Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Long-Term Cartoon of the Day

(click to enlarge)

Appropriately, that could also be the Rethuglican's alternative health care "answer."

One can only hope that at some point in their miserable, selfish lives, they experience not only the loss of income, but the loss of self-esteem that comes with losing a job, and perhaps a home and family.   F*ck 'em.

BONUS:  Read Eugene Robinson's op/ed for more.

(cartoon:  Tom Toles, via Gocomics.com)

Lying Liars Still Lying, Cont'd.

Neocon hack Charles Kraphammer is having a fit over the recent New York Times investigation which destroys the Benghazi! BENGHAZI!! story fraud that the right wing has been pushing for over a year.  The four month long Times investigation said there is no evidence that al Qaeda played a role in the September 2012 attack, and that the attack was indeed prompted by an inflammatory anti-Islamic video produced by American wing nuts.

Kraphammer reveals his hand when he claims that the Times is "protecting Hillary Clinton," and not, interestingly, President Obama, who still has a second term to complete.  Why the specific focus on Clinton?  Easy:  after the 2012 election, with Secretary Clinton in a commanding lead to win the Democratic nomination in 2016,  Benghazi! BENGHAZI!! became the "issue" for the Rethugs to try to take their likely opponent down.  First the 60 Minutes Benghazi "story" was exposed as a fraud, and now the Times' dismantlement of the right wing's case.  What's a hack propagandist like Charles Kraphammer to do but attack the messenger?

BONUS:  Here's yesterday's New York Times editorial commenting on the reaction to its investigation's findings (our emphasis):
The report concluded that the attack was led by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s air power and other support during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and that it was fueled, in large part, by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
In a rational world, that would settle the dispute over Benghazi, which has further poisoned the poisonous political discourse in Washington and kept Republicans and Democrats from working cooperatively on myriad challenges, including how best to help Libyans stabilize their country and build a democracy. But Republicans long ago abandoned common sense and good judgment in pursuit of conspiracy-mongering and an obsessive effort to discredit President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who may run for president in 2016.
(photo:  Playtime's over, Chuck)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Today's Dispatches From The Stupid Party - Year End Edition

Starting on the West Coast, if you're a Republican/Stupid Party congressman, even having a safely gerrymandered district doesn't guarantee that you'll know what that district is (that would imply having a discernable IQ):
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) is seeking reelection. And after a brief slip last week, he's doing so in the right district. 
Royce's statement of candidacy for his re-election filed last week listed California's 40th Congressional District instead of the 39th, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Sad to say, the numerically- and geographically-challenged "Rolls" Royce is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Turning to the "rebranding" efforts by the Republican Party, someone at the Republican National Committee put out a "Happy Kwanzaa" greeting on Facebook.  The blowback from the knuckle-dragging base demonstrates the difficulty of "rebranding" when you have to rely on moron crackers*  to get elected.

Staying with "rebranding" and the Republican National Committee, Salon has the "10 Biggest GOP Rebranding Fails of 2013". We picked #5 as representative:
5. The Republican National Committee tweets: “Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in ending racism.”
This one was fun for a couple reasons. First, it was the most high-profile example yet of the GOP’s asinine “post-racial” meme, a defense used to dismiss or deny that any criticisms of the president or his agenda are influenced by racial thinking. Second, it led Twitter user @FeministaJones to come up with the wildly popular #racismendedwhen hashtag. When your best attempt to show you’re racially sensitive results in widespread mockery, it’s fair to guess that the whole outreach thing isn’t going so well.
As ever, we despair of your "rebranding" efforts, Stupid Party!  Also, Happy Kwanzaa!

*To wit, there's this.  Damn apes!

Canada's Gain Is Our Loss

Texas Senator and Joe McCarthy doppelgänger Ted "Tailgunner Ted" Cruz has decided to renounce his Canadian citizenship, according to reports.  Tailgunner Ted was born in Calgary to an American mother and a flaming Cuban nut job father who is still fighting the Fidelistas in his imagination.  While it would have been good for America for the Cruz family to have remained in Canada, sadly it was not meant to be.

Cruz also took a break from sorting out his citizenship to claim that he wasn't responsible for the Government shutdown in October, despite the fact that numerous people in his own party (McCain, Boehner, among them) laid the blame on him.  Revising history has become a specialty of the wing nut world.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

"The Immutable Law of American Politics"

BooMan has the immutable law of American politics right here:
The lesson is, the GOP will go crazy anytime a Democrat is in the Oval Office, and they will not be properly punished for it by the electorate. This is a seemingly immutable law of American politics, somewhat akin to the law that says that Republican presidents will run up huge deficits and then the party will turn into deficit scolds the moment they are out of the White House.  [our emphasis]
As BooMan points out, it was true when Bill Clinton was in office, and would be true if Sen. Joe Manchin (from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party) were President (shudder). There's a strong ethos of entitlement with Republicans, as you would expect from people used to "rank- has- its-  privilege" (through race, economic status, gender, etc.).  The fact that they're not punished for their trying to sabotage the economy, de-legitimatize a twice-elected President, obstruct anything and everything in Congress, stymie efforts to address climate change and immigration reform, roll back women's rights, roll back voting rights, and much more, says to us that the forces of reaction in this country have not weakened, despite setbacks.  Progressives need to continue to push, to advocate, to educate and to vote, because this is a struggle that has gone on since the first governments were formed, and it will go on for as long as we're walking on the Earth.

Lying Liars Still Lying

Yesterday, we linked to a New York Times investigation of the 2012 Benghazi attack, which concluded after months of research and interviews with numerous Libyan and other sources that the September 2012 attack was 1) not an attack by al Qaeda or another international terrorist organization, and 2) the attack was indeed a response to an American wingnut video on Islam.

