Sunday, August 2, 2015

Arguments For The Iran Nuclear Deal


As noted in the post below, the Iran nuclear deal is under heavy fire from well-financed lobbyists representing dead-end Republicans and Likudniks.  But, there's some good reading this morning on why the Iran nuclear deal is the best option for the region and the world.  Here are snippets to whet your appetite:

Vali Nasr, Dean of the School of International Studies, Johns Hopkins University on the deeply flawed thinking of opponents of the deal:
Opponents of the nuclear agreement with Iran see it as a license for Tehran to wreak havoc in the region. Freed from economic pressure and flush with financial resources, the thinking goes, Iran can be expected to unleash its emboldened minions upon Israel and Arab states and undermine U.S. interests. However, contrary to what the critics say, the nuclear deal is far more likely to curb Iran’s regional ambition. It is rather the instability that would follow the failure of the deal that should worry them.
The New York Times on the fact-free assault on the deal by ideologues and dead-enders here and in Israel:
What should be a thoughtful debate has been turned into a vicious battle against Mr. Obama, involving not just the Republicans but Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The unseemly spectacle of lawmakers siding with a foreign leader against their own commander in chief has widened an already dangerous breach between two old allies.
Policy considerations aside, what is most striking about the demagoguery is how ahistorical, if not downright hypocritical, it is. Negotiating with adversaries to advance a more stable world has long been a necessity, and Republican presidents have been among its most eager practitioners.
Suzanne Nossel, Foreign Policy, on the dire consequences that scuttling the deal would lead to for America's strategic and national security interests:
To the extent that the campaign against the agreement goes beyond posturing, though, and aims to actually muster the votes to defeat the agreement, the effort risks doing enduring damage, not just to the drive to defeat Iran’s nuclear program but also to U.S. strategic interests and power writ large. While the administration has rightly focused its case to Congress tightly on the effects of the congressional vote for Iran’s nuclear program, the implications of achieving a veto-proof majority opposed to the deal will reverberate far more widely. Though the prospect may seem relatively remote, the ripple effects of the deal’s defeat — not just for America’s national security, but also its global diplomatic and political clout — are grave enough that they should be weighed by every member of Congress before they cast this historic vote. 
It remains the best bet at this point that the Obama Administration will prevail in saving the agreement.  But with universal Republican opposition, it would only take a handful of spineless Democrats to pass a bill over the President's veto.  Make sure you contact any home-State Democratic Senators who are officially "on the fence" (we're thinking of you, Sens. Cardin and Mikulski), and let them know you'll be taking note of their vote.

Sunday Funnies - War Is Their "Better Deal"

(click to enlarge)


The TV ads opposing the Iran nuclear deal have been running incessantly, quoting misleading data and presenting half-truths. "Citizens for a Nuclear-Free Iran" is one group running the ads, with support from Israel's lobby organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  It's a multi-million dollar effort to derail the agreement -- a goal of the Likudnik government of the execrable Bibi "Bomb Bomb" Netanyahu.  The ads' mantra of going for a "better deal" is deceptive nonsense, intended only to derail the agreement that took years of negotiation (starting during Dumbya's term).  The six powers that negotiated the deal with Iran certainly don't think they could have gotten a better deal after all this time, with severe sanctions on Iran applying pressure.

The vote on the agreement will be a test for Dems to stand their ground with the President -- and with our allies and negotiating partners -- and to reject the alternative of an attack on Iran, with ominous repercussions throughout the world.

(cartoon:  Jim Morin, Miami Herald, via Gocomics.com)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Republican Crime Blotter - Straight But Crooked Edition, Cont.


As we noted last month, Texas Republican Attorney General Ken "Doll" Paxton has been under investigation by the Texas  Rangers for securities fraud.  Well, seems the scourge of environmentalists, Messican immigrants and Teh Gayz has been indicted by a grand jury on three felony counts:
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has been indicted by a grand jury, multiple outlets reported on Saturday.
The indictments were handed down on Tuesday and will be unsealed Monday. Paxton faces three felony charges: two counts of first-degree securities fraud and a third-degree charge of failing to register with the state securities board, The New York Times reported.
Paxton's office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Paxton is accused of misleading and encouraging investors to put over $600,000 in a technology company without disclosing that he received a fee on their investment and while serving in the Texas House of Representatives, The New York Times reported[snip]
Paxton has sued the Obama administration multiple times on issues such as immigration, the environment and benefits for same-sex couples.
In related Texas Republican crime news, former Gov. Rick "Oops" Perry is still facing a felony abuse of power charge, which leads one to wonder, what kind of yahoos vote these ethically- challenged shysters  into office over and over?  (Rhetorical question - we already know.)

