant (which, among other things, funds Meals on Wheels).
The downside is the other half support the Republican's slash and burn agenda, but I'd like to think they just don't really know what it is and only chose it because it said Republican. Either way, it feels like we're making a little progress.

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On the scene at Rosa Parks dedication

The photos from the Rosa Parks statute dedication are rolling in now. This is a great capture from the pre-ceremony mingling on the floor. Would love to know what was said in this conversation.


[Pete Souza/White House photo]

It appears our hapless Speaker John Boehner can throw some shade of his own, but he has nothing on Obama in that department. Meanwhile, no photo-op is complete without the requisite "kissing babies" shot.


[photo via HuffPo]

The little guy is a 3-year-old relative of Rosa Parks. Lot of subtext to that moment.

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Obama throws a side-eye at Boehner on Capitol Hill

One of the few benefits of being an obscure little blogger is I get to shamelessly steal Charles Dharapak's photos and the AP probably won't sue me. This one is surely photo of the day. Taken at Rosa Parks statue dedication at the Capitol today. I believe the kids are calling this "throwing shade" these days.



[Charles Dharapak for AP photo]

Obama's side-eye is priceless but what I loved best is that Boehner is holding Nancy Pelosi's hand. Charles tells me it's because after Pelosi spoke, Boehner took her hand when she sat down. Which is not as funny as the vision I had of Nancy comforting poor little Johnny while tries to hold it together by holding his hand through the whole ceremony. (Wide shot here)

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False equivalence is killing us

Not sure what started this mass bashing of the courtier press this week, but there's been a heartening amount of calling out the perps. Today Brian Beutler takes on Obama Derangement Syndrone in the establishment media. Brian riffs off David Ignatius who published an inane op-ed that included this gem:
“Obama tries everything to gain control — except a clear, firm presidential statement that speaks to everyone onboard, those who voted for him and those who didn’t — that could get the country where it needs to go,” Ignatius sighs.
This of course ignores the last two years of pre-election campaigning, the SOTU and President Obama's numerous road trips in the last few weeks to make his case directly to the people. Road trips which Ignatius and his fellow insider Villagers sneeringly term "campaign-style" tactics. Which wouldn't be necessary if these parrots of the conservative party line did their job instead of obsessively repeating the tired "both sides do it" refrain.

Greg Sargent has been calling out the courtiers for longer than maybe anybody. Not the first time he's made this point the both-siders consistently fail to mention.
The GOP’s explicit position is that no compromise solution of any kind is acceptable — this must be resolved only with 100% of the concessions being made by Democrats — which means any compromise Dems put forth is by definition a nonstarter at the outset.
And James Fallows schools the dunderheaded punditry on recent history they choose to forget:
... a hidden-from-no-one opposition strategy that embraces crises, shutdowns, and sequesters rather than wanting to avert them. Look again at the Lizza/Cantor quote: Obama and the Republicans could have had a "Grand Compromise" deal, but Republican hotheads wanted a fight for the sake of fighting.
On the off chance you've forgotten, this refers to when the scary sequester monster was spawned:
During the insane-at-the-time-and-worse-in-retrospect debt ceiling crisis nearly two years ago, Cantor intentionally talked Speaker John Boehner out of accepting a compromise with the Obama Administration, because Cantor wanted to preserve this as a campaign issue.
As always, Steve Benen politely sums it up
Pundits obsessed with pushing false equivalencies and needlessly blaming "both sides" are convinced they're part of the solution. They're actually part of the problem.
Me, I'm tired of being polite about it. The big platform, prima donna punditry is willfully engaging in a failure to inform solely to keep phony controversies alive. These people are not stupid. They have to know they're promoting false narratives. It's lazy and destructive. Hard to call it any else but journalistic malpractice commited solely for personal gain.

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Say hey

One of these days I'm going to clean up the old blogroll. Last time I checked months ago there was a whole lot of dead or dormant blogs on the list. But new bloggers still launch all the time. I still regularly get request for reciprocal links but mostly they're sham blogs, set up solely to make ad revenue. Often with stolen content.

But not all of them are frauds. There are still a few newcomers who care about changing the system and have something real to say. So say hello to The Moderate Nation, a new blog from a long time activist, located for now in the Centrists and Swingers section until I redo the sidebar.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

John Boehner's House of ill dispute

Ever wonder what they do all day in the People's House? Since our hapless House Speaker announced he was done dealing with the dreadful sequester, and with the Republican party's poll numbers in the tank, surely he was conducting the important business of the people. Or not.

Yesterday John Boehner reconvened his chamber after a ten day vacation recess and the only thing they accomplished was renaming a couple of government buildings. Today they managed to pull themselves together enough to establish a national science fair competition. That's pretty much it. The rest was all political theater.

Boehner won't bring anything to the floor unless it can pass with a Republican majority except under the most extreme pressure to perform his duties. The GOP caucus is so fractured this is the only sort of meaningless legislation he can bring forward. Little wonder 62% of the people consider Republicans out of touch with reality. [graphic via]

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Boehner begs Senate to save his ass



If there was a shred of remaining doubt John Boehner has exactly zero power within his caucus it was removed today when the clearly frustrated House Speaker begged the Senate to do something to make the stupid sequester go away:
“We have moved a bill in the House twice. We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something,” Boehner told reporters in a press conference, repeating a message he had just delivered in a closed-door meeting of the House Republican conference. [...]

“If the Senate acts, I’m sure the House will act quickly,” he said.
If it wasn't so pathetic, it would be hilarious. The worst kept secret on Capitol Hill is John Boehner is powerless to push any bill that isn't comprised solely on the GOP demand for spending cuts only. The GOP's crackpot cons won't let him negotiate with President Obama directly, nor will they agree to any compromise that would include raising revenue through the closing of loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid fair tax contribution or eliminate subsidies to profit drenched industries that don't need them.

As far as the Senate bailing out Boehner, that's another pipe dream. Thanks to the crackpot cons on that side of the Hill, the Senate can't pass anything either.

Of course, the simplest and most sensible thing to do would be to just cancel the stupid sequester. The only certainty is, that won't happen. Maybe it's just as well. We should be talking about spending more money, not cutting spending. If they let this happen, and the public sees the real world effects of these cuts, it could end up changing the focus inside the bubble. One can hope...

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Handling the Truth

By Capt. Fogg

One of those movie quotes that may well long outlive not only the actor who spoke the lines but those who saw the movie when it was first released, is Jack Nicholson's "You can't handle the truth."  As a general statement about Americans, it may well be true and we don't really need to in many cases since media corporations from Hollywood to Newscorp are there to give us tuned up, revised, redacted and sanitized version with beautifully produced happy endings. Take Argo, for instance.  Will history reflect tendentious interpretations of what happened during the Iran Hostage crisis the way Happy Days or those Austin Powers flicks reflected the 50's and 60's -- in a fun house mirror? People who remember the times clearly and as adults may not think those days were so happy and the buck toothed Powers dressed up as Friedrich Schiller may seem bewilderingly irrelevant.

