Tuesday, September 2, 2014

St. Ronnie's Man At The Post

Today's announcement that Frederick Ryan has been named as publisher of the once great Washington Post Bezos Bugle would seem to complete the paper's metamorphosis to a complete organ of the right-wing.  For the majority of Ryan's professional life, he was busy building up St. Ronnie of Hollywood, both as assistant to the President and then as an executive of St. Ronnie's shrine / Presidential library in Simi Valley, California.   Reading his Wikipedia entry, it's impossible to escape the fact that this guy is a hard-core Reaganite, and as publisher of the paper, will almost certainly take the paper more to the right than it already is.

The rightward lurch began some years ago, with the hiring of Fred "Both Sides Do It" Hyatt as editorial page editor (and neocon hack), followed by giving employment to such Bushie hacks as Mark Thiessen, and Michael Gerson.  Ownership of the paper by "libertarian" mogul Jeff Bezos seemed to cement the trend.  Over a generation, the op-ed page has changed from left-center to right, and now promises to go hard right with Ryan publishing the paper, despite any coming denials by the paper  Happily, the Bezos Bugle is increasingly out of touch with the "blue" D.C. / Maryland / Northern Virginia demographic that it imagines it writes for, meaning their days are numbered with the direction they've taken.

BONUS:  Bezos is not only increasingly out of touch with his paper's demographic, he's out of touch with his own reporters.

(hat tip to our friend P.E.C. for the story)

Wave Bye-Bye?

Eugene Robinson speculates why the 2014 midterm elections might not be shaping up to be the "wave election" many had predicted months ago:
The [Republican] candidates may be plausible, but they’re running on the wrong issues. Rather, the wrong issue: the Affordable Care Act. 
“Repeal Obamacare” remains a rallying cry for the GOP’s activist base — perhaps less for the law itself than the president for whom it is named. But for independent voters, undoing health-care reform is not the sure-fire issue Republicans hoped it would be. 
The program is in effect. Some people who previously could not obtain health insurance now have it. Most people are unaffected. Despite all the dire GOP predictions, the sky has not fallen. 
Yet Republican candidates say otherwise, describing a dystopian breakdown of the nation’s health-care system that simply has not occurred. And they go all tongue-tied when asked how they could manage to repeal Obamacare in the face of a certain veto by Obama — or, more tellingly, just what they would put in place if they somehow succeeded.
But forget wave, or even ripple, election.  Sam Wang at Princeton Election Consortium sees a much different outcome at this time:
Long-term forecasting is based on methods that worked nearly perfectly in 2010-2012. We will soon install code to display the long-term forecast, which is also based purely on polls. Currently, the long-term forecast for Democratic control on Election Day is 65%, about 2-1 odds in favor.
Now, the usual caveats apply (i.e., "It's two months until the election!!"), and Wang is swimming against the tide of conventional wisdom and most, if not all, of the polling community.  Not to mention Wang is putting his probabilities in the realm of a "work in progress."  But, given that he was dead on in earlier projections (we recall him picking all of the 2012 Senate winners and nailing the Presidential results), one would be stupid to dismiss his analysis even at this relatively early stage in the midterm election cycle.

Quote of the Day

First I was in Sloviansk, then I’ll go to Mariupol and after that I’ll go to Kiev.” -- a pro-Russian separatist manning a checkpoint in southeastern Ukraine, where the city of Mariupol is under the threat of occupation by Russian-backed insurgents.  Only time will tell if his sentiments reflect those of his Russian backers.

President Obama is traveling to Estonia for a meeting tomorrow with leaders of that country and of Latvia and Lithuania to discuss Russia's expansionism and incursions into Ukraine with the nervous Baltic nations.  NATO leaders meeting in Wales this week are expected to take up the proposal that a "rapid response" force be established to deal with potential Russian incursions in Eastern Europe, with an increasingly arrogant and reckless Vladimir Putin pushing forward.

UPDATE:  Perhaps the pro-Russian separatist quoted above has been listening to Russian autocrat Putin after all.  Taking Kiev in two weeks?  This man has become dangerously delusional.

Cantor Cashes His Chips

Former Republican House Majority Leader, and one who was hoisted on his own petard, Eric Cantor,  raised some Beltway eyebrows last month when he resigned from Congress with several months to go in his final term.  They assumed he'd cash in with K Street after his term was complete, but Cantor's itch for big money was overpowering.