On cue, the pushback from the usual lying suspects has begun.  First, Congressional Rethuglican scandal monger and suspected arsonist Rep. Darryl "Grand Theft Auto" Issa claims on today's Press the Meat that al Qaeda was behind the attack, and besides, "who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"  Next up, there's the fact free zone of Fux, which has been leading the Benghazi! BENGHAZI!! disinformation campaign.  Now that the New York Times report has debunked their favorite story, they have no alternative but to attack the source and resume the mantra they've been chanting for the past year.  Reality and facts have caught up with them, but that won't stop liars from lying.

Today's Cartoon - The Ghost of Christmas Present, Cont.

(click to enlarge)

(Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Here's more on the impact on families  who are losing unemployment benefits (because...FREEDUMB!  Also, INCENTIVES!).

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Benghazi! BENGHAZI!! BEN…huh? No?

From a months-long New York Times investigation:
"Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam."  (emphasis added)
This turns everything upside down that the Rethugs and their right wing media allies have been pushing in order to score points against presumed Presidential candidate Secretary Hillary Clinton.  Let's see if this investigation gets the same mileage as some of the trash written and broadcast on the subject.

If It Quacks Like A Duck...

The A & E Network has announced that its "indefinite suspension" of Duck Dynasty head redneck Phil "Ducked Up" Robertson has ended, and that he will be rejoining the show when it resumes taping in January.  So what that means is Ducked Up won't be missed in a single episode, since the show was on hiatus when he shot his mouth off and was "suspended."  While he's taken considerable heat for his vulgar homophobic remarks, less has been said on his belief that African Americans were so happy in the good ol' days of Jim Crow segregation.  You know, before the Civil Rights movement came along and made them sing the blues.

Fifty-two years ago, when then-Federal Communications Commission chair Newton Minow coined the phrase "vast wasteland" in describing TV at its worst, he had no idea how much further it would descend.  The fact that bigotry and ignorance is proudly celebrated in some corners of TV-land is a blight on us all.

Today's Cartoon - The Ghost of Christmas Present

(click to enlarge)

(Drew Sheneman, via gocomics.com)

As they left Washington, Social Darwinist / Ayn Rand Republicans in the House of Representatives made sure to not extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed.  Because INCENTIVES!  Also FREEDUMB!  (To be honest, once again Democrats did not cover themselves in glory on this =cough=spineless=cough=.)  God bless help us, everyone.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Weekend Songs

Since we've been doing holiday stuff with family, you might have noticed a paucity of bloggin'.  So, here's a musical twofer to make amends.  Cate LeBon is a Welsh singer-songwriter now living in California, and these are songs from her recent album "Mug Museum."  Enjoy.

(h/t San Francisco bureau chief Shauna)

HealthCare.gov Breakthrough?

After the disastrous roll out of the Affordable Care Act's website on October 1, the Administration has scrambled to fix its numerous glitches, and it appears they've succeeded.  On December 23, a flood of about 2 million applicants successfully accessed the website in order to purchase insurance that would take effect on January 1, 2014.

The more uninsured people -- especially young people -- that acquire health insurance through HealthCare.gov or State health care exchanges established under the ACA, the more difficult it will be for Rethuglican obstructionists to dismantle it and to force a return to the good old days of capricious denial of benefits, no insurance for preexisting conditions, and lifetime caps on coverage.

P.S. After the dust settles later, accept Secretary Sebelius' "resignation" and fire those on the White House staff that almost tanked the President's signature achievement through their incompetence.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Quote Of The Day - Setting Yourself Up To Fail Dept.

“Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates,” said Scott Reed, the top political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the Wall Street Journal. “That will be our mantra: No fools on our [Republican] ticket.”  [our emphasis]

(h/t The Raw Story)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

May your day be merry and brightened with this selection, "Divertissement" from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Today's Cartoons - 1 % Twofer

(click to enlarge)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

The Perfect Gift For Sully Fans

Is it just us, or could this holiday gift idea be called the "Andrew Sullivan face warmer?"

Amnesty For (Some) Russian Activists

Russian Czar President Vladimir Putin granted amnesty to former oil tycoon and political rival Mikhail Khodorkovsky and to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot, in moves generally interpreted as "please to get off my case about human rights violations prior to the Sochi Winter Olympics."  Khodorkovsky has already pledged to stay involved in human rights issues in Russia and, as for the two Pussy Rioters:
Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was freed from prison on Monday under an amnesty that allowed for her early release from a two-year sentence for a protest in a church against President Vladimir Putin.

Tolokonnikova shouted "Russia without Putin" after she was freed from a prison in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. Bandmate Maria Alyokhina was released from a different jail hours earlier and dismissed the amnesty as a propaganda stunt.
Meanwhile, on-going repression of environmental activists and recently-passed homophobic laws make it clear that, as Ms. Alyokhina noted, the amnesty for the "star" prisoners was a propaganda stunt - and a futile, ham-fisted one at that.

Lump of Coal Quote of the Day

"The Congress of the United States left town this week very proud of itself. It had reached an accommodation by which the Republicans agreed that they would allow the government to function in a minimal capacity over the next two years and the Democrats agreed that they would be grateful to the Republicans for doing that. And then they all wished themselves well and went home, many of them, the ones proclaiming themselves most loudly to be the followers of the Jesus Christ of the Gospels, looking forward to being able to say 'Merry Christmas' freely again, free from the liberals who have placed imaginary shackles upon their fictional freedom to keep the day in their own way."  -- Esquire.com's Charles Pierce.