It's hard -- hell it's impossible to imagine how the early years of our new century will be portrayed whether in thriller or sit-com form in 20 or 30 years.  I'm almost glad I won't be around to see it for fear of some George Bush as the Fonz with his flight suit and aircraft carrier musical.  Heyyyyy.  Or perhaps George and Cheney and their adventures in saving the world from Liberals and terrorists. 

But if my worst fears come true, if we descend into what I hope is only a nightmare from which one awakes to the smell of coffee and the morning paper,  how will today's crazies look on tomorrow's TV?  Will we even acknowledge the Survivalists and Preppers stockpiling weapons for an apocalypse that still hasn't happened, the revolution they still dream of. The Tea Party, the Homophobes, the Fundamentalists, the immigrant haters, the white supremacists. . . 

 Will we watch Springtime for Limbaugh on Broadway or will he just fade away like Father Coughlin? Will Osama have been caught through the use of torture and by George Bush himself while the Recession was caused by the president who inherited it?   Ask some scriptwriter and director yet unborn.

Who knows, but I doubt we'll have ceased to be a war worshiping nation of swaggering Chauvinists and self styled saviors of "freedom,"  So maybe we will have saved freedom at least in the movies and won't notice that we have a government that knows every breath you've taken and every thought you've had and doesn't trust you with cash or nail clippers of liquids in more than 3 Oz containers and tracks you with GPS and micro-drones and will arrest you for having bad thoughts.

I hate to sound like one of those "everything is getting worse," wolf crying, Chicken Little types you find on the Right and the Left.  I'm not, but I think it's always been bad and we just hide it and explain it away and paint it over with murals.  It's human nature and it's the nature of nations and creeds.  The only truth we can handle is the stuff we make up.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Thats the way you do it

Refreshing to see somebody on the teevee challenging the GOP claptrap. In contrast to the dozens of stenographic posts carefully transcribing Bobby Jindal's word salad, delivered moments after the White House governor's confab, CNN business correspondent Ali Velshi calls out Gov. Bobby Jindal's nonsense:
VELSHI: It’s 3% of a small part of the federal budget which makes it a very big part of some major agencies. It’s misleading stuff Bobby Jindal is saying, number one. Number two when he says families understand they have to live within their budget. I don’t know a lot of families who buy a house with cash. Buying a house on a mortgage, is that living within your budget or not living within your budget? You would have to be 80 years old to be able to buy a house with cash. We have an understanding in our society, it may be flawed, that we borrow money based on our future earnings potential. All people do that, companies do that and governments do that. There’s a point at which you can say, we’ve gone too far with that or we’re too much of a risk of not paying back so we’ll end up paying a higher interest rate. When you borrow too much money, your personal interest rate goes up, credit cards go up. But to suggest within your means and balanced budget nonsense is just misleading. That is not how families live. It’s not how businesses conduct themselves. It is certainly not since the history of time the way governments run themselves. ...
The "run the government like your family budget" is one of the dumbest constructs to ever take root in the Beltway script. Even if it was at all valid, it's based on the false premise that responsible people don't take on debt. In reality, unless you literally live on the street, even if you paid off every single bill before you went to bed last night, you woke up in the morning with new debt. You owe that day's cost of living from utilities to mortgages or rent at the very least.

It would be helpful if more journos would remind their viewers of these simple truths.

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Google Glass

Well if you don't find it annoying to have something permanently hanging in your peripheral vision, I guess Google's new glasses look pretty cool. Seems to be the general reaction on my social nets. Me, I'm creeped out by it. Feels like one step away from assimilation into the Borg. Very Three of Five. Call me Hugh...



[via TPM]

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Slow motion disaster

The only sensible thing to do at this late hour would be to just cancel the stupid sequester. But this is D.C. so it's going to happen because, crackpot cons need a Potemkin victory to please the angry rubes back home. GOPers are betting they can pin it on Obama, but the polling says otherwise. A vast majority, even among unengaged voters, know who to blame for the sequester. It won't be Obama.

The problem is, though it's being spun as a world shattering disaster, the effects won't be immediately apparent to regular people who don't depend on government paychecks. But if it's allowed to linger, the effect on government services people do depend on (yet take for granted) in their daily lives will become increasingly apparent. Oddly, this is the silver lining in the sequester madness:
If the economy sputters as a result of the spending cuts, as some economists predict, deficit reduction will look even worse. An already frustrated workforce will become even more angry, and likely take out their frustration on a Republican Party that has been insisting deficit reduction should be the nation's short-term goal, rather than stimulating the economy.

Conservatives will suffer as the focus of congressional debate will quickly shift from the issue of spending cuts, where the emphasis has been since 2011, to the issue of spending more.
In other words it exposes the fraudulence of the entire premise of conservative economic theory. If it accomplishes that much, maybe it will be worth it. Unfortunately, by the time that happens, our economic recovery will be set back, increasing the already significant suffering of the under and unemployed, the poors and the olds. It will not only arrest forward progress, it will probably kick us back into another recession.

Not that our wealthy overlords care. They make their money either way. [graphic via]

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

High price of health care

Had to shamelessly steal Alex Pareene's Sunday Bobblehead Review from Atrios because something unexpected and not awful happened.
Somewhat wonderfully, the discussion of Steven Brill’s giant Time piece on healthcare costs turned into a fairly explicit endorsement of lowering the Medicare eligibility age — even dedicated “entitlement” foe Stephen Rattner unexpectedly endorsed this proposal! — which lead Stephanopoulos to point out that by the same logic we should just have single-payer healthcare. (Oddly, Brill’s actual article rejects price-controls and single-payer as solutions but when he was just talking about it extemporaneously everyone seemed to grok that those were the only coherent solutions to the problem.) Oh hey guys, you have all just discovered all the ancient arguments for single-payer that left-liberals have been making since forever, congrats. By tomorrow you will all return to demanding that the Medicare eligibility age be raised in the name of fiscal responsibility but for now, let’s enjoy this moment.
(Stops to savor...) Single payer is the obvious answer. For it to be said out loud in the Village receiving parlor is significant. Surely it will be immediately ignored but it's now on the internet. It will not be forgotten.

Brill's epic article in TIME explains in painful detail why we pay too much for medical care. The shorter: The business of medicine is based on entirely wrong payment incentives. Invitation to padding and kickbacks. Overly complicated paperwork provides easy cover for fraud. Corporate demand for profit creates pressure to cheat. All the things contribute to inflated pricing and diminished quality of care for the patients. It's a racket.

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sequester is killing the internet

It appears the general public is burned out on manufactured crises. Almost nobody paying attention to the scary sequester showdown except obsessives and paid media who doggedly continue to transcribe the tactical minutia of the contest. Which at this point on the Republican side is a desperate bid to try to shift ownership of the sequester solely onto President Obama. Yes I know, stupid and deceitful but that didn't stop Bob Woodward from delivering some of the dumbest punditry ever to come from a website that doesn't have Zombie Breitbart's imprimatur stamped on it.

Woodward's farcical case for blaming Obama had all of Wingnuttia drooling into their keyboards today. It matters not at all that Woodward ignored the salient facts that disproved his whole thesis. Didn't stop the wingnuts from rushing to spread Woodward's validation of their cockamamie meme.