Now, we see that Cantor's been promoted from a Wall Street employee who happened to be a Congressman, to a Wall Street executive.  It was a fitting reward to someone who was seen as a "bag man for Wall Street."  His avid support for the TARP bailout, his opposition to Dodd-Frank regulation of the investment banks, and his anti-labor positions made him popular among the financial industry's plutocrats.  The gullible tea baggers -- whom he had tried to ride to greater political heights -- finally caught on, and turned on him.  They saw in Cantor a practiced liar, who could look in the camera and swear that the Earth was flat.  He should be a good fit on Wall Street.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Today's Tomorrow Cartoon

(click to enlarge)

(Tom Tomorrow, via Daily Kos)

Labor Day, 2014, And A Party That Doesn't "Get It"

America's labor was the force that built up this country.  Through labor's efforts, we have the 40-hour week, child labor laws, collective bargaining, and the minimum wage and much more.  It's also worth remembering that labor was on the front lines of the 1960s civil rights movement.  As we celebrate Labor Day, and the people who "get it" (see post below), let's also remember those that are doing their best to roll back the hard-won gains for American workers (and all of us):  the Republican / New Confederate / Stupid Party.  On issues important to working families, the Rethugs have sided with their corporate contributors.  Raising the minimum wage: no.  Equal pay for women: no.  Paid family and sick leave: no.  Affordable health insurance and Medicaid expansion: no.  Protection of collective bargaining rights: no.

There's still much to do:  income inequality is growing, wages are not keeping pace with the economy, and union-busting politicians are on the rise.  So, let's celebrate the men and women who work in the stores, factories, classrooms, and fields, and let's not lose sight of who is on their side and who isn't, and vote accordingly.

Labor Day, 2014, And A CEO Who "Gets It"

You may have read about the fight for control of the Market Basket grocery store chain in New England this past summer, which featured cousins Arthur T. Demoulas ("Arthur T.", or "Good Arthur") and Arthur S. Demoulas ("Arthur S.", or "Bad Arthur") in a struggle for control of the chain.  Good Arthur was strongly supported by the non-unionized workers and many of the customers of the chain because of his pro-worker, pro-consumer approach to the business, whereas cousin Bad Arthur was, well, your typical CEO.  Bad Arthur then succeeded in ousting Good Arthur from the company.  But now, after months of wrangling and a worker-consumer boycott, Good Arthur is back in the driver's seat at Market Basket.  (E.J. Dionne, Jr., gives more of the details here.)

Thursday, Good Arthur spoke to employees at the company's headquarters in Massachusetts and gave a speech that countered every Maker vs. Taker, Job Creator vs. Moocher trope that plutocrat right-wingers have flogged for decades.  Here's the heart of that speech:
“In this organization, here at Market Basket, everyone is special. You have demonstrated that everyone here has a purpose. You have demonstrated that everyone has meaning. And no one person is better or more important than another. And no one person holds a position of privilege. Whether it’s a full-timer or a part-timer, whether it’s a sacker or a cashier, or a grocery clerk, or a truck driver, or a warehouse selector, a store manager, a supervisor, a customer, a vendor or a CEO, we are all equal. We are all equal and by working together, and only together, do we succeed.”
As Dionne puts it, Labor Day is supposed to be a celebration of "human beings over things"  (not profits over people, or tax avoidance over corporate civic responsibility).  That's the value that Good Arthur embraced and why he prevailed, with a little help from his fellow human beings.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dr. Ben Carson Gets His Nazi Analogies Sideways And Backwards

Here's Driftglass on remarks by Republican loon-du-jour Dr. Ben "On Meds?" Carson comparing the America of progressives and Obama supporters to Nazi Germany:
... I actually agree with what Dr. Carson said, although not in any way that would make him happy. 
The despair and rage and paranoia of post-WWI Germany that made the rise of Nazism possible -- an overpowering sense of betrayal and lost greatness... an obsession with race and purity... a berserk hatred of impure outsiders and immigrants... a willingness to believe the most paranoid conspiracies about fifth columns and internal enemies ... the relentless scapegoating of (among others) minorities, foreigners, intellectuals, unions and Liberals ... the round-the-clock raving of demagogues -- are precisely the same toxic conditions which prevail within the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement today.  
"Fox News Contributor" tells you all you need to know, too.