No extension of unemployment benefits.  No restoration of food stamp funding.  Meanwhile, the stock market is soaring and the income gap between the wealthiest and everyone else is widening.  Once again, the right wing has succeeded in moving the goal posts when it comes to government's role "to promote the general welfare" as stated in the Constitution.

BONUS:  Blood not boiling yet?  Read this article by Jimmy Williams at US News.  Here's a sample:
According to the Cato Institute, we the American people subsidize corporate America to the tune of more than $90 billion annually, while individual people on welfare only pull down around $59 billion. I like simple math. It's easy for me to understand. Corporations are getting the better end of that bargain but I don't hear Sen. Mitch McConnell and Reps. Jack Kingston and Bill Cassidy – the latest decriers of welfare – declaring a war on the corporate CEOs (who are actually driving real Cadillacs). The hypocrisy is staggering.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Mole That Roared

Paul Farhi, the once great Washington Post  Bezos Bugle's media critic, has a feature article today about whether the "media-briefing battles between [White House press secretary] Jay Carney and ABC's Jon Karl" are benefiting anyone.  Farhi catalogs some of the more noteworthy dust-ups between the two and concludes that the confrontations are emblematic of a format that sheds more heat than light on topics of the day.  Well, yeah.  But throughout his pearl-clutching, Farhi never gets to the reason why Karl is the biggest dick in a briefing room full of dicks.

All you need to know about Jonathan Karl is right here:
Karl came to mainstream journalism via the Collegiate Network, an organization primarily devoted to promoting and supporting right-leaning newspapers on college campuses (Extra!, 9-10/91)—such as the Rutgers paper launched by the infamous James O’Keefe (Political Correction, 1/27/10). The network, founded in 1979, is one of several projects of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which seeks to strengthen conservative ideology on college campuses. William F. Buckley was the ISI’s first president, and the current board chair is American Spectator publisher Alfred Regnery. Several leading right-wing pundits came out of Collegiate-affiliated papers, including Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza, Michelle Malkin, Rich Lowry and Laura Ingraham (Washington Times, 11/28/04).
There's a lot more at that link that paints Karl as a fairly obvious Republican mole in the press corps.  He's notorious for being caught parroting Republican talking points during the Benghazi! phony e-mail flapdoodle.  So, are we shocked that someone in the media is a right-winger?  Hardly (see: Fox "News").  But, when the story's about someone who's essentially a political operative who happens to have a press badge, let's have his/ her professional pedigree at least be mentioned, ok?

Big Money Behind Climate Change Deniers

Climate change denial is a big industry, so big that over $1 billion is being channeled in to "think tanks" and assorted "experts" by wealthy individuals and organizations through front organizations that aren't required to divulge the sources of their money.  Some major recipients of this plutocratic largess are the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, who then dutifully prepare "studies" and dispatch "experts" to cast doubt on the overwhelming scientific evidence that human activity is causing a warming of the Earth's climate.

Money can always buy lies, but they can't buy facts, and the more that the funding behind this cynical and despicable effort is exposed, the better to counteract their efforts.  Our decendants' judgement of them will be harsh indeed.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Paul Ryan, Quietly Loving The Poor

Mirroring the cynical "heartfelt interest" our local football team owner, Li'l Danny Snyder, is suddenly showing toward Native Americans (see post below), we're also being informed (again and again) that Beltway media scrum fave Rep. Paul "Lyin'" Ryan (R- Galt's Gulch) has a quiet "heartfelt interest" in another forgotten segment of the population:
Ryan’s rebranding effort — sorry, his heartfelt interest — is inevitably described as “quiet.” Ryan “has spent the past year quietly touring impoverished communities across the country,” reports Coppins. A similar reported piece in National Review last June detailed “Ryan’s quiet pitch to the poor.” As did a Washington Post story last month(“Ryan … has been quietly visiting inner-city neighborhoods”). Coppin’s story quotes a skeptic, but adopts an almost perfect credulous tone.
It might seem odd that Ryan’s determination to keep his love of the poor quiet would nevertheless leak out in the media, over and over again. “Ryan has deliberately left the cameras behind during his excursions to poor neighborhoods this year in places like Indiana and New Jersey,” reports Coppins, “but the stories of his interactions with the poor somehow find a way of leaking into public view.” Somehow. The stories find a way. Because stories, far from being inanimate human creations, as you might think, actually have minds of their own and a willpower so fierce they can defy even the most secrecy-minded spinmeister.
Is there any politician who gets more undeserved attention than the "zombie-eyed granny-starver" from Wisconsin (o.k., but Grampypants McCain is at a whole different level of media obsequiousness)?  Is there any other politician who can get away with supporting cuts to the food stamp program and cutting off unemployment insurance and still be portrayed as having concern for the poor?  Is there more credulous a person than a reporter dutifully "exposing" the cynical "heartfelt interest" of an Ayn Rand acolyte in the plight of the poor?

(Photo:  Ryan washing already-washed soup kitchen dishes in a photo-op during the 2012 campaign.)

Li'l Danny Snyder Would NEVER Do Anything Self-Serving!

In the wake of the firestorm surrounding the use of a racial slur as the name of the Washington football team, team owner and marketing magnate Li'l Danny Snyder has apparently been making "secret" trips to Native American tribal areas.  Not that he wants that to be known, oh no!
The friend, who asked not to be identified because the team did not authorize him to speak on the matter, said he told Snyder that he should let people know about these trips.
“And his answer to me was: ‘Don’t you dare. They will falsely accuse me of doing this for material reasons, and I don’t want to give them that satisfaction when, in fact, I know that’s not true.’ ”  [our emphasis]
First off:  Wait -- Li'l Danny Snyder has a friend?  Who knew?!