So, in a way, Woodward wins. He surely generated some page hits. But in general, the paid media is moaning about the boring sequester killing the internet, like this:
Meanwhile, at The Atlantic Wire's sister site, Atlantic politics editor David Graham speculated that since the sequester was a bipartisan invention, it has failed to generate the kind of left-versus-right food fight that is typically great for traffic.
Apparently, the electorate still remembers the sequester was a stupid deal made necessary by Boehner's inability to corral his caucus into a sensible solution. It was made in desperation and haste; based on the flawed notion establishment Republicans just needed a little more time to co-opt their crackpot contingent. Except the well-funded insurgents refused to be co-opted and instead doubled down on the crazy. Their livelihood depends on never accepting any deal that is in any way associated with the "Democrat Party" in general and President Obama in particular.

Of course Big Media won't tell you that, and even the less corporate, more honest news sites won't either. Everyone making a living on delivering news is just biding their time with an eye to the fallout:
But while voters may be tired of their elected officials inventing phony deadlines rooted in their own dysfunction rather than in reality, there's little doubt that if the cuts do go into effect, the consequences will be very real. And so journalists continue to labor on through the valley of page view death.

"It's a worthy topic to cover," said Stein. "And it is bound to get more important and interesting if sequestration does, in fact, hit. There will be tons of stories to tell then, both inside and outside of Washington, D.C."
Interesting that he's saying "if" it goes through. There's a fair number of Big Media pushing a sequester - meh - theme to keep it from dying under its own destructive absurdity.

File that under what's wrong with everything. The 24/7 news beast is insatiable. It demands page views. The news media's incentive is to heat up the controversy, not quash it with cold facts. But you can't blame them entirely. It's also what the outrage addicts on all sides want. It's their job to give it to them.

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The 100 million protest march

Chances are you didn't see this story on your TV news stations. I only saw it because I caught an odd RT in my twitter stream. My google-fu tells me it was barely covered by the high profile US news orgs even in print/online. But Al Jazeera was there:



If you can't watch the video, the workers of India have had enough of being exploited by the owners and the politicians.
As many as 100 million Indians angry about high prices, low pay and poor working conditions walked off their jobs Wednesday as a two-day strike organized by 11 major trade unions closed banks, disrupted major transportation and reportedly saw two deaths, Al-Jazeera reports.

The strikers want a legal minimum wage, fairer contracts, better working conditions and a halt to outsourcing of public jobs to the private sector.
Doesn't sound so different from the current state of our country.

Worker solidarity will get any government's attention. Wondering how bad it will have to get here before the exploited workers of America take to the streets.

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You make me feel like dancing

I imagine this will be posted everywhere today but I'm posting it too for the archives. Our First Lady is so cool. Michelle Obama and Jimmy Fallon in drag...



[More segment clips here]

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Let's call the whole thing off

There's a reason Republicans love to demagogue about "out of control spending" but refuse to name specific cuts they want to make. It's because, when asked about specific cuts, the majority of the electorate loves spending and in fact wants to spend more. If you don't want to dig through the numbers, Plum Line summarizes the polling.

As it turns out, the people love the very programs Republicans most want to cut and care the least about the spending Republicans are fighting to protect. Although there's some small variation, for instance callous cons care less about helping the poor and the olds, this is true across party lines. The only safe spending cut is to foreign aid, which as the self-informed know, constitutes such a small slice of discretionary spending as to be a mere sliver of the total pie chart. Not going to starve the scary deficit beast by withholding that crumb.

Sequester is the worst possible way to revoke unnecessary spending. It's dangerously disruptive. Bookkeeping costs of this kabuki will far outweigh any savings. It won't last for long because it will hit all the things the people like to spend money on. The sensible thing to do is for everyone to agree they need more time to consider the cuts and just cancel it. They could do that. The twitter tells me they probably won't.

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Can't live without a living wage

Happy to see Nancy Pelosi throw down a challenge to the GOP on an issue that really matters to the little people. She told the media Democrats would be pushing a minimum wage raise and if GOPers didn't get on board they could explain it to the voters in 2014.

The strategy is straightforward:
“Just keep it simple. We want to raise the minimum wage, and you don’t. Why not?”
She understands the politics perfectly:
“There’s an even greater awareness now than there was six years ago about the disparity of income in our country — and that this disparity is not a healthy thing for a family or an economy,” Pelosi told me. “Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do, but it’s a popular thing to do as well.”
This was something Republicans once understood as well. When George W. Bush was president, 67 GOPers (still in office today) supported minimum wage hikes. The hike passed with a large bi-partisan majority vote because Democrats didn't put their personal partisan interests over the common good of the working class people.

Not so for Republicans. GOP House leader John Boehner rejected the idea almost before President Obama finished proposing it. Boehner wails it can't be done because, job killer. A claim that is not supported by empirical evidence but yet goes unchalleged by the DC media elites, who merely transcribe the nonsense without comment or context.

In truth, what actual non-partisan research shows is that an artifically low minimum wage effectively subsidizes highly profitable corporate employers. They rake in record breaking profits while the taxpayer foots the bill for social services the employees need. Social welfare the working poor qualify for because their inadequate wages do not cover the barest basic cost of living.

The hell of it is, the paltry $9 an hour still isn't enough in today's economy. If we look at the history of the minimum wage, we find, "it had its highest buying power in 1968 at $1.60, when it was worth about $10.56." If memory serves a gallon of gas was well under 50 cents in those days.

This isn't about protecting jobs. It's about Republicans protecting the wealthy. It comes down to unmitigated greed. Sadly, we don't have Ted Kennedy to make the case anymore.

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Shame, Shame

By Capt. Fogg

Remember when anyone like the Dixie Chicks, for instance, or you and I expressed any sense of shame for any actions our country may have taken or not taken: any shame for having elected Caligula Jr. the Warpresident?  Well certainly the great weight of Limbaugh and the fire-farting far right came down on such unfortunates back in the day when expressing pessimism about the Stock Market was evidence of being an "America Hater."  Even peripheral actions like perhaps wanting to publish the names of soldiers killed in the early days of our Shokinaw war in Iraq was disgraceful and shameful because there was the chance someone might use it to express regret for or disapproval of any action of a Republican president, illegal or otherwise.

So shocked I was to hear than ol' rant 'n rage Rush declare yesterday that he was ashamed -- that's right, ashamed of the United States of America.  It's hard to reconcile that with all the loud Limbaughian flatulation when Michelle Obama said that for the first time in her life she was really proud of our country, which allowed speculation that she might ever have thought less of it than she thought of God Almighty or perhaps Allah to some dittoheads.  There's usually no worse offense, nothing closer to  treason than not to gibber in epiphanic ecstasy at any description of  our New Jerusalem, our greatest of all Christian Nations under God and all it ever has done.

But not this time.

“To be watching all of this, to have my intelligence – all of us – to have our common sense and intelligence insulted the way it is….it just makes me ashamed,” the fat man sang on his afternoon radio program. “Seriously man, here we get worked up over 44 billion dollars — that’s the total amount of money that will not be spent that was scheduled to be spent this year.”