Today's Cartoon - The Republican Platform


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"Make no progress, Improve no planet, end no suffering."  Exactly.

(Rebecca Hendin, via gocomics.com)

Washington Post Reporters Fed Republican Magic Beans, Flatulate Accordingly



Once great Washington Post Bezos Bugle reporters think they've found the magic beans that just might lead Republicans to the White House in 2016:
Following President Obama’s reelection in 2012 — a win powered in part by historic black voter turnout — Republicans launched an aggressive outreach effort aimed at African American voters. Never again, they vowed, would they concede that sort of overwhelming demographic advantage to Democrats.
Now, heading into an election without Obama at the top of the ticket, many Republicans say they are positioned to make inroads with black voters.
Yes, that's been some Republican minority outreach, there!  In what elephant dung fertile soil are these magic beans supposed to sprout?  Why, Republican edumacation reform!  Here's Bush Dynasty scion John Ellis "J.E.B.!" Bush:
“If we don’t create an education system that allows young people to reach [the rungs on the ladder of success], we’re setting them up for a lifetime of failure,” he said. “So you and I have to call this situation what it is: the worst inequality in America today, and the source of so many other inequalities.”
Bush, and his party, think that sort of pitch may resonate with black voters. Some Democrats worry they may be right.
Of course, the "education system" reform Bush and his fellow Republican wingnuts want to create involves busting teacher unions (see:  Walker, "Koch Head" Scott), slashing education spending (again, see:  Walker, "Koch Head" Scott), eliminating Common Core, and pushing vouchers to dilute support for public schools. In other words, "Mississippi." 

Also, "Some Democrats worry they may be right."  Those illusive but oft-quoted "Some Democrats" are, of course, not named or otherwise brought up again in the article.  Why have any countervailing opinions quoted when your thesis is "Democrats in trouble!"?  We will bet these crack reporters that ate up the Republican magic beans that the Democratic nominee (=cough= Hillary Clinton, wife of "the First Black President" =cough=) will have no problem reaching a similar high level of African American support as every Democrat who has run for President in the last 40 years. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Weekend Youth Sunshine Music


We're featuring a song today from an American group for a change!   Cheerleader is an indie group from Philadelphia, PA, who recently finished a tour of the UK and is now touring in the States.  This is "The Sunshine of Your Youth" from their album of the same name, released two months ago.  Enjoy your weekend... and "be honest with yourself."


Scott Walker, The Hog Ridin' Fool*



The major claim to fame (infamy?) Koch brothers employee of the year puppet Gov. Scott "Koch Head" Walker (R-Kochland) enjoys with fellow right-wing Republicans is his single-minded resolve to kill unions in Wisconsin (starting with public unions, in a "divide and conquer" strategy), because Democrats!  Well there's a certain shall we say hypocrisy involved with Koch Head's riding on and promoting Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a Milwaukee- based company:
"He's trying to make a name for himself by saying 'I took on 100,000 union workers' - and he's on our bikes," said Andy Voelzke, 57, who works at Harley's plant just outside Milwaukee and is a member of the United Steelworkers union. [snip]
Harley’s unions in Wisconsin could be affected by Walker's "right to work" reform passed this year. Voluntary membership could leave unions with less money to pay for negotiators and lawyers. The company will also have more power to fire employees for not agreeing to additional tasks, such as overtime shifts.
Koch Head is a hog ridin' fool, and a bold and brazen one at that.

* Apologies to S. Clay Wilson and R Crumb.

The Republican War On Women - Planned Parenthood Edition



As Congress moves toward its summer recess, plans are afoot among the knuckle-draggers to deal a crippling blow to Planned Parenthood:
With conservatives hungry for a confrontation over Planned Parenthood, and Democrats moving to protect the organization, the battle is brewing over a must-pass spending bill that Congress has to deliver to the president’s desk by Sept. 30 to avoid a repeat of the 2013 shutdown
Conservatives figure using the power of the purse is the best way to force the action, while Democrats say that strategy plays into their hands and will tar Republicans with another shutdown.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is promising to block any effort to strip Planned Parenthood’s federal money, and though the White House hasn’t weighed in officially yet, Democratic aides insist President Barack Obama would not sign any spending bill that eliminates the funding.
This is, of course, fallout from the continuing release of debunked, highly edited video and audio tapes produced by the extremist, ironically named "Center for Medical Progress," and is part and parcel of the far-right's long-term strategy to destroy pro-choice organizations and associated women's health services in general. (Planned Parenthood annually serves approximately 3 million women in America, providing cancer-  and HIV-screening and contraception through roughly 700 clinics.)  This latest gambit has been clearly coordinated between the knuckle-draggers and their co- crackpot, craven Republican politicians fundraisers.  Far-right Republicans, however, have a long history of not being willing or able to learn from their mistakes ( "Fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. Fool me... You can't get fooled again!'"), and will doubtless try to pass this spending bill with the poison pill Planned Parenthood defunding included, shutdown be damned!