One thing is sure:  Li'l Danny and his p.r. ass-kissers know how to plant a story (and, by the way, we're getting a lot of satisfaction from reading this transparent hokum and knowing that it's exactly "for material reasons" he's had this leaked to the once great Washington Post Bezos Bugle).  Because of Li'l Danny's typically ham-handed mishandling of the issue of his football team's name (not to mention it's football operations), he's desperately trying to change the subject from his racial insensitivity to his heretofore well-hidden appreciation for the plight of Native Americans.  Is anyone who has the slightest knowledge about how Li'l Danny operates buying that?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Today's Dispatch From The Stupid Party - Special "Duck!" Edition

Could-be Civil War re-enactor (Gen. Jubilation T. Cornpone?) and wingnut martyr du jour  Phil "Ducked Up" Robertson has been getting a lot of atta boys from large segments of the petri dish that is the Republican right these days.  Illinois Republican candidate for Congress for the 11th District Ian Bayne thinks Robertson merits a place in the pantheon of civil rights heroes:
"In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians," Bayne wrote in the email. "What Parks did was courageous."
Bayne added in the email that "what Robertson did was courageous too."
"...[A] stand against the persecution of Christians."  Funny, we thought Robertson "took a stand" against the "sin" of homosexuality (with lots of graphic detail and couching it in ersatz Biblical babble).  But when you're desperate and stone stupid like Bayne and his fellow frothing cretins are, a faux persecution complex might be your last refuge.  Oh, you might also want to stop trying to appropriate legitimate heroes to prop up your run- of- the- mill homophobes and racists.  (Also:  how's that Republican/ New Confederate/ Stupid Party rebranding coming along?)

Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert has his inimitable take on the "backwoods Louisiana bird-murderer:"

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

Economy Showing Stronger Recovery in Third Quarter

Good news on the economy:
The U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in almost two years in the third quarter, the government said on Friday as it revised its estimates of business and consumer spending higher.

The upward revisions also extended to exports and suggested some underlying strength in the economy, even though growth in the quarter was largely driven by a buildup in inventories.

The report was supportive of the Federal Reserve's decision this week to reduce by $10 billion from January the $85 billion it is pumping into the economy each month through bond purchases.

"The underlying momentum in economic activity shifted up a gear in the third quarter," said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief U.S. economist at TD Securities in New York. "The strength in domestic consumption and investment activity points to a more constructive narrative on growth than previously thought."

Gross domestic product grew at a 4.1 percent annual rate instead of the 3.6 percent pace reported earlier this month, the Commerce Department said in its third estimate. [our emphasis]
We're sure this will be the lead story on all the network news tonight =crickets chirping=.

Weekend Song

We're coming back again to this Christmas classic by Nat King Cole, "The Christmas Song."  Even though we're expecting record warm temperatures for the upcoming weekend in the Middle Atlantic states, we're told the forecast for Christmas is a more seasonal 40 degrees F.   So, enjoy the song and the fire.

Ducked Up Cartoon of the Day

(click to enlarge)

It looks like the right-wing's new "martyr", Duck Dynasty's Bible-pounding homophobe Phil "Ducked Up" Robertson, has a problem with today's uppity blacks, too.  Apparently, it's only since the Civil Rights movement that "the blacks" have been "singing the blues."  They were happier in good ol' Dixie of yesteryear, according to Ducked Up.   Anyone surprised?

(cartoon:  Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee, via Gocomics.com)

State Health Exchange Enrollments Surge

State health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act are experiencing a surge in enrollments, according to reports.  Monday is the deadline for enrollment in a health plan for it to take effect on January 1, and many are rushing to sign up:  California reports 50,000 new enrollees in the first week of December, New York is averaging 4,500 enrollees per day, and overall States are reporting from 30 to 40 percent increases in enrollments.

This promising news comes at the same time that the Administration is responding to nervous Democratic Senators who asked for a temporary exemption to the individual mandate for those who lost their insurance because their plans did not meet the minimum standards under the ACA.  Some 500,000 people who had their policies cancelled will be able to get bare-bones coverage under a hardship provision.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hacks On Parade

Despite the title of our blog, we defer to Salon's Alex Pareene in calling out and demolishing hacks with his annual hacktastic top ten "Hack List".  His top ten reads like a who's who of the courtier press:  Mark Halperin, David Brooks, and Peggy Noonan, among others. The most entertaining thing about Pareene's takedowns is that he writes them in the "voice" and style of the "honoree."  Take that!  Bwahaha.  It's definitely worth a read.

Grabbing the number one spot on this year's list is undoubtedly the most corrupt hack in the Beltway hackosphere:  Politico's Mike Allen.  Allen has been called out for essentially trading mentions in his "Playbook" for access to "insider" information and for fluffing his advertisers' causes (i.e., the corporate community) without any critical examination of their claims.  Then there's the symbiotic relationship Allen has with MSNBC's Joe "Joe Scar" Scarborough:  in return for frequent, inexplicable mentions of Joe Scar in "Playbook," Allen gets to appear frequently on the "Morning Joe" gossip fest.  Journalamism…it's what keeps our nation's politics crippled.

(photo: The "winner.")

Clueless Quote of the Day

"It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended." --  Louisiana Gov. Piyush "Bobby" Jindal (Stupid Party - LA), commenting on "Duck Dynasty" character Phil Robertson's ugly homophobic comments in a recent GQ magazine interview.  Robertson has been suspended from the program by the A&E network as a result.