Only $44 billion he said as though we would hardly have a problem if we hadn't and still didn't have the most expensive and protracted war in our history and one which not only didn't pay for itself as promised, but didn't solve any of the problems it was supposed to do.   How many trillions did George spend and refuse to pay for?  Isn't nearly all of that "spending" he wants to cut service on the Commander Guy's extravagance?  Well of course it is, but all that sound and fury could never be as offensive to Rush as making sure that other people don't have to die of things like infected anal cysts or that some kid doesn't have to go to bed as hungry as Rush gets after 10 minutes of not stuffing his fat face. It's shameful that the less than wealthy should presume to do more than ditto him.


“We just keep spending more money. We create more dependency, we get more and more irresponsible one crisis to the next, all of them manufactured. Except for the real crisis that nobody ever addresses — and that is we can't afford it.”

Nobody Rush?  Perhaps not so you could hear over your own sound and fury, but your party hasn't shut up long enough for anyone to pause and ask who decided we could afford the most expensive war we ever had because the magic Tax Fairy would pay for it.  Wasn't that a manufactured crisis that created a real crisis -- the WMD that weren't, the yellowcake hoax?  We couldn't afford it and you told us we could because tax cuts for you would create magic money instead of the predictable debt and crisis that in fact created all that dependence.
So,  I'm sorry to insult your intelligence with the truth and sorry to mention that your followers tend to be on the two digit side of the bell curve, but your self serving, self contradictory logorrheic slurry
of never-ending shit is an embarrassment to God and country -- and to me. 


“I've said the same things over and over for 25 years” 
said Rush, but of course he said it during the most prosperous period in our history as well and while the debt shrank and the surplus grew. "I just hate slick Willie" he said.  "I mean he just makes me sick."  While employment and wages grew and debt shrank and Lord Rushbaugh and millions of us got rich: while the economy bloomed and peace prevailed; while he screamed about the greatest tax increases in world history.  "Both parties are spreading fear and panic," said Rush who may be afraid that he'll not get this year's Oscar for fear and panic mongering. What else has he ever done?
But hey, I wouldn't want to live in a country Limbaugh approved of so I can't say that I'm sorry for his simpering claim to shame.  He's not ashamed of backing Joseph Koney while claiming that Obama was not a Christian, he's not ashamed that none of his prophecies, his apocalyptic warnings  have shown merit.  He's not really ashamed at all. It's just another gambit, another  lachrymose plea for attention, another distraction, another smokescreen to hide his irrelevance, his dependency, his shameful life.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why the price of gas is so high

I don't drive that much lately. The last time I filled up my car was about a month ago. Still I noticed this mysterious spike in gas prices:
The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline has jumped 45 cents in the past 31 days, according to AAA, the fastest run-up since 2005. [...]

Analysts differed widely on the causes of the increase.
They blame lower output from OPEC, investor concern about potential oil supply disruption and US refinery shutdowns for routine maintenance but none of it makes sense under the usual "supply-and-demand fundamentals."

Indeed, the price rise makes no sense at all. As West Wing Report noted on the twitter, "U.S. demand (EIA data) at 2000 levels for November." However, international demand is high. WWR gones on to tell me the price spread between U.S. oil (West Texas Intermediate) $95.64 and Brent Sea $117.51 is driving up U.S. exports of refined products. Obviously, "U.S. refiners are exporting as much as they can because foreigners are willing to pay more."

Which brings to mind the idiocy of the drill here, drill now conservatives. Republicans promise them if only we drilled more of our own oil, the prices would magically go down a couple of bucks a gallon. If only that were true. In fact, at this very moment we have so much oil backed up in the supply chain, America has run out of oil storage. The refineries can't process it fast enough to move it out.

But the real reason the prices aren't going down is pretty much market manipulation. Big Oil is shutting down refineries. And why, when prices are so inflated, would they do that you ask?
“Atlantic Basin capacity closures have improved refining fundamentals,” the nation’s biggest refiner, Valero, said in a slide presentation at a Credit Suisse conference this month. It estimated that nearly 1 million barrels a day of refinery capacity has been closed on the East Coast or in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the past two years, which Valero said allowed it to increase profit margins.
Profit margins. It's always about the profit. Cheaper gas would help our economy recover for everyone, but artifically manipulating the supply chain boosts the corporate bottom line quicker. Corporate welfare above country. Meanwhile, Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to protect Big Oil's tax breaks while insisting we need to shred the social safety net to save the Republic. And the GOP's useful fools embrace this sociopathic corporate con because, pisses off liberals. Crazy.

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Why does Jeff Zucker hate CNN?

Hot on the heels of CNN's embarrassing non-stop coverage of the poop ship, the guy who is supposed to save the sinking ratings of CNN seems to believe the secret to success is pushing out its best talent. Zucker clearly reneged on his promise to give her a prime-time slot, so Soledad O'Brien is likely leaving the station. And this is the understatement of the year so far:
The source added, “Soledad is talented at producing in-depth, serious pieces of journalism, and is a tough interviewer. That doesn’t seem to fit the direction the network is going.”
Rather sad to watch what was once the best news source on the teevee fall so far from relevance.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

White House Press Corps laments lack of access

Did I call it last night, or what? Sure enough, as White House Correspondents Association President, Ed Henry lodged an official complaint about access, or lack thereof:
"Speaking on behalf of the White House Correspondents Association, I can say a broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the President of the United States this entire weekend,” said Henry. “There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency."
And Scott Wilson's lament was especially heartbreaking. Loved this part:
For much of this outing, the small contingent of the White House press corps accompanying Obama has lobbied with little success for more information about where precisely on the Floridian grounds the president is staying, who he is staying with, and how much contact he has with other people on the grounds.
Because, America needs to know what POTUS is doing every single second of a three day vacation. Maybe they would like his bathroom schedule too?

Indeed, all our super elite insider DC Media were wailing about this egregious affront to the public's right to know. To which I say bullshit. This isn't about their concern over transparency. It's about access and the status that comes with it. Boohoo. They don't get to be all cool and gain special entry to a private club. And horrors! Some golf site reporter gets to be there and tweet all the insidery details. And he's not even in the White House press corps.

Have to love the White House's response. Which was basically: fuck you. We told you that he wasn't going to be made available before you tagged along. And frankly, I don't blame them.

I'm all about the First Amendment and holding the President accountable. But Obama works hard and he takes very little time off. He deserves a couple of days outside of the fishbowl. Pretty sure the republic will survive without knowing his golf score or seeing a photo of him with Tiger Woods until Pete Souza releases one.

The WHPC doesn't treat Obama with any respect. They don't report the substance of what he says. They're always looking for an easy gaffe or gossipy trivia that drives traffic but most often derails the actual debate over policy he is trying to have with the electorate. They snipe at and snark about him on the social nets. They uncritically transcribe every lie told by his opponents about his proposals without context that would expose the deceits. And then they wonder why he wants to escape them for a few hours?

Having come to know them a bit as people through the twitter, I actually like some of the reporters on this beat. But this over the top whining about something so inconsequential makes them look childish, and churlish. In fact, it gives the impression that what is really bothering the WHPC is their aimless haunting of the perimeter of the club this weekend made them look pretty damn irrelevant.

[Big thanks to Pete Weber at The Week for the name check and the link.]