Sunday Reading: The Sublime And The Asinine

Carol Anderson, associate professor of African American studies and history at Emory University, has a must-read piece in this morning's once great Washington Post Bezos Bugle, "Ferguson Isn't About Black Rage."  Anderson tells us that, rather than black rage being the culprit in incidents such as the killing of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, MO, it is white rage at the progress being made by blacks in this country that's fueling the latest "wave of fear and anger:"
It’s more subtle — less overtly racist — than in 1865 or even 1954. It’s a remake of the Southern Strategy, crafted in the wake of the civil rights movement to exploit white resentment against African Americans, and deployed with precision by Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. As Reagan’s key political strategist, Lee Atwater, explained in a 1981 interview: “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘N-----, n-----, n-----.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘n-----’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like ‘forced busing,’ ‘states’ rights’ and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that.” (The interview was originally published anonymously, and only years later did it emerge that Atwater was the subject.) 
Now, under the guise of protecting the sanctity of the ballot box, conservatives have devised measures — such as photo ID requirements — to block African Americans’ access to the polls. A joint report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the NAACP emphasized that the ID requirements would adversely affect more than 6 million African American voters. (Twenty-five percent of black Americans lack a government-issued photo ID, the report noted, compared with only 8 percent of white Americans.) The Supreme Court sanctioned this discrimination in Shelby County v. Holder , which gutted the Voting Rights Act and opened the door to 21st-century versions of 19th-century literacy tests and poll taxes.
The disproportionate effects of the recession and the right-wing's efforts to weaken social safety net programs and the public sector in general are also part of this pattern, as Anderson points out.  (And to be sure, the right is also fighting advancement and enfranchisement of Hispanics, women, LGBTs, and anyone who might be considered a potential Democratic voter).  The election (and re-election) of Barack Obama was simply the most recent cause for the unleashing of the white right's rage.

While we're on the subject of white rage, look no further than the same once great Washington Post Bezos Bugle for the latest rage-gasm from George "The Man With No Mirrors"  Will.  Will's op/ed (here's the link, but you're just going to waste several minutes of your life that you can't get back if you read the whole thing) is yet another stab at perpetuating the image of Rep. Paul "Lyin'" Ryan (Galt-WI) as a giant intellect of conservatism (well, considering the comparative brainpower on the right, maybe he has a point).  In the process, though, Will shows that he's still (white) enraged at the way President Obama dealt with Ryan's 25-watt intellect in an incident from over 3 years ago. Then, he took a personal swipe at the President:
[Obama] demonstrated the self-­destructive nature of his now-evaporating presidency by his contemptuous, and contemptible, treatment of Ryan on April 13, 2011. After he loftily aspired to teach Washington civility, the White House invited Ryan to sit in the front row at a speech in which Obama gave an implacably hostile and mendacious depiction of Ryan’s suggestions for entitlement reforms [ed. note: bullshit]. Obama thereby repeated his tawdry performance in his 2010 State of the Union address, when, with Supreme Court justices in the front row of the House chamber, he castigated them for the Citizens United decision, which he misrepresented [ed. note: bullshit again]. 
Both times, Obama’s behavior bespoke the insecurity of someone who, surrounded by sycophants, shuns disputations with people who can reply. Ryan, however, has replied with a book that demonstrates Obama’s wisdom in not arguing with a man who has a better mind and better manners.  (our emphasis)
A "better mind and better manners?"  Asinine on many levels.  We seem to recall Joe Biden already did a beautiful job of popping Ryan's deep thought balloons.  But that was one white guy schooling another white guy, so no multi-year umbrage from Will.  So are we the only ones who detect more than a whiff of condescending plantation racism in Will's wording?  To us, that wasn't even dog whistling, that was a siren.  Should the twice-elected President of the United States not presume to challenge his white betters?

If the once great Washington Post Bezos Bugle had a soul, this would be Will's last column for them.  Unfortunately, they don't and it won't.  But, we'll add this to the bulging "George Will is an ass" file anyway.

BONUS:  If you're still not convinced there's a problem in the Ferguson, MO, police force, check this out.

BONUS II:  Still not convinced there's a discrepancy between police treatment of whites and blacks? Remember this?  And we won't even get into Cliven "Hoof" Bundy and his band of armed thugs.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Clothes Horse('s ass)

Apparently, some members of Congress have nothing better to do on their long, long summer recess than comment on what President Obama is wearing.  We're referring of course to the tan suit that the President wore at his Thursday press conference that got New York Republican Congressman and IRA bag man Peter King in a huff.  King was miffed at what the President wore ("For him to walk out — I’m not trying to be trivial here — in a light suit, a light tan suit…") and the fact that he highlight good economic growth news rather than immediately announce that the U.S. would be carpet bombing terrorists in the Middle East.

Oh, and speaking of tan suits and terrorists, here's the esteemed terrorism expert Rep. King, right, with IRA leader Gerry Adams.