Now, while Miley Cyrus' twerking of Robin Thicke and other age-inappropriate antics are cringeworthy, the only thing she may have offended (so far) are peoples' tastes.  Robertson's bigoted comments about an entire community could have been made by any thug out looking for a gay person to beat up.  "Bobby" Jindal should know the difference, and might want to consider that once he's out of hearing distance from people like the Robertsons, they probably have some choice slurs about him, too.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's Official: Democrats Sweep Virginia

Virginia Republican Mark Obenshain conceded the race for Attorney General tonight, giving Democrats a sweep of the top three offices in the Commonwealth of Virginia for the first time since 1989.  Democrats Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam were elected as Governor and Lt. Governor, respectively, in November.   Democrat Mark Herring had led the vote count by 165 votes out of more than 2 million cast when Obenshain asked for the recount.  During the recount, which began this past Monday, Herring's lead over Obenshain increased to over 800.

Are There No Workhouses?

News item:
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) wants kids to learn early in life that there's no such thing as a free lunch. To make sure they absorb that lesson, he's proposing that low-income children do some manual labor in exchange for their subsidized meals.
On Saturday, Kingston, who is vying to be his party's nominee in Georgia's Senate race next year, spoke at a meeting of the Jackson County Republican Party about the federal school lunch program.
Under that program, children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty line are eligible for free meals. Students from families with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level can receive lunches at reduced prices.
But on Saturday, Kingston came out against free lunches, saying that children should have to pay at least a nominal amount or do some work like sweeping cafeteria floors. [our emphasis]
 Also: how's that Republican rebranding coming along?

Ding-Dong. Child Porn Vice Squad Calling

It no longer surprises:
A 46-year-old Michigan member of the group Tea Party Patriots was named Tuesday in a criminal complaint on charges of distributing and receiving illicit photos and video of children. According to The Smoking Gun, Brian Schwanke is accused of using the email account “h*rnypastor@outlook.com" to send and receive hundreds of provocative images of underage children.
TSG detailed how as recently as last week, Schwanke was ranting on his Facebook page about President Barack Obama’s behavior during a portion of the funeral for South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.  [snip]

Schwanke’s profile — which has now been either deleted or made private — proclaimed that the U.S. “WAS founded on a CHRISTIAN foundation, and the progressive, atheist left is running us into the ground to create a Socialist country that will fall like all the others.”  [our emphasis]
Too bad.  With his credentials, he would've been a natural as Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander's chief of staff.

Mid-Week Song

Irish singer/songwriter Enya (born Enya Brennan) has won multiple Grammy awards for her blend of Celtic folk and new age styles.  With many parts of the country covered with a blanket of fresh snow, Enya's "Amid the Falling Snow" seems like a good mid-week, pre-Christmas song choice.  Enjoy.
How I remember sleepless nights
When we would read by candlelight,
And on the windowpane outside
A new world made of snow;

A million feathers falling down,
A million stars that touch the ground,
So many secrets to be found
Amid the falling snow.

And The Winner Is...

The Poynter Institute, a non-profit school for journalism, has named the "60 Minutes" fairytale on Benghazi! BENGHAZI!! as journalism's "Error of the Year".  Reporter and home wrecker Lara Logan and her producer on the story were asked by CBS News to take an indefinite leave of absence over the debacle. ("Indefinite" for CBS means that she'll be back early next year, according to reports.  Maybe they'll assign her to stories about the evils of Obamacare).

Runner up was the right-wing New York Post's cover picture of two innocent youths with the caption "Bag Men," stating that the FBI was looking for them in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing last spring.  The youths are suing the paper for libel, invasion of privacy, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.  We wish them great success.

(illustration:  Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press)

They'll Have A Gay Old Time

The U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will include two openly gay athletes, tennis great Billie Jean King, and women's hockey star Caitlin Cahow.  Neither the President and First Lady, nor the Vice President will be attending the opening ceremonies, a clear rebuke to Russia's harsh, homophobic policies and laws, enthusiastically pushed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Instead, the U.S. delegation will be led by former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other dignitaries.

It is uncertain whether hostile Russians or Russian security services will create an incident in Sochi with our athletes or athletes of other nations who may have gay or lesbian athletes representing them.  What is certain is that gay and lesbian athletes will win medals during the games, just not for Russia.  It's their loss in more ways than one.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

War on Christmas, The Santa Skirmish, Cont.

As we noted a few days ago, if it's Christmas, Fox "News" is inventing a war on same.  This year, Megyn Kelly was among the first to step in it (and by "it" we mean the stuff on the floor in the manger).  After a nopology in which she asserted she was just kidding about Santa Claus being white (But Jesus definitely was!  It's a fact, Jack!), Jon Stewart had this in reply, after the ad:

The "Gift" That Keeps On Giving

The war in Iraq, launched by the Bushies and their neocon cohort under false pretenses and cherry-picked "intelligence" about WMD and Saddam Hussein's supposed links to 9-11, is still haunting the region, even long after U.S. combat troops have withdrawn.  Al Qaeda has grown in power, while Sunni/Shia sectarian violence is on the upswing, and Iran's influence in Iraq and throughout the region has grown despite U.S./European Union sanctions.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Dumbya and The Dick before the ill-fated war in Iraq was launched that, "if you break it, you own it."  It's a shame that the "ownership" didn't end with Dumbya and his neocon cohort.  We -- and the Iraqi people -- are still owning it.

Missy's Sagging Poll Numbers

A new poll indicates that Senate Minority Leader and human-turtle hybrid Sen. Mitch "Missy" McConnell is running neck-and--neck with President Obama in Kentucky as far as their approval.  While it's no surprise that the President's approval rating isn't great in conservative Kain-tuck, it's absolutely wonderful that Missy McConnell's are dropping like a sack of rocks in a lake.