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Justified

By Capt. Fogg

It isn't common for the US media to make an issue of the level of violence in South Africa, but Oscar Pistorius is a celebrity and the woman he's accused of murdering was a celebrity.  The lives of our secular pantheon are important to the public and particularly if the celebrity has to do with sports.  Are the successful athletes we love to appoint as role models, whom we love to pretend to emulate, really paragons of virtue and discipline or does their drive, their ego, their motivation spill over into something sometimes less than wholesome?  I'm not going to generalize about the famous, but like the USA, South Africa is a violent nation and one with a long history of violent racism and violent crime and a population with a large difference between haves and have-nots. The murder rate is high, about 50 per day, and while I read that only about 12% of South Africans own guns, the probability is that many more are not reported and are illegally owned.

White, middle and upper class South Africans live in fear and those who can afford to, live in gated enclaves behind iron barred doors and windows; behind electrified fences with sophisticated alarm systems and armed security guards -- and they own guns.  The standard of living is lower for non-whites but the level of fear is high for all and one can argue that it's justified. Guns are used in 77 per cent of house robberies and 87 per cent of business robberies, and they are the cause of death in more than half of all murders.  Many burglars are seeking guns over other items.

South Africa is often described as a "gun-loving" country. Yes, of course if one lives on a remote farm in the bush, there are leopards and lions and hippos and elephants that argue for heavy arms, but I think that for the most part, owning a gun is all about crime and a sense of security in a violent nation. According to Wikipedia, A survey for the period 1998–2000 compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ranked South Africa second for assault and murder (by all means) per capita and first for rapes per capita in a data set of 60 countries. Total crime per capita was 10th out of the 60 countries in the dataset. A study by the government  on the nature of crime in South Africa  concluded that the country is exposed to high levels of violence as a result of different factors, including:

The normalization of violence. Violence comes to be seen as a necessary and justified means of resolving conflict, and males believe that coercive sexual behaviour against women is legitimate.
 
The reliance on a criminal justice system that is mired in many issues, including inefficiency and corruption.

A subculture of violence and criminality, ranging from individual criminals who rape or rob to informal groups or more formalized gangs. Those involved in the subculture are engaged in criminal careers and commonly use firearms, with the exception of Cape Town where knife violence is more prevalent. Credibility within this subculture is related to the readiness to resort to extreme violence.
The vulnerability of young people linked to inadequate child rearing and poor youth socialization. As a result of poverty, unstable living arrangements and being brought up with inconsistent and uncaring parenting, some South African children are exposed to risk factors which enhance the chances that they will become involved in criminality and violence. 

The high levels of inequality, poverty, unemployment, social exclusion and marginalization.

Much of this should seem familiar to Americans and the kind of  justification many Americans feel in owning guns is the same. Discussions of gun control in South Africa have understandably become as heated as they once again have in the US after high profile, heavily publicized murders, but in neither place will effective debate be conducted without acknowledging the various reasons people buy and own guns: without acknowledging the kinds of perpetrators and their proportion.  Not as long as we focus on undoing the latest headline, not as long as we depend on fear rather than fact.

In both nations, the murder rate is declining. In South Africa after tougher limits on gun ownership took effect in 2004,  the number of gun-related crimes has dropped by 21 per cent. The Globe and Mail tells us that  this decrease is not merely because of a general decline in crime in South Africa. One study of female victims, we are told,  by the country’s Medical Research Council, found that gun-related deaths had dropped by nearly half from 1999 to 2009, while other causes of violent death were virtually unchanged. You'd think you'd hear us talk more about the how and why of it.

In the US, gun-related violence has been declining for longer and has declined further.  Does this argue that gun control can be effective?   I think it does. Does that prompt us to improve our efforts along the same lines and with regard to underlying causes?  I think it does,  yet in the US I see little effort being made to acknowledge this; to look at what works and what has not worked -- but rather we seem to champion ideas without support of experience, despite experience while demonizing the pragmatic, scientific efforts. Too many of our arguments and most of the angriest seem to have more to do with blaming certain weapons with certain appearances or often fictitious attributes and rely on using certain kinds of descriptions designed to inflame, not to inform -- and may people who agree in principle that there are things we can do to lower the violence and the fear find it impossible to work together, to cooperate through the barrage of  passionate slogans and shoddy shibboleths.  Too many of our arguments depend on denial and maintaining, despite the truth, that everything is getting worse as if hope were an enemy, confidence a conspiracy and truth irrelevant.

We Americans seem to think that nothing that works elsewhere can work here, that we are so unique in our nature and the nature of our problems that we retreat into solipsism and blindness.  In fact, looking at our history of prohibitions and bans and the emotional dishonesty and selective blindness that supported them,  it seems to be an American tradition of long standing.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Political photo of the year

I watched this speech live. Have to agree this captures the magic of that moment perfectly.


Brooks Kraft has won “Political Photo of the Year” from the The White House News Photographers Association for this image of President Barack Obama speaking in the pouring rain during a campaign rally in Glen Allen, Virginia.
Can't imagine how they choose only one from a whole year. I've seen so many great images. In fact, this would be a good time to clear out some of my archives. I'd vote this best POTUS with baby photo of the year.



Best family photo. Barack and the kids watching Michelle speak at the DNC.



Best informal appearance by the First Couple. Valerie Jarrett's wedding.



Best formal state appearance. POTUS and the Dalai Lama.



Apologies to the photographers for failing to find the photo credits. Think most of them are by Pete Souza and of course, he wasn't eligible for the contest.

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Standing up for climate change science in D.C.



Big Media tweeters are whinging this afternoon that mean old President Obama won't let them watch him play golf today. As Ed Henry explains this is very troubling because, transparency! He's aghast that America is being cheated out of this golden press opp to check out the presidential golf swing. Meanwhile, not seeing any of those very important journalists mentioning this huge climate change demonstration in the heart of their Village:
On Sunday, an estimated crowd of 35,000 people joined the Forward On Climate rally in Washington, DC, where protesters delivered a clear message to President Obama: Take immediate action on climate change by rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Organizers of the rally described as the “largest in U.S. history” also called on the president to issue overdue Clean Air Act standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants.
Pretty sure those Americans Ed is so worried about would be better served by becoming informed about the enormous cost of ignoring climate change.
Last month, 13 federal agencies jointly released a draft of the third National Climate Assessment, which concluded, simply, “Climate change is already affecting the American people.” The report found that climate change, caused by human activities, has caused rising sea levels, more frequent and intense heat waves, heavy downpours, floods, and droughts. And that’s not all. Prolonged heat waves and droughts, driven by climate change, are pushing down production of crops and livestock, thus driving up food prices. The changes are also sparking larger and more frequent wildfires; melting the glaciers and mountain snowpack that are essential sources of water supply in the West; and lowering the levels in major bodies of water, from the Colorado and Mississippi rivers to the Great Lakes.
That doesn't nearly cover the scope of the ripple effects which they cover at the link. But the big takeaway is we're doing it wrong. We spending too much money on repairs and virtually none on preventation and mitigation. Which costs us infinitely more in the long run.
A 2012 study by the Madrid-based group DARA found that extreme weather associated with climate change is costing the world economy $1.2 trillion a year, destroying 1.6 percent of global gross domestic product. The study projects that the effects of climate change could cut global GDP by 3.2 percent a year by 2030.
And the thing is, the scientists were too cautious in their predictions. It's happening a lot faster than anyone predicted. What were once 1-in-100-year events are now more likely to be 1-in-10-year events. Useful to notice that two of the "most significant storms in the past 300 years to strike the northeastern quadrant of the U.S. have occurred within just four months from one another."