When all is said and done, we heartily endorse Sen. Harry Reid's (D-NV) response to Republican threats to shut down government over Planned Parenthood funding:

Pity The Plutocrat Quote of the Day


"My friend Ed Whitacre at AT&T: if there’s ever been an exploited worker—even though they made a big deal about him getting $75 million when he retired, the man added billions of dollars of value. He was exploited!" -- thus sayeth former Rethug Senator and an architect of the 2008 financial meltdown Phil Gramm before the House Financial Services Committee earlier this week.  (As with most things numeric, Gramm had the severance package off by a mere $83 million; Whitacre got $158 million).

What makes this defense of the plutocracy particularly offensive (aside from calling this corporate tycoon an "exploited worker") is Gramm's role in undermining banking regulations that had been successfully in place following the Great Depression.  Specifically, his Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 removed barriers between commercial banks and investment banks, leading to the mortgage lending bubble and collapse as investment banks made risky investments unchecked by banking regulations.  The fact that House Rethuglicans wanted to hear his opinions at all is telling.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Deadly Dentist Cartoon of the Day

(click to enlarge)


The story of the Minnesota dentist bow hunter who killed the iconic lion Cecil in Zimbabwe a few weeks ago has gone viral, and caused the brave white hunter to go into hiding after his social media and dentistry practice were deluged with angry messages.  Protesters surrounded his dental office, which had to be closed, as his patients vowed to find another dentist.

The lion was lured from the sanctuary, where he was shot by Walter Palmer, but took an agonizing 40 hours to die.  He was then skinned and beheaded by Palmer and his guides.  This isn't the first illegal kill that Palmer's been involved in, either.  Not surprisingly, Dr. Micro Penis has had a sexual harassment case filed against him, which he settled out of court for a six figure sum.  Oh, and to complete his portrait, he donated $5,000 to Willard "Mittens" Romney in 2012.

Now he's being hunted -- by Zimbabwean and U.S. officials.

(cartoon:  Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Gocomics.com)

Clueless: A Tragi-Comedy In Two Scenes


Here are two prime examples of why we can't have nice things in this country (with editorial asides). First, regarding Donald "Rump" Trump supporters:
Bloomberg Politics' John Heilemann sat down Wednesday night with a focus group of 12 Trump supporters in the Granite State who riffed on why they thought the billionaire was the best candidate in a crowded GOP presidential field.
“He's like one of us," Janet, a former dog breeder, explained. "He may be a millionaire (sic), which separates him from everybody else. But besides the money issue, he's still in tune with what everybody is wanting.” [Ed.:  Yes, aside from his TEN BILLION DOLLARS, he's a man of the people!]
Many also cited Trump's vast wealth in identifying with him.
"I knew that he was a wealthy, successful man and I remember asking my mother if I could write him a letter to ask him how he made his money so that I could do it too," Jessica, a data analyst, said.  [Ed.:  He inherited it from his daddy. And he filed for bankruptcy 4 times.  A regular Horatio Alger success story.]
Heilemann further asked the focus group what they believed a Trump presidency would look like.
“Classy,” Cheryl, a real estate agent, answered confidently. [Ed.:  (head hitting desk top)]
Then there were these folks at an African American church in Manning, South Carolina, following a "sermon" by Preacher Mike "Huckster" Huckabee:
There were signs in Manning that Huckabee, at a minimum, will find a friendly audience. After the former governor led a prayer for Tricia Bouttry, a black congregant who is battling breast cancer, she said, “I didn’t know anything about him, but his speech was so uplifting and his prayer was so heartfelt, I cried.  [Ed.: Maybe you should find out more about him.]
“I’m a Democrat, but he would have my vote,” said Bouttry, 51, a mental health worker. “I want somebody who’s spiritual in the White House — a pastor that knows the word as president.”   [Ed.:  "The Christian Republic of America, Mike Huckabee, Pastor- in- Chief"]  [snip]
Huckabee preached in Manning at the invitation of Pastor Leon Winn, an active Republican who last year ran unsuccessfully against Rep. James E. Clyburn (D).  [snip]
When the service concluded, Nathaniel Pugh, 55, a black man who works as a heavy-equipment operator, greeted Huckabee and posed for a picture with him.
“I’m a Democrat, but I might cross the line to vote for him,” Pugh said afterward. “We can talk till we’re blue in the face, but until our hearts get right, there still will be racism. For Governor Huckabee to come into our little town and talk about this, that’s huge. He got my attention.”   [Ed.:  You're a discerning man, Mr. Pugh, to have identified Huckster as someone who's heart is in the right placeMmmhmm.]
As long as low-information, distracted, and (o.k. we'll go there) downright stupid voters like this can be swayed by demagogues like Rump,  Huckster, and the rest of the Republican field, we will suffer as a nation.  Sic transit gloria, America.