The increasingly irrelevant Beltway media were on the case of the tan suit, which only reinforces the view that policy issues are too difficult for them to digest (and certainly report on accurately) so they prefer the trivial and shallow.

Ford's Feeling All Right

Toronto's bad boy Mayor Rob Ford has never been shy about cutting loose.  Here he is gyrating to the Bob Marley tune, "One Love" (sample lyrics: "Let them all pass all their dirty remarks; there is one question I'd really love to ask: is there a place for the hopeless sinner,who has hurt all mankind just to save his own beliefs?").  They have their hopeless sinner for sure, and he's all for feeling all right.  He really gets his groove on starting at the 24 second mark in the video:

30 Vs. 1 Million

As their anti-"Obamacare" ship slowly sinks beneath the waves, Republicans have tried all manner of diversions and schemes to deny uninsured Americans affordable health care.  In Florida, where a Rethuglican Governor and state legislature are in control, they came up with an "alternative" to the Federal "HealthCare.gov", but that provided only limited services, and none of the protections of the Affordable Care Act.  So how's that working out?  Not so good: a grand total of 30 people have signed up for the Republican alternative (that's not a typo;  it's actually 30).  By contrast, nearly 1 million Floridians have been able to obtain affordable private sector insurance through "Obamacare."  There would be even wider coverage if the Governor and state legislature hadn't blocked additional Medicaid funds under "Obamacare."

Adding to this political pratfall  is the fact that the "alternative" was championed by none other that Florida's teabagger Sen. Marco "Glug Glug" Rubio, erstwhile candidate for the Rethuglican Presidential nomination, to the tune of $1.8 million in Florida taxpayer money.  Perhaps they should call the failed Florida experiment "Rubio(doesn't)Care." (Musical accompaniment)

Friday, August 29, 2014

McConnell Campaign Manager Resigns Amid Bribery Scandal

Jesse Benton, Sen. Mitch "Missy" McConnell's (Koch-KY) campaign manager, resigned today after documents surfaced possibly linking Benton to a bribery scandal involving the political campaign of former Rep. (and Rand's daddy) Ron "Uncle Crazy" Paul in the Iowa caucuses in 2012:
As [former Rep. Ron] Paul's political director in 2012, Benton has been tied to the scandal that saw thousands of dollars exchanged for political endorsements prior to the 2012 presidential caucuses. On Wednesday, former Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty to charges in connection to receiving under-the-table payments for switching his backing from U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to Paul. Sorenson then lied to investigators about the payments, according to the Department of Justice. Sorenson's guilty plea was accompanied by two documents, which could potentially implicate Benton, the Herald-Leader notes.  [snip]
Benton was hired in 2012 by McConnell to head his 2014 reelection campaign, seeking to boost his credibility with libertarian factions of the Republican party. It was seen as a surprising move, one that has caused other troubles for the McConnell campaign. In 2013, a phone recording surfaced in which Benton said that he was holding his nose while working for McConnell and thinking of the long-term best interests of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Benton is also the grandson-in-law of Ron Paul.  Crazy... er, cozy.

(Photo:  Benton and McConnell.  Actually, they both stink;  vote for Alison Lundergan Grimes and contribute to her campaign here.)

Federal Judge Blocks Texas' Abortion Law

A ruling by a Federal judge earlier today overturned Texas' restrictive abortion law that was passed last year by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Texas Gov. and future LensCrafter spokesmodel Rick "Oops" Perry.  The law required the state's 19 clinic that were licensed to perform abortions to have hospital-level facilities, effectively limiting the number of compliant clinics to 7 by next Monday.   Last year, current Dem candidate for Governor, State Senator Wendy Davis, gained national attention for her 13 hour filibuster of the bill.  (Donate to her campaign at this link.)

This hasn't been Oops' month, with this reversal of a law he championed and his grand jury indictment for corruption.

Weekend Song

Happy birthday to Belfast's own Van Morrison, who turns 69 on Sunday.  After leading Anglo-Irish R&B group Them to the top of the charts with such hits as "Gloria," "Here Comes The Night," "Mystic Eyes," and "Baby Please Don't Go," Morrison embarked on a successful solo career.  His composition "Brown Eyed Girl" was his first solo hit in 1967, and remains his most popular.  Enjoy your (Labor Day in the U.S.) weekend --

Laughin' and a-running hey hey
Skipping and a-jumping
In the misty morning fog 
With our hearts a-thumpin' and you,
My brown eyed girl.