In the last 100 years, the third would be the blizzard of 1978. Watch the archived newscast of the 78 blizzard to see how far we've come in tracking the storms. But better forecasting, while it probably saves some lives, won't save us from the damage that gets greater with every major onslaught of extreme weather.

Reasonably sure you won't see Ed Henry talking about this on the TV. However, I'd be willing to bet he'll tell you Obama and Tiger Woods played golf and they wouldn't let the very important press to come along.

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The price of corporate welfare

More proof that the Republican conservative whine about over-taxed corporations is a lie:
It hasn’t drawn much attention, but Facebook’s first annual earnings report contains an accounting gem: a multibillion-dollar tax deduction for the cost of executive stock options and share awards.

Even though Facebook (FB) reported $1.1 billion in pre-tax profits from U.S. operations in 2012, it will probably pay zero federal and state taxes—and even receive a federal tax refund of about $429 million—according to a Feb. 14 statement from Citizens for Tax Justice.
It doesn't matter what the official tax rate is, the biggest, most profitable mega-corporations don't pay that rate. In fact, most mega-corps pay no taxes at all.

How do they do it? Hire an army of accountants to game the tax code. Immoral sure, yet all very legal. But we can't possibly close those loopholes because, job creators! Thus we must starve granny because keeping the government's promise to the olds and taking care of the poors is bad. Give those deadbeats a crust of bread and next thing you know they expect free cheese too. They're eating up the profits. Can't have that. [photo via Mother Jones]

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Many long years ago

Going to be a slow news weekend with the entire Village having fled for the holiday. Including POTUS and FLOTUS on -- gasp -- separate vacations. So how about a little US history for a Saturday afternoon? The Atlantic posts a fabulous gallery of 50 iconic photographs from 1963. (Added bonus -- all on one page). This one still brings a tear to my eye ever time I see it.



Definitely click through to view the whole gallery. Good reminder that as bad as it seems now, back then it was actually worse.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Elizabeth Warren goes back to Washington

The talk of the toobz today was about Elizabeth Warren kicking the SEC's ass at her first Senate Banking Committee hearing. She politely asked why no banksters had been brought to trial. This apparently unexpected inquiry left the SEC flailing, and failing, to come up with an adequate answer.

Our intrepid Senator Warren then proceeded to explain in great detail why the failure to meaningfully prosecute the banksters was not a particulary effective deterrent to criminal manipulation of the financial markets. And her sidebar on the double standards of the justice system was a thing of beauty. Here we have an unapologetic liberal with the power to change the national conversation and the courage to do it. Cheering.

Of course, not everyone found this exchange as satisfying. The banksters were not amused.
That set off angry responses to Politico's Morning Money. "While Senator Warren had every right to ask pointed questions at today's Senate Banking Committee hearing, her claim that 'nobody believes' that bank books are honest is just plain wrong," emailed a "top executive" to the financial newsletter. " Perhaps someone ought to remind the Senator that the campaign is over and she should act accordingly if she wants to be taken seriously."
Unserious. The ulimate all-purpose code for STFU with your liberal facts.

Elizabeth Warren is "unserious." She's one of us. I don't think she's going to STFU. We are blessed. [image via]

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Won't you let me take you on a sea cruise



I love to travel but I've never felt the urge to take a cruise on a giant oceanliner. For one thing if I cared about endless buffets and cheezy floor shows, I'd go to Vegas where at least you get the added benefit of the neon lights. And the drinks are free at the casino.

For another, the idea of being trapped on a boat, no matter how big, with a bunch of American tourists is not in any way appealing. Being trapped on a broken ship with virtually no services like the doomed Carnival cruise is my worst nightmare. Nothing brings out the ugly in the ugly privileged American like a failure of expected amenities.

Meanwhile, I get that it's a legitimate news story, but the frenzied coverage has been a bit much. I mean really CNN? Is this necessary? A CNN spokesperson emails Dylan Byers:
The squalid, smelly, steamy cruise ship, which has been without power for days with 4,000 people aboard, is expected to finally limp into port later today. CNN’s Erin Burnett will anchor Erin Burnett OutFront from Mobile, Alabama, where the ship will dock. Sandra Endo covers the ship’s arrival by helicopter; Victor Blackwell monitors by boat; and David Mattingly and Martin Savidge report from the dock in Mobile. CNN.com/live and the CNN apps will live stream the docking. CNN International will simulcast the arrival later tonight.
This is apparently CNN's new business model since the new wunderkind took over running the place:
Zucker is telling reporters and producers to broaden their definition of news and include a greater selection of topics.

On Thursday, as other networks covered sober political news, CNN aired Beyoncé’s Super Bowl press conference where she broke into the national anthem to prove she could sing as well as lip-sync.
They are obviously looking for ratings to stem the bleeding of their ad revenue which fell 7 percent in 2012 while their competitors gained revenue. Apparently no one told Mr. Zucker that CNN's slide into oblivion began when they effectively declared they were going to become the new Fox News by embedding on the Tea Party Express. Their demise has only accelerated since because they've already been broadening their definition of news from useful information into puerile sensationalism and pure gossip mongering.

Of course CNN isn't the only offender. One can't help but be struck by the difference between the tone of coverage about first world problems of upper class travelers and the real life disaster of second world Americans in the Superdome at NOLA during Katrina. [image via]

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Friday funny

OMG! Larry fell down. Whew! He's alright. (Admit I watched this more once in a row).

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Senate GOP invents the filibluster

Watching the Senate floor while they take a cloture vote on Chuck Hagel's nomination while I'm reading that Grampy McCain's Benghazi curiousity was finally satisfied.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Thursday that the White House's response to his and other Republican senators' questions on the September attack in Benghazi, Libya was satisfactory. The senior Arizona senator said he is now ready to find a way to end the filibuster that is holding up the confirmation vote for defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, CNN reported. [...]

McCain said he is now trying to get answers to questions posed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) regarding Hagel's sources of income. If those inquiries are answered, McCain said, there won't be a need to end the filibuster with a vote. Instead, the Senate could move to vote a straight up-or-down vote on Hagel, which would require only a simple majority of 51 votes to be confirmed.
That was posted at about 2:00pm today. At 4:15pm the nation's greatest deliberative body started sauntering in for a cloture vote. McCain was one of the first no votes. Initial count was 59-39 with one present and GOP's "Diaper" Dave Vitter skipping the vote. So ultimately, cloture fails 58-40. The whole sorry charade is a pathetic farce. And the only reason they delivered this act of the eternal kabuki this afternoon? As somebody said on twitter: "Senate agrees to 4:15 vote on Sen Hagel to showcase how divided they are in time to leave Thursday night for week off."