UPDATE:  Huckster goes full Juan Peron.

Happy 50th Birthday, Medicare!



It's helped millions of seniors deal with costs of health care, it's a program Republicans would love to reform kill, and it's 50 years old today:
[T]he situation is far better than it was five decades ago, when half of the elderly population had no insurance at all. Studies have shown that Medicare has meant substantially smaller out-of-pocket spending for seniors and maybe (though not certainly) longer lives. The financial protection that the program provides to beneficiaries helps explain why just one in 10 seniors now lives in poverty. That’s roughly a third of what it was in the mid-1960s.
Although Medicare (and Medicaid and Social Security) are firmly embedded in American life, to Republicans it all represents "big gummint" taking us down the path to dependence and socialism (the linked Jonathan Cohn article contains a hoot of an embedded video of Republican St. Ronnie of Hollywood denouncing Medicare as taking America down the path to a "socialist dictatorship" - a reminder that the apocalyptic rhetoric of the far right wasn't any more sane 50 years ago than it is today).  As Cohn notes:
These days, perhaps mindful of the program’s popularity, conservatives use more delicate language when they talk about Medicare. Rather than focus on the supposed havoc the program wreaks on America's medical system or psyche, they dwell on the toll it takes on the American taxpayer -- and call for changes that supposedly would not affect workers at or near retirement age. Just last week, Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor seeking the Republican presidential nomination, told a conservative audience that we "need to figure out a way to phase out this program for [younger people] and move to a new system that allows them to have something -- because they’re not going to have anything.”
The Republican approach that J.E.B.! favors, "phasing out" Medicare for future generations, addresses the potential of future shortfalls by shifting to a program that offers seniors a sum of money and let's them fend for themselves in the private market (essentially the Social Security privatization scheme floated by Republicans like Rep. Paul "Lyin" Ryan (R-Galt's Gulch)).

As far as Medicare, we'll let the Baltimore Sun summarize for us:
... It's easy to lose track of what life was like for seniors in the United States before the program arrived. Five decades ago, only about half of seniors had health insurance coverage and, largely as a result, about 30 percent lived below the poverty line. Today, nearly all seniors have coverage, and the percentage living below the poverty line has fallen by an estimated 75 percent.
That's made Medicare among the most successful federal programs ever devised. The quality of life for older Americans has been raised astronomically, and the public's broad support for Medicare is likely to thwart ill-considered efforts to close it to the next generation. It's still possible to make the system more effective and efficient, of course. In Maryland, the waiver granted a year ago to the state by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has reduced Medicare-related hospital reimbursements substantially by providing a stronger incentive to keep beds empty. We need to employ that kind of "smarter" health care to meet 21st century needs cost-effectively, not to abandon a "Great Society" program that's worked for generations.
(Photo: President Lyndon Johnson signing the Medicare act in Independence, MO, July 30, 1965 - with President Harry S Truman, at right, looking on.  At the ceremony, Truman became the first American enrolled in Medicare and the first to get a Medicare card.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Trump Reveals His Health Care Plan




And YOOOGE, no doubt.  And Classy!

There's your Republican front-runner, ladies and gentlemen.

Congressman Fattah Indicted


We would be remiss if we didn't note the following:
Fattah was charged with bribery, fraud, and money laundering, among other crimes, in a 29-count indictment. Fattah's congressional District Director Bonnie Bowser, his former aide Karen Nicholas, campaign contributor Robert Brand and lobbyist Herbert Vederman were also charged in the indictment.
Just a reminder that, despite evidence to the contrary, no party has a complete monopoly on bad behavior.

Republicans Line Up To Kiss Some Koch Ass



From Politic-ho:
Four leading GOP presidential candidates – Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker – are traveling to a Southern California luxury hotel in coming days to make their cases directly to the Koch brothers and hundreds of other wealthy conservatives planning to spend close to $1 billion in the run-up to the 2016 election.
The gathering – which also will include former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, but notably not Sen. Rand Paul — is hosted by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the umbrella group in the Kochs’ increasingly influential network of political and public policy outfits. It represents a major opportunity for the candidates at a pivotal moment in the presidential primary.
It's not just the ultra-right Koch brothers who will get a slavish tongue bath at the candidates' try-out;  representatives of Likudnik Smelly Shelly Adelson and hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer will also attend, along with approximately 450 Republican high-rollers.  The slobbering and groveling is expected to be intense and non-stop, so candidates, please apply your Chapstick generously.