Missy is facing a teabagger challenge in the Rethuglican primary this spring, so his Dem challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, is looking better and better as a real underdog possiblilty for unseating Missy as his "brand" is further diminished and as the wingnuts are divided.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Centerfold Folds In Massachusetts

Massachusetts teabagger pinup former Sen. Scott "Centerfold" Brown is reported to be moving to New Hampshire, perhaps in order to establish residency to challenge Dem Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in the next election.  Centerfold Brown, who was unsuccessful in defending his Senate seat from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, apparently believes the voters of New Hampshire like carpetbaggers from Massachusetts over their own citizens.  Should Centerfold Brown actually run, it will be a challenge for him to keep the misogynist rhetoric under control;  he had several sexist statements in his campaign against Sen. Warren that cost him swing votes.

BONUS:  Even some wingnuts find Brown's running for office in New Hampshire, uh, revolting.

(photo:  New Hampshire dreamin')

Paul Ryan Haz A Idea

In the days following the budget deal negotiated in the House, the usual Beltway lap dogs have been hailing Rep. Paul "Lyin'" Ryan as the man who stood up to the Tea Party.  One such tongue bath appeared in today's once great Washington Post Bezos Bugle, authored by Republican-wired Chris Cillizza, who is under the delusion that Idea Man Ryan is heir to Idea Man Newt Gingrich --  LOL -- though we would offer that Ryan is more the heir of Gingrich in the sense that both are "what a stupid man's idea of what a smart person sounds like" (credit: Paul Krugman).   But no sooner had Ryan established his creds as the man who stood up to the Tea Party than he promptly sat down to the Tea Party:
We as a caucus -- along with our Senate counterparts -- are going to meet and discuss what it is we're going to want out of the debt limit. We don't want nothing out of this debt limit. We're going to decide what it is we're going to accomplish out of this debt limit fight...We're going to meet in our retreats after the holidays and discuss exactly what it is we're going to try to get for this.  [our emphasis]
To which the great Charles P. Pierce responds:
It is helpful to remember that "getting something" out of allowing the government to pay its bills is not the way the Congress operated until Republicans like Paul Ryan got a hold of the House Of Representatives and turned it into a shakedown palace. The only thing to be "gotten" out of raising the debt ceiling was the fact that the world economy was not allowed to crash. This is our government and our bills to pay and our economy if it bellies up so, therefore, it is our debt limit. It is not the property of the Republican House, or of Paul Ryan, Serious Man Of Ideas, to turn into a ransom note every year. They might has well just barricade the House side of the Capitol and string C-4 in the halls.
So, the hostage-takers are coming at us again, led by the Idea Man, whose big idea is apparently to threaten to default on U.S. Government obligations in order to accomplish... what?
 We all [Ryan and the Tea Party] believe the same thing with respect to our ultimate goal.  With the budget I passed in March, that's what I really want.  Balance the budget, pay off the debt, don't raise taxes. 
Translation:  The rich get to keep their tax cuts, the poor and middle class get to keep their social safety net cuts.  See?!  Everyone has their cuts to bear!

Today's Tomorrow Cartoon

(click to enlarge)

Maybe it was low-information voter Joe the (not a real) Plumber's modest success during the 2008 elections that sparked the imagination of the right-wing's money men to put a "populist" front on their 1% agenda.  They could certainly round up enough wingnuts, bigots and the like to form rallies, if there were the logistics provided to make it happen (money for organizing, buses, banners, loudspeakers, platforms, etc.).  It worked well enough to elect a tea bagger House in 2010, and to scare the shorts off of Rethuglican office holders.  But with the declining popularity of the teabaggers and multiple election losses recently, the magic is gone.

(cartoon:  Tom Tomorrow)

Joan Fontaine 1917-2013

One of the last remaining stars from Hollywood's Golden Age, Joan Fontaine, has died at the age of 96.  In 1941, Ms. Fontaine won an Academy Award for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's "Suspicion," co-starring with Cary Grant.  Her breakout role was in the 1939 movie "The Women," when she held her own amidst a cast including Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Paulette Goddard and Rosalind Russell.  Other notable films included 1940's "Rebecca,"  1943's "Jane Eyre," and 1952's "Ivanhoe."

In addition to her acting, Ms. Fontaine was a certified pilot and balloonist, as well as a Cordon Bleu chef and licensed interior decorator.  Unfortunately, she was involved in a nearly life-long feud with her famous surviving sister, Academy Award winner Olivia de Havilland (97) of whom she said, "I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she'll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it!"

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peter O'Toole 1932-2013

The fine actor Peter O'Toole has died at the age of 81 after a long illness.  He was perhaps best known for his portrayal of  T.E. Lawrence in 1962's "Lawrence of Arabia."
O'Toole was nominated for eight Academy Awards for his roles in "Lawrence of Arabia," "Becket" (1964), "The Lion In Winter" (1968), "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1969), "The Ruling Class" (1972), "The Stunt Man" (1980), "My Favorite Year" (1982) and "Venus" (2006). He allegedly holds the record for the most Academy Award acting nominations without a win. O'Toole won four Golden Globes, a BAFTA and an Emmy, and was the recipient of an Honorary Academy Award in 2003.
O'Toole was in the vanguard of a breed of Irish and British actors that burst into stardom on stage and screen in the late 1950's and early 1960's, including friends Albert Finney, Alan Bates, Richard Burton and Richard Harris.

Sunday Cartoons - Income Inequality

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(Ben Sargent, Austin American-Statesman)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

Also, please take a look at Paul Krugman's essay on income inequality today;  also, Joan Walsh on our low-wage economy.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

War on Christmas, Cont.

Here's how Fox "News" would promote the classic "It's A Wonderful Life" (via Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Raw Story).  Hilarious.