Recess! Just like elementary school kids on the playground. Only these overpaid asshats don't have to go back to class and do some real work in 20 minutes. They're off for ten days. I'm not even that keen on Hagel getting the job, but this is a criminal waste of time and money on the taxpayer's dime.

Meanwhile, minority whip John Cornyn took the floor in the after vote laments to declare, (as GOPers have been doing for days), this wasn't really a cloture vote. It is not a filibuster. It's a reasonable delay, dammit. The GOPers still don't know all the things about Chuck. Maybe they need to look at his grocery receipts for the last five years so they know if he's been eating kosher or halal. OK, I made that last part up but their demands for information at this point are as nonsensical.

Hell, they were willing to foist off Mitt as President with far less disclosure than they're demanding from Hagel. Not to mention many of them served with the guy for years. Ye gods. Hagel is a freaking red state Republican and a decorated war veteran. If he was nominated by a Republican president, these idiots would be falling all over themselves to vote yes. But it's not a filibuster, it's just filibluster.

The insiders tell me when they reconvene Hagel will be confirmed. Apparently, the GOPers just need more time to grandstand for the rubes back home before they can do the right thing and let the duly elected President pick his own damn cabinet.

[Thanks to Michael J.W. Stickings of The Reaction for kindly linking in at Mike's Blog Round-Up]

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All you need is love

Happy valentine's day my friends. I don't have a sweetheart so you all will have to be my sweeties this year. And just for you, here's a love bird. Red bird of paradise comes with its own heart feathers.


[photo via Cornell Birds]

And since it's my tradition to post a vintage card, this is the best one I found on the social nets today.



[Photos are better if you click on them to embiggen.]
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rubio walks on water

Well yes, Marco Rubio's lunge and glug for the water in the middle of his official GOP response to President Obama's SOTU was hilariously bizarre. A made for internet meme moment. Everybody's talking about it. It sent CNN over the edge.



Not a photoshop. (Imagining Ted Turner looking at that chyron and shooting his TV).

Hell, that awkward moment was a lifesaver for Rubio's career. The Great Hispanic Hope of the GOP, who's going to win over the Democratic party's base because he knows who Tupac is, clearly understands the internets. The speech was awful but he handled the fallout brilliantly. He won the insiders over with a rapid response, self-effacing tweet that amused the political obsessives who build the news cycle narratives. Then he played out the "aw shucks" routine when he made the rounds on the TV talkies today.

So everybody chuckling over his funny little mishap. Almost nobody talking about how what Rubio said was so incredibly deceitful at best or at worst, dangerously unhinged from reality. For instance his "working class" residency. From the speech:
Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren't millionaires. They're retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They're workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They're immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.
Rubio's humble abode is on the market at an asking price of $675,000. And do click through that link to see how Rubio benefited from the housing bubble, which in his speech he blamed on longstanding false GOP tropes.

Steve Benen shortens the rest of Rubio's inanity:
By any sensible measure, Rubio's entire pitch was incoherent gibberish. He thinks President Obama is hostile to free enterprise and wants to increase the deficit, neither of which makes any sense. Rubio thinks the housing crisis was caused by big government, which is simply idiotic. Rubio celebrates his family's history of dependence on government social programs like student loans and Medicare, while articulating a policy agenda that guts government social programs like student loans and Medicare.

Forget ideology, subjectivity, and areas of opinion -- the fact is Marco Rubio's speech was filled with a series of claims with no meaningful connection to reality. The senator even thinks combating the climate crisis means asking government to "control the weather," which is just genuinely dumb.
I feel reasonably certain you will not be hearing this on CNN tonight. Or ever. Nor on any other of the major televised broadcasts. Which is why your conservative relatives actually believe those viral emails they keep sending you.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

GOP responds to SOTU with Cirque du So Lame

Apparently President Obama is so powerful it now requires three Republican responses to the SOTU. Latest legacy media darling Marco Rubio will handle the official GOP duties because, Hispanic outreach. Which ironically won't be broadcast in Spanish as planned because the "English only" cons in Congress protested.

Rand Paul will deliver the privately sponsored official Tea Party response which he promises won't be any different from the official GOP position because, solidarity. Or something. In other words, pointless.

Meanwhile, appearing as the true representative of the crackpot conservative contigent, Ted Nugent (the angry white guy's, angry white guy) will be holding court somewhere on the sidelines where he promises to take on the lamestream media. As he explained his role in a recent interview:
"We know that the president will have the state of the union stacked and jammed with props, children, and victims of violent crime, " Nugent said. "And my friends wanted me to attend to counter that the way that I do: with facts, statistics and common sense and logic and a celebration of self-evident truths. So I will be taking on the media orgy following the State of the Union Address."

Nugent said the media does not realize he is a "force to be reckoned with" and therefore he will "dominate them."
This freak show brought to you courtesy of crackpot Texas Congressman Steve Stockman who tells us he invited the washed up, long past his prime performer “because he is a supporter of the Second Amendment and American values.”

That would be the sort of "American values" held by real Murkins who hold events like this:

[Click to embiggen. Does that "zombie" look familiar?]

And yes, I asked if this was real. I'm told it is an actual event held at the Gilbert Indoor Range, 14690 Rothgeb Drive, Rockville MD (info@gilbertindoorrange.com).

I weep for the children that have to grow up in a world with these people.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Hoping for a better Pope

Big buzz today about the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, who will forever be fixed in my mind as Pope Ratzo. It's a weird thing. I'm very attracted to the trappings of the Catholic church. Growing up as a Protestant in Italian neighborhoods, I was consumed with Catholic envy. They got the all the cool stuff. Holy water. Rosaries. Scapulars. Mysterious confessionals. The great pagent of first holy communion. Early release from school to get ashes. And the saints. Patron saints.

The pagentry was brilliant. But even then, I was never down with the Pope. The whole concept of an infallible man offended me. So have no emotional attachment to the office and little interest in the doings of the Holy See. Still, to the extent I paid attention, I did not like this Pope. I thought he was the worst one ever.

To be fair, he did advocate for some good social values when it came to caretaking tenets of the Christian faiths. However, he failed so miserably otherwise in advancing the Church's role in civil society that it overshadowed those few offerings. Think we're well rid of him. Can only hope the next one will be better.

Meanwhile, the news broke early this morning which immediately launched the social nets into a new Battle of the Witticisms. Have no idea what The Thick of It is, nor who Father Dougal might be. I'd guess it's even funnier if you know the reference. Still, even absent that knowledge, I've seen about a billion Pope jokes today and oddly found this one the funniest.

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Major blowout

This was funniest thing on the social webs this morning. Major Garrett, Chief White House Correspondent for CBS News and columnist for National Journal, tweeted this earlier today:

It was just a brief flicker on the twitter, but of course, what is posted to the intertoobz will live forever. I wasn't the only one to capture the screen grab. Much hilarity ensued.

Some speculation that Major was hacked but seems rather clearly a real tweet that was meant to be a private message. Misdirected DMs are the new inadvertent "reply-all" emails. One bad click and there's no taking it back. Besides, this is not the first time Major Garrett has been caught in an embarrassing tweet. There was also this one:
I apologize. Bit.ly turned my original link to SOTU excerpts to a soft-porn link. NOT my intention.
Don't believe I've seen that particular glitch happen to anyone else, ever. One might speculate Mr. Garrett had accidentally viewed some soft porn and inadvertently shortened the wrong link.

Jake Tapper came to late to game with an attempted rescue. He tweeted: "I believe @MajorCBS was 1st to report Hagel vote will be tomorrow. That's what all the buzz is about, I assume. Good scoop."

As former Senator Scott Brown might say: #bqhatevwr.

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To serve with honor and retire with nothing

Esquire posts a long story on the man who shot Osama bin Laden. It goes into great detail on the mission that ended with bin Laden's demise that will surely fascinate fans of war porn. For myself, the big takeaway is his disgraceful treatment in retirement by our government.

The man served valiantly for sixteen years at no small risk to his own life. The stress of his deployments ruined his marriage. He killed America's number one enemy, face to face. And then he burned out. He didn't want to roll the dice for another four years and choose to get out while he still has a chance to see his kids grow up. Maybe live to see grandkids. And so, he gets exactly zero benefits. No pension. No health insurance. No employment assistance. Indeed, he can't even use his military experience to get a job because his work remains under the top levels of secrecy.

Meanwhile, he and his family, not unreasonably, live in fear for their lives. Any moment some revenge seeking maniac could target them in retaliation for bringing down the father of al Qaeda. The government's only possible assistance is some vague notion they could put them in a quasi-witness protection program. In which case they would lose everything. All contact with their extended family and friends. All their worldly goods. And realistically would still be living in fear of having their true identities discovered.

Hell, our useless politicians at every level of government who face nothing more dangerous than elevated cholesterol from too many fancy dinners with lobbyists, get a much better deal than that for far less years of service. But these are the military rules and regulations.

Furthermore, it's not just the elite troops that get shortchanged. So many whose careers are less dramatic but serve our country no less honorably end up without proper care. An "Urban Institute study found that those requirements leave 1.3 million veterans without health care benefits, alongside 0.9 million members of their families."

It's not just disgraceful, it's immoral. Honoring the troops by such gestures as applauding them in airports is little more than a cruel joke if we don't take care of them when they come home.

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lindsey goes all drama queen over national security nominees

In a sane world there would be at least a tacit agreement that there be a reasonable time limit on Beltway theatrics before a Cabinet nomination is allowed to come to a floor vote. Everyone would recognize endless grandstanding to please the narrow interests of the rubes in the home district is an impediment to responsible governance. Sadly we now live in some bizarre GOP wasteland where success on one side is measured by how long vital processes of governance can be delayed.

So instead of an orderly transition of the U.S. Cabinet, we get Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Closetcase) threatening to place a hold on Hagel and Brennan's confirmation votes because, Benghazi. Again. After weeks of investigation and floor hearings. Lindsey is not sure he knows everything yet. Lindsey needs to know all the things.

Thus, it appears we have our answer to the question Mitch McConnell evaded recently. McConnell claimed he wasn't sure Senate GOPers would filibuster Hagel. Days later, they announce they're blocking both NatSec noms.

Same Republicans who are wailing about defense cuts in the sequester going to bring us all to doom are refusing to allow an up or down vote on the Secretary of Defense and the Director of the CIA. Maybe one of our insider journos could ask them why they think leaving the top administrative positions in those defense departments unstaffed is any less a threat to national security.

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Obama, jobs and right wing media amnesia

In a piece that might have been delivered to him pre-written by the RNC, hapless GOP steno Byron York falsely claims Obama has done nothing to encourage our economic recovery. In fact, in this worthless word salad of phony GOP talking points, York alleges President Obama ignored the nation's economic woes altogether for the last four years except for a few words in his last inaugural address.

Maybe Mr. York didn't notice the hard fight Obama put up right out of the gate to rescue our economy from the fiery ruins of the economic meltdown his predecessor left behind. The battle to get stimulus funds. The bold and much criticized rescue of the auto industry. The executive orders to institute jobs programs such as he could outside of the relentless obstruction of a Congressional mob of recalcitrant Republicans who not only blocked and/or voted against every single job creating program put forward by the White House or the Democratic party but also fought to defund already existing job creating programs.

And York's amnesia apparently extends to the now long dead jobs bill Obama pushed for many weeks to get to the floor of Congress. Elon Green remembers:
I refer, of course, to the American Jobs Act, which was introduced in September 2011 and died on the table, thanks to Republicans, a month later. The failure to pass this $450 billion bill was of massive consequence to the economy in general and jobs in particular.
Obama certainly wasn't perfect on addressing unemployment. He put way too much trust into self-interested financial advisors who were wrong about almost everything. But to suggest that Obama did nothing at all is so wilfully blind to the historical record it verges on a criminally negligent failure to inform the public.

This sort of journalistic malfeasance is exactly why the Republican party has no fear of repeatedly pushing blatant lies into the news media. Not only can Republicans feel safe to lie with impunity, they can depend on friends like Bryon York to amplify the false and invented reality that is currently destroying the GOP from within today.

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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Please Mister Postman, look and see

The United States Post Office has been in deep trouble for a long time. For many it seems its imminent demise is no big deal. In the upscale, urbane world where the demand for instant information grows as fast as kudzu in Georgia, "snail mail" feels as quaint and outdated as hoop skirts and stagecoaches. They see no problem with the local P.O. going the way of the buggy whip.

The other world of people who depend on the USPS is largely invisible to them. The elderly who don't have a clue about computers still depend on it. The homeless and other poor transients who need an affordable PO box in order to establish an address. The vast tracts of rural America private delivery corporations don't want to service because, no profit. These people could probably survive without Saturday delivery, but it's just the first step towards the ultimate demise of the USPS altogether. And even if dropping Saturdays saves the postal service for now, there are about 25,000 to 30,000 employees who would lose their jobs. These people are unlikely to find jobs with equal pay and benefits. It all contributes to weakening our national economy.

John Tierney thinks the problem is Congressional interference in downsizing because no Congresscritter wants their districts little podunk PO to be abolished. But saving those little outposts is the only good thing Congress has done. It provides employment in areas where there are few jobs and a local gathering point for rural communities.

Which is not to say the GOP in Congress isn't the reason the USPS is in trouble:
In 2006, the GOP Congress passed a bill that required the Postal Service to fully fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and to accomplish this within a 10-year period. Republicans are always insisting that the USPS be run like a good capitalist enterprise, but few, if any, private businesses could bear the burden of funding three-quarters of a century of retired employees’ medical costs over just one decade.

In truth, the Republicans who crafted the bill were not interested in turning the Postal Service into a better business; they were seeking to run the post office out of business. With all those unionized employees working for a quasi-governmental operation that competes with private sector enterprises, the Postal Service is an affront to those who hate government, hate unions and hate to think that there is anything that government can do better than the private sector. The post office may be mandated by the United States Constitution, as clearly as freedom of religion or the right to bear arms, but it does not fit with modern Republican dogma and, therefore, has been targeted for extinction.
For millions of Americans, the mail delivery is an important lifeline and the highlight of their day. It would be a shame to allow it to be destroyed out of political spite. [image via]

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