War On Christmas, The Santa Skirmish

The Fux Channel's expert on Santa Claus, Megyn Kelly, recently argued that, historically speaking, Santa Claus is decidedly white (so let's have no more black Santas taking the Christmas wishes of black kids, shall we!)  While we'd think that they'd have more important things to talk about on Fux, it does fit in with their War on Christmas canard.  So yes, Megyn, the modern version of Santa is white as snow, but the historical character he's modeled after was St. Nicholas of Myra from what is now a province of Turkey, so he was less Nordic and more Middle Eastern in appearance (see 13th century depiction above).

Kelly's whole racially-skewed comments drew the satire of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, to wit:
Megyn Kelly: For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white.
Stephen Colbert: Yes. Thank you. For all those kids watching Fox News at 9:40 at night, Santa is white. Besides, a black Santa is a terrible idea. If a home owner in Florida sees a black man coming down their chimney, he is going to get shot. 'Officer, I was only defending my milk and cookies!'" ---The Colbert Report
Jon Stewart:  Santa is just white? Who are you actually talking to? Children who are sophisticated enough to be watching a news channel at 10 o'clock at night, yet innocent enough to still believe Santa Claus is real, yet racist enough to be freaked out if he isn’t white. ---The Daily Show
Can't top that.

UPDATE:  Last night, Kelly claimed it was all an attempt at humor! Hee-haw!  Riiiiight!

Saturday Cartoon - The Hope and The Reality

The budget deal reached in the House this past week has led some to express hope that parts of the Obama Administration agenda (notably immigration reform) will be taken up next year.  Count us as skeptical.  Betraying its nativist base on an issue of the magnitude of immigration reform is likely a barrier too high to surmount for what passes as the Republican "leadership."

(click to enlarge)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Year Later

With tomorrow being one year to the day after 20 school children and 6 school workers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, we have this.   And it's not just tomorrow and its awful anniversary.  Here's what gun violence is doing to this nation's children while we go along with our daily routines:

- In the past year, there have been 27 school shootings.

- 194 children under the age of 12 were killed with a gun.

Think about that the next time you hear an N.R.A.-bought congressman or a pundit squawk about unfettered Second Amendment rights.  Gun control has to become the number one issue upon which the majority of Americans who favor restrictions cast their ballots, otherwise there will be no change.

Meanwhile, the gun nuts are fundraising off of the Sandy Hook tragedy.  There isn't a place in Hell hot enough for these parasites.

Weekend Music

We featured this L.A.-based neo-soul/ alt rock group a few weeks ago.  Here's a song of theirs that's  more in the anthemic vein.  Hope you enjoy and enjoy your weekend.

Birthers Gone Wild

An airplane crash in Hawaii last Wednesday took the life of Hawaii's Department of Health director Loretta Fuddy, who happened to be the official who authorized the release of President Obama's long form birth certificate.  Right on cue, the bugfuck crazy birther contingent sees a "conspiracy."   Of course, the nutty birther with the biggest megaphone, buffoon Donald "Rump" Trump was on it like stink on, well, Donald Trump.

We wish Ms. Fuddy would have died peacefully many years from now, but even then the birthers would see a "conspiracy" in her death.  They are obsessed to the point of monomania with President Obama's legitimacy because of -- let's be blunt -- his race, and this death of a public servant gives them yet another opportunity to wallow in their obsession, and to play the fools once again.

Cartoon of the Day

(click to enlarge)

While many Congresscritters and Beltway pundits are cheering the budget deal, remember that 1.3 million Americans are about to lose their unemployment insurance.  Surely they could have found one gold-plated program or system to trim in order to afford a modest extension beyond Christmas, right?  Didn't happen.

(cartoon:  Stuart Carlson, via Gocomics.com)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Republican War on Women - Wolverine! Edition

From the great State of Michigan, the Great Republican White Fathers are back legislatin' on the women:
Michigan women will have to purchase a separate rider if they want their health insurance to pay for an abortion, after the state's Legislature on Wednesday banned most public and private plans from covering abortion as a medical procedure.
Women must buy the rider before they become pregnant in order to have abortion coverage, once the law goes into effect in March. Women who become pregnant through rape or incest must already have the rider in place for an abortion to be covered, leading some opponents to dub the riders, "rape insurance."[our emphasis]
The provision doesn't need the governor's signature to become law in March.  Opponents are mulling a petition to repeal the law.

Quote of the Day

"Embrace the suck."  -- House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, reluctantly urging her Democratic House colleagues to support the Ryan/Murray budget proposal which has very little to offer in the way of Dem priorities, but is driving the tea bagger members of Congress off the deep end.

UPDATE:  The suck is embraced.  The measure passes the House by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 332 - 94.

The Far-Right's Revolt

Now that man-on-the-make Rep. Paul "Lyin'" Ryan has unveiled his "compromise" budget proposal -- which didn't go far enough to satisfy the far-right's blood lust for gutting the social safety net and programs for the working poor -- Ryan and the Congressional Rethuglican establishment is taking major heat from the wingnut Wurlitzer organizations.  When Weeper of the House John "Mr. Tangerine Man" Boehner snapped at the far-right organizations at his press conference yesterday (and again today), they weren't pleased.  They're not used to having their employees speak up.

Organizations like Heritage Action, Freedom Works, Americans for Prosperity and dozens like them exist to raise money off of the goobers that think America is going to hell in a hand basket because of the Marxist Fascist Monarchist Kenyan in the White House.   That money, plus the substantial funds provided by some of the Kochs and Adelsons of the world, then is used as campaign leverage to get the Rethug politicians to toe the far-right line:  deep tax cuts on upper income earners, gutting environmental and safety regulations, and laws that aim to roll back civil and voting rights.

The revolt of these influence groups couldn't come at a better time before the 2014 mid-term elections.  Already tea bagger candidates are challenging conservative Senators and Congressmen who aren't crazy right-wing enough, or have violated some purity test.  Let the games begin.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Neville Chamberlain Shook Hands With Hitler"

That was nasty old grump Sen. John McCain (R - Bitterland) commenting on President Obama's handshake with Cuban dictator Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's memorial service yesterday.  Apparently missing Mandela's message of reconciling with your enemies, ol' Grumpypants would have snubbed the handshake for domestic political points had he been (heaven forbid) elected President, which he will forever believe was his destiny until that black man came along.

But wait, who's this grizzled old dude shaking the hand of and BOWING to the late, bloody dictator Muammar Qaddafi?  Why it's old Grumpypants himself!  Darn those newfangled picture-taking thingys!  Well, at least it's not Hitler, right?

Ding-Dong. Postal Inspectors' Child Porn Squad Calling!

You know us well enough to know any further comment on this news item would be superfluous (but if we did, it would go like this):
The home of the chief of staff to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) was searched by law enforcement officials in connection with a child pornography investigation, the Tennessee Republican said Wednesday.

Ryan Loskarn, who was named Alexander's chief of staff in 2011, has been placed on administrative leave without pay, according to a statement from Alexander.

“I am stunned, surprised and disappointed by what I have learned," Alexander said. "The office is fully cooperating with the investigation."

Look Who's Enrolled In Obamacare!

Three of the 1.2 million (!) people who have enrolled themselves in Obamacare to date may surprise you:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) signed his family up on the federal healthcare exchange and has opted to take a federal subsidy offered to lawmakers and staff, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
"Senator Rubio spent time looking at all the options and decided to enroll through the D.C. exchange for coverage for him and his family," Rubio's spokeswoman Brooke Sammon told the Times, adding that "Senator Rubio is following the law, even though he opposes it."
The Washington Post notes that Rubio's fellow 2016 GOP presidential prospects Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have also joined the D.C. exchange.
But they don't want you to have it!

Time's Person of the Year

Not Time's Person of the Year:  Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin, self-identified registered Republican and critic of Pope Francis' emphasis on socio-economic issues, etc. over contraception, women's reproductive rights, and marriage equality.

Sadly, there are many Thomas Tobins in the American Catholic hierarchy, appointed leftovers from the time of conservative Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  As more people are drifting back to the Church as a result of Pope Francis' message of inclusion and humility, right-wing Bishops are stuck in the political narratives of the last century.

The Budget "Deal"

Ezra Klein has a good wrap-up of the most important points of the budget deal announced yesterday.  It's a two-year deal covering FY 2014 -2015 that doesn't touch entitlement "reform" or raise general tax revenues.  It rearranges the sequestration cuts to be less painful to the Defense Department, and requires higher user fees on airline tickets and socks the Federal employees with higher contributions to their retirement.  Sadly, it doesn't resolve the issue of extending unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed, who will get their lump of coal from the Rethuglican House right before Christmas.

The deal now goes to the Senate and House for a vote, so it remains to be seen whether the crazies on the right will accept a deal that doesn't shred the social safety net and shovel more tax cuts to their plutocrat patrons.

BONUS:  Weigel has some of the rumblings in the Republican caucus here, here, and here.

Mid-Week Madiba Song

South Africa's a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo joins with London's Mint Juleps to sing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Mbube)," the classic Zulu folk song made popular in the U.S. in 1961 by The Tokens.  Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

From The Music Desk….

We stumbled upon this item about a new Neil Young recording, "Live at the Cellar Door," which brings back memories for those who were in the D.C. area circa the late 1960s and 1970s.  The Cellar Door was a music club in Georgetown for, at first, folk acts, and then other acts who were comfortable playing in a room that barely seated 200 patrons.  Artists like Joni Mitchell, John Denver, The Byrds, Miles Davis and many others performed there, often for multiple nights.  Regulars Bill and Taffy Danoff (of the Starland Vocal Band) wrote "Take Me Home Country Roads" while working there, and let John Denver record it -- his most recognizable hit recording.  (The song was inspired, by the way, not by West Virginia's beauty, but by a drive along the side roads of western Montgomery County, Maryland).

Sadly, the Cellar Door closed back in 1981, but Neil Young's recording is a wonderful tribute by a great artist to a great, intimate venue for music.

Talkin' To Wymmen - A "Republican Instructional Video"

N.R.A. Stooge Stockman Challenging Establishment Stooge Cornyn

Getting in just at the deadline, N.R.A. stooge Rep. Steve "My Gun Is My Manhood" Stockman (Tin Foil Hat - TX) filed papers to challenge Sen. John "All Hat, No Cattle" Cornyn in the Republican/ New Confederate/ Stupid Party primary next year.  Tea party hero Stockman will be running to the right (!) of Cornyn, which should mean we'll be treated to a "how insane can you get" primary.  Stockman, of course, is known for his stunts rather than for doing anything productive (the perfect tea party guy, in other words), such as inviting Ted "Crap Pants Fever" Nugent as his guest at the 2012 State of the Union address, and for seeing how much he could afflict and shame poor people receiving assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Cornyn is well-known as a political weathervane and a weasel, so a change out from Cornyn to Stockman, which is unlikely at this point but not out of the question (this is Texas we're talking about here), would be tantamount to exchanging a coward for a crackpot.  (It's not like Cornyn didn't see this coming, but he chose to try to appease the furthest, most fetid swamps of the Republican base, which is looking like more and more a futile exercise for the "establishment wing" of the party.)

(Photo:  Three Stooges, minus